Thursday, July 31, 2008

Unexpected Understanding

We had a visitor last night, a friend of ours whom we hadn't seen in quite awhile. Alethea is a Mennonite teacher who once was a loving caretaker of Matthew's at the day care he attended part-time when he was around 2 years old. We had a wonderful evening visiting and catching up, and I have always been so glad that this unique friendship has somehow managed to be maintained, despite the distance that separates us both physically, as she now works and lives in Mississippi...and culturally, as we come from vastly different worlds. However, there exists a deep respect for one another and a recognition that despite what others might think, if we look hard enough, there is more in common than most would assume. We are all blessed that she considers our family to be her friends, and that through her over the years we have captured a tiny glimpse of a lifestyle that is not understood by many. This exposure to a diversity of religious expression and practices helps us teach our sons about the myriad ways other people practice their faith, and in turn they then feel a deeper respect for others.

As Alethea left last night, I was pleasantly surprised to see Matthew offer her a big, heartfelt hug. Matthew is not usually openly affectionate with other women...all of his teachers have been politely spurned and other women in his life whom I know he cares deeply for have to tease him and "chase him down" for a hug. I am the lucky one to whom he gives his affection willingly, freely and easily. Matthew is also in many ways our "deepest" child, he is extremely perceptive and he ponders the Big Questions of life and loves to discuss his thoughts about those Questions. He is a terrific judge of character, and if someone is not a person of quality he tends to quietly turn in another direction.

This morning, I received a lovely gift from Alethea, completely unexpected and it spoke volumes about her depth of understanding of our family. Perhaps it is his finely tuned 6th sense that caused Matthew to "give it up" last night for Alethea without a moment's hesitation. After reading the gift of a poem she wrote for us, I believe Matthew must have felt her sincerity and pure love without it ever having to be expressed openly. I asked Alethea if I could share her writing here on the blog, and she graciously gave me permission to post it here.

Alethea, as we spoke about last night, there are some people who may not ever find themselves adopting but God uses them to offer encouragement and support to those who do. You have been placed in the unusual circumstance of being surrounded by adoptive families of all shapes, colors and sizes, and from your own words it is very obvious that you understand better than most what adoption really means. Thank you so much for your beautiful expression of what our family is all about. I will treasure your poem for years to come.

Child of My Heart
for Dominick & Cindy, Matt, Kenny, and Josh
My little boy, I hold you close
Before you say good night,
And pray that God, who dwells above,
Will keep you in His sight.
When you were many miles away,
He turned my thoughts to you
And led me far across the world
To a land so strange and new.
And from the moment that we met
I knew you were my son.
You brought me joy I'd never known
If you had never come.
Each day I thank our God for you,
For sending you to me,
And pray, whate'er the years may bring,
That you will always see
That though you are not of my blood,
Of me you are a part--
You simply came a different way,
Dear child of my heart.

Love, Alethea
Alethea, you may not yet have children of your own, but you certainly have a Mother's heart.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Blog Changes

If the blog looks a little out of control over the next few days it is because I am going to try and revamp it a bit...I'm trying to use a new template and am having trouble figuring it out, and I am also going to make an attempt to go back and label the posts so that those who would like to read about specific topics (i.e. attachment,older child adjustment, etc) can more easily find relevent posts. With almost 300 posts this will be quite a chore and will take me longer than a few days but first I am going to try and get a new template loaded and a new look. Basically, I am just bored with how the blog looks! I lost my links but will easily recreate them as soon as I am done.

So I ask for your patience as I play a little here. Thanks!

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Laundry Verdict

I just realized I've posted quite a bit this past week, but I received a few emails in addition to the comments on our laundry dilemma so I thought I'd share what the verdict was. We spent literally an entire day shopping, researching, hitting 4 different stores here in town, and comparing. We were surprised at how almost every single model had tons of complaints about them online at places like and consumer reports. For machines that are in the thousand dollar range you'd think more people would be happy with them and they would be more problem-free. But I think there is something to the comments our parents make when they say "they don't make them like they used to".

We came away from it all a little mind boggled at what a tough decision it seemed to be to buy a mere appliance. Dominick and I both looked at each other at the end of the day and were at the same place in our thinking. If it doesn't come easily or doesn't feel right, it must not be right. I know it may seem silly and even stupid to some readers of our blog that we would ask God for guidance in buying a washer and dryer, but we have found over the years that if we make those purchases and the little Voice inside of us is not agreeing with our decision, then we will live to regret it. And for us, the purchase of a washer and dryer is NOT a little purchase and we will live with the debt for the next year or two, so that is always taken into consideration and it had better be worth it as we don't want to be making payments months from now filled with regret as we write the check.

So...we decided not to do it at this time. We had an older, used dryer that had been given to us last year that was in Dominick's shop for washing his detailing towels. It is the smallest standard size dryer and quite a bit smaller than our old broken one, but it works. It had ink stains on it in two places that were pretty bad, but it works. So, we cleaned it up and brought it home and at least the stinky camp clothes from two weeks ago are now clean smelling again. And we didn't spend a fortune.

I think our long term plan is to forgo having a matching set and eventually get a front loading washer as we really do need to cut down on our water usage for the septic system to last, but then to get a standard (read "not $1000") dryer with the biggest load capacity. Having our used one long as IT lasts...will provide us with time to make a better decision and maybe save some money towards the purchase. While I LOVE the beautiful greens, blues and reds of the new front loading sets...white will work just as well :-) Wish I still had my mom's old avocado green set that lasted 25 years and even then was discarded only because she couldn't stand the color anymore! Bet THAT set would STILL be going!

Patience with Grace

Yesterday afternoon I attended a baby shower...and it was a special one. It was for a family locally who is adopting a baby girl from Kyrgyzstan and is sadly caught up in the delays in Bishkek that will hopefully be ironed out soon. It was an unexpected pleasure to be invited to the shower, as although I have tried to help along the way the best I could, I am not a close lifelong friend of the family.

The shower was beautiful...the mom-to-be's sister had obviously put a tremendous amount of time and love into it and it showed. There were native Kyrgyz dishes, authentic (well, if you can't stick horses!) horse raises to celebrate the Kyrgyz love of horsemanship, and a Kyrgyzstan adoption quiz. I wish every adopting parent could feel that their adoption was so supported by their family. It was entirely appropriate, it helped educate their closest friends about the process and adoption in general, and was a time to celebrate that yes, she too is "pregnant" and deserves the same consideration as every other pregnant mom. While I knew no one at the shower really, I had a lot of fun sitting along a back wall with should I put this...perhaps I will call them the more "seasoned" moms. It was definitely where I belonged as this was the crew who actually recognized the photos of Eleanor Roosevelt and Nat King Cole as we played an interesting adoption oriented quiz game, while the more youthful mom friends up front had an easier time identifying such celebs as Faith Hill and Sarah McLaughlin. It was a hoot, and it highlighted for me that my age as a mom makes things more interesting...I can drift back and forth between the younger and the older moms and still have something in common with both sides of the fence.

What I have noticed most about this special expecting mom is that she has shown incredible acceptance and grace as she does what seems to be impossible...wait for her daughter to come home. Having been in her shoes more than once, and currently in her shoes again...the wait is interminable. It is especially hard the first time around when you receive a referral of a child who is a mere month or two old, and as delays continue you are watching them grow and change in photos sent to you and you are powerless to stop time as you wish you could so you don't miss a thing. With older children, the changes are slower and more subtle but with infants, a month or two can bring about significant growth, and you want nothing more than to reach through the photograph and cling on to them. You want time to stop so that you aren't missing out on your child's incredible first months. And although in your heart you may be convinced they are coming home there are still moments when you want to throw your hands up in the air and give up.

God helps. It has been obvious in this mom's demeanor that she has His reassurance that all will work out the way it is supposed to, and she doesn't need to be in control. That doesn't mean that inside she isn't experiencing some turmoil and some restless nights as the anticipation grows, and that there isn't some anxiety about the delays, but she carries it all with a sense of certainty that He is at work. It is my sincere hope that her sweet little girl comes home very soon, and I know this time will melt away the moment she holds her daughter in her arms the first time.

This family is so thoughtful, and seeing the love between the women was a treat. Mothers and sisters and aunts all recognizing that this is still a "real" way to add to their family and that this little one will be as much a part of them as if she were blood related, there was no distinction. I too received a tiny portion of their love as they presented me with a gift bag as a token of their appreciation. While I loved every item in it, the thing I (and the boys as well) got the biggest kick out of when I opened it at home later was the two custom made coupons for assistance in learning how to braid hair and make ponytails!! And if anyone ever needed help in that department, it is I. If it is not "wash and wear" boy style, I am in big trouble, so no doubt I will be calling on my new friends and taking advantage of their offer.

Interesting to me though, that while I spent time with 2 waiting families this week, for some reason I am seeing them from outside our own current circumstances. Although we are going through the very same thing right is as if I am viewing their situations from an outsiders perspective. I don't know if it is my way of distancing myself from the wait, of not letting myself get my hopes up too high in case things fall apart, or what.

Last night while in bed I asked Dominick "Do they feel like your daughters yet?" and he admitted that no, they really didn't but that neither had any of the boys until he met them. For me it is SO different, and I guess it has been for literally years with them. They feel VERY MUCH like my daughters. If I am honest, I felt something...that sense of recognition...the first moment I saw a photo of them. It continued to grow and grow, or perhaps it didn't grow but I was merely more willing to acknowledge the truth of the emotions and not hide from them. Meeting them in person was the knockout punch though, the incredible familiarity of the moment was unusual and completely undeniable. I literally felt like I was standing apart from the experience and needed to tell that woman that her daughters were right in front of her!

This is the most unusual adoption walk I have ever been on, it is more faith-filled and more quietly emotional for me than ever before. Holding a child in your arms and then walking away filled with the knowledge that they are yours and not certain that can ever become a reality...that one morning you will all wake up and sit around the breakfast table simply the most profoundly gut-wrenching experience anyone can go through. I haven't spoken much on the blog about the depth of emotion of all of this, I think because I am trying to avoid it myself or I would never be able to go about my regular day. It would be so easy to sit here, pining away for what will hopefully one day be. It is not an obsession, it is actually hard to describe. For me this time around, it is this intense feeling that they are already a part of us, that we are not trying to find our child as we have always had to do in the past but that our kids are there...just waiting on us, counting on us. The yearning is deep and very, very real and it appears it is not just my heart that is feeling it.

After we left the home of the folks adopting the sibling group of 3 this week, we ended up having a very interesting discussion with the boys which mainly Matthew and Kenny contributed to. It was obvious from Kenny's questions that he is trying to process all of this as it relates to him and our family. On the short drive home he asked "Momma...why that family want to bring home 3 kids? They already have 3 kids!". I turned the question around on him and asked him "Why did we want to bring you home when we already had 2 kids?" and when he didn't answer I said "It is because they have enough love in their hearts to add to their family and they would like to help those children have a home.". Ever the practical one Kenny said "But it's expensive...very, very bring home kids. Why they want to do that? They rich? They have a lot of money to take care of SIX kids?". Dominick and I both laughed and I said "Kenny, are we rich? Is their family any different than ours? Do you realized we will have almost as many kids as they will when the girls come home?". He got very quiet all of a sudden and then said "But God take care of us." very matter of factly and I added "And God will take care of their family too."...and he said in only the way Kenny can "Ohhhhh...." and by then we were at home.

We got in the house and all gathered on the couch and I asked Matthew as he snuggled next to me what he thought about all of this, as he had been pretty quiet. I said "Does it seem weird what they are doing?" and he said "No, not really but I think it will be hard for all of them." . I then asked "What about our family? Is it weird that we are bringing the girls home? Will it be hard for us too?" and Matthew thoughtfully pondered that for a minute and said "Mom, I can't wait until they get home, I think they are supposed to come home! It might be hard for awhile but it wasn't really hard with Kenny and he is cool! I don't really think it will be too hard. I don't know about the other family but I know with our family they are our sisters." and Kenny added "Yea, I can't wait either!". I then asked them both "Even though it means mommy and daddy will have two more kids to take care of and more of our time will be taken away from you?" and Matthew, my ever quiet one jumped in quickly and said "Mommy, we ALL have enough love to go around. We'll have two more really nice kids to play with! And we'll get the work done twice as fast with two more kids to help." and Kenny jumped in and sincerely added "Love just grows and grows, like you tell me mommy, it not stop, you tell me our hearts just get bigger and bigger and our hearts are really big!" and then he dissolved into Kenny-giggles as the image of that was so funny to him. Then Matthew said "Mommy, I really can't wait until they come home. How much longer? Do you think they'll like us?".

Yea Matthew, I think they'll like all of you...a lot.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Risks and Rewards

Taking risks, adding names not yet visible to the world, trusting they WILL come home!

This past week we spent an evening at the home of a local family who is in the middle of the adoption process to adopt a sibling group of 3 from Kazakhstan. I was surprised to learn they live a mere mile or so from us out here in the country a bit, and that their new "oldest" daughter will fall right in the middle age wise between ours coming home. We are only a couple of months behind them in the process so the kids will all be home learning English around the same time, which might be a nice support system for all of us.

In conversation with this lovely family, I learned that we are not unique in our experience of having others make thoughtless comments about our plans. They too have been subjected to the mindless opinions of others who think they are more than a little nuts to upset the applecart of their happy home by inviting 3 strange children to live with them along with their 3 younger biological children. I was very impressed (not that me being impressed matters one whit!) with their openness and thoughtful questions about all areas of the adoption and the possible adjustment issues associated with their new children. It was obvious that they have thoughtfully and carefully considered all aspects of this and feel led by God to move forward.

It all felt a little weird, actually, sitting here talking to someone doing almost the same thing as we are, looking through the beautiful photo album that had lovingly been created to send to their children-to-be, seeing our own hometown in the background of some of the pictures...and knowing what courage it takes for them to do this. And yet...the funny thing was as if I were standing outside our own experience and not recognizing that, yes, I guess it really DOES take courage because for us this feels so natural and part of our life plan that I am not at all really that scared. I am excited, a little nervous, and at moments a little concerned about the emotional issues that might arise...but I don't see us as being all that "courageous". There was this detached sense as I spoke with them, as if I was rooting them on from the sidelines without seeing our own story playing out in tandem with theirs. Very odd, and also a teensy bit sad that our families are both almost fearful of discussing something so close to our hearts with others for fear of hearing yet one more negative comment directed at us, as if we are all so stupid we don't know what we are doing and need someone to set us all straight. But as usual, God seems to boost us up when we need it, and the evening of freedom to share our hopes and dreams we had with one another as we walk through this unique moment in our lives served to hopefully bolster their confidence just as it also helped us.

I had another "light bulb" moment this morning when in conversation with our new friend Terri, who is adopting from Kazakhstan. We met Terri and her husband Jim while in California and Terri and I have sense shared some wonderful "real" phone conversations back and forth as we talk through the emotional challenges of adopting internationally. Terri has just created a blog which you can find at . While Terri and I were talking about this very subject...of how people make comments and can be so negative, she reminded me of something...we are not alone. If things go badly, if they unexpectedly take a wrong turn and we find ourselves pulling our hair out and frustrated beyond belief, we are not alone. We have the biggest, best support system, other than God right here...

under our own roof.

Our sons, our wonderful, loving, understanding, creative, accepting sons are here for us. How could I have forgotten such a profound thing? That we are in this as a family, not just as a husband and wife. I remember back when things were at their very worst with Josh, when I at moments felt I couldn't hold on and wondered if I was the worst mother in all the world because my own son couldn't love me, couldn't even let go enough to allow me to hug him, it was Matthew who lifted my spirits with a hug at just the right time, with a joke to lighten the load, with a drawing that to this day I still have that shows a rainbow and stick figures that was taped by my desk for years as a reminder of his love and His love. It will be they who remind me, when the going gets tough, that I really am an ok mom. It will be Josh, Kenny and Matt who will set an example for our daughters of what a good family is all about. It will be the boys who will model respect and kindness right alongside with us. The girls will be bombarded by 5 people who will simply not let it all rest until they "get it". They will be surrounded daily with love, with acceptance, and with pure "La Joy" joy that can not be ignored.

While we are blessed with a wonderful support system both near and far with friends and family who we know love us, it is right here under this roof where the real magic will happen.

Life comes with risks, love comes with risks, adoption comes with risks.

The rewards, however, are incalculable.

This and That

I have a couple of web sites to share with all of you. Not really adoption related at all, but I found them today and thought someone else might like them.

First of all, I have always been drawn to photojournalism, was a longtime subscriber to Life magazine and love the portraits of Steve McCurry. I just stumbled upon a web site that has some of the best photojournalism shots I have seen in a long time, the ones that tell a story without words, which to me are the best. Check out . If you check out the archives which you can find in a drop down menu at the upper right you will find the last couple of month's collections, some of which are mind blowing in their "right there in the moment" sense or their simple ability to draw you in. This one is definitely bookmarked for me.

The next one is where you can receive a check 4 times a year for cash rebates for doing nothing more than ordering online as you probably already do from various companies. Target and Walmart are participants along with hundreds of others that you are likely to already order from. I do a ton of online shopping each year, especially at Christmas time. I have no idea how well this works, but am going to try it and if you have used it before let me know.

Today Dominick and I are in the middle of the Great Laundry Debate. Our clothes dryer went out on us for the 3rd time right before the boys went off to camp, and we are now limping through with the remnants of what we had washed up and dreading the laundromat trip we know is coming up tomorrow or Saturday. We have bounced back and forth over this for two days now and are no closer to coming to a decision than we were when we began. You see, we have talked about the need to upgrade our laundry equipment since realizing we will soon be doing laundry for 7. We are on a septic system where we also have a terrible problem with a high water table, so our water usage is a big concern. We have thought about going with one of those front loading fancy washers that uses 10-12 gallons of water each load versus our current one of 45 gallons per load, as that might help us as we increase our water usage due to more laundry and more showers. The cost of a $20,000 septic system replacement is not something to take lightly. However, we weren't planning on doing anything at all for awhile, until our dryer went kaput and now we feel as if we might need to make a move now rather than wait, since we can not repair the dryer again.

Can I tell you how it galls me to even consider buying a washer and dryer that cost as much as a used car? When did this all happen??? Now I know all the arguments in favor of doing this, the long term cost savings, energy savings, bigger loads, less soap, and on and on and on. But man, I expect to at least get cruise control and anti-lock brakes for the price of these babies. We did hours of research online today, and came away even more confused as epinions and Consumer Reports had reviews from users that were all over the map...some loved their front loaders, some hated them, and it appears there are serious issues and concerns with almost every major brand, even the ones that cost the most.

We really like the idea of a stacking set, as our laundry room is tiny and if we stacked a set it would leave us room to build in another pantry area. All we have right now is a small pantry cupboard which is one of those white, build it yourself cupboards from Home Depot, and we have been a little concerned about pantry space as well as our family is growing, so that might solve a problem.

So we have a lot of considerations here, all of which seem pretty minor to everyone else but to us make a big difference and the financial commitment is a big one as well. Especially when you feel like no matter how much you spend you are still going to bring home a unit that will almost be guaranteed to be problematic. I am almost beginning to agree with those who claim that manufacturers only design their appliances to last 4-5 years so we have to by new ones after reading all the negative online reviews about every unit we looked at. I usually don't have a problem in the world spending money :-), in fact, I am usually quite good at it! Hahahaha! But this purchase has both Dominick and I stumped. We might just throw in the towel and get a standard gas dryer and call it quits. But then again, I am afraid we might find ourselves "double buying" if we get our newest additions home and find ourselves swamped in dirty clothes.

A friend of mine tried to relate it to getting our minds switched over to the new technology when digital photography came along. It is more costly up front versus cheaper film cameras, but in the long run you are glad you made the change and end up saving much more money than you expected. I hate purchases like, hot water heaters, stoves and other know, the "must haves" but the unexciting purchases.

So if anyone out there would like to contribute their two cents to this decision making process, I'd love to hear from you.

We are taking a week of down time, haven't done much of anything for a change except the boys have played on their slip and slide every afternoon, slept in late, and we went to the Drive In movie last night where I managed to fall asleep before the end of the first feature which was Wall-e. Living in a small town, going to the Drive In is actually quite reminiscent of the "old days" as it is the place where you see friends and other families you know hanging outside their cars on a warm summer evening, kids run around down front under the screen (yes, ours too!), and the little snack bar overcharges terribly for popcorn. Our Drive In is the only one left in the United States that has been continually owned and operated by the original founding family. It's a cute little place and a lot of fun to visit and a cheap family night out.

I haven't even had the urge to blog much, although I have a couple of other topics tucked in the back of my mind to ramble on about. Nothing all that important, as it never really is, but things rolling around in my head.

But for now, it is off to bed where I will no doubt have visions of Maytags, Whirpools, and Kenmores dancing through my head.

Monday, July 21, 2008

And The Results Are In!

Our shopping extravaganza is over, and the results are better than expected. With calculator in hand, three little boys did quite well after hitting no less than 6 stores, here are the results:


7 pairs of jeans
1 pair orthopedic shoes
1 package socks
1 package underwear
1 hoodie jacket
1 shirt (because it was cool and only $3.49)
Grand Total $200.39


7 pairs of jeans
1 package socks
1 package underwear
1 hoodie jacket
15 shirts (half of them for next year because the prices were so good!)
Grand Total $208.57


6 pairs of jeans
2 packages socks
1 package underwear
1 hoodie jacket
15 shirts (half of them also for next year)
1 pair of shoes
Grand Total $181.20

So I think our winner is definitely Joshie, although admittedly his pants were less expensive. Poor Matthew had almost half his budget spent on shoes, about which there was no choice or ability to shop around for them, so it wasn't as fair a contest as it could have been. But we would have been further below budget if we hadn't seen the camouflage hoodies at Walmart for fall...and no surprise here, they all wanted the exact same one, just as they all wanted the exact same backpack. I think this is so funny because I expect them to want to express their individuality more and all the three of them want is to be alike! I am glad about that, I guess, except for when it comes to laundry time and I have to sort clothes that are all similar and need to actually look at tags to figure out whose is whose.

You would think we would have a ton of hand-me-downs even within our own family, but as the boys are growing older that is proving to happen less often than I would have thought. Matthew is a totally different body shape than Kenny or Josh, and pants other than dress slacks are worn so hard by all 3 of them that they just don't last long enough to pass down most of the time. Kenny is our hardest on clothes, being more "boy-like" in terms of stains, rips and tears, therefore he will not hand down much to Joshie. Joshie is kind of on the tiny side, he has a very slight build and Matthew's bulkier framed clothes won't hand nicely on him at all and instead make him look swallowed up. Plus Kenny and Josh are often in the same shirt size. Kenny has totally different taste than Matthew when it comes to shirt...he loves turtle necks and Matt doesn't. He loves and would wear button down collar shirts every day to school if he could while Matthew prefers bolder patterns, is on a Hawaiian shirt kick right now, and loves abstract patterns even if on a polo shirt.

But man, did we "score" on the shirts for Kenny and Joshua! Beautiful polo shirts on clearance at Sears for $4.49 each as well as nicer striped/patterned T-Shirts for $3.99. Believe it or not, Kenny is still wearing a 4/5 in some shirts because he is so thin. He only weighs 58 lbs soaking wet, and finding pants for him is a real challenge. Anyone needing to find much thinner than the usual "slim" pants for boys should check out Sears Toughskins. I know many of you reading this are planning on or might bring home a toddler or older boy who is malnourished and have the same problem as we are having finding something to fit. We have tried on no less than 10 different brands of "slim" jeans over the past year only to have them all at least 3 inches too large in the waist, and found Sears was the only one that was REALLY slim.

One of the cutest moments of the day was when Matthew and I went to JCPenney to shop for pants for him, and on a sale rack we found some boys clip on ties. Matthew smiled at me, looked at the price and said "Mommy we HAVE to get these for Kenny, they are only $1.97 each!". Kenny has begged for a couple more ties, as he loves wearing them with a dress shirt to church. Now, our church is not at all formal and he is the ONLY boy there wearing a tie, but he has decided that he will make a fashion statement and loves dressing up (he has even asked for a sport coat!), and I am tired of seeing the same blue tie on him that was a cast off from some outfit of Matt's years ago...actually I think it may even be the one from his court outfit when we went to adopt Joshie. So, grinning to each other we picked out 4 ties, and after paying for our purchase we wandered back to the play yard where Dominick was keeping an eye on them while Kenny and Josh played. We called Kenny over and Matthew said "Kenny, close your eyes! We have a surprise for you!" and Kenny said "A present for me?" and closed his eyes. Matthew laid all 4 ties in Kenny's hands and when Kenny realized what they were he was SO excited, he actually jumped up and down. It was a hoot! So now I will be escorted by my bargain hunting, tie wearing Kyrgyz gentleman this Sunday :-)

This proved to be a really effective way of getting our kids, especially Kenny, to better understand the cost of clothing them, to look for bargains, and to shop very carefully. Although Joshua still doesn't really understand it all, he loved walking around with the calculator punching in the prices he found on tags. Matthew has always been very frugal with his money and I think will be a wise spender in the future. He already has no need for the "cool clothes" or name brands as he thinks they are a waste of money when he can have something equally nice for less. I realize that may change as he gets older but with him I tend to doubt it, as he has already learned to carefully budget when he has earned money himself and wants to spend it on a trip or for a Lego item. He often says "I can't believe how much that is!" when thumbing through the beloved Lego catalog. Kenny, on the other hand, is just beginning to understand the value of labor vs. money spent, and this was a great way to teach him today. He was at first looking at $25 jeans and saying "Look momma...that's a LOT of money! I can't buy much if I get that!" and then we saw the shirts at Sears and he got very excited about the price which was marked $5.99 but was even more reduced at the register. At the end of the evening tonight he was most impressed with how much they all got for the money they had, and I could tell the lesson had started to really sink in.

When you have a child who has never used money, spent money, or earned money in their 8 or 9 years of life, nor have they heard their parents discuss it on a practical basis, it is hard to teach them the entire concept of what money can buy, the value of things, helping them have a basis for comparison. When you have never even bought a candy bar before, money is an intangible concept...$25 is the same as $100. You don't realize how much the baby steps to budgeting happen when kids are little and they get the quarter for a gumball and then gradually that quarter becomes a dollar for a candy bar, and then the dollar becomes 10 dollars for a toy bought with birthday money. Without those building block experiences, it is all meaningless. So with an older child, you have to go back and recreate those building block experiences...and not just in the area of finances but in all areas of life. There are the building blocks of learning about members of a family and how they are related, the building blocks of how a person owns a house, the building blocks of how the government works and who pays for fireman and roads to be built, the building blocks of country versus state versus county versus city. All of these things are gradually learned by kids in families through conversation and explanations when they are toddlers on up. But it is often assumed that a 9 year old ought to know many, many things about life. Our 9 year old does not and it is our job to provide the puzzle pieces to him that he will then eventually put together to create the entire picture.

Today, for example, we had explanations about the following:

1) When a person dies, who makes the decisions about how to bury them. What is the hierarchy of power in that situation (i.e. do kids make the decision? Do spouses make the decision? etc.). This conversation and subsequent explanation went on for over 15 minutes.
2) Why would someone want expensive clothes?
3) What is a budget?
4) How do mommy and daddy pay for things like school clothes? Do we have enough money for them?

...and so many more things I can't remember. Honestly, there are moments when I suffer "brain fry" from all the questions, but then I remind myself that if I am suffering brain fry, he must be too as he tries to figure this all out. Often I have to think really hard about the approach I use to explain something, especially the more nebulous topics. I have to backtrack to explain something that is the building block for the actual answer to the question. Luckily Kenny is a really bright kiddo and usually understands why I backtracked and he appreciates the fuller explanation. There are also many times when his questions remind me just how many gaps still remain in his life experiences, and how many times I have assumed something or forgotten that he couldn't have possibly known something, and then I beat myself up for a few minutes over it. But just as it will take him years to catch up, it will take us years to explain it all. It won't happen overnight.

We received our final letter from the boys from camp today. They asked that I put pre-addressed and pre-stamped envelopes in their suitcases so they could easily write to us. I did so half-expecting that we would receive nothing from them knowing that the hustle and bustle of camp would keep them busy. I'll be darned if we didn't receive 2 letters from each of them and they both sent one to Joshua as well to surprise him! Kenny had his bunkmate help him write his as he, of course, can't really write a letter yet. When we checked the mailbox on the way in last night as we returned home, Matthew and Kenny were both very excited to see their letters had arrived and they could hardly wait for us to open them. It was pretty special to know they cared that much.

We heard from our Wichita friends today and learned it was a good thing they returned home when they did without a moment's delay. I hate it when you care about someone and are far away when they need to feel more cared about than ever. You feel helpless and useless. But I am reminded that God is with us always, even when others can not be. It is far better for Him to be there than little old us. And no doubt, He is with them right now.

We received our dossier preparation package right before we left, so now it is time to get busy on Stage 2. You'd think I'd have all this memorized by now, wouldn't you? But it is always a little different each time. Tomorrow evening we will be spending the evening with a local family whom I have never met but who is adopting 3 children, siblings, from Kazakhstan. Dominick has met them before and they called and asked us to come over and share our experiences with them. I am a little nervous, as always, when meeting new people but it should be a nice time.

Now I have tags to cut off clothes, washing and folding to do. Hmmm....we passed Purchasing 101 with flying colors, maybe we need to move on to Laundry 204!! But if we do that, we might find ourselves back at Purchasing 101 because of damaged clothing so maybe we'll just stick with the basics for now :-)

The Best Laid Plans....Go Awry!

The best laid plans...well, you know how that goes! We are sitting here at home, alone, after an oh-too-brief 24 hour period with our friends from Wichita. Upon receiving news of a family emergency it was decided that it would be best if they immedaitely returned home, much to our group chagrin.

We went over to pick up the boys from La Foret, our wonderful Conference church camp in the woods of the Black Forest in Colorado Springs where we found 3 very tired, very happy little boys. Our two plus Matthew's buddy were grubby and worn out after their week of fun. I was glad to hear that Kenny had done very well, having issues with one little boy that wasn't a real surprise to me...I guess Kenny has a little competive streak that came out during free play time when they decided to play tennis every afternoon. Kenny came away with the love for a new sport that we now must try at home! But I was also reassured that other than that, he was truly well behaved the entire time and they enjoyed having him. I was also told that he alone was mostly responsible for them winning the cleanest cabin award not once, but twice! Matthew made a new friend at camp that he thoroughly enjoyed, and he even got to stay in a yurt, which for him was most appropriate!

We arrived at the hotel and excitedly waited for our friends, with little boys peeking out the lobby windows as we waited for their car to appear. When they got there, they piled out of their car with their 4 kids and we had our 4 including Matthew's friend and it was controlled chaos from that moment on! With tons of extra helping hands...well...maybe not so helpful but trying to was quick work of getting luggage upstairs. I couldn't help but sit back and marvel at how beautiful their children were. Their two oldest daughters were adopted from Matthew's orphanage a few months before we traveled to bring Matthew home and they are all a month apart in age. We last saw them when all 3 kids turned 3 years old, and here they are all grown up and big 9 year old kids.

The instant connection between every single one of us was the coolest thing to experience. It wasn't 5 minutes and we all felt as if we had just seen one another a week ago...not years and years ago. The kids were all giggling and goofing around, and the adults were as comfortable as could possibly be with each other. This is one of the most unique friendships I have ever had in my life, an incredible blessing in a million ways. Since it turned out we had such short time to share with one another I am glad there was none of the "getting to know you" stage that would have wasted the little time we had...instead we all just jumped right in to having fun with none of the expected awkwardness one would expect.

We all went for a walk at the Garden of the Gods where the rock formations provided a place for the kids to scramble up and down and burn up some energy. After dinner we went to the hotel for a swim, all the while doing continuous head counts so we didn't lose track of anyone. It was a total riot, and everyone was so well behaved it was a joy to be surrounded by all these terrific kids. I think anyone who saw our group must have thought we were totally crazy, but I know none of us adults did and we got a kick out of it. At breakfast the next morning the kids all sat at one table visiting and after about 20 minutes of getting them all set up the adults all sat down at another.

It was yesterday morning on the way to the zoo that the bad news was received and our morning of joy turned to one of sorrow as hard decisions had to be made, and the realization quickly came that 24 hours was all we were going to have together. When someone you care about receives painful news you want so badly to do something to make it better, to help them through it all...and yet sometimes all you can do is provide a shoulder to lean on, a solid and heartfelt hug, and understanding of what they need to do next. While we were all very dissappointed at our time together being cut so short, there was no doubt that they needed to return home and sadly the coming days will be very, very hard for our friends.

On the bright side though, I think we all came away from our day long escapade recognizing why we have managed to maintain this friendship long is because we are incredibly compatible and view life through the same lens. All this did was whet our appetite for more, and we are all going to do what we can to see one another again as soon as it is possible. Amazing to me how God puts such good people in your life sometimes, ones you can love so easily. And with them, it is very, very easy to love each and every one of them.

So we now have an unexpected and unplanned week ahead of us. Dominick is going to take off the days he had planned on so we can have some family time anyway. We know we have an incredibly challenging year ahead so grabbing on to days like these is important. Today we will head off to Grand Junction to do some school clothes shopping, and we sat down with all 3 boys to create a budget and make a game out of seeing if we can come home having spent less than we expect. Each has his own list of what is needed and a budget, and we will see how much less than our overall budget (which was pretty low to begin with) we can spend. Each boy has been allotted a certain amount depending upon what they need...Matthew and Kenny both have no pants and underwear and Matthew needs his special orthopedic shoes while Kenny needs shirts. Matt has an abundance as he finally fit into a bunch of brand new polos we bought 4 years ago plus we have an entire box of gently used ones to go through that we received this weekend from our friends. Backpacks were already bought so that is covered. So basically each boy has a budget of about $215 to buy 7 pairs of pants, shoes, shirts and underwear. Think we can do it?? Hahahaha! You BET we can!! Joshie's budget is $260 because he needs a bit more in the way of shirts. We'll see how it goes, but the kids think this is an awesome game and the calculator is coming along.

So off we go! A different week ahead than we planned, but surely it will be a nice one regardless. And we send much love out to those who are not with us but were supposed to be...we'd much rather be hanging with you then going to the mall!

Friday, July 18, 2008

You Are NEVER Going To Steal My Joy!

I am writing tonight from a very questionable hotel room in Colorado Springs after having driven 5 hours to get here to pick the boys up from camp tomorrow. I have two snoring men near me...ok one snoring man and one mumbling little boy...and am trying to get the room to cool down from it's original 80+ degrees!

I want to thank everyone for their uplifting comments to my blog post of a couple of days ago. My feelings were a little raw, I'll admit, and it is all beyond understanding to me sometimes...the hurtful things people will say and do. But earlier today I received a short email from a woman I greatly admire and who is quietly cheering for us on the sidelines. She reminded me that all of our kids will have love, and NOTHING else is more important than that. Even if others are proven right and we are driven to the Poor House by adopting again, that Poor House will be a happy one.

I also made another giant leap today. I shipped a package off to Kazakhstan with some school supplies in it, and a couple of small birthday presents for our youngest there whose birthday is coming up soon. The whole school supply thing gets me every year. I see all the excitement in our boys from getting new pencils, pens, folders, etc. and I always think of the girls who don't get to experience this simple right of passage every year marking the arrival of fall and another new school year. So I bought several things and admit I even got a kick out of picking up folders with hearts and rainbows on them rather than trucks and super heroes.

I wrote a letter to them as I always do, which will be translated for them. I never say anything all that interesting but I share what is going on in our family, a nugget or two about the boys and their exploits (I forgot to tell them about the Lego episode!), and try to encourage them and let them know someone cares. I got to the bottom of the letter and stopped dead in my tracks. I wavered back and forth, trying to decide what was the right thing to do, then I decided to let my heart lead.

I signed it "Love, hugs and kisses....Mommy".

Leaps of faith, my friends...big ones and small ones on both sides of the ocean.

On the long drive over here I listened to two CD's I just purchased, my first ever contemporary Christian CD's. Not usually my kind of stuff, but I previewed Steven Curtis Chapman's album in the store and thought I might actually enjoy it, aside from the adoption connection. I discovered a gem of a song "One Heartbeat at a Time" many of you...and our lives as moms who care. You've got to hear this one, and if I wasn't so ignorant I would be able to get an MP3 player on the blog and let you hear it here but that doesn't seem to be working.

The other album I got (I haven't bought new music in years and years) was Mandisa's album. After hearing her at the concert last week I couldn't resist, and this one will get played millions of times I can already tell. But as I was driving over here I realized there may be just one song that was the reason I ended up with her album. After all the negatives others have cast out at us, and after thinking about it hard and long and looking inside my heart I decided I am not going to let ANYONE steal my joy!!! God has worked an absolute miracle in our lives and the lives of 2 children (ok...FIVE children!!!!!). Why in the world am I letting ANYONE steal the joy of this God thing going on??? I AM stupid!!! As is written in her lyrics below "Life may push my heart to the limit" and in so many ways I have felt that way the past couple of years particularly. So many highs, so many lows, so much pain to witness, and so many moments of incredible, absolute God given joy. My heart certainly has been pushed to the limit...but "...the world may try, But they're never going to steal my joy"!

Nope, I am DONE with that! Thanks again for the love, support, encouragement and friendship so many of you have offered up to us.

Let people talk behind our back, let them roll their eyes...they don't live my joyful life and I am NOT going to let their words slip in my heart and sour it.

MANDISA - (Never Gonna) Steal My Joy

Album: True Beauty (2007)

I look at my life
And I still can't believe it
How did I make it
To where I stand now?
You don't understand
I was up against the whole world
And all I could feel was it breaking me down
But out of a hopeless situation
There came a song of redemption

Life may push my heart to the limit
But I won't let go
Of the joy in my soul
‘Cause everything can change in a minute
And the world may try
But they're never gonna steal my joy

So get up, stand up
And rise above it
If every plan
That you've made goes so wrong
You don't have to give in to the struggle
You may be down
But don't stay there for long
In every hopeless situation
There is a song of redemption

The world may say
You're never gonna make it
The world may say
You're not strong enough to take it
But I don't care
‘Cause the joy of the Lord is real
And they're never gonna steal my joy

Now, on to tomorrow and looking forward to even MORE joy when I have my Boy Trio back together and I dish out hugs to our friends when we see them!


Hey...does anyone out there know how to embed a music player/MP3 player on the sidebar of your blog and then play your own music selections....not just those available from a 3rd party for making a playlist? I'd like to know how to do that as my blog is SO boring and dull, and I'd love to jazz it up. One of these days I need to learn how to come up with a prettier layout than the standard ones offered by google too, but don't know how. I wish I was more of a techie.

Anyway, if you have a simple ENGLISH (read that as "for dummies") explanation you could offer for how to do this, could you email me? I'd love you for it! I might not be able to respond quickly as we are on our way to Colorado Springs to get the boys from camp and FINALLY see our friends again!!

Thanks to any techie guru's who might be able to help! See ya on the flip side! Hahahaha!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

If You Have Only One Skill...

A holy man was having a conversation with the Lord one day and said, "Lord, I would like to know what Heaven and Hell are like."

The Lord led the holy man to two doors.

He opened one of the doors and the holy man looked in.

In the middle of the room was a large round table. In the middle of the table was a large pot of stew, which smelled delicious and made the holy man's mouth water.

The people sitting around the table were thin and sickly. They appeared to be famished.

They were holding spoons with very long handles, that were strapped to their arms and each found it possible to reach into the pot of stew and take a spoonful. But because the handle was longer than their arms, they could not get the spoons back into their mouths.

The holy man shuddered at the sight of their misery and suffering.

The Lord said, "You have seen Hell."

They went to the next room and opened the door. It was exactly the same as the first one.

There was the large round table with the large pot of stew which made the holy man's mouth water.

The people were equipped with the same long-handled spoons, but here the people were well nourished and plump, laughing and talking. The holy man said, "I don't understand."

"It is simple," said the Lord. "It requires but one skill."

"You see they have learned to feed each other, while the greedy think only of themselves."

I received this story via email this week, and perhaps it is one that has made the rounds before but I had never read it before. I thought it was a very powerful illustration of all we have often lost as human beings...of the lack of connectedness and humanity that would provide simple and obvious solutions to what at first appear to be complex problems.

But how many of our problems are really that complex? What really can't be resolved with just a modicum of kindness and generosity of spirit? How often do we all "starve" ourselves, be it emotionally or physically, because we can't reach out beyond our own isolation and ask for help or offer help to others. We fear appearing weak, we fear revealing our inner selves to others for fear of judgment, we fear that we might actually have to DO something if we reached out to someone else, never recognizing that in helping others we are helping ourselves as well.

And we find ourselves sitting at a table, slowly starving while we feed on our fears.

What a great sadness that we don't all immediately recognize our interconnectedness, that we unneccessarily divide ourselves. We lose so much ourselves by not grabbing that spoon and feeding our neighbor. For when we "feed" others we somehow find ourselves being "fed" as well. We become so focused on the problem at hand, that we don't see what is right before our eyes.

The only skill that we need, the one that will serve us to be able to serve others. That servant attitude, that dropping of our haughty veneer, can allow us to learn more and to be more than we ever might have imagined.

One can debate over and over again what Hell really is. Is it a burning lake of fire? Is it a never ending gnashing of teeth? Is it inhabited by a little man in a red suit with horns and all of the unbelievers?

Or is Hell the hunger of a child, the unheard cries of the unloved, the loneliness of the forgotten?

Is there Hell on earth?

And the bigger question remains,

Are you the vision of Heaven that could reach out and touch those who are hungry, unloved and lonely?

Thank goodness for those who don't ignore the person sitting next to them, who do not turn a blind eye to their need whatever it may be. Thank goodness for those who do the uncomfortable things that cause others to turn away. For those who see the humanity and dignity with which every person ought to be treated.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Attitude of Those Not In Our Shoes

I heard from someone this past week that they shared our adoption news with someone we both know, and they got a "rolling of the eyes" from this mutual acquaintance which was somewhat unexpected from the source...and somewhat hurtful that this information would be shared with us at all.

The response we have received from so many has been overall kind of negative, to the point where I feel little joy in telling anyone and have kept it more to myself...which also seems wrong as we will one day show up with more kids in tow and then have to explain why we didn't say much.

I really and truly don't want a big deal made about it, we are not looking for any sort of praise or anything. What I would like is to be able to feel comfortable sharing something that for us is one of the most exciting things to ever happen to us and a true miracle from start to finish without feeling weird or defensive about it, as if adding a couple of children to our family is almost something to be ashamed of rather than to be joyful about.

It is hard for me to understand why people feel free to say the following, all of which we have heard in recent months:

1) You ARE going to be done after this, aren't you?
2) Why would you want to do this? You won't be able to afford to do anything!
3) Mark my words, you will regret this.
4) Do you know what you are bringing into your home?
5) Those kids are totally damaged and will ruin your sons
6) Are you going to be one of THOSE families...the ones with 20 kids or something?
7) Can't quit while you are ahead?
8) You don't know what it is like to be poor, you'll end up living in a trailer
9) I just don't get it, aren't you happy with the boys you have?
10) Now you'll really have problems with all of them being siblings

and I could name a dozen more less than kind things that have been said. It amazes me as I would never in a million years say some of the things to others that have been said to me...I would consider it none of my business and not my place.

What people don't seem to understand at all is that this is not something we are doing for attention. It is not something we set out to do years ago, to have a large family. It is not a "mission" project. It is not even something we ever imagined for our lives.

We simply don't have a choice.

We have kids that are not home yet, kids I never dreamed of having 8 years ago when we first adopted Matthew and thought he would be our sole child. Kids whose hearts are waiting to be joined with ours. And through God's miracle and a financial blessing from another family our remaining children will one day be home.

It is hard to explain that to someone who is callous and not walked in our shoes. It is hard to express how every single night you have prayed for the welfare of a particular child or children whom you know are at risk and unloved. It is beyond painful to carry someone in your heart for years and be unable to offer them what they need the most.

But I hadn't realized how much harder this adoption would be in terms of the judgment of others over our decision to adopt one last time. I have been a bit blindsided by it, this thought process that others have that it is ok to voice the fact that they think we are idiots and that this "adoption stuff" is sheer lunacy. It is hurtful to hear that others are talking about you behind your back.

And why, I ask? Why is it so bad to want to love a child? Is there something inherently ridiculous about that? We aren't asking for your enthusiasm, but what we don't need is your condemnation. You can think we are nuts, you are entitled to your opinion (and many who know our family well might agree that we ARE nuts!), but you don't have to voice it.

With the notable exception of a few close friends and our church family who have proven to be quite supportive and understanding, we have had the negative on a regular basis. That is what makes the thoughtful moments more the other night when one of my closest friends called late in the evening after having seen Dominick in town and learning that things are moving faster than we expected. She just wanted to tell me that she and her husband were so happy and excited for us, and that single phone call meant so much. When your "pregnancy" is not obvious to the world, or when it is perceived as what should be "unwanted", knowing that someone doesn't think you are making a huge mistake is enormously helpful and lifts the spirit in ways she probably won't ever understand.

So we continue to move forward, preparing ourselves, arming ourselves, and sadly...protecting ourselves.

Most importantly though, we know we are walking with God in this, that we are absolutely moving on what we feel is His will. That may not always set well with others, but we know no other way that works for us.

The attitude of others who are not walking in our shoes just has to be overlooked, pushed aside. But on some days that is easier said than done.


Joshie and I are finally home after taking Kenny and Matthew over to Colorado Springs for church camp. We have 3 days home and then are on our way back over where we will pick up the boys and meet up with our friends from Wichita. We had a long conversation on the phone tonight with them, and it always surprises me how comfortable it feels with them...and we have only been around each other twice before for a couple of days each time. It's just a great fit between all of us, we "get" each others' senses of humor and we parent very much the same way. I think all of us are looking forward to it and Dominick even said "I can't wait, we are going to have a total blast when they are here!". The house will be a little crowded with 11 of us altogether in here for a week, but for some reason I doubt it will bother any of us that much. We were counting it off and we will have 4 nine year olds, 2 five year olds and a 2 year old. Now, isn't that a recipe for fun? I have much to cram in before then though, so the next couple of days will be packed with work.

On our way home today Josh and I stopped by our adoption agency. I realized that Josh had never been there that I recalled, and although it was not the purpose of our visit it was also a good opportunity to explain to him how these people had all helped he and Matthew and Kenny to come home. I was greeted so warmly from the moment I walked in the door that even I felt at home there. I myself had only been there a couple of times, as it is so far from our home and we really have no reason to go there with the use of the internet. However, I had wanted to check out their resources and see if there were any items there that might better help prepare us for our newest LaJoy's coming home. I know it might seem strange after 3 adoptions to think we feel a need for more training, but each child comes to us with their own unique background and "baggage", and this will be an entirely new road for us to walk down. While I would not say I am scared, I think it is safe to say we both have a healthy respect for the challenges we might face in the future and want to do what we can to be able to spot things quickly, identifiy potential areas needing attention, etc. Overall, these children will come to us having been through the most emotionally, and to discount the effect that will have on them is simply naive. We are hoping for the best and doing what we can to prepare for the worst.

As I stood there chatting with this person and that person I was really struck by the fact that without these people, my family as I know it would not exist. Seeing the photos plastered all over the walls of all the families they have helped form (including a photo or two around of our family) you begin to see that they are the unsung heroes of adoption. They do the legwork, they hold the hands of frantic families, they fret over regulation changes of foreign governments which are totally out of their control. And yet I rarely read much praise online about all that agencies really do for their clients. As is often the case, those who are unhappy tend to be more vocal than those who are satisfied. It is much easier to criticize than to praise. By the time we are through, we will have adopted 5 children using Adoption Alliance, and they have never once made a mistake with our paperwork, they have always been professional, they have never been caught in a scandal, they have coordinated well with our various placing agencies (5 kids and 4 different agencies, don't even ask me how we managed that!) and they really do care about the kids and the families they work with. Over the years I have heard some of the most awful stories about poor agencies, stories that have even hit the national media and are ones we could have used ourselves. I am thankful for every agency who has been involved in creating our family as each one has proven to be ethical and caring. Believe it or not, they are not all in it for the money.

I want to add that I am particularly grateful for Leonette Boiarski at Pearl S. Buck Foundation. I contacted several agencies explaining our unique dilemma and none of them cared to work with fact abrely gave me the time of day. Leonette was the only one who really heard my plea, who saw beyond the fact that this might turn out to be a dead end road and said "I'll see what we can do.". To even have that much of a response was more than I was able to hope for by that time. Once again, a faceless person held our fate in their hands, and cared enough to do the best they could for an unknown family.

We may not be "faceless" to Adoption Alliance, but it is not as if we see anyone there often. I guess we have been very lucky though in the fact that many people have "taken up the cause" for us, and we have been blessed each time with wonderful Social Workers who cared, and surprisingly remain in touch with us or have become good friends. I have never understood the attitude that some adopting families have that creates an "us versus them" relationship with their caseworkers. Social Workers don't relish the fact that they sometimes have to deliver bad news. They don't go into your home on home visits looking for reasons to deny you the right to adopt. They are not really there to judge you, but to help you walk through the process, identify areas of concern, train you as best they can for the unknown, and help you see things from a different perspective which then helps you as you are faced with the many difficult decisions that you must make along the way. They are your partners, not your enemies! I know we may have been lucky and never had the "Social Worker from Hell", but most that I have met through the years really do care. Our Social Worker for Matthew's adoption is now pregnant herself with her first child, and I couldn't be happier for her as we reminisce via email about us being her first international homestudy and us thinking Matthew was the only child we'd ever have :-) Regardless of our age difference, we have both come a long way.

So I walked away from the agency with 5 or 6 books that look like great reads and 3 videos that will hopefully help us wrap our minds around what our future might look like. And I know if we run into challenges, we have a great team behind us to help with input.

Josh and I really enjoyed staying a couple of nights at our friends' in Denver. I had a late night "girl talk" which was much needed, and felt like I had a bit of a respite where someone else did the cooking and cleaning and I was able to just relax a little bit. It is quite interesting to me how this particular friend has found herself in the role of sounding board for many friends who have adopted, she is literally surrounded by it and has been for years. She is an "adoption magnet" and her insights from years of watching from the sidelines are always thoughtful and introspective, and she is one of the few people with whom you never feel judged, and right now that is a valuable help to us.

All in all, we had a nice weekend and a much nicer one to look forward to!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Adopted Sisters

I am one Pooped Mommy! We had the first day of our 2 day Cub Scout camp today, and it was SOOOOO HOT. I am the kind who doesn't just whither in the heat, I feel on the urge of collapse much of the time. Must be due to being "Pasty white girl" as we joke about in my house, which is much better than being called "mayonaisse" as Dominick used to joke. I actually have had a couple of hours to myself as I begged off going out with the boys to a 4H BBQ which I would have enjoyed very much but all I wanted to do was sink into the couch, put my feet up, have an icy cold Diet Coke and watch Law and Order reruns for a bit. I am dreading having to actually go back tomorrow, not because I don't have fun with the boys but because it is expected to be hot tomorrow too and I also have not packed them up for church camp which we leave for by 6:00 AM Sunday morning...and so what am I choosing to do with my time? Am I doing the laundry I need to do to pack or getting duffle bags ready? Noooooo...I am sitting here writing!

I did have a nice diversion with a phone call from our friend who we reconnected with this week, as we planned a little for our reunion in Denver and really just used it as an excuse to visit some more :-) As we enter a new phase of our adoption process, another friend of mine who is quite insightful revealed to me in an email recently that she had been praying for me to be blessed with someone who understands exactly what I am going through right now. It has been so wonderful to sit and chat, to share the wonder and joy of it all and to admit to the fears with someone who has been there, done that, and questions herself too. I think we are both very excited to see one another again in August, and are looking forward to hours of yacking that will probably drive Dominick nuts!

My mind has been back again and again lately to the book I recently read "They Women Who Raised Me'. I am recognizing that I am in a very unique and unpredictible stage of my life right now (I think that is actually a bit of an understatement!), and I am amazed at the people God has brought into my life at various times throughout it who have walked side by side with me at various times. They may not be "raising me", but they are certainly "sistering" me in a million ways. It is not always just a shoulder to lean on or an ear to bend, sometimes it is practical help like offering to pick up the small essentials at Walmart for my kids for camp, or taking them on a trip to the library, or being willing to hash the same subject over and over again to help me see through the haze that I have usually created myself. It is standing in a parking lot for an hour as one of my other long-time "sisters" tries to help me see things in myself that I don't always see as she doesn't want me to walk through life feeling the way she has. It is having mothers of girls reassure me and offer the gift of hand-me-down clothes along with hand-me-down encouragement. It is others opening up their hearts to me as I open mine up to them, and doing so gently yet fearlessly in the hope that it helps one another to feel less alone. It also comes from so many of the readers of this blog who take the time to write privately or share emails. It is someone who I can yell "Yeeee Hawwww" to via email OR in person and they don't think I am a freak but instead yell write back at me!

And there are moments when I simply don't know what I would do without every last one of them, these sisters of mine who are sometimes carrying me when they don't even know it. What bothers me is not feeling as if I am offering the same thing in return, as if it is all take and no give at times, especially right now.

It is sometimes hard for me to believe that there was a time in my life when I really could not connect or understand this friendship factor that so many women had but I was not a part of. I preferred men for their uncomplicated friendships and direct approach. I don't know whether it was that I really preferred male friendships or if it was that I was not ready to open up that part of myself that becomes necessary for the more intimate friendships that women enjoy. Now I wonder how I ever lived without my many sisters, all of whom have special gifts that they offer up to me at one time or another.

Sisters or not though, I don't have anyone here doing my laundry, so I had better get off this thing after all and get moving!!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Moving From "If" To "When"

There comes a time in each of our adoptions when reality takes hold, when we let go of doubt and fear and greedily and eagerly grab hold of certainty. This may happen when a necessary document arrives, when a referral photo is stared at for the umpteenth time, when a small gift is received that fits a tiny little body that has yet to be cuddled. Prior to that moment, we adoptive parents let the wall stand tall in an attempt to protect our hearts from being broken. After all, so many things can go wrong, and our entire adoption process can come crashing down around us like a shattered plate glass window...and if you stand in front of that window you are bound to get seriously injured. Or perhaps it slowly and quietly unravels and we finally have to accept that a particular child is not coming home or we are not going to the country we had researched and prepared for all those many long hours.

What others don't understand is that using words like "if" or "maybe" is a protective mechanism. It is the equivalent of a pregnant woman not revealing her status for the first 3 months in case she has a miscarriage. When she gets to a certain point in her pregnancy, she lets out a sigh of relief and begins to share with others as she feels a certain amount of confidence that she will not lose the baby. We adoptive mommies carry around a ton of very realistic fears that stretch far beyond a bio mommy's worries of miscarriage. After all, we are dealing with government officials of two different countries...and we all know how reliable government officials are!! Hahahaha! We have a million things that can go wrong that will keep us from our prized goal, and they are all out of our control. Perhaps we try and cling to a glimmer of control by not allowing ourselves or others to make assumptions that everything will work out fine and we will indeed bring our child home. Sometimes we wait until the last minute to outfit a nursery or buy clothing, or maybe we avoid conversation when others repeatedly ask us when we are going to travel, because we don't know what is causing delays and we are fearful that even by talking about it too much we might "jinx" it.

And believe me, the single hardest moments are when you receive a new photo of your awaiting child and they have grown and changed, and you feel as if you are watching their childhood slip away right before your eyes via email. I remember receiving a new photo of Josh days before we traveled and crumbling into tears because he looked so big and sturdy, as if he was a toddler rather than the infant we knew we were bringing home. He had changed so much from his initial photo taken a few months prior, and I felt a profound sense of loss for the weeks and months that had been taken from us as we waited. This may sound silly to those who have never gone through it, but for those who have I can just imagine the nodding heads as they read this. Through these kinds of experiences we are reminded once again that loss occurs on all sides of the triad, not just on the sides of the child and the biological mother.

Today though was the moment when it happened, when in my own mind I moved from saying "if" to "when". We received some terrific news about our adoption and things are moving much faster than we anticipated. I was literally dumbfounded for a moment when I read the email early this morning, and suddenly had enough nervous energy for 10 people. Later, as I was speaking with a friend on the phone, I realized that the word "when" didn't want to lock up in my throat, and my hope had turned to certainty that I felt safer grasping on to then I had a mere 24 hours before. In such a short span of time my entire perspective changed, and I moved from doubting my faith in the process to trusting that it was really going to happen. Will this trust prove to be foolhardy? Yes, I suppose it still could...but Someone wants the girls home with us and is making it very clear that He isn't wasting any time in making sure it happens. And today, finally, I got to the stage where I will lean on that and trust it will happen. I threw "if" out the window and grabbed hold of "when" with all my heart as it flew in .

I also had another "Oh Wow, I guess that is true!" moment recently. While in Chicago my friend and I went to an Archivers scrapbooking store, where her daughters and I wandered the aisles saying at least 3,642 times "Oh...isn't this cute!!" as we looked at all the doodads and whatchamacallits. As we rounded a corner, one of my little friends said "Look at this Cindy! You'll need this soon!", and in her hand she held some Girl Scout embellishments. To say I mentally stopped dead in my tracks isn't much of a stretch, I was speechless for a moment as I processed that information...that indeed my life is about to change dramatically and I will soon be the mommy to girls, which has always scared me a bit and brought about fears of my own inadequacies and my ability to be a good role model for girls.

Growing up and even as recently as 2 or 3 years ago I never saw myself parenting girls. I am not a real "woman" in many ways...I don't wear makeup at all, perhaps twice a year, I don't wear fingernail polish, I hate doing my hair and don't even know how to really, I am not good at putting things together in terms of decorating or clothing, I am most happy in a pair of jeans and a comfy T-Shirt and that is pretty much my wardrobe 90% of the time. I am not a good cook, nor am I really interested in it. I am not "soft" or demure in my attitude or actions, but am more coarse and tough. I could care less about jewelry and wear only my wedding ring and a watch religiously. There are just a million ways in which I am not a typical beautiful, soft, gentle, organized, "womanly" kind of suburban housewife.

So here I am, standing in a store far from home looking at Girl Scout stickers and thinking to myself "Oh My....I am in BIG Trouble here, aren't I???" and a tiny amount of panic starts to set in as I contemplate a future filled with Barbie Dolls (Yuch!!!) and barretts that I don't know the first thing about how to put in hair and the color PINK everywhere!!

And just as the panic swells too far I recall a smile, tears, eyes that speak to me when words can't be translated, arms wrapped so tightly...desperately around me. And I know that for all the things I might not be, for all the things I might not be able to set a good example of, there is one thing that is the most important above and beyond all else.

They are my daughters and I am their mom.

There, I said it. For the first time. By using the word "daughters" I am claiming them as mine. Despite all my failings and all their fears, we belong to each other and will muddle through together.

And I have firmly moved from "if" to "when".

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

"Coincidence"??? I Think Not

I have long since stopped believing in coincidence, instead seeing Divine intervention in many things. Sometimes it is subtle, and other times it is so obvious that to proclaim it as anything other than God working would be ridiculous. Today was one of those days when coincidence collided with faith, and faith won out.

I had two incidences that were equally incredible, but I will only share one here as the other is more personal in nature and something I am not at all yet ready to tackle understanding myself.

We were working on one remaining document for our adoption paperwork so that we could mail off Stage 1. We had to locate our first placement agency for Matthew, which had ceased to operate a few years ago when the owner elected to move on to greener pastures and leave adoption work all together. We needed to sign a release so that information could be shared and provide a contact address and phone number. Not knowing where to start, Dominick called the Secretary of State in Kansas where the agency operated, and after being transferred a few times and explaining in triplicate our circumstances, we were provided with a contact number for our former agency Director. I phoned her, leaving a message explaining why I was calling and hung up, thinking nothing more about it, hoping we would hear from her sometime in the next couple of days.

Later in the day I received an email from her, and looking forward to a nice chat after about 5 years since having last spoken I phoned her at the number provided. What ensued was nothing short of the aforementioned Divine Intervention.

Nancy picked up the phone and within a moment or two said that when she heard my phone message at work, she literally had a shiver run up her spine as just the morning before she had been looking for our contact information. Now mind you, it has been about 5 years since we last spoke with one another...what are the odds that I would be contacting her hours after she was looking to contact me? We chatted, catching up on what is going on in our lives, and eventually came back to why she had been looking for our phone number. We were talking about how we only make it over to Denver once a year, sometimes twice...and she asked what time of year we usually go. I said usually late summer or fall, but this year was a little weird because of other things going on in our life. She said she had been trying to call us because she and her family were planning a trip to Denver as well, and she wondered how far we were from there.

I asked "When are you going to be in Denver?"

She replied "The first week of August."

To which I squealed out a loud "No Way!!"...we are going to be in Denver ourselves the first week of August as we will drive out for Adoption Alliance's Kyrgyz family picnic to be held on the 3rd, which is the day she will arrive in Denver. Both of our families will be there on Monday as well, and both of us have no plans for that we do have plans now to spend it together!

Coincidence? I think not.

This goes so far beyond the realm of coincidence that it is almost frightening.

Later, Dominick and I talked about this and other "coincidences" that have occurred recently and we realized we are walking in a very odd and unusual place right now. It is a time for us when we almost expect these things to happen, as they are so frequent that we have ceased to be amazed and have moved well beyond that to recognizing God's enormous power in our life at the moment. There are things that happen that just go beyond all explanation, and this was one of them...and the other event which I will not share but which also happened today was another very firm way of God speaking to us.

To say I am in awe is not enough. To say I am in a state of suspended disbelief would be totally incorrect, as it is more accurate that I should say I am in a "State of Total Belief". We walk away from these occurrences shaking our heads, smiling, and feeling somehow guided and protected...and laughingly in complete agreement with those who have come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as a coincidence.

We hadn't had contact in almost 5 years. The day before we try to contact her, she is trying to contact us. We learn we will be in the same city on the same day far away from our homes...and that we will have the same day free to spend with one another.

Yea, "coincidence"...sure...that's all it is.

Monday, July 07, 2008

An Afternoon to Remember

Yesterday we had big plans to go to the hot springs pool and spend the day with a picnic lunch before attending the Night Vision concerts in the evening. The boys were very excited and everyone pitched in to pack our lunch and swim suits, and we climbed in the car to take off. As we drove south through town Dominick and I both looked at one another and silently realized we may not be able to go as a storm was very obviously moving in quickly. As we stopped for gas I phoned the pool and found it had already been closed due to lighting sightings, so I had to relay the bad news to the kids give them credit...were disappointed but understood and there wasn't much complaining.

The conversation turned to what we should do with our afternoon, which was quickly becoming quite overcast and windy. It was too early for lunch, and we didn't want to go home and hang out as we were all primed to be out doing something together. As we were driving slowly back through town, I suggested we stop on Main Street (Yes, we really do have a Main Street which is our main thoroughfare) and walk up and down it checking out the little shops which we never stop to do. The boys halfheartedly agreed and so we piled out and started at a new place, a corner art gallery housed in a late 1800's building that has been renovated. We meandered through, slowly looking at the variety of wonderful art created by artists right here in Montrose and nearby. To say we were surprised at the degree of talent right here in our own town is an understatement. We are not "artsy fartsy" people, not at all cultured and are downright "hicks" essentially. But we all really enjoyed looking at the art done in various mediums and got into it by asking the boys which piece by each artist they enjoyed the most. We surprised ourselves by remaining in there longer than we expected, really enjoying it! Matthew was drawn to the photography displayed, as was Josh. Kenny really was fascinated by the pencil drawings of birds in wildlife scenes. We then sat down and thumbed through a book about photographing nudes as an art form, and I was pleasantly surprised once again to have all three boys interested in it without the anticipated giggles and embarrassment. There was nothing overly graphic in it, but they seemed to understand that the human form is beautiful in and of itself and pointed to a couple of particularly beautiful photos.

We left and wandered through a couple of gift shops before stumbling into a used book store. Is there any scent that mimics the smell of a store chock full of used paperbacks? is one of a kind, and brings to mind exactly the kind of day we were having...a rainy, lazy day where you can curl up with a good book for hours. I found a book which was a sign of what we should present at our church retreat, and Matthew of course picked out an old book about the battle of Gettysburg while Kenny selected a Disney book that he and Josh will share. I also found what looked to be a very interesting selection about Faith and Rock and Roll music, we'll see if the interest level matches the title once I read it.

It then started raining very hard so we scrambled back into the van and drove down a couple of blocks where we passed an art center we had never been in where they teach all kinds of classes from glass work to drawing to paint your own ceramics. You can do the painting of ceramics anytime, and we surprised the boys as we went in and let them pick out a small item to paint...then Dominick and I each said "What the heck!" and decided to paint something ourselves. So there we are in the almost empty studio painting our little cars (Matt and Josh), mice (Kenny), number tiles for the house (Dominick) and I was struggling to find something to paint. I finally settled on a fairly small heart shaped plate. I didn't know what to do with it, and the wonderfully gifted woman who runs the center offered suggestions and had me look around for ideas. She encouraged me to let go of worrying about it to be perfect and just paint something without regard for all of that. I decided I was going to make a plate for the kids. I painted it with rainbow stripes that sort of blended into one another (my mom won't be surprised at my decision to paint it rainbow style, a throwback to my youth and still my favorite thing of all time). It looks cheesy, I'll admit it. But then I wanted to add some writing on it but anyone who has ever seen my handwriting would cringe at the thought of that, so the woman kindly offered to do it for me. I had her write each of the kids names around the outside of the plate, including our hoped for 2 new additions, and in the middle I had her write "Love in any language". It looked awesome!! Suddenly I felt like I had made something kind of cool, sort of like a kid does when they want to show off their latest masterpiece from school. Even she loved it and said that when it is fired it will turn out terrific and was very unique. I hope it looks good once it is done as I plan to hang it in my kitchen if it does. The boys wanted our names on it as well, but there wasn't really room as it was really kind of small.

It was such a nice quiet time together, doing something we would ordinarily never do or would have the boys do but not ourselves. All 5 of us there, heads bent over our carefully crafted pieces, intent and focused on what we were each doing with hushed conversation between us. It is sad when one thinks about it, how we as adults are unable to do so many things with the abandon and lack of fear of judgment that kids approach things with. How much of ourselves are we stifling and how much joy do we miss out on simply because we are worried about looking stupid? Kids don't care, they just jump right in and are happy if their car has yellow wheels with paint slopped over the sides or if their colors don't match. They are so free in that sense, and it is something I could have a little piece of back from my own childhood.

We then went home to have our picnic lunch there as everything around was then soaked after quite a rainfall even though the rain had stopped already.

Our family doesn't often do things like this, and we all agreed it was a great way to spend the afternoon, even if the pool would have been first choice. We joked about how we were going exploring in our own little town, which with the size of it is quite funny to think of "exploring" but there are often things we drive past every day without stopping to take a closer look. Our Saturday afternoon adventure served as a reminder that stopping to see the little things can be as much fun as hitting only the bigger things.

And I'll always remember Joshie with his hand in mine, a delighted smile on his face as looking up at me he said "Mommy, I just love the smell of rain!".

Sunday, July 06, 2008

A Smattering of Thoughts Splashed on the Blog Wall

I am sorry I haven't written that much this week, and I have no real excuse other than I didn't have the energy to do it. My mind has been filled with many tasks, many thoughts, many emotions and I tried to sit down and write a couple of times but the words didn't come and I ended up staring at a blank screen, so I threw in the towel and went on with my life. I've also had well over a hundred emails about various topics in the past 6 or 7 days which has kept me busy as well, with a few still left to answer.

I have been in a very strange place, spiritually and emotionally speaking, and it is a time of profound growth for me. I have leaned on and learned from close friends, but have been surprised at how I forgot to lean on the One whom I most should be turning to for guidance. How does that happen? How do we lose our way sometimes so quickly and easily? It was funny, and maybe it was Him working through others, but the minute I got some things off my chest I felt relieved and renewed. I am in a better place than I was two weeks ago when all of this started and I began to feel everything closing in on me, that I was way over-committed and sinking fast. I know that realistically, the truth is we do have an inordinate amount of stress in our lives right now, and it isn't going to get any better so I need to get a handle on how to walk around with a cloud of peace surrounding me rather than a smoky cloud of frenzy trailing along.

I have read a couple of books this past week (one while in Chicago and in and out of airline gates!!), one that was motivating and the other I found definitely worthwhile reading but disturbing and sad.

The first book was one popular right now with lots of book clubs "Three Cups of Tea" by Greg Mortenson. I can't recall who left it for me in my tray at church, but it was incredible...a story that speaks theme I have written about in my blog in the past about the power of one person to change the world in some way. The author is a unique "Do'er", he is a man who saw a need, felt a call, and acted on it. Although this is not a Christian oriented book, Greg's honesty, integrity and deep sense of following a path laid out before him by a Higher Power really sets a remarkable example. His understanding that education can change a nation and his desire to set out to do just that...educate the masses in Pakistan and then Afghanistan one school at a time is thought provoking, and you can see how God moved in his life to allow him to achieve things well beyond anything he might have initially dreamed possible. But, the thing I loved about his life story is he DID dream big dreams, and you begin to realize that by dreaming big dreams much more can happen than if you only dream small ones...even if the original end goal is not achieved.

And what would happen if all of us dreamed just one big dream and believed in it with all our heart and soul?

The second book was one I picked up at the airport after realizing I had a loooonnnggg day ahead of me. "The Women Who Raised Me" is the autobiography of Victoria Rowell, who succeeded in ballet and then moved on to TV starring in "The Young and the Restless" and "Diagnosis Murder". This book was written as she traced the roots of her life, from being removed from the care of her schizophrenic mother when a toddler and wanders through the paths that carried her to each of the women who had an impact on her life as she gratefully and graciously acknowledges the value of their input. Intended in many ways to be a celebration of the love and care shown her by a variety of talented, loving women...I came away from the experience of reading this book recognizing the damage that can be done to children that lasts a lifetime when they are placed multiple times in homes, and when they have no "real" family to connect with that grounds them. It left me wondering if there will always be a gaping hole in Kenny and the girls' lives because of what they didn't have...and if there is anything at all that I will ever be able to do to fill the hole up that I know exists within each of them.

Sometimes I think we are getting there with Kenny, and other times there are subtle little things that make me wonder. I don't know if I can even articulate it here, it's just a gut feeling...a neediness despite his independence...a yearning to almost crawl inside of me that I feel from him sometimes that can not easily be explained to someone who has not adopted an older child who really wants to bond with their new family and yet has sooooo much that is empty inside of them. I know it is early in our relationship, a mere year old, but I know I have half the time to help him become whole versus a biological child or Matt and Josh who came to us as infants. Thinking of the girls and the job I have ahead of me there, after reading this book, makes it feel almost an impossible task. For most of us recognize there is far more to adopting an older child than making certain their educational needs are met, or that their food, clothing and shelter needs are met. It is about meeting their soul needs, and most often those souls are badly damaged, sometimes beyond repair. Perhaps that is why I feel at a much deeper place in my faith right now as I know the task before me is virtually impossible be it not for having Him running the show. I need to recognize that He is working through Dominick and I, and we have to let Him come through or we will not be able to help our children become all that He intends for them to be.

I found myself picking the book up and down, reading it in spurts as I digested the pain described, the strength revealed, and the loneliness of the human soul...a loneliness a child or teen should never have to feel. And I wondered as I read it why these things were the things that came through for me, rather than what I know the author's intention was of paying tribute to the difference other can make in a life. I did see the powerful impact others made in shaping and forming her, and I know that she could have ended up in remarkably different and much more troubling circumstances without the presence of these women, these surrogate mothers, aunties and sisters. But it was hard to ignore that she had two children with two different men in two very troubled relationships. It is hard to ignore that there was expressed within her writing a lifelong searching that I hope was satisfied as she completed the book, for we are really taken along on the journey with her to discover herself and the end of the journey was the end of the book, so it could be it had the cathartic effect one would hope it would have.

It also made me ask myself...what impact am I having on others' lives? Aside from my husband and children, am I making a difference? Am I missing opportunities to show God's love and light to others? Am I walking past someone every day who is
hurting and am I too callous to see it?

And maybe the bigger question for me right now is, what is my real purpose here? Where am I being led and am I fighting it, not recognizing the truth of what it should be, or imagining something totally off base? I know, of course, that one of my main reasons for being here is to nurture my family the best I can, which I often fail at but strive to do as well as I can. But we all have other reasons for our existence here...lives other than our family's which we are to be intertwined with. Figuring it all out is so hard.

On to another smattering thought...we went to a Christian concert featuring several artists last night. It was called "Night Vision" and was a two day event in Olathe, Colorado which is the next town over where our kids go to school...a tiny little town which is known mainly for it's world famous Olathe Sweet Corn and the festival of the same name to celebrate the harvest. Now I am totally not in to Christian music. I am an odd little duck and don't fit the mold of the suburban Christian soccer mom very rankles against me and doesn't feel comfortable. Don't know why, I'm just cut from a different cloth I guess. But the concerts were free, some friends were going and I knew we would see others there we care about, so why not? But mainly, Matthew begged to go to see Mandisa, who was a contestant a couple of years ago on American Idol which we watched avidly that year as we loved her. She really made an impression on all of us as she kindly, gently put Simon Cowell in his place and really won him over with her honest and heartfelt direct conversations. She was all class, and was a shining example of what being a Christian should be all about in terms of forgiveness, turning the other cheek, doing what God wants for you to do in spite of what others think you ought to do. Matthew really connected with that, although I doubt he would be able to explain it. So off we went to see Mandisa and a group called Mercy Me, who I think I know one song of and didn't care much for their harder edged style, and another guy who I had never heard of DeWayne Woods (I know some of you out there are probably shaking your heads in dismay that I don't know any of these people). I loved DeWayne Woods and would gladly attend another concert of his...his backup singers were awesome and I tend to lean more towards that gospel oriented sound.

When it was time for Mandisa to come on stage, Matthew and a couple of other younger kids we were with asked if we could go down to the front to watch her right in front of the stage. Against my better judgment I and 5 little kids trudged down to make our way to the front in a crowd of s few thousand people. It was a stormy afternoon and evening, and the air had the smell of rain to it, and the sunset through the storm clouds and the resulting beams of light cast across the sky were enough right there to bring you closer to God. A stunning show in and of itself.

So we get to the front, which is not that full yet but does have mostly older teens and older folks there, and they all made room as it grew more crowded for my short little crew. We were joined by a few middle school girls who I know a little, and we all joked and had fun that I needed to be with them so I could scream and yell and not feel weird about it...they thought that was hilarious and encouraged me to yell along with them and not worry what anyone else thought. Matthew stood there silently waiting while alongside a young female friend while Kenny, Josh and another little boy played in the dirt at my feet. Finally it was time for Mandisa to go on stage, and there she was in all her buxom glory, worrying not a whit what others thought of her size or shape. And she started belting it out, from start to finish going full bore.

I am often moved by music. Being in our choir singing certain pieces it will get me every time, even though they are not at all contemporary. Good music, well written music has tremendous power. But I have not felt what I felt last night in years and years...probably since my teens when music was so important to most of us. She was singing about my joys, my sorrows, my struggles...and God was included in it all. She was rockin' the house and yet it didn't feel phony. It was real, it wasn't like an act replayed night after night. You could literally feel God's presence there and I was reminded of why He is in my life, because He brings me peace, joy, answers to my questions, and I guess my life is simply better with Him than it was without Him.

I was encouraged to quit worrying about the things that don't matter as much as I make them weight which keeps me from feeling free in many ways, my lack of understanding of so many things, my failings. I had never really felt encouraged in that way just stop worrying about the things that don't matter or fretting over the mistakes I have made and just move on, keep on, dream on...and believe.

One of my greatest Kodak moments came in watching Matthew's face from a few feet away as I got pushed a bit to the back and he was entranced watching everything on stage. His uplifted face lit by the stage lights, as usual not showing much emotion but his off-key voice carrying as he sang "Our God, is an awesome God..." as she jazzed it up a bit. It is his favorite Christian song that he came home singing constantly after his first year of church camp, and having her sing it there in an even more upbeat style obviously touched him. At one point he looked over at me, and then the grin came...ear to ear...and my quieter son and I connected in a crowd of thousands knowing we each were going to take away something from this night that might be on different levels but would be equally valuable. I am so glad I share this thing called music with Matthew, who although not necessarily musically inclined has a sense of the Divine in it.

We are getting ready to go to Cub Scout day camp at the end of this week, and then on Sunday I drive the boys over to Colorado Springs for week long church camp. Unlike last year, I will not be staying with Kenny so they will both be on their own as I have Joshie all to myself for the week. La Foret is a very special and sacred place, and having not been to summer camp myself ever when I was a kid I feel so blessed that we have the chance to have our children go...they talk about it for months afterwards and eagerly await the next summer when the can once again attend. For Kenny, this will be his first time really on his own this long away from home, and I hope he does well with it. A friend at church has thoughtfully asked people at church to write the kids so they are not only hearing from their parents, but from other who care about them as well. I am sure they will be excited when the mail comes and they receive notes from others.

I will have the chance to see a friend of ours in Denver when I am over there, and am looking forward to spending a few hours immersed in "girl talk" with someone whose opinion I value and whose heart knows mine.

After that, on our return trip to pick up the boys from camp we meet up with our Wichita adopted family and they will then follow us on in to Montrose after an overnighter in Colorado Springs. What great anticipation we hold for their visit after 5 years and the addition of 2 children on each side since we have last seen one another. There is no doubt how God blessed us with this unique friendship that has somehow held together despite distance and busy lives and lack of communication as often as we'd like. It is one of those where you leave off and jump right back in whenever you can, with no grudges and yet an immediate desire to share the big stuff with them as it comes along. We all understand one another and our lives...that we do the best we can and sometimes we have more to offer than others. I can not begin to emphasize just how much they have meant to us over the years, and what a joy it is to watch all of our children grow up in photos sent often (or blogs read! hahahaha!). I know we have prayed for one another through hard times on both sides, and now we get to spend a whole week together just hanging out...yeee haaww!

I am also knee deep in planning our church retreat, which was a real struggle at first and something I was sort of bucking against but has started to fall into place. We have a fairly small church by today's standards, and I have to move past thinking of the amount of participation equalling success. I am working on that a lot in my mind, coming to realize that if 5 people or 50 people are involved, it doesn't matter and all need to be nurtured and fed the same. If 5 people walk away having their lives touched it is far better than having 50 who walk away unchanged. Not sure how many we will have in attendance, but it will be a fum event either way. I was very frustrated trying to come up with programming, as I am the world's least creative thinker for stuff like that...not my "gig" at all. But I think I stumbled upon some ideas and have even more ideas, thanks to others, tucked away for future events and maybe it will all turn out ok.

We had a funny little emergency the other night. Just as I was about to yell out to ask the boys to stop running in the house Matthew and one of his buddies explained to me that Joshie needed me right away. I walk into their bedroom and there he is, sobbing...with a round Lego stuck up his nose. Yes, my brilliant child had somehow decided that cramming two red Legos up his nose was somehow a good idea. He quickly informed me that one of them had come out, but the other was stuck. After my immediate thought of "I can't believe ER bill for a Lego removal!!" I decided it was a tad bit funny so I loaded him up in the car for the ER after having determined it was really too far up there for us to safely remove. I walked a trembling little boy in to the hospital as he told me over and over again that he was really, really scared and I tried to reassure him that it was all going to be ok and nothing would hurt, other than my wallet...hahahaha! As we checked in at the desk and I struggled to get out the explanation without bursting out laughing, the nurses, MD's and staff all within earshot all started explaining "My kid did that!", "Mine did it too!", and "Mine was a bean up the nose!" so I guess it is more common than I thought. After having it safely removed without a wince or a cry, we were handed the red Lego to hang on to for posterity and Josh finally smiled saying "Thank you mommy for helping me get the Lego out. I'll never do THAT again!". And at the moment all I could think was how glad I was that this going to leave us with a funny story to re-tell and that being at the ER was not for a more serious injury.

And to end my pointless ramblings here, we are almost finished with Stage 1 of our adoption paperwork and ready to get it all in the mail. It moved along a bit more slowly than I had anticipated as we had a lot more to do than we expected, but we are trudging along and getting things accomplished. One thing that held us up was the need for a family photo, as I realized we don't have a current one with all of us in it as I am always (by design) behind the camera myself rather than in front of it. Taking care of that this weekend I'll get it printed and we are done!

I warned with the title to this post that it was nothing more than a mere smattering of thoughts, so I hope the rambling and jumping hasn't been too boring!