Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Jar

I have, by far, the most wonderful blog readers in the WORLD! My previous post regarding Lemuel's list brought so many sweet, affirming, been-there-done-that, comments and private emails that, once again, I am on the receiving end of multiplied blessings. I save those emails like candy in my pocket and read them at the lowest times in our battle with Reactive Attachment Disorder.
RAD is an ugly beast that makes children hard to love and makes parents throw their hands up, no matter how much reading, training, success or "good OTHER kids" they may have. RAD lays low even the most confident parent. Trust me. I have lived on both sides of the tracks. I was smug when my children were 10, 8 and 4. There was no RADish. Our word was law. Our kids were obedient and drew compliments on their behavior, manners and appearances everywhere we went. I remember an older lady approaching me at Taco Bell one afternoon to tell me that she has never seen such polite children in public and that our son's pre-meal prayer brought a tear to her eye. I was thrilled that she was hard-of-hearing and made these statements ten decibels louder than necessary.
RAD is the vehicle God has chosen to use to show us that HIS grace is sufficient. Through RAD, we realize that we are but dust (one "t" in "but" . . .ha ha) and HE is all that matters. RAD has shown us that missing ONE quiet time matters and that hugs and kisses are never to be taken for granted.
God is sovereign and His will can NOT be thwarted. He has handed us both bitter and sweet pills to swallow in this life and all that He allots is, in essence, good, useful and a means to the ultimate end - making HIS name great.
As I hug Lemuel goodnight tonight, things are so sweet. We are having a "good week" and his love feels like a fragile butterfly. I want to catch it and keep it in a jar on my dresser so it can't fly away. But just like a butterfly, I know it will die if I try to trap it. I have to appreciate it while it's near me but not make any sudden moves. I tell him "I love you" at least twice a day. Sometimes he answers in kind and other times . . . silence. The jar sits open.
I'm the ADULT. I'm the MOTHER. I'm the one who had a great childhood in a Christian family and always knew that, to at least two other people, I was a superstar. I must take the risks in this relationship with a child who has none of those benefits.
So I sign off tonight, bolstered by the hearts of my readers, who have shared with me that they, too, often walk down foggy paths, chasing their butterflies.
Thank you, yet again, for filling my pockets with "candy" for those rainy days when the jar is open and the butterfly is nowhere to be seen.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

An Unexpected Gift

Earlier this week, my best friend posted a hilarious, heart warming story on her blog about her oldest daughter ( called "The List". In this true story, she recounts a situation in which her daughter composed a list of conversation starters in preparation for a "date" with her mom and dad. The list included subjects such as "The Economy" and "Dad's Work" - things your average child ponders daily (ha ha).
The post I'm preparing to write sounds eerily similar to my friend's post but I promise you (with my pinky in the air - since typing while raising my right hand is impossible) that I, too, stumbled on a list just yesterday. I was putting a pair of Lemuel's socks in his drawer when a piece of lined notebook paper caught my eye. I pulled it out and sat on the edge of his bed to read. I will type it below just as he wrote it, misspellings and all, and there is no need to elaborate on it.
He said it all.

BIG GOAL (underlined 6 times)
Things I Must Know!
1. Think before you speek
2. Tell the truth
3. Think of others
4. Do not make up things
5. Say things that are right
6. Be careful what you say
7. Obey your perant
8.ITS Not About Me All The Time!
9. Obey all the rules around the house
10. Wait and think about the things I did and tell them the truth
John 14:21 (Obey) Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.
Psalm 39:1 and 2
I said I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin: as long as the wicked are in my presence. But when I was silent and still, not even saying anything good, my anguish increased.
Proverbs 10:18
He who conceals his hatred has lying lips and whoever spreads slander is a fool.

He knows how to use his Bible's concordance. That's where the scripture came from.
Upon reading this list, at least some of my ire faded. I still have my guard up. We have been on this roller coaster for years and I believe there are more drops ahead. But there's a slice of hope. A tiny ray of light snaggled in when I read this note. There IS, in fact, a sprout of conscience there. He DOES care about doing right. I feel "safer" when he's on my "naughty list", just like he does. Feeling warm and loving toward him is risky. Your hand gets slapped back inevitably but he's just a CHILD. There's still hope . . .

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Never Sure

I have been actively blogging for about two years now. The original intent of my blog was to allow friends, family and any interested folks to follow the adoption journey of our precious Ezekiel. The blog is aptly named.
At times of great joy or distress, I have branched out and blogged about other subjects. I also follow my stats and have found the blog entries that receive exponentially more hits than any others are those centering around our 13 year old son who has been diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder. The posts receiving literally thousands of views were the following:
Adoption Disruption, The Down and Dirty
Lemuel's Story, Part 2
Bonding: The Flap and the Facts

I believe there is an unmet need in the adoption community for parents of difficult children to speak out in truth. Many hide in shame. Many blame themselves for not being able to "bond properly". Many are worried about the "I Told You So's" that will come their way. I have worried about those things, too. They are real.

What I am most worried about right now is that I have made myself out to be a liar. I have said countless times in the posts referenced above that Lem is "ours forever" and that he's "home for good" and yet, today, I don't know if I can keep to that. No, he has not been violent or sexually acted out with anyone but the constant lying is wearing me down in a way that I have never experienced. The lies are small and silly in terms of subject matter but they are intentional, ugly and calculated at the same time.

I'm never sure HOW much to share on this blog. I think it's unfair to speak cryptically and in generalities when I know there are families hungry for kinship in this difficult struggle. So I will use plain speak. Lem has lied several times in the last couple of days, and ALWAYS in the evening after a good day of family time together. He is sabotaging himself yet again.

A few nights ago, we all went to a basketball game. Lem was unusually loving to all of us and his efforts were met with great success. After the game, we went to a sandwich shop connected to a gas station (very classy joint - ha ha) and my sons went to the gas station area to buy some candy. Upon return to the table, a younger sibling says "Kuya Lem was breaking candy bars and putting them back on the shelf". Lem quickly pipes up "IT WAS AN ACCIDENT". The younger sibling replies "you went like this" and does a snapping motion with his hand "and you said 'ha ha ha' and you did it lots of times to lots of candy". Lem wilted. "Well, the FIRST candy bar was an accident". We leave immediately. I talk to him on the way home about trustworthiness, about being the same person whether you're being watched by mom and dad or not, etc. etc. etc. I feel like Charlie Brown's teacher . . wah wah wha wha . .. because I have said these things before. We have punished, spanked, grounded, prayed, talked, copied scripture, talked and talked and talked . . . my heart hurts. I want him to evaporate so the rest of us can be happy. Ouch.
The next morning, hubby takes Lem back to the gas station to pick out the amount of candy he believes he ruined and make him pay for it. There was NINE DOLLARS worth of chocolate in his basket. NINE DOLLARS worth of "accidents" . . .yeah, right. Lem paid for the candy and then had to tell the cashier what he had done and leave the bag of candy there for the cashier to give to whomever she thinks might want it. They came home and he sulked but he was in his familiar "cozy" place, the dog house. He was far, in heart and spirit, from the chattering, bustling, fun loving family. He chose to be alone in his room and flog himself for the rest of the day. Fine with me. Perfect, in fact.
Yesterday's lie revolved around him hurting Ezekiel "accidentally" and then, having no idea why the baby was crying. Luckily, he's part of this big family and privacy is as scarce as hen's teeth. The whole incident was witnessed by one of my perfectly trustworthy children who came forth with the truth. Lem did not deny it when confronted but simply said "oh, I didn't feel it". I think a trip to the neurologist is in order to have those synapses checked. He is losing feeling in his extremities, apparently. This,too, happened at the end of a GREAT family day. We cleaned out the shed as a family. We put up the old tent in the backyard and the kids played in it for hours. We even let him watch Ezekiel for about ten minutes when I went in to cook lunch. He was given a bit of trust (yes, I cooked right near the kitchen window but, in THEORY, he was being trusted). He just had to end this yucky closeness and get back to the cozy isolation so he made sure, at 9pm, to end the night with a "bang". I sent him to bed with a very succinct warning about Ezekiel. I confirmed that if he really wants to ruin the rest of his natural life, he will hurt that baby again. I told him using someone who can't talk or understand is shameful. He began to cry. A good sign. There's something rattling around in there. But is it enough? Is there even a baby sprout of conscience that makes all of this family focus worth it? I don't know. I used to think "YES" but now I think "hmmmm?". These seemingly small incidents happen many times each week. Behind closed doors, my husband and I have adjusted a lawyer joke to fit our family.
Me: How can we tell if Lem is lying?
Hubby: Because his lips are moving . . . (cue two drum beats and a cymbal)

I am a huge music lover and there is one song I have listened to dozens of times this week. It is "I Will Not Be Moved" by Natalie Grant. She sings of steadfast devotion to God that can not be shaken by circumstances. I want to have that same devotion. First to my Savior but also to this broken child. I just don't know if I can hang on much longer.
Maybe this whole post is just the result of a couple of hard back-to-back days and I will be back to my positive, hopeful self after church tomorrow. Church always helps. But this time is different. I feel "done". Please forgive me, readers, if the shine has fallen completely off and you feel like giving up, too. It is always my intention to encourage with my posts. I hope to be able to post in a few days that all is well but this time around, I'm just not sure . . .

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Time is NOW

It's time to make the leap! It's time to move on what you feel the Lord is leading you to do, despite the fears and reservations you may be harboring.
It's time to APPLY for Share Your Summer 2012 if you suspect the Lord may be calling you to open your front door and receive a blessing in the form of a child from The Philippines!!!!!!!!!!!! (This hosting program is for families who are in NC, upper SC, lower VA or who are able to spend a month in the Charlotte area this summer).
I have talked, both online and in person, with many families who shared with me their desire to host this summer and to be open to pursuing adoption and the common concern in all these conversations is (say it with me . . . ) THE MONEY!

The financial side of hosting and adopting is real. It's there. It's a necessary part of transporting a human 8,000 miles via airplane with all the required documents and mandatory pre-screening. But it doesn't need to be the sole obstacle that keeps your family from experiencing the life-changing, Christ-honoring, radical step of obedience that adoption can be.

Those of you who have stuck by this blog for any length of time know that we have FOUR sons from The Philippines. FOUR SEPARATE ADOPTIONS - adoption totals over $20,000 apiece. Those of you who know us in real life know that we are a single-income family of modest means. We don't have a large home. We don't drive brand-new cars. We are just "average Joes". HOWEVER, the Lord provided for all four of our adoptions with absolutely NO DEBT! We did not have to use a home equity line, we did not have to take out a loan. We do not even own credit cards . . . please be encouraged that God ALWAYS pays for what He orders! Always! If you are led to adopt an older child, there are many grants available for that. Some organizations specialize in helping older children find their families before it's too late. If your intended child has special needs, more grants are out there.

Let me share a few great fund raising ideas that helped us grow this little, "normal" family into a big, "abnormal" family (ha ha):

1. Write a Christmas letter to people you would normally send a card to. Let them know of your family's desire to host/adopt and ask them to consider a donation in lieu of a gift this year. This is the perfect time of year as people are often pausing to consider how blessed they have been and sometimes those people start to look for a way to share their blessings with others.

2.Get Selling! From Craigslist to ebay, get rid of items you aren't using and let that money begin to fund your hosting/adoption efforts.

3. Turn to your church family. The body of Christ was MADE to be His hands and feet to the lost, hurting, fatherless and needy. Ask permission to host a "parents night out" where your family and some volunteers can watch children for three hours while moms and dads have a night out. Leave a donation jar at the door of the child care area for grateful families to contribute to your hosting/adoption fund.

4. Host a spaghetti dinner. Buy those divided foam boxes from a restaurant supply store and then let everyone in your life know that pre-ordered spaghetti dinners can be picked up (or delivered for a small fee) on a particular night. If your own kitchen can not accommodate cooking for many or if your home is out "in the boonies", see if you can use your church's facilities for cooking and pick ups. Include salad, a piece of Italian bread and dessert. How many of your lady friends would love to support a good cause AND skip cooking for the night? I'm always game for that!!!!

5. Hold a talent show at your church. Ask the kids, youth and talented adults to sign up to perform. After half the acts are complete, spend a few minutes sharing your heart with the audience and ask the audience to consider helping your family host/adopt through a financial gift (of course, you MUST tell the folks ahead of time that the talent show is also a fund raiser - NO SURPRISES when fund raising. Always be forthright about your purposes and intentions). Let admission be free. Sell concessions for a reasonable price and pass the offering plate mid-show. You don't even have to speak if you're not inclined to do so. Have a friend stand up for you.

I know some of you may feel tired just reading that short list. It seems a lot of work to fund raise. It causes you to put yourself "out there" and risk rejection. There WILL be people who don't understand your calling. There WILL be people who tell you that you should only be helping children in your own country and not looking abroad but there will also be people who see your heart, understand the need and jump in to toil alongside you.

A sweet, precious woman from our church heard about our plans to adopt Ezekiel and she called me and asked if she could start a fund raising group called "Friends of Ezekiel"!!!!! It blew my mind to know that God was moving OTHERS to go to these great lengths for our family. All the work was not "on me". It was shared among our own family and other believers. Friends of Ezekiel raised thousands of dollars for our adoption! THOUSANDS! I am still in awe when I think back on that time. I know that my friend Cindy, her daughter and the others who worked with Friends of Ezekiel did not do it because they wanted anything in return. They did it out of obedience to the Lord and He blessed it over and over.

Please consider contacting Christian Adoption Services ( and getting started on that application if you have been leaning that way. God is faithful, even when you're fearful! Want to know a little secret? I've been scared EVERY SINGLE TIME (shhhh). . .

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Days Like This

Thursday is the one day each week that our family most closely resembles the "average American family". I have to pack lunches, wake up sleepy teens, prepare a lesson and get the kids to their classes while I teach mine. Our homeschool co-op meets on Thursdays. My children are blessed to have access to classes like Dave Ramsey's Finance for Teens, Chemistry, Bible, Literature and Composition, Insect Study and Grammar Games. I am grateful for the courses that enhance our homeschooling and for the expertise and willingness of my fellow homeschooling parents that is shared so generously with my children. After co-op is when the day got a little "testy" . . .
One of our sons had his final football practice, another son had a basketball practice. Dear Hubby had to go in to work late for an after-hours computer issue while daughter needed to be picked up from Chemistry. Oldest son has a REAL job at the mall and so I needed to get his schedule before including him in my web of transportation drama.
Oh. And I had PROMISED Francis a haircut before I realized what day it was. I was not going to break a promise to our newest family member just when the trust was flowing freely. No Way.
Human cloning was sounding pretty good by about 3:30 pm. I needed another "me" only with more energy and no personal opinions.
I arrived home after my final chauffeuring gig, feeling fairly smug that the drop off/pick up schedule had been accomplished with none of my posterity stranded or even texting the dreaded "wher RU? We R dun". I even got him the haircut. It's a faux hawk. He looks adorable-er.
It was then I noticed it. The five pound "chub" of hamburger in my drainboard! I took it out before lovingly constructing 5 sack lunches early in the morning. I had BIG PLANS for that log of bacteria-infested cow flesh! It was going to be a beautiful rice casserole with golden brown cheddar cheese on top. It was going to evoke "oohs" and "aahs" from the family and I was going to shake my head gently with closed eyes and say "oh, it was no big deal. Eat up".
That never happened.
My first and third oldest saw my eyes dart from the meat to their faces and back again.
"I'll make omelets" said my oldest son, who didn't have to work at the mall after all.
"I'll help" said Ms. Third-in-Command.
"Thank you" I said sheepishly. "I"ll put some rice on" (we can't have a meal without rice in this Filipino-run household).
I settled for a bowl of oatmeal while my children fed one another.
The thankfulness that washed over me was the kind that I don't often experience. It was sheer gratitude that only ONE DAY per week is this demanding. It was appreciation for the bail out my children offered me. It was my willingness to lay down the cape and accept help from those who I knew were not judging me. They were just helping because, hey, it's THEIR family, too.
Mama said there'd be days like this!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Importance of "Four"

November 7th marks four months that Francis has been a part of our family. Four months sounds like such a very short time when I think of how long it took to do the paperwork for his adoption. Four months sounds like a short time when I think of how long it takes to grow a baby "the old fashioned way" or how much time a couple has been married . . . JUST FOUR MONTHS?
But as I ponder all that has taken place in our home in the four short months that Francis has been ours, it feels like a lifetime has passed. From those earliest weeks where we didn't really know each other but worked through the mother/son role to the time it took me to figure out some of his quirks, until now, it seems a million years have passed. I know him so well in JUST FOUR MONTHS. I can list all his favorite foods, I know how much money he's hiding in his special hiding place in his room, I know the tactics he uses to try and wiggle out of school work and I know his past. From long, sometimes sad but often happy hours of listening, I know that, too. The privilege of getting to know this particular person is not lost on me for a moment. He is so special and capable and has limitless potential. He truly can be ANYTHING he wants in this life. God has gifted him in so many ways. Our family is richer for having him in it.
There's so much I wish I could say but I hope readers understand why I have to resist. Some people you share with the world and others, you just keep close and give little peeks. Just trust me when I say that God DOES give good gifts to His children. Amazing, precious, hilarious, perfect-for-us gifts . . .

Friday, November 4, 2011

Old Parent Syndrome

I think we have it, my man and I. We're not exactly "old" - I'm in my very very VERY early 40s and hubby is in his much much LATER 40s but we have contracted the syndrome, nonetheless. We can often be found parenting our sweet little Ezekiel more like grandparents than parents. I had my first baby in my early 20s, my second baby in my mid 20s and adopted for the first time in my 30s. I was one organized, scheduled, chart-keeping, line-in-the-sand drawing Mama. My children were on a fairly rigid schedule of chores, homeschooling, extracurricular activities, one hour of TV a day (or less), healthy snacks and almost no computer access. Fast forward seven years and three additional kids later and you'll see us slightly off script and some loose ends getting looser as the days go by.
Here is quantifiable evidence that we have The Syndrome:
1. Ezekiel's bed time is often 10pm, or later
2. Our teens are allowed to watch shows like "Family Guy" and "The Office" that had formerly been completely off limits
3. Some nights when I make dinner, there are no vegetables (unless you count ketchup)
4. A productive day of homeschooling is marked by a little reading, a little math and the baking of cookies with my younger children.
5. I let my youngest two wear costumes in public anytime they want. Why not?
6. I rarely say "no" when they ask for treats at the check-out counter these days.
7. The kids are allowed to wrestle, jump from high places and ride on the dogs until I just can't stand the noise and have to yell "QUIIIIEEETTTT"
8. I am typing this post while Ezekiel jumps on the bed beside me and any feelings of annoyance at this fact evaporate when I look at his "Downsy Goodness" (a phrase we use often to refer to his shenanigans).
Maybe I'm confusing "Old Parent Syndrome" with "Big Family Syndrome" but whatever the ailment, I hope there's no cure! I am having the most fun with my family and feeling the least amount of control freak-ism that I have ever felt as a mother and wife! It's fun. It's freeing. It's contradictory to the early years but the results are equally gratifying. We are truly enjoying these children - me for the first time in my mothering career. I spent a LOT of time dissecting the hearts and motives of my two biological children and focusing on their LACK rather than finding ways to enjoy their gifts while still guiding them in righteous living when they were small. I did have fun with them. I always loved them with every ounce of my existence but as far as enjoying them, it was hard when I spent so much time feeling like any failure to address their sin would result in their eternal damnation. I have come to understand that parenting is discipling. It is a weighty task, not to be taken lightly but at the same time, it can be joyous, abundant, silly, fruitful and productive. I wish I had learned earlier to seek joy, welcome fun and buy more candy!!!!!!
Live and Learn.