A life of love

A life of love
Everyone should have a Great Pyrenees

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

I say this from the comfort of my bed, using my laptop. I have a glass of wine on the nightstand, a good book next to me and a movie that I have seen before (and enjoyed) on the TV.

The four "little kids" are in the living room gorging themselves on sugar free/caffeine free soda, crackers, chips and dip and cookies. They think they are in heaven - they have their sleeping bags all over the living room and are all set to watch the Disney channel ring in the new year! Ten year old heaven!!! LOL!

The four older kids are at a lock in at church - well, they are at a game arcade, then a bowling alley, and then back at church for music until dawn! They have been humming with excitement for quite some time and it reached fever pitch all day long. They happily left the house for the night - 12 to 15 year old version of heaven. I get to pick them up at 6 AM and I expect that they will SLEEP most of the morning (as the little kids likely will also!). Well, that will get me up to go into work for a little while tomorrow. Then I am anticipating a monster waffle making marathon! What a way to ring in the new year!

I guess when I look back (maybe 16 or so years ago) this looks pretty tame, but to me, tonight it is the epitome of contentment. I am warm, cozy, my honey here with me in good health if you ignore his knee (surgery is scheduled for next week), my kids are all healthy, happy and growing like they should be. What more could you ask for?

Well, unlimited wealth, but that really doesn't matter. A better barn for our farm - well, we are working towards that. A van that has a working heater - a couple more weeks and we will get that done too. So, there really isn't anything profound that we are lacking this year. We are planning to continue working hard, loving our kids, building our farm, and hopefully getting better at all of this. The most important things in life we are abundantly blessed with - family, health (thanking God for my mom's clean bill of health today - for a bit I thought I might be counting the minutes with her again, but all is well), jobs, energy, our faith, our home, and a positive outlook. Most days anyway! LOL!

God has brought about so many things about in the last couple years, I barely know how to even wonder about the future. I highly suspect that our journey will continue, in whatever way God wills.

Tonight, I look at the new year with a deep sense of hope and contentment. I am so grateful for the blessings that we have, and want to be dedicated to being a good steward of them all - my children, husband and home. Life is so much more than I had ever imagined, sometimes hard, sometimes wildly joyful, sometimes uncertain, but always a blessing, even in the hard times.

I wonder about resolutions. Do you make them? I used to, but haven't for quite a while. I saw on another blog that I read that she decided to make ones that were in reach. I am stealing one of hers - one I have never been able to do, to read the entire Bible in one year. Another, to keep writing, in whatever form. Third to build more routines into our lives - I love not having routines, but we all do love them when we get into them. I may make small goals for each month - this month (January) I would like to declutter for 15 minutes a day. Sounds reachable, doesn't it? We shall see!

I hope and pray that whoever might read this is finding contentment and progress in their own life, and that God's hand is upon them. I pray that you have a wonderful 2010! Happy New Year!!!!!!!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Present

God has given us all a present. It is the present.

No matter what our past, no matter the current or past hurts. No matter what.

We can choose to embrace the gifts from God, or we can choose not to.

I watch this with my adopted children. They all have past hurts that brought them to be adopted. Now, God has given them a family. They can choose to embrace it or not. As a parent, my job is to show them the beauty of embracing all the gifts, of looking for the silver lining in those clouds. I cannot make them choose it, but I can work to teach them and show them the beauty. And at some point I have to not take it personally if they choose to not embrace those gifts at times. I have to let them learn from their actions.

That is the hard part. Really hard.

Let me add, that this pertains to all my children, not just those born into our hearts but not through our bodies. I look at Kiley and see the hurts that she has endured with her chronic illness. That could scar her if she let it, just as my adopted kiddos' pasts could scar them. She needs to make the same choices. Alex and Faith have spent years living with this disease that at times totally places them secondary as we work to keep their sister healthy. There are times that they are not the priority because at the time, saving Kiley’s life is. I wish it didn’t sound so dramatic, but it has been at times. There are times they themselves have helped to save their sister from her disease. All three times we have had to call the rescue squad, Alex has called them, starting at age 10. My heart breaks for them. It could scar them just as my other kiddos histories could scar them.

And maybe that is the blessing that we keep teaching. Everyone has something. Everyone. Or someday they will. No one is immune. So, you can either move forward and embrace the gifts, or you can leave them still closed, sitting in a corner.

I lost my father as a child. My mother remarried when I was an adult. The gift to me was the wonderful love my stepfather has for my mother, the way he cares for her, and extra special is the love he has lavished on my children and my family. That is the blessing. I choose to embrace that gift totally. I could spend the rest of my life wallowing in the loss of my father and all that I would like for him to be part of now, or I can embrace what I do have, which is truly an amazing gift, more than I could ever ask for.

Yes, I have a loss. But it has brought me gifts if I will choose to see them. Perhaps empathy with my children who have lost a parent and come to us through adoption. Perhaps as I have walked with others through their own losses, I just have experiences that make it a gift, even if I don’t know it all.

So, how do I help my children learn to embrace the gifts they do have? It is a frustrating struggle sometimes. It is very hard to watch them learn things the hard way. To watch them miss out by choice. But the gift is when they do join in, when they do make steps forward, when they show signs of healing. This is a very long journey with them, with each child, no matter how they came to us. But there are gifts with each step, with each frustration. Sometimes it needs to be searched for very hard.

The child who after 2 ½ years is still struggling with the same phonics, no matter how I present it, all the various ways we have tried it. That is the negative. The positive is the hope for him, how hard he works at it, the rejoicing in each little step, and maybe some days, the patience I am being taught.

The child who can’t quite bring themselves to truly enter in, who appears moody, and at times simply apart. The gift is the moments when that child enters in, the laughter, oh so sweet because there are times it is totally absent, the joy when the child completely interacts with us.

The financial struggles at times, - they remind us so of what is really important and how wealthy we truly are. And when the car bill has been paid, the quarterly gas bill paid, my annual work dues paid, well the relief at knowing that we got it done. Hard work equals our life. It is all worth it. And what we see as financial struggle is generally minor discomfort, not true struggle. I have enough food in the house to feed us for at least a month without need for much of anything outside our larder – maybe not always our favorite meals, but healthy nutritious meals to fill the bellies of all ten of us! That is wealth. So many people in the world cannot do that. It is crazy wealthy, the rest is all minor passing inconvenience or the sacrifices we make for our family.

And the best gift of all, the most eternal. The love of our Saviour, His sacrifice that we can never deserve. That is the basis for all that we do. Our good works can never save us, only the true grace of the Lord. But also, “faith without works is dead”. If we believe in our salvation, it simply must change how we live. And that isn’t always comfortable, but I have seen God do amazing miracles in lives all around me, stretching people into places they never dreamed of, and along with it, into amazing richness!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

All I want for Christmas - SCC

Just another reminder that there is so much to do! As I enjoyed my kids' Christmas - for some of them their first one here - I thoroughly reveled in their faces, the magic, the joy, the laughter, the love.

And yet, my heart breaks for those that don't have a family of their own. There are so many and I am so sad for them all. Please listen to this and think about what you can do. To many of those that read this blog, I am preaching to the choir - we are families with adopted children in our midst. But, if you cannot bring a child home or are not called to it, please think about how you can love on waiting children, needy children, or the families who can. I know that this stretch in our life has been challenging not only with all the adjustments for all ten of us, but for learning to budget and meet the needs of everyone. We have the ability, but sometimes things just come all at once. And that doesn't mean just financially, but health-wise, stress wise, obligation wise, work wise, it all adds up. There are seasons that are more challenging, and we know that we will weather it and come out. But sometimes it feels like a ship sailing through rough seas - and we know that many have it rougher.

Anyway, enjoy the video, let it touch your heart, love on everyone you can!!!! Merry Christmas all!!!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The strangest bedtime conversation...

Kiley pulled me over as I was shooing the crew up to bed - we have a routine that takes a while, including two kids checking blood sugars and getting shots, two taking prescription medications, all getting vitamins, trips to the bathroom (we only have one), getting in pajamas, and everyone getting hugs.

Initially, it seemed that the request to "tell" me something was likely an excuse to stay up later and certainly to stall things. But, as I sat down at the table across from my daughter, a story came out that I still find hard to understand. It seems that little Ben, one of the newer to join our family, had asked if we were really taking a trip to Grandma Jan's (in a nearby state) for Christmas or if the kids were just told that to keep them "happy". It seems that in the orphanage it was very common for the kids to be told to pack their bags, grab their coats as later they were to go somewhere/do something fun. And later, when they asked about it, they were told that they really weren't going, that they had been told that to make them happy. (AAAGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!! Can you see my mommyhead exploding????)

I was absolutely stunned. After sitting with my mouth open, I was able to close it and then realize that Aman was standing behind me. I turned and asked him if they would really do that in the orphanage. He very directly stated "yes, all the time". I was so stunned and horrified. He laughed because he could clearly see on my face that I was totally blown away by this. I somewhat stumblingly but clearly stated that under no conditions would we ever do something like that to them and that I felt that it was just wrong to have this ever done to them in the first place!!! I said several times and several ways that we would never lie to them to make them feel better for a few minutes or hours or days or weeks or ever. That it certainly was unkind to do that to someone. I could see that Aman was relieved, but also understood completely how much it meant to us.

So, here are my thoughts, beyond what a horrible thing to do to children,: I find it completely amazing that these kids trust us as much as they seemingly do, after adults have done this to them. No wonder they sometimes hold back a little to see if I will truly do what I have said I would do. How could they do anything else??? I am just amazed at how resilient these kiddos are and all that they have been through. I am still basically speechless. Why would someone do that? Is it just one way to manage a large group of kids when you are overwhelmed? I just don't know. And I don't see it as particularly helpful either.

You know, in older child adoption, our kids come to us with life histories, and sometimes (often?) these histories are not what we want for our kids to ever have experienced. I would spare my kids each and every pain they have ever experienced, but I cannot do that even for the kids that I have raised from birth. Then add in my "non-birth" kiddos - the things that happened to them and their first families were not things we would have ever wanted to have happen to anyone, but these are also the things that led to them being available for adoption. They are their life experiences, and to deny them would be useless as well as detrimental. So, we must accept them and build on them and build a positive future together. Their life experiences actually make them who they are. It is part of the whole package.

And in reality, it enriches our lives, all our lives. Truly, I have been stretched in ways I never imagined, or sometimes wished to be, and our experiences have been overwhelmingly positive. How do you reach out to a child you love with your whole heart and accept their love for another mother, when you are also their mother? It is easy and not easy, if we accept the whole package. I need to value who I am to this child and also value who that woman was to this child. We share the love of this child. Whether death or something else has separated my child from his/her first family, it matters not. I expect my children to love their first families as I love my father who has been deceased for more than 25 years, and as I love my "step" father, a man who I have recently begun to refer to as my dad, without any loss of value to my first father. I love both for who they are to me, and I am sure neither would begrudge that, but these two men would instead honor each other for the value each has given to my life.

One of the things I want for my children is for them to know that they can count on me. That I will do everything that I can to keep my word to them, that people can and should be relied on to do the right thing. I don't know what other things will come up that will surprise me, but I am very sure that there will be more. And I pray for God's hand as I try to deal with each one and work out the best for my children's lives as we build from what was to what will be.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Two grandmas

This year, in the midst of all the activity of life, my two remaining grandmothers passed away, within five months of each other.

At the time, both had been ill and struggling with health issues after a long life. Saying goodbye to them at the time was about mixed feelings - sad that they weren't with us, but glad for them that they had gone home to be with our Lord (and knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that they had), and glad their earthly pains and struggles were over and they were enjoying bodies that were strong and complete now.

As time has moved on, there are moments where I catch myself wanting to share something with each of them, or to think about how much they would have enjoyed something.

It has hit a lot this week. It has been a long crazy week. It was little E's birthday on the 18th, and it is hard to think that she is five and we can only pray that she is well. She will forever be a child of our hearts. It is good that she has not come into care, and we have not been called back into the role of foster parents. That means that hopefully things are good with her and her family. But it is still a very hard day for us.

And the 15th was Grandma Dorothy's birthday. Part of Christmas always included traditions that she started, or memories of things she did each and every year for Christmas. I found myself wanting to make her cut out cookies and to learn how to ice them like she used to. She was such an artistic person and elevated her cookie making to a true art form. Not like I have too much time to work on it, but all I could think about was how much my kids would love to decorate those same cookies. So, thanks to my mom and my aunt, I have not gotten her recipe (I had many others of hers, but somehow, not that one) and even some memories from everyone on how Grandma made those cookies! But it is so bittersweet. I am so glad that she celebrated her birthday in heaven and will celebrate Christmas there. I can only imagine!

And Grandma Jean. She was such a blessing, coming into our family when I was an adult, when my mom remarried. She welcomed my brother and I just as her own grandchildren, and our children were truly her great-grandchildren. I could not have asked for a better gift than this sweet lady, who would quietly share life experiences that were helpful to me. We had many things in common and I truly enjoyed the time I got to spend with her. My kids all treasure the teddy bears from Grandma Jean, who sincerely believed that everyone should have a teddy bear.

Both grandmas became sweet friends to each other, and just today, I was imagining them, up in heaven, chatting away at a table or in rocking chairs as they knitted away. I have so many memories of the two of them enjoying each others company. I hope my dad joins them and visits with them - what a reunion that must have been, when Grandma Dorothy arrived in heaven. I am very sure that my dad was among the first to greet her, though there are so many.

So, it is a bittersweet Christmas, catching me a bit off guard. I want to carry forward for my children what these wonderful ladies taught me through their examples. I will remember them and tell stories to my children. I will also remember their faith and how they each lived it out in their own ways.

The people who come and go in our lives are true blessings. We are given the gift of time and love with them. Sometimes, life is so busy, there is so much to do, that we don't think of it each day, but nothing material will ever compare to those relationships and gift of time.

Merry Christmas everyone!!!!! Praying for a happy holiday season for you and yours!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Great news!

Some friends of ours just got word that they passed court for the two children they are adopting from Ethiopia!!!! One child has special needs (a limb difference) and the other is 18 months. Funny those things qualify both as "special needs".

Anyway, I am so stinkin' excited for them all. It looks like they will travel late January or early February to bring the darlings home. Of course at the very end of the process, there are a great many fees and expenses that come to bear. JJ has come up with some very creative fundraisers. If you would like to see her blog (it is great by the way) and consider some coffee, or wonderful adoption/love t-shirts please do visit. http://bethe7percent.blogspot.com Her blog is well worth your time!

I am hoping to purchase soon, just need to sort out and make sure I have things covered here! You know - Christmas and a birthday for a child fall at the same time, and to add to that, Steve dislocated his knee badly, the van blower for the heater doesn't want to go, the sump pump is acting up, all that fun stuff. Nothing huge, nothing that cannot be handled, just all at once!!!!

Well, my goal is to try to post regularly, to share thoughts, funny stories, and build a community with like minded people. So, hopefully you will be hearing from us soon!!!!

By the way, the kids are all doing great! It has been just busy as all get out, but totally wonderful! I cannot express how grateful we are for our life and the blessings.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Expectations and value

This post was written in response to an email a friend sent me about "helicopter parenting". I feel like I really can comment on this with some amount of respect as many people have approached my husband and myself in public and commented on our children's behavior. We were just discussing it last night. We generally have been approached by total strangers two to three times a week in the last month. Clerks in stores, people in waiting rooms at doctor's offices, people in restraunts. It has really gotten us quite surprised because our kids behavior is far from perfect, but we are seeing a consistent response in public. Perhaps other parents just don't expect or train considerate and appropriate behavior.

Anyway, the post about helicopter parents today got me thinking and I just started jotting out our expectations and values. I sent it back to the friend who had sent me the email. And decided that I would post it here.

I don't think we are strange. I think we are working hard to do the best for our kids and family. It isn't rocket science and we certainly find that we make many mistakes, and I expect that there will be many more. As I type this I hear boys in the "boys dormitory" upstairs banging around and playing when they are supposed to be getting dressed - I am sure getting dressed is part of the equation, but not the only part! LOL! Kids are kids, we are all on a journey, but we are doing it together.

So, here were my comments:


Allow your child to suffer the natural consequences of their actions.

Expect responsibility and good behavior. Have consequences for lapses in either.

Don't give them big ticket (or even small ticket) items that they did not earn - these things are not needed! They are poorer for just "getting them", they are richer for having earned them and worked hard.

Allow them to get the grades they earn. Help, but don't do their work for them or put word in their mouths!

Your family is a TEAM, and that means that each and every person in the family (no matter how big or small) contributes significantly to the success of the family - by doing something meaningful to help the family each and every day, and even better if it is several things! The last thing our kids need is to be waited and and feel useless or "non-contributing". The best thing for them is to know that they can make life better for everyone, that what they do helps or hurts everyone, that they can influence how their family life is.

Do things as a FAMILY. If someone is gifted in sports, then the family gets involved - the child isn't just shuttled there - and the child contributes to help earn the fees for the sports, or does something meaningful to compensate for the sacrifice of the family financially (it is not just GIVEN). Gifts need to be valued, by everyone. If someone is a gifted musician, then the rest of the family can help backstage, or with other folks kids while rehearsals go on, or with set up, AND simply enjoy and value the gift!

Limit electronics time. Don't let it take over real life - kids should be outside playing, playing games, having creative play - with parents and with siblings and friends. Real life projects, whatever, but not staring at a shiny box.

When friends spend hours on a social net work and complain that they are bored, your child should really be thinking "get a life - get off your butt and do something!". They should not be at loose ends every minute of every day. They should know how to set goals, to work on projects, to experience life!

When parents have to do things around the house or in the community, get the kids involved. If you are building a shed, even the littlest one can hand you nails, the bigger ones can learn the skills to build the entire thing if they do it along with you! If you are baking a pie - get a child involved! They can help you find things, pour them in - even the smallest child! And soon, before you know it, that child knows how to do it and can bless you, themselves and others with their prowess!

Rarely, rarely, rarely separate the family. Make it infrequent that a child or children does many things away from the family. Get involved in their activities. Not to hover, not to protect, but to live life. Don't allow talents and activities to separate the real foundation of our lives - our family. A child who is constantly gone to sleepovers, activities, etc, misses out on the riches of family life. They become not "integral" to the family unit, and really miss out on the learning that they need, and on building relationships. Have friends over to your house, host sleepovers and bonfires, etc.

If a child misbehaves, throws a tantrum, says something mean or hurtful, etc, they have hurt the family unit, even if someone else just overheard it. It hurts and inflicts discomfort on the family. This must be repaid, best through service. If you made us uncomfortable, whatever, then you need to do something kind to the family to repay the pain/discomfort. It brings home that a child's actions afffect more than just them. Kids in society today seem to think that they can blow a gasket and it doesn't hurt anyone. Well, that isn't true.

DO NOT SAY OR DO UNKIND THINGS! Even in play. It isn't funny. Calling names, saying hurtful things, is NOT joking, is not humor. It breaks down relationships, it causes hurt feelings, it separates people. It is so sad to see siblings setting out to hurt each other, or thinking that physical violence (or even inconsiderateness) is acceptable or a joke. It isn't and breaks down the family unit. Who wants to live in that kind of chaos? That should never be heard in the home or in the family unit. It is totally unacceptable and should be treated as such. There is nothing sadder than seeing siblings who don't seem to decide to be kind to each other. That is not respectful, teaches how they will interact with their own families-to-come, is just wrong and parents must not tolerate it. If someone does this, there must be a way to pay back for the misbehavior. Scolding is not enough, kindness must be acted out. Pain must be alleviated. I fully EXPECT my children to be kind and respectful to each other - that is how I want them to treat others and the people we love the most (our family) certainly should be treated better than strangers!!!!! If you hurt someone, you will make it up to them and just the word "sorry" is RARELY enough. Actions carry a message much better.

The worst gifts I can give my children are physical things. The best gifts are the gifts of belonging, being loved, being valued, being needed, being productive, being responsible, being helpful, and being who God has made them to be.

Activities are not the answer, enjoyment and family cohesiveness is. Learning give and take. Learning to treasure each other. Learning appropriate behavior. Learning respect. Learning to be a grown up. Learning that families are the safest place, where we can trust that we are each looking out for each other, that we will treat each other with respect, that we will live in kindness. Activities should involve everyone, not separate the family unit. We can all contribute - I can even contribute to soccer (I am not athletic anymore) by helping the coaches, the other families, entertaining the other younger kids spectators, etc. I can contribute to my husband's and kids' musical gifts by helping backstage, with productions, with set up, with other families, with getting music ready for them (if they ask), by helping to allow us all to enjoy the music, to teach us all to value and respect each other's gifts. Simply by being involved, finding a way for us all to be involved. That teaches respect, value, and love.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sorry for the delay, life intervened.

Hi all,
I know that I promised a fun makeover post, and I nearly got it ready to go, and then well, life happened! It appears that over the last three weeks or less, we had a minor case of H1N1 go through the house. At first it was no big deal, two days of fevers, two or so of us at a time, then a productive cough. No big deal, it swept through the house and we all managed.

And then a week ago Kiley suddenly spiked a high temperature after having been fever free for five days.

Of course, along with that (for a child with diabetes) there are crazy blood sugars and the medical concerns that brings. We worked hard to manage it, but fevers got as high as 104, then came vomiting, huge lethargy, and horrible color. By Tuesday morning her fluid intake was dangerously low and she was throwing some ketones. I knew that I was now scared. I had to take her in, I was exhausted and done. I knew Steve wasn't quite there but all that kept running through my head was that the folks who are dying from this are those with "underlying medical conditions" which of course is Kiley.

I had her take a shower, knowing that she would feel a little better, plus it would give me time to assemble some things without her knowing that we were leaving. Sigh. Well, when I poked my head in to see how she was doing in the shower, she told me that she was noticing that she was having trouble breathing.

New development. Not a good one.

Add that to the fact that she had slept for the majority of the day, on the couch with life going on around her.

We left for the hospital Tuesday afternoon. Spent quite a few hours in the ER. They did blood work, chest xray, and began to figure out what was going on. Surprisingly, it wasn't a diabetes issue as we were all sure that she was in DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis - a very bad thing). Not at all, which means that we had done fairly well in a tough situation managing her diabetes. However....

She had significant pneumonia in both lungs and was dehydrated.

At first it looked like they would hydrate her, get antibiotics started via IV and then send us home. Her temperature wasn't bad, she had had tylenol and ibuprophen two hours before we left for the hospital.

And then it wore off.

Her temperature spiked and the child who had actually perked up, went back to looking deathly ill, color like concrete, very obviously very ill.

Within a very short time she was admitted to the hospital.

And we are still here on Sunday.

At first it looked like it would just be overnight. Then another 24 hours, and then another, and then, when we were hoping that we would be home for the weekend, though confined to the house - we were told it would be until at least Sunday morning.

Needless to say, given all that, it was a good indication of how sick Kiley was.

For literally many days she took next to nothing by mouth - literally nothing. Thank God for IV fluids.

Thursday she started to take some fluids consistently - only fluids, but fluids. Starbucks smoothies started it all. That company will forever have a place in my heart!!!!

Friday we got two bites of food late in the day, but only two bites. And we have literally tried everything - nurses jumping for anything they could think of, as well as mom and dad and all our friends - more emails, calls and texts wondering what she might like. No real avail.

Then yesterday morning she had a small muffin. I thought I would dance around the room!!!

But she filled up so fast. Nothing more went in, until the ibuprophen she got for her fever (it spiked again last night at five - it had been spiking every eight hours) kicked in and gave her quite the stomachache. She then tearfully took some saltines as the nurse and I hovered. But it helped.

About an hour later, she told me she was hungry (of course the dinner tray came, was refused by her and was gone). Her idea was a bagel - nurses were on the phone to the kitchen and one came up fast! I could not believe how quickly she ate it! Within a half hour the huge bagel was gone!!!! Then she asked for a Snapple - I ran down and got her two! And she drank one right away.

This morning she had bites of everything on her tray. Not much, but something. Then a cookie and some ice cream!

The labs done this morning show that things are improving, though more slowly than the doctor would like. There is also some pleural effusion - fluid outside of her lung - but it isn't changed. Her fever that spiked last night at 5 has not returned, at least not more than 99 degrees. Last night it got to 102. We were really hoping that she would be released after labs this morning, but the doctor wants to see her without fever until 6PM. They are concerned that something else, another infection, could be going on. So, we are still here. Kiley is disappointed and bored and worried.

As you can imagine, with eight kids in the family, now one kid and one parent at the hospital, it has been a difficult situation. Steve has been able to take sick time, so was home all week. My parents took the seven kids several times so Steve could be here with us for a while (thanks Mom and John - nothing like having seven kids at your house!!!!!). A family near us has taken the boys one night so Steve could take the little girls to the Father/Daughter Ball at church - and friends helped us outfit the girls in party dresses and tights and shoes!!! And the same family took the seven this morning as we had a big event at church that Steve had to be there for, and without a parent there, we just didn't want to send the kids with him (the event was at the KI Center and there were thousands of people there from our campus and the other two campuses). So, thank you so much Bretton family!!!! You have been so gracious and the kids have had an absolute ball!!! What a relief for these stressed parents!

I don't know how this will turn out today. I so want to be home. I so want my daughter to be well. I am still worried about her health, but she is light years better than she was just days ago. Now that things are improving, it is easier to see how bad things were. I am so grateful to God that we are not any worse off than we are. I do so wish we were home. But, she is in good hands here.

I greatly look forward to completing my project at home to being home>

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Extreme Home Makeover Oswald Edition!

I would have to say that my absolute favorite TV show is Home Makeover! I love it. I love seeing the amazing people out there and the wonderful things they do, and I so love seeing people coming together to really change lives. Thank goodness for Tivo as we don't always get to it when it is on, but it is definitely a weekly event around here.

We have watched it for years. And then as it turns out, we have been nominated three times, by three different people/organizations. That in and of itself is totally humbling. And a bit disturbing as we don't focus on the negative, but focus on doing life. And because you are hearing this on my blog, obviously we weren't selected. That's ok.

Not that it wouldn't be way, way cool and relieve a lot of various burdens, but really, who really gets that kind of thing happening in their life?

So, anyway, after watching the show tonight while working on the ironing (ugh), I got a silly bee in my bonnet. The kids talk about the show all the time and how neat it would be and what the house might be like and all. Well, since we are so focused on doing things ourselves, doing the best with what we have and all that, what if we (or me) just focused on doing things ourselves? Needless to say, it wouldn't be an entire house in seven days and we still will never take a vacation (never have but is sure sounds like a cool concept - but not in our lifetime!), but we always need to focus on doing what we CAN.

I am a really big one on doing what we CAN, whatever it is.

Our bathroom is nearly redone - don't laugh, when we moved in the plumbing for the shower was on the OUTSIDE of the wall. Now it is INSIDE the wall, the walls are tiled, the room repainted and it looks so much better. It still needs a new toilet and floor repairs, but that will most likely wait. The toilet sweats in humid weather, which has dripped onto the floor for so long, that the floor behind the toilet is, well, not exactly complete - no holes (but I'm not looking too closely) and it is sturdy and nothing moving. The plan is that the toilet will be replaced by one that doesn't sweat and the floor repaired and the hardwood restored.

However, we have one bathroom (yes, I know there are ten of us - but families years ago used to do it all the time) so the toilet cannot be out of commission for long at all. Hence the strategic planning.

And, we really, okay, I would really like for us to return to having a family closet - where everyone's clothes are in one place, the same room the laundry room is in - so, needless to say for us it would need to be large! Our current laundry room is about five feet by five feet at the most. It includes the washer, the dryer, and three baskets for sorting laundry. It is a bit of a hoot as you have to open the washer door first, then the dryer door to transfer clothes from one to another. There is very little open floor space, so only one person at a time can be in there - and it is one of the exits from the house - to the side yard and pastures.

There is no room in the house to relocate this either. With about 2100 square feet and ten of us, there isn't a lot to spare, not to mention the plumbing issues. The laundry room used to be a small back porch, converted now. Hey, at least it has a real door now! It used to have just a screen door and we had to plastic it shut in the winter to keep things warm. And the door from the laundry room to the house has to be open at all times in the winter so the washer doesn't freeze. LOL! But I am so grateful to have the laundry room at all - we went without for nine months and that was HORRIBLE. Laundromat. Need I say more??????

In the upstairs, there is one outlet. Not one working outlet, but one outlet. And only two light switches - the rest of the rooms have ceiling fans with lights that must be turned on by pull chains. Again, an improvement - when we moved in there were simply light bulbs hanging down by wires! Now, you have to remember there are eight kids up there, including our schoolroom. Not exactly functional! Oh, well. The other huge plan is that we will have an electrician out here to wire the upstairs. Add light switches and outlets!!! Wouldn't that be nice? We were able to get another used computer, which would be used intensely for school work, but as of yet, do not have a way to get it working upstairs unless we run and extension cord - and that isn't a long term solution. Maybe not even a short term solution - those cords make me nervous!!!

So, in reality - Ty is not going to show up on our doorstep - no matter how much the kids wish he would!!! LOL! So, we have to do what we can.

Here is our current extreme makeover:
My goal for the next three days is a redo of how I do ironing. Currently the ironing board is set up behind the piano in the middle of our living room, and the things needing to be ironed get hung on my eliptical so the wrinkles don't get any worse until I can get to things! LOL again. Here is our current situation:


Not so great, huh?

Not like there is space to have that where it is.

So, here is what I am promising - a "big reveal" tomorrow!!!!

Perhaps in life, the huge makeovers would be amazing, but they are unlikely to happen.

So, we can either wallow in frustration that it cannot just magically be better, or we can do something about it.

And sometimes, there will be things we cannot do anything about at this point in time (like the electrical upstairs, the bathroom downstairs or adding on to the house for a family closet). But, there are many things that we can take charge of and DO something about. Like the ironing pile. Obviously the laundry room cannot accomodate it, but I will have something new implemented by tomorrow night.

So, check back to see what has happened! It cannot be "move that bus!" so I will have to think of something else for fun!

Take "a lick at a snake" is a southern phrase that basically means that you can do it a little at a time.

Of course then I keep adding to the lists of the makeovers I want to do..... But that will have to wait - there is time and plans and energy for this makeover today and tomorrow. Another day, another makeover! I will have to see how creative I can be!

Have a blessed day, and do what you are able to do! "Blessings done imperfectly are still blessings". Don't get hung up on what you cannot do, or what you want to do, but look for what you CAN do today!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Wow! Sorry!

I hadn't realized that it had been so long since I posted. No terrible reason, just busy with many things as we adjust to life as a larger active family!

Medical reports for Tsion seem to say that the hydrocephalus is static, not changing and that she may not need surgery after all. Good news. The downside is that the neurosurgeon wants us to get a second opinion from a pediatric neurologist who specializes in seizures - but has yet to make that referral - a week and a half later! Needless to say, I have been on the phone! If they just give me the name, I will call myself and get things going. The doctor here was very willing to say that the doctor there might have a totally different opinion and he wanted to defer to the specialist. Sigh. So, we are back where we started, trying to get Tsion in to a pediatric neurologist! I have been working on this since before the kids got home and we really haven't made a whole lot of progress in this arena. So far we seem to know, we hope, that this isn't an emergency. But I really feel like that is all that I know. Sign. So, I will keep calling until we get in with the right person.

Aman is doing very well. Still not quite getting it on how things work with his diabetes, but that will come with time and continued teaching.

Ben is doing well, though under the impression that girls don't do much of significance and that boys cannot do any work that he deems "women's work". He was scandalized to see Dad cooking, and to hear that Mom played rugby in college, and that girls CAN score goals in soccer. That is making the girls really go to great lengths to prove him wrong and make his jaw drop! LOL! It is humorous, but you don't expect to hear it from a nine year old! I know, cultural differences. Still strange to live with!

Alex and Kiley are fully into drama rehearsals and getting ready to move to the theatre set in another week and a half. Steve is actually at his play tonight - it is opening night. We got to see the final dress rehearsal last night - fondly known as "family night". It was great fun and the play was wonderful. It was very fun to see how the kids reacted to it all, and to seeing Dad up there! Many giggles and amazement as it all progressed. I am amazed at how good he is! Not that I didn't know it, but hearing him with and English accent in a complex Agatha Christie play - well, just amazing.

Faith got her own digital camera, much to her delight! The kids have been working for a neighbor picking gourds and pumpkins this week, and have each earned a fair amount for quite a lot of work - three semi loads of gourds went out today! Hard to believe that we did that much! But Faith finally earned what she had been saving for, so there are many, many photos of all sorts of things now!

I am working hours that I can pick up when Steve is home. There are continued fees with the post adoption work, as well as medical bills and all the preparations for winter, so extra hours do help. I get to drive to the upper peninsula of Michgan tomorrow, basically spending much more time on the road that doing therapy, but if they pay me for it, who cares? And I have been working with the horses a bit more. I really find it a great stress reliever and love our huge friends. And chatting with my brother and comparing training methods and horses has really lit a fire. The mini pony learned a lot in a short time, and then I was able to walk Faith through what I had done and why, and then she could do it all with this horse that is really hers! She was so proud. Kiley even got on our mare that had a foal this spring, and began to get a bit more comfortable in the saddle (or actually in the "bareback", but how else do you explain it?). I keep hammering in that training these animals and yourself involves many hours, and some of the kids get it and some don't. We keep teaching diligence, patience, perseverance and a good work ethic. It takes time for all.

This week was also marred by tragedy for some of our friends. A child (16 years old) was killed in a car accident last week Sunday in the wee hours of the morning. It really threw me for a loop. I didn't know the young man, but I know his younger siblings, his step mom and dad. We live in a small community, and it affects so many people. I took the four younger kids with me to the funeral home - two kids at soccer and two at play practice, but we really had to extend our condolences, so we went. To look at all those teenagers, some of whom I knew, just shaken to the core - enough so a seventeen year old tough guy let me hug him and then proceeded to sob on my shoulder - it was so hard. They shouldn't have reason to be going through this. The sadness of drinking and driving and kids, it just stinks. I cannot even begin to imagine what they are all going through. I haven't quite been able to put it all together in my own mind - in the same week that my eldest turned 15 and keeps reminding me that shortly he can start driver's edge. Ugh. These kids are barely older than Alex! I don't really have words - it seems like it shouldn't have affected me quite so much, given that i had only met the boy in passing, but I think it is the significance. I see that it has shaken the community. Even having only been here three years (in a community where most families have been here for generations) I was amazed at the number of people I knew that I was greeting. The interconnectedness is telling. We rely on each other. We work together, we are connected one way or another. That is life in a small community. So if you would, please pray for this young man's family. I cannot imagine. I just cannot fathom, and hope never to know what they are experiencing.

Another friend has gotten two referrals of children and is hoping to travel before the new year. I sure hope that comes! I am so excited for them and the children that are coming to a loving home.

Well, my brain cells are running on empty. Life is good, crazy busy but good. There is so much, so many good things, in the midst of a very intense time in our family's life, that it makes it hard to remember to post it all. Harvest time, preparations for winter, future plans, schooling, adjustment, and on and on. In some ways I really look forward to winter because some things really slow down. Some things get harder, but some slow down. Right now I have to get to sewing part of Alex's costume for The Frog Prince of Spamalot! And some sleep. Hah!

God bless you! I hope there is some part of our journey that can benefit someone else, that somehow this is an active part of God's tapestry! Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

No news...

Tsion's MRIs (three of them) were done today. It was a long day, basically waiting in the waiting room while she was sedated through the whole thing.

And of course, we have no information and will begin the long waiting process until next Wednesday when we meet with the neurosurgeon to discuss the findings and where we go from here.


It was stressful and agonizing. I stayed with her (they only allowed two to come into the MRI room and I needed Zeri to interpret for us) until the gas took affect and she was sound asleep. She was quite the trooper and the staff was amazing - no IV until she was asleep and very gentle and sweet. I think she must have been scared, though she insisted she wasn't even nervous. But...

So, it was a long day. Thanks (huge, huge thanks) to my mom who took six of the kids (since we had two), and then John, my dad, left work and took two of the boys to their first soccer practice since the tests were going on and on and on. and then he ran them to the house and waited until we finally arrived. I don't know what we would have done without them.

Everyone is well and content with how the day turned out. I, on the other hand, am trying very hard not to think about all the things they could have found on those tests. Too much knowledge (neurology coursework and professional work) can really make one a bit spastic about these things.

We serve a big God, one who can see this entire tapestry. He knows what is going on in our daughter's body. He created it. He knows what is to come. He knew all along when he placed her in our family what was to come. This is not a surprise to him at all. "What, you mean her epilepsy seems to be caused by a malfunction in her brain? No way! I never would have thought of that!!!". As Pastor Mark would say, God isn't standing there saying "Oh, myself!". (Instead of "oh, God" or something like that - it is funny now, but it took me hearing it a couple times to get it.)

Well, it isn't much of an update, but it is what we have.

And it is Zeri and Solly's second Gotcha Day! Yay! Nothing special given all that went on today, but I think we will do a cake or cookies tomorrow!

God bless, sleep well!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A rambling update and serious pondering...

This is an update I sent to an email chain I am on of adoptive moms. After I put it together, I decided there were things that I just wanted to say in general. I am feeling somewhat incoherent right now, so I hope this makes sense. I am emotional, overwhelmed, grateful, in love with my kids and family, and in general in the midst of our own personal storm, though not meaning it is bad. So, here goes:

The kids are adapting well - the boys have done wonderfully, jumping in with both feet and really are doing great. Aman's (13) health (remember he was the reason the kids were medically evacuated from Ethiopia - the adoption and visa process got rushed and what should take three months took only three weeks) has been fabulous! His diabetes is actually doing quite well, though it appears he is still in honeymoon - meaning that his body likely still produces some insulin - as the autoimmune portion progresses his pancreas beta cells will lose the ability to make insulin, but right now it is quite easy to care for him. Aben (Ben) is 9 and just a pip! All boy and a total imp, in a good way.

Tsion (10) she came with the least amount of English and a diagnosis of epilepsy. Well, in the process of getting that evaluated here, we think we have found the source of her seizures. She has fluid build up in the ventricles of her brain and they are about a third larger than they should be, from the quick glimpse of the CT scan that I got. It is good and bad having such a medical and neuroanatomy background! I knew from what I saw on the CT scan that things were abnormal. A couple hours later the doctor was very direct with me and we are preparing for multiple MRIs next week then a meeting with the neurosurgeon to determine how to best help her. We have been told that it is very likely that she will need a shunt.

I had my freak out mama time last night after everyone was in bed and am calm and relaxed about it now. Just needed to process emotionally for a bit.

If you could keep her health in prayer as we work through this, I would so appreciate it. I feel like this kid complaining to God - we asked that he heal her or prove that it wasn't truly epilepsy or something, but brain surgery was not really what I had in mind. Like I know better than God??? I hate to think what would have happened to her had we not been called to adopt her. I just cannot go there, because I do know what would have happened. Permanent brain damage and loss of function and possibly death. God had a plan and had this all under control all along.

And given the issues/accidents that dh Steve and oldest bio daughter Kiley have had this year, we only have office copays, no more family deductible or out of pocket expenses for the year. So, God had it entirely in control.

And another praise - Tsion has been the toughest nut to crack, but she and I have had many breakthroughs in the last week and she is now beginning to talk to me, to ask for help, and to be open to relationship with us. She is well bonded to our youngest bio daughter who is close in age to her, and is now expanding to me and initiating interaction. Not too bad for 13 days! I am thrilled as I can see emerging the bubbly little girl that we saw in her video. I am so excited and no longer fear. I look forward to many years of being blessed to be her mama.

The boys - well, they seem to have no concern - we are their family, I am their mom, they come to me and dad and siblings, but maybe all girls are different. Our adoption of older boys (twice now) seems that they seem to adapt so much faster - it is all about action and interaction and busy and all that. Girls I am thinking may be more complex (oh, duh!). But we are seeing our little flower bloom a bit at a time.

God is so good. Who but He could have orchestrated this? We weren't going to adopt three originally, just the brothers. In prayer I saw three. We struggled to pick a third from the waiting children, but when Kiley saw the video, the child who most opposed the adoption of a girl and another child, she spoke God's words, that this child belongs in our home. And now I shudder to think what might have happened to my sweet daughter had she not come here. I hate to think of what we might ask her to go through, but know that there is hope and a future for her and maybe even healing.

We are in the moment of seeing God's hand work it's way out. I just find myself frozen as I can see the fingerprints all over this. Thank you God, you saved this child. We thought we were saving Aman. Turns out the child we were saving wasn't the one we thought. Aman and Kiley saved their sister. If Aman's lab results had not been abnormal they would not have been medically evacuated. Turns out he is fine (praise God), but Tsion might not have had that time. I have no idea how much time there is before this could/would have really impacted more or what would have happened, but I suspect, given the doctor's urgency and concern that time is of the essence. Kiley spoke the words, Aman sped things up. Two children may have saved their sister more than either Steve or I could have. That is God. Only God. Can we say "humbled"? Steve and I set out to do good (and reap the blessings of parenthood - selfish certainly). But we had no idea of what God called into being. We literally had nothing to do with that. We just did each thing as we were asked, just as we continue to do. And we are blessed to see God's plan unfold. I don't even think that we can say we were instruments - though maybe that is what it is - we had no knowledge of what we might have been doing, as it turns out. What we thought we were doing, was not what we were. The help we planned to give was not only what was needed. There was more to it. The situation we thought was pretty straightforward and simple, has turned out to be the most complex and needful. We had nothing to do with this.

Okay, enough tears. I am just processing a lot right now.

Hang in there all of you who are waiting on this adoption journey. God truly has this under control and His way may not turn out the way you thought. His way may have had an entirely different purpose that you might only see in retrospect.

Oh the ways of God. Someday I hope he lets me see this entire tapestry, not just the individual threads we weave.
Thanks for all the support. Look for God's fingerprints, they are there. They are SO VERY much there. Stand firm where God has called you, wherever that might be. Thanks for walking this journey with us. I hope somehow it benefits someone else.

God's blessings,
mom to the great eight
wife to the greatest man

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

At Day 12

Sorry that things have been so quiet!

For a long time as I read adoption email discussion groups on the internet, I was perplexed about all the negative things that were being discussed. At one point I remember wondering why we never seemed to discuss the positive. Was it because there wasn't any, though that was far from our experience and life. Was it because ... Well, I don't know. At one point, I began to wonder if it was because the people who were doing well were too busy with their life to be rehashing issues over and over? Sounds judgemental and all that so I tossed it aside. But it was the continued trend. I don't seem to see the same thing in most of the blogging world, but in the support forums, that was what was there. As our life has accelerated, I am again wondering about the same thing. I would certainly say that things are going well, which means that there is a lot going on, and simply, by the time I have the entire crew in bed, well, I am pooped and have no brain cells to be of any good to anyone or even mildly entertaining!

So my apologies to anyone who might have been waiting/praying/worrying. We are good.

Everyone is settling in. Not that there have not been bumps in the road, as expected. But we are seeing positive progress and a lot of very typical "kid" behavior. And lots of things that are cultural - in Ethiopia, it is very common to wear the same clothes for a week unless they become visibly dirty. Needless to say, trying to teach that I expect new clothes on them each day has been a bit confusing for them. Just the way we do it here! And bathroom issues. Mom and Dad have each addressed it and things are improving - but this is a new thing for them. None of this is new to us, in fact it is a lot of deja vu as with Zeri and Solly we had many of the same things. But this time I have TRANSLATORS!!!! Whoo-hoo! Lots of things like that - doors to the outside need to be shut - out here if you don't then we are engulfed by flies or barn cats, neither of which I want in my house! But, over there, you don't shut doors, they are always left open unless you are leaving or something. Different here. It just is. So, nothing but the day to day and slowly living a life together, becoming the new family that we now are.

We have had many doctor's appointments - Aman is doing very well, though certainly doesn't understand his diabetes well, but that is OK. Working on that. It will come. He is doing well medically. Really. And he is an interesting young man with a neat sense of humor and willing to really step out and join in! Aben has his physical tomorrow, but I don't anticipate any issues. Of course all the kids are having lots of bloodwork done to make sure they are healthy and to check on vaccination needs.

Tsion is a bit more medically right now and we would love it if you would include her in your prayers. We may have a cause for her seizures and it may be something that can be relieved. There might be a potential that she might not have seizures if we can resolve this. But right now, she has excess fluid in the ventricles in her brain, which pushes on her brain. It likely has been building for some time and fits with the timeline of when she started having seizures. We did CAT scan and EEG this morning and were referred for a couple specific MRIs of the brain and spinal cord which will be done mid September. Then we meet with the neurosurgeon. Just all that information alone had me needing to process. But, I just need a short time to have my small freak out, and then we can move on. I just need to process for a short time and then we get on with life. It was scary to get all those terms and consider what may come. We were told to expect that it is likely that she will need a shunt. I know that these are nearly routine (as much as something like this can be) and that it can be very successful. (Can you tell I have had a small time to process?) It will all be OK. We have skilled doctors who can help and God is not surprised by this at all. We will just take it one step at a time and not look too far beyond the next step until it is time. In some ways I am glad that we have hope of helping her, we have been praying that somehow her epilepsy might not be truly that and that there is something more that can be done for her. This never occurred to me. So, that is where we are with that.

Tsion is coming out of her shell more and more, is interacting more with everyone, not just with Faith who is by far her favorite. She has an adorable laugh and when she smiles her whole face just lights up. It is lovely to see this small flower bloom!

All the other kids are doing very well. It is neat to see everyone reaching out and sort of "re-inventing" who they are now as our family has changed. Everyone has their own talents, but this is all added to by the talents of the others. Aman has quite a talent for drawing and Kiley has declared him her "master" in drawing so he is teaching her his techniques and they really enjoy this together. Solly loves having someone with about as much energy as he has at home to play with!!!!!

Well, hubby is home from play practice, so I am going to sign off for now and will try to post more when I can!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Day Two as a family of ten!

As you all know, we are in the transitional phase.

Aman (12 or 13) speaks English very well, thank the Lord. He is very willing to work with us and trust us with his care. He has conversational English and even reads and writes!!!

Aben understands more than he lets on and is a fun loving little guy (9). Solomon (home two years) is in heaven to have such an energetic playmate and is really stepping up to help his little brother (Solly is 10). Alex (almost 15 bio) is enjoying having more brothers, even a little one who had fun teasing him at church about his "girlfriend" - just a friend who was nearby, we don't date in our family.

Tsion has been the most difficult nut to crack, but today we had a breakthrough when she out loud read a t-shirt - in English!!! Previously, we didn't think she understood much if any English and I anticipated starting at square one with reading!!! Hah! The stinker!! LOL! She understands more, much more - probably not as much as Aman, but much more than we had thought! She is 9, and Faith is 9 (bio). They share a room and are rapidly becoming good sisters, holding hands and helping each other. I have seen them laughing and talking together, which is good, because Tsion wasn't talking at all to us, and very little in Amharic with her brothers who speak Amharic. Kiley (12) spends time with everyone, a bit at a time, but being our driven child, she generally is pleased to do her own leadership thing.

So, so far, so good. Tomorrow is a very early morning at Children's Hospital for Aman - we all will have to go. That means we leave the house at 5AM after animal chores. Ugh. But, Steve will be able to come with us, and we will then drop him after the doctor's visit at the office in Milwaukee (where he generally works once a week) while we go to the zoo or the museum while he works. Then we will all head home together. I am not looking forward to the two to two and a half hour drive each way, but it is what it is.

Friends from church organized a picnic for us to welcome the kids home. It was lovely and the predicted rain lasted about three minutes! What a blessing these people were! Talk about feeling warm and loved and supported! And my parents came out too! They had been out of town when we arrived, so it worked out lovely and they were enchanted with the kids.

We are so pleased and happy. We know that there is lots ahead of us, but everyone is good at this point. I am looking forward to starting school with everyone soon. We will need the structure and our lessons will give us that. I stand amazed at what God has done in our lives and our kids' lives. Humbled too.

I will post pictures in the next few days!

I will post more as time allows!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

We are HOME!!!!!

Hi all,
Just a short post for those of you who are following this from afar (like my folks who are traveling).

We are home and all eight kids snug in bed! It was a long evening at the hospital, and turns out all our experience paid off, as Steve and I were correct on what we thought needed to be done. We had a bit of panic for a while as at first the doctor who was consulting via phone wanted to admit Aman, who was doing beautifully. After some calls back and forth, I think the resident who was working with us convinced the endocrinologist that the child sitting in front of him was in good health and that he would feel quite silly admitting him! LOL! thank goodness as the thought of putting everyone else up in a hotel room for the night was a horrible thought!

It turned out fine, the doctors worked out a plan for how we should dose Aman over the weekend and we will go from there. The numbers that we had rolling around in our heads turned out to be the same ones the doctors gave us!!! So, we were doing okay from the beginning.

The kids are amazing. Just amazing. And all lovely. It was a long, tiring night after a long tiring 27 hours, but everyone made it. I will post more later, but right now I really want to spend time with my very tired hubby! He didn't sleep the entire way, and only about 45 minutes on the drive home. Poor guy! I SOOOOO remember! LOL!

Thank you Lord for all the kindness.

Friday, August 14, 2009

On US soil!!!!

We got a call from Washington DC - they are through Immigration and headed for their next flight! Yay!!!!! Got to chat with hubby, everyone is doing amazingly and he sounds delighted though way confused about what time it is!!! LOL! All three kids shouted into the phone: "Hi Mom!".

I am so excited - we are cleaning like mad, putting clothes in dressers now that we better know sizes and getting ready to pick up Faith and Solly from camp - then to head to the airport in Milwaukee!!!!!!!!

Praise God, here we go!!!!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

All seems to be well...

We got a couple emails through in the last 24 hours. The general uptake is that things seem to be going well. Aman has more English than any of the three and Steve seems to be able to communicate pretty well with him. The others not as much, Tsion the least, but hopefully that is because she is unsure of herself. Either way, it will be what it will be. They will be boarding their plan about 4PM our time, I think - it is all getting a bit muddled. Today Steve is doing a bit of running or errands, getting the things on the list we gave him. I really simply don't care about the spices or anything anymore. I just want them all home. Now.

We are still slotted to head to the ER, it is now settling down a bit and appears that it will be more of an unconventional office visit to get things started and the big visit to get medical care really on board will be very early Monday morning. We are hopeful that Steve will be able to come with us and then work in Milwaukee after that. This is all going to be very challenging especially in the beginning. We will get the other kids started on medical care yet this week, but the others aren't quite as urgent from a day to day standpoint.

We are putting lots of things together to be "ready" and of course I am obsessing about everything, wanting so much to do everything, it all stands out, though most of it really isn't important. Nesting??? I don't know. Probably controlling what I can. And I am trying to enjoy these days with the big kids. It is fun to do the things that we might not do otherwise - like watch thrillers - not horror movies, no sex or gore, just scary. We all love it, though are having unconventional sleeping arrangements as we freak ourselves out late at night. Hah! We even stopped one movie to watch in the daylight as we were all on the edges of our seats!

Better run, they are calling that they finished chores and are ready to watch the end of that particular movie! LOL.

Will update as there is time. Thanks for all the prayers. I am so ready for this longest week in history to be over and our new journey begun!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Please pray...

on Friday Steve will be arriving with the new kiddos from Ethiopia, and I have been battling with our pediatric diabetes clinic to get Amanuael in right away as a new diagnosis - there is next to no medical care over there and we really need a full workup to get him started well. The risks are huge if we do not have an accurate plan. I have been educating the staff on the status of medicine and diabetes care in a third world country and I still don't think they all believe me. It is really frustrating as we have been prepping them for this since January, and thought we had it all lined up in July!!!

Well, the clinic from the Children's Hospital called and they want him to go directly to the ER from the airport. Not the homecoming we had wanted for us all, the children especially. So, we are praying that we will be able to go home as a family that night yet, that they won't have to hospitalize him, that somehow this will all still turn out to be a positive start. I just keep crying. But it is what needs to be done as he is in such a dangerous spot, our diet here is so different from there and his medical care is already so bad. So, if you could pray with me. I am so thankful that Zeri will be able to be our interpreter and that Kiley can relate her experiences to Amanuael. But this is not the transition we had wanted. But whatever it takes to make sure he is gets healthy.

Thanks. We have still not heard a thing from Steve since the first email when he landed. I think today is the day they go to the Embassy for their visa appointments. Then Thursday they get their visas and leave Thursday night. And Friday they land here! Breathe, breathe, breathe.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

and another era is about to begin!

I got an email from Steve. He made it there well, and didn't sleep much during all the 27 hours of travel, even though I told him to sleep while he could - that may be a good thing, since by the time he was there and able to email us, it was 10:30PM there. He was very tired, so hopefully is sleeping and will then be adjusted to the time change. I don't know about jet lag, I was so excited, stressed and discombobulated when I was there, I simply didn't care about sleep or anything.

In the email we got, it sounded like he was to pick up the kids about 9:30 AM Monday - we had origionally thought it would be Tuesday! I think he is excited and terrified at the same time!!! I find I spend a great deal of time here fighting back tears in general. I think it is just a great deal of emotion and all of our thoughts and hearts are really in Ethiopia. Every little bit someone is asking me what time it is over there and what do you think Dad is doing. I cannot believe that this all is happening. It was fast, less than seven months by the time he gets home, but it also seemed so long at times. I am so overwhelmed in general.

I am hoping to do some sewing this week - all the kids have grown so much they need new pajama pants and I want to make some for the new kiddos too. I am going to be sewing a "twirly skirt" for a friend's daughter (a good trade for several buckets of cherries!) but I think I will try out the pattern on all THREE of my girls first!!!! It looks easy and fun. Damn, now I am blubbering again. Keeps happening. Hope no one sees!

I don't sleep when Steve is gone, will try some melotonin tonight. Need some rest. The two youngest are going to camp tomorrow and I have to get in some hours at work. The three oldest will keep me plenty busy! I am hoping to start some schooling with them and get us on track for the school year. I know that we will keep busy, but all our thoughts are in Ethiopia and we check the computer constantly for any updates, even when we know there won't be any. Why I am crying all the time, I am not sure! I know it is just emotions, I keep comparing it to being near the pregnancy with my bio kiddos. You know that this momentous event changes everything for the entire family, and that we will never be the same. And yet you really cannot wait. And when I am really tired, I know that this will be exhausting as well as uncharted territory. Maybe I recall too well how intense it was when Zeri and Solly came home. It wasn't bad, just very intense and full of energy. And I know that it is coming.

I cannot wait to meet them , to know their personalities, to just get to know them in general. I cannot figure out how God has chosen us for this, given us this great gift of these wonderful children. It is such a blessing, in the midst of the mundane at times. It is so neat to talk to Zeri and Solly these last few weeks - the homecoming has brought up such memories and thoughts and they are sharing so much with us. It is so neat to be able to talk about it now. They are really amazing kids and in general, just kids. Just as we are just parents. That's all, nothing extraordinary. Just parents, parenting the kids in our home the best we can. Looking for their God given talents and leanings and trying to nurture them to who God has made them to be. I am so amazed everyday. And there are many struggles, but they are all worth it.

Well, time for a site change for Kiley's insulin pump, so have to run! Diabetes never takes a rest! And then I am headed to bed!

Love to all, please pray for Steve and the kids, and that I am not a blubbering fool!!!

Here we go!!!

Steve left very early yesterday morning on the first of several flights to get him to Ethiopia! As I write this I believe that they have landed in Rome already for refueling and should be in the air on the way to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I get so confused by the time differences, that I honestly am not totally sure when our time he lands there. But it is sometime this morning I believe. Then I think he gets to sleep for a while, do a bit of shopping - we gave him a list, and then prepare to get the kids!!!!!!

He will take custody as soon as his running around is done - he cannot go out with the children, so he has to do some things first though I know he is very anxious to get to the kids. We got some new photos yesterday and they are adorable! I will post photos after everyone is safely home. Not that I believe in jinxing things, but well, you know, don't want to jinx things. Once the children are in our custody, I don't think there can be any problems. We of course were forbidden to post photos of them before they were legally ours, so technically we can now, but you know, just not to have any problems....

I don't sleep when Steve is gone - he has the same problem, so nights are rough. Would you believe that I slept with one of his favorite baseball hats last night? LOL! I don't know why it was on the bed, but it was, and it just felt good to hold it in my hand. In fourteen years I don't think we have been apart for more than 20 nights all total, including my trip to Ethiopia and Steve's training for his new job. It just doesn't fit for us.

Well, I will post more later, we are getting ready for church and my printouts for Sunday school finally are done - our printer tends to get stuck, so I have to sit here while it prints. Now I better get going!!!!!

Love to all!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Please pray...

this time not for us. One of the children on the older boys' soccer team was flight for life'd from the tournament today. They cancelled the championship games (this team would have been in the one for their age bracket). Our kids were all on hand when the event happened - it was not a soccer related injury, something due to a pre-existing medical condition. Please pray for this boy and his family.

Dear Lord,
Please reach out to this sick young boy, all those who are working with him and his family, his parents and siblings. Please let them feel Your love and grace during this time. We pray for health, strength and a return to full life. Please hold them all in Your hands. Please also touch those who witnessed this, comfort them and let them reach out to their own families.

I don't know what more to say except that we are so very concerned.

Thank you for praying for this young man from Kewaunee.
Christy and crew

Friday, July 31, 2009

And the news gets better!

We have travel dates! We take Steve to the airport August 8th (at "oh dark thirty") and he and the three will return Friday August 14th! The two little kids will be at Bible camp that week and I will be picking them up at 1:30, which gives us plenty of time to get to Milwaukee to meet their flight! And my parents might possibly be able to join us at the airport to greet everyone! But, either way it is finally happening!

We are still pulling together the in country money, but God is never late. We know that if we have to borrow it, our other grant is coming in on the 14th, so I am sure that somehow we can get it figured out.

God is in control and has been so generous in His provision for these three children, we are so grateful! I am going to be finishing the final touches on the boys' dormitory this week - I guess I am thankful that there isn't much for me to do at work this week - so I won't get many hours, but I sure will put the time to good use. I look forward to working with the kiddos at home to get everyone ready for this huge change in our lives. Everyone is so excited, but they also know that this will change things, and any change, even good, is difficult. I just can barely wrap my head around it that this part of the journey is nearly done. Then comes the real journey - raising these kiddos (as it is with all of them).

We did get some feedback on A's doctor's appointment. They altered his insulin dosages, so it should be better, though I cannot wait to get him in to our doctor and really get on the road to having a handle on his health.

Speaking of diabetes - Kiley went to camp for five days (with her older brothers) but not a diabetes camp, a regular camp and did great. She had two low blood sugar episodes which isn't too bad considering all the activity that they were doing. And only one high blood sugar!!! God is so good. This is a good step for her and her independent (someday) management of her condition. All three kids had a blast - gotta love Spencer Lake Bible camp. We are already trying to figure out how we will save to send all eight next year if they decide they all want to go! Certainly Mom or Dad would go along as a counselor for the newer kiddos - most likely. Zeri had a blast and I can see his confidence soared as he really was independent of the family with lots of kids and adults and his personality just shone! Alex worked himself into a cold or something, but has talked nonstop about all their adventures. It was a wonderful experience for all. I look forward to seeing how they have been impacted spiritually too. Right now they are zonked out exhausted, so it will have to wait!

Thanks for all prayers and for watching this endeavor!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Many praise reports today!!!!

Well, you heard about the birth certificates, and there is more good news!

After all the stress of A high blood sugars and no one over there seeming to be able to do anything or get the paper we need to get the kids home, well, I spent a lot of time emailing and explaining how serious this is. The medical report we got Tuesday morning was absolutely alarming to the parent of a diabetic kiddo.

We have an Embassy date of August 11th, nothing sooner could be gotten, but at least we have a date.

Amanuael goes to the specialist within hours (from now) and they are considering hospitalizing him until we can get there. We shall just have to see.

So, we are rushing to get the funds for travel and fees over there.

Another blessing - actually a huge blessing! We were awarded a grant from A Child Waits for nearly all of our airline ticket costs!!!! Praise God!!!! They are sorting out how to get it to us ASAP so we can buy those plane tickets.

So that puts us down to needing two or three thousand dollars for all that Steve might need while over there (and fees and what not)!!!! Amazing!

God is rarely early it seems, but He certainly is never late.

And then we got home from soccer tonight and got the mail, and in it was a check for $200 from friends at church who hadn't heard today's news, but had heard yesterdays!!!! Praise God!

I am going now to write a thank you note!!!

So, things are moving very rapidly, finally, here. Please just pray for our children's health and this entire whirlwind. I haven't even been able to send photobooks yet - that is on tomorrow's list!!!

That is a quick update. I ended up going out to the Bible camp where the three oldest are this week - needed to do an insulin pump site for Kiley. I got to see all three briefly and all are having a blast! We really miss them over here and will be glad when they are home. Turns out that the two younger kids will be at camp the week Steve is gone and will be back before we pick him and the kids up at the airport! God has worked it all out perfectly!

Also, got this quote from another family who is traveling the same week as Steve:

Sometimes I’d like to ask God why He allows poverty, famine and injustice in the world when He could do something about it. But I’m afraid God might ask me the same question. -Anonymous

Makes you stop and think, doesn't it???
Thanks so much,

Praise God!!!

I am sitting here looking at the needed birth certificates for all three children!!!!! Tears streaming down my face, wanting to scream and shout but Steve is on the phone with a customer.

I don't know exactly what happens next, but I promise we will post updates as soon as we know!!

Praise God

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Please pray!!!

Hi all,
If I could ask a favor, please pray for our A, the diabetic child. We got new medicals again and things have gone drastically from bad to worse. And we are still waiting on one paper. The secretary who usually does it has taken the week off, and our agency is trying to find someone else to do it. At this point, if we can pull together all the travel funds rapidly, we are considering sending one of us over there to administer medical care until we can bring them home. It is very bad, and the fact that it is getting worse... Their medical care there is very bad, nothing we can even relate to. Please pray for his health, for the stupid paper we need, for protection for his organs and extremities and everything.

I don't know what is going to happen next.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Greetings from fair!!!

Hi all,
We have completed two full days of showing animals, one more showing day to go and then just general care and fun for the rest of the weekend. It is a bit difficult what with caring for the animals at home and the ones at the fair. It means double duty, plus all the extra work of carting things for the ones at the fairgrounds. We promised the kids an overnight at the fairgrounds so that is upcoming too. We always put up a tent to give us a base to work from - a place to rest when it is needed, a place to store coolers and food, and a place to collect everyone and even store show clothes. So, things are on the move.

Overall the kids have done very well. We have several reserve champions, and an overall champion, and several top blues as well as lots of blues, reds and some whites and pinks. I think there are two trophies so far, but I am a bit bleary, so I am not sure - there may be more. The kids have earned what they got.

I love fair, it is a great time to build relationships with friends from 4H and the community, make new friends and get to know our area. We have made a lot of good friends and this is our time to get to spend time together. Unless you experience this, you just really don't get it - I never did until we did it. It is hard to explain and show.

Wow, I think this post is really showing how tired we are. One more goat to milk at home, chickens to lock up and then back to the fairgrounds. We will be up late tonight (last night it was after 12:30 before we were done and in bed) and up early tomorrow to get chores done before the kids show (today it was up at 5:45). The kids are dying to get back to the rides. They showed rabbits from 9 until nearly 2:30 (or was it three??) and then were free to take part in all the rides and fun of the fair. I love living in a small town! The kids head out in groups and stay in groups (that we really like) and Mom and Dad bounce between them all. It is really fun, but it is taking everyone's strength.

Turns out we left the coffee pot on this morning when we left, so I am going to fill up something huge with all that was in the pot!

I would like to have more coherent thoughts soon and put together a more thought provoking post. I will post photos of the chicken washing process as soon as we are home and settled back in.

If you could pray with us, we are awaiting the call that the needed paper from the office in Ethiopia is in the hands of the adoption agency. Once that is in place, they will be able to advise us on travel dates. Could you please pray with us that this paper will be completed - we were hoping for it each of the last two days, and there is no word yet. We are very anxious to get the children home and begin the makings of our new life. I know God's hand is on it all, that He can see what all is the best for everyone and for his purposes.

Love to you all!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Found this quote from a mom...

This came from the blog Amy's Humble Musings:

There was a post in my sidebar this week that I thought was important for modern mothers. Danielle Bean writes:

I am a mother of eight, but it’s not because I am Super Mom. It’s not because I was born with some rare gift that makes me capable of mothering a large family. It’s because this family God has seen fit to give me has shaped and changed me into the person I am today. It’s because God sends challenges and then follows up those challenges with the graces you need to get through them. Always.

I can live this imperfect life with eight imperfect children, not because I am awesome, but because God is.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Wonderful fatigue!

You know how it is when you are tired and run down but you don't really feel like you have done anything to have earned that tiredness? Well, today is not that day!

It is the first day of the County Fair here, and our crew is busy! There was working at the horse barn, getting tack stalls set up and decorating done. Then it was off to show all their projects that they have all done over the last year - these are tangible things such as photography, artwork (drawing in our case), jewelry making, collections, models, etc. That needed to be done in a timely fashion, because then we had to send a couple of the kids back to the house to pick up the guinea pigs and cats that were entered for the showing in the late afternoon! A few hours of that, while we also worked in the 4H food stand rotating through (different family members at different times) for most of the afternoon and evening. Steve took the two oldest to their soccer game just as cat judging began. It went on until nearly nine (the cat judging, not the soccer game). And then it was load up the cats and guinea pigs and think about dinner. (The kids do not like to eat a full meal before a soccer game as they feel it affects their performance, so we end up with really late dinners.)

The overall results were quite good for the first day of fair - a couple red ribbons (second place) and a ton of blue ribbons (first place) and even one Best in Show! One of Kiley's cats took best in show and she was thrilled. It was a close run for Merit, and Faith was just barely beat out for that with her little kitty. She took it very well and was very pleased with her blue and the recommendation by the judge that she show her cat at an upcoming show, and that she would do quite well.

Tomorrow is entry day for chickens and rabbits - so we will be washing rabbits, trimming nails, cleaning ears and brushing them out. The chickens will then be washed - heard of "mad as a wet hen"? Yep, they mean it.

Chickens hate to be washed, plus, their ears are just holes in the sides of their heads and you don't want to get water in their ears - rumor has it they can get really sick. So, picture this: four black five gallon pails all lined up in a row. One with soapy water, one with "bluing" which is to make the white birds very bright white (honestly, it isn't bleach or anything like that, just another shampoo), then the next two are rinse pails.

You take the chicken first in line, hold it by the neck/head and feet and gently dunk it in the water, holding its head above the water, and dunk it up and down, and swish it side to side. Maybe do a bit of spot scrubbing if you have any extra hands. Then you do the same in the respective other buckets.

Needless to say, said chicken is not really happy at all about this. It can get quite interesting.

Then said chicken, now very angry, is put into a carrier/cage to dry and for transport to the fairgrounds. Again, not a happy chicken.

Multiply this by eighteen (or nineteen, I keep losing count - the kids know and I have the registration paperwork). I will make sure Steve has the camera tomorrow so we can try to put something visual behind this story.

As long as we have lots of time, and all of us have a good sense of humor, it is actually pretty funny. Maybe what is most funny is that we even do this at all. I was dumbfounded our first year when they told us to wash the chickens before we brought them in to show. Do what? How do you do that? Ugh.

So, we are praying for a lovely day tomorrow.

Anyway, back to the start of this post. We are tired. Tired in a good way. Tired because we did a lot on a day that was the beginning of a fun but very busy. It is a week of lots of labor, the culmination of the work of the entire year for 4H kids. And parents. We are tired and know that today it is well earned.

Upstairs it is very quiet. Generally it is a bit noisy for a little while after we send everyone to bed - the kind where mom and dad call up stairs for everyone to go to sleep. "Guys, we said go to bed - what part of "go to bed" would cause all the thumping/giggling/etc we are hearing??". But tonight, it didn't last more than a few minutes and it is absolutely silent now! I would guess that all five are sound asleep.

So what am I doing up?

Writing this.

Guess I should go to sleep too. I know that it will only take moments.
Goodnight. May you all sleep the sleep of those who have earned it, the sweetest kind! However you earned it.
God Bless!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

For this child I prayed....

I love this saying. I see it on adorable baby photo frames, decorative plates with little tiny footprints, all over. And each time it makes me mist up.

I think of all eight of our children. I think of how each one came to our family and how each one grew in my heart.

See, the secret is, that although three of our children grew also UNDER my heart (in my womb), each child grew in my heart long before I could touch him or her. In some ways the adoption journey is like the pregnancy journey. You wonder about all sorts of things. What he or she will sound like when you first hear their voice, what things they will like, which family member they will most resemble is some way, what they will grow up to be. All of that. I dream about the three children we are soon to bring home in some of the same ways that I dreamed of my birth children before they were born.

But this time, again, they come to us as little people with developed personalities and history and experiences. These histories can be difficult at times. I cannot tell you the times I have listened to my boys relate experiences that make me just want to cry. No child should have memories of things like that, should have experienced some of what they have experienced.

But, we are so grateful that they are here and work to teach them that they are stronger because of what they experienced. They lived through things, and they have moved on.

To watch them now, to see their strength, their joy, their resilience, and who they are becoming - all of the children, all five that I can currently see, that is the greatest blessing.

No matter whether a child is born into a family and remains in that family, or whether life throws them into a whirlwind and they end up in another family, they are who they are. I want them all to know that they belong, and they do. I watch our birth children struggle with their own issues and know that each child, no matter their history, will have their own set of struggles in life.

If as their parent, I can give them some skills to deal with these struggles in a positive and persistent way, then I think I have given them a good gift. No one is immune from struggles.

I sat with my eldest birth daughter today at yet another endocrinology appointment (diabetes). I was trying to count how many of these we have done in the last six years since her diagnosis. Every three months for six years, would probably put us at about 18, with a couple more added in when she was first diagnosed and seen more often. It becomes routine, but not routine. She was all worked up because she knew that today she would have a blood draw. She only gets these once a year, and we have numbing cream, but she has been working herself up for this for at least a month, knowing it was coming. Most days she doesn't struggle with this chronic issue - it just is what is. But sometimes these appointments really bring home that this isn't normal, that this is difficult, that this really stinks. And we both know that this will likely continue for the rest of her life, though we are praying for a cure. This is what is. She could get hung up on the issue and be wallowing in self pity, but she isn't. She won't. Not that there aren't moments, but they are generally very brief. And we deal with it and move on.

We do this with all the kids. Life happens, crummy stuff happens to everyone. It just does. No one is immune, at least no one I know. So, we need to look for the good stuff. Deal with the bad as much as we must, and then move on. I know one lady who is in her sixties, still mourning for her crummy childhood and complaining about her mother and how things could have been different and how that would have changed her life. Not to say that I don't feel for her experiences and pain, but for heaven's sake, move on! Make good choices, learn from your bad ones, learn from you bad experiences and get out there and make a great today and tomorrow! That is all that we get. At some point we need to say, "yep, that stunk, but I don't want to keep reliving it". We can chose our todays.

For this child I prayed....

For each single one.

That they will be healthy and strong, that they will love deeply and long, that they will make wise choices, thoughtful choices that will lead them to fulfillment and happiness. That they will work hard and be satisfied, no matter what they do. That they will always let their past provide them with a foundation and strength and compassion and love. That they will be faith filled, that they will know the wonders of a true relationship with their Lord. That they will never sell themselves short, that they will try many things, that they will find the true meaning in their life. That they will be kind, giving, loving, and generous people. That people will walk away from meeting them and be blessed. That whatever they do in life, that they will do it to the best of their abilities, no matter what those abilities are. That they will love us as we love them. That we will always be a close family, that we will have those ties that bind lovingly.

Those prayers we say for our unborn babies, those are the same prayers we pray for our children who have come to us through adoption. Those prayers are the same. The children, well, we may not have seen those tiny baby toes, or seen them as little ones learning to walk, but we still prayed for them for each of those things. Those deep prayers of the heart, they are the same.

I looked again at photos of our children in Ethiopia, and just had to say "we have a daughter, we have a son, we have a son". I am still in awe.

Terrified at times, but in awe.

For this child I prayed... For Alex, for Zeri, for Kiley, for Amanuael, for Solomon, for Faith, for Tsion, and for Abenezer. They have all grown in my heart long before I could touch them. For this child I prayed..... And prayed.... And prayed.....