Sunday, January 30, 2011

Scavenger Hunt Sunday

This was such a cool idea, I couldn't resist participating though I am not a skilled photographer and am in the early stages of learning to edit pictures.  Unfortunately, while the rules are simple:
  1. Anyone can participate. 
  2. You're encouraged to take five new photos this week for the challenge. 
  3. If you get stumped, you may use one photo from your archive (although I'm not too strict about it - I do my best to take fresh shots). 
  4. Link up to Scavenger Hunt Sundayon Sunday (or Tuesday at the latest).
  5. Have fun!
I did cheat on number 3.  I found the link on Thursday and did not have time to take 5 new pictures around each item while dealing with a sick family.  However, searching my archives (ha! how formal does that sound?) was like a scavenger hunt and a few pictures are new this week.  I didn't plan to post if I couldn't follow the rules exactly, but I had sooooo much fun with the pictures I did do, I really wanted to share.

This was taken awhile ago.  I couldn't decide if I should crop to the texture on the barn or leave in my sweet boy.  You can tell what I finally decided on.
This was taken this summer.
Button eyes, button nose, button mouth, Button.
Water--the World's Best Beverage (after coke and ice tea)
She chose her own clothes Friday morning (and every morning) and they seemed so 70's to me.  Then the Scavenger Hunt Sunday blog mentioned using Pioneer Women's 70's action on her photo, so I copied her.  I figured out how to download and install the action sets and played with them.  This Hunt was worth doing if for no other reason than this new tool.  Thank-you!


We Have a Dog

I was in my room this morning when I heard:


"Is there a doggy in my room?"

"It's me, Mama......I be a puppy."

One Year Ago Today...

my step-mother of twenty years lost her battle with cancer and went to be with the Lord.
In College
1 Peter 3: 4-5a "(Your beauty) should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.  For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves."
Our New Family

My College Graduation

With Huckleberry

With SnapDragon

With Sunflower
Galatians 5:22-23a  "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control."
You are Missed.

Ni Hao Yall

 (All this experience with loss should help me be a better adoptive parent, right?)Photobucket

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Why I Think Saying "In His Time" Sometimes is Uucky

I want to use a stronger word, but my boys read my blog.  I believe God is sovereign and is in control of all things.  I also believe He gave us free will and we mess things up, but ultimately His plan will come together--In His Time.  However, sometimes we say these words in comfort when in reality they are irrelevant drivel.

Sure there are some things we know are God's plan because He has spelled it out in the Bible or we've heard a word from the Lord or it just is going to happen.

Someday God will restore the Kingdom of Israel but...In His Time.
Someday Jesus will come back but...In His Time.
Someday I will die but...In His Time.
Someday I will be made perfect but...In His Time.
If I was matched with a child, Someday I will be with her but...In His Time.

But sometimes it isn't about "In His Time" but "If It Be His Will."

Someday I will be rich (probably not) but...If It Be His Will.
Someday I will publish a book (fun) but...If It Be His Will.
Someday I will have a bigger house but..If It Be His Will.
Someday my kids will be grown-up and living but...If It Be His Will.
Someday I will adopt from China but...If It Be His Will.

Now I believe with all of my heart the God loves me and that He wants to give me the desires of my heart, and man-o-man, does my heart desire a daughter from China.  However, every time I pray I cannot stop myself from throwing in that little caveat--"but Lord, most of all, I want to become the person you want me to be; mold me, shape me, make me.  I want to obey you and do your will."  And you know, He hasn't taken away the desire for a daughter, but I sure have grown as a person and in knowledge, understanding, and love of the Lord.  

Someday, "If It Be His Will" I will adopt a daughter from China "In His Time."

But you know what, the last five years of growth and learning could be about something completely different.  Maybe someday God will have me use my Biblical Counseling classes and all I've learned about adoption to become an adoption counselor or a social worker.  Maybe all the books on trans-racial adoption I read are about preparing me to stand against racism in America.  Perhaps the angst and the wait is solely about my faith in God growing stronger--because, you know, my faith in Him is that important to Him.

I don't know.  

I'd like to think it is about those things and someday ending up with a fourth child, but I don't know.

And today I'm okay with I don't know.  It is the "In His Time" with which I'm having problems.

Ecclesiastes 3:11-12 "He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live."

Friday, January 28, 2011

River Town--a book response

Wow!  I loved Peter Hesser's book "River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze."  It was on a list of books to read about Chinese culture, so I put it on hold at the library.  However, it sat on our library shelf for several weeks getting dangerously close to being overdue. When I read that Tonggu Mama listed it as one of the top three books to read, I finally picked it up.  I thought I would learn a lot but that I would find it hard to read.  Non-fiction and history just don't appeal to me.  But this book was terrific and felt easy to read because it was so interesting.  I think even people not terribly interested in China would find this book a great read.   It is a book written about Peter's two years sponsored by the peace corps to teach English in Fuling, China.

I enjoyed the tidbits of Chinese history he sprinkled throughout the book, but it was the everyday details and conversations that fascinated me.  He quoted some of his students writings which give you a glimpse into their lives and thoughts.  He describes his own progress in Mandarin, making friends, and understanding the country he was living in.  His descriptions are so detailed you feel like you are there with him.

Maybe that is why I enjoyed the book so much.  In some small way, I was there with him.  The two weeks I spent in Beijing and Tinjian were in the middle of his two year trip.  The surprise I felt at learning the students cleaned the campus buildings and that 6 people in a dorm room was considered the wealthy school are echoed by his own descriptions of his campus.  I remember the giant clock in Beijing counting down 30 days to the return of Hong Kong.  He recounts how the dorms were locked on the day of the return so no one would miss the celebration.  When he talks about the different students he meets, it reminds me of the students I met.  The conversations he recalls and the pieces of their writings he shares are very similar to what the students I met shared.  On his part, because he was there longer and learned Mandarin, he is able to go into greater depth of thoughts and philosophies.  I loved being able, through his book, to go past the surface of what I originally learned and see what else is there.

This book is like looking into a window at one certain place during one certain time.  What it shows cannot encompass the whole of Chinese history or represent everyone's view, but it is a wonderful peek into a strong, pragmatic, and beautiful culture that is very different from my own.  I am very thankful for this peek and hope everyone takes it. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Nothing Serious

I feel like I've been too serious lately.  Can't have that!  

Huckleberry read yesterday's post.  He instantly saw the flaw in his logic and said his answer now would be "I don't know, I'd have to do a survey."  There's my scientist.

Sunflower has been very sick this week; she is better now.  Tuesday I couldn't decide whether to be happy because she fell asleep on my lap, be terrified that she was so ill, or glad to have an excuse to not fold the laundry.  Okay, she basically had a cold with a 102 degree fever that lasted two days, but trust me Sunflower sitting still long enough to fall asleep is very worrying.  

I am addicted to comments.  I check multiple times a day if I have a new comment.  Sometimes I read through all the comments I have ever received.  I need to stop that because it is really starting to cut into my housework time, especially since my total number of comments is now 92--the same number as this post.  I really like the symmetry in that, but I want more comments.

My closest friends tell me they disliked me the first time we met.  I do not know how to change my first impression and am afraid I am missing out on some great friendships because some ladies never got over their initial dislike.  No, they are missing out, right...right?

Are chocolate goldfish crackers a healthy snack or not?  They are goldfish crackers--the food of all two year olds--but they are chocolate.  Is it okay if that is the only thing Sunflower eats today? or all I eat today?

I know Sunflower is all better because she just fell down.  She was standing and spinning so it is only natural she fell down.  She really doesn't fall that often.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Still so Far to Go

When a four year old Huckleberry came home from McDonald's Playland and said he was glad his skin wasn't brown because it was bad to be brown, we talked to him.  

Us: What makes you think that?
Huckleberry: A kid said so.  He said it is dirty.
Us: No, it isn't dirty.  God made people lots of different colors and it is beautiful.

Huckleberry is now almost 11 and until a few months ago that is the only conversation we had about race.  Even when we talked to Huckleberry about a sister from China we didn't talk about race.  So it was a big aha moment for me when I read, "Your children will develop ideas about race, if you want to direct those ideas, you need to talk to your children."  As a parent I knew it was my job to teach my children about God, character, and life.  It is actually a privilege of being white that we can get away with not talking about race; people of color have to talk about race in order to prepare their children for the world.  So in August, when China Adopt Talk posted these links, we started talking to our children about race.  No need to take a "way back time machine" (my husband was thrilled at Funny Daddy Blog's technical accuracy), I'll just quote from memory.

This newsweek article gave me some ideas for how to start.  
Me: "Do you think white people or black people are nicer?"
SnapDragon: "I think there are mean and nice people of both."
Huckleberry: "Black People."
Me: "Hmmmm, why do you think black people are nicer?"
Huckleberry: "Because I think there are more white people than black people, so black people must be nicer."
Me: "Huh?"
Huckleberry: "The same amount of people are nice and mean and there are more white people.  So there are more mean white people.  So black people are nicer because they have less mean people."
(He is good at math; I promise!  We'll be working on logic.)
Me: "Okaaaay, do you have any good friends who are not white?"
SnapDragon: "Lots!"
Huckleberry: "Yes.  My best friend is black."
Me: "Really?  Do you mean K?  He's from the Philippines."   
Huckleberry: "No, J.  You remember J."

I do remember J.  I had never met him (this is more of a commentary on Huckleberry's definition of best friend than my parenting, I promise!) but I remembered him.  In second grade Huckleberry got off the bus and told me he had a new friend.  His name was J and always had to sit on the bus by himself because no one liked him.  Huckleberry felt bad for him so he decided to sit with him.  I asked him why no one liked him and he said he wasn't sure.  They made fun of him because he was slow and stuttered, so he guessed it was probably why.  But he wasn't really sure because he sat with J and discovered, "Mom, he likes Zelda just like me and has a great imagination!  I don't know why they don't like him."  When Huckleberry switched schools for fourth grade he was worried the most about leaving J behind.  

We heard many stories about J, Huckleberry's bus buddy, for two years, but not once did we have him over*, and not once did Huckleberry mention he was black.  He certainly would have never referred to him as African American.  I guess we still have a long way to go, but at least we have started talking. 

* Okay, maybe this does reflect poorly on my parenting that we never had Huckleberry's best friend for two years over, but while we are still working on our homestudy let us pretend that is not true.

Monday, January 24, 2011

IPods, Tresses, and Congee

I was planning to do this post before I was told doing it would make my blog cool, but I really, really want a cool blog, so now I have to post about it.

For those of you that know me in real life, you have heard me talk about the "funny daddy blog" that my husband and I read.  I don't bother to say their real names because you wouldn't remember as quickly as when I say "funny daddy blog" (plus I really don't know how to pronounce their last name.)  Some of you have probably also heard me refer to "funny daddy blog's wife" and "Ping's parents."  I may not have mentioned that they are starting their second adoption from China.  A little girl they know has started raising money for their orphanage donation--this is money that goes directly to the orphanage to help the children left behind and she started a blog to help her.

Currently she is planning to raise money by being sponsored to eat Congee (a rice pudding type dish) for three meals a day for three days.  If she raises enough money her dad and the funny daddy blog dad will join her in her food choice.  They've already made the congee so she wants to raise the money by Thursday.  

Those of you who have talked to me about adoption in the last few months know how indecisive I am on the topic of fund raising.  Sure, if you want to give a gift no one should reject it (we certainly wouldn't); it can represent the beauty of God's provision.  However, I would never want my friends to be pressured to give their money for our adoption, and for someone else's, well, that would be unthinkable.

However, from this child's perspective she is not raising money for someone's adoption, she is raising money for the orphans of China.  More importantly, I am not sharing her story to get you to donate.  I just want you to meet this little girl who at 12 is seeking life lessons that even as adults we tend to avoid.  She is doing things that will help her understand how an orphan in China may feel and her lessons are helping me.

The last few days I have swung back into doubt about adoption.  Not if it will happen, but if we should adopt.  (Sunday Linkage tends to do that to me.)  What right do I have to pray for my adoption to be complete knowing that some family will forever lose their daughter?  How can I judge that her life will be better here in America once she has lost her first family, first language, and birth culture?  I am not adopting to save a child, but maybe it is wrong to adopt at all.  Now I don't really believe that but I wonder and worry and feel sad.

Then I read this little girl's blog as she learns about the orphans in China.  She realizes that things cannot replace the void in her heart.  Then she thinks about giving away her hair (which she is planning to do in order to help cancer patients have wigs and raise money for the orphanage) and feels sad that her hair will be short.  But she remembers that the children in Chinese orphanages often have their heads shaved in order to prevent the spread of lice.  Very few children have long hair, and none of them have any say in how they wear their hair.  Next she decides to eat congee for three days--yes, to raise money--but also to experience what a child in an orphanage might experience as there is not a lot of variety in orphanage diets and congee being nutritious and cheap is a frequent food.

All of this serves to remind me, that yes, adoption is hard, but we are not adopting a child who lives with her parents and experiences the hair choices and rich food culture China can provide.  She lives in an orphanage (or foster care) and while she is possibly well loved, her future is not bright as orphans in China are forced to live on the outskirts of society. 

So I wanted to write this post to help this little girl raise money for orphan's in China but also to say thank you to her for reminding me of why a forever family is important.  If this also makes my blog cool, than I will not complain!  Again, I don't want anyone to feel pressure to give any money, but if you want to force the "funny daddy blog dad" to eat congee I wouldn't mind because I know his blog post about it will make me laugh.

(I plan to forward this link to my real live friends who don't usually read blogs because if I don't this post will only be seen by my 8 readers and I am counting the "funny daddy blog's wife" in that eight.Photobucket

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Learning Elements


In December I took an on-line photo course called the Photoshop Skinny-Mini run by Kim Klassen.  It was totally free and I learned a ton about how to use Photoshop Elements (I have version 6) better.  When the first class was basically on how to crop pictures and use layers, I was a little worried it wouldn't go past my current Photoshop skills.  I already knew how to use Photoshop Elements to make a digital scrapbook.
However, how to actually use Photoshop to enhance pictures I had no clue, and she quickly got into those details.  I am not going to tell you how to do what I learned because she is a great teacher and has another class coming up in February (most of it is video lessons, so step-by-step instructions).  But I thought you would like to see how my pictures changed just by applying some of the techniques she taught me.

 After applying the "homework":

After Homework (only this time cropping off part of the main object in the picture as she did):
 I tried the same type of options as the first time, but none of those really makes up for a blurry picture:
This was all from the first few days of classes.  Then I learned more about adjustment layers (particularly hue saturation), spot eraser (I knew how to clone areas, but the quick fix for small blemishes I didn't know about--yeah, new technique!), and adding textures.  I didn't get a chance to actually do the rest of the homework (though I watched all the videos) because it was mid-December and I needed to put together my "digital scrapbook" pages for the calendars I give for Christmas.  However, I used some of the techniques I learned, plus ones I knew, to make my own backgrounds for some of the pages instead of relying on Elements preset options.
I used some adjustment layers on the penguins background so the penguins stood out and nothing else.

Then recently Kim Klassen offered a class on learning textures in ten minutes and I played with some photos a little more.  Adding one of her free textures I was able to improve the fuzzy butterfly picture a little more (I think.)
I still have a lot to learn in order to figure out what improves what and which adjustments, filters, etc. will do what, but I feel the class was worth my time if for no other reason than I learned how to adjust the layer effects after applying them (for 5 years I have been stuck with the default settings on each effect.)  Now my husband might wish I hadn't taken the class because while Office Max was able to do a 24 turn around when we ordered the calendars on December 23 because I forgot to work on the pages sooner since I was playing with Elements, I now really want to upgrade my 3 MegaPixel 12x Optical Zoom Point and Shoot Camera for something a little more fancy.
Ni Hao Yall


Friday, January 21, 2011

Epiphany in Acts

The church holiday that happens in the beginning of the book of Acts is the Pentecost, but in my Bible study Wednesday I had an epiphany I thought I would share with you.

Acts 1:6  "So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, 'Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?'"

Do you see it?  Even though Jesus spent three years teaching his followers, they did not understand God's plan.  Even after he rose from the dead they didn't understand.  When I read the gospels it seems clear that Jesus told them he was going to be killed and rise again.  

John 2:19-22  "Jesus answered them, 'Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.'  The Jews then said, 'It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?' But He was speaking of the temple of His body.  So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken."

Certainly if I had been there I would have understood--not.  Jesus followers' had a vision of what a savior would do.  He would save them from the evil empire and raise Israel into power.  It was a devastating shock to them when Jesus was killed.  How could he save them?  I imagine they spent those three days in a lot of turmoil--"Lord, I believe, but...what...?"

Then three days later, he is risen.  Miracle of miracles he is back.  And he spent the next 40 days teaching them and reminding them he is going to leave again and send the Holy Spirit. 

John 16:7 "But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you."
And they ask, 'Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?'

Or as I would have said it, "Okay, Lord.  When you died my plans for the future died with you.  Obviously you cannot become King if you are dead.  You must have been working on something else.  But now, now, you are alive again.  Praise God.  Now you are going to kick out those mean Romans and restore Israel to our former glory, right?" 

How many times does something get in the way of the plans I have?  Then some miracle happens and it is clear that God's plan was better, would bring Him more glory, and mature me more than my original expectation.  Praise God.  And then I jump back to my original plan.  It didn't happen yesterday, but today, Lord?  Sure there are times when my plans line up with God's plans and there are road blocks to showcase God's glory but the plan doesn't change (truly praying my family adopting is one of those).  But sometimes it is about learning an eternal perspective and not limiting what God can do to what I think He is planning to do.

If Jesus had lived "up to" the expectations of his followers before his death, he would not have died for our sins and been resurrected thus saving the whole world from sin not just the Israelites from Rome.

If Jesus had lived "up to" the expectations of his followers after his resurrection and stayed to lead Israel out of the hands of the Romans, he would not have ascended into heaven and sent the Holy Spirit to us.

I'm sure you don't need this, but I needed the reminder that I don't worship a God that lives down to my expectations.  I worship a God that lifts me up to His expectations if I'm willing to just let go of my limited understanding and lean on His.  

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I Believe in Blogging

I used to be anti-blog.  I could not understand the appeal to posting pictures of your children on the internet for random strangers to see instead of calling a friend for a chat.  In my little world it did create a greater feel of community--for those that blogged.  It made me, who didn't blog, feel excluded and out of it.  "I didn't know you went to Disneyland recently?"  "It was on my blog."  People who didn't see each other any more often than I saw them knew more about each other's lives and to me appeared closer because of it.  One of my friends even announced her pregnancy on her blog (yes, you did).  After that I started reading their blogs each week just so I wouldn't be the last to know everything.  Then almost all of them stopped blogging.  They got too far behind on their pictures.  Almost every post started with "sorry I haven't posted anything for over a month."  Staying in the loop didn't require reading blogs anymore so I stopped reading (except for a few people whom I read because I love them.)

Fast forward three years and I discover adoption forums.  Too terrified to give my opinion at China Adopt Talk, I found We Are Grafted In.  I became interested in the ladies I am "talking" to and follow their links to their (or their husband's) blogs.  My husband and I spent a pleasant evening catching up on and laughing with The Forever Family Blog deciding that if they lived in our country or at least on the same coast as us we would have them over for dinner.  I realized I cannot put all the blogs I love on my tool bar and began my blog. (I feel remiss if I don't mention here that the lame title of my blog came from my screen name at WAGI--Joyful Mama--and the fact that I was finally giving in and starting a blog). And I loved it.  

I didn't tell anyone at first because I didn't want them to say, "I told you you would love blogging."  If only they had told me the real fun in blogging isn't about keeping track of your family activities.  Yes, my blog includes those Mamarazzi posts and I am glad to have records, but if that was the only reason I blogged I would have already given up.  Since no one was reading my blog initially, I could say whatever I wanted.  It gave me a place to be me and not worry about being a better listener or boring people.  I started recording my responses on adoption books to have for my SW.  After a particularly brutal few days of reading Rumor Queen and books which made me doubt our decision to adopt at all, I wrote a post that helped me find peace again.  I was feeling very unsettled when I sat down to write, but by forcing myself to articulate my feelings I was able to resolve my doubts, focus back on God, and move forward.  Many of my posts have come out of my desire to resolve my own internal conflict.  For this reason alone I will continue blogging even if no one reads it.

There are so many other reasons I love blogging, too.  Sometimes I am able to make someone laugh.  I love "teaching" what I have learned about God.  I love getting comments as it fills some deep longing in my soul for words of affirmation.  I am enjoying documenting our adoption story.  It also gives me a place to "dump" my thoughts which is one of the reasons for this post.  I am hoping that writing about why I love to blog I will stop feeling the need to talk about it every time I see my friends.  I don't want to become someone that says, "Oh, you are wondering how our adoption is going?  Well, it's on my blog."  I know how excluded those words can make one feel.

Mostly I think blogging gives me access to a community that I need.  I cannot be a good adoptive parent without talking to others who have been adopted or have adopted.  The diversity of ideas, opinions, and advice is much broader than anything I can find in my current circle of friends.  Finding people going through the same things as you is much easier when you have the whole blogging world from which to pull.  Negotiating the rules of on-line friendships is simultaneously easier and harder than real life friendships--did I offend someone?  How do I respond to comments?  Am I suppose to?  Do you respond to an e-mail even if there is no question to answer?  When I was still new at this I e-mailed a reader to ask if I had offended her because she hadn't read my blog in 3 days--yes! 3 days!  How crazy is that?  Even my best friend doesn't read every day.  Luckily she didn't decide I was insane and write me off because I get to benefit from her compassion, wisdom, and authenticity.  Cyber friends cannot replace real friends, but they can certainly be important, and someday, before you know it the wooden boy becomes a real boy because of shared experiences, kind fellowship, and human love even if you have never met in the flesh.

The biggest down side I see to blogging is that as much I enjoy writing and feeling like you are seeing the "real me" there are some things I cannot share.  Sometimes the thought I need to process and work through is not adoption/race/church/parenting related--okay, not often because that covers a huge portion of my life--but occasionally.  Then I post a Mamarazzi post so no one misses me and spend hours on the phone with my sister, or my friend, or keep my husband up late talking in circles about it and I wish I can blog about it, because when I blog, the circles stop spinning.  


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Something to Talk About

When I picked up SnapDragon from school Friday he said as a way of greeting:

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the, the ummm, the c-c-c.  I don't remember."

I confess I didn't know what he was talking about right away.

The above picture popped into my head, but those are Sunflower's little children.  Then I thought he was promising me four grandchildren but he wasn't--though I plan to hold him to it.  By the time he finished I realized he was quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. but I didn't know the ending either.  I guessed character, but SnapDragon said no.  He thought it was something like context.

It is the "content of their character."

Once we adopt I live in a country where this dream is only achievable for 3 out of 4 of my children (and that not even perfectly achievable).  I am not sure what steps need to be taken for my nation to achieve this dream, but I want to be one who takes those steps, fights for those steps, and encourages others to take those steps.  I believe one of those steps (and I'll admit I don't really know squat about fighting racism) is for people to talk about race.  Open dialogue is how we can change our ideas and perceptions, expand our hearts to other people's life experiences, and realize our own prejudices--if for no other reason than sometimes saying it out loud shows us how stupid wrong we are.  For this purpose, my adoption/book reviews/mamarazzi/Christianity blog will now add anti-racism to the mix.

Don't get me wrong.  I am not saying any of my 8 readers are racist.  However, all of the books on adopting internationally or raising secure children of color say the parents need to talk about and be comfortable talking about race.  I love this idea and jumped in with both feet.  Why wait until our child is home to start talking?  We have three children now.  I want to help them form their ideas of race.  Already I have had some fascinating conversations with the boys.  But I found I am not always comfortable talking about race, it is easy to fall into the trap of euphemisms,  and I am clueless about the extent of racism.  So talking about race in my blog is really about me learning and growing and becoming a little less racist each day.

Happy Martin Luther King Day! (a day late, but did you know children don't go to school on federal holidays?)


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Documenting Details

If the purpose of my blog was to document the details of our adoption journey, I would so be failing.  We found out Friday that our FBI fingerprints were approved--10/25/2010.  Yep, two and a half months ago.  

We couldn't have our first visit with our Social Worker for our homestudy until the fingerprints were approved.  Now they are approved, so I'd better finish up those last few questions on my self-study.  

I don't blame our agency for not letting us know before now.  October/November was a busy time for them, and when I e-mailed Friday to find out I had the answer within an hour.  

Oops.  Some parts of adoption and growing our family through adoption fascinate me.  The paper chase is not one of those parts!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Me 2!

The phrase "me too" is very common around here these days.   Every time, really every time, I say we are going to do "X" or "Z" Sunflower says, "Me too?  Me too?"  She points to herself and looks at me with her eyes shining with worry.

I easily resist the urge to answer, "No.  Mommy and Daddy and the guys are all going somewhere and we plan to leave you alone" because the anxiety in her eyes is so deep and real.  (Plus Oak and I believe in waiting until our children are three before teaching sarcasm.)

Instead I say, "Yes, Sunflower, you too."  Or occasionally, not often, I say "You are staying home with Mommy.  Just Daddy is going" because she usually only asks when it is clear we are all getting ready to do something.

If she was adopted I would be anxious that she was having attachment issues.  Since she isn't adopted I know it is part of the attachment process.   It is a natural part of her feeling secure in her family and finding her place.  Soothing her is a natural part of being her mommy regardless of how she came to our family.

There is one context she uses the phrase that doesn't garner reassurance but laughter.  

If someone asks if she is Sunflower, she shouts, "No, Me two!"

If someone mentions that SnapDragon is "too" cute, she shouts, "No, Me two!"

We laugh, hold our two fingers up with her, and say, "Yes, Sunflower, you two!"


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Unconditional Love

Today I worked on my homestudy autobiography questions.  I am almost done with them but it was much slower than it should have been (I couldn't get myself to work on them when our agency was suspended or while my SW was out of town these last three weeks.)  However, I did work on them today and I had to delete Huckleberry, SnapDragon, and Sunflower more times than not to put in their real names.  My SW does not read my blog.  It made me laugh each time and once I had to stare at Sunflower for a full minute while trying to remember what word I was supposed to type.

On a more serious note, the article "Why Chinese Mothers are Superior" is creating quite a buzz in the online adoption and Asian communities.  Whatever Amy Chua claims her book means to say about extreme parenting that denies play dates, requires strait A's, and allows for parents to scream nasty words at their children* the comments section of the online article make it very clear that many children were raised this way and scarred by it.  My favorite Tonggu Mama addresses the balance needed between the extremes of "Eastern" parenting and the extremes of "Western" parenting that coddles children to build self-esteem.  Most of the discussion seems to be focused on how to find the correct balance between correction and praise.  I'll leave that to others; I agree it must be done; I agree it is difficult to do; I agree true accomplishments will build our childrens' self-esteem.  I don't see any need for me to expand on the topic because I don't want to feel completely redundant.

However, I do need to say something on this topic because it weighs so heavily on my heart.  When did we decide that giving our children self-esteem was more valuable than giving them love?  Okay, nobody would say self-esteem was more valuable, but I do believe our actions speak louder than words.  At minimum our culture and some of our school teaching choices give them equal weight.  "Give them the tools to feel good about themselves and they will feel loved."    No.    Help them feel loved and they will feel good about themselves.  As a parent I must learn how to communicate to my child that they are loved and valued for who they are regardless of mistakes or accomplishments.  If my child rests comfortably in my love, then he doesn't need empty praises to build self-esteem, he can accept correction or fail without sinking into depression and feeling unworthy.  The schools say we have a self-esteem crisis facing our nation; I say we have a love problem.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3: "If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing."

That said, I would like to share with you my understanding of unconditional love.  I wrote this in January 2005 to share as the devotion at a MOPS meeting 10 months before we started our adoption.  I was tempted to edit it to fit into my blog a little better, but all I changed were the names.  My awe at God's love has not changed.

"First child. Waiting for him or her. For me, that time was wonderful. An exciting time filled with happy anticipation. I would rock in my rocking chair, rubbing my tummy and reading my Bible. I sat at the table putting a butterfly puzzle together for my baby’s room, praying and listening to praise music. My life was neat, orderly; I was in perfect communion with my God and my husband. I knew the baby would change things, life would be harder, life would be less tidy. But I was prepared and eagerly anticipated the change.

I was wrong! Life wasn’t harder, it was impossible! Life wasn’t less tidy, it was a mess! Books cannot prepare you for a child (which is probably why the new Apprentice, street smarts vs. book smarts is a hit!). Daily Quiet times, even weekly quiet times disappeared. The perfect communion with my husband got some sleep-deprived scratches, and please don’t go into our bathroom! Ever! But I wouldn’t exchange my boys for the world, and it all boils down to one reason—Love!

I love my boys with an intensity and unselfishness I didn’t know I was capable of. And because of that, I now know how much God loves me. “How great is the love the father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God.” I John 3:1a We are God’s children, and He loves us. He loves us as we love our children, only with perfection!

I have some examples. First, do you remember how horrible it was to change the diaper of someone else’s kid? It had to be the worse part of being a mother, right? But with our own children, we take it in stride. We change sometimes 8-12 diapers a day, because we love our child. We don’t want him to have diaper rash. God cleans up our messy accidents everyday without ever tiring or wavering in His all-consuming love for us!

Have you ever had to deny your child something they wanted because you knew it wouldn’t be good for them? “No, you can’t touch the fireplace. No, don’t go in the pool without Mommy. No, you may not have another piece of candy.” They cry and throw a fit, but you don’t change your mind because you love them. You know with confidence you can’t let them play in the fire for their own good so you endure the fit, no matter that you can’t stand to see them cry. You want to comfort them, hold them, but sometimes they are so mad they won’t let you. But though it hurts, you are understanding, because you love them! 

God is the perfect Father. He never says no too quickly, in error, or out of laziness. He always knows what is best for us; and when we scream and pout because we didn’t get what we wanted, He wants to comfort us and cuddle us. Our pain hurts Him, but He never waivers because He loves us and will endure hurt in order to make sure we have what is best for us.

One day, I watched Huckleberry, then two, play in the backyard. Very patiently and with great care, he gathered sticks around the yard and planted them around the base of one tree. After two hours of hard work, he had 30 dead sticks standing proud and tall. If they had been living flowers it would have been beautiful landscaping. I watched him with my heart overflowing with love! What a cute boy I have, look how hard he’s working, what amazing patience. He wants to make his Daddy happy by fixing up the yard. Next time Oak plants some real flowers, we’ll have to let Huckleberry help. I have the best son!

When I rush around working hard, trying to please God, sometimes I completely miss the boat! I plant dead sticks in shallow, dry dirt. And God looks down on me with love. He doesn’t say “Hey, look at that moron, she just doesn’t get it!” He says, “Look how cute she is! She works so hard. She wants to please me. I love her! How can we help her use that energy more fruitfully next time? What a precious daughter I have!”

We love our children, and because we do, maybe we can finally believe God loves us even in our messes, tantrums, and screw-ups because we love our kids in their messes, tantrums, and screw-ups. I anticipated a lot of changes when I had kids, but I never expected to experience a deeper relationship with God when my quiet times went from consistent times of prayer and careful Bible Study to erratic short Bible readings, dinner blessings with occasional longer prayers, and the always present knowledge that the love I feel for my children is nothing compared to how God loves me. And God loves each of you!

Ephesians 1:3-6 3 How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He's the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. 4 Long before he laid down earth's foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. 5 Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) 6 He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.

If you haven’t yet accepted God’s invitation to be a part of His family, I can promise you, He is waiting for that day with as much eagerness, love and patient sorrow as you have ever felt for any of your children. He can’t wait to adopt you."

I read the blogs and comments that say to be a good parent love is not enough and nod my head sagely with them, but really what they mean is that namby-pamby feeling of love that depends on the actions and cuteness of our child is not enough.  I think the love that the Bible teaches--the love of action and sacrifice--that love is enough because it includes all those other things we need.

I Corinthians 13: 4-8:  "Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails."  (Read Tonggu Mama's Amplified Adoption Version for more insight.)

* This parenting method isn't just parents struggling to hold their temper in frustrating situations, it is purposely saying mean things as a parenting strategy to motivate and mold their child.  A wise woman told me a few days ago--the whole Bible is a parenting book.  Parent as God parents us.  He disciplines.  He encourages.  He comforts.  He loves.  He never, ever calls us hurtful names like garbage to motivate us.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

My Top 10 Photos of 2010

The forum I actually post at and don't just read and Our Little Tongginator encouraged readers to pick their top 10 pictures of the year and post them on their blog.  I'm about two weeks late getting it done, but here is my post.

First, I did limit myself to 10 pictures.  Everyone else mentioned how hard it was to choose just ten, so I gave myself some rules before I started in order to help me pick.  I decided I could only choose pictures I haven't already posted on my blog, the pictures had to be from different days with a mix of my family, and once I had ten I had to stop looking.  This meant I only went back 6 months of the year and I skipped whole photo shoots of Sunflower (when the boys are at school I play with the camera a lot).  However, overall I am pleased with my selection.  So without any more boring introductions, here they are:

Here is Sunflower.  She is quite a little mama now with lots of dolls from her birthday and Christmas, but this stuffed lion was her first second baby (her first one was a plastic lion shape sorter that she rocked and fed).  This lion is currently residing in Texas since he stowed away in our friend's suitcase.  I love Sunflower's eyes.
Here is SnapDragon at Camp Invention a week long day camp that explores science and math in a fun way.  It is available in schools across the country.  Huckleberry has gone every year since Kindergarten, but last summer was SnapDragon's first time.  With their team they had to come up with a product and market and sell it.  Apparently SnapDragon's mall was closed.  Their favorite part of camp is taking apart a broken electronics they bring to camp and create something new and exciting to bring home from the parts and everyone's recyclables.  I consider ourselves lucky when the amount of "projects" they bring home is equal to the amount of recyclables we sent to camp.
My dreams of beautiful shots of my beautiful girl standing on the beach were shot when we discovered Sunflower did not want to stand on the sand even with shoes on.  We didn't need to worry about her running around during my brother-in-law's beach wedding since she would not move from the blanket.  If only being still also meant being quiet.
The boys dancing at the reception.  Everyone had a great time, especially Sunflower who gave the bridesmaids a giggle by stripping in the middle of the dance floor because her tights were too slippery.
Sunflower has always been able to communicate exactly what she is thinking with a look.  Oak says she gets that from her mother, but I don't have a clue what he is talking about.  I believe Huckleberry took this picture because I was not with them.  I didn't stay the whole family camping trip because it was the only weekend MOPS leadership could have their planning retreat--really the only weekend.
All of the children loved the splash park.  I've avoided these kinds of pictures before, but I really love this picture of Huckleberry.  In case you are tempted to use it for nefarious purposes, I have a tracker that tells me who downloads what and with my brilliant husband, google earth, and top secret satellites who knows what can happen, just saying.
What a better way to end the summer than with ice the car.  No worries for me...Daddy's choice, Daddy's clean-up.  (Of course, sometimes Mommy's choice, Daddy's clean-up also.)
I love this picture of my family holding hands and walking; too bad all those other people insisted on being at the fair. 
We do not get this much snow at our house but a few hour drive into the mountains will give the boys some snow time most months of the year.  Oak took this picture (with M's camera) because I didn't go with them.  It may appear that I avoid outdoor time with my family, but Sunflower needing to stay home to take a nap is a perfectly legitimate reason to stay away from all that cold, wet, ucky snow.
This photo isn't my most technically talented or artfully posed picture, but it is one of my favorites.  SnapDragon is reading to  Huckleberry the story he wrote him for Christmas.  I love my family.