Friday, October 15, 2010

Parenting with grace?

Oh, today is full of SO many wonderful parenting moments that I don't even know where to begin.  I was thinking of the title of my blog, "Parenting with grace".  I wish I could say that every moment of every day is full of grace based parenting where I look at the wrongs that my children have done, put a sweet smile on my face, sigh and just praise the Lord for these wonderful blessings that He has given me called children, all the while showering them with hugs and kisses and gladly forgiving them for having wronged me in some way or another.  If that is what you think of as "parenting with grace" then you are reading the wrong blog and I apologize. You may want to tune out right now. 

Let's start with a little dose of reality....we are living in a foreign country, trying to homeschool our two oldest, while adapting to two new additions into our family...namely a 1 and a 3 year old.  Let's just say it's been a while since we've been the parents of a toddler and a preschooler and we are re-learning as we go.  We are both in the healthcare profession and we know all about growth and development, but reading books and having head knowledge never prepares you for the reality of living 24/7 with babies who crawl, put everything in their mouth, have potty training "accidents", have to touch EVERYTHING, and have no way of expressing themselves when they are upset other than to cry.

My morning started with a spunky 9 year old who decided to give me attitude over (I can't even remember what now).  That led me to quickly realize that I needed a healthy dose of exercise!  Thankfully, the management installed a new treadmill in the facility gym yesterday so I clipped on the iPod and had a healthy dose of 60 minutes of all consuming sweat accompanied by some head banging Christian Rock Music.  That's always good for my soul.

Next, we got to experience the sheer panic of losing our second credit card in two days.  The thought of being stranded in a foreign country with no access to our home based funds was cause for great stress.  After a 30 minute man hunt (OK, credit card hunt) and tearing our two bedroom apartment apart we found credit card #1 stuffed in the cushion of one of the chairs.  We also found some other very interesting items along with this search.  It became apparent very quickly that we have a "hoarder" among our children.  Hoarding is a very common phenomenon among institutionalized orphans.  It is something that we have never had to deal with with our other 3 children, but we are now acutely aware that this is going to be an issue for one child in particular.  About an hour later we found credit card #2 in the drawer where we keep our plastic bags.  Oh boy!  We need to watch this one like a hawk!

Not too long after the credit card hunt we had another child decide to "shoot" 4 hair elastics off the balcony to see if they would clear the pool.  Needless to say, they DID NOT clear the pool.  Guess who got to go swimming to retrieve said hair elastics?  Normally, going swimming would be cause for joy for this child, but it seems that when you force someone to get in the pool against their will the "fun factor" of swimming loses its appeal.

This was all accompanied by a 10 year old who "forgot" that it was her chore to wash the lunch dishes for the 3rd time this week, a toddler who didn't get a nap yesterday and is still recovering, a husband who was gone all morning trying to deliver documents to the embassy, and trying to pack for a 4 night excursion that we are leaving on tomorrow.

I'm sure I'm leaving out many wonderful "events" in my day but these are definitely the highlights.  And, when you put them all together along with all of the other stresses of life I have to admit that I didn't always handle myself with the most gracious spirit.  But, isn't that what life is all about?  Not being perfect, asking for forgiveness and learning from our mistakes.  That is the grace that God our Father bestows upon us every second of every day.  I am certainly undeserving of His grace but yet He continues to pour it down on me.  And, what I can do in return is to turn around and try to give a little bit of that grace to those closest to me.  I don't always do the best job at that, but I'm trying.

I'd like to think that this "parenting with grace" thing gets easier over time, but I think what I am finding is that the challenges don't go away...they just change over time.  Thanks for walking with me on this journey.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Note from Dee

Dee handed me her journal the other night and asked if I would please put this on my blog.  For those of you who don't know, Dee is my "spunky" child.  You never have to guess what she is thinking...she wears her heart on her sleeve and isn't afraid to tell you exactly what she is thinking...for better or worse.  She has had quite a struggle with this adoption.  She has especially struggled with Hannah.  At first, it was because Hannah didn't want anything to do with Bill and Dee couldn't understand why Hannah wouldn't absolutely LOVE her daddy like Dee does.  Then, Hannah started warming up to Bill and now adores him.  Dee is still struggling.  Now, she struggles with the attention that Bill gives Hannah and there is definitely some jealousy and resentment that we are working through.  I believe that God is working great things in both Sarah and Dee through this entire process and every once in a while I get a glimpse that the work that He is planting is taking hold, even if it is deeply hidden most of the time.  Here is her entry:

"It is bedtime.  Hannah hates going to bed because...well, I don't know why.  Anita cries when we put her in her crib. I think she thinks it is jail. LOL.  I (heart symbol) my family. I used to think they were losers. Well now looking in those orphanages at all those poor children, now I know why my family adopted us. God has it all planned out."

She is such an amazing kid. She has always been very strong willed and opinionated.  I always believed that these qualities (if properly nurtured) could lead to great strengths some day.  It is my prayer that God will continue to work mightily in all of my girls but especially Dee.  I believe He will because she holds on so tightly to her bitterness and anger at times that it is going to take a mighty God to work through her and to show that He is more powerful.  I strongly believe that His hand personally protected her from further injury in the accident that claimed her sister's life.  She was literally millimeters from death due to the nature of her head injury.  So many things could have turned out very differently but He saved her and I have to believe that she is going to be part of a much bigger plan than any of us could ever imagine.  

And Dee Dee......  I (heart symbol) you too.   

 Love Heart symbolImage via Wikipedia

Friday, October 8, 2010


Monday morning this past week we decided that we needed to get out of the apartment. We were going stir crazy!   We ran some errands and did some shopping to bring supplies to the baby home where Anita had been.  We delivered sugar, flour, eggs, fruit, laundry soap and some other much needed food items for them.  We spent some time with the babies, who all just cling to anyone who offers any attention whatsoever.   It is a very sad place!

Many of the babies that they have at this particular orphanage are unadoptable.  They have a family member who will not sign them over so that they can be adopted.  The family does not want them but they refuse to allow these children a chance at a better life.  So, here they sit every day until they are moved up the system to homes that take older children until they turn 18!  Some of the reasoning for this could be religion (Muslims do not believe in adoption), some corruption (the families are hoping for money), or possibly just for lack of understanding.  It is very, very sad.

The workers do a good job managing the 24 babies, but they are hurting for supplies.  The children play outside in the dirt with broken toys, soda bottles and sticks.  There is no purpose to their play.  It is simply survival.  They are dirty. Most of them smell.  When you pick them up you are more than likely to put them down only to find a stain of some sort of body fluid still clinging to you.  But, that does not stop you from picking up the next one.  There was one child (I do not even know if it was a boy or a girl because they all share the same clothes) who would not stop clinging to my leg.  Whenever I would put "it" down he would return, clinging and crying, looking up at me with those big brown eyes pleading to take him away from there.  My heart broke.  All I could do was hold him and love him for the time I was there. I cooed at him, held him, rocked him, smiled at him and before leaving I prayed God's blessing over him. I do not know the plans that God has for that little life. I pray for something so much more than what he knows to be his life right now.

It breaks my heart for him, but more than that it breaks my heart to know that he is only ONE.  ONE orphan who will never know the joy of a forever family. ONE orphan who will never have his boo-boos kissed. ONE orphan who will never have a birthday party.  ONE orphan who will never be tucked in and kissed good-night.  You may say, "yeah, so he's only ONE. What is the big deal?"  The big deal is that he is ONE orphan out of 163 million!!!

The problem seems so huge and so helpless.   I am so thankful that God has given us the opportunity to love on not just ONE, but FIVE of His precious children and that these beautiful faces won't be ONE more lost soul in the sea of orphans around our world: 

Thursday, October 7, 2010


We have been in country for 4 weeks today.  It is amazing to think that in that period of time we have become a family of six!  We were blessed with a court date and positive ruling on Anita Hope.  We get to pick up her passport today and can start the process of applying for her visa to the U.S.   We are still awaiting a court date on Hannah and hope to hear some news to this regard either today or the beginning of next week.

It is very easy to become frustrated while we wait.  Believe me, I have had my moments!  I am trying VERY hard to focus on something positive.  One thing that keeps coming to mind is how blessed we are that we were granted temporary guardianship of Hannah so that she is able to be with us right now.  If we had not been granted that guardianship than she would still be living in an orphanage 6 hours away from us. Instead, we get to start each morning with her smiling face, a kiss on the cheek, a "Good Morning Mommy" and "Good Morning Datty" and a request for a "Huggy"  (every one syllable word that ends in a consonant automatically gets an added syllable at the end). It's quite cute!  She is very precious.  It is amazing to see how she has come out of her shell and is beginning to find her role here in our little family.

When we first got her she was shell shocked.  She had spent her entire life at the same place.  She was loved and cared for by the nuns and she was fed, clothed and protected.   If you know anything of orphanages you know that there is some sort of "pecking order" that goes along with the children.  Even if there is structure in their day to day routine, the children still figure out a way to all have their "place".  When Hannah came to us she struggled to find her "place" in our family.  For the first few days she would just wander around with a very forlorn look on her face.  She would do whatever you asked her to do, would kick the ball if you kicked it to her, would return a hug, etc. but she would never initiate any form of play, affection or other activity.  

After a few days you could see her confidence growing.  She would feel free to venture out of the room on her own, started talking and singing (in her language) and would repeat anything you asked her to.    She started to feel comfortable sitting at the table with us instead of on the floor to eat, using utensils instead of her fingers,  playing and laughing with her daddy and big sisters.  It is amazing to think of the transformation that  she has undergone in 3 1/2 short weeks.

She is an absolutely lovely little girl.  She is at that wonderful age where she likes to "help".  It is becoming more apparent to us that she most likely had roles and responsibilities at the orphanage and she feels most in her element when she has a "job" to do. She already can sense when a meal is about to take place and will go and get the extra chairs for her and Anita, ensuring that bibs are placed on the seats, and that they each have their drink.  After dinner, she is quick to bring her dish to the sink, clean off her seat (which is usually covered in rice),  return it to the porch and sweep under the table.  Last night she decided to help Anita finish her meal. It was precious to watch her feeding her little sister complete with facial expressions as she put the spoon in Anita's mouth.   

She has quite a shoe fetish.  When we first got her she came with one pair of sandals that was too small for her. She insisted on wearing them all the time (usually on the wrong feet).  We would try to take them away and she would cry and cry for her sandals.  We decided that it wasn't a battle worth fighting so left it alone.  Over the past week she has rediscovered her shoes and will often be found changing her shoes so that she wears all of them in the course of a day.  She loves her dressy church sandals and likes to clomp around in them.

She likes to help fold the laundry and she actually does a very good job!  She also already knows which clothes belong to who and picks things out of the basket one at a time and will proudly announce who the owner of the item of clothing is.  She hasn't quite mastered the art of placing them in the proper piles and just piles them all together before putting them back into the basket and bringing the basket into our bedroom. 

She is obviously a child that has been raised in structure and feels most comfortable when everything is in it's proper place.  She makes her bed in the morning, gets dressed and places her pajamas under her pillow.  She feels most comfortable when she is able to pick out her own clothes the  night before and having them placed at the foot of her bed.  As soon as she gets up and gives her morning hugs she heads back into her room to get dressed.  She also feels that it is important to have Anita dressed and she gets very upset if she is running around in just her diaper.  She will quickly go into Anita's drawer and pick out an outfit for her to wear.  It took her a while to realize that she and Anita did not have to share the clothes. I think at the orphanage all of the clothes went into one big pile and everyone wore all the same clothing.  She tried to put some of her clothes on Anita the first couple of days before realizing that they each have their own.  Now, she likes to just look at all of her clothing and will often be found taking them all out and looking at them, refolding them and putting them away again.   (just wait until she gets home and sees ALL of her new clothes-Wow!)

So, while we remain frustrated that the "system" does not seem to be moving forward to allow us to bring our sweet Hannah home we are trying to just enjoy being with her and cherishing each special day that she is part of her forever family.