December 22, 2007

Rudolph Made Ella Cry

Yesterday I gave the kids a ‘day off’ from school. I pushed them a little bit harder earlier in the week with plans for a “party” on Friday. Though we started off as a normal day, I surprised them with a stack of crafts and coloring pages. One of the crafts was this cute little guy:

Some of you may not know (so I’ll tell you), Ella has complex syndactylism in her left hand. In normal speak that means that her fingers were fused together. In some cases, syndactyly is only webbing between the fingers, in Ella’s case she had no defined digits. When we brought her home she had a series of surgeries to “give” her fingers. Her bone structure is so poorly formed that the hand surgeon, as good as he was, couldn’t give her five digits. So, she has a thumb and two fingers. Her hand rarely is an issue, I honestly forget about it most of the time. She has never exhibited any feelings—good or bad—regarding her ‘little hand.’ When we are presented with projects that require hand tracing, I’m an equal opportunity hand tracer. I don’t shrink away from crafts requiring hand prints because I don’t want Ella to grow up feeling weird or funny because she has a ‘little hand’. That has ALWAYS been fine. And that has ALWAYS been my policy. My policy changed yesterday.

Each of the kiddos traced their foot on brown paper; then traced their hands on black paper. Ella balked when I started to trace her little hand. She looked at Everett’s nearly completed reindeer and said, “But my hand is different.”

In a moment of poor mommying I said, “Yes, your hand is different, but it’s still going to look nice as an antler on your reindeer.” Looking back I should have taken more time, maybe looked closer at her face to see how upset she was, but I didn’t.

She seemed unconvinced by my statements, but let me trace both hands. Then she started getting frustrated with her cutting skills, and I had the idea that for the first time she may actually CARE about how this craft turns out. For the most part she has generally done crafty things to appease me, and keep up with her brothers. Unconcerned with the finished product, or whether she finishes them, sometimes she even goes so far as to destroy the project as she creates it. So, we press on, gluing the antlers onto the footprint, then sticking a fuzzy glitter nose on. The kids were giggling at how their reindeer turned out, laughing that Eli drew a big smiley face and Ella drew eyebrows. I was surprised that Ella went beyond my expectations by drawing a face on her reindeer. We hung the little guys up and moved onto the next “phase” of our partying. Carmel corn and Disney’s “A Christmas Carol” followed by gifts (play dough and paint by numbers).

All was well, until Seth came home. Excited to share what we did today, the kids ran around showing him the pages they created, the paintings they did and then ran to the window to show him their reindeer. This is when our day took a turn. The boys were jumping around, general mayhem and excitement, “Look at my guy, he’s so cute!”
“I made a smile, look at my Rudolph!”
“Mine is weird. I no like him.” This came from Ella. And it hurt my heart. Then she looked up at Seth and collapsed in tears.

Several thoughts raced through my mind as I tried to figure out how to react. I was (as horrid as this sounds) happy because her feelings were complex, and she hasn’t before shown this sort of emotion. Every reaction she has is based on the concrete—she falls, she cries; she breaks a toy, she cries. She doesn’t deal in the abstract. For her to see her reindeer and realize that it looks different, then see that the difference is because she has a hand with three fingers, then be upset about that—well, that is momentous to me.

So I was excited for a millisecond. Then I saw her sobbing in Seth’s arms and the reality of what was happening set in. This was the official first time for my daughter to cry because of her differences. And I was faced with the stark reality that neither Seth nor I knew how to handle her sobs. He caught my eye and I just stood there, paralyzed. My eyes were welling up with tears and I didn’t want her to see me crying. Seth was whispering in low tones trying to console her. Neither of us had anything spectacular to say. We said what we’ve always said, “God gave you to have a special hand for a reason. We love your little hand.” The boys had gone into compassion mode and were raving about her hand, her reindeer…making fun of themselves; trying anything to cheer her up. As I spoke I felt very scared about what we will face as she gets older. I realize that “God made you with a purpose” probably won’t help a pre-teen stop crying. I know she’s going to ask “Why?” and I won’t have an answer.

December 20, 2007

Homeschool Family

I got this link last week, but didn't get a chance to see it until a few days ago. I laughed quite hard (especially because they have a big white van). If you are a homeschooler then you will laugh at how ridiculous this is, if you aren't, then you will laugh at how ridiculous this is. Click on this link: Homeschool Family Video

December 19, 2007

Life's Passing Me By

Thursday I had serious plans. They were so elaborate and extensive that I had a detailed play-by-play of where I should be throughout the day. First on the agenda was to enjoy “A Christmas Carol” at a local theatre. The theatre company had pared down the length of the original show so it would hold the attention of kids. They also pared down the price—which allowed the kids and I to attend (at $25 a pop I was NOT going, but for $5…). Dressed in our best, excited about the morning at the theatre, armed with list of activities to be done after the theatre; we left the house. Two minutes into our trip I experienced shooting pain from my neck down my left arm. Neck pain is unusual for me and in my inexperience I thought if I could just get to the theatre and sit still I would be fine by the end of the show. I was so mistaken! By the end of the show I could barely walk. The tiniest jostling of my arm or my head sent radiating pain through my left side. I sat in the Van, wondering how I would drive home. Tears seeped from my eyes just as much from pain as frustration, I had things to do!

Before you call me a wimp and tell me to take an Aleve and move on…I need to defend myself. The fact that I had tears escaping--big deal. When I was in labor with Eli, without meds, I leaked a few tears. I'm a crybaby about some things, but since I became a mom, not much coddling going on here. With that said, I hurt enough to admit defeat and call Seth in the Big City requesting that he take over as stay-at-home mom/teacher of the brood. When we got home I lay down and didn’t move until that night.

Other things were going on the other side of the world on Thursday. Several families from America World had court. Delays because of incomplete paperwork (on MOWA’s side) had resulted in these families waiting since October for this day. I wanted to spend the day in prayer for these families. Sadly, my best intentions were interrupted by life. In the wee hours of the morning I prayed for them, then I got busy with my schedule. I couldn’t bare my soul to God, because I was busy running amuck with my crew. How plans change! What an interesting way to find myself in prayer for the kids who wait and their families. There on the sofa I spent the day, initially agonizing over all I needed to do while unable to do anything. So I read and prayed.

The end of this story is bittersweet. That evening Seth got online to see the outcome of court. He taunted me by telling me how absolutely adorable the babies were. I’ve been looking forward to seeing pictures of these babies since October, but just couldn’t…get…off…the…sofa (though I tried). Here you can see pictures of the David’s baby girl, Sakari. The Carpenter family received an unfavorable ruling in court, which is quite devastating. They found out on Friday that it was simply a document not being completed by MOWA and will get another opportunity for court on December 28th. I’m already prepping myself to keep most of that day free!

December 11, 2007

Unsolicited Advice

I try not to give advice unless it's requested. I don't usually stick to it; though I wish I could. Here's a nugget of advice that comes straight from my experience...

If your laundry room lightbulb goes out, you may just want to avoid doing laundry until you replace the bulb. There MAY be SEVERAL different colored crayons in someone's pocket that get missed as you do the laundry in the dark. When you switch the wet clothes into the dryer (still in the dark), you may unknowingly put the crayons in the dryer too. Then after drying the clothes you pull them out and put the next load into the dryer. As you fold the newly washed and dried clothes in a well lit basement, you may FINALLY notice strange colors melted all over each of the freshly cleaned garments. This will strike terror in your heart as you realize that the load in the dryer right now is all YOUR clothes. As you frantically sort through the clean load you won't find any evidence of what did the colorful damage. Terrified, you will race into the dark laundry room to peer into the dryer. You will probably then, in the dim light from the basement, notice that there are globs of melted crayons on the inside of the dryer door. This will result in chipping the crayon off of the door and, sadly, hoping that the bits left on the door won't ruin any of YOUR clothes.

Once you replace the lightbulb you will fruitlessly apply magical stain remover to each spot of crayon that taints the load of children's clothes. Unfortunately, everyone knows that the magic stain remover isn't magic once the stain has been dried into the clothing. So, in the end, you re-wash the load of clothes and still have crayon marks all over each item. But, you rejoice because your clothes are fine. Besides, people will see your children's multi-colored stains and smile at your ability to run your home, school your children, AND assume those stains are from the crafty, colorful adventures you did in your free time!

If you aren't up to that headache--I'd just avoid doing laundry until you have the lightbulb replaced...


Thank you to all of you who have left comments or contacted me regarding my last post. It has been such a blessing to read what everyone had to say. We covet your prayers, thank you so much!

I didn't mention in my post that the neurologist that we had been referred to ("The Man" as far as neurologists in this area) scheduled an appointment for us in March. I called Ella's pediatrician and they were upset that he would expect her to wait until then to be seen. Though it wasn't HIM scheduling the appointment, and what would the receptionist know about Ella's case? The pediatrician's office called me the next day with an appointment with a different neurologist in January. This is so much more palatable; I'm hoping that we can get her seizures under control before we go to Ethiopia. I kept thinking a few weeks ago, in the throes of the unknown, "What if I had two more babies here? I would be a mess!" So, even if I was upset about the wait, God's mercy is evident in allowing us time to take care of Ella before we are taking care of two more children.

December 5, 2007


I have put off posting about this, unsure of how to handle it. I'll try to be short (yeah, right) and to the point. Ella is pretty delayed in all facets of learning. In an attempt to help her (and us) we visited a developmental pediatrician a few weeks ago. After describing some of the things that she was doing, he suggested IQ tests and an EEG. Back in September (when our van broke down), she started fluttering her eyelids and rolling her eyes around. It was that weekend that we were stranded, she was very stressed out, and we all figured it was just how she was handling the stress of...being without the van? When we got home the fluttering didn't stop, it was accompanied by her losing a few seconds of reality. Our pediatrician wasn't concerned about this, but wanted us to see this developmental pediatrician because of Ella's delays. When we described her symptoms and abilities he shocked us by saying that she may be having seizures and she may be mentally retarded.

Neither of these statements should have been shockers--Ella has febrile seizures and has had all sorts of tests run to figure that out. It's not a big deal, it's something she may grow out of, and we just pay close attention to medicating her while she's sick. It seemed strange to me that she would suddenly just start having seizures throughout the day, but I took her for an EEG. The results came back last week; they were abnormal, she is having seizures. Whoa.

Meanwhile, we were visiting a psychologist to see what's going on in Ella's head as far as development. Before he tested her, he spent an hour going over old tests and talking to Seth and I. He found a series of tests that the school system did several years ago. One of those tests generated an IQ score, the school system never told us about that test that they did. The results back then--Ella had an IQ of 71. Whoa.

It was a discouraging week to say the least. Monday morning we met with the psychologist again, this time prepared for the worst. Praise God he gave us good news, sort of. Ella's tests were low, but not because she is incapable of understanding the tests. She's unable to focus long enough to answer the questions (or in some cases even hear the questions). She's got inattentive type ADHD. Something we never would have thought about, because she is NOT hyperactive. As the doctor started talking about solutions to help her, Seth and I were seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Then I blew it and mentioned her recent seizure diagnosis. Evidently, that causes a bit of a problem because most of the meds that treat ADHD can't be taken by people who have seizures.

Okay, we left the office a bit confused, hoping that a neurologist can help us get things straightened out. Last week, with the news of a referral not coming for a few months, I was in the middle of all of that. That was a little bit of relief for me, since I didn't know what was happening with Ella.

Yesterday, we heard that the family ahead of us in line accepted a referral of three siblings. That means we are next...

November 29, 2007

Tidbits of News

Today a fellow mom spoke extensively with our family coordinator to get the scoop on the wait, referrals, court, the transitional home, and our rep in Ethiopia. She did a comprehensive job of detailing her conversation over at her blog and I won't try to recreate that here. To cram all the information into one blurb:
Our in country representative is now focusing on getting families through court and travelling, he has been busy getting the transitional home up and running, hiring staff for the home, and helpers for him. Once he gets through these next few weeks of work, families successfully make it through court, and travel, then he will be able to focus on referrals.

That is the really, really short of it. I'm saddened by the thought of waiting into March (PLEASE, I don't need a lesson in patience!!) for news of our children, but I feel a smidge relieved knowing that I shouldn't expect the phone to ring in the next month. I can focus on what is swirling around in our family--there is a blizzard going on right now. I can't seem to slow my mind down enough to process any of the "big" news I've gotten recently. When my mind wraps itself around this bit of news and I can find a way to gracefully relay the news that is slowly unfolding within our family; I'll grab a cup of coffee and update on that!

November 26, 2007

Back to reality funk

I'm one of those annoying people that cheerfully pop up from bed no matter how early the hour. Today I woke up and laid in bed for at least 30 minutes. For some reason I just couldn't get my gumption going to pull the covers off and creep into the cold bedroom air. I could hear the rain pouring down outside just warning me of another dreary, cold, midwestern day. The cat was curled on my chest, purring, encouraging me to stay in bed just a wee bit longer. So I did.

When I get home from a visit to our families, I struggle getting back into my routine. Today I blamed that for my funk. The responsiblity of being "mom" was weighing heavy on me, and it only got worse. In an effort to feel better I emailed my loving husband. He is not naturally an encourager. I would go so far as to say that he is the worst pessimist I know, he obviously read too much Pooh as a child and decided to mold his personality after Eeyore.

Here's what my message said:
I feel discouraged in "all things having to do with my life" right now. Something about the expanse of time before summer comes, perhaps? The weather is depressing, we have no referral, have no plan for our future, have a stinky smell in the fridge that I can't identify (I tried to), have a dead mouse in the garbage can in the kitchen, and, finally, we have some sticky residue covering the entire kitchen due to the madness of canning that went on before we left.

I should probably explain some of that. It was really just a boohoo fest for me, but the unknowns were pressing down on me as I spent time in prayer this morning. Then the reality of my responsibilities as "mom" cracked me in the head when Eli told me that there was a dead mouse under the table. Whoa, you mean I sat for an hour this morning with a cup of coffee, God, and a dead mouse?! Wait a second, what do we do with this mouse, since I'm the only adult here? See, if I was still at my Mom's house some other adult would definitely take care of this. Probably my dad, if not him then maybe Seth, or my mom, but I would be the last on the list. Because I'm still the child at my Mom's house, and you don't expect a child to clean up a dead mouse. Wake up call for me, as I try to formulate a plan to scoop up the dead mouse. All the while Everett is lamenting the death of the mouse and moaning about "why can't the cats just let them live so we can keep them as pets?"

After I dispose of the mouse body, I look around the kitchen and notice that it just seems dirty. After trying unsuccessfully to slide a canister of granola over on the counter, I realize that the dirtiness is indeed sticky applebutter/juice/sauce residue from the chaos of canning 2 bushels of apples in the last few hours I was at home. Though I thought I cleaned it all up, it was merely a facade of cleanliness. Then it sat all weekend to harden and possibly attract the mouse? ACK--too much to think about on a Monday morning after a holiday weekend. I need to walk away from the kitchen and convince myself that math is important enough to call my children downstairs and start school.

All the while I'm wondering, will we get a call about our children today? Will I even HEAR news of our kids before Christmas, because I honestly thought that maybe, just maybe, we would HAVE our five children together in our living room tearing through gifts this Christmas. I haven't thought this for a long time, but it was depressing to think that we have been waiting for a referral for OVER six months...ugh. So I sent Seth that email. This was his reply...

When I opened the fridge here at work this morning, I noticed it was QUITE stinky, but not to worry it's not my responsibility to clean it out so, whatever. Later, when I went back to reclaim my chicken I realized that the light was out and that the reason for the stink was that the fridge was dead. So, not only was my salad dressing rotten, but my chicken was now in questionable condition. On my way down to eat (and share the possibly rotten chicken) with Andrew in the break room that we've always wanted to eat in but never have because there's an unwritten rule that we have to work through our lunch hour and enjoy the possibly rotten left over pot luck thanksgiving gravy to go with my possibly rotten chicken down there, our boss verbally attacks us (I guess because we didn't invite him).

Oh yeah, and then we ate the rotten chicken far so good! If you need more encouragement, I've got more.

Isn't it a blessing to read that? When I tallied it up, I think he may have me beat, because eating rotten meat is far worse than chucking a dead mouse into the garbage. God knew what He was doing when He paired us together. On a bad day, Seth still makes me laugh.

And, by the way, I'm over my rotten attitude. I'm thankful that I've got a cat to kill the mice who sneak into the house, thankful that I have dozens of jars of canned apples, thankful that I have three great kids who actually love math, and thankful that I can trust God with our future.

November 20, 2007

Christmas Shopping

I'm part of an online support group of families adopting from Ethiopia who are using America World. Recently, there has been a discussion of fundraising efforts. In a moment of complete and utter genius someone mentioned supporting each other. Duh. So I'm going to post a few links here, for those of you planning on doing a bit of early Christmas shopping. If you are expecting a gift FROM me, then you might consider looking at the links and letting me know what your requests might be. That would be my elusive way of telling you that I am going to try and do some of my Christmas shopping online, buying things from these families. We all know that Sam Walton doesn't need me to line the pockets of his decendents, but these dear folks could use our help in getting their adoption accounts up to snuff. So skip the mad rush and shop from the comfort of home; from people who actually NEED the money! There's my sales pitch (not too bad considering...) and here are the links:
Scrapbooking materials from Creative Memories
Handmade soy candles
Ethiopian Adoption T-shirts scroll to the bottom
Ethiopian Adoption T-shirts
Simply Love T-shirts password kiki, click T-shirt link on the left
Hilary's Hope-awesome purses
Fair Trade Coffee check the left side of the blog
Books and bibles scroll to the bottom
Current-paper products

Hope you have fun shopping for a good cause!

November 19, 2007

Ella's Gotcha Video

I have a confession to make: I started a video for Ella's gotcha day and didn't finish it until last week. Her gotcha day is August 21, home three years!

If you can't see the video visit it here.

Crop for a Cause

It's taken me the entire weekend to recover from Friday night's fundraiser! There were so many people who helped (THANKS!) and so many kind people who came (THANKS!). I think the evening was a success and several ladies came to me hoping that we would do this again. I don't remember my exact reaction as that night passed by in a blur, but I hope that I politely replied in the negative. I think that everyone had a great evening and perhaps were challenged to get involved in the lives of hurting children.

I have to confess though, in the end, the night was more of a blessing to me than probably anyone else there. It was very humbling. I can't thank everyone enough. It took MANY people pitching in to make this work. I am so thankful that so many people were willing to do various jobs and so many people were willing to come (especially those who don't even scrapbook and just wanted to come to be supportive).

So the grand total--we brought home around $400! I am very happy with this (as I'd rather organize an evening like this than sit in my driveway having a yard sale) and so thankful to the people who helped and attended. Here's the one picture I have to post (since the other is an upclose shot of a dear friend eating and she would probably not talk to me anymore if I posted it online).

Also, in the fundraising realm...The Waals have been a blessing to us lately as they have spoken in several churches about their adoption. When the first group asked how they could help Tracy mentioned our adoption and they took up a love offering for us. They have given us several hundred dollars--we need to get them on some kind of speaking circuit! Thanks, guys!

November 15, 2007

AWAA's Transition Home

Our agency just opened a new transitional home! Last week, they transferred the 13 children who have been referred to families from Kid's Care, the orphanage they were in, to America World's privately run, newly opened, home. This is where each our children will live as they wait between the time of referral and our arrival. With the news of the home opening, came news that there are needs at the home that WE CAN MEET. I think it's very cool to be able to have a hand in the care that my child will receive before we even meet face to face. There are many ways YOU can get involved, too! AWAA is sending a staff member to Ethiopia to bring supplies and check things out before she permanantly moves to Ethiopia in January. She is going to be able to bring donations (monetary and otherwise) with her. A fellow adoptive mom has a very cool thing going on, if you are willing to donate money via paypal--she's making things come together to get the cash to Ethiopia. Go and make a donation and read about the amazing project here.

OR--if you live close to me or have a way of getting donations to me, then email me for a list of what the home needs. If you are really quick about gathering things, we can get them to the agency before the rep leaves for Ethiopia in a week. Otherwise, I'll be prepared to bring donations when we travel.

My mind is flying faster than I can keep up with it right now. I'm a crazed lunatic trying to get everything to come together for the fundraiser tomorrow night. I am excited about the evening, but don't want it to be ruined because I didn't prepare well enough. This information about the transitional home will be a great opportunity to share with all the women there, too. As I'm collecting opportunities to share with them, I'm realizing how many ways we can be involved in our town, state, country, and world! I'm sure you will all be eagerly awaiting a post Saturday to hear how it went (though reading about it certainly won't be as good as attending!).

Meanwhile, get busy making a difference in the world around you!

November 12, 2007

Happy Veteran's Day

Take some time today and thank a veteran for their service to our country! I'm very proud of my family members who have served (or are serving) in the military--including the cutie pictured above. Thanks to all of you, related to me or not!

November 8, 2007

Cut to the core

I just stumbled onto this post by fellow adoptive mom, Heidi. She and her son visited Ethiopia in June with Visiting Orphans, a group from our agency. That trip changed their plans for adoption, they met a group of older siblings and decided to adopt them. She posted yesterday about the grim reality of adoption. As I read I found myself nodding in agreement and shaking my head at the sad state of empathy that we in America enjoy. It's the same feeling I had when I finished reading "There is No Me Without You."

Heidi used this analogy to describe what is happening in America:
Imagine a building with many windows and one door. Inside that building are orphans of every race, suffering in every color, pain of every degree. You KNOW what is in there. Now imagine that every day thousands of people walk right past that building. Some are too focused on their own lives to even take a peek in the windows. Some take a peek, can't bear the pain that the sight brings to surface in their own hearts, and then shield their eyes and continue on their way. Some peer inside, shed some tears, and feel a bit of compassion for the ones suffering. Then some, a few, actually step inside the building.

They engage with the hurting souls. They look into the eyes of these children and mothers and fathers and see their own. Their own flesh and blood. And then they do something about it.

Because, once you have engaged with the suffering, you can't NOT do something. You can't go back to your suburban American capitalistic dream and thank the Good Lord for blessing you with your comforts, food, wealth, and health. You can't do it. You shudder and realize, Woe to me for not seeing this suffering before. For not seeing these souls as my own. For not doing unto others as we would have done unto us. As we would want done unto our own white children.

Go read the rest of her post, it will make your heart cry. And hopefully, it will challenge you to engage the suffering souls all over the world.

November 6, 2007


Every once in a while a wrestle-fest breaks out in our house. For obvious reasons it is RARELY allowed outside of the house. Mainly because we like to leave our house and if our kids broke out into a wrestling contest anytime they wanted to...well, we wouldn't be invited back. Not to say they haven't tried wrestling anywhere and foyer, grocery store, JoAnn fabrics, parking lots, baseball fields, living room of close friend who has immaculate get the picture. Most of the time rolling around with a sib is a great time (until it goes too far and someone gets scratched in the eyes), and this is definitely a condoned activity for carpeted areas of our home. BUT, last night we watched them indulge in some good, hard wrestling at our friends' house. Today, Tracy posted this video on his blog, it's too funny. It will give you a glimpse into what part of my day is like, enjoy!

November 4, 2007

Calling all croppers

Neither Seth nor I are salespeople. Especially selling something that someone doesn't absolutely, positively need. Because, honestly, we couldn't even sell ice water to a parched nomad.

This doesn't bode well for a couple who are heading down the 'fundraising' trail. After running through many brilliant fundraising ideas-I realized they all revolve around selling a product--my old junk (ie. yard sale), cookbooks, coffee, candles, T-shirts, home decor, spaghetti, pancakes. Then I thought about scrapbooking. When I talked to Seth about hosting a crop, he laughed out loud and said, "I don't get it, so ladies bring their own stuff and sit there all night scrapbooking and they pay to do it? They don't get anything, what are they paying for?"

I don't have a good answer really. Which goes back to my being a poor salesperson.

I had to change my focus a little bit to force myself to come out of my unconvincing sales position. I have to see our adoption as something bigger than our family. Needing funds for our adoption is only part of the reason for the crop, the other focus is the plight of children all over the world. Seeing "real" people adopting, seeing "real" children without families, makes the community realize this isn't Hollywood. There are real people behind the stories, and hopefully, this night will allow some of these ladies to see adoption as a reality. If one gal hears my story and picks up a brochure from AHOPE or America World and makes a difference in a child's life, that will be the ripple that makes the treacherous part of "selling" worthwhile.

I hope that in sharing what God has done for us, I can encourage those who have been hesitant to be courageous by stepping out in faith, in whatever God may be calling them to do. I guess, last of all, I can bring home some money for our adoption! I feel much more comfortable with the idea of fundraising when I look beyond my needs and think about the bigger picture. If only 5 ladies show up, the change in my adoption account won't be obvious, but if two of those ladies are encouraged to become involved in foster care, or support an HIV+ child every month...that will be making a difference with far reaching results.

With that said, if you live in my area, and are free November 16, take some time to gather up your pictures and spend an evening with friends scrapbooking!

November 3, 2007

She lives

This is a kitty update...a week ago our cat, Lucy, met me in the hallway as I was waking up. I thought it odd, because it had been weeks since she had voluntarily done anything. In her effort to die she had deemed a corner under Everett's bed as the best place to leave this world. She was unwilling to move (unless I hauled her out by the scruff of her neck to mercilessly cram a syringe down her throat), so it was unusual for her to be out and about. I carried her downstairs with me and plopped some food infront of her, the whole time pleading with her to just "stinkin' eat it so I can stop feeding you by hand." And, miracle of miracles, she ate the food! I didn't start jumping up and down right away, because eating on her own doesn't mean she's completely out of the woods. So I waited for a few days before sharing my jubilation with the children. Now, she has resumed all of her bygone activities--including waking me up in the wee hours of the morning and trying to sneak outside when a child is slow with shutting the door. I'm thinking this must mean full recovery. But the question still begs to be answered, what was wrong with her anyway?

After that vet bill, she's the most expensive thing we own (excluding cars, the living room furniture is a close second). Pretty sickening, glad she's still alive to be our mouser--though I'm not sure being mouse free is worth $800.

October 25, 2007

A little too much time on my hands

I meant to post this picture a while ago. Ella's best buddy donated her long locks to Pantene to make a wig for a child with cancer. Her new haircut was adorable, and very short. Ella immediately wanted the same cut. Unfortunately, my daughter is a sweaty little thing. It would seem (to the unexperienced) that short hair in the summer is a GOOD thing, but you would be wrong. Short hair gets stuck on sweaty foreheads, and forms little sweat encased ringlets that turn into teeny weeny snarls. I know because we have done the short-hair-during-the-summer thing. It started getting cooler and one afternoon everyone was busy but me. So I slyly asked Ella if she wanted a haircut. We went upstairs and I got busy. Not 10 minutes later this is what emerged...

The next picture is a perfect example of taking a craft too far. We just finished studying "Vikings" and made papermache helmets. I won't go into the details of this, because I would seem like a crazy homeschool mom, but suffice it to say, these helmets took some time. After all of the work the kids decided to "play Vikings" and I asked them to pose (because these helmets, even though they were a lot of work, may not last too long and we need a picture for posterity). Everett belongs on broadway, he has a flair for all things dramatic. Here is the "Viking pose" and following is his lesson to Ella on being a Viking dog (because her "Viking pose" did not suit his tastes).

Now we are off into the world of knights and castles...that should bring some interesting photo opportunities!

October 23, 2007

Surfing the Web

I received an email this morning from a friend of mine detailing some kids who need families. Like me, she's a mom to a child with limb differences. Unlike me, she's on several forums and listings for moms to kids with limb differences. Occasionally, she gets news of kids who need homes. She usually sends them to me and I sit staring at photos for most of the morning, feeling torn apart at the plight of these kids. This particular email was from a site dedicated to finding homes for special needs kids from all over the world. The site also has a blog associated with it--this is a great example of families who travelled and saw the needs of these "forgotten children." Regular, everyday, normal people like you and I making an impact on eternity.

If you have some free time or know someone who might be interested in adopting a child with special needs--please pass the address on.

On a lighter note-a family adopting through America World posted this website today. It looks like a fantastic way to incorporate Amharic and Ethiopian culture into our children's lives. I've been on the lookout for something like this--thanks, Davids!

October 20, 2007

Dying Cats and other Expensive Endeavors

Seth went out of town this weekend for work. We had planned to go with him, because-why not? Then I remembered that we couldn't go with him. Because of my cat. I have to force feed her every two hours. Because...well, I am not really sure. Either she wants to die by starvation or wants to live but doesn't feel like eating. Either way its a long story and I have some time on my hands (seeing as I'm not in the Big City visiting my husband) so I'll start with the most logical beginning--the day my microwave broke.

One morning my microwave started making a weird noise. When I opened the door it sort of growled at me. Strange as it was for the microwave to growl, I decided I'd put my cold coffee in anyway (maybe it growled because I was waking it up early, maybe I needed to drink some coffee so I wouldn't be imagining a growling microwave--either way it seemed a good idea to me). When I turned on the microwave it started buzzing and growling. Even in my early-morning-drinking-cold-coffee-state I recognized that this could be hazardous. So I unplugged the microwave. Then waited and when Seth came home I tried it out with him. He immediately clutched his chest and started wailing, jokester--he had me going for a millisecond. So we threw the microwave in the trashcan. We priced microwaves but thought that we should probably put the money into our adoption account. Then...

The next week we went on vacation (which explains how we got along without the microwave for so long). See previous posts on Moby and ditching our "old" van in Alabama to get the picture on that ridiculous story. We incurred a car loan and bills from nights in a hotel, eating out, and buying a new van but saved money by dumping the old van instead of fixing it. Then...

The week after we got home Seth had a dental appointment. He had to have some dental work done. This is never good news, especially to Seth because he's only ever had one cavity. They didn't have to use novicane on that one little cavity. They had to use novicane this time, and it didn't work. He was in pain and the bill was high. Then...

Ella has speech therapy twice a week. It's a good deal, but our insurance doesn't cover a tiddle of it. We get billed by semester and the next week I got the bill. Was expecting it sometime, but the timing....well, not so good. Now, I get to the cat...

The next week I noticed our cat was acting strange. She's a peppy 3-year-old, but was lethargic and seemed to be skinnier. So I called the vet and brought her in. Not good news, she had lost four pounds (she was quite a big cat, but not that big) and they would need to keep her overnight to figure out what was happening. Four days later, and by my estimates not any better, the vet told me the prognosis was not good. They were force feeding her, had run tests on her and couldn't figure it out. But basically, she was dying. So would I like to have an ultrasound done, because they may be able to see something wrong with her gall bladder and perhaps perform surgery to remedy this? I asked them what our expenses were this far. And you won't believe what they said. Make a guess...I'll give you a second, because this will really blow your socks off...$713 for four nights, an IV, and some bloodwork.

And my cat was still sick and they had no idea why. So I said I'd be there to pick her up. But in the 15 minutes that it took for me to get there; I somehow accrued another $80 of debt and the scorn of everyone working there--since I was essentially taking the cat to die. I tried to redeem myself by explaining that I worked at a vet's office for years in high school and college (when the prices were evidently MUCH lower and ethic standards higher). My cat looked horrible, and I had to sit in my kitchen floor and just cry. Partly because the cat was dying and partly because I just shelled out $800 for them to tell me that.

Then I dried my tears and asked myself what God was trying to teach us from this. Within a few weeks we had paid out over $1000 dollars in bizarro expenses. It clicked for me right then that we are now in a position to completely trust God for our money. We had been in a "trusting" place--trusting the excess of Seth's salary (along with being thrifty) and a few "gifts from God" to give us the $25,000+ that we would need. I finally saw that we weren't really trusting Him as much as we should have. We are better off financially now than we were 3 years ago when we adopted Ella. We had yard sales, got second jobs, and sold fundraiser cookbooks to scrape together the money. It would NOT have been possible to have made it without God's blessing. And the people we met, the story we was amazing. One couple who heard our adoption story and the financial aspects of it, came to us after we spoke at church and said, "We've always wanted to adopt but thought we never could. We just don't make enough money." Now there is a baby in Alabama with a family because they saw our faith and decided that they could step out in faith too.

How much faith does it take to watch that paycheck roll in every month? And what kind of amazing story of provision will we tell? "God gave Seth a good job, we saved our money." I'm thankful for that, but what does that do for the people who have good jobs, but don't have that little bit extra to tuck away? It isn't very encouraging for them, but now we have joined their ranks. How excited I am to see God work this out and then to share the story. I'm not expecting our savings account to miraculously show deposits, but I am praying that God will bless our efforts. Does this mean pancake breakfasts and selling crafty things? I don't know, but I do expect that there will be a double blessing--we get to share the wonder of adoption with people as we work to build up our adoption fund.

And all of that because of a broken microwave and sick cat. Speaking of, I think it's about time to feed her--she's overcoming the odds and still alive, by the way.

Referrals, Referrals and more Referrals--not ours though!

Yesterday five more familes got calls from America World. It was exciting to read posts this morning. I was a smidgen sad though, because I'm still waiting. You may notice the ticker (that I hate and should remove because it mocks me) says that we have been waiting just shy of five months. I'm happy for the families (10 in all) that got referrals this month, but just barely a smidge sad because the reality is finally hitting home. These are the families with whom we paperchased, watched dossiers fly to Ethiopia, and waited. They are planning for their children and we are waiting.

We will be waiting for a while.

There I typed it...even as I clicked the period I had a thought of "What do I know, we could get a call in a month--why am I typing that? But then we could still be waiting until March." So maybe I should write:

Will we be waiting for a while?

I'm going to drive myself bonkers! Well, at least I'll be blissfully bonkers as I watch my internet-America World-Ethiopian adoption buddies getting courts dates and travelling. Congratulations to all of those who got referrals! You can watch them too here and here.

October 19, 2007

Shameless Plug for My Sister...

My dear baby sister is an not-so-starving artist. A wonderfully gifted, but lacking work, artist. She recently joined a crew of ladies who get together to encourage each other to use their artist talents. She was prompted to make herself available to people far and wide via...the internet, of course. My question is, What took you so stinkin' long?

So, ever the fabulous, encouraging, big sis I decided to link her blog and portraits right here to give her a little boost. Go visit her sites and tell her how fantastic she is and order something from her (then tell her that she needs to charge more and give me a percentage of sales for my marketing skills).

I'm not all self-less though, she NEEDS to do a portrait of Ella for me (if you are reading this Danica that would be a hint).

This is an oil painting she did for me years ago for Christmas. Such a cutie!

Last Night

Before my kids drift off to visit the Land of Nod; we pray. When they were really little, their prayers consisted of a list of "Thank Yous" rattled off to God. Listening to their prayers is an incredibly sweet way for me to end my day. Now that they are older, I get a glimpse of what is troubling them and what they are excited about. Last night Eli's prayer was so startlingly simple I had to swallow back tears as I kissed him goodnight.

He prayed, "God, I really want to meet my baby brother before Christmas. Amen."

October 11, 2007

I saw what I saw

This video is on just about any Ethiopian adoption blog I've visited recently, so I didn't feel like I needed to post it here. Then I thought about all of you guys (are you out there?) who don't bounce from one blog to another checking into the lives of other adoptive families--in a nutshell my family and friends.

I first encountered Sara Groves after stumbling onto her cd at the library. I enjoyed it, but alas, she was what we were listening to before we abandoned our old van in Alabama. I remember asking Seth (as we furiously chucked things from old van to new van) if he got the cd out of the player. He assured me that he had put it into a bag somewhere. Now, weeks later, with a heavy library fine, I've come to terms with the fact that the Sara cd is in an auctionhouse in the boonies. Maybe she'll be a blessing to the guy who scrubs the interior of the van after he buys it.

I hope this song is an eye-opener. Since we decided to adopt from Ethiopia, I've been realistic about how this trip will affect us. I'm approaching our travel with trepidation, afraid that what we see and who we meet will change our lives forever.

October 9, 2007

When it rains, it pours...

Our agency had a busy week. Our family has been visiting my parents and grandparents (Happy 80th Birthday, Grandpa!) so I just found out last night about all the referrals that have been given. Before we left, I knew about the Carpenters and the Davids. The Carpenter's news was extra-thrilling because they requested two children. Though they have been waiting for a while, it is encouraging to see them finally get a referral and know that "our line" is moving too. Then I found out about 3 more families that have news of their children. All of these families have every reason to expect to travel before Christmas to get their little ones--which is very exciting. Congratulations to everyone--praying that you get news of court soon and that the referrals continue to come!

September 28, 2007

I know...

I know that I have been through this adoption waiting thing before. I know that I had an amazing experience in trusting God. I know that I should be able to trust Him this time too. But, I'm starting to falter.

We haven't been waiting for an extraordinarily long time, merely 4 months. But, I had it all laid out before we even turned in our paperwork. In my plan we were going to have pictures of our kids by this point and planning a trip to Ethiopia in the next few months to bring them home. That is the problem, it's MY plan. When I get bent out of shape because of the wait, I meet someone who has been waiting longer. A gal at swimming lessons is adopting from China, I won't even tell you how long she's been waiting (because then I'd seem really petty). I will say that she started her paperwork over 2 YEARS ago. That was a reality check.

When we wrote our child request, Seth and I were pretty specific, but didn't intend for America World to follow our request in detail. We meant it as a guidline for them, thinking that if they found two children under 3, they would be ours (not worrying about gender or specific ages). We had been wondering if America World knew that we didn't really care if the younger child was a boy or the older a girl. So I called our family coordinator to make sure. I talked to her last week and hung up the phone in a bit of a funk. This is our status: several families are ahead of us in line for siblings. If we would like we could change our request to just one child and move to a different line (a faster line, and be up higher in the line) or keep our request the same and wait...and wait. And possibly wait so long that our paperwork begins to expire. WHAT?! I about fell out when she told me that. Stuff might expire? As in, waiting until next spring, expire? I hung up the phone and just sat there stunned.

Then I went about my motherly duties in a fog. I had a moment to briefly relay the conversation to Seth that evening before he headed out for a class. And, still in a funky fog, I did what all girls do when they need an ear and a bit of advice--called my mom. I told her my options and she did what all good moms would do, smacked me around a bit.

Mom begins, "Apryl, do you remember how God timed it just right for you to get Ella?" Pitiful me, "Mm, hmm."

She continues, "Do you remember WHY you want to have two more children?" Pitiful me, "Yeah..."

And continues to batter me, "What are you going to do if you only get one child?" Sorrowful me, "Probably be racked with guilt when we get to Ethiopia and start paperwork for a second child soon after getting home."

She chastens, "And, Apryl, do you really thinking waiting 4 or 5 more months is going to make a difference in the long run?" Chastised me, "No, not really, but Mom..."

And she puts the last nail in the coffin, "Sounds like you know what you should do Apryl, wait on God."

Ugh, why does she have to be so right?

I should make a disclaimer here, this isn't our agency's fault. They are doing a wonderful job, they told us what the wait times would be, and their main concern is getting the children into homes. So they are unwilling to make an infant wait so that the family requesting an infant and toddler (us) could be referred both. They find the infant a home (with a family requesting only an infant) and the family requesting two kids continues to wait until two children (or siblings) are available at the same time. So, I'm waiting and I'm not being very graceful about it. I'm trying hard to learn from wise people around me and from past experience. I am, evidently, a very slow learner.

September 21, 2007

Parking the Mammoth

Even in a small car I have a hard time parking. So one of my concerns in buying this hulking beast of a van was that I may not be able to park it. My fears were realized at Ella's speech therapy appointment yesterday. The parking situation is unreal at the University--small spaces, loads of cars cruising for spots, students racing to class... In my rush to make it on time I forgot about trying to park The Van and nearly freaked out when I got to the parking lot. I managed to find a spot on my *good* side (the left) and only took three tries to negotiate the space. We piled out, inspected my parking job, and all were pleased to see that, though I was crooked, I was well within the yellow lines. Racing off to therapy I forgot about having to pull the whale OUT of the cramped space.

A hour later I load the kids into Moby and put it in reverse. Immediately I see a man in a MINI-van behind me. I wave him on, knowing that I'm going to take forever to back out. He refuses to move because he wants my spot. Behind him a line of cars is growing. I throw the van into reverse and lightly tap the gas. We inch back as far as I dare go, then I put it into drive and turn the steering wheel. Tap the gas, move a few inches. Reverse, spin the wheel, tap the gas, move an inch. Drive, turn the wheel, tap the gas, move an inch. I'm making some progress but the line of cars is growing, this incessant wheel turning is causing panic is starting to set in. Will I ever get out, will I have to call someone with big rig experience to help me remove this thing from the tiny space I have put it into? I'm the comic relief in the middle of a so-so movie.

Back and forth we go, I really just want to ram the car behind me to give myself some space. Finally, I spin one last time and, with beads of perspiration breaking out across my forehead, I creep forward chanting, "Please, please, please..." hoping not to bump the car next to me. And we are FREE! The kids all chorus and whoop from the rear of the van and I'm elated. Until I remember that Ella has therapy twice a week and we will have to do this again in a few days. I vow to pull the kids to therapy in the wagon until it snows, then I will pull them in a sled, then when I have five children I will strap babies to my body, pull the sled, and still never park that hog at the University again.

September 19, 2007

Introducing Moby

Sometimes, things just hit you when you least expect it. As we left the beach I was planning what to do when we arrived home, wondering if I had nursery duty the next night at church, all pretty mundane things. Then, two hours into the trip, our van died. Before you picture me in a rusted out 30 year old VW (though that may have brought me home safely), let me say that our van is only 3 years old, so this was unexpected. Thankfully, my sister was caravaning with us for the first three hours of the trip, so she was there to offer much needed wheels and help. The entire scenario was outrageous--we had been in the back country of Alabama, just pulling into a small town (which is a metropolis for the area), just passing an auto parts store when the van stopped working. Seth coasted into a parking space at the store and opened the hood. Immediately the kind man running the store saw we were in need of major assistance and came out to offer his help. His face was pretty grim when he said the awful, hateful, words, "Gotta be yawr transmission."

I was completely flabbergasted, are you kidding me, this van is practically NEW (compared to what we have driven in the past), it shouldn't be breaking down this early, its nuts! Then I was struck by how amazing it is that we were in a town, that we were in front of an auto parts store, and not in the middle of the interstate or (possibly worse) on the side of a two lane country road. In a seemingly bad situation, still a place to thank God for his mercy and watchcare.

Then I looked at Seth and said, "So I guess God has something for us to learn here in Andalusia, Alabama." He smirked and called a tow truck.

With Seth on the cell phone, Crystal and I immediately loaded all 5 kids (her 2 and my 3) off to the McD's conveniently located across the street (did I mention this was a metropolis?). Thankfully there was a playplace outside, unfortunately, it smelled like a recent visitor had lost their happy meal on the slide. But desperate times call for desperate measures. And boy were we desperate--the kids had to use the facilities for business beyond *number 1* and they timed it perfectly so that either Crystal or I were "taking care of business" in the restrooms the whole time we were there. We finally abandoned the McD's for a park a bit down the road. We should have stayed at McD's a bit longer, it was one of those mornings--several of the kids had to christen the park (because, of course, who puts potties around a playground where small children who can't hold it may come to play for hours?).

On the main stretch of road, next door to Taco Bell and McDonald's, we got the LAST room available at the Best Western. Oddly enough, there was some kind of high school rodeo championship in town, and the only hotel in town was booked, except for one lowly smoking double. My parents made a stop for lunch on their way north, and that afternoon everyone took off for home. Leaving us feeling very alone and strange about being stranded in Alabama without a plan for ever getting home.

Saturday night we took a LONG walk to explore the prospect of attending a local church Sunday morning. This turned into serious drama because (little known fact) love-bugs are in season in the South and Ella has a serious bug phobia. I don't use the word "phobia" lightly. She's down-right terrified of anything that closely resembles a bee. All flying insects are bees, she's never been stung by a bee, doesn't know what it feels like, but her imagination has gone into overdrive with this and she expects it to kill her, possibly. I can't figure out an explanation for her frantic screaming whena bug comes near her. We caught these bugs and showed her, killed them and let her touch them, didn't make any difference. As we walked along the sidewalk if anything flying came near us she started shrieking, moaning, wailing, anything aside from swishing her hand in front of her face and saying, "Shoo" as we had instructed her to do. Complete insanity. So we walked down the road, our peace interrupted every few SECONDS by shrill wails of insanity. We found a sign for a church, and Seth scouted out how far it was from the main road so we decided we'd make a visit to them the next day.

That turned out to be the best thing we could have done. Sunday when we showed up at this little building, the 30 or so people there greeted us with warm kindness and...curiousity? When they heard our, "Breaking down in the center of town" story they were concerned for us and continued asking if they could do anything at all. We walked out of church holding keys to the building, a promise of a ride back that evening and phone numbers in case we needed other help. These people were beyond a blessing to us. When we got back that night they gave us snacks, gift cards (since we were living on fast food, the only thing within walking distance), and more phone numbers. They were truly acting as the body of Christ, and when we got back to the hotel that evening I was on the verge of tears because of the love I felt from these people we hardly knew.

Beyond the church body, the pastor was incredible. This church had recently experienced hard times, and were searching for a new pastor. Seth and I were both amazed by the way God was using this young evangelist in a tiny country church. He was an eloquent, intelligent teacher. We had walked into the situation not expecting very much and God put us in our place immediately. I still don't know why we landed in Andalusia. Maybe our family needed some "forced fun" spending time together in close quarters. Maybe we needed to see this little church, or maybe someone there needed to meet us. We may never figure it out, but we saw that the detours in life can be blessings, if we let them.

Back to the title of this LONG story...Moby. Monday morning the town awoke and we rented a car (from the one rental agency in town that just opened a few weeks before our arrival) and called the dealership that had our van. It was going to require about $1500 of repairs and they had two transmission jobs ahead of us. It was probably going to be well over a week before we could pick it up. After much deliberation, possibly some coercing on the part of the dealership owner, we decided to trade our van in on this hulking masterpiece that we have lovingly dubbed "Moby" (Everett wants us to call it Crazy Big Van but we vetoed that one).

But wait! Before I show you a picture, understand that we were thinking about getting something bigger. And as cool as a 9 passenger SUV would be, the 20k more on the price tag wasn't worth the cool factor to me. Practical hubby that he is, Seth wanted one of these from the beginning of our "we may need a bigger car" discussions. See our last vacation post for details on this. But in all honestly, I think Seth bought this van because he thinks it's funny to see me driving it. And to see 3 kids tumble out of a TWELVE passenger van...yep, we bought a 12 Passenger van for the five of us. So here's the newest addition to our family:

And just so you can giggle like Seth does...

On the road again

Last week my family travelled south again. My parents are celebrating their 50th birthdays this year, and my mom surprised my dad with a week at the beach. And then she invited all of the kids to join them. My mom didn’t tell him that we were coming in an effort to keep him from cornering us to extract the details. Too bad that didn’t work--keeping a secret from him is nearly impossible. A few weeks ago he and Seth were outside together talking. After about an hour Seth came rushing into the kitchen yelping, “He’s pumping me for information, I can’t take it!”

He’s stoic and difficult to read, so we may never know whether he figured the whole thing out or not. My mom told a few *white lies* and we think he was surprised to see us (and hopefully happy). We had a fantastic time together. Here’s the week in pictures…

Here’s a picture of our whole family. Yes, my parents have four daughters. I don't know if my dad was a patient man before children, but spending 20 years with five females certainly made him patient. Take notice of all the grandchildren that are boys, it seems the only way we can add girls to our family is by adoption. I guess God is rewarding my dad for his patience by giving him so many rowdy grandsons.

I wish I could write that our trip ended as we expected, leaving Florida and heading back home. It didn’t though, and I’ll leave that for my next post. Ba ba ba bahm, ahhh, a good cliffhanger.

September 4, 2007


Seth read my post and said, "That picture of Everett makes him look like MacGyver. I guess he could maybe be..."

Or maybe not. So as to keep from leading you astray--these are the other (non-Macgyver) faces of Everett...

As a pirate...

As a goofball...

As a big brother...

Everett's SEVEN!

Happy Birthday to Everett! I think I may blink and find him heading off to college! It seems like it was just yesterday when he and I were living the carefree life-- me and a chubby baby lazing our days away. How things change!

Most people have heard the story of the surprise that Everett was to Seth and I. But I'll tell it again, because it's appropriate (and funny for those of you who haven't heard it). When Seth and I were married neither of us wanted kids...ever. Six months into our marriage we went to our Sunday school Christmas party. We were the only childless couple out of the 15 there. Imagine the noise, the squalling, the chaos. Through the din we embarked on a horrid white elephant exchange (in which Seth received a used calender). We were finally relieved to politely excuse ourselves from the torture. I vividly recall walking to the car in the dark and saying, "I am so thankful that we don't have any kids, that was horrible."

I was already expecting our first baby.

I can only imagine the roaring laughter from heaven when those words came out of my mouth! Isn't God grand? I'm beyond thankful that He saw fit to bless us with a wonderful baby boy (who incidentally slept through the night at 3 weeks). Everett has such a unique character, I'm anxious to see the plans God has for him!

And because I couldn't possibly post about Everett without including a picture:

This picture warrants a little explanation. Everett has been asking for a pocket knife for years. I guess when he first asked, seven sounded a long way off. When his seventh birthday approached he reminded us that two years ago we told him that he could have a pocket knife. Seth (recalling his favorite childhood memories) went to the store and bought survival gear for a seven year old and a handy dandy knapsack. Though I'm sure it's called something else. For two days Everett has wanted to do nothing but carry the bag around and "fiddle" with his knife (we finally told him that you don't "fiddle" you "whittle").

His big birthday request was granted, and birthday bliss culminated in taking a hike with his dad. The rest of us sort of tagged along. Eli stated that we must bring along a ladder so that Everett could cut down a tree with his new knife. I snapped many pictures including this one, titled: Embarassing little sister discovers a spider is in her hair.

Later, when I was looking at the pictures, I found this little gem preceding the "spider in the hair one". Should I title it "Big brother sabotaging Mom's photo shoot by placing spider in sister's hair?"

I never get a straight answer on that one, but the photo looks pretty incriminating! Nevertheless, Happy Birthday Everett!

August 20, 2007

I made it

In keeping with family traditions, I took photos of my kids on their first day of school. Unfortunately it has been raining for two days, so the pictures are kind of soggy. But here they are in all their glory (and totally thrilled with holding the umbrella).

When Everett came downstairs for breakfast this is what he was wearing, complete with the nametag from vacation Bible school. I didn't say anything, but he later informed me that this is his school "uniform" and I need to wash it every night. Yeah, I'll get right on that. To further comment, he's paired a seersucker jacket with plain gray t-shirt and jeans. Quite the fashionista, takes after his dad.

I wouldn't say the day went beautifully, but it...went. And, we are all excited to do it again tomorrow. Everett's statement before bed was, "The second day of school is even better than the first." Let's hope so. I've got to tweak some things, but I really need to focus on these three and just get us into a routine. Then I can deal with adding babies to the crowd in a few months. I kept looking around thinking, "How am I going to manage? What in the world will we do?" Not a good first day attitude. Since it's overwhelming enough. It's hard to step back and realize that I'm homeschooling because we felt like God was calling us to do it. So I know that God is going to take care of us, BUT I don't remember that when I'm up to my knees in questions, pleads, and squabbles. Deep breath.

Honestly, we had a very rewarding day. Ella was fabulous (I was most worried about her), she patiently listened to me, worked hard, and kept herself entertained with quiet activities. We had a great moment during our math lesson (very basic right now), when she was so proud of herself for answering correctly. The problem kid turned out to be Eli, he wanted to "work, work, work" and that doesn't happen with kindergarden. Since he couldn't work, work, work, he bugged, bugged, bugged me. We sat down later and planned out things that he could do ALONE for tomorrow.

One hour....

before school starts. I feel incredibly silly because I only have three students, and they are my kids. AND they are so excited about starting school that Eli said he's going to cry today because of happiness. Could I ask for anything more?

But I'm nervous because this year I have three kids to teach. I feel like if this day and this month don't go well I will have a nervous breakdown wondering if I can manage five children, homeschooling three of them.

Did I mention that my palms are sweating right now?

I feel even sillier because I'm in my robe sipping coffee, have oatmeal baking in the oven (with white chocolate chips in it) waiting for my kids to wake up. I'm the picture of peace--my books are laid out, supplies are purchased and organized. Our school area is pristine (though this only happened last night) and inviting. But I feel so much pressure because I don't know if I can do it. When people ask how I'm going to manage five young children my answer is, "I don't know." I don't know HOW I will do it because I've never done it. And so I've put myself into this place thinking if today goes beautifully, then I'm one step closer to managing my family in 6 months when I add two babies to the clan. It sort of makes sense, right? Or am I completely out of my mind--yeah, yeah, don't answer that.

The more I type the more butterflies I feel, so I better stop now and just promise that I'll post later (if all goes well and the wild children don't tie me up in the basement because school didn't live up to their expectations).

August 16, 2007

Touring the Eastern Shore

I failed to mention 3 weeks ago that my kids and I were boarding the minivan for an extended trip along the East Coast. For everyone who has emailed or called wondering if we dropped into oblivion--nope, still here. For the rest of you who knew we were gone, but have emailed or called wondering if we have heard anything about our adoption--nope, still haven't. Thankfully, life on the highway passes by fast and from the look of my annoying ticker at the top of the page we've been waiting 3 months. Since I'm recovering from vacation and planning to start school in 4 days, my brain is fried. Here's a look at our past three weeks.

Day 1- We meet our first obstacle, fitting all of this into the van.

Day2-8 No photos because my camera battery stopped charging after the previous photo.

Day 8 Reinforcements meet me at the beach. My sweet hubby gives me a memory card for the video camera, so I can bug everyone by taking photos. Unfortunately, the video ability is null because the humidity messes with the (brand new) camera and it malfunctions everytime I try to video.

Day 12 Ella loses her tooth while in the pool wearing a snorkel mask. I thought she vomited, but thankfully (since we have been down the vomit-in-the-pool road before) it was just a bloody tooth. Double thankfulness that I didn't have to pull it, because it was in that nasty hanging by a thread stage.

Day 14 Cool beach boys.

Day 19-On our way home we drove through the town of Everett, PA (or VA, or WVA, or even MD not sure, we were passing through states pretty quickly). We pulled off for a quick photo which turned into half an hour looking for the town and finally determining that Everett doesn't exist. Seth griped about the photo seeming quaint if he hadn't been involved. We finally just decide to turn around and take a picture next to the exit sign. Good enough!
Still driving, the natives are incredibly restless. At one point I turn around to see Eli playing with a bag of dirty clothes. Naturally, I take a picture.

Nearing the end of the voyage, Seth and I determine that with five children we will no longer fit into our van. Well, WE will fit but our luggage will not. I think we were pretty burned out because we never figured out a solution to that problem. Perhaps Seth thought that this would be the last of our family vacations. I'm thinking we need a 9 seater monster SUV. Unfortunately, he's more the cargo van kind of guy.

July 28, 2007

Lessons from my five-year-old

Since we brought Ella home I've been praying that God would "restore the years" to her (Joel 2:25). For three years I've been blaming the time that Ella was in an orphanage for all of the "stuff" we deal with. Every pediatrician, therapist, or specialist has to hear my liturgy on what this little girl has dealt with, "Eastern European kids who are institutionalized suffer from…" While I was waiting to see the speech therapist to discuss a recent evaluation, I was watching the kids around me and realized that most of these kids are completely "normal". Ella will probably be one of few (if any) adopted kids that this therapist will see. It finally dawned on me that even if Ella had been born to me, nurtured by me from birth, and given every opportunity possible for the first three years of her life, just maybe, she'd still be having a hard time talking, learning, and understanding. Whoa.

Even though I tell the kids who ask about Ella's limb differences that God made her special for a reason, I don't think I've applied that to all of her. I can accept that he made her physically different from most children, but I haven't thought about giving Him credit for her mind. I've been so busy worrying about "fixing" what the first years have done, that I haven't taken the time to look at ALL of her as God's special creation. Even if she's years behind in language, she's perfectly what He wanted. I can't begin to understand why some children are born with more struggles than others. I do know that God made her with a special purpose, and me trying to "fix" her or make her like everyone else means I'm denying God's sovereignty. I'm making MY plan and my purpose better than His.

Romans 12:2 says…That ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Clearly God's perfect plan for my child is better than my plan. His will is good, acceptable—I can't even see past the next few hours regarding my will for my daughter! How can I possibly deny that His creation of Ella doesn't fit into his perfect plan for her? He made her with all the idiosyncrasies that we enjoy and the ones we'd like to toss out. I finally got it—she's who she is because God's doing something with her that requires this—He's got a perfect place for her and it requires that she go through certain fires to come out just right.

I'm feeling this new sense of peace. I feel okay that we have passed the time allotted for her to 'catch up' and that she's still fighting these battles. These battles were given to her by God, not inherited from an institution in Ukraine. I can't see the purpose in these battles, but years from now maybe we will get a glimpse at what God has accomplished through our trials. Maybe we will never see the fruit of these delays beyond the changes they cause in our own lives.

One night I came directly from showering to kiss Ella goodnight. After I kissed her, she said, "Nice hair mommy." Then laughed. I laughed too and we shared a moment. That was the first time that she verbally expressed a thought that wasn't related to her needs. She put three words together! It was astounding. It was also just last year. I'm becoming a better mother because of my little girl. She's teaching me to celebrate the accomplishments that would seem ordinary to another mom. Now I feel like I can embrace my kid with a different attitude—encouraging her to do the best she can, but accepting all of her just the way God made her.

July 27, 2007

NPR's adoption series

Seth works an hour away from our home and generally puts his time in the car to good use. He's dedicated himself to catching up on all the classics that he was supposed to read in high school, but sometimes he's had enough of Poe, Hemingway, and Steinbeck so he turns on the radio. On Monday he caught the beginning of this series on NPR. Initially I was excited, but it seems (to both of us) that they are doing the nasty media thing and putting a spin on adoption that may seem discouraging. They have a short clip about transracial adoption and some tips on raising kids from an adoptive mom.

July 20, 2007

Sly as a fox

Today I had a wonderful day! I've had a lot weighing on my mind and managed to forget nearly all of it for this day. It's a momentous day in our house because I finally reached the age that I'm no longer a princess on July 20, but a queen. I turned 30.

I suppose I should talk about the sobs I woke up with? The gray hairs I counted? My obvious laugh lines? I'll have none of it, because I have had a blast turning thirty. I can only hope that the rest of the decade is half as good! What made my day so delightful? Seth surprised me by taking the day off, bringing me coffee with a side of pancakes in bed, flowers, and a day of pampering (by my standards). The cutie cards the kids made me yesterday were great—I interrupted them while Ella was supposed to be the lookout and instead ended up screaming at me "Happy Birthday to you, Mommy!" Then she told me not to go into the dining room because they were making cards. Whoops.

We went to the park and I enjoyed a fantastic run, met Seth and the kids to go "hiking". Unfortunately, while I was running Eli discovered a yellow jacket nest and was stung three times before he got to Seth. The little trooper was determined to go hiking and on we went. On the way home, we stumbled upon a neighborhood garage sale and I acquired a double toaster (needed for a large family), a pizza stone (w/holder), and almost got a kitchenaid mixer (alas, the ole gal wouldn't budge on her price). I'll have to post about the kid's purchases later. We went to our favorite Mexican restaurant for lunch and were on our way to go canoeing when we pulled into a furniture boutique going out of business. I started talking to the woman who owns the place and she ended up loading my van with free furniture! Two loads of furniture! The second time we pulled back into our driveway all three kids screamed, "Why are we back at home again?!" As if they didn't notice that we had stuff shoved into every crevice. We did finally make it canoeing and had a blast. My partner was determined to help, but her paddling skills were found lacking. I'm ashamed to admit that we did a few unintended circles in the river.

Each time we do something special, I think about how it will be when we have two more children. Can we fit another in the canoe? Will it be years before we can go? I let myself revel in the thought of our children being with us next year on my birthday. I said a prayer for our kids separated from us on this special day, and tried to draw myself back to the little one working so hard to keep us moving.

I needed this day. I needed a break from exhausting myself. As sad as it is, I spend everyday with my family, but feel like my mind has been so far away (sometimes in Ethiopia, sometimes elsewhere). My day has ended with bliss: I've got three dreaming kids, a belly full of "happy birthday" donuts, and a beautiful evening yet to enjoy! Here's a picture of me with my donut (okay, this probably warrants explanation: Seth made a sticky note of things to do today. We completed all on his list, except the last item "kids make mom a cake". Since I'm always the cake baker, this was harder to do than he expected. He managed to keep the flowers, the gifts, the itinerary, and his day off all a secret. He didn't want to blow it with a cake, so he and Eli stopped at the store and bought doughnuts. Still scrumptious and the first time I've ever blown candles out on a donut!)

July 13, 2007

Are you from Ethiopia?

Strange things brew in the head of my youngest child, and too often we don't know what's brewing until he's got it on a low simmer. A few days ago this conversation transpired.

Eli: Daddy, did Rara and Popop (Seth's parents) go to Ethiopia?

Seth (smiling): No

Eli: But you are from Ethiopia.

Seth (laughing): No, I was adopted, but not from Ethiopia, I'm from Ohio.

Eli: Oh.

When I heard this it brought to my mind a similiar conversation that I had with Eli when we were on our way to eat Ethiopian food. He told me that Ella would like Ethiopian food since that is where she is from. I kindly reminded him that she was born in Ukraine, not Ethiopia. After hearing his conversation with Seth it dawned on me why he kept thinking that Ella was Ethiopian too. He thinks ALL adopted people are from Ethiopia! Even after clearing it up, I don't think he's convinced. His "oh" was still a little dazed, makes me wonder what else he's got going on in his head.

Sneak Peak

Our friends, the Waals, are coming home from Ethiopia today. I've previously posted their blogsite, but wanted to give it to you again, just in case. Tracy has done a wonderful job documenting their trip with photos and video clips. Go check them out and pray for them as they travel home (Rhonda is sick today).

My kids enjoyed seeing pictures of their friends in Ethiopia. They are very excited about meeting Neti and Meke, both girls are nearly the same ages as my three. Looking at the pictures made me think about how great it would be for OUR whole family to go over there. In a moment of weakness, I asked Everett if he'd like to go to Ethiopia. Whoops, that sounded to him like an invite, and he dare not do anything without Eli, which leaves Ella to stay alone at the grandparent's house? I quickly downplayed my mistake, but in bed that night Everett asked if he really could go with us. I wish he could--but I don't think the younger two would do well at home without him. There is no way that Seth and I would try to take all three kids with us. Unless one of the grandparents decides that they would enjoy a week in Africa during the midwestern winter acting as caregiver to three preschoolers. Any takers?

July 12, 2007

Bustin' Mutton

I've been missing for nearly two weeks! When the weather starts to warm up, I hit the highway and don't stop until September. This last trip was a doozey-12 hours south to Arkansas for a family reunion. The family is pretty big, so planning begins about a year in advance. About six months ago, my aunt sent me the schedule of events. The good natured person that I am, I felt like we should take part in everything that is going on...including the rodeo. Specifically an event in the rodeo titled "Mutton Bustin." If you happen to be my sister, or anyone else who doesn't know what a mutton is, the translation is "Sheep Riding." Though that doesn't sound nearly as fun, or as safe?

When the time came for me to buy tickets for various events, I signed my three kids up for "Mutton Bustin." We looked online at pictures from previous years, and I explained to my children that they would ride on a sheep. The poor city kids got excited at this thought--they probably haven't ever actually seen a real-life sheep. So, amidst visions of lazily riding Mary's little lamb, my children wholeheartedly agreed that they most definately wanted to bust mutton.

The night of the rodeo arrives, all three kids have been looking forward to it for weeks. They have donned jeans, cowboy shirts, hats, and boots. They are an exceptionally cute group of cowpokes. Unfortunately their cuteness is a dead give away to the fiesty sheep that these kids have no experience riding anything. Well, except bikes and sometimes scooters, both a far cry from wild farm beasts. The event begins and the 20-something kids strap on bike helmets (safety first here at the rodeo) and wait anxiously for their turn to ride the bucking sheep. When it's our turn Everett goes first, the announcer makes a big deal of the three kids coming all the way to Arkansas, the anticipation builds. Everett is put onto the sheep, grabs hold of the rope and the chute opens. Mere seconds later Everett's flying off the sheep, hanging his head and coming back towards me.

Eli sees the wild animal assigned to him being put in the chute and he is absolutely terrified. I kindly urge coerce him to climb on, because he will be so disappointed if he doesn't ride the sheep. He climbs aboard, still whimpering and his chute opens. He manages to stay on for a while, almost making it to the herd (is that a group of sheep? a mob? a pack? ack, I don't know!!) of sheep, while riding sideways. Then he faceplants. Literally.

Meanwhile, Ella beings to panic and she's wailing, no way she's getting on the sheep. I know this, I can't convince her (I know the boundaries of my sweet talking skills). But I think, maybe if she saw that Eli is okay and he had fun she'd agree. He returns and his first words to Ella are, "Don't do it!" He doesn't have to worry, because she won't. Surprisingly, in the end, she's convinced (by a nearby cowboy) and gets on the sheep. When the chute opens, she THROWS herself to the ground in an attempt to end the horror of mutton bustin'. So there you have it, the three city slickers gave it a good try, but didn't end up winning the six foot trophy from Tyson Chicken (incidentally a 4 year old named Lil' Bill wearing chaps and body armor holding onto the sheep with only one hand won first place).

After all of that, all three kids forget their terror and say they would like to come back next year to the rodeo and try again. I'll probably let them, as long as Children's Services doesn't shut down the Mutton Bustin' championship before then. What mother in her right mind signs a waiver allowing her children to "be strapped to farm animals and call it entertainment?"

June 25, 2007

Mama Bear Rantings

This summer is proving to be a busy one. Our church just had a Bible conference, meaning VBS for the kids and preaching for adults. We all really enjoyed it, my kids had a blast and I spent the week being chastened, edified, and taught. For an overall great week, I walked away Friday feeling a bit discouraged as a mom. I was involved in several conversations regarding Ella's hand, leg, and skin tone. These are church kids, mind you, kids who have sat next to my children for two years in Sunday school class, played with them in the church gym, and enjoyed meals together. So imagine my surprise when I heard Everett's friend introducing Ella to a visiting kid, "This is Ella, look at her arm and she only has three fingers…" It sounded as if he was auditioning for a carnival, "She even has a fake leg!" I half expected him to charge admission for this rare sight. Don't get me wrong, I understand that kids are curious, and I welcome their (appropriate) questions. This display embarrassed Ella and I felt horrid for her. Later, I admonished Everett for standing by while his friend made a spectacle of his sister.

At the end of the week an eight year old girl joined us for breakfast before VBS began. She was informed by a friend that we are adopting two children. The conversation went something like this…

Little Girl: "My mom said she would never adopt. Never."

Me: "Hmmm." Wondering what sort of conversation preceded her mother making that statement.

Five year old friend of Ella: "Ella was adopted from Ukraine."

Little Girl: "What? Ella was adopted?!" She nearly falls out realizing that she is eating breakfast with an "adopted" person. I suppose she didn't realize that adopted people don't bear some mark making them "look" adopted. Though I should appreciate the fact that she didn't notice that Ella obviously looks quite a bit different than the boys.

After a bit of staring at Ella she suddenly says, "What is wrong with her hand? She only has three fingers."

Me: This is my usual response for children, "God made Ella with a special hand. He has a very special plan for her life."

LG: Not pacified by this response, "Poor thing."

Me: Surprised, "Nothing poor about it, God made Ella the way she is on purpose, because he is going to do something important with her life and He wants her to have a different hand."

LG: "Well I am so glad that I don't have a hand like that."

Me: Thinking many rude things, wanting to make statements along the lines of—Well, I'm glad God didn't give Ella a face like yours…I keep quiet.

LG: Undeterred, "Her hand looks like a lobster claw. That is what another girl said, that it's a lobster claw."

Me: Completely flabbergasted that I am hearing this, "That is awfully rude and you shouldn't say that."

At that point I ended the conversation and turned to Ella, who had been busy with breakfast and fortunately missed most of what was being said. After talking to Ella, I was thankful that my five-year-old has the language skills of a child much younger. I was also thankful that I was there to take up for her. And I began wondering how many times something like this has happened when Ella was alone. She is quite unable to stand up for herself when it comes to verbalizing (she's more than capable to sock one of her brothers when she's been wronged). I once witnessed a classmate asking Ella about her prosthetic leg. She kept saying, "What is that?" Ella kept replying, "What? My sock, my shoe, my leg?" The little girl was not able to comprehend that "that" is Ella's leg and Ella did not care to explain that "that" is a prosthetic.

So what did I end up leaving the week with? Quite a few blessings, but a heavy heart aching for my daughter who has so many battles ahead of her. How can I prepare her for what she will face as she gets older? How far do I go when something happens? I'm struggling with this gray area called "grace". Two weeks ago, we had an unsettling incident (from a respected adult) he said some borderline nasty things about kids with differences bearing these burdens because of their parent's sin. You can't imagine how I felt after this! The message I've been giving to my children is that they were made with purpose, not as a consequence! The next day, Seth opened his Bible to do his daily reading and the passage that day was from John 9.

And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. John 9:1-3

I thank God that He knows what we struggle with, even before we bring it to Him. I realize that the past few weeks are probably just preparing us for what is to come. I'm praying that we can gracefully handle the situations that will arise once we add two more children to our family. A family of seven attracts attention, a family comprised of three different races attracts more attention, throw in missing limb or two and we should expect some stares and jibes. How do I give my children confidence in how God made them? How do I teach self-assurance and contentedness? And how far do I take it when an innocent child or nosey adult takes the conversation too far? After a hard week, Everett's memory verse for Sunday school was (amazingly) Psalm 139:14.

I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.