Friday, April 29, 2011

The short version

Me, waiting to meet with the judge in Ethiopia.  This waiting room was packed with people from all over the world adopting children.

We met our girls last Tuesday!!!

Words really can't describe how amazingly precious these little ones are.

Having M. run into my arms saying "Mama!  Mama!" is something I will never forget.  Ever.

And T.  Sweet, precious T.  Smiling, laughing, this almost-two-year old is seriously a kick.  She's awesome.

Both of these children are adorable, affectionate, and sweet.  M. is super confident, knows what she wants, and is seriously sharp as as tack.  She is extremely verbal, even though I don't understand Amharic.  :)  And her walking is awesome!  T. seems really strong, can sit up super well, and is extremely social. 

I have to tell you that it was a bit surreal meeting our girls, but not taking custody of them, and not stepping right into the role of parent.  So different from when we met our boys.  Hard in a lot of ways and I think it made me feel a bit removed from it all.

Then Tuesday afternoon, just hours after meeting our future daughters, we met their birthmothers.

Incredibly emotional and difficult and yet I'm so grateful for the chance to meet these women.

When people talk about the orphan crisis, most of those orphans are not "double orphans", meaning they do have remaining family who, for whatever reason, have decided they cannot or will not parent them.  The whole thing is incredibly sad and tragic.  And complex.  I'm sure I'll be exploring some of these things in the days and weeks (and years, really) to come.

Last Wednesday morning was court.  Sadly, we did not pass, because they are saying one of the girls' paperwork is incomplete (even though it maybe isn't.)  We actually weren't sure if we passed or not until yesterday morning, thus my lack of updates and photos on my blog, Facebook and Twitter.  The day after court was Good Friday, a national holiday there, and we left for Rome on Monday morning, so we had no real time to find out.

I'm bummed, but not terribly surprised.  After the way this process has gone, I would have been surprised if things had gone as I'd hoped.  That sounds pessimistic, but it's simply reality that it's just a huge mess right now.  Court itself though was easy--no more than five minutes with a judge in a small room, all of us sitting down, and her asking how our sons have adjusted, if they have any identity issues, and if we've told our other children about this adoption and what do they think of it?

So we're settling in for another wait and more delays, and I have no clue how long this one will be.  I THINK we had another court date today, so we'll see.  I so wish I could share the photos with you all of our time there, but I can't until the girls are ours, and we've passed court.

For now just picture two super cute little girls in our arms, and two smiling and very happy parents.  We are so very blessed to be on the way to parenting these dear, precious children.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Home again

We are back!

As of 6:30 last night, we are back at home.

It felt SO GOOD to see my kids again.

Their sweet hugs and kisses and cuddles are amazing.

Today it's school for them and lunch duty for me.

Tomorrow it's four kids at the dentist.

And maybe eventually I'll have time to get over this jetlag, get things unpacked, and delve into our time in Ethiopia and in Rome.

For now I'll just leave you with this photo of Kevin and I (and Mary, who you can't see) at the Tiber River.

But for now, it's just really, really, really good to be HOME.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Apparently people do not wear their babies here.
And as a result, we are quite the circus act, with Mary in the Ergo carrier.
Gasps, stares, concern, laughs. 
Today we had our last macchiato, last gelato, last Italian meal.
Tomorrow we head home.
Cannot WAIT to see our precious little ones back home.
Trip has been amazing, and we will have some great stories for Mary Lu about her visits to places like the Colosseum, Sistine Chapel, and the Pantheon.
See you in Denver!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Caprese salad, white mocha, croissants, various meats and cheeses for breakfast.
I want to live here.  :)
Right now we are off to see the Colosseum, the Forum, and St. John Lateran.
The architecture here is astounding.
Our shuttle ride from the airport was terrifying.
Our hotel last night booted us at 1 am, when we showed up exhausted from our day of flying, and from our crazy shuttle ride.  But they sent us to a different hotel, which was actually an upgrade, so I am not complaining.  :)
Mary Lu is quite the world traveller and is doing great.
And with that, we are off to do some exploring.  Yay for Italy!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

It's our last day in Ethiopia.

Shopping, visiting our girls, time with sweet friends.

This has been an amazing, heart-wrenching, busy trip.

Can't WAIT to share more when we get back.

Tomorrow it's off to Frankfurt, Germany...and then Rome for two days.

And THEN we'll be back in Denver.

I miss my kiddos!!!

And I also miss blogging.

But mostly I miss my sweet little ones.

So grateful to be in this complex, beautiful country today.

Have a wonderful Easter!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Mary was a perfect angel on the flights.  Truly.

I survived without any major panic attacks.  :)

We're with our dear friends, at their home in Ethiopia, tonight.

Just had chocolate cake, and now it's time for bed.

We meet our girls tomorrow!!!

To smile or not (meeting their birthmothers)

We are going to meet our daughters' birth families.

And I am so, so nervous.

I just received our Ethiopia schedule from AAI.  Right there, in my inbox, in print, it says that we'll be meeting M. and T.'s respective birth families the first afternoon that we're there.  The same day we meet our future daughters.  Tomorrow, for all of you readers in the US.  I can't stop staring at it. 

What can I possibly say to these precious women who gave my girls life, who relinquished them well over a year ago because they could no longer care for them, and who are appearing in court to say yes, they want them to be adopted? 

It is incredibly humbling.  I have no words.  Truly.  No clue what to say or how to say it.

And what will these dear women say to ME?  What will they think of us?  I have visions of Kevin and I fumbling around for words, and finding none, and me sitting there doing my very best not to cry my eyes out.  Kind of like I am now, just thinking about the huge-ness of the situation.   

I imagine we'll pose for pictures and I wonder, will we smile?  It seems like too somber an occasion for that, this snapshot in time that is so outside of our normal and yet so incredibly vital.  So that we can remember.  So our girls can remember, and know where they come from, and know their first mother as best they can.  But I don't know if we should smile.

There are so very many things I want to tell each of these women.  I want them to know that their daughters are precious, and that we love them to pieces, and that God created them just the way He wanted them to be.  I want these women to know that I am honored to meet them, that they will always hold a place in our hearts and in our home.  That we will make sure they hold a place in our daughters' hearts, too.  I want them to know that I am so sorry things are difficult, that we will pray for them and that we are so very humbled to be raising these sweet little ones.

I know there will be many questions for them, history, birth stories, and the like.  I want to know if there is anything they want us to tell our girls for them.

Somehow it all seems so trite when I type it out.

And, well, surreal.

It is both.

But such is the way of things, when ho-hum-everyday-life suddenly collides with brokenness and reality and the sort of messyness that makes for best-selling novels and blockbuster films.  How sheltered we are! 

Of course at the end of all of this we'll step onto a plane and leave as if it never happened, except of course it WILL have happened.

And we can't leave unchanged.  We won't leave unchanged.

Smiling or not, we'll have those photos to prove it. 

Monday, April 18, 2011

And...we're OFF!

Bags packed...check.

Grandma-the-babysitter here...check.

Freezer and fridge stocked with easy meals...check.

Stomach full of nerves...check.


Awesome trip-planning husband...check.

Unpredictable 18-month-old travelling companion...check.

I can hardly believe it, but yes, this afternoon we are off.

To Ethiopia.

To meet our little girls, to go to court to make them ours, to see our sons' hometown.

This trip seemed like such a huge deal back in early 2006.  Now it seems we always know SOMEone travelling there, some of our dear friends are currently LIVING almost feels like we're just taking a trip to New York or something.

Except for the whole vaccinations thing, and the fear of contracting travellers' diarrhea thing, and of course the 18-hour-flight thing.

But other than THAT...:)

I'm excited and nervous all at once.  Truly.  I've been on the brink of tears for days now...just THINKING about meeting our dear girls, of Mary Lu meeting her new sisters for the first time...yes, all of it is so overwhelming in every.possible.way.

I want to savor this moment, this trip.  I want to drink deeply from the well that is this experience and be fully present so that the memories will imprint on my brain.  Meeting an adopted child for the first time is something you never forget.  It is what I would call a sacred moment, comparable to the birth of a biological child.  Thus each of my children has this special story that I carry in my heart and in my head, and I desperately want M. and T. to have that too.  I think they will.

If you remember, please do be praying for us: for our children at home and for my mom who is caring for them, for our health, for me Mary Lu on the flights, for our time spent getting to know new daughters, for our court date and for a favorable outcome, and for meetings with birth family.  More on that tomorrow, so do check back!

Bon voyage, friends.  So grateful for your love and support on this journey, that in many ways is only just beginning.  And just think: as you sleep tonight, I'll be white-knuckling it over the Atlantic.  Sweet dreams dear readers!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Blogging when I really shouldn't be

Leaving tomorrow.

Church today.

Packing today.

Shopping today.

I may or may not have bought out Costco for my kids and mom.  Because they'll need food while we're gone.

I also may or may not have bought my mom a bottle of wine.  Because she might need THAT while we're gone.  :)  And if you're a burglar, remember, just cheap thrift store junk and outdated electronics around these parts.  Oh, and my mom is one tough cookie.  Promise.  On both counts.

But I wanted to take a bloggy moment amidst the horribly disorganized say hello, and that I'm getting excited, and, um, that I hope I don't freak out on the airplane.

I'm planning to blog from Ethiopia, via email.  Hoping it works. 

This is feeling more real.

We're going to Ethiopia.


Friday, April 15, 2011

When all else fails...clean!

I have this love-hate relationship with naps.

And as a result, I rarely take them.

Wednesday, though, I was feeling so crummy because of my cold, and I wasn't being productive anyway, so I took me a two-hour siesta.

While it felt great to get some extra shut-eye, and I woke up feeling maybe a LITTLE better, I'm not sure I was any more capable of getting my work done.  So the nap was pretty much just a waste of time.


Add to that the fact that avoidance has long been my defense mechanism of choice.  I wish that it wasn't.  But if I get overwhelmed, I tend to want to just curl up in a ball and shut everything out.

Which is a real shame, because stuff doesn't really get done that way!

Still, that's my go-to and it has been for some time.  Doesn't seem to be changing either. 

Do you take naps?  Do you resort to avoidance?  Are you neurotic like me?  Tell me I'm not alone!  :)

In the midst of overwhelmed-ness (of course that's a word!), there ARE a few pick-me-ups I have.  Jobs or things that make me feel better and productive and like life is manageable.  One of those is a clean kitchen.  I'll wipe down my counters with a soapy sponge, then clean them with Mrs. Meyers countertop spray (I'm loving the Lemon Verbena scent right now.)  Then I'll clean off my stovetop, then I'll give my sink some attention, and THEN I head for the fridge.

Yes, the fridge.

I LOVE a clean fridge. 

It is so, so worth the effort.  Knowing exactly where everything is, gleaming shelves, and the groceries look so much nicer.  Even cooking for seven people somehow feels like less of a chore.

Do you have a go-to activity that suddenly makes you feel as if your day went well, that it wasn't spent in vain, and that life is beautiful?  :)  What is it?

(Note that I was NOT compensated in any way for this post.  I just really love me some Mrs. Meyers.  But if Mrs. Meyers herself is reading this, do feel free to send me some free product.  A lifetime supply perhaps?  Because I'm not OPPOSED to being compensated!)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The countdown begins

We're leaving for Ethiopia in four days.



I caught my son's yucky cold
it's that time of the month
we have family arriving on Friday,
on Saturday,
we have to get our vaccinations
buy a bunch of stuff to deliver to Ethiopia
of course there's the packing
meal planning
I need to clean my house.


How am I going to get all this stuff done??!!

Priorities, friends, priorities.  That's how.  Like meeting dear girlfriends for coffee right after drop-off.  Like treating myself to some Diet Coke or sweet tea at lunchtime.  Like savoring the time I get with my two youngest girlies while my big kids are away at school for the day. 

And maybe eventually I'll worry about getting to that to-do list.  :)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Birth parents and adoption

With our trip looming in the not-so-distant-future (less than a WEEK away, people!), we have been having lots of birth parent conversations lately.  (This photo, and the rest of the photos in this post, are from over five years ago when we picked up our sons in Ethiopia.  How they've grown!!!)

Maybe you've noticed that I don't share too terribly much here about my sons' story because, well, it's THEIR story--not mine.  It's a fine line we blogging mamas walk, isn't it?  While I want to be transparent and open about my life, I always want to respect my children in this space.  That comes first.  And for us, that means that I simply can't blurt out every little detail surrounding their first sixteen months of life.

What I can tell you is that we have our sons' birth mother's name and some other family background information.  We tried (oh, how we tried) to find her while we were in Ethiopia in early 2006, but to no avail.  We are trying again.

And so my sons are asking lots of questions and we're having lots of good conversation.  I'm loving it.  It can be hard, yes, and we find ourselves saying "I don't know" quite a bit, in addition to heading down various rabbit trails that seem so grown up for six year old boys.  But still it is really, really good.  Yosef and Biniam are at a place where they feel incredibly comfortable asking questions and I feel like we're having healthy dialogue.  So even though it is sad, I am grateful because we're openly communicating about it.

These sorts of life issues are...heavy.  It's not drama and it's not sensationalism, it's not fairy tales and it's not's the life and story of my very children.  It's stuff that will take a lifetime to process through, because even though the story remains the same, my kids won't.  Yosef and Biniam will grow and change and as they do, I am sure that their questions, concerns and thoughts will change too.

Last night after dinner one of my sons was saying he loved his birthmom, and wished we could help her.  Then he wanted to know if I think about her often, and what exactly I think about when I remember her.  I answered honestly and told him that I think about her quite often, and that I wish things had been different, that I think she is a very brave woman, and that I wonder what she looks like.  I told him that I too desperately wish we could help her.  I told him that I am so sorry that she, due to some very difficult life circumstances, was not able to raise her precious sons.  But that I am so blessed that they are now my own sons.  Because if she wasn't able to do it, I am so grateful that I get to be their adoptive mom.  (I have never felt envious of their birth mother, or defensive.  I LIKE hearing my boys say they love her and care about her.  I WANT them to have a special place in their hearts for her.  I think that is healthy, and good.)

See, adoption doesn't end at placement.  Or at finalization.  Maybe the legal process does, but adoption itself is a lifetime endeavor.  The past is never erased, and part of training up my adopted children includes teaching them their story, and giving them the tools to handle that story well.  That may look different at different ages.  And it's a sad story, even if there is some beauty in the fact that God had His hand on these boys and looked after them when neither their birth mother nor I was there. 

So we will continue talking, and attempting to navigate these stories with love and with truth.  We may not do it perfectly, but we're trying, and I hope our sons will look back and see that if nothing else, they could ask questions and receive honest answers.  Even if sometimes all we can say is, "I don't know."

Monday, April 11, 2011

ETC 2011

My girlfriends and I (of course I'm the one on your far RIGHT--not left, which I originally wrote, and I promise I DO know my right from my left!--with the horrible posture--classic me), minus sweet Angela, who make up the volunteer staff of From HIV to Home.  Love these ladies!

 Friday and Saturday I was able to get away for the 2011 Empowered to Connect conference.  Held down in Littleton, so not far from here.

Time spent hearing from Karyn Purvis about parenting children from trauma, and about the incredible research she has done.  Lunches and dinners spent laughing and chatting with friends (thanks to our lovely friends Mike and Amy, Kevin was even able to join me and some other couples at Buca di Beppo Friday night!)  Meeting new people, including some blog readers.  Fun!

Though we do have two adopted children, we don't really parent therapeutically.  Our sons attached well and, for the most part, thrive.  That being said, there is still so much to be gained by attending one of these conferences.  Such timely reminders about the fact that, no matter how well our children are doing, they DO come from the hard places.  Their brains DO work differently as a result.  There ARE ways I should be proactively seeking to connect with them and, most of all, I need to maintain a compassionate heart towards all of my children.  I need to give out more yes's than no's. 

I have to tell you that I was so emotionally and socially drained by the end of the weekend.  After dinner with friends Saturday night, I met Kevin and the kids at a church wine and cheese party , and immediately realized that I was pretty much too tired and spent to be there!  So much to process and think through and just some really heavy stuff, as I'm sure you can imagine.  Our world is a horribly broken place.  But, there is hope.

Anyway, if you ever get the chance to attend any sort of talk by Karyn Purvis, especially an entire conference headlined by her, I highly encourage you to go!  (But I must warn you that if you attend with good friends, you might just get the giggles during a particular session, where tears are streaming down your face and your shoulders are shaking because you're holding it all in and you realize it's a good thing you're sitting near the back.  Oh dear.  And I feel the need to mention that the friends in the above photo were not necessarily the ones involved in the laugh-fest.)

I also realized this weekend that it's, um, a good thing we're bringing Mary Lu to Ethiopia with us.  I missed that little bug SO MUCH.  Soooooooooo very much.  I was so sad having to say goodbye to her sweet face and wispy bedhead both mornings!  She is just way too sweet.

Good to be getting back into our routine, but it was sure great to get away too!

We leave for Ethiopia a week from today.  Oh my.  Time to switch gears!

Friday, April 08, 2011

Empowered to Connect

Here today.

With dear friends. 

Fellow sojourners on a really long, oftentimes difficult journey.

Because our children come from the hard places.

I'm hoping for a time of reflection, refreshment, and refocusing of  my heart as we hear from amazing speakers, especially Dr. Karyn Purvis. 

It's an amazing blessing to be able to sneak away for two days, sans kids, for something like this.  My dear sweet husband is graciously working from home today, our dear sweet friends are watching our kids this evening so aforementioned husband can join me (and fellow From HIV to Home staff members) for dinner, the same husband will have the kids all day Saturday...yes, an amazing blessing for sure.

I look forward to sharing all about it with you sometime soon.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

The delightful irony of organic beef

Do you see that screenshot?  (It's a bit small, but you can click on it to view it larger.)  If you google "Costco organic beef", yours truly is the second link that comes up.  And this is just plain hysterical...because I don't really buy organic anything, unless it happens to be cheaper.  Ha!

YES I think organic is preferable for many items (including beef sold at Costco), because who WANTS to be ingesting pesticides, but it is also expensive (and we have seven mouths to feed!), and I just have not made the leap yet.  (Please don't judge.  Well, you can judge, but don't be mean, 'kay?  :) )

If you have a blog, have you discovered any strange or ironic searches readers have done?  I have to admit that while "Costco organic beef" is completely ironic and so doesn't fit me OR my blog, it's probably better than the "Poppy Seinfeld" search I also see on a regular basis!  (Thanks to my son's potty training woes.)

I'm sorry to say that whether you're here to learn about beef, or about the-chef-who-not-only-doesn't-wash-his-hands-but-also-pees-on-the-couch, well, I'm probably not much help.  But thanks for stopping by anway.  :)

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

If you are here from MSN...


I'm so, so glad you're here!

And I apologize for yesterday's post.  Here you thought you were gonna get some info about the adoption of HIV+ children...and you clicked on a blog with a picture of a tasteless truck adornment.  Oh, the horrors!  I'll bet it got your attention though.  :)

If you are NOT here from MSN, and have no clue what I'm talking about, check out this article that ran on Sunday.

It makes my day to check out the ol' blog analytics (I feel a bit like the not-so-great-or-powerful Oz cowering behind the curtain when I look at blog stats) and see that people landed here by searching for "HIV+ adoption".  Truly.  Do you know that when we began the adoption process in 2005, no one had adopted an HIV+ child from Ethiopia yet?  Now, it is becoming somewhat common practice within the adoption community.  People are talking about it.  I don't think I ever expected to see the day when it was so publicized and, well, downright common!  (That photo is of me with one of my sons when we brought them home in early 2006.)

In the interest of full disclosure, we do not have any children living with HIV.  Just an FYI, so you don't think I'm an expert or that I can speak with any authority on the matter.  :)  Our sons came home before these precious children were able to be adopted, and the children we are currently adopting were born with Down syndrome.  So I don't speak from experience, although I DO love to advocate for the adoption of these kiddos.  I'm even on staff with a fantastic nonprofit, From HIV to Home.  It's something that's been near and dear to my heart for years.

What I have discovered over time, interestingly, is that I am passionate about the adoption of waiting children, period.  What began as the conviction that HIV+ children are just as deserving of families as are kids NOT born with HIV, has developed into my firmly held belief that we MUST find homes for the children who are waiting.  Whether they are HIV+, or older, hearing impaired, or whether they were born with an extra chromosome, these children are the ones needing to be adopted.  These are the children who have no waiting list of families--THEY are sitting on a list.  Waiting.  And waiting.  And waiting.

If you have never thought about the adoption of a waiting child, of a child with medical needs or who is older, I hope you'll do some research, say a prayer or two (or 100!), and really give it some serious consideration.  We always, always believed we'd adopt a child with HIV one day, but our journey led us instead to two little girls who'd been doing a lot of waiting themselves, not because they have HIV, but because they were born with Down syndrome.  Life's funny in that it doesn't always turn out the way you expect.  All along I suppose God was moving our hearts towards the many dear, precious children in the margins...whether due to a highly stigmatized illness...or a highly stigmatized extra chromosome.

Please feel free to email me if you have any questions about the adoption of a child with medical needs.  If I can't answer, I'll point you towards someone who can.  Because I know some really amazing people.

Be encouraged, because adoption isn't always (ever?) easy...but it is good.  And do-able. 

And now I'm going to close by raising my glass to the fact that children who were once considered hard to place are finding families! 

There are good things happening in the world.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Anatomical mystery

Okay friends.

I shared before about the random, uh, anatomy replica I saw hanging from the bumper of someone's pickup truck once.

And not two weeks later, I found myself driving behind yet anOTHer person who is apparently into that sort of thing. 

And so I took a picture.

Just for ya'll.

And now that you've seen it for yourself, can someone out there, pretty please, explain to me the thought process behind the matter?

I'm just flat-out confused.

Confounded, really.

Because aren't they embarrassed?

When they show up to the someone's home for the first time!!!...with that THING hanging from their vehicle??!!

Isn't it a little bit awkward?

"Hello, my name is Charlie.  I have a set of plastic balls on my car.  Thanks for having me to dinner."

And can you even imagine picking up a girl for a date?!

Because when you slap that baby on your car, you're pretty much guaranteed that some percentage of the female population (no less than 60% I reckon) is just plain not-a-gonna be interested once they see that thing.  No interesante.  No bueno.

"Um, you know, I forgot to tell you that I actually have my underwater basket weaving class tonight.  I'm afraid we can't go to dinner afterall."

I just really don't know.

And, I have to say I never imagined I'd be posting this sort of photograph on my blog.

We're really pretty G-rated over here at Just Showing Up.

Family friendly and all that jazz.

But I'm making an exception because this is just too strange not to share.

That this person is, well, just showing up with THAT on their bumper.

Oh the questions I have. 

So if you own one of these, or know someone who does, won't you clue me in?

 You can even post anonymously.  Though something tells me if you have one, you're pretty darn proud of it.

And I promise that tomorrow we will be back to our typical unicorns-and-rainbows, whiskers-on-kittens programming.  Might even commence with a round or two of "Kumbaya."

But today, I'm afraid it's all about the balls.  Sorry.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Chocolate Kahlua Trifle

Ready for some Monday yummies?

This delightful trifle is one of my go-to recipes.  From my mom.  (I'm no food photog, so no judging people.)

If you invite me over, and ask me to bring a dessert, I may just show up with this.  (And my five kids.)

I love this dessert because it serves a crowd, it looks pretty, and it's SO EASY!!!  (I told you it serves a crowd--it won't all fit in my trifle bowl!  Which is great because then you get to keep the rest at home, for yourself.  Shhhh.  I won't tell if you don't.)


1 box chocolate cake mix
1 cup Kahlua
2 small packages instant chocolate pudding mix
1 large tub thawed Cool Whip
6 Heath candy bars, chopped

1.)  Prepare pudding according to package directions.

2.)  Prepare cake mix and bake in bundt pan.  Cool for 20 minutes.

3.)  Poke holes in cake with handle of a wooden spoon and pour Kahlua over cake.

4.)  In a glass trifle dish, layer as follows:

                                   1/3 of the cake, crumbled
                                   1/2 of the pudding
                                   1/3 of the Cool Whip
                                   1/3 of the chopped Heath bars

5.)  Repeat this procedure two times.  (If you run out of room, assemble the final layers in a seperate bowl like I did.  Just make sure that you end with Cool Whip and Heath bar, so the top looks pretty!)

6.)  Chill for at least 2-3 hours.  (The longer the better, really, and the beautiful thing is you can totally prep this ahead of time.)

There are so.many.different. variations you can try.  Want to bake the cake from scratch, and use real whipping cream?  Sub out the Heath bar for some other sort of confectionary delight or cookie?  Use peppermint liquer instead of the Kahlua, and use crushed up peppermints for the candy? 

Okay, now I need want some.  Bad.

Maybe you'll share that extra bowl with me...pretty please?

Friday, April 01, 2011

Talking to a child about adoption

As everyone knows, we have two adopted children. 

Our sons came home to us over five years ago now.  They were 16 months old at the time. 

Neither one has any conscious memory of their life in Ethiopia.  This means that neither of my adopted children remember the precious month and a half they had with their birth mom, or the sweet volunteer who named them, or the many months they spent living at a Missionaries of Charity orphanage amidst multitudes of very sick and dying children, or the remaining months at our agency's transition home.

And many of Yosef and Biniam's friends are adopted.  Mostly also from Ethiopia.  Adoption is seemingly, for now, normal to them.

Yet still I wonder.

How will they think about all of this?

Will they one day regret having to leave their birth country?

Or be glad to have joined our family?

Maybe they won't care that much because life is life and you only know what you've lived?

We recently read a children's biography of the missionary George Mueller, and all about the orphanages he founded in Bristol.

And as we neared the end, and learned of the orphans who grew up and moved away from the orphanages, Yosef interrupted with wide eyes and asked incredulously,"Why were they not adopted?  Why didn't they have a family?"

So I explained that many, many children aren't adopted for various reasons, that in many places the way they do things is just different, and that it is, you know, complicated.

He seemed downright crushed.  Shocked, really.

That's when I decided to ask him outright.

"Yosef, do you think it is better for an orphan to join a family even if it means a lot of loss, even if it means leaving your beautiful birth country and culture, or do you think it's better to grow up in an orphanage and get to stay?"

{Yes, I know this a very nuanced, grown-up, complex topic for a six-and-a-half-year-old who still doesn't know how to tie his own shoes, but still I asked.}

And Yosef looked at me like I was out of my mind.  As if I'd gone comPLETEly bonkers.

"JOIN A FAMILY!" he said emphatically.  "It's better to have a family."

I'd be lying if I didn't say that I got a little choked up.  As of that moment, he believed so fiercely in his heart, with everything in him, that it is important for a child to have a family.  Let it be known that I've never explicitly told my children this.  Ever.

An oft hotly-debated, multi-faceted concept seems really simple to my son.  Because he kind of really loves his family. 

YES a day will come when he'll understand more, probably question in-depth why he wasn't able to experience the true ideal (remaining with his birth mother), and I'll tell him that I've questioned that many times myself.  And that it's a GOOD thing to question and think through.  I'll no doubt fumble around as I tell him that I wish this dear woman could have received the help she needed, and that it's a horrible, tragic thing when a mama is desperate with virtually no options.  I'll tell him that I'm so, so sorry.  That I wish adoption itself were not necessary.  And that I am so in awe of this woman who gave him life twice.

My words will no doubt seem empty and cliche.  Still I will say them.  I've said some of them already.  I will also say that I'm so glad that he is my son.

For now anyway, Yosef believes that children are supposed to have parents and siblings and grandmas and grandpas.  Things won't always be so simple, but I'm grateful for the open dialogue we have in our home, and that when he's thinking about his birth mom, he feels comfortable talking about her, and that he believes that God's design for children is family.

I believe that too.

The issues surrounding adoption are certainly not clear, but sometimes the convictions of a six year old are.  I am blessed to know my son.


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