Monday, April 30, 2007
It is with great sadness that I read today that the Children's Ministry in Ethiopia has decided to limit the size of families adopting to no more than 5 children (under 18) living in the home at the time of adoption. The good news is that families already in the process will be allowed to finish regardless of family size. And as my wise husband said, "Well then, we're lucky that we got the two we already did." However, this puts a bit of a wrench into our plans to adopt again from Ethiopia anytime in the near future.
To rub salt in an already open wound, we had our final post-placement visit with our social worker, who as she was standing on my doorstep said goodbye, added "Everything here seems great--you guys definitely SHOULD do this again!" As luck would have it, I had even emailed our agency's director today to request an "updated" packet of information on their Ethiopia program. I've yet to hear back from her, but I guess there's no rush at this point.
So, I guess now we're kind of back at square one...just waiting and praying to see what God's got up his big ol' white-robed sleeve for us.
I just hung up the phone with my friend. We were talking about night-waking in toddlers and preschoolers. She asked if I had any good resources or books about this and what are some good ways to encourage them to sleep, preferrably in their own room, although at this point, just sleeping through the night would be an improvement. I have to say, I'm drawing a total blank. I know I've heard people (generally other moms) talk about solutions that have worked for them, but I'm at a complete loss for where to find those books or references. Anyone have any suggestions?
This past weekend, the kids were busy. Saturday morning started early with a track meet for the Boy at 8am at a high school about 30 minutes away. Dad took the Boy, CB and Baby T with him while I took the "big girls" and N with me to have their First Communion pictures taken. Thankfully, it was a beautiful day out so no one's hair or dresses were ruined by wind or rain! Fortunately, my always thinking ahead friend, D, had her digital camera with her and she snapped a few photos of the girls outside in the beautiful weather! I'll be sure to post some when I can. When pictures were taken, I headed into the Ladies' room with the girls to transform them from angelic little ladies to world class soccer stars! It took about 5 minutes. Dresses came off, cleats and shin guards replaced tights and white heeled sandals, and the fussed-over hair of early morning was pulled up into pony tail holders and stretchy headbands. We arrived at the track meet just in time to see the Boy throwing the disc; with one of his throws just fractions of an inch away from 70 feet, it was well worth seeing. After track, we headed home for lunch and to lay the three little ones down for afternoon naps.
Once they were settled in, we loaded up again and drove down the street to the girls' soccer game. The refs don't keep score in the rec soccer league they play in, but as the girls are all of counting age, they do it themselves. It never ceases to amaze me when I see our Ethiopian daughter, H, fully engaged in such American rites of passage as park district youth soccer. (Now, I know they play soccer in Ethiopia. She's told us about it, but she also told us that it was mostly for older kids and mainly boys, at that. And there were no uniform requirements about shin guards and brightly colored t-shirts with socks to match or special cleated shoes for that matter--at least not for a group of 8 and 9 year old girls). So what amuses me so about this, is how quickly she made the adaptation to such things. But the first few games, the adaptation to running for almost an hour and being assertive when kicking the ball really didn't come too easily to her. Don't get me wrong, she loved watching the game (she seems to love watching sports in general) and when she wasn't on the field, she was the player on the sidelines standing next to the coach, arms crossed critiquing the plays. Running for four minutes-in.a.row-not so much her thing, but cheering on her team-well, that seemed right up her alley-or so I thought.
The funny thing about having girls (or boys, I suppose) the same age is watching them side-by-side do the same thing in their own unique way. So, I had gotten used to seeing B's muscled little self charging the ball while H would stop midfield to catch her breath after awkwardly running after that little black and white ball for a while. This weekend, however, good nutrition and regular exercise conspired to bring out H's inner-Beckham (David, not Posh, that is). The coach put H in the goal and she suprised us by charging up to catch the ball even while her opponents were still kicking it. The real suprise came when the coach put the girls in together. For whatever the reason, the stars had all aligned that night or something, B tapped the ball to H who took the ball and started dribbling down the field, slowly first and then faster. As she came up on the goal, with Mom and Dad cheering like maniacs from the sidelines, she kicked it-hard-and it went in. My husband and I looked at each other and we smiled at her and for her. What an accomplishment! Then, we looked to her side and saw B with a gleam in her own eye. The gauntlet had been thrown down and she has NEVER been one to shy away from a challenge. So, sure enough, as soon as the other team started the ball in motion, B was off like a shot. She quickly snatched it and turned around and proceeded to run down field, protecting the ball from her opponents. At one point when it looked as if the other team might steal it back, H placed herself between the ball and the offense and then graciously kicked it to her sister, who kicked it the rest of the way down the field for another goal! This scene repeated itself two more times, which ended the game with a final score of 17-1---not that anyone is keeping score.
My favorite part of the whole game, however, was toward the end. Both girls were recuperating from their offensive goal-scoring attack and were finished playing. When I looked over, there they were, BOTH of them standing side-by-side, next to their coach, arms crossed--Ditka and Ditka Jr.--watching the end of the game. Having never played team sports as a child, I don't know, but it seems that there may be one other bond as strong as sisterhood---teammates.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
So, did you? I was at our Women's Bible Study yesterday so I missed the first part, but the older crowd here on the ark all gathered around with bowls of popcorn to watch American Idol in their first "Idol Gives Back" special. We had been looking forward to this since it was announced earlier in the season. As you might have guessed, the focus on Africa was (and is) a big draw for our family. As defacto ark spokesperson, I must say we weren't disappointed--although I wish the African Children's Choir had been their own act not just a very cute and talented group of background singers. The caliber of music and talent were fabulous and the footage from the "on location" spots were moving and poignant, to say the least. As a matter of fact, there were two occasions when we switched over to the Sox game (a much more disappointing show if I do say so myself) because of the sheer emotion that the cameras managed to capture and we felt might be too difficult for H to handle (remember this is the same child who was distraught by the Little House on the Prairie episode where the grandmother died) I think some things just hit too close to home for her. Even still, we really enjoyed tonight's show. And how cool was it that Bono showed up to work with the six finalists, huh? That's something I'm sure they won't soon forget. By the last count, they had raised 30 million dollars already and donations were still being accepted.
Let's hope that many, many more people heard Bono's words to the finalists about the ability of every single person watching to save a life tonight. And that they heard him say this, ""People say you can't be the generation that ends brutal, stupid poverty, but we can and we will,"
Really, really...let's hope.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Suddenly, they're everywhere I look. It seems that in the past few weeks, I've been captured by stories, events, a little anecdote here and there reminding me of miracles. For that matter, the gospel readings as of late have been heavily focused on the miracles of Jesus. Even my kids are getting into the act. For example, my almost-four-year-old, CB, is suddenly eating EVERYTHING again! This is no small feat when one considers that about 3 months ago, after a bout with a nasty stomach bug she was eating what her Uncle N referred to as the "prison diet"; which is to say only bread and water.
"To be there to see it happen is a privilege. And miracles aren't really big, loud things. They sort of sneak up on you and afterwards, God touches you on the shoulder and says 'See?'"
Monday, April 23, 2007
What do these things have in common? You'll find this pleasant combination here on Faith's Travel Blog. We're looking forward to reading of your adventures, Auntie F! Watch out for the crowds when Manchester United are in town!
Before talking about which country program we chose or how exactly we chose it, I'd like to devote a few words to the actual decision, or call, if you will, we felt to adopt.
Julie got me thinking about this a lot over the past week when she reflected on her own adoptions here.
As I responded to her, it reaffirmed for me that the call to adopt is just that--a call from God. It is a vocation. It is not something to be thought of as a *second class* means of parenting a child. I offered the words of Jaymie Stewart Wolfe, author of The Call to Adoption, who reminded her readers that even Jesus, the quintessential "perfect child" was parented as both a birth child and an adopted son (by his foster father on earth, Joseph). The example of the Holy Family is by no means *second class* and is certainly good enough for us.
Finally, if you feel the Holy Spirit is working on your heart, guiding your family to consider, pray about and discern whether adoption is perhaps on your list of vocations; remember, not everyone, ultimately, is called to adopt. As Catholic Christians, we are all called to be open to life, and that has many facets--adoption is just one of them. After a period of discernment, it may be made perfectly clear that God has different plans for you.
Ultimately, what I believe is important to understand about adoption is that it is not something that people just decide to do for lack of something else to do. Heck, there are plenty of people with birth kids who adopt and plenty of childless couples who never seek adoption. My point is, I truly believe it is a vocation of sorts that people are called to by God. So, if you feel that call (whether you've given birth 10 times or never) God will work on your heart until you find peace with His plan.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
As I walked through the front hallway, headed to close the bathroom door and turn out the light, I spotted CB. When I realized what she was about to do, the words jumped out of my mouth, "It is NEVER a good idea to use the water in the toilet to wash your face."
Do I really need to say this? Apparently, I do. Sigh.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
But, nooooo...instead we have this pestilence to contend with. These lovely crunchy-skinned critters coming to a neighborhood near us any day now. You'll pardon me if I take a 2 week hiatus from the world outside the cicada-free zone that is my house when they actually arrive.
And as for those college students who discerned the amaretto likeness? Or those who required snow shovels for carcass removal? Yucky just seems an understatement.
Monday, April 16, 2007
H's favorite Minnesotans (Do they drink a lot of SODA there, Mom? she jokes) with her Mom and Dad.
Together for the FIRST time since Germany (11 years ago!!!)
Where the heck did ALL of these kids come from? (and one is even missing!)
There was nothing good about the afternoon of my first teaching job as a newly married woman. I imagine the same holds true for my dear husband. The last thing I suspect a new husband wants to do is saunter into the place your wife has been creating---or at least attempting to create(we won't even MENTION Mexican Chicken Suprise or the healthy cake sans eggs) as a warm and cheery homestead and tell her that plans have changed. Instead of three years in Georgia, we've now got a three-year all US Army expense paid tour of Deutschland. Good-bye new job. Good-bye first home. Good-bye family and friends (who this bride cried about leaving when we married and left the Northeast for points unknown aka-the South). But the Army wasn't interested in my opinion, as I would soon find out. Although I suspect the thwack with the saber on my rear end with the accompanying, "Welcome to the Army, Mrs. M!" should have clued me in. At the very least, I guess I can't say they didn't warn me. So, off we went to live our first three married years across the pond. It was one of my first experiences with seeing first hand how God provides:
You miss your friends? Here are 10 other ladies who miss theirs, too. And I'd bet that you've got a few more things in common besides.
You miss your work? Here's an assignment, the first of many, that will challenge anything you ever learned in school. It'll take nine months before the position opens, but that'll give you time to sharpen your skills. And if you're smart-SLEEP!
You miss the holidays back home? You won't believe the Christkindlmarkts here, and those fireworks you thought were the blitzkrieg? Why that's New Year's...right out your bedroom window.
You think the food is strange? One word-schokolade.
Worried about being alone for birthdays, celebrations, baptisms, deployments, etc...Here's where I do my best work. You see, I am about to place in your life people that will lift you up and you likewise through all of that and more. You will look back on the time you spent here when your three years are up; and wonder, how it could all be over so soon. Of course, you'll be happy to land on terra firma in the USA again, but nowhere (and trust me, I know) will ever be like this first place of becoming a family was.
And years later, after spending a brief, but wonderful evening reconnecting with some of those same friends; and watching them pull their van (yes, the one you're dreaming about) out onto the road in the early dawn, you'll smile knowingly because you'll know I was right.
Friday, April 13, 2007
This seems like as good a point as any to talk about the financial piece of our adoption. It's funny, but it's not something that really concerned us too much. I suppose that sounds very flippant, but that's not how it's meant. In a similar sense, we didn't really think too much about the exact *number* of children we would be parenting after the adoption was final. At our adoption shower, a friend of ours even commented, "Wow. SIX kids...have you guys (read: completely lost your minds?) been thinking about what that will BE like?" My husband and I looked at each other and smiled, "Nope, not really, " we answered. Again, this is not too say that we didn't THINK about what we were undertaking, but we just jumped in feet first with confidence that it would work out okay. Some would call that foolish, but we prefer to think of it as a leap of faith.
So, that's the context in which we approached the financial aspect of the adoption as well.
There are so many options out there for adoption financing: loans, grants, fundraisers, savings, etc...a very thorough and extensive discussion can be found on Erin's Transracial/Transcultural Adoption Blog. She also has a section where she talks here about the cost of adoption as a barrier. It is also important to do your research and ask for recommendations about different agencies costs and services provided. Some agencies have lower fees, but "hidden" costs. Some have higher fees, but the quality of the services are worth the extra cost. Some have been in the business longer than others. Our agency has a real commitment not only to the children being adopted, but also act as advocates for those children who are not yet, or will never be, adopted. I think this speaks volumes about their service, even before you see a fee schedule. And, bear in mind, things are on a schedule. Not all fees are due at once, and you have some flexibility about when to pay depending on how quickly you choose to move through the process.
I don't think I am alone when I say that we found once God firmly put adoption (and this specific adoption, in particular) on our hearts; the money worked itself out. No, we didn't inherit a windfall from Great-Aunt Hildegarde, but we did see possibilities for funding that we hadn't considered before. And, speaking from the back end of our adoption now, we have taken full advantage of the Federal Adoption Tax Credit, as well as my husband's employer's generous adoption reimbursement program (which many companies offer-check with your HR person). In the end, with the tax refund and the reimbursements, we will not have paid ANYTHING out of pocket for both of our adoptions, AND we have two beautiful new deductions that the federal government will continue to incent us for having each year at tax time! It could be just enough to fund another adoption in the future...the hardest part for us was yet to come...choosing our country program!
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Please join our family in praying for dear friends of ours who are expecting their 6th child next month. They have been given news about their baby which is heavy on their hearts right now. In short, we are praying fervently for a miracle. We believe in the miracles of Holy Scripture and that the God we serve is still working miracles in the lives of people today. Thank you so very much for helping us lift this awesome family and help carry them through a difficult time.
St. Gianna and St. Jude, pray for us!
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
A few people have asked about our pre-adoption journey. This is my attempt to gather all the details together and share just how our family has grown this way. **It may take me a couple of days to sit, think and write it all down. Please be patient with me!**
Our adoption journey began many years ago.
Quite possibly, the seeds were being planted before my husband and I even met. As a framework, my husband is the oldest of 11 children, 9 of whom were adopted. I am the oldest of 3 kids, but since I was young enjoyed working with children (I may still be *technically* on maternity leave from my second grade classroom when I left to give birth to our third child!) and when my husband and I met, we decided that we would love to parent a big family, if, in fact, God was willing to provide us with one.
Fast forward to our fifth wedding anniversary. I was pregnant with our second child and due in late summer. She was delivered, via an "emergent" repeat c-section, and I went home a couple of days later. About three weeks after her birth, I had a frightening late postpartum hemorrhage. After being re-admitted to the hospital, and spending another few days there, I went home certain that I wouldn't want to have another birth again. Thus began our first, tentative steps looking into adoption.
Fortunately, God is good, and time healed my fear about the births. We have since had two more beautiful children whom not a day goes by where I don't thank God for softening our hearts when I look at them. Unfortunately, the postpartum hemorrhage would happen after my next two births as well, but with the advance planning, was better managed by my OB.
As luck would have it, we were relocated to the area where my husband grew up. We asked our in-laws (remember they adopted multiple times over the last 25 years) for help in getting connected to Catholic Charities who was their adoption agency. We met with the case worker, who was very nice and eager to help; but according to their policy, we didn't qualify for their infant adoption program because we already had four children.
She suggested we look at some international adoption programs, as the requirements varied widely from country to country. So began our international adoption tour...
Sunday, April 08, 2007
It's been a long time since we've heard this word. The 40 days of Lent plus preparing for Easter during Holy Week presented a somber, reserved atmosphere. Holy Week here was no picnic.
My dear husband was away for work for much of the week; we said goodbye to a beloved teacher at our school, who lost her fight with cancer; my recycling seems to keep ending up in my neighbor's yard due to the wind tunnel located directly in my back yard; and a myriad of trials kept rearing their ugly heads.
But now, with a little perspective, the purpose is clear. This year, we're ready for Easter...in an entirely different way. This year, we're ready to wake up and shout "Alleluia"!!! Oh sure, the trials will still be there (and new ones will crop up, of that I'm certain) and we'll continue to be separated from the ones we hold dear and there is no doubt in my mind that the neighbor's will still be dealing with my windblown recycling (is there anyway to contain that stuff!?!); but that's won't stop us because we know there's more for those who believe that Easter is more than just chocolate bunnies and jelly beans:
The next time the soldiers of Satan steal the joy from your arms.
The next time your prayers float into a silent sky.
The next time you wonder how God could sit still while the innocent suffer.
Saturday, April 07, 2007
Thursday, April 05, 2007
This was sent to me by a lovely Catholic mom, who also happens to be the world's best travel agent (especially when travel to Ethiopia is imperative!)
Imagine what could happen...
Taking the example from when Europe was saved from the invasion of the Turkish fleets in October of 1573 by praying the rosary, many people have joined forces to pray the rosary on Good Friday for an end to abortion ...
There happens to coincide with a group in Dallas who will begin a First Friday fast and prayer day to end abortion. You can read more about it or join their efforts here.
Last night, I took the boy to help me do the Easter grocery shopping. We're quite a sight in the store. He grabs a cart, I grab a cart and we schlep up and down the aisles filling the baskets with our "normal" groceries plus food for an Easter brunch to feed our family of 8 plus 17 other aunts, uncles, cousins and assorted relatives. When we rolled up to the check-out, we garned the standard bagger/cashier combo PLUS an additional bagger. About halfway through the check-out, my young bagger guy said to the equally young cashier guy:
Bagger Guy: Hey, did you apply the discount yet?
Cashier Guy: Huh?
Bagger Guy: I said, did you apply the discount?
Cashier Guy (looking very confused): What discount?
Bagger Guy: (smiling as he looked at me) The "feeding a small army" discount!
Oh, Bagger Guy, you are my new hero! If only there was such a discount...especially with a teenage boy in the house.
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
Just an FYI-
Our parish's Elizabeth Ministry is holding its annual Memorial Mass of Angels on Tues. April, 24th at 7pm. We wanted to make sure the word got out to people who might find peace and healing in this Mass.
This is open to anyone who has been touched by the loss of a child through miscarriage, stillbirth, abortion, SIDS, and infant or child death. (*In cases of miscarriage, there is an eloquently written prayer and blessing for parents over at EWTN*)A reception will follow. All friends and family are invited to share in the support and fellowship of these loved ones.
Please forward this invitation to anyone whom you think might be interested.
For those who would like to have a candle lighted in their child's name, but are unable to attend, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the name of the child and the date on which he or she was born into eternity. April 19th is the due date for submitting information.