Archive for the ‘Adoption’ Category

It’s Been Quiet Around Here…

no, not around my house (!), around this blog.  Sorry for the silence.  I have much to write about, but am in the throws (that isn’t the spelling of the type of “throws” I mean, but I’m too lazy to look it up right now) of things around here, so there is little time to write.  I am sure that I will forget much of what I wanted to say by the time I have time to say it.

I have started attachment therapy with Sedaya.  I know that she has been home for over a year and a half, but I couldn’t do it at the same time as Elijah’s, which only finished around Christmas and then I didn’t want to start it when I knew it would be interrupted by things I couldn’t control or change, so I waited.  I also didn’t realize that she needed it until earlier this year.

So, we are in the thick of it now and it is working.  For those of you who have done attachment therapy before, you know that when I say it is working, I mean that I am living in H-E-L-L right now!!!   I kind of knew going in that giving Sedaya’s personality, chances were that this would be fast and furious, and the furious part is accurate…we’ll have to see about the fast.  I’d love to be done in a month or two, but we’ll have to wait and see.

In the meantime, I am getting through by repeating cliches and scriptures to myself:

“It has to get worse before it gets better.”

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

“One day at a time.”

“This too shall pass.”

“The sun will come out tomorrow.”

“She loves me, she loves me not!”

“No pain, no gain!”

“No guts, no glory.”

“Fear not, for I am with you.”

“Nothing worth doing is ever easy.”

“Tomorrow’s a new day.”

“God does not call the qualified.  He qualifies the called.”

“I will survive!”

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My Thoughts

I will start off by apologizing for what is to follow as I suspect that it may be a jumbled mess of half-formed thoughts, but writing is therapeutic for me, so I need to write out at least some of how I am feeling.

I was away this weekend and therefore blissfully unaware until this morning of the news that on Friday, founder and former Executive Director of Imagine Adoptions and former General Manager and CFO Rick Hayhow were arrested and charged with fraud.  For those who do not know, in 2009, our adoption agency went bankrupt amid rumours of theft and misappropriation of funds while two of our children were being cared for by Imagine’s Transition Home in Ethiopia.  We heard of the bankruptcy on the same day that we heard that there were only 3 days of food left to feed our children and that none of the caregivers there had been paid for weeks and were only staying to look after the 43 + children out of kindness and compassion.  Our world was turned upside down that day and we fought to bring the kids home many months earlier than expected while grieving for the approximately 400 families awaiting referrals whose dreams of expanding their families appeared to be shattered.

As the saying goes, beauty rises from the ashes and that determined group of waiting parents managed to resurrect the agency and many children in Ethiopia have found their way to loving forever families as a result, but for some, the stress and financial burden was too much and their adoption dreams ended on that very sad day.  There also were children in the Transition Home whose paperwork was not complete who had to be sent back to uncertain fates in their originating orphanages or with birth family.  So much destruction at the hands of a woman who professed faith, who professed a love and compassion for orphans, and who stood on a platform of “our unique total love approach”…

In the days following the bankruptcy, when Mark and I did not know what would become of our precious children, there were moments of anger, outrage, disbelief, and sadness towards this woman.  There did come a time during those first two weeks that I did choose to forgive her so that I could move past the anger and focus on doing what I needed to do to get our children safely home.

Once our children were home though, the anger would rise up at times because we began to learn more information.  For a period of about six weeks, our children and the other children at the Transition Home were fed only one small meal a day (really what they were fed should not even qualify as a meal).  There was no money for gas to drive the kids to appointments, so when our son Elijah got a gash on his forehead that should have required stitches, he did not get medical attention.  There were times when I would drive myself crazy with all the “what ifs”…What if one of the kids had gotten sick and died?  What if the caregivers had not stayed once they stopped being paid?  What if the rations of food had completely run out before other parents began to arrive?  What if…?

To put into perspective what this was like for my children, you need to understand that this was not the first time in their lives that they had gone hungry.  Imagine, if you can, being a child in the developing world and going hungry, seeing others in your village die from lack of food or the effects of unclean water, and then being brought to an orphanage where, though it was scary and unfamiliar, you were being fed.  You began to count on being fed.  You began to let go of the fear of when your next meal would be or whether or not there would be a next meal.  Then, just as you began to settle in, you were brought to a different orphanage, this one was called a Transition Home and you weren’t sure what to expect.  For the first week or two at this new place, you were being fed and you began to relax and then, the meals got less frequent and smaller and then there was only one small meal a day and the hunger returned, and with it, the fear.

Over the months after we first got home with our kids, I struggled with anger and feelings of helplessness and guilt.  I felt like somehow I should have known that something was not right.  I felt stupid for trusting someone else with the care of my children without doing more research or asking more questions.  I felt angry about the amount of money we had spent to ensure they were well cared for only to find out that they hadn’t been.  With each new piece of information, I struggled to have to forgive this woman who had hurt my children.  I struggled about what I would tell them someday about evil in this world and how that evil had been the reason they worried for themselves and for each other during their short months at the Transition Home.

After the bankruptcy when parents were arriving daily to pick up their kids, when there was chaos and confusion, when the babies from the other location of the Transition Home whom they had never met were suddenly brought into their home along with their caregivers and my children worried all the food going to the babies (in many places in Ethiopia, if there isn’t enough food to go around, the youngest is fed first), when a strange white man arrived to meet them and then took them away from there and no one explained what was happening to them, my babies were afraid.  They were terrified.  They were traumatized.  They had already been through so much in their young lives before even coming there.  My heart breaks for that time in their lives and I wish I could have prevented that.  To know that this all happened because of someone’s greed disgusts me.  It sickens me.  It saddens me.

Not only were adoptive families, prospective adoptive families, and children affected by what this woman did, but employees both in Canada and in Ethiopia were also extremely negatively affected.  Not only did they lose their jobs suddenly and not have money coming in, but these employees were people who genuinely cared for these children and they were put in a position of worry.

Another difficulty I have with all of this is that the children, both those in the Transition Home and those who will never get to have a family because of what this woman did, were already in a vulnerable position.  These were children who were orphaned or abandoned or relinquished by family hoping for a better life for them.  They were in a position of needing protection and instead, became victims.  I cannot imagine an evil that allows someone to prey on the most vulnerable, the most needy.

People throw around the word “closure”.  I was expecting that when Sue was arrested, I would feel closure.  I do not.

Today, when I heard about Sue’s arrest, I did not feel happy.  I expected to feel happy.  I hoped for this day.  I wished for this day.  But nothing done to her by our justice system will take the pain away from my children.  No jail time will give the families who could not continue with their adoptions, their long-awaited child.  No restitution she will be made to possibly pay will cover the true expenses of what her actions cost.

Today, I am sad.  I am reminded again of how close we came to never knowing the tremendous two little people we now call son and daughter.

Today, I am hurt.  I want an apology that probably will not come.

Today, I am ashamed.  I want this woman to be fed only what the children entrusted to her care were fed.

Today, I am broken.  I want to hold my babies closer and take away their hurts.

Today, I am humbled.  I am in awe of those who worked with such determination to resurrect the agency and bring more children home.

Today, I am angry.  I know that true justice will not come in this world.

Today, I am empty.  The arrest did not bring the peace I was looking for.

Today, I am struggling to forgive anew.  I need God’s help and strength to do this.

Today, I am helpless.  I am reminded that justice is not mine to administer.

Today, I am reminded.  My children are a miracle and their story a testimony.

Today, I know.  God has spoken about this already:

“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for the least of these, you did not do for me.'” – Matthew 25: 45

The Second…

Our Ethiopian kids have been home for more than a year and a half and I am noticing something that brings them comfort.  That first year, everything was new and sometimes an event or season or change would send them into a bit of a tailspin as they tried to figure out how to navigate through another “first”.  Many of the firsts even came with their own new vocabulary and for my sweet kids who were new to English, it became frustrating when they would feel like they were getting a grasp on the language and then something would come along and they would have to learn a whole new set of words.

examples:

Christmas vocab: reindeer, Santa, nativity, carolling, manger, ornament, shepherd, yule, Bethlehem, North Pole, elves, candy cane, and on and on…

Olympics vocab: luge, national anthem, medal, champion, torch, broadcaster, etc.

Easter, dental occurrences, winter, fall, spring, summer, vacation, airplane, wedding, funeral, extended family get togethers, sports, classes, birthdays, Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and more are all things that come with their own vocabulary.

These type of things also come with their own traditions or events and the first year we were home, everything was new to Elijah and Sedaya.  New sometimes meant fun, but mostly for them, it meant scary and always having to be on their toes.  This year, I’ve been noticing that they are more relaxed about the changes that come with events or seasons.  Recently, they have enjoyed being included in discussions about last Easter and we have talked about it a fair bit so that I am sure that they know what to expect.  There were things from last Easter that Elijah didn’t remember and quite a bit that Sedaya didn’t remember, but they at least have a reference point now and instead of having that nervous energy leading up to it, I sense in them a true excitement.  I can see that in many ways, experiencing the “seconds”, may actually be more fun for them than experiencing the “firsts”.

Last winter, Elijah loved the snow and playing outside, but he grew tired of it and I could tell that he didn’t actually believe me that the snow would ever go away.  He had never experienced a Canadian spring and really thought that winter would never end!  This year, he knows that it will end and he will get to go bike riding and hiking again.

Sedaya was pretty frightened the first time she lost a tooth even though she had seen her older brothers and sisters lose teeth, but now that she’s lost several, she knows the drill.  She gets the tooth fairy thing too!!!  (though she does know who the tooth fairy really is)

I guess I’m really kind of directing this at those families who have been home for a year or less.  I just wanted to say that during that first year, it would seem like we were getting our footing and then another event or new season would come along and it would feel like we had taken two steps back again.  For the last few months though, it feels like we are moving forward and those painful days in the beginning were so worthwhile.  Stick with it.

This year for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and now upcoming Easter, Elijah and Sedaya remember them from last year and talk about what we did as a family and what we will be doing.  This reassures them that they are part of our family and included in our family traditions.  They also talk about next Christmas, next Easter, next summer, etc. and that is an important piece in creating a sense of permanence.  In this case, the seconds really have been sweeter than the firsts!

 

Explaining Racism to a Child

I have been thinking about this post for so long and don’t know if I have the words to do justice to this, but it’s been a few weeks already since this happened, so I have to write what I can before I forget the details.  (better settle in with a tea because I have the feeling this will be a long one!!!)

We were watching Oprah’s Master Class with Condoleezza Rice with some of the kids in the room and the image of the second plane hitting the twin towers came on.  That image is something that most of our kids have grown up with.  September 11th happened three months before Gracelyn was born, five months before Josiah was born, and three years before Eliana was born and yet, it is something they have always known about.  They have seen footage from that day and still images and we have talked about it in passing here and there.  For our older boys, they have memories of the actual day, of seeing it for the first time.

Elijah and Sedaya had never seen or heard of September 11th.  I had never thought about it until Elijah piped up, “what happened Mommy?  Why that plane crash into that building?”  I felt myself hesitate.  How do you explain to a child hatred so intense that it causes the deaths of thousands of people?  I don’t remember exactly what Mark and I explained, but it really struck me as significant that two of our kids were completely unaware of a day that had quite literally changed the world.

Later in the same show, the subject turned to racism and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.  Again, Elijah asked a question.  I paused the show and turned to him and as I tried to explain, I fought back the tears.  How do you explain racism to a nine year old?  Here in my living room were my children, three of them just happen to be black.  How was I to tell them about a time in history when there were lynchings, segregation, slavery, hatred all because of race?

I first became interested in U.S. black history when I was in the seventh or eighth grade and we read Underground to Canada.  Over the years, I did my own research and was especially moved by those who fought so hard for civil rights, even willing to give their lives for the cause.  In the early years of homeschooling my older boys, I taught them units on slavery and on the civil rights movement.  They watched movies such as Selma, Lord Selma and Ruby Bridges.  We used to get quite the stares when we would go for walks and my two caucasian boys would be singing freedom march songs as we went!!!  But I have not done those units with the other kids yet, not because I was putting off teaching them, but because while we were waiting for Elijah and Sedaya to come home, we studied Africa for two years and then when they were first home, we were concentrating on teaching them English and about Canada.

So now here I sat, my black children wanting to know about Martin Luther King Jr., one of my personal heros, and me, at quite a loss as to what to say.  Over the years, I had touched on racism with Josiah here and there, explaining that there were some people that believed that the colour of our skin determined our worth and he quickly agreed how silly that was since God made us all.

As I began to tell Elijah about how things used to be in the United States (and many years before that, even in Canada), about Rosa Parks and the bus (“The only tired I was was tired of giving in”), slavery, separate lines, separate schools, unequal rights, and hatred (I could not bring myself to find the words to explain horrors such as the KKK – even writing those letters makes me feel sick to my stomach and worried to have them on this site).  Then, I told him about a wonderful man who loved God and his family and wanted his children to grow up in a world that would judge them for who they were, not by the colour of their skin, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character.”  I tried to tell him about the “I Have a Dream” speech, but got choked up, as I always do when I try to recite any part of that inspired address.  There is just something about a man who knew what was right and was willing to lay his life down so that his children and the children of others would live in a better world, a world that would someday have equal opportunities for all people that touches me down to my very core.

I told Elijah about this amazing man and how what he fought for made it so that this woman on the TV show, Condoleezza Rice, could do anything and be anything, and that because of him and people like him, the United States now has a black President.  (I did cry when I said that – how could I not, when just 40 years before, there was such injustice and it does show that those who died for the cause did not die in vain.)

I tried to explain what we believe about God making each of us in the way He designed, but that some people still today would judge because of skin colour.  I worded things the best way I knew how and tried to keep it easy for him to understand, knowing that there would be many more talks on this topic in the weeks, months, and years to come.  I think I did okay until this…

“But mommy, why they kill him?”

Adoption Magazine Launch

I have been working on a project for a few months now.  I have been feeling frustrated with the lack of adoption resources for Canadians in all stages of the adoption or fostering journey.  There is a lack of information about adoption in general for those who are interested in adoption and not sure where to start and then for those who are in the process or whose children are home already, there is limited access to important information about things like Post Adoption Depression (yes, there is such a thing and the numbers are high), Attachment and Trauma, Identity, adoptive breastfeeding, hair and skin care, common Special Needs such as FASD, RAD, and SPD, and other issues.  This causes a lot of stress for fostering or adoptive families and there is no need for this type of stress in a world where the internet is so accessible for people.  Honest adoption information is particularly lacking for Canadians.  Most of the online resources are directed at Americans.

Another thing I have noticed particularly since entering the world of International Adoption is that there tends to be little niches where people who are adopting from a certain country may know others adopting from that same country or be aware of blogs of others adopting from that country, but not have access to people (even people who live in their community) who are adopting or have adopted from another country.  Some adoption related issues are country specific, but not most, so I feel that it would be beneficial to have a general adoption resource that encompasses foster care, orphan care, domestic adoption, foster-to-adopt, open adoption, and International adoption from any country.  This would also be helpful for families who have experienced multiple adoptions and can relate to a mixture of these descriptions.

My hope is that this resource will increase adoptions and will increase the success of foster and adoptive families.  There is a general misconception that adoption is increasing in popularity, but that is false.  Though the numbers of orphans worldwide are continuing to increase and the number of children available for adoption who are in foster care and adoptable in Canada hovers at 30,000.  Obviously, there is still a lot of work to be done as far as adoption advocacy goes!!!

So, I need your help.  On Monday, Adoption Magazine will officially launch.  What you can do to help:

1.  Do a post on your blog announcing Adoption Magazine.

2.  Add a link to it on your blog’s sidebar.  If you are more technologically advanced than I am, add a button to your blog.  (sorry, can’t help you with that as I can’t even figure out how to do it on my own blogs!)

3.  Go to the Facebook page and “like” it.

4.  Put a link to Adoption Magazine as your Facebook status.

5.  Tweet about it.

6.  Suggest books, online resources, or helpful posts for me to add.

7.  Be a contributor.  If you have a story or experience that you feel would benefit others, send it to me.  If there is a book or movie or seminar that you found helpful, write a review and send it to me.

8.  Spread the word in whatever way you can.  At some point, I’d like to get some bookmarks printed up with the URL on them for people to hand out to adoptive families in their area or to people who ask questions about adoption in the line at the grocery store, but I don’t have anything yet.

9.  Become a Follower of Adoption Magazine.

10. Buy from the Amazon store on the site if you were planning on ordering one of the books or movies anyway.  It will help offset the costs associated with the site.

So that’s the project I’ve been working on for the past two months.  Starting Monday, there will be regular articles from many contributors and in time, hopefully it will become a really valuable resource for families.  Thanks in advance for your help in making it a success!

 

Stuck in the “Waiting Place”

A few weeks ago, I had my day planned down to the minute.  I showered, got dressed, checked my e-mails, made sure the kids were fed, helped one of my daughters pack a snack, did another daughter’s hair, loaded up the van with stuff and kids, and headed out.  I dropped my oldest daughter, Gracelyn off at her art class and remembered to exchange numbers with another of the moms like we had planned.  I then had a two hour window before I had to return to pick her up.  I wanted to get as many errands done as I could.  I returned library books, took the trunk full of cans to the bottle depot, rented a movie, stopped to get gum for my second oldest son because his younger siblings had taken the gum he had bought himself, gassed up the van, and got in the line to go through the car wash.  Where I live, the winter weather has been all over the place and the salt they use on the roads to make them less slippery is hard on vehicles.  I only had this one day that I could wash the van because it was set to go into a deep freeze again the next day.  When I got into that lineup at the car wash, there was more than half an hour before I had to pick my oldest son Mackenzie up at school just a minute away from there and then ten minutes to get back to Gracelyn’s art class after that, which is exactly what the drive would take me.  I wasn’t worried at all about the time.

Ten minutes later, the line had moved very little and I was starting to get worried.  I looked for a way out of the line, but could see none.  There were cars in front of me and trucks behind me and on either side of me, curbs, which would normally not be hard to get over, but they were covered in snowbanks between five and six feet high.  There was no way I could get out of there.  When twenty minutes had passed and I was still not even at the front, I had to rethink my original plan.  It seemed obvious that there was no way I would be able to pick Gracelyn up on time.  Mackenzie has taken a cell phone with him that day, as he was writing finals and finishing early, so I texted him that I would be late and knew that he had a safe place to wait for me.  Then I called my husband, who works not too far from the building that the art class was in and asked if he could please pick her up.  After explaining my situation, he gladly fetched her and later dropped her off at my next stop.  In the end, my van got washed, Mackenzie got picked up, as did Gracelyn.  It all worked out.

But as I sat there in that lineup, completely stuck, in a situation that was not in my control, I got to thinking about the ways that this paralleled life at times.  There are times in our lives when we are in a situation where we are essentially stuck.  Sometimes, this situation is one that a choice that we made got us into, just as my decision to enter the car wash in the first place had put me in that position.  Other times, we are stuck due to circumstances that we did not initiate.  Whatever the case is, being held hostage against your will is not an enviable spot to be in.

There are of course times in life when we may feel stuck, but by making choices and changes, we can determine our own fate and get out of the situation we are in.  What I was thinking about are the times when no choice we make or change we initiate will get us out of what we find ourselves in.

For some, it may be a chronic illness that they find themselves having to cope with or the fallout of the choices of a family member of close friend that create the unenviable circumstance.  The aging of parents, the death of a loved one, unemployment, or even being a student are circumstances that can make people feel “stuck”.

In Dr. Seuss’ book “Oh, The Places You’ll Go”, he talks about this as being the “waiting place”.   He calls it “a most useless place”.  About this, Dr. Seuss and I will have to disagree.  I think that in the waiting place, a lot can be learnt, character can strengthen, and relationships can transform.

One of the times in my life when I felt stuck was during our last adoption when we were waiting for years.  In that case, we had made the initial choice (choosing to adopt) that had put us there, but everything after that was beyond our control.  We were stuck in waiting mode for nearly three years and our lives were in limbo, unable to move forward until that piece of our family was complete.  More recently, when Gracelyn was very ill for eight months, we were again stuck.  All of our choices were coloured by the not knowing from day to day what would happen.  We were unable to plan even one day ahead and were stranded in a life that we could not escape from.  Both of those were scary times and the feeling of not having any control was awful.

For me, my faith got me through those times and others in my life when I have been in the waiting place, when I cannot turn left or right and have snow banks on either side of me.  When there is a giant SUV in front of me and a truck near my bumper behind and I am just stuck, it has been knowing that God is in control even when I am not that has made it possible for me to try to find the blessings even in the waiting place.  One song that I found comforting during our adoption wait is called “While I’m Waiting” by John Waller.

The only thing we have control over when we are in those places in life when we are stuck in a circumstance we would not choose and cannot get away from, is our attitude.  Waiting can teach us about patience.  It can uncover an inner strength that we did not know we possessed.  It can build in us persistence and it can reveal the relationships that are true.  Waiting can be a gift in itself.

 

Hard Questions

This morning, I was blindsided with some unbelievably hard questions from a distraught Sedaya, who is six years old.  She had asked for a drink of water and I had said yes, but asked her to wait a few minutes while we finished up our history lesson.  I don’t know if this having to wait triggered something for her (in our house the kids obviously can have water whenever they want, but she needed help to reach the cups).

Well after homeschool was done, she came to me and asked if she could talk to me.  She sat down and said, “mommy, the people they don’t have water or food and they die.  Maybe they don’t know Jesus.”  Ugh.  “Normal” kids don’t really think too much about people dying of starvation or from unclean water, but Sedaya knows all too well that it happens.  Here she is, in her little mind, thinking about the salvation of these people and worrying about them.  We talked about that a little bit and then she looked at me and said, “when you little girl, your mommy have food?”  Tears sprung to my eyes immediately and I felt the weight of this precious girl’s early years and the impact hunger will always have for her.  I explained to her that when I was a little girl, my mommy had enough food for us to eat, to which she replied, “and her can eat too?”  More tears.

I cannot imagine as a mother having to choose which of my kids to feed because there wasn’t enough to go around or feeding my kids tiny amounts and trying to hide from them that I was not eating myself to try to save them.  I cannot imagine as a mother knowing that my kids were going to bed with empty tummies and knowing that there was nothing I could do about it.  My heart aches for all the mothers around the world who are faced with this reality today.

Later, we talked a bit about how her first mommy loved Jesus and how I love Jesus and how Sedaya loves Jesus and how someday, she will be with both her mommies in Heaven.  She was happy about that, but it still was weighing heavily on her that other people who have no food don’t know Jesus.  She asked if we could add that into our homeschool prayer every morning.  I feel humbled that my six year old is asking me if we can pray for the people who don’t have food and water to find out about Jesus and to get food and clean water.

She told me some other things about her life back in Ethiopia and I mostly just cried.  She asked me why we have so much food in Canada when there is not enough food in Africa.  She cried about her mom.  She cried about her older brother, who at one point had saved her life.  She said to me, “I forgot to say thank you” and all I could say was, “he knows honey, he knows.”

I am glad that my kids have compassion for others.  I wish these hard questions had easy answers though.  I wish it were as simple as just sending some of our excess from Canada to Africa.  I wish it were as simple as the prayer of a child.  And maybe it is.  Or at least maybe someday it will be.