Sunday, December 24, 2006

Joseph and the Angel





'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring not even a mouse...or a Matt or a Josh! Finally they have fallen asleep and I have a few quiet moments to write and catch up. Christmas Eve is a special time for everyone I think, and tonight was no exception for our family. The boys were in our church's Christmas pageant this evening, and it was a humorous rendition of the Christmas story. We had dancing camels, cow puppets singing carols in opera (That would be me!!) and a couple of little angels who wandered all over the stage and had their wings fall off. In other words, it was a night we'll never forget.

I love our spiritual home. We attend the United Church of Christ here in Montrose, and I wish I had found it 20 years earlier. The UCC is a perfect fit for us, and is a place where we have found acceptance, support, encouragement and love. I don't think I have ever been around a group of people who have a more positive perspective on life, who focus so much on God's goodness and grace, and who put their faith into action every day in their own lives. Personally, I call it the "put up or shut up" church, which may sound a bit sacreligious but I think it isn't all that inappropriate.

On this, the night in which we celebrate Christ's birth, it is a time of reflection and contrasts. Thinking of the birth of the infant Jesus in less than ideal circumstances I often find my mind drifting to the births of my own children. Although it doesn't happen often, ocassionally I think about the boys' birth mothers and what happened in their lives to cause them to relinquish their children, who are so precious to me. What did they think when they discovered they were pregnant? Were they young, unmarried and afraid? Were they financially unable to provide for them? Were they ostracized by family and friends? Did they know immediately that they would not be raising their children or did they hope that perhaps they could manage to do so? And, on nights like this do they wonder where their children are, if they are safe and loved?

As I sit in front of the fire burning warmly in our woodstove, Dominick snoring on the couch beside my, two of my three children safely tucked away in their beds awaiting the arrival of St. Nick, I send up a silent prayer that God would provide their birth moms with some sense of peace, that He would allow them to have the same quiet confidence and certainty about their decision not to parent as He gave me in my decision to adopt. I pray that our new son is safe tonight, that he is indeed spending his last Christmas as just another anonymous orphan...well, he isn't really anonymous anymore, is he? I add in Angela and Olesya, asking that God place His loving arms around them and that He use our family to touch their lives with His love...that we will make a difference somehow, no matter how small, and that they feel cared for even if it is long distance. So much to be thankful for, so much joy that was no doubt born of great sorrow to others.

Although Christmas morning has yet to arrive, I received my Christmas gift early tonight. Matthew, who at 7 can often seem to be goofy and a bit irreverent (Gee, he IS just like Dominick after all!!) tugged at my heartstrings twice this evening. The first time was as we were driving home from church and somehow the subject turned to what qualities would make a perfect wife. While I halfway expected him to say something like "She has to like Legos" or "Be a good cook" he immediately said "I know! She has to be generous, kind and thoughtful."...I kid you not, those were his exact words. When I then asked "Do you want her to be beautiful?" he responded "Weeeelll... if she was generous and kind she WOULD be beautiful!". Oh man, as I choked back the tears Dominick and I gave each other a high five. I realized that maybe, just maybe, this kid who everyone else sees as silly and probably slightly annoying at times as all 7 year old boys can be really IS the deep, tender boy that I have always said exists.

The second moment came when he insisted I open the present he made for me at school. I carefully opened the lunch bag that had been stapled shut and lovingly had old Christmas cards taped to and inside I found an ornament that had been painted with snowmen. He said "Mom, there are 5 of us!" and he pointed each of us out, including "T" and added "See, our whole family is on it!". His willingness to embrace a new sibling who will actually usurp his place as the eldest in the family touches me deeply.

So, I now will wake up "Santa" from his slumber, and we will place the presents under the tree...and then we will stand back and look at the tree with lights twinkling in the dark, illuminating the mantle and the two stockings hanging there...and in our mind's eye we will see the 3 stockings that will be hanging there next year.

And just like baby Jesus, one more child whose start in life was a bit rocky will be treasured in this world, loved by imperfect and very human parents.

Merry Christmas!!

I apologize for not blogging the past couple of weeks (Odd how something can become a verb, isn't it?) but I have been swamped with ski season gearing up and getting back to work full-time for the season, trying to complete all my shopping and shipping, fighting incredible weather here in Colorado, and it seems I haven't had a moment to slow down and think about what this is all about.

We have a Christmas pageant at church tonight with Matthew as Joseph and Josh as the Littlest Angel...and I am Clarice the Cow puppet. No doubt it will be a time of love and laughter, and of spending a few moments reflecting on what the holiday is all about, remembering my own wonderful childhood Christmas Eve's, and then tomorrow will be spent sharing the day with very special friends throughout the day. Although we won't be with our moms and siblings, we will all be thinking of one another and knowing we send all our love out to one another.

I will try and find time to write more in the next few days, but in the meantime, I want to wish everyone who has been following our blog a very Merry Christmas from our family to yours. May peace fill your hearts and love fill your homes.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

God's Greatest Gifts are Unanswered Prayers

A friend and I have had a recent email conversation about infertility and what it has meant in our lives. You know, I was one of the oddballs, a woman who was infertile, who never felt it made me less of a woman, who honestly never felt real sorrow at being unable to conceive. Now, that is a very different statement than saying I never felt sorrow at not having children. I just never had any strong emotional pull to have to bear a child that looked like me and had a genetic connection to feel like they were "really mine". In adoption circles I have often been the odd man out, as many women have truly suffered from their inability to give birth, and I simply can not relate to their pain. I have never been pregnant, never had a miscarriage, never had a close call. It was something I accepted easily, and felt strongly that God just had another plan for my life. I have actually been very grateful that God calmed my heart completely about the entire issue. I have great sympathy for those who desire children and can't conceive them...and yet strangely although I too am in the same boat, I don't look at them and see myself at all.

Long ago Dominick and I decided we would not submit to infertility testing or treatment. Could it have been a simple cause with a quick fix? Possibly I guess. Have I ever thought about it with any kind of regret that we didn't do it? Of course not...I have never even given it a thought! I know this is a very personal decision, and I do NOT look at others who have chosen to do so as being wrong. We just did what was right for us, that is all. We just felt that there were too many moral and ethical questions in our minds about the possible treatments we might be presented with, and we didn't want to be put in the position where we began to place our desire to parent over our convictions. Things like multiple births that could harm your children, questions of selective abortions of additional fetuses, and selection of "perfect" fertilized eggs to implant just were repugnant to us. But honestly, I can really understand why others do it and I view it as nothing more than personal choice...like I also find peanut butter sandwiches repugnant as well but many people love them! We also didn't want to diminish our relationship by making it all about a baby. We, together, are about so much more than creating a child. We are best friends, confidants, lovers and each others sounding boards. We had a terrific marriage before children and a terrific marriage after children, that hasn't changed one bit...been enhanced maybe, but not improved.

When I am with my sons, for they are my sons in every possible way, with every fiber of my being, I am so darned grateful for our infertility. I feel so fortunate that we never had a biological child because I am sure that even with the best intentions we likely never would have gotten around to adopting for many reasons. Fear, mainly, would have stood in our way...fear that it would affect our bio child adversely, fear of the unknown child we would bring home, fear that perhaps I couldn't love an adopted child as much as a biological child. It would simply be easier to keep the status quo. But having no children meant having nothing to lose and everything to gain.

But God knows what He is doing, and He always gets it right. He has a different plan for every single family, some of whom will have biological children, some who will adopt, some who will have a wonderful blend of both. No one family is "right" and another wrong. Where there is family, there is love, and it isn't dependent upon the number of children or how they got there.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Guess How Much?

I don't have time to blog tonight, but just had to share this with you all. Guess how much it costs to send one piece of paper to Kyrgyzstan via FedEx? We had to send a notarized copy of our I-171H to Kyrgyzstan today. One little, itsy bitsy lightweight sheet of paper, that is less weight than the envelope it was shipped in costs.........

$64.00.

Guess it is cheaper for all of us to fly to Kyrgyzstan than for us to have "T" shipped to America via FedEx!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Kyrgyz Cookbook

Thanks to an earlier post I made to the blog I was contacted by Jamie, a blog reader, who provided me with info on Kyrgyz meals and an email address for someone who has put together a cookbook of traditional Kyrgyz dishes! I am going to order it tomorrow and am anxious to receive it. I don't know how well the meals will go over in our family, but surely "T" might appreciate the efforts. I have asked permission to publicly list the info on the blog and here it is:

Yes, I have compiled a cookbook of Kyrgyz recipes for American kitchens. I do not have my own web page, but Juliet Rossant has a very nice review in her Superchefblog at
www.superchefblog.com/2005/03/cook-like-kyrgyz.html

The cookbook costs $24, which includes shipping. If you wish to order a copy, please send a check or money payable to Martha E. Weeks to:
Ms. Martha E. Weeks
P.O. Box 306
Northampton, MA 01061-0306
Email: Russell396@aol.com


This isn't the kind of thing you can easily find at Barnes and Noble, and I thought it might be helpful to provide the info on the blog for those of you are reading it and will be adopting from Kyrgyzstan yourself. I will let you all know what it is like once I receive it, but it sounds like a terrific resource.

Now...let's see, I have to be able to cook Italian, Kazakh, German, and Kyrgyz foods if we are truly going to embrace our national heritages. Nahhhhh...forget about it, macaroni and cheese will have to do! Hahahaha!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Continuing the Christmas Tradition


Today Dominick and I were in Grand Junction shopping, and we carried on our Christmas tradition of buying a personalized ornament for our family tree, and just as we did when waiting for Matthew and Joshua to come home, we bought an ornament for "T". It is a train (they didn't have a plane which would have been far more appropriate!) and we had them personalize it with "About to arrive..."T" 2006. It was a bit harder to find something fitting as there were many "Baby's First Christmas" ornaments but nothing that would fit our circumstance. After being grilled by the sales lady about why we wanted such strange wording on it, why we weren't adopting from the US, why we didn't adopt from foster care like her relative did, I was about ready to ride our little choo choo right on out the door! After we got home this evening from visiting with our friends in our old Cub Scout Pack, the boys both wanted to be the one to put it on the tree so they decided to do it together. Both of them loved looking at all the ornaments when we put the tree up earlier this week, and they enjoyed asking why we got each ornament, where they were from, and who they were for.

I love traditions, and although we don't have a ton of them, there are a few we hold dear to family life. One is going for walks downtown in the winter and stopping for hot chocolate at the Coffee Trader. Another is going to the Balloon Affair over July 4th weekend and watching the balloons take flight. When I was a kid our Christmas tradition was to have Mexican food on Christmas Eve and then eat tons of the cookies and fudge we had made the week prior. I don't really know where the Mexican food came from, but I still feel something is missing when I don't have it on Christmas Eve. Another tradition we share is when the boys are tucked in bed and prayers have been said, I will crawl in with them and tell a "Matthew and Joshie" story where they are boy heroes in all kinds of strange adventures. If friends are over spending the night they get added into the story, and of course I have been reminded by both Matt and Josh that we have to include "T" now. I have a secret tradition that they know nothing about yet, and that is every Christmas I write each of them a letter on holiday paper and have put it in a binder that I will give to them when they are older. I wrote one to each of them before they ever came home, and now I will start one to "T" as well. I include in the letters how much they have grown and what new they have accomplished, the little things that we have found to be so darned cute that they have said or done, and I express my own feelings for them.

Traditions are so important, in many ways they are the glue that hold a family together. I'd love to hear from those of you who are reading this...what are your cherished traditions? Got any great ideas?

My Men Hard at Work






Ok, so I thought that it had been awhile since I had posted any photos, and I have mentioned our tiling project a few times in the blog so why not show it to the world? Hahahaha! Never in a million years would I ever have imagined posting a public photo of my toilet, for goodness sake! As you can see from the pictures, two men were hard at work and another stood around with his hands on his hips supervising :-) I of course stood back with the camera in my hand using it as an excuse to keep clean, at least for a few minutes. It was interesting to see how much different the tile looked with the tan colored grout, as without it the tile looked much more gray. That's the only reason I am showing our toilet, as that floor was grouted. So there you are, my most boring blog post to date!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Second Trimester Over!!!

This evening on my way to choir practice I stopped at our mail box and there was an envelope from the Dept. of Homeland Security. We had our fingerprints taken about 2 weeks ago for our INS approval, and they had a huge problem taking mine. We were there about 30 minutes with them trying to get clear fingerprints for me. Finally, the CIS (formerly the INS) officer gave up and said "Let's send them this way and hope for the best". So I opened envelope with some trepidation, expecting that it was a notice to go have my fingerprints retaken...and SURPRISE it was our immigration approval, the infamous "I171H" form issued by the Dept. of Homeland Security. This is "the" form we need to be able to adopt internationally and bring our child home.

Receiving this form sort of signals the end of our second trimester of our "pregnancy", with our first trimester being the completion of the homestudy, and the third being the approval of our dossier in Kyrgyzstan and the finalization of our adoption in the courts there. A dossier is a set of notarized documents you must compile which varies from country to country. Some find the dossier to be the worst part of the process, but I have never found it to be all that big of a deal. You just start chipping away at it, one document at a time, until you have it all completed. It can be frustrating at moments, as there are certain requirements for each document and finding a notary for each one can be a real test of patience. We were so fortunate that the women who work at our bank, WestStar Bank here in Montrose, helped us tremendously in notarizing almost every single document for us, even coming to our MD's office to notarize his signature. There are lots of people who remain on the sidelines who actually help move along the adoption process.

So now we sit back and wait for word that our dossier has been accepted and our son is legally ours...and then our labor pains begin! The labor pains for us consist of making travel plans, paying for the airline tickets (Gulp! We have been told we can expect them to be about $2400 per person...times 4 of us going and 5 of us coming back home!!), packing, hopping on a plane, traveling halfway around the world and finally meeting our new son.

Happy I171H Day!!!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Missing Person

As we have shared with others our plan to adopt again, we have received many different reactions...some extremely supportive, some calling us "saints" (totally NOT accurate), many who have indicated that they think we should be happy with just two children, and some who have flat out rolled their eyes and let us know they thought we were crazy and they simply can't understand why we would do it again. I have touched on this in the blog before, but I have never really addressed the more personal side of it.

How can I possibly explain to someone (actually I don't really feel the need to with people like that) that our family feels incomplete, that I, as a mother, still feel that one of my children is not home yet? It is an emotion that I can't quite put into words and have felt since we first brought Matthew home. I remember when we had thought we would be proceeding to adopt Joshua a year earlier than we actually did, and sometime around the holidays Dominick and I looked at one another and realized we just couldn't proceed yet financially, and we decided to put it off another year. We both sat there and cried, and as the tears ran I could only think "Our child is still going to be alone...". Stupid, I know, as Josh wasn't born yet and I feel strongly that God has led us to each of our children specifically. But those feelings were real, and are even more so with "T" as he is a real, live, breathing child waiting for his family. He is not unknown to us.

I thought about this much more after we did actually adopt Josh and learned his history. Josh was abandoned by his birthmom behind an apartment building in the dead of winter. How long did my son lay there crying for his birthmom? How long was he alone in the cold? What fear must he have felt, a totally helpless infant suddenly finding himself separated from his mother? I imagine the panic he felt, the trauma inflicted which we continue to deal with on a daily basis. Do you know how heartbreaking it is to have your child frantically searching the house for you screaming hysterically because he can't find you? And this is 3 years later...not immediatly following adoption.

I explain this because perhaps it gives you a little insight into what it is to be the adoptive mother to children who you KNOW are in desperate need of your love and care, and yet are so darned distanced both in miles and paperwork that there is nothing you can do. Adopting is in some ways no different than giving birth, in terms of the love you feel for your child, but is very different in many other ways. When pregnant you may have fears of getting proper nutrition, birth defects that are out of your control, etc. but when adopting you have fears of a different kind. You find yourself worried that your child has been abused, neglected, abandoned or starved. Matthew came to us at 11 months old, weighing a mere 14 lbs. and in the beginning stages of rickets. He was physically malnourished but emotionally very healthy and ready with an open heart to accept love. He frankly was so severely ill on the way home that it is not an exaggeration to say that something as minor in this country as bronchitis could have killed him, but he survived and thrived.

But it is at night as I am in bed with my mind wandering that I feel it the most. Communing with God in prayer, we all ask Him to keep our new son safe until we can bring him home. It is during the long drives of winter that I make to get to work that I am often touched by this sense of feeling as if a part of me is not yet here. I felt it all winter long last year so strongly, even though we did not yet have a firm adoption plan. We had begun the homestudy update, but we had no idea where our journey would really lead us. All I knew was that he or she was counting on us, and that our family had a hole in it that was waiting to be filled. Once "T" is home I wonder if I will have a sense of relief that my family is now all under one roof where they belong, or if there will still be this nagging voice inside of me that gnaws and chews at my insides. I want to be done, I want our family to be complete. However if God has other plans we will follow His leading...how, I am not sure, but then I guess if that is His plan I don't need to worry about that as He'll have it all figured out for us.

For now though, we wait, and we feel "T" is already a part of us...and I at least have the answer to who it is that is missing at our dinner table every night. Now it is only a matter of getting him home.