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?"