Archive for December, 2010

Theme Song for 2011

Every year, I chose a theme song for myself for the year.  I know this is incredibly geeky of me, but when it comes to music, I am a lyrics person and am very moved by the lyrics of certain songs.  I find that having these songs each year remind me of my goal(s) for the year and give me something to aspire to.  They are not usually chosen based on what I am currently doing doing or feeling, but what I would like to be doing or feeling.  As an example, one year when I was working through some grief and wanting to be moving closer to God, I chose the song “Only Hope”.  Last year, my song happened midway through the year and was “Walk on the Water” and it did help to push me out of my comfort zone as I began to write a book, something I had wanted to do for many years, but had made excuses to put off.  This year, the song I chose came to mind partially because of what I wrote about a few weeks ago with wanting not to care about what others say about what I know that God has called me to do in caring for orphans.  The song is a good reminder that though we may feel powerless to change the world, we still control our own choices and that saving “just” one matters to that one.  It is also a concept that can be expanded to things other than adoption and orphan care such as just being a good neighbour, greeting people you pass by, being an optimist, bringing a meal to someone who could use the help, parenting the children you have in a way that makes you proud, being accountable, being the kind of friend, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, etc. that God calls you to be, changing the world one smile, one hug, one kind word at a time.

The lyrics that stand out for me about this song are “they say what good have you done by saving just this one…it’s like whispering a prayer in the fury of a storm”.

So, for 2011, my song is going to be “The Change” by Garth Brooks.  Below are the lyrics:

One hand
Reaches out
And pulls a lost soul from harm
While a thousand more go unspoken for
They say what good have you done
By saving just this one
It’s like whispering a prayer
In the fury of a storm

And I hear them saying you’ll never change things
And no matter what you do it’s still the same thing
But it’s not the world that I am changing
I do this so this world will know
That it will not change me

This heart
Still believes
The love and mercy still exist
While all the hatred rage and so many say
That love is all but pointless in madness such as this
It’s like trying to stop a fire
With the moisture from a kiss

And I hear them saying you’ll never change things
And no matter what you do it’s still the same thing
But it’s not the world that I am changing
I do this so this world will know
That it will not change me

As long as one heart still holds on
Then hope is never really gone

I hear them saying you’ll never change things
And no matter what you do it’s still the same thing
But it’s not the world that I am changing
I do this so this world we know
Never changes me

What I do is so
This world will know
That it will not change me

The video for this song was done to commemorate the survivors and rescuers of the Oklahoma City Bombing, but its lyrics can be applied to everyday life as well.  For me, it is an emotional call to let my worries about what others think of me go and just be the me that God is calling me to be.  So for this year, my goal is that this world will not change me.

Gracelyn’s Horse Theme Party

For Gracelyn’s ninth birthday party, she wanted a horse theme.  She loves horses, though with her allergies, she cannot actually ride them.  Having two kids with December birthdays is always a challenge, but I was so fortunate this time to have Mackenzie ice the cake for me.  I am a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to certain things including cake decorating, so when I ice the cakes myself, it can take me anywhere from two and a half to four hours to finish, but as long as someone else is doing it, I don’t much care whether it’s perfect or not, so having him do this for me saved me hours of work.

This was Mackenzie (who is 15)’s very first time ever piping a cake and he did an amazing job!  What an amazing gift for his little sister and for his mom!  This is the finished product:

Decorations were pretty easy.  I had ordered horse plates, napkins, cups, banner, and blowouts.  I didn’t get a tablecloth, as I thought the wood table would be best.  I found a plastic bucket at the dollar store that looked like a tin feeding bucket.  I put the treat bags in the bucket and placed it in the middle of the table to build a centrepiece around.  I propped up some carrots with stalks on the bucket, propped up a foam cowgirl hat, and placed an apple next to that.  So simple, so inexpensive, but it worked well.  I placed little plastic horses on the table, which the party guests were able to take home after the party.

For activities, the girls at the party coloured white cardboard horses and they decorated the foam hat from the centrepiece with foam horse and cowgirl theme stickers.  We played “Trainer Says” which is like “Simon Says” but horse themed so the girls pretended to be horses and I said things like “trainer says swat the flies” or “trainer says trot”.  This went over well.  I had another game planned, but the girls decided to play a make believe barnyard game instead.

For food, I of course served carrots and apple slices and the birthday girl’s request of macaroni and cheese.  Here is a picture of the happy birthday girl.

I can still hardly believe that the baby girl who came to us at 4 lbs. 14 oz. is now 9 years old!  I love you like crazy muffins Gracelyn!

Christmas Thoughts

This Christmas was Elijah and Sedaya’s second Christmas in Canada.  The contrasts between this year and last year were glaringly obvious.  Last year during the holidays, they barely knew any English, were overwhelmed by the strange traditions, and generally out of sorts.  This year, they were able to communicate their feelings and knew what to expect.  We were able to explain the true meaning of Christmas in a way they could understand and the story behind some of the common traditions.  But one thing only changed slightly between last year and this, and that was how hard the holidays were on Elijah.

Some kids who grow up with very little end up not putting a lot of value on material things and enjoying anything they do get, which describes Sedaya’s response.  Other kids who grow up with very little become obsessed with keeping anything they get and becoming very possessive of their “things”.  The latter describes Elijah.  I assume that there are kids who fall somewhere in between these two extremes, but in the case of our kids, if you gave Sedaya a sticker, she would be happy and she would be willing to share that one sticker with anyone.  Elijah, on the other hand, will take that sticker and hide it and compare it with every other person’s sticker and complain about the unfairness of the size, colour, and shape of his sticker in contrast to everyone else’s.  Last year’s Christmas was therefore, characterized by a lot of meltdowns.  We have worked on a lot of issues with Elijah this year and have seen huge improvement, but this is one where there has been very little change.  He keeps all of his things in his room, not in the playroom in the toy bins, will not usually share anything he perceives as his, and gets jealous of what others have or receive.  His response is understandable in a way because for seven years, he did not own a toy or a book and in the 2 orphanages he was in, there were kids who did have a few items and did not share, and kids who stole and broke the possessions of others, so he came to believe that if you have something, you have to hoard it because you may never get anything again.

This year, we knew that the gift giving aspect of Christmas would be tough for Elijah.  Partly because of that, we decided that we would only be getting each of our kids one gift with a ten dollar limit and a few items from the dollar store to fill their stockings.  Leading up to Christmas, we talked a lot about it being a celebration of Jesus’ birth and how Jesus was the real gift of Christmas.  Elijah loves Jesus, even more than he loves “stuff” and so this approach worked well in the weeks before, but as the actual day got close, we could see that Elijah was struggling with anxiety.  The late nights and extra sugar were no help either.  A few days before Christmas, I sat down with Elijah to talk about greed.  Greed is not a very nice word, and I don’t think that Elijah is necessarily greedy when I look at the reasons behind his behaviour, but he comes across that way to others, and I thought it was an important talk to have.  I also talked to him about the kids who would not be getting any gifts this Christmas, not just in Ethiopia, but right here in our community.  He was actually shocked to hear that there were kids living nearby who would not be receiving gifts.  It was a good talk and I think that it did have some impact.

The thing about Christmas is that when you live in North America, it seems no matter how much emphasis you place on Jesus, the commercialism is present.  Even though we only gave our kids one gift each, there are grandparents and aunts and uncles, so received many more.  Elijah actually reacted much differently than last year when receiving gifts.  He was gracious and though we did notice him checking out the gifts of others, he did not comment or complain.  I was really proud of him and could see how hard he was trying.  The effort took its toll though as his behaviour deteriorated over the course of the evening and the next day.  We were at an event on the 27th and it got to the point where I just had to bring him home immediately.  Thankfully, Mark and I had taken separate vehicles, so I was able to take just Elijah and Jonah (who wanted to leave) home.  When we got here, I am sure that he expected me to talk to him about his behaviour or maybe have him do a chore for a consequence, but I just plopped him on my lap on the couch and held him.  I sang to him and told him that I loved him and we talked about unrelated things and eventually, I could feel his body relax and since then, his behaviours have calmed down considerably.

We’ll see how next Christmas goes, but I am optimistic that as Elijah continues to learn about his worth as a child of God, his anxieties when it comes to times of gift receiving and giving will settle.  I am also hoping that we can continue to keep the focus on the real reason for the season.

Anyone have any suggestions for dealing with a child who has these anxieties around possessions?

Learning Things the Hard Way

A few weeks ago, two of my girls went outside in the cold of winter and put their tongues on the metal railing on the deck.  They did this even though I have told them that in winter, when you put your tongue on something metal outside, it will get stuck and hurt like crazy once it comes off.  After they did this, both their tongues were bleeding and they were wishing they had heeded my warning.

A few days ago, I was thinking about this incident and thought, “what is it about kids that they have to learn things the hard way?”  Then I realized that I am the same way.  God gives us a clear set of rules that are set for our own good, our own protection, and yet, I insist on learning things the hard way.  Take the s*x before marriage thing, I decided that I knew better and ended up heartbroken, emotionally raw, pregnant, and alone.  I could use all kinds of excuses to justify my decisions, but the bottom line is, I chose a harder road because I thought I knew better than God.  You would think that now that I am a Christian, am a parent, am presumably more mature, that I would not need to go against what I know is right, but I continue to struggle with other things.  I may not be sinning or going against God in the most obvious overt ways like the previous example I mentioned, but I still have so much to learn and seem to do my learning the hard way instead of trusting God.  The Bible references worrying a lot and tells me that God is in control and my worrying will do me no good, but I continue to worry.  Maybe these sins aren’t as shocking, but what about arguing, bitterness, putting cares of this world before God, complaining, not being content with what I have, gossiping, disobeying man’s law’s (in my case, driving faster than the speed limit), envy, not submitting to God’s plan, and I could go on and on about all the sins I continue to commit such as these and I can tell you that nothing good ever comes of them!  Really, even the things that bring me momentary pleasure such as that speeding gets me where I’m going more quickly….eventually catch up to me, like when I get the photo radar ticket in the mail and have to pay the price!!!  God doesn’t set out these guidelines for me to assert His power or just for fun.  They are there for my own good, and yet, I continue to test them and feel the need to discover for myself how much better my life can be if I just give God the control and stop trying to run everything on my own.  So, I guess I haven’t changed much from when I was a kid and had to learn things the hard way.

You seldom see adults running around putting their tongues on metal in the wintertime, but some of the things you do see us doing are really just as ridiculous!  I have heard the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result.  I would have to agree!

You Have Enough Kids

Over the years, starting even when we had just two kids, I have heard statements (from friends, family, and strangers alike) such as “you don’t need any more kids”, “you have enough kids”, “well surely now you have enough kids” and “why would you adopt again? You have enough kids already!”

These types of statements used to make me feel like I had to explain our decisions or they used to make me feel like I needed to be a better parent because maybe if they saw that I was the best parent in the universe, they would think that I could “handle” more kids.

I have tried (in vain) to explain to people that we are adopting children WHO DO NOT HAVE A FAMILY, kids who NEED A HOME, but this does not seem to matter to those who continue to make this statement after or before each addition we have made to our growing family.  I know that some of it has been said by those who are concerned because they do not want to see us overwhelmed or having a harder life than we could have if we chose the easier path, but this is the path we have chosen and all we need need is support.  We are not demanding that others open their homes and adopt.  (I do encourage adoption, but I never ask my friends and family directly why they are not doing more to help the plight of orphans in the world!)

Recently, a family member said to me again, “you have enough kids” and for the first time, instead of feeling like I needed to justify our decisions and make excuses and explanations, I felt angry.  I thought about all the other times that people have said to me similar things and I realized that many of those things were said before the addition of some of our kids, kids who those same people now love and adore.  Kids who now have a home and a family.  Kids who are no longer orphans.  Kids who I could not be more proud to call my children.  Kids who have made our lives richer, not harder.  Kids who have taught me more than I have taught them.  Kids who have given me more than I have given them.  Kids who we would not know had we thought of our family in terms of “enough”.  And I was angry.

We have been on the adoption journey for more than ten years now and it is one that has had its share of heartache and I am well aware that some of that heartache has been shared by our close friends and family, even though they did not get any say in our decision to choose this path.  But they have also had the opportunity to get to know and love tiny humans who are so precious and have so much to give.  I have listened to well meaning friends or family members over the years say things that have hurt, badly, and for the most part, I have remained silent.  I have talked to Mark about my feelings about certain things that have been said.  I have cried about some of the more hurtful comments.  I have tried to understand where the person is coming from and for the most part, I have not gotten angry.

But suddenly, when this last comment was made, all those other hurts came bubbling up to the surface and I felt ready to attack!  I held my tongue, but have given a lot of thought as to why that one comment has upset me so much.  I think part of it is because of the implications.  Some people said this when we only had two kids or three or four, if four was “enough kids”, then what does that say about the last three?

Another reason it has me so upset is that we are talking about human beings here, precious children, not possessions.  To say that one can ever have “enough” children sort of sounds like they are shoes or something.  (on that note, I only have three or four pairs of shoes and some women have hundreds…maybe I value children more than shoes!)

Another is that I have never seen how it is deemed okay for people to question our personal decisions and give unsolicited advise and judgments, but it is not okay for us to do the same to them.  What I mean is that when it comes to things that go against the norm, things like adoption, having a large family, and homeschooling, it seems that everyone and their neighbour thinks it’s somehow acceptable to tell us what a terrible thing we are doing.  (Honestly, a family member told me when the boys were little that if I chose to homeschool, I would RUIN my children and they would never be normal – I have seen “normal” and believe me…I will be so glad if my kids are not “normal”!)  Can you imagine how inappropriate it would be for me to say to a friend that I thought it was a selfish decision to go back to work full time when their baby was four months old because they wanted to pay for a nicer vacation or to say to a family member that it sickens me to think of all the starving children who could be fed for the cost of one of the brand new vehicles they buy for themselves every year?  People judge it wrong that we went into debt to pay for an adoption of two children, but think nothing of going into debt themselves for a newer car, a bigger house, or even the latest computers, gadgets, and fashions!

I do not walk around telling people that they should not move because the house they have is “enough” or that they should not get another TV because the two they already own are “enough” or that they should not buy the latest iPhone because they just bought the last version and that should be “enough”.  And if you are shaking your head thinking, “yeah, but those are things, not children” then you are starting to get the point here!  It is actually pretty uninformed to say “you have enough kids” as though they were objects.  If there were ever anything I would want “too many” of, it would be children.  Children are a blessing.  As Michelle Duggar says “saying there are too many children is like saying there are too many flowers”.

“The Bible calls debt a curse and children a blessing.  But our culture applies for curses and rejects blessings” – Doug Phillips

In response to the inevitable question, “are we going to adopt more kids?”, the answer is this:  I don’t know.  If you look only at logic, then the answer is…probably not.  Logic dictates that seven children is nowadays, in North America, a huge family.  Logic dictates that seven children is a huge expense.  Logic dictates that I have a husband who is much more rational than I am and is less apt to make decisions based purely on emotion.  Logic dictates a lot, but it does not dictate the size of our family.  For now, we are done.  That could mean forever.  Or it could mean that tomorrow we will start the process for another adoption.  Because God trumps all logic in my mind and in my heart.  Our family size will be determined by God.  He has called us to adopt and I know that He is still working in our family.  That does not necessarily mean that He will add children to it though.  But if God did lead us to add more children to our family through adoption, they would be as much of a blessing as each of our other seven are.  Our lives would not be as rich or as fun or as crazy or as full of love as they are were it not for each one of our SEVEN children, each one.

As a message to our friends and family and to the friends and families of others who choose paths that are less socially acceptable…

Please support and love us where we are at, on the path that we have chosen.  Pray for us, because the path that we have chosen is not an easy one.  We know that you did not choose this path and we are not asking you to homeschool yourself or adopt yourself or have a large family yourself.  We are not even asking you to understand or like the path we have chosen.  If you choose to come and visit us on this journey once in awhile and ask how we are or offer your help, we would appreciate it greatly, but if you can only offer judgment and harsh words, please heed the wise advise of Thumper in “Bambi”…”if you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all”!

I’m Back

Posts around here have been few and far between.  Sorry about that.  Before I offer my excuse, let me just say that my hat goes off to all the single moms out there.  Really.  My excuse is that for almost a month out of the last two months, my husband has been away and when I have to do the suppertime, bedtime routine myself for too many days in a row, I get tired.  When he is home, there are nights that he works late or isn’t home in the evenings, but I get at least a few times in a week where he helps with the tuck ins.  He was back from Ethiopia for just over three weeks (much of which he spent trying to catch up at work from what he missed) and now is out of the country again.  So, truly, I have huge admiration for single moms who do this all of the time.  This year, Mark has been away for seven weeks total, not all at once, and it has really made it so that I have gotten behind in the extras in my life, such as writing, scrapbooking, and blogging.  It has also made me behind in some of the essentials in my life like housekeeping, but I’ll use any excuse to get behind in that!!!

Today, my awesome babysitter Mandi is here and I have locked myself in the office and am typing out blog posts and online articles, so expect some regular posts to go up in the days that follow.  Mark gets back on Friday, so I suppose after that, I’ll have no excuse not to blog.

You Know You Have a Large Family When…

Where we live, there are separate days to register your kids for the regular recreation programs and for swimming.  Last week, I spent an hour and a half filling out their registration for some rec. programs.  Today, I received a Christmas card in the mail and when I opened it up, out fell a $25 gift card for Parks and Recreation in our community and the card read…

“Congrats on setting a new record!  54 program registrations in one day!  Way to Go!  Thank you for being active in our community.  from your friends at Recreation”

So…you know you have a large family when…you set a new record for the amount of program registrations in one day!!!

This week is the week for swimming registrations and I will be registering 4 or 5 kids for that, so the $25 gift card will come in very handy!!!