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Archive for the ‘Adoption’ Category

My Heart’s Cry

When I was a teacher at a Christian school, I had a poster in my room with gorgeous faces of children of all different races and the quote from 1 John 3:1, “How great is the love the father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God.”  The sight of that poster instantly humbled me – daily.

When I was a public school teacher, I couldn’t hang that poster on my wall, but I carried it in my heart.  It was the thing that kept me going on those really hard days.  It was my reason for smiling on the good days too!

Now I’m a homeschool mom, and our family looks just a tiny bit like that poster . . . and that verse still echoes in my mind often.  (The poster hangs again in our homeschool room.)

When people ask me about adoption, I give them the answers to their questions . . . but my burning desire is always to tell them that adoption has changed me more, much more, than it has benefited my children.  It has taught me more about the love of God than any other thing I have done.  The process of adoption has burned into my heart the depth of the Father’s love and compassion for me and the ache that must have been in his heart, that he would send his Son to die for me.

My love for my children is so flawed and so errant, but walking through the adoption process, leaving two of my children here to fly halfway ’round the world to gather into our family two more children:  That is nothing compared to the distance Jesus traveled for me, yet it illustrates to me in a very real way that God’s love is indeed tangible.

I haven’t spoken much about adoption here lately, but it is still so very much of who we are and where we come from.

Watch this, and pray about what God has for you.

hat tip: A Bushel and A Peck

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A Rockin’ Challenge

The Rockin' Mama Challenge

Lately it seems to me that the number of minutes in a day must be decreasing . . . or maybe it’s the number of seconds in a minute.  Either way, it is as if I blink, and an entire day has flown by.  As I type [the rough draft of] this, I am racing the clock to dinner time!

I have also been noticing that my children seem to need all my minutes, so I spend my days bouncing from the needs of one child to the needs of the next and on and on.  Don’t get me wrong, I love this mom-of-four-homeschoolers life that I have chosen . . . but it is a tad bit hectic.  And I know that some days there just isn’t enough of me to go around.  Sadly, I am going to admit to you all that I’m afraid that it is usually my youngest who doesn’t get enough of me when there’s not enough to go around.  With three older siblings, it is sometimes easy to let them help him.  I think they are all better for it . . . but I’ve been wondering if I need to set aside a little more of me for just him.

When I saw Lisa’s Challenge, I was delighted!  This is just what I need to set a new habit of BEing with my littlest one.  I always find internet accountablity a little weird, so I usually bow out of these things . . . but this time, I’m on board.

The challenge:  to spend fifteen minutes a day, rocking . . . or otherwise intentionally engaging one-on-one . . . one of your children.  There’s more about it here!  Come on, join us!  Seems like a great way to spend these cold months!

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What Is Really Important

I have a few posts that I have been working on; I have one fun one that I am just dying to share . . . but today I was reading here.  Mid-way thought the post I was reduced to a puddle, and by the end I was crying tears of deep thankfulness to our God and Father.

And I’ve spent time reading here too.

Again, there was crying.

I asked Handsome if I cried through out entire trip to Ethiopia.  He said I didn’t.  I was stunned.  I don’t know how that is possible.  (Just reading about this Compassion trip to Guatemala has reduced me to tears daily!)

Except I do.

I know that our trip to Ethiopia was different kind of trip.  It was the culmination of months of work and years of prayer.  It was the ending of our children being called orphans and the beginning of their being called daughter and son.  While there was deep, deep sorrow for the losses they felt and the pain they have shouldered, our trip to Ethiopia was joyous like the birth of a tiny baby.  We got to bring them home with us.  It was birthday cake with thick icing and candles.  It was ice cream on the side – with all the toppings a girl could hope for.

As I read Ann Voskamp’s story of her meeting her Compassion child, I was absolutely astounded at the emotions I felt.  I was so sad for Ann to only hold her daughter once, yet I rejoiced that her child had the opportunity to live with those two people that she has always called “mom” and “dad.”

The two curly-headed folk that call this house home and call me mom – I wish they had had the same opportunity.  I wish that there were enough sponsors in the world, that there were not children given to orphanages, because they could not be fed.  I wish there were Compassion programs in all the dark corners, to shed light and give educations and share the love of Jesus in tangible ways.

And while I can’t imagine my life without these two blessings, I am always aware that I am blessed out of another mother’s loss, out of the abandonment of hope, out of the lack of basic supply.

Proverbs tell us, “He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done.” (Proverbs 19:17)

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Yes, that’s an imperative.

Recently I was playing a game with a group of children ages five and six.

The kids were having a great time, that is except for one little girl.  She seemed really unsure of herself.  I helped her though the game, but watching/helping her made me think about how much we teach our children when we play games with them!  There are also a lot of great games out there for kids.  Here’s a nice little list for you!

  • Turn taking – playing games where children have to take turns prepares kids to wait while someone else gets a turn and to pay attention and be ready to take their turn
  • follow the rules – learning to follow the rules is a pretty big deal in life, and it starts with the little things like following directions to play a game; everyone has more fun, if everyone follows the rules!
  • play fair – no one likes to be the one who looses because someone else cheated
  • playing games with dominoes teaches children number matching (and color matching, if you have a colored set), counting, one to one correspondence (one dot = 1, etc.), more and less
  • Playing games with a deck of cards (my brother in law calls them “bad man’s cards”) teaches kids number order, visual discrimination, and the names of those little characters on the corners (I was in college before I could tell which was a spade and which was a club – save your kid that embarrassment, please!).
  • Our family loves A to Z junior.  Each player or team gets a game board with the alphabet.  Teams have to list items in categories that start with all the letters of the alphabet.  Who ever fills up their gameboard first wins.  Two of my children mastered their letter sounds by playing that game.  One of them learned to visually identify her letters by playing A to Z.
  • Memory is a great game, not just for their memory but for so many other reasons.  When we brought Gus and Dimples home, they could not speak any English, but she could play memory.  We played it almost every day for a while.  We have a version with animals, another with everyday objects, and another with super-heroes.  The words for the things on those memory games were some of her first English words, well, that and the word, “match.”  We also have a game that matches animals and their babies; we talk about what animal babies are called sometimes when we play this version, the current favorite.  Silly little side note:  it wasn’t long after Gus was home that she could totally beat me at this game!  Though her mastery of the English language was still a long way off, this was something that she succeeded at.  She loved playing it for that reason; and I loved playing with her, because it was one of the few kid games that was a real challenge for me!  So much fun!
  • Car alphabet games – As you drive around town, pick one letter and see how many times you and your children can spot that letter.  Alternatively, start at the beginning of the alphabet and work your way through the alphabet; this version is better played on longer road trips.
  • State License plate games – copy a simple map of the US, give it to your child with a box of markers or colored pencils.  Each time you see a car from a different state, color that state on the map!  We’re doing this activity this summer!  I can’t wait to see how many the kids notice!  I might even give a treat to the child who gets all the states first – should be interesting – and might take years!
  • I Spy With My Little Eye – We have played this game so much that I hate it, but that’s okay.  My kids have played it so much (and there’s four of them) that they don’t need me to play it anymore!  WooHoo!  Try to get tricky and use more difficult clues – instead of saying “I spy . . . something brown,” say, “I spy something that chews it’s cud,” for a cow.
  • Shut the Box – simple concept, great math skills, fun game
  • Scavenger Hunts – you can make them as easy as, “Go find ten different things that would fit in my pocket,” or “Go find two things you are really thankful for.”  Or you can get a little creative and give them instructions that require specialized knowledge:  “Find three things that are the primary colors and three things that are the secondary colors.”  Or, if you have a little time to plan ahead, you can hide clues throughout the house/yard that lead the kids from one place to the next.

I think sometimes we think that our kids need “learning toys” to learn, but really they learn so much more by interacting with other humans than they do that toy that sings the alphabet song!

So play games with your kids this weekend!

Oh, and tell me what your favorite game to play with your kids is – that’s an imperitive too!

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“Other countries are still sending children home to their adoptive families.Why is the US waiting on UNICEF?Ask our ambassador.”  posted here, recently, from Haiti.

And here, a post that should break your heart but will hopefully inspire you.

And here, an article that will probably surprise you.

Read here.

Be informed.

Pray.

(And if you feel so led, do something about it.)

I have a little girl who prays daily, “God, thank you for a mommy and daddy, for my family.”

Every little girl and boy should have the opportunity to pray such a prayer!

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There’s a group of moms that I hang out with quite a bit…or as often as I can.  Last year on a “field trip” with these women and their children someone stopped us in the restroom – where we had all crowded in – and asked, “Are you a summer camp or a day care?”

We moms laughed, gathered our children, and answered, “Oh, we are just a bunch of moms out for the day!”

As the long line of us trailed out the door, I again laughed as I thought about the fact that we are certainly a mixed bunch of folks.  As you know, two of my children are fair-skinned and blonde-headed, and two of my children are the color of dark chocolate with tight, dark curls pouring out of their African-born selves.  Another mom in the group is married to a man who is of Eastern-Indian descent, so their children are dark-skinned with dark straight hair.  Another one of our group is an adoptive mom to twins of Hispanic genetics.  And there were at least a handful of other kids running around that belonged to us.

We moms all sort of laughed about it all, and we have all discussed it since.  We love that our group is varied; we enjoy our children and their many colors.

——-

Recently, I was at a park with my children, a friend, and her children.  We were there savoring the cool(er) morning air, so there was only another man and his child there with us.  He watched us all playing for a while.  I could tell he was watching.  When I walked over to help my youngest child, he asked.

“Are you daycare…I mean childcare?”

What he really meant is, “What is going on here…and why do you have all of these children who do not look like you?”

You see my friends children, all four of them, were adopted from Guatemala, and as you well know we are an Ethiopian-American family.

I made a point to smile warmly at the man, laugh casually, and answer carefully, “No, sir, these children are all ours.  We are both blessed with four amazing children.”

I must confess that on the inside I was a bit sad.  I was sad that if one of my children had heard that question it might have unsettled what we have worked so hard to instill over the last 20 months- that they are ours – they are wholly ours, and we are theirs.

Yet later I realized that a huge prayer of mine had been answered.  When we were adopting one of my biggest fears was that I could not provide an environment suitable for my children of color.  I want to; we try to.  When we look at the people in our life, they are all so very different; we hang out with people who are different colors, different sizes, and some who see the world differently than us.  Yet this fear lingered month after month.

When that man asked that question, it occurred to me that my prayer had been answered.  This wasn’t the first time I had been asked.  I’m sure it won’t be the last.  I wish that people were a bit more sensitive and a lot more open, yet I understand that we aren’t the “normal” family and that others sometimes need to ask questions to learn the lesson.  I try to show grace and answer nicely while all the while considering the needs of my children before the needs of the stranger.  It is sometimes a tough balance…but since that day the balance seems a little easier by the reminder that God often answers prayers in the most bountiful ways!  God had answered my prayer months and months ago; it wasn’t until recently that I realized it.

Oh, God, thank you for the many, many ways that you answer my prayers.  You so often give so much more than I could ever think to ask for.  And I am so prone to forget – to forget that I asked, to forget to watch for your answer, and to forget to say thank you.  I praise you for being generous and for working all things for good, and Lord, please forgive me for forgetting to say thank you.

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I originally started this blog in an effort to document our family life and our adopting of two new children.  We are at a place now where our adoption and our family life are no different.  Our children are just our children, and it is a blessed place to be.  However there is more to the story.  I am learning that the fact that two of my children are adopted never just disappears; it is part of who they are and who they are becoming.  It does not define them, but this process of being adopted as an older child has shaped some of who they are.  While there was a day that they officially became Americans on paper, they are growing into their new identities and new lives slowly.  I don’t wish away their Ethiopian-ness; quite on the contrary it is with much grief that I think about the loss of their first language and their first culture.  Yet I do long for my children to feel completely at home in their home.  I do long for the old to be reconciled with the new.  And even more so I long for my children to find peace and healing.  So it is with this in mind that I am writing a few posts about our adoption experience, almost twenty months after our children arrived home…even though I started writing this at the eighteen month mark.

Often lately I have felt like I am walking out of a huge, huge cloud into a blindingly bright sunny day!  And it is good!  I am enjoying the sunshine on my shoulders and the fresh air.

We have found our new normal.

Our new normal is a little wilder, a little more hectic, a lot messier, and a little less organized than our old normal.  But our new normal includes so much more laughter, so much more fun, so much more love, so much more of so many good things that I sometimes just feel so blessed that I might burst!

The kids share rooms, and they enjoy it.  We occasionally get a request from our oldest for her own room, but when she had her own room she always either slept in her brother’s room or had him sleep in her room.  We know she doesn’t really want her own room.

It feels normal to have a van full of kids all of the time now.

I am used to cooking more food and having fewer leftovers now.

Everyone speaks the same language now.  That makes me sad when I stop long enough to realize that Gus and Dimples have completely lost their first language, but we knew that was going to be their reality.

Gus and Dimples have adjusted to all of our ways and routines now; they remember to brush their teeth, go potty before we leave the house, practice piano every morning (Gus practices what our piano teacher tells her to, and Dimples just practices by sitting at the giant instrument and plunking along on the keys like the big kids do), ask for things nicely, and so much more.

Neither of the kids is scared of dogs anymore, though I would say that neither of them is ever going to be a huge dog fan either.  They enjoy visiting the dogs that belong to extended family and friends, but I think they are secretly happy that we don’t have one of our own.

Dimples is still a fiery little dude; he’s gonna be a natural leader when he grows up…but he has learned to focus his emtions in a much more positive direction, and he rarely throws himself on the floor in a wild rage anymore.  I can’t say I miss that.

Gus is really finding her stride.  She is very physically able.  She excels at soccer and t-ball and swimming and just about anything else that involves use of her limbs and/or balance.  It’s a constant reminder that she does not have my genes…all the better for her.  She does well in school, and she enjoys school.  She’s beginning to read and more importantly is motivated to learn!

Dinner time is a peaceful time now.  Everyone at least attempts to use the flatware at their place at the table.  Everyone knows their place at the table, for that matter…and everyone knows what needs to be done to clean up their place at the table.  The issue we have, I think (and don’t tell me if I’m wrong), are normal family issues – teaching the kids to say, “May I be excused?” before leaping up from the table, the occasional spilled milk, trying to get the kids to eat OR talk instead of eating AND talking all at once.  Normal stuff.

Morning routine is just that – routine.

I’d almost say it is easy now!  (If it weren’t for the mounds and mounds of laundry!)

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I originally started this blog in an effort to document our family life and our adopting of two new children.  We are at a place now where our adoption and our family life are no different.  Our children are just our children, and it is a blessed place to be.  However there is more to the story.  I am learning that the fact that two of my children are adopted never just disappears; it is part of who they are and who they are becoming.  It does not define them, but this process of being adopted as an older child has shaped some of who they are.  While there was a day that they officially became Americans on paper, they are growing into their new identities and new lives slowly.  I don’t wish away their Ethiopian-ness; quite on the contrary it is with much grief that I think about the loss of their first language and their first culture.  Yet I do long for my children to feel completely at home in their home.  I do long for the old to be reconciled with the new.  And even more so I long for my children to find peace and healing.  So it is with this in mind that I am writing a few posts about our adoption experience, almost twenty months after our children arrived home…even though I intended to write this at the eighteen month mark.

Everywhere we go, people tell us that the kids are doing so well.

“Their English is perfect,” says everyone!

True, true!  They have made tremendous progress, and they are doing so very well.

But their English is not perfect.  As much as I want to believe that it is (and I am thrilled – THRILLED – with all of the progress they have made!), I would be remiss to just “let it slide” right now.  My children are in a precarious stage of language development.

“The loss of the first language before the new adopted language develops leaves the internationally adopted child in a linguistic and educational limbo….Consider these facts:  the typical six year-old understands over 20,000 English words.  A five year-old child adopted from another country would need to learn and average of 54 new words every day in order to fully catch up in language comprehension abilities by age six.  If the catch up time frame is stretched out to two years, the adopted five year-old would still need to learn an average of 27 new words every day to fully catch up by age seven.  However, while the adopted child has been playing catch-up, his six year-old friends have also added and average of 5,000 words to their vocabulary.  By age seven, the typical child understand 25,000 words.  In order to fully catch up within a two year window, the adopted five year old needs to learn an average of 34 words per day.  In summary, expecting older adopted children to develop proficient English language skill within one or two years of adoption is unrealistic.” -from “Language and the Older Adopted Child:  Understanding Second Language Learning by Sharon Glennen, PhD, CCC-SLP” as published in Adoption Parenting

A few examples from real life:

Recently I read the directions on the page to Gus.  The directions said, “Draw a line over the box.”  She knows exactly what I mean if I say, “Jump over the rope” or “Hold your marshmallow over the fire,” but she couldn’t figure out “over the box.”  It’s a little thing, but I am very aware that if we don’t pick up these little misunderstandings now she could struggle for a lifetime.

We also get some of the cutest little phrases; I wish I could remember more of these, because I just think they are so darn cute!

Dimples:  (to Handsome who was about to cut up part of Dimples’ meal) “Can you please don’t cut it up for me?”

Gus:  “It was looking blurry.” (meaning that her vision was blurry for a bit)

Gus:  “Can I put the thing on the thing?”  (She uses the word “thing” a lot!)

Dimples is suddenly a huge talker.  He’s three and a half, and he is just now beginning to be full of words.  For a long time we thought that he was going to be one of those kids who did use a lot of words.  He’s the exact opposite; it has just taken him this long to find the words and put them into meaningful sentences in our language.

And the verb tenses!  Oh, the verbs!  They are so very tricky.  We get a lot of, “I go-ed to the store.” and “I eated it.”

Lessons in phonics:  Gus has been working with various phonics programs to learn to read.  All along some sounds have been harder than others.  She’s not used to making the sound that “th” makes; when speaking she usually substitutes some other sound – often “f” or “v”.  When sounding out words, she not only has to figure out the sound that is made when she sees the two letters, but Gus has to actually work to form that unfamiliar sound.  There are several sounds like this.

We (Gus and I) also just learned something else.  Gus has been saying the “jr” sound instead of “dr” at the beginning of many words.  Recently one of her little workbooks asked her to spell the words drop, drip, and a few others.  She didn’t know whether she should write “jrop” and “jrip” or “drop” and “drip.”  And it is hard to hear the difference between the two sometimes.  We spent a long time that day feeling how our mouths make the “dr” and “jr” sounds.

And finally, after 18 months of reading to the kids, Gus is just now (in the past 2-3 months) getting to the stage that she can intelligently ask, “What does _____ mean?” when she hears a word she doesn’t understand in a sentence that is read to her.  When she first go here, it was all just a jumbled mess to her, I would imagine.  When we started “school” in August of 2008, she had been home 8.5 months; she didn’t enjoy oral reading at all.  She tolerated it, and she enjoyed looking at the pictures.  She could rarely answer questions about the story, unless it was something that could be figured out by looking at the pictures.  By about January or February, she was listening most of the time…and she was beginning to answer questions.  By April or May, she would beg for me to read more, and she was not only answering questions but she was asking questions about the story (she was able to think about the story and rearrange the words in her head enough that she could do more than just spit out answers).  And just in the last month or so she has been fascinated with vocabulary, asking “What does _____ mean?” about any big word she hears in a story.”

It has been an amazing process to watch; sometimes I wish I could go back to that girl who started kindergarten in August and reassure her that she would love it by the end of the year!

This English language is so tricky!  We are absolutely thrilled with all of the progress that the kids have made.  I often think that I can’t imagine being taken to a place where I couldn’t speak the language and no one spoke my language and where I was completely out of control.  I have traveled outside of the English-speaking world, but it’s always been on my terms; I could do what I want when I wanted.  Thinking about that makes me realize that these children we have are so very resiliant and wonderful and brave!

And I’ll end this post with one of my current favorite toddler words, Dimples’ word for mosquito: squakeeto

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I was giggling to myself today about how my youngest likes to wear his undies backwards; he likes to see the characters.  Then I started thinking about how it is that my littlest one has come to wear undies…and no diapers.  How on earth did he get to be so big!

So then I started thinking about how I got to the end of this season of mothering babies and toddlers.

I had no idea that the days would seem so long, sometimes with hours tumbling into never-ending cycles of making messes and cleaning them up.

I had no idea that it would be so messy, that I would spent hours sweeping the floor and cleaning various sticky things off of the bottom half of the windows.

I had no idea that it would be exhausting, that there would be days when all I had to do to fall asleep was stand still for 1.5 seconds…or even think about standing still.

I had no idea that it would be so loud, so loud.  I had no idea that nap time would my favorite part of the day, not because the kids were ridiculously cute while sleeping but simply because no one was talking non-stop into my ear.  No one was asking telling me to watch their every move.  “Look mom, I’m standing on one foot!”  “Look, mom!  I can jump!”  “Look, mom!  I am walking backward.”  “Look, mom!  I am breathing!”

I had no idea that it would be complicated – cloth diapers or disposable…nursing or formula…organic vegetables or the affordable stuff…the cute shoes or the mom’s-taking-the-kids-to-the-zoo shoes…double stroller or make one child walk…and on and on.

I had no idea it would be so emotional – a roller coaster, first filled with pregnancy hormones later succumbing to the excruciating pain of not being able to make all the boo-boos go away with just a kiss and the delight of giggles that fill my entire soul with laughter.

I had no idea that I would look back and be overwhelmed with the feeling that this season had been so short.

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This morning you wanted me to read more from our Bible Reader.  I did, and you still wanted more.

You wanted me to read more from Wild Places; I did, and you still wanted more.

Again, you wanted me to read more when I read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; again, I did, but you still wanted more.

[We are now at least a day ahead in every book of our "school" reading.]

We went to the library; you were excited about going and not just because it was your turn to check out a puppet.

When we got home, we sat down to read a few fairy tales and The Very Quiet Cricket; you wanted me to read more.

You colored extra on your worksheet today, because you wanted to.  You wanted to color, and you wanted to do it neatly.

*******

Little victories each one, yet they feel huge from this vantage point.

These victories encourage me to keep going, keep teaching, keep encouraging, and they give you courage and the will to do better!

These victories, they let me know that you understand what I am reading, you are engaged by the stories, and you are finally enjoying this thing that used to be an exercise in patience!  They let me know that you see the value in what you are learning and want to do more, learn more, experience more.  They let me know that you are somehow finally feeling secure in this place that you call home yet hasn’t always felt so.

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