Monday, December 31, 2012

Thoughts on the Russian Adoption Situation

If you happened to hear, Russia is planning to sign a ban that will end all international adoptions between the US and Russia, effective January 1, 2013.  Most feel this is a result of the US calling into question Russia's human rights record via a law which would not allow Russians suspected of human rights violations to enter the US.  This is probably most likely the case as only a month ago, Russia and the US re negotiated the legislation that governs adoption between the two countries, although this is probably also indicative of how fragile the US/Russia relations really are, after years of a poor diplomatic relationship.

What is most tragic is that in doing so, Russia, like many other countries, is refusing to address the issue of child welfare within her borders.  In this case, voiceless and sometimes nameless orphans are being use as pawns in a power struggle between two countires.  (Lest you think I am kidding, the voiceless and nameless parts are not merely metaphors.  Many orphanages are infamous for their silence because the children inside have learned that crying does not produce results.  And I have personally seen a blind baby who was somewhere between 6 months and 12 months old who was in an orphanage and had yet to be named because the orphanage staff didn't really think it mattered.)  In the last 20 years, 60, 000 children have been adopted out of Russia by American families.  That figure is really a small percentage of the total number of children living in orphanage systems there.  But for 60, 000 kids, the ability to be adopted mattered.  And Russia is unwilling to concede that for those kids who are able to be matched with adoptive families, that it is unfair to punatively restrict those adoptions.

Really it's symptomatic of a larger problem, one that many countries, former Soviet bloc, third world, and first world share.  The problem?  The inability of governments to care for kids in need.  For many kids in countries like Russia, it's about bleak orphanages where staff do not interact with kids on a regular basis, where the kids are in cribs for hours on end, where disease or even racial make up might cause a caregiver to say that a certain child should not be held or kissed because they are "dirty."  For kids in countries like Haiti, it's about a deep seeded poverty that envelopes everything and causes living parents to place their kids for adoption with the hope and prayer that adoption or at the very least, orphanage care, will be a way for their children to eat and maybe go to school, all while people in positions of authority are caught up in a survival mode type thinking that creates situations where much is done in the name of money and less is done in the best interest of the children.  And for those of us who live in the US, it's about a broken foster care system that cannot communicate well across state lines, where biological family ties are valued more than common sense, where social workers are underpaid and overworked.  There are of course, bright spots in all of these situations.  Nannies who do care, orphanage directors who work tirelessly to promote family preservation and adoption, dedicated social workers who work in the best interest of the children.  But by and large, governments are not good at serving kids. 

I don't know what the outcome will be for those in Russian orphanages.  I can only hope our state department will do its best to reach a solution that helps the families in process and the children who would benefit from adoption.  Most of us will probably hear this story and by next month, have already forgotten it even happened simply because we are not personally effected by the ban.  But I can also hope that this serves as a reminder of how easy it is for children to become afterthoughts, for people and governments everywhere to minimize the role they have in changing the lives of kids or, at worst, know the role they have and act in ways that cause more harm than good.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Act Your Age

I'm sure I'm not alone in reminding my children of their actual age versus the age they are acting.  I actually try not to do that because I think in some ways it minimizes the feelings a kid might have.  (For example, if you are 6 and pouting in disappointment because didn't get to play a game before bedtime, being told to act your age isn't very helpful because quite frankly, pouting is a 6 year old behavior.  It's better to give them some ideas of appropriate behavior for dealing with disappointment.)  That said, I do say it from time to time.

Apparently more than I think because last week at Grandma's, Zeke started throwing a fit and Kenson quickly piped up, "Zeke, how old are you?"  Conleigh, who was sitting on the couch next to the two of them, immediately jumped in.  "Yeah, Zeke you are acting like a one year old!"

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Gingerbread Aftermath

Still working on getting my Christmas photos up and organized.  But in the meantime, enjoy the aftermath of the kindergarten class project:  build a gingerbread house.  Yes, they are eating them approximately ten days after building them.  Yes, they both licked the houses and tried to gnaw the frosting off.  Yes, it took them a few minutes to admit defeat.  Conleigh was first.  Her words were "Mama, this don't taste so good."

Monday, December 24, 2012

Snow Day

First snow day of the season on Thursday...Zeke enjoyed all of it and didn't even cry about it being cold.  It was really cold so they didn't get to stay out too long but later they tried to sled down the small slope in the backyard.  It was pretty unsuccessful-a lot of scooting on bottoms on a sled but they all seemed to be happy.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Jingle Bells According to Conleigh

For full effect, don't just read it.  Sing and read.

"Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way!
Old McDonald hmm hmm hmm
in a one horse open sleigh!"

Of course, when I corrected her, she told me how wrong I was because that's how they sing it in music class.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Catching up with Elf on the Shelf

Here's what Pete and Oswald have been up to:

They were a little too fast for me and I missed getting a photo of them eating our peanut butter (head first in the jar of course).  I also missed snapping a picture of one of them in an antique Mason jar while the other one sat on the lid to keep him in.  (Don't know which one did what job.  We haven't written a letter to them to ask.)
Some hijinx involving our family portraits...Even Zeke thought this was funny.  He would point at it and laugh several times throughout the day.

It's Super Kenson!

An angel and the devil...

Playing a little catch

Hanging out with baby Jesus.  And no, the elves did not put the pretend fast food menu there.  That's just how we roll around here.

The aftermath from when the elves toliet papered the Christmas tree


Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Raising kids whose lives criss cross international borders has a way of humbling me.  It's not something I anticipated.  And maybe the feeling really isn't accurately described as being humbled.  I just know that there are times where I find myself amazed at the gifts I have been given and that somehow that makes me feel little and special all at the same time.

When the big kids started kindergarten this fall-that was one of those times.  They went knowing about half of their sounds and Kenson was already starting to put words together when given sounds orally.  I knew that they would soon be reading.  That knowledge put a lump in my throat.  In Haiti, the literacy rate is around 50%.  That means that just from a pure statistical point of view, if my kids had stayed in Haiti, the odds were that one of them would never learn to read.  To imagine that one of my kids would be illiterate, that grounds my feet in gratitude.

Then yesterday, I took Conleigh to the doctor.  She has had a stomach bug since early Monday morning, complete with vomiting and a really bad stomach ache.  I was pretty sure it was just a stomach bug but after an afternoon of no vomiting and her crying and moaning and writhing around, I decided to take her in just in case it was something else.  After the nurse took her vitals and asked about why we were there, we were left alone in the small hospital waiting room.  Conleigh was straddling my lap, her head buried in my chest.  I couldn't help but think of the countless Haitian mamas who were probably in my very situation, who had a baby whose tummy was hurting tonight, whose baby might have been vomiting or had diarrhea.  How many of those mamas really just wanted some reassurance from a doctor or a nurse that their baby was going to be okay, that it wasn't cholera or some other deadly illness?  How many of those mamas were uncertain about their babies' well being but had no where to turn and instead kept their babies home in a small tin roof shack or tarp tent?  (Just as an aside, there are approximately 2.5 doctors per 10, 000 people in Haiti and 1.1 nurses per 10, 000 people.  In my town of 5, 000 people we have 3 doctors plus several physicians' assistants and one nurse practicioner.  That doesn't count the various specialist doctors who make weekly trips to our town and certainly doesn't take into account the US average which is 53 doctors per 10, 000 people.)

Yes, those are the moments that leave me feeling small and special and sad and grateful and overwhelmed all at the same time, humbled by my position as an American mom.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

These Kids!

Despite the army men in the sink, the toothpaste that is always on the bathroom counter, and the mountain of laundry, can't help but love these kids!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Advent: Music to My Soul

If you are looking for a different take on an advent devotional, I'd encourage you to check out this daily email devotional that our former pastor has created.  It's focused on the classic songs of Christmas and includes a devotional thought plus a link to hear the song.  I think it's been a great way to incorporate a little Christmas worship into my day.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Elf on a Shelf: The Cheapskate, Grace Based Version

Last year, everyone one and their dog was posting pictures on Pinterest of this cute little project called Elf on a Shelf.  The idea comes from a book of the same title, with a storyline that goes something like this:  Santa has sent an elf to your house to see if you have been naughty or nice.  The elf himself is a bit naughty and likes to cause trouble at night while everyone is asleep.  The last part I loved; the first part about the elf watching your child's behavior, not so much.  Plus the book with an elf was like $30. 

So I opted to do my own version.  I bought an elf set off of Ebay (Hallmark ornaments actually) for less than $10.  Then I wrote my own letter from Santa, explaining why the elves had arrived at our house.  In our letter, Santa explains how he doesn't really have a naughty and nice list but that he wants to be like Jesus and give gifts to people who don't deserve them.  He asks my kids to do their best to love others and to love Jesus but to remember that they are going to make mistakes and that they can ask Jesus to forgive them.  The letter goes on to say that the elves, Pete and Oswald, have trouble understanding about grace and making good choices so Santa would like my kids to teach the elves about those two things.  Santa says he will pick them up on the 24th, when he brings the kids their presents.  The catch is that the elves' magic only works at night and that touching the elves can make them lose their magic.  (We shored that one up when the elves had to take not one but two sick days due to little hands touching them.  The elves camped out on one of my primtive pillows with Kleenex blankets, cough drops, thermometers, and bandaids and wrote the kids a note saying how they were sick from people touching them and that Santa wanted to come get them but that they talked him out of it.)

For us, I was really unsure for the longest time how I wanted to approach the whole Santa thing as I don't want my kids to lose sight of the purpose of Christmas nor do I want to lie to my kids.  But then I saw an amazing letter a mom wrote to her kids who had outgrown Santa that explained how Santa was a way for her to teach her kids that believing in something, having faith in something is important.  The letter did a great job of explaining how God is not like Santa Claus but how believing in something we can't see is a good thing.  That letter was the encouragement I needed to step up my Santa efforts with my kids.

D and I have had a great time coming up with ideas for the elves.  So far they have left the kids a note written in dry erase marker on the bathroom mirror, had two sick days, brought powdered sugar doughnuts and made snow angels in the powdered sugar, hung off of the dining room chandelier, and tried to fight off the tooth fairy who came to claim Kenson's lost tooth (with the story of their valiant attempt to save Kenson's tooth told via a letter). 

Gotta love these little guys...

The elves' arrival-they broke out of the package before the kids could open it

Snow angels in the powdered sugar

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Friday, November 23, 2012

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Bed Buddies

This might explain why Kenson has seemed to be really over tired the last few days.  He's been saying that Zeke crawls in bed with him in the morning but we've never really caught him.  But tonight when I went in to check on them, this is what I found.  If Zeke weren't such a crazy sleeper, it might not be too bad but the kid seriously rotates in a full circle while he sleeps.  It definitely looks like Kenson is getting the raw end of the deal...

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Pipe Cleaner Curls and Conleigh's Locs

We had family pictures today and Conleigh's hair really could have used a good shaping but I didn't have time to do that.   It looks a little scraggly, like we just let it grow and have paid no attention to it.  (Which is what we did.)  Really, I think some layering in a bob style would help but that's for another day.  Not wanting the scraggly look in our photos, I needed to figure out an alternative.  So I decided we'd try pipe cleaner curls.  Really, people have been doing similar things for years.  From the old foam rollers to straw sets, people have twisted their wet or damp hair around an object to give it a corkscrew shape.  

I used the tutorial available at Naptural Journey but really, I don't know that you need a tutorial.  You fold a pipe cleaner in half and twist it, leaving an "eye" at the top.  Then you thread the ends of the hair through the eye and coil it up on the pipe cleaner until you get to the scalp.  Fold the pipe cleaner on the scalp end over to secure it and you're done.  Then repeat about 200 times.  I did it on freshly cowashed hair and used Darcy Botanicals Twisting Cream to help give the curls some staying power.  It took me about two hours to get them all in.  (I did not do every loc as a separate curl.  I did up to four locs together on on pipe cleaner.)  Conleigh slept in the pipe cleaners and the hair dried overnight.  (You do want the hair to be thoroughly dry as even slightly damp hair will not hold the curls like it ought to.)  While she was eating breakfst, I took the pipe cleaners out.  Then I separated the locs so the curls were not clumped together.  She really liked it.  I'm hoping that she will be gentle with them and they will last all week...we'll see.

7 English words...We're on our Way!

I know you are all dying to know but Zeke can now say "bye bye", "ball", "shoe", "gentle", "please", "bath" and "Bo" in English.  He also uses sign for "more", "eat", drink", "all done" and "sleep."  He understands so much more than that though.  (Language development usually follows a pretty predictable pattern so this mirrors what most babies do when they are learning to talk.  They understand words before they can speak them.)   He is quick to pick up when someone tells him to pick up the toys.  He hurries to get his shoes when told to get his shoes.  He crawls up in his booster seat if someone tells him that it's time to eat.  He does say a few things in Mandarin but we've honestly heard him say very few things that we understood in Mandarin (which isn't saying much because our Mandarin is non existant).  Lots of animal names due to an Android app.  (Gow for dog, sheen wah for frog, nineyo for cow, maa for horse, etc..)  He chatters all the time but who knows what he is actually saying.  For all we know he could be telling us we stink like bad cheese.  I digress...

 Realistically, he is probably at the point where he may be able to recognize some Mandarin but it is fast slipping away from him.  It's sad.  I would love for my kids to not have that loss but unless you have the ability to converse frequently with your child in their first language, they are going to lose it.  Honestly, I think the loss of language is right after loss of first family in a list of adoptive losses.  It's one of those things that if they chose to return to their birth country, that they will instantly miss and feel big feelings over as they will be unable to communicate with birth families and others from their birth countries.  They will probably find themselves frustrated because while in country, many will expect them to speak the language.  It's one of those things that it is expected for a Chinese person to speak Mandarin or a Haitian to speak Creole.  (Other parts related to culture are a little more flexible as they are determined by the family unit living within the culture.)  In all three of kids' situations, there just isn't a good local resource available.  You can't take Mandarin or Creole in high school or or go to culture school.  There is an Asian culture center about 30 minutes away and I know they sponsored a native speaker speaking contest but that's more to help preserve the languages for kids growing up in homes that speak an Asian language.

No Hands But Ours has a great read on language and international adoptions; it's worth the read as it shares research in an easy to read format.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Kid Play Space-Completed!

D goes back to work next week which means he has been off for over a month.  I am so grateful that his employer lets him take paid leave; most dads don't get to do that.  And I am so grateful that he chooses to do that; a lot of dads don't do that.  Lest you think it's all roses and sunshine where I sit around and just sing his praises, I also am grateful he's been home to finish up a bunch of projects!
Like our backyard.  He hauled mulch and put in our gravel dig pit this week.  (The swing set and play structure were put up right after we moved in.  We actually paid the fence company to sink the posts for the play structure which was definitely the best $70 I've ever spent on a construction related project.)  Our kid space is now complete and I love it as do the actual children. 
Things I like best: 
1.  The swing set because it was free  - My friend, Kelly, was getting rid of it because her daughter had outgrown it.  It's a bit faded from the sun but still sturdy and well used.
2.  The stump balance beam because it was also free - The corner of the yard where we put in the play area actually had a medium size spruce.  (The variety that eventually take over the whole yard)  So we cut it down but we kept the stumps to use for this.  It's great for balancing or for sitting.
3.  The gravel dig pit because I'm pretty sure we will get hours of entertainment out of it.  I opted for gravel over sand for several reasons.  I was wanting to avoid problems with alley cats.  I was wanting to avoid sand in shoes; I think I would rather deal with gravel.  I was wanting to avoid sand in the hair.  Between playing trucks and digging with shovels, the kids have had a great time.
4.  Communication tubes made from plumbing supplies - I have no idea what the actual name of this product is.  But it's cheap and it works.  Zeke thinks it is so much fun to yell into them and I've enjoyed watching him.
We still have some major landscaping in the back, front, and side yards but I'm definitely glad to have a kid friend space.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Pencil Bags: An A Ha Moment

Thank you, Pinterest!  Someone, somewhere pinned a link to a very smart mom who created activity books for her kids using binders and pencil bags.  I was really looking for ideas of quick and easy things to entertain my kids during the sermon on Sundays and while I'm cooking supper and what I found was the post on using pencil bags to organize activities.  So clever!  They zipper shut but durable.  They have grommetted holes so you can put them in a three ring binder.  Multiple bags can fit in one binder so you get multiple activities organized into one compact space.  Because there is a clear plastic front, you can see what is in them.  And the time committment to get it organized is however long it takes you to check out at Walmart or dig through your box of unused school supplies.  Pure genius, I tell you! 

I made a binder for each kid, with three pencil bags in each binder.  I also put a clear page protector in each binder so that I could put in coloring sheets, word finds, mazes, etc..  The activities for the pencil bags require minimal planning on my part.  Things like flashcards, wiki sticks, a small notepad with crayons and stickers, and several popsicle stick activities (matching number names to the numbers, popsicle sticks with velcro on the ends for building, matching color names to the color, etc.).  After church on Sunday, I take all the used papers out and change out the activities if needed.  Really, I usually just change one activity each week so two of them stay the same.  Again, it requires minimal work on my part. 

I had an extra bag so I decided I would use that in my diaper bag as a toy bag for Zeke.  Right now, that bag currently has Hot Wheels in it.  Any small toys will fit though.  While I like the binders, I am actually more impressed with the one I use in my diaper bag.  It keeps all the little toys together.  It doesn't get lost in the bag because the clear plastic is sturdy enough to keep it upright.  It doesn't get trashed by being shoved in my bag or tossed on the floor and stepped on or chewed on.   And the zipper is something Zeke can open by himself.

So many possibilities for these since they will hold items that are not necessarily flat.  Maybe organizing all those stupid little parts that go to stuff around your house that you don't need but don't want to lose.  (Like screws to a crib you no longer use or the handful of extra cabinet knobs you have laying around just in case.)   Or as a way to organize desk supplies with bags for thumbtacks, binder clips, envelopes, etc..  I know I'm way too excited about this...just love it when someone points out to me an alternate, practical use for an item.  Just thought I'd share!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Cardinal Nuptials

Our backyard has been such a blessing to us.  Our lot is next to three empty lots:  two are owned by a developer who plans to put in duplexes (bummer) and one is an afalfa field.  We see all sorts of animals.  From deer who like to nibble on the apples from the apple tree in one of the lots to a groundhog that lives under our neighboor's shed to a variety of birds like bluebirds, finches, and cardinals.  Today, I noticed that there was a pair of cardinals sitting in our tree, trying to eat at our birdfeeder.  The red male was on the ground and the tan female was in the branches.  I pointed this out to the kids who then wanted to look.  I asked Kenson if he had seen them both and pointed out again that they were in different locations.  His response?  "Yes, I see both the girl and the boy."  Then he paused, "Are they married?"  Ah sweetness!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Random Lunch Conversation #432

Conleigh:  I'm going to die tomorrow.

Me:  Oh really.  Why would you say that?

Conleigh:  Because Jesus is going to come back tomorrow and take me with Him.

Me:  Oh really.  How do you know that?

Conleigh:  Because I'm very smart.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Why Not?

Boys become kings and girls become queens...when they are loved with hearts that say "Why not?  We can do that!"

For some reason, people think we are amazing, extra special, almost super heroes. 

Because we've adopted three kids. 

We are not amazing. 

We are not extra special. 

And we're not super hereos. 

We are regular people who did not say "That seems impossible.  That seems too hard."  We are regular people who instead said "Why not?  We can do that!"

Why not?  Why not you?  Why not choose that girl?  That boy?  That queen?  That king?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Crap People Say to Adoptive Families

Let me preface this with saying that, in general, it takes a lot to offend me.  And that in general, I've heard a lot of these comments and I really am not offended because I believe most people mean well when they ask them.  But I do think this video is food for thought...

In general, I think the biggest beef is that a lot of these comments come from complete strangers or casual acquaintences.  It's like being ask to tell your labor and delivery story to people whom you don't know.

Real brothers and sisters...yes I know people want to know if they are biologically related.  Sometimes, it just really isn't anyone's business and sometimes, it's about the fact that the word "real" makes it seem like adopted siblings aren't really siblings.

So lucky...this one does make me cringe.  I know it's a compliment but 1.  we are not saints and 2.  my children are not lucky; there is nothing lucky about losing your first family, losing your second family (orphanage or foster family) and having your early life look extremely different than just about everything else's

Hair...petting people is never acceptable, especially if you don't know them.  Once is not so bad but my children get petted a lot and honestly, it gets a little annoying to them.

Cost...just plain rude when done in front of my children unless you are seriously interested in pursuing an adoption and are trying to gather information.  If so, clarify this and ask when a good time to talk is.  Mind you, I am not opposed to discussing the financial end of adoption; I just don't want my kids feeling like a commodity due to the way someone words their questions.

Where are their birth parents?...most people are asking out of curiousity not because they have a really important reason for asking.  If you are a stranger or casual acquaintence, I'm not sure it's your business.  This question puts me in an awkward position because I don't want my children to feel ashamed of their story but I also don't want them to feel like they have to share their private story with everyone who asks.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Unrequited Love

He lets me feed him breakfast, lunch, supper, and snacks.  He comes and finds me if he has lost a toy or if he wants his shoes put on.  He enjoys the routines of getting ready, taking a bath, and going to bed.  He looks into my eyes, laughs at my silly antics, and plays with me if I play by him.  But he does not seek out my affection, miss me, run to me, or cherish me.  Because I am a babysitter, someone who can trust with the basic stuff but not with his heart.

And that is the battle in adoption, well, in all parenting:  the battle for the heart.  This adoption has been my easiest and my hardest all at the same time.  The trip itself was hard.  The little boy who grieved for a week was hard. 

But now that we are home, he's pretty easy.  He doesn't fuss a lot.  He is very capable of independent play, of falling asleep on his own.  He is pretty clear that he doesn't really want too much help with eating or drinking.

 I know what you're thinking.  That sounds great!  So much easier than a baby.  And it is.  Way easier than my other two who clung to at us, who wanted to be carried everywhere, who were not all that independent, who almost always craved affection.  But in a lot of ways, that also makes it hard.  It is a concious choice to parent him with what he needs versus parenting him with what he appears to need.  The appearance is that he's fairly self sufficient and requires only minimal help from us.  But the reality is he stills sees us in a caregiver role not a "my mama and papa are the most precious things in the world!" to me role.  He chooses us because he has no choice not because he desires us.  It is a thinly veiled tolerance, based in a trust that thankfully his foster family grounded him, a trust that says "I can count on others to meet my needs."  But it is not a love affair.  There is no romance, no swooning, no heart beat that says "I need you with all my being."

It will come.  It's like most cases of falling in love.  It doesn't happen overnight.  It's wooing and pursuing.  But sometimes the pursuit is hard.  Sometimes this mama wishes she didn't have to pursue, that it just happened on its own, without my instigating and insisting. 

Believing 1 Corinthians 13 to be my prayer today, for myself not for him...

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
(The Message)

Friday, October 26, 2012

Puppy Love

As I said before, Zeke is in love with our Basset Hound, Bo.  We arrived home at 2 a.m. on Saturday night and pretty much went straight into our bedroom with him and went to sleep.  When I woke back up around 7 a.m. that same morning, I headed out into the open area that is our kitchen, living, and dining room combined.  My mom, grandma, Kenson, Conleigh, Aunt Sheree, and 3 cousins soon followed.  The dog heard all the noise and of course whined to be let out.  So out he came.  About 15 minutes later, Zeke came toddling out and beelined for the dog.  His face lit up and he started babbling "Woo, woo!" which is his version of "woof."  He spent the next 30 minutes adoring the dog, from his tail to his paws and ears to his dog bed.  And the adoration has not stopped.  The word "Bo" is the first English word he says consistently.  If the dog is out on the patio, wanting to be let in, Zeke lets us know.  In the mornings, if the dog is still in his kennel downstairs, Zeke points at the dog bed and wants to know where he is.  I'm kind of wondering if he perhaps had a dog.  He actually tried to feed Bo on his first day home which to me seems like something only someone who had a dog might try to do. 

First morning home

Zeke loves to sit in the dog bed, with or without the dog.

Zeke loves to lay down on the floor with Bo.  The other day, Zeke actually covered the dog up with a blanket because he was sleeping.  The dog was unimpressed.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Monday, October 22, 2012

What I Can Do Myself

God is looking for people through whom He can do the impossible ~ what a pity that we plan only the things we can do by ourselves. ~ AW Tozer

A fitting quote for me as we welcome a new little boy to our home. For the first time in years, I have found myself thinking maybe 3 will be the magic number where we stop. For some reason I had always thought 4 or maybe more. But this time around, things have felt different. Two weeks away from my kids was HARD. Being just about the only Americans in a vast Chinese city was completely isolating. A grey landscape that seemed dark and a bit desolate seemed depressing. A little boy who rejected us and whose presence was going to change everything seemed overwhelming. Mind you, I knew at the time that all of it was temporary, that things would get better. But the Monday night, after we picked up Zeke, I was not doing well. The straw that broke the camel's back was thinking we would not have Internet access to Skype and Facebook with our kids, family, and friends. I woke up around 3 a.m. and cried until about 7. I wanted to get online and ask people to pray for me but I was afraid of using the computer in case we couldn't find an adapter for our power cord. I was afraid to be without a way to contact my kids. If it had been my first adoption, I probably would have wanted to give up and go home.

Now we're 2 weeks past that point. My prickly pear of a little boy is slowly letting go of his need for control; he's making more eye contact and craving affection in small doses. I am home with my kids although I definitely cried when I hugged each of them for the first time. I am still sleep deprivived but things seem much more manageable. And adoption number 4, while never a sure thing, doesn't seem like something I could never do.

God is at work in the impossible, the improbable, and the downright uncomfortable. So thankful that He sees beyond my plans and continually nudges me towards the plans He has made.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Hits and Misses

A very literal take:  our flight from Hong Kong to Chicago.  We sat on the tarmac in China for an hour and then made it into Hong Kong about 5 minutes before that flight was departing.  Long story short, it was a fiasco.  20 people or so missed the flight, most of them people with young children.  They were able to get our luggage off the original plane and reroute it to our new destinations but refused to hold the plane for the 20 or so minutes it would have taken us to get on board.  We got vouchers for lunch and were told we would be informed at 1:00 how we would get home.  At 1:30, people started getting antsy as no one from the airline had said anything.  People started going up to the ticket desk and noticing the paperwork that was lying around.  Someone realized that they were booked on a flight that left at 2.  Mind you, it is 1:30 and they have not be instructed about what gate to be at or anything. Ten minutes pass and the ticketing officials take a small group off to meet the 2:00 flight.  D and I were left with two other people from the original group, two men who were flying together.  Mr. Salmon was dressed in salmon, hence the name, and was hot from the get go.  He continued to be a jerk pretty much the entire rest of the time and actually ripped up his boarding pass because they reticketed him in a seat that was not an aisle seat.  We flew out of Hong Kong at 4 to Los Angeles.  Mr. Salmon ended up on our flight, in the bulkhead with lots of leg room, in an aisle seat.  Our 3 tickets were not together at all and no one wanted to really fix it (not the ticket counter or the gate personal) so we had to have the stewardess try to find us seats together.  The flight was not full but no one wanted to give up their seats because the only available seats were middle seats so all we could manage was 2 seats together with Zeke on our laps.  For about 12 hours.  Fun times.  We flew the rest of the way LA to Denver then into Omaha and arrived at a bit after midnight.  We ended up having to do security 4 times.  More fun times.  None of our flights had us sitting together so every flight we had to ask at the gate then ask a stewardess to try to put us together.  And the last fight had Zeke in an exit row with me which was a no go. 

Thank heavens our luggage all made it to where it was supposed to be, including our stroller which we really needed at LA and Denver.  We had checked it in China because we were afraid if we gate checked it, it would slow us down when we got off the plane in Hong Kong if we had to wait for it.  We knew we had a tight connection and didn't want the stroller to slow us down.  Our plan was to pick it back up in Chicago when we picked up our other checked baggage at customs but then keep the stroller with us for the other flights.  When we arrived in LA and claimed our checked baggage, our stroller was no where to be found.  The attendant basically told us we were going to have to wait until we arrived back in Omaha to file a claim.  Not what I wanted to hear, espcially since we had been rerouted.  But just as he was saying that, it showed up.  Praise the Lord because we had to get to the United Terminal in LA which was basically as far as way as possible from customs.  No stroller would have been awful.

Zeke really did pretty good considering that he didn't get a lot of sleep and that it was a crazy day.  We were not "those people" with the crying, screaming, poopy baby.

A few people (really very few) looked at us with a two year old and were extra kind.  Like the man who let me cut in front of him in the pretty long bathroom line on the international flight.  And someone else who let us board ahead of him instead of us going to the end of another long line.  Most people, especially on the international flight, were just very worried about themselves.  And the flight attendents were not all that worried about us.

Loved flying into Denver and seeing Cinch jeans and cowboy boots.  Definitely a Midwest crowd with Midwest smiles and personalities.

When we originally left, we had planned for several friends from church, my mom, my aunt, my cousins, my kids, and friends whom were babysitting our car to be at the airport.  When our flights got rerouted, I didn't think anyone would be there to meet us nor did I expect it.  When I called my mom from LA, I was overjoyed to find out that she and my grandma and cousin were planning to be there.  (They had dropped my brother off for a flight to Chicago earlier that night so they were already in Omha.)  And when I talked to my friend, Heather, who was in charge of calling my "change of plans" list, she said our church friends were planning to come as well since they were going to be in Gretna watching their grandkids.  And my friend, Beth, who was babysitting our vehicle at her house in Omaha, was also there with her husband.  While I didn't "need" their presence, I really did "need" their presence.

Getting home at 2 a.m. was not high on my list but I loved coming home to a full house as my aunt and cousins had stayed at home to watch my kids.  I peeked in on my sleeping kids and showed Zeke the kids but didn't wake them.  But Conleigh woke up to voices around 2:30 and stumbled out.  And Kenson woke up around 4 when he heard me fumbling with my laptop because I couldn't sleep.  Love seeing their faces and being home with them.  And I loved waking up (after a brief two hour nap) to a full house, even if it was chaotic.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Consulate Appointment; Catch you on the Flip Side!

Our time in China is winding down and oddly enough, I'm not itching to leave.  (Now, I am definitely ready to be at home but I am not feeling desparate about it.)  Today we finished up the last part of our paperwork here:  processing Zeke's visa.  The adoption paperwork was finalized in his province so this is the last piece we need in order to get into the US with Zeke.  The appointment was held at the US Consulate in Guangzhou.  For those of you with Haitian ties, it's definitely different than the Consulate in Haiti.  It was more like they had the floor of an office building versus the polished marble mansion of the Consulate in Port Au Prince.  It was pretty loud and crowded as probably ten other families had appointments at roughly the same time as us.  The worker in charge of adoption paperworks greeted all families and explained a bit about the immigration process.  Then the other workers started calling family names to come up to different cubicles to finish the paperwork.  We were actually the first family called.  Our guide will go back tomorrow to the consulate to pick up Zeke's Chinese passport which will have his US visa affixed to a page on the inside. 

That means Thursday will be a free day for us.  I think we are planning to catch a taxi and go to Shaiman Island.  Shaiman Island used to be where most adoptive families stayed because the medical appointments for visa processing were held there.  But the office there relocated and then one of the major hotels on the island closed for rennovation so many families choose to stay elsewhere.  We're going to head over just to see what is there and maybe shop.  It will help break up a long day of hotel room lounging. 

Then Friday morning we will be headed to the airport.  We will be headed to Hong Kong to catch a flight to Chicago and then home.  Our turn around in Hong Kong is pretty tight (like 50 minutes) but there are other adoptive families on the same flight so I'm hoping that will help ensure we get on it even if we are not there as early as we would normally be.

Newest American citizen, signing out...well newest as of Friday afternoon once we land in Chicago.

Six Banyan Temple and Yuntai Park

Tuesday, we spent a couple hours sight seeing in Guangzhou.  I can't say that the sites we went to were anything all that fantastic but going out beat spending the afternoon in a small hotel room with a two year old.  (Pretty much anything beats that.)  The Six Banyan Temple was another Buddhist monestary/temple.  It was basically the same thing as the first temple we saw:  maybe 20-30 Chinese lighting incense and praying with tall Buddhas surrounded by offerings.   This one was a bit different in that it had a tall pagoda structure in the center which, until the modern era, was the tallest building in Guangzhou.  Also, as we were entering, there was a display set up with assorted offerings (peanuts, apples, candy, etc.).  Zeke pointed at it and said "I want" in Mandarin.  The woman who was in charge of the enterance heard him and gave him two pieces of candy and an apple.  Our guide explained that many adoptive families come to this temple and that following Budhist customs, eating the offerings can be seen as a way to ensure good luck.

Pagoda structure from the temple; it was very tall so it was hard to even get a picture that captured it.

 We also toured Yuntai Park.  The park contained several fountains, a huge variety of plants (cosmos, impatients, roses, boxwoods, and an assortment of tropical plants), and a greenhouse which housed more plants (a huge swath of orchids, a cactus garden, and more tropical plants). 
Working clock constructed from live flowers
Love the red lanterns hanging from the trees

Path leading through the rose garden