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There is a baby in the crib next to me

This was written almost six months ago, but I didn’t know if I should press publish or not.. Too much of his story? Fearful it won’t be final? But then I realized this story is my testament to God’s work in my life… I’ve tried to leave out some of the details of my son’s story so he can be the one to choose to tell it when he gets older.

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No really there is…for real. I couldn’t even make up this story if I wanted to. Do you remember my last post… over four months ago, well… it’s been an amazing whirlwind few months.  We had found out our wait time for adoption and it was longer than we thought it would be when we originally started the adoption process.  I’m in an adoption group with women whose whole process took 9 months… but I also know some who’ve had to wait five years, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when our wait looks like it’ll be somewhere in the middle just closer to the longer side. But I was sad and disappointed. Lately, God had been building an ache in me for this child. I wanted to meet him, or even just know something about him. I felt like I was ready, that I was almost hurting waiting for this child and he wasn’t going to be coming… for years.  I was crying at church worship and thinking about it all the time.

But you see God is amazing that way. He prepares your heart for what is coming, and sometimes he works through tough times to get you ready for joy. So I went to my adoption group whining about the wait, complaining about feeling so sure that God had called me to this, so why would he make us wait so long…. Then one of the women talked about knowing a little boy born prematurely that needed an adoptive family. I blurted out – what like I could adopt him? And she said the word… yes. Wait what. For real. God, wait is this what you want, is this really going to happen? Is this just me wanting it so bad? A million things whirled through my mind. I cried, we all prayed. I went home and had a very serious conversation with my husband. Now imagine how it was for him, we’ve been in this adoption process for over two years and had been praying about it for two years before that. We’ve notorized and signed what seems like thousands of papers from three different states and have gone through lots of trainings, how could I then make an adoption match at a meeting?  We talked, we prayed, we waited. We knew one thing for sure that we didn’t want to do anything that would affect our adoption in progress, but because it was such a time off we seemed to be okay with that. Were we prepared to take care of a preemie and anything that might entail? Was this our son too? An infant – we were never expecting that… or prepared.

We were always talking and praying and trying to find out every piece of information we could. Oh how I grew to love this little boy even if he wasn’t going to be ours he was on my heart. We decided YES… and then so much happened, all God’s path taking us to a place where we would be comfortable fostering and now we are his foster parents. All the details had God written in them and they are all part of his story so we aren’t going to share those. We said we never wanted to foster we couldn’t handle it, our daughters couldn’t handle it… but it worked and we are handling it.
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He has been with us for almost 6 months and I visited him in the hospital about 7 times before that. I learned everything about him.  I held him, learned how to give him a bath, how to read his monitor, how to get him to take his binkie and he has learned how to win our hearts. I was wrong to think my daughters couldn’t handle it. They were like.. okay, cool. They pray for his birthmom daily. They adore him. I realized their idea of the orphan was very much the international adoption picture and they couldn’t wrap their minds around this at first. Orphans shouldn’t have moms – that doesn’t seem right to them. They couldn’t reconcile it at first and we got the book “Maybe Days” that really helped and we would just talk in general about why kids could be in foster care. It broke our hearts for the foster care system. A system we will now be involved with for the rest of our lives in someway or another as we have learned of the needs there. We are all in.

We are learning how to survive with an infant and homeschool and work and somehow make food (really we are relying on the incredible generosity of friends). I forgot how great babies smell and how fun it is to push a stroller, I could totally do without his monitor, but as I type that I know I would be a wreck putting him to bed without the confidence of knowing he’s totally okay.  My daughters have definitely had to do without extra attention, quality schooling, and outings, but they are loving every bit of this. They will sit and hold him for an hour at a time. They’ve both fed him his bottles and my youngest always picks out his clothes and puts the diapers in the diaper champ thing. They are invaluable in his care, and it’s brought us all closer even though it seems like there is less time. There is more together time just sitting and talking and cuddling, even if we all have to whisper.

The point of this post is that I think sometimes when things are feeling hard, check out your heart to see what God is doing in there… He maybe preparing you for something amazing.

 

My Adoption Journey

I’ve tried to write this post many times, but it never came out right. Well here’s to imperfect… I had never thought of adopting. Not that I was against it, but it wasn’t on my radar, not like Jaime from Simple Homeschool whose mom reminded her that when she was a child she said she was going to adopt a little girl from India.  Maybe it’s because I didn’t grow up a Christian or maybe it’s because I had a strained relationship with my mom that I was so nervous about being a mom, that being a mom of a child from a hard place wasn’t even a thing I could imagine? But I love kids, I love them like crazy, heck I’m a kid still, often the one causing ruckuses, bending rules that include jumping on furniture and ball playing in the house and telling my 8-year-old that I’ll take her hang gliding or parachuting when she turns 18.

In the midst of really trying to figure out how to be a mother, when my girls were 3 and 1, learning how to be unselfish, loving, and yet not permissive, I met a young girl. I’m going to call her M for the time being.  Our church had decided to help a family from Liberia that was in a refugee camp in Sierra Leone get settled in America in our little town. I had volunteered to help get the 6 young children registered in the school district since I use to work in it, but other than that I was a little leery as I still had little ones at home.  It was then discovered that the oldest of the young kids (there were 2 adult kids and one mom) who was 15, was pregnant. This was M and she was scared and trying to adapt to life in a whole new culture as well as being pregnant. I was the only one on the team that had been through childbirth who was home during the day so I became M’s advocate. We went to all her OB appointments together. We went to WIC and a new school where they taught pregnant teenagers how to take care of their babies as well as how to provide for them as well as their classes. M who I originally thought was quiet, turned out to be an amazing girl of drive, intelligence, and had a will to succeed like no one else I’ve ever met. She enchanted everyone she came into contact with and always, always smiled even though home life was difficult, as money was tight with lots of young kids and not as many working adults. She was a straight A student and worked hard. Then it was time for her to have her little baby. I can still remember her bouncing on my exercise ball as she was having contractions, and then I remember being in the delivery room holding her leg as she gave birth. It was amazing – I had never been on that side before…. it’s much more fun not being the one to have to do all the pushing.  M’s baby was so handsome. Little A was perfect,  not a problem – just a perfectly healthy bouncing baby boy. And M having been there to help with little brothers and sisters really did already know so much. I remember the first time she pumped milk for him for the nursery while she would be in class and she got 9 ozs!!! I’ve never pumped that much.  She was a great mom and began a path to being an American teenager. I tried to give us some distance so she could learn things on her own and she had already found out ways to get baby A day care, diapers and more. She was amazing, we still talked once a week but she was sad because her family wanted to move and sadly my family was moving to Virginia for a year.M

But then on the trip to move, M got into a car accident and she ran to check on 9 month old baby A but as she was checking on him she was hit by a car and died. Baby A was fine, but now orphaned. I was ridiculously beside myself. We had a memorial and I tried to work through my feelings with God, but I was stuck on baby A. Their family had so many mouths to feed and M and her mother didn’t always see eye to eye, she was even considering staying up here when they were going to move. What if they wanted to put baby A up for adoption? And instantly my life changed. M use to joke because my youngest (2 at the time) would always call baby A her baby. M loved it and laughed and would always hand her baby A who was really only about 5 pounds less than she was. We loved him and his mom. I felt so responsible to them, I felt like family, but I wasn’t and M’s sister just a year younger than her was an amazing caretaker of Baby A. They never put him up for adoption and he is in a beautiful family that still has struggles but can completely surround him with stories and songs and the life of his amazing mother.

But now I was different, I really and truly was ready to do anything for this little boy, he had already had my heart. That was when God starting to work on my heart, yearning for another child. Really feeling an ache for another child (Sarah Bessey talks about that Ache here).  I began journaling and praying and God talked to me about adding to our family through adoption. I wasn’t sure…what would my hubby think, our family? I prayed and prayed for it to be made clear. Since we just moved we found a new church in Virginia and guess what, several people that we became friends with were adoption advocates, two families in particular each had had multiple adoptions, we talked, we prayed and God did one of those rare things. He made it so clear to me that this was our path that I had complete peace… and he confirmed it with doing the same for my husband. We were on our way. This was our path… but now what. We knew we were only going to be in Virginia for a year so we didn’t want to start the process to have to redo it all again, but we tried to learn everything we could.

We originally wanted to adopt through the foster care system, but we knew we wanted our children to remain in the same birth order and we weren’t sure if we could handle a situation where we were taking care of a child, but that he might not be adoptable. I’m not sure if we did it more because we thought it would be hard for our kids to understand or if it would be too hard for me to handle. So we decided on International Adoption. We chose our agency because their mission is to find a family for every child, not a child for every family. We love that they only work in countries that they do social services in as well. After finding out which countries we qualify for we decided based on time… shortest possible. And we came to choose a beautiful country. We began the process of working through dossiers and home studies, and then the process of waiting.

What we’ve been doing while we wait:

  1. We are learning Amharic.
  2. We are celebrating holidays of this new country.
  3. We are learning about transracial adoption.
  4. We are learning that International Adoption is really not the preferred way for a child to find a forever home. We always knew from baby A that more means doesn’t necessarily mean the better choice, there is culture, blood, and similar experience and there is something to be said about trying to preserve that in any way we can, but really it would never be the same as getting to grow up in your country of birth, or with those who are of your nationality.
  5. We are learning that waiting is hard. It is so heart breaking to feel useless, not knowing what exactly we should be doing to prepare. It is so hard to wait not knowing when. After our first daughter, we had a miscarriage after 13 weeks. After getting over the pain it was the question will we be able to get pregnant again that was hardest to deal with, and then when we did get pregnant it was watching and waiting to see if the baby was okay that was hard. This is different in so many ways, but yet so similar. That ache for a baby, a child, your child hurts and then can feel crushing even sometimes.
  6. We are learning to see our lives through different eyes. I think of my brown-skinned boy walking with me wherever I go – will he see people like him when we go to church, to school, in our neighborhood. We are making intentional decisions so that we can answer yes, but there is so much self-doubt. Can I prepare enough for this? Can he truly be able to grow and mature into a strong man with a great self-identity if I’m his mom? (This blog post does an amazing job of putting into words what I’m feeling, and then another one today– so I bought her book on amazon).
  7. I’m learning to feel differently. My husband and I have always had race issues near and dear to our heart. We belonged to a small church dedicated to racial reconciliation and learned that it is a long slow process of true healing and understanding. We learned through friendships and meetings and just general living together the racial inequality and divide is still occurring, even though some dismiss it, and it takes work to heal it. My heart has always hurt for it, but now it’s different. The shooting of Trayvon Martin hit me in a way that I wasn’t expecting. I expected anger and disappointment, but I wasn’t expecting fear and deep sadness. That could be my son walking around. That could be my son judged solely on perception and ignorance. I struggled to figure out how can I prepare him for this world, how can I talk about this reality that pits those of my color that are lost and ignorant against people of his color, when I really just want him to know that he and I are exactly the same inside and that our love isn’t affected or dependent on color, blood running through our bodies, or which continent he was born on. Because we live in a reality where some people do let it affect their respect and love for others and a mother needs to help her child feel safe and feel pride in who they are I need to do more than to pretend we are exactly the same. I need to empower him with self-confidence, love of his culture, his race, his identity as a wonderful black man, but I am not. Can I help instill that which I am not? I’m going to do my very bestest (and most importantly with God’s help and a community) to do that. But mostly while I wait to hold him, I struggle with fear of my inadequacies, fear of my own lacking, my own desire to be more than I am.
  8. I’m learning more and more that there are a lot of very well-meaning people who kind of get the adoption thing wrong.  I can’t even tell you how many times I hear “you are such a good person doing this, your child is so lucky”. I know a lot of adoption blogs talk about it, but it seems only people who are adopting must read the blogs. There is this weird set up as the child undeserving of this love and the adopters self-righteously bestowing it. Don’t get me wrong I think a lot of people just use the wrong terminology and really mean that it’s hard to bring children into this world no matter what way they come to your family and that is a brave and wonderful thing, and I think some people are saying that because the adoption process is long and hard… because as you can tell from this post it is. But there are some who really feel the other way. But right now my son might be dealing with the biggest traumas in his life. He is losing his parents and having to navigate a system that is confusing and hard.  He has to leave the only country he knows and has to be with people he doesn’t know and that don’t speak his language well and live with them forever not knowing what to expect. He is losing control, safety, and a part of his identity. And even though my family has had paperwork, a financial commitment and the burden of waiting, it is nothing to his loss. We gain everything we’ve been waiting for. We get to have and to hold him and have him in our family. Our family grows. His does to and I know that our son will be loved completely, but at a cost –  a huge cost, one he didn’t have any say in. Calling him lucky isn’t really a fair thing to do. But I know that many just mean that they love us and the child is lucky because they know we will love him like crazy and he’ll get to be apart of a family that does messy well. So maybe I’m just sensitive. Maybe I just already want to protect him.
  9. I’ve learned that I am not enough, that through this I’ve needed God so much. And as I learn more and more about adoption I know that I will need him every step of the way. It’s a lesson that I keep seeming to need to learn again and again.

What I learned in December

I just love Emily’s monthly review of what she’s learned each month on Chatting at the Sky – Here’s mine for December.

This December I learned…

1. That the Christmas season is often stressful for Moms as we take on the role of magic maker. One who buys perfect presents, one who hosts great parties, one who creates meaningful traditions, one who makes everyday a joyful dedication to the celebration of Jesus… often leads to one who doesn’t want to wake up in the morning. Around December 15th I stopped trying to do that and tried to become one who is thankful to God for a season dedicated to celebrating His Son. Some traditions weren’t followed (we did try to do it at least more often than my kids bathed… which isn’t saying much), I gave up any idea of well planned out meals, homeschooling was less than stellar, but we did the important things and we weren’t stressed. My girls were troopers as we forgot to read our daily advent reading from Luke 2,  as we had to cancel some advent activities, and as some days we just wrapped all day. We laughed and enjoyed all of the fun things we did do. It really reminded me that I have to simplify… more isn’t better… more causes you to have no room to reflect, to be spontaneous, to feel at peace… Jesus came in a lesser way, not the way of Kings, not the way He deserved, but maybe it’s because He knew that a lot can get lost in all the pomp and circumstance – like the whole reason.

2. The one thing we did do was have our ornament making tradition with all of our friends.  I learned that hosting doesn’t have to be perfect. Every year we put out lots of supplies and glue and sparkles and friends come over, make a donation to a cause and make ornaments. I’m a horrible cook, or at least I have no confidence in my cooking so I’m always anxious about hosting even though I love spending time with my friends. But crafting,  that I’m confident about… and this little tradition is not stressful. It’s messy, and full of yelling kids, and sitting parents, and people meeting new people over the glue dots… it really makes me so joyful. I’ve learned this December that God has given us a way, a way for us to help, to build relationships, to love one another that is different from anyone elses way and they are all good and this is mine. ornamentmaking3.  I learned of an organization in Ethiopia that brings together Orphans and Widows. I love this beautiful picture of family, a beautiful picture of those broken coming together to become whole. It is really so wonderfully simple and powerful in mission. I just wanted to share because this organization like so many others we know of is carrying the work of healing and joy out into the world, but this one is doing it in a whole new way. Please check out Bring Love in .  I really can’t get over the beauty in this. I love this paragraph explaining what they do:

Far and away the most exciting part of the work that Bring Love In does; is creating new families from widows and orphans in Ethiopia. To see a child, taken from an orphanage, once abandoned, but now in a home, with a mother who loves them, it is beautiful, and good all around for everyone-the widow who does the nurturing-the child who so desperately needs love-and the community that benefits from having strong Christian families who live here and grow up to become the future leaders that help Ethiopia move forward.

They train widows who have a love for children and help them adopt the children and then set up a household where they will become a strong Christian family raising up future leaders in Ethiopia, creating strong families in communities, and healing those who have been broken through loss. If you have any last-minute giving to do and you have a heart for the Widow and the orphan consider giving.

4. My father-in-law bought the girls “Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego?” It is the cartoon version of the game that every adult aged 30-40 has played at some point in his/her life. We’ve watched 4 episodes already. It’s the only TV we’ve been watching. It is so awesome and the girls are already learning so much. I’ve learned that watching TV together with your kids can actually be a great bonding experience. We are usually fairly strict about TV, they always have to read first and usually for only the amount that they have read and usually I take that time to rest, read email, or just cook or clean. However this time is so precious, I may have to bend the rules. It’s only $5.99 on Amazon !Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego? - The Complete Series

5. Did you know that the Mayans developed intricate roadways and that we still aren’t sure how they did it? I learned that little factoid on Carmen Sandiego… but they also said that scientists are working on developing larger more hardy fruit and that one day the fruit will be so big and help feed the world… I guess this was way before we learned of the evils of GMOs.

6. I learned that there is only one sport that I’m better at then my husband and it is ice skating… I need to capitalize on that.

7. I learned that if you continually spout the need for girls to be encouraged into engineering your family will buy your kids engineering toys.  We are going to play with them all and let you know how they are.
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8. The rainbow loom has taught my kids some skills. My 6-year-old received this circle knitting loom for Christmas. She worked on it for almost 6 hours in the car and has about a foot of scarf made, she is doing an amazing job, and I’m beyond impressed. I really didn’t think she’d be able to do it. I love when my kids acquire new skills.knitting loom

9. I have been seeing a lot of talk on pinterest and on different blogs about choosing a word to have as a focus throughout the year – ie.. joy, peace, patience, adventure.  My husband and I talked about it with our girls and said we should try to come up with one together. We have never done this before so we came up with lots. My 8-year-old said, lets each think up three and put them in a jar and pick one out for each month. Brilliant! I love it when they are the ones coming up with all of the ideas.

Happy New Years!

What I learned in August

I can’t believe August is over… it just slipped by without me noticing. Or well, it went by while we jam-packed the whole month with a thousand things of fun.  I need to preface this whole list with the fact that we’ve decided to homeschool this year. We send our daughters to a very small Christian school. It’s amazing and wonderful and everything I want for my kids, but it costs money – actually it costs a pretty good amount and my husband and I decided that I would homeschool our kids to save the money for our upcoming international adoption. It is a nice way for me to contribute monetarily and still getting to spend time with my kids.

1. I forgot that preparing for homeschooling was hard and this lesson was learned in a saddening overwhelming kind of way. The girls and I did so many great learning activities and new experiences this summer that I was psyched for homeschooling, but then I learned as I was prepping our first week, it’s a whole different story when there is different stuff that we have to cover and be responsible for. I think I might be more cut out for unschooling, but I am thankful that there is a cyber school that offers free traditional homeschooling materials (Calvert) for free with the perks of cyber school – like trips and extra help and free Internet and other perks. I’m hoping that preparing will get easier.

2. I learned that a great community is worth its weight in gold. We lived in a small borough that was urban but on a very small-scale. I loved everything about it the character, the diversity, the places you could walk to. We joined the community arts center there and have been going for over 6 years. Even though we don’t live in that borough anymore we are still pretty close and still very much in love with the arts center. My kids got to paint a mural a couple of weeks ago and it was an amazing experience. Helping contribute to a community when you are so small is a powerful experience. SOmetimes you think you can’t do much at 5, but when you are that small you are the perfect person to paint the bottom of a mural.mural-painting3. Books are always better than the movies. I’m up to my ears in adoption books, but I have a group of girlfriends who are avid readers (that might be an understatement). In the past, they have convinced me to read Harry Potter, Twilight (I’m not proud of it but it was fun), The Hunger Games, and this past time they convinced me to read the Mortal Instruments. This was actually probably my least favorite of all the books to movies they’ve convinced me to read, but I have to say it was still way better than the movie! I think I appreciate the book so much more after seeing the movie. Well it is also great to go out with a huge group of girls (int their 30s) to see a young adult movie! If only I had more time to read nonfiction.

4. Reading adoption books is actually really helpful for parenting your biological kids. I’m reading The Connected Child. The book is amazing. Truly wonderful and each and every chapter also gives me a little nugget of wisdom into the children with me now as I wait and hope for the one not yet with us.

5. Being with family can be hard, but oh so worth it. My dad is amazing, probably the best I could have asked for. Every year we have a family reunion with my whole family and then spend a week with my dad two states away. It’s draining, and tiring as the girls sleep on top of me in the basement. They watch a little too much TV, and we eat out for every meal. But it’s worth it every minute. My girls make memories with their wonderful Papa, I can see cousins grow bigger and bigger and I remember the joys of when I lived there. I wouldn’t change it for anything.seeingmydad

6. Kids just want to be with you so teach them to love the things you love (not force them, just teach them). Since my dad raised my brother and I we were pretty much with him all the time. We learned to love John Madden football, all sports, and playing anything we could. He would coach us, play in the street with us and cheer us on. We just wanted to be with him so it worked out perfectly. Now I see myself, crafting, sewing, and painting with my girls. I run with them and we plan lots of events. We do things together and truthfully we mostly do the things I love and that they love now from exposure. When they are with my husband they play music and work on their math because that’s their connection. It’s amazing how if we let our kids come along side us they will be passionate for the things we are passionate for… and don’t worry – you won’t squash their uniqueness they will still have their own things too (I don’t play Madden anymore and my dad never sewed.)

7. People really want opportunities to serve alongside with their kids. Every summer the girls and I are trying to have an event where we raise awareness and supplies for a cause. Last summer we had a family cafe where we had a mini restaurant on our back porch that our friends came to and they paid by bringing supplies for the local soup kitchen. This year we decided to have a monster making party to collect brand new toys for the local children’s hospital by us. Our neighbor’s grandson has cancer and it is something my girls pray for daily so when we were brainstorming what to do this year they knew it had to be something for Max. We sewed 60 monsters out of socks and old clothes and got a whole bunch of buttons and googly eyes and invited our friends over to make a monster. They had to bring a brand new toy for a donation to get their monster. I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of generosity – in gifts and in patience. Our house was packed and at one point with kids yelling, running, and gluing all over the place it was hard to even think never mind be patient! Moms were quietly helping other people’s kids and making new friends. We really just want our kids to know what it means to help others and will take every opportunity to show them.monsters6. I love doing hair, more than I realized.  I have two little girls 8 and 5 you would think I get this opportunity all the time. I don’t! My youngest can do a pony tail by herself and braid so she does these crazy things with her hair and won’t let me touch it and my older daughter likes it down, in front of her ears, nothing in it… drives me crazy – but I’m really not one to push on things like that. My friend’s daughter had a party and needed someone to help with hair… I loved every minute of it and remembered that this was a fun thing when I use to be able to do it… now if only I could do it on myself!hair7. I will never give up exercising with my friends. I have one friend that I run with twice a week, 1 friend I walk with once a week and one friend I bike with whenever we can. The awesome group of book reading girls use to get together and do tae bo together (it was hilarious). I love being with my friends, but our lives are so busy. It makes me so sad that we have to pencil in time here or there. I’ve always made it a priority to exercise, it’s a joy to me, but doing it with my girlfriends really is a win win – my happy place. We talk, we laugh, we sweat. It really is a part of my life I don’t want to change. (6am bike ride picture below!)bike8. On that note, I need a schedule. I have been doing Hello Mornings for my quiet time every morning and it has been a blessing. There is a pattern to it, accountability, and peace. I always did my quiet times at night and mornings were for exercise, but giving the first bit of my morning to God everyday has blessed me each and every morning this week. I hope it continues for a long time to come.

9. Sunday School boys don’t want to do crafts. Today I said good bye to my wonderful and rowdy group of 3rd grade students for Sunday School. For the majority of the time I had 8 boys and 1 girl. Every lesson in our curriculum was geared to girls, a craft here, a play there, a writing assignment. Really – they’d eat me alive! They needed to run, play, build and experiment.  I found this awesome website – Mad about Jesus Laboratories – and it made all the difference. We did experiments, we modeled the stories with legos, we made mini bow and arrows to represent the friendship between Jonathan and David, and we had fun and were loud, and sometimes crazy. And truthfully I’m not really sure if they learned as much as they could, but I do think they enjoyed coming to church and knew I cared about them and hopefully that feeling will last. (Disclaimer – this doesn’t mean in any way that girls don’t like to run build and experiment – very much the opposite the girl and sometimes girls in my class loved this too… I just don’t know if I would have been forced into doing it every class if there wasn’t a whole bunch of students who weren’t really into doing it the more traditional way.)

Loss and Gain

I’m not really a particularly fancy or pretty girl. The picture on the side bar in the about me section is the best picture ever taken of me. I don’t look like that on a daily basis… or even a decadely basis for that matter. But God gave me big lovely teeth. I smile a lot because they don’t really fit in my mouth. I like my smile all silly and big – it’s very me. Yesterday I had to get a front tooth pulled because of a root canal gone wrong and a sist up in there. It wasn’t pretty and I actually cried at my new toothless grin. Sad and pathetic… really not a big deal. I have a flipper (weird name since it brings imagery of dolphins) that is like a retainer with a tooth attached so most of you won’t even see it. But it truly bothers me to the core.
no toothBut you see that same day when I was still annoyed at my new lot in the dental world, I got an email. A beautiful, beautiful email that said our dossier had been accepted, that we are officially on the list. We are officially waiting to find out who our son is. All of that paperwork and running around has led us to a place where we can prayerfully wait for him to come home. We can continue to read books on attachment, Ethiopia, transracial adoption and posts like this – http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jonathanwilsonhartgrove/2013/07/crying-out-for-what-our-courts-cant-give/  as I truly desire to be a mom who can help him navigate his world. But mostly all I could be was joyful, oh so joyful that God is letting this be, that I will be a mom again, that I will hold him in my arms and let him know that he was loved before he was even known. I was so overjoyed and blessed. Who needs teeth when your heart is growing daily in love with a boy you haven’t even met yet.

Things I learned in June

Wow, June went by quickly. I really enjoy writing about what I’m learning so I’m going to continue in this self-gratifying post monthly.

1. Their is a reason different and exotic foods aren’t mainstream. I love that Teachmama has her kids try new exotic foods and we’ve done it before, but with little success. But we are 0 and 2 of late. If you’ve ever shopped at Wegmans you’ve probably noticed the section in the produce area that is full of weird looking fruits and vegetables you’ve never seen before except for the plantains. The girls and I like to guess what they will taste like, but then leave it at that. Well I was feeling brave twice this month. First we tried the adorable looking Kumquats. Everything about them is cute from their name, to their size, to their jaunty orange color. How bad can they be… They are gross. The description said sweet outside and tangy inside. They were right the peel actually was a little sweet, but the inside juice was tangy, tart and yucky all at once. Also you find out quickly that they have a seed inside…. what… they tell you that you can eat the whole thing… my 5 year old almost choked. Fast forward to two weeks later and we are there again, but this time a lady that worked at the produce department was talking about the mangosteen and was going to try it, I was interested and went with her. The mangosteen is nothing pretty to look at it has spikes and is about the size of a plum. She took one and gave one to me – you have to crack open the outer shell which is pretty simple, and then you see a peeled grape looking thing inside. I tasted it – amazing, it is a mix between a grape and a plum in taste and there is a big pit inside, but it’s easy to eat around. I’m was so excited, my kids are going to love this I thought, I’m going to buy dozens and hand them out to my friends and be the biggest mangosteen pusher in PA. Then I look… each one of these little fruits that really only yield about two grapes worth of yummy flesh cost $2.99 each. Yup $3 bucks… doh… I passed on that idea.newfood2. I’ve almost given up facebook since I’ve found instagram. But I’d give them both up in heart beat if I had to choose between them and pinterest!
3. There are so many people I want to thank and keep in touch with and I’m not doing a really good job with it… I’m learning that I need to set aside time daily to communicate with others by the written word, and it feels nice.
4. Having my girls help me make gifts is a win, win, win. They get to be creative, they can pick out their friends gifts, and we spend time together. I have a pinterest board called Super Awesome Gifts to make and I have the girls go through it with me and we talk about what the person would want and if we could actually make it. We made these friendship bracelet kits with printables from Eighteen25 and these cute embroidery holders from wild olive (I laminated them and the girls helped wind them).present5. I love taking photos, photoshop, and doing new things on the blog, but it all takes time to learn and I need to limit how much time I devote to hobbies that don’t bring in income, and take time away from the family.
6. This one is definitely the biggest and the one I’ve been struggling the most with. I’ve become obsessed with race. As a mom knowing that I will not be able to offer my son one on one knowledge of what it is like to be African and perceived as African American in society is hard, even now before I know him. I’ve been reading books like I’m Chocolate, You’re Vanilla and Black Baby White Hands. But I find myself being very aware of being in a place and everyone is white. I feel self conscious and worried, about choices we are making and trying to make sure that our son grows up in a very diverse setting where he can see lots of role models that share the same skin color as he does. I really liked Christena Cleveland’s post on idolizing diversity. I love her honesty and the beautiful way that she gives it all to God. Sadly, I’m coming at the topic from a different side, being someone who has always benefitted as being from the majority race – not intentionally and for a long time not even aware of it… but now as our family prepares to become whole through adoption I can’t help to pray that God will please give me the wisdom, grace and understanding to bring up my son in a place where he is no longer in the racial majority . I don’t want him to focus on the difference between him and his parents but at the same time I want him to cherish and love his ethnicity, heritage and culture. I am struggling with feeling inept about how I won’t be able to teach him some things because I won’t have the experience of it. I think that Kristen from Rage Against the Minivan says it so well in this post.

That’s it… well probably some other things… but now they have been forgotten – at least these are in print so there should be a better chance that I don’t forget them.
I’m linking up at Chatting at the Sky – it’s a beautifully written blog check it out.

Things I learned in May

Below are 7 things that I’ve learned about myself this month. I read Chatting at the Sky’s list which was funny and interesting. I’m a horrible writer so I went with something that probably isn’t as cute and funny but at least if no one reads it; it will still help me grow.

  1.  If I don’t set aside specific time to do something it will never get done. This blog is a prime example. My last post was April 30th, but I’ve done some super cool things since then but never set aside time to write about them. I could play with my kids all day, but it does them good to play on their own too. So I’m going to set apart some time for things I’d like to accomplish.
  2. I need to stop procrastinating. My younger daughter cut her hair to have it donated to make wigs for cancer patients – it’s all wrapped up and ready to be sent, but still next to my desk. It is a little eerie having an envelope of human hair in your room, but that doesn’t even seem to motivate me. Luckily it doesn’t go bad so it’s still useable. Sadly, it’s been so long that her hair has almost grown back again. And for about two months there I was sure I had sent it because I couldn’t find the envelope, but that is more because of my messy room. The whole procrastination thing goes with my ENFPness ( My two favorite descriptions of ENFPS that both fit me to a t – Description 1  and Description 2 – definitely read them if you were an ENFP on the Meyers Briggs Personality Test), ENFPs are passionate and gung ho for the first 80% of things and then have trouble finishing up. It is one of my biggest downfalls.
  3. I take joy in creating things. I love it. I love working on crafts, sewing, painting, photography, woodworking. I need to realize that creating needs to be apart of what I do in someway. I was created to be a creator. Below are some useful and not useful things I made this month. My daughter and I made baked marble earrings for her teacher, I made shrinky dink rings from left overs with my youngest, I made a felt mortar board hat for my youngest graduating preschool, learnedinmayand I made a couple of onesies for my friend having a new baby. I’m starting to realize about myself that I really enjoy the process of creating, I love learning how to do new things, I love beauty and I really enjoy giving people things that is a personalized fit for them. But I also realized I don’t have an endless supply of free time. I need to find a balance.
  4. Ironically enough I’m task oriented. Okay I know you are thinking, that is completely contradicting my inability to finish things… but well that is my problem. Luckily I found out that I’m too much of a people pleaser that if something has a deadline that will be checked by another person then those things I can get done. That is the reason why signing up and running races helps me to continue strong with running. I ran the Philadelphia Broad Street run in May with two friends and I had a personal best because I knew I wasn’t going to be running any more races for the year (trying to save money for adoption makes it hard to justify paying someone money to let me run ). So my goal is to make sure that I’m accountable for big things to get done.
    broadstreetmedalI have an amazing friend who is working on coaching… pretty much she helps people keep on track and reach their goals. She has helped so much and now I just need to stay on track and finish what I start.
  5. I am addicted to sugar… and you probably are too. I’ve been hearing things for a year about how sugar can act like a drug in your body and how it triggers different physiological responses and over eating can be one of them. My husband and I are trying to move towards more whole, less processed food, less gluten, less dairy (oh my how I love dairy) and less sugar filled diets. There is a lot of research about the lifelong food problems associated with children that grow up with malnutrition. We are hoping to lead  much healthier eating lifestyles so that we can help our son have one as well when he comes to us from Ethiopia.
  6. Making homemade gifts often costs more money then just getting a store bought one, so maybe not try and make everyone a gift. Truthfully, if you just counted the cost of the material you used to make just the gift it is usually cheaper than buying one, but I always buy extra just in case, and sometimes I need a new product to make it, or sometimes I screw it up and have to start over again. Granted, because of all the gifts I’ve made in the past I often have a lot of what I need. However, I need to start thinking about the gift receiver – Do they really want me to make them something? Is this really better than something I could buy for them? I’m not super sure every gift I make can answer yes to these questions and I need to not make something if that is the case. Here are some things I’ve made for gifts recently.
    giftsmade
  7. It takes a village. So this is a huge one and probably deserves it’s own post… but I’m often so overwhelmed with thanks for all of the people who made this happen that I’d start crying while typing and I’m not very good at writing in the first place. So here’s the short version. I’m in a woman’s group that read Jen Hatmaker’s book 7 that discusses simplifying and doing without in this world of excess. We also focused on how doing with less can actually create time, money or space for others to have more. So we decided to have a garage sale at the end of our study as a culmination of all we learned and we would donate the proceeds to an orphanage in Haiti through Help One Now which is the organization that Jen Hatmaker supports and that Sarah an amazing women in our group worked with in Haiti. So just a couple of months before the garage sale the women in my group got together and surprised me that half of the proceeds are going to our adoption! WHAT!!! We were so excited… you can read a bit of my ridiculous struggle here. So of course I’m over whelmed by their love and generosity.. but then it gets better… they all spend hours and hours putting this thing together. Dozens of people donated items over months!!! Then our group and friends spent the whole week before organizing it and advertising for it, then this church (which isn’t my church by the way, but is an awesome church that loves the Lord so much and always… ALWAYS puts their resources and gifts in the hands of those who need it without anything in return (ie. community outreach, NA meetings, voting, Alternative gift market, kids stuff sales to raise money for the Laurel House and so much more – check it out Valley View Church if you are looking for a church!!), then more people came and spent the whole day selling, cooking (check out Extraordinary Edibles donating the most amazing crepes), then Carla going all out and creating a silent auction practically on her own, then all my friends taking on lots of responsibility for what seems like a really long time… all to help (some baked, some made cool shirts that said GS4O, some got friends to donate and some moved stuff) in the best way they could. They helped our family specifically, but they also helped kids in Haiti, and they helped our community become more aware of the cause of the orphan locally and globally! Here is Sarah’s post about the event, and read on to hear about her trip to Haiti.
    gs40Many photo credits go to Joe Roberts Photography. You can see lots of the photos from the garage sale here on Valley View’s Facebook page even if you don’t have Facebook.

I’m already learning more for this month… hopefully I’ll post it before August.

Would you buy wood pictures?

The main reason to have this blog is to see if there are some ways that I can generate income while still staying home with my children and save for our adoption. I’ve thought about a couple of different things and have some stuff in the works, but the one I was hoping to try first is gel transfered photos onto wood. I’ve been doing it for a couple of months now and the engineer in me has made it into a science fair project. How much gel is best? Do you sand before or after? How much of the paper do you take off? How long do you leave the picture on? There are a lot of tutorials out there on the subject, but when it comes down to it – you really just need to use trial and error to see what works best for you and your resources.
I’ll let you know how I do, but I hope that if this isn’t something that you want to do yourself that you might think about asking me to make one for you. If you have time would you look at the products I made and tell me what you think you would pay for them? I want to be affordable without being so cheap that the money doesn’t reflect the work put into it. It’s hard for me because I know I am always looking to get things for cheap, which is why I often just make it myself, but in the new year I want to be respectful of that which requires time and effort for others and bless those that make things by hand.

wood pictures

wood pictures

These are pictures of wonderful friends of ours. They were kind enough to let me take their family pictures. There was this cool gnarly tree that we took some pictures in and I thought that it would look great on the wood. I changed the color of the picture to black and white and then you put a thin (very thin layer) of the gel medium. I use a good paint brush and paint a thin layer on the wood and on the picture. Then I put the picture on the wood and use a credit card to smooth it out. The best thing to do is to try and get rid of as much of the gel as you can, and smooth down. This is dangerous, you have to be slow so as not to rip the paper but quick enough that it doesn’t dry (it dries quickly if you put a very thin layer).  You can see from the picture above of the little girl that I got a little fold in the paper messing up her face, and then I didn’t get all the paper off… this was an early attempt.
wood2I made this one later. The key is to take your time. The longer you leave the picture on the wood the better the picture colors will show through.  To get the paper off I hold the wood under a soft stream of water in the kitchen sink and you just rub your fingers across it a little at a time. Sometimes I do it for a little while and then let it dry and do it again. You can actually mess it up a lot at this time. If you look at the picture below you can see all sorts of mistakes that I’ve made.
woodmistakeLuckily, I made these blocks double sided. So the mistakes aren’t so bad because you can just turn the block around. But let’s talk about the mistakes, the first one is the pirate. I couldn’t get all the paper off. In the second one I rubbed the picture too hard, the third was a bad piece of wood and on the fourth and the fifth the gel medium got on the top of the paper, which makes it hard to remove all of the paper.
woodblockspictureswood3The wood pictures are cute in and of themselves, but I think the charm is in when they are cut with the scroll saw. My other favorite part is any white in the picture or light color lets the wood grain come through.  If you have time please let me know what you think of these, and how much you think a fair price would be.
woodblock1

 

 

When I am weak – Since God is always faithful why am I always surprised?

My friend and I are going to read a book together and do a study on it, she’s come up with lots of good options… now I have to pick which one. I stink at decisions – I’m always afraid I’ll make the wrong one. But then I heard about this book Grace for the Good Girl by Emily Freeman. This was the description:

Many of us believe that we are saved by grace–but for too many, that’s the last time grace defines our life. Instead of clinging to grace, we strive for good and believe that the Christian life means hard work and a sweet disposition. As good girls, we focus on the things we can handle, our disciplined lives, and our unshakable good moods. When we fail to measure up to our own impossible standards, we hide behind our good girl masks, determined to keep our weakness a secret.

Picture-241So I think that might be what we have to go with because well that sums up my week, my weak week. Where to start. hmm. So we are at one of those points where we are totally confident in the decision to adopt. We have no doubt that it is God’s plan for our family. We also wanted to make sure that we did it debt free. We are so thankful for our financial situation and if we need to tighten up here and there well then that is just what we need to do. We had lived with my inlaws for a little over a year and saved a good nest egg for the adoption – we were intentional about it when we were buying our house not to touch it. But we still have a lot left to pay from this point on in the adoption and my flesh was begining to come in. What can I do to make some money, I should homeschool again to save money, or maybe I should get a full time job, or I can start selling the things I’ve been making. I knew from the moment we decided to do the adoption that we’d have a big yard sale, I read so many blog posts of families and friends donating their unneeded items and families raising 1000s of dollars – sweet I’m in and we started putting stuff in our garage.
Fast forward to September. I joined a women’s group where we started to read Jen Hatmaker’s book 7: An experimental mutiny on excess. I love the book, it’s everything my husband and I have been trying to do in our lives and it doesn’t hurt that she was in the process of adopting from Ethiopia like we are. At the first meeting an amazing friend, Sarah, was completely touched by the book. With a passion as beautiful as she is, Sarah began a journey to go on a missions trip to Haiti as well as organize our group to have one huge Garage Sale 4 Orphans through Help One NowGS40_7_SquareButton_redWe were all psyched, what a beautiful culmination of all that we are trying to institute in our lives… giving up excess so others can have a chance. But then there was a little part of me that got worried.  If I gave all that I was saving to this garage sale there wouldn’t be anything left for me to sell, how would we raise money? What about our orphan? Oh how a part of me that I’m not psyched about came out… a jealous, self-interest looking, not God-trusting part came out. So much of the situation made me think of Ananias and Sapphira from Acts. In Acts 2 there is this beautiful picture of a community that shared all things in common. A community dedicated to the cause of eachother and those who are the least in need. Then here is a couple that comes along and holds some of the money they got from the sale of their house back for themselves.  They  don’t trust the community to look after their needs, really it comes down to the fact that they  didn’t trust God. The story doesn’t end well.
Fast Forward again to this week. On Monday I find out that a tooth that got hit by a lacrosse ball when I was 16 is now dead and the root canal on it has broken and I need an implant or my tooth might fall out. This is expensive. Wait what? Now? Really? Then Wednesday night we found out that we were a little mistaken in what our next adoption payment should be. We thought it was half the price it really was. We can do it, just don’t pay this, wait on that, take some out of the savings for other stuff – don’t get an implant until the end of the year. But I began to worry. Thursday is the meeting for my women’s group, maybe I can ask them if I can sell my stuff separately at the sale. It’s hard to get super excited about all the planning for the garage sale because of my fears and worries – if I give all to this, if I ask all my friends to donate stuff to this event, will they want to donate to our garage sale for our adoption. Well then God says tsk tsk Kelly. At the end Sarah and Megan (our group leader) say that they had decided (in September) that half of the proceeds will go to Garage Sale for Orphans and half will go to our adoption. Oh God why am I so selfish, why didn’t I trust, why can’t I give wholly without worring about consequent, why haven’t I learned that you have a plan that you are the one in charge, that you will help us through. God took me through these couple of months giving me times when I wanted to be obedient to His call, but then also being there for me when I was concentrating on our own issues. I cried, I cried because He is God, He is good, and He really does have a plan. But I also cried in realization of my sinful nature. I cried knowing that in these 14 years of knowing Jesus intimately that I have not come as far as I thought, I am still sliding back putting my hopes and dreams on the throne of my heart, not God, not His will, not his plans for my future. But then I cried a little more knowing that He still loves me, He still gave us this amazing blessing through these amazing woman even though my heart was not fully giving even though I was holding back, I cried because of His Grace.

Today is almost a week later and I just read this post by Walking by the Way – on how God always has a plan and how they are going to pay for their adoption debt free.  God you are so good – all the time.

True words about Adoption

It seems like I’ve been reading so much about adoption, yet I know that nothing will prepare me for the actual day that we come home with our whole family in our house. I don’t think I ever read so many blogs and I don’t think I ever truly appreciated candid writing about hardships as I do now. Here is a great post from The Kitchen is not my Office. I found it through Owlhaven who always has great posts for me to soak in.  I think I’m also posting it so that I’ll be able to find it to send out to my family who might struggle with some of the thoughts posted… it’ll be nicer for them to read it from someone else :)