Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Growing Up So Fast and Some Other Updates

I have definitely turned into a Mom - one of those emotional, but oh-so-proud women who delights in her child's new accomplishments at the same time that she grieves just a little bit that he is growing up so fast. Case in point: he starts pre-school next week. He is beyond excited, and asks every single day, "Mom, when I wake up from my bed, THEN it will be time for me to go to pre-school?" We bought him the required back-pack last week - a gray and lime-green affair that is much too big for him, but that he insisted was the one that he liked - and he has been dragging it around ever since. He fills it up with random things that he deems necessary for pre-school: paper, stickers, his "bottle-water" (in case he gets "firsty") and...his I-Pod shuffle (which I've been trying to explain will NOT be accompanying him!) It's only for two hours at a time two days a week, and the teachers are ladies from our church, and it will be a wonderful opportunity for him to learn and interact with lots of other little people, BUT...I'm still kind of dreading it. I never dreamed that it would be such an emotional thing for me to let go just a little bit - and this is only the beginning of letting go!

He has also learned to ride his bike sans training wheels during the last week - a feat of which he is prodigiously proud. He's been continually announcing to random strangers, "Hey, you know what? I can ride my bike without training wheels!" and then puffing out his little chest and waiting for the praise to start falling - which it inevitably does, because he's just so adorable with that huge grin on his face. I have to admit that his skill is pretty impressive, considering that we purposely bought his bike bigger than necessary so that he could "grow into it." His feet can't touch the ground when he's sitting on the seat, so I wasn't planning to remove the training wheels until next year when he was a bit taller. However, the little daredevil had been riding so recklessly down our fairly steep driveway that his training wheels were bent beyond usefulness, and he was actually learning to ride his bike leaning to one side in order to compensate. So, the training wheels came off, and after about ten minutes of David helping him to stay up, Yikealo had the riding thing down perfectly. I was thinking that he'd still need us to get started and stopped, but he figured out that if he pulls alongside the curb, he can easily stop by touching his foot to the grass (which is about 7 inches higher than the street.) With a few tries, he also figured out that if gets the pedals positioned just right, he can start the same way - by pushing off of the curb. I was pretty proud of his "problem-solving" - but it just proves that when there's a will, there's a way. The new developments in riding do require frequent stops, by the way, so that Y can practice putting down his new "hand-stand" and no amount of talking on my part can convince him that it's called a kick-stand.

He hasn't out-grown George though. I was sweeping several days ago, and stopped the vacuum cleaner next to Yikealo's chair while I went to unplug it. As I was walking out of the kitchen, I saw him reach out and put his thumb on the start button, so I gave some orders: "Yikealo, don't you DARE turn that on!" He looked at me with a very insulted expression and insisted in his best "Duh-Mom!" voice that he wasn't going to turn it on. I asked why he was touching the "On" button if that was the case, and he replied, "Mom, I am holding the button so GEORGE will not turn it on!" Oh, of course! What WAS I thinking?

This morning, as David was getting ready to leave for work, Yikealo was stomping around the house with a blanket for a cape, a balloon for a weapon, and a fierce expression on his face. He informed us that he was a very, very bad guy named "LaWishy" and that he was "stremely dang'rous" to touch. David responded, "Well, if you're too dangerous for me to touch, then I guess I won't be able to kiss you goodbye" to which Yikealo said, "No, YOU can touch me, and Mama can touch me too." I asked who exactly he was so "dang'rous" for then, and he quickly replied that he was "dang'rous for George to touch. George is very afraid of bad guys!" All I can say is that George MUST be a sissy if he is scared of a bad guy who can't abide the thought of missing his morning goodbye kiss from Daddy!

A quick update on our second adoption: quick, because there is absolutely nothing happening right now. We had finished all of our paperwork and parent education by the middle of July, and I was very pleased with the fact that it had taken us a little less than one month to finish. However, I suppose that I needn't have hurried quite so much, because the State of Ohio is currently taking at least 70 days to complete child abuse checks on prospective adoptive parents, and our agency can't continue with the homestudy process until they get that report back from the state. AGCI filed the paperwork on June 14th, so it should be 70 days as of today. Hopefully we'll hear something by the end of this week, at which time we can schedule our interviews with our social worker. She has to spend at least 6 hours with us to make sure that we're fit to parent another child, and then she has to write our homestudy report, which is basically a brief history of us: our lives, our beliefs, the reason we are adopting, and our parenting style, along with her personal recommendation of us as adoptive parents. Then, that has to be approved by the central office in Oregon, signed and notarized, and returned to us, where it will become part of our dossier. Once our completed dossier arrives in Oregon and is approved, we will be added to the waitlist for a child. We were told two weeks ago that our agency is currently telling families that are added to the waitlist that for a child of 0-3 years it could take up to 18 months just to receive a referral! That was a little surprising, considering how quickly everything went for us the last time, but there have been so many changes to the program, as well as a LOT of families who have signed on since then. If this adoption were following the same time-line as our previous one, we would be receiving a referral within the next month - and now we're learning that it could be a couple of years before we are home with our second child! So, we're settling in, preparing our hearts to wait, and reminding ourselves again and again that God's timing is perfect. He knew every bit of this when He called us to adopt a second time, and He is in control of everything, so there is really no point in being anxious about any of it.

In other news, we are still struggling with USCIS and the Social Security Administration over Yikealo's information. I filed for his Soc.# in mid-June. We had waited for a full-month from the date that we had received his Certificate of Citizenship with the updated birthdate - hoping that it would have given USCIS enough time to get all of their records straight. Two weeks ago, after waiting for 8 weeks, I got a call from the local SS office. They had received a notice from the Department of Homeland Security stating that the information in their database did not match what SS had for Yikealo, so we would need to make a trip to our local USCIS office to ask them to update their computer system. WHAT? We need to take time off of work, drive an hour to Cleveland, pay parking fees, and then drive an hour home - just to tell a government office to DO ITS JOB?? How does that make any sense whatsoever? USCIS GAVE us the document that doesn't match their computer data! At any rate, we didn't really have a choice, so last Friday afternoon, I got the pleasure of yelling our personal information through a plate-glass window to a hard-of-hearing USCIS employee who didn't speak English very well. Oh joy! After a few minutes of me holding papers up to the glass and shouting my request, he appeared to understand my predicament and supposedly "fixed" the date in the computers. We'll see. I called Social Security today to have them try again, so I'll expect to hear something in 8 weeks or so. Pardon the sarcasm, but doesn't it just warm your heart to think that government offices will be handling your healthcare too at some point? Oh well, as I stated above, God holds the future, so what's the point of worrying?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Learning To Be Uncomfortable

Last week I shared a bit about our family vacation to the beach. What I didn't share in that post were the not-so-happy or comfortable thoughts that were in my mind during the entire week at the beach. Thoughts that someone was missing. That our family was not complete. That I more than likely have a future child living somewhere in Ethiopia right now. We have said that we will take a child up to age 3 - our agency translates that to mean up to 47 months. As there are relatively few families who have parameters above 12 months old for an adoptive child, that probably means that we will get a 2 or 3 year old. Assuming that this adoption will be completed over the next year and a half or so, that means that I have a child who is alive at this moment. Who is he or she? Are they still living with their birth-family or are they in an orphanage somewhere? Maybe they're alone on the street. While we were celebrating the joy of being together as a family was my son or daughter grieving over the loss of their own family? While we were enjoying the contents of a ridiculously over-stocked pantry, was my little boy or girl starving somewhere? Did they eat at all during those days that we feasted?

Let me be clear: I don't feel guilty for taking a vacation with my family. At the same time, I don't want the things that I find pleasure in to rob me of the ache inside that God has blessed me with over the last two years. I'm so thankful that He is teaching my heart to break for the things that break His. I don't want to forget - EVER - that there are millions of people who don't have the most basic necessities of life. I want that knowledge to pour through me, washing away the perceived safety and ownership and comfortable-ness of life that I live. Nothing that I have is MINE - it's all God's - so what will it take to really make me live every single moment that way? Yeah, so it's hitting me hard right now, because I have a child out there somewhere, but will that really have changed when we finally reach the day that we bring the 4th member of our family home? We'll still have so many brothers and sisters around the world who are hurting, who don't have enough food, or medicine, or shelter, and provisions for their children. I NEED to stay uncomfortable in my own life - because until God grabs my attention and shows me how selfishly I've been living, I generally don't do anything about making the necessary changes. I forget to "live simply so that others can simply live." My wants starts becoming "needs" in my mind, and I find myself justifying expenditures or lifestyle choices with "my" money - forgetting to ask God how He wants me to use His possessions that He has given me stewardship over.

I have a tendency to "shut down" mentally when faced with the overwhelming sorrow of others - "I can't really do anything about it anyway, so I just won't think about it right now." Instead I am learning to keep my eyes and my heart open to the pain - to really weep with those who weep. And although feeling a burden and a heartache over the broken pieces in this fallen old world isn't exactly comfortable, it's such a good thing. It drives me to my knees and it reminds me to turn over every moment and every possession to my Creator. It makes me long for Heaven - for the day when His nail-scarred hand will wipe away every tear. Until then, I want Him to continually mold me and bring me closer to His image - to go on making me uncomfortable, because it is in those places that I learn who He really is - a God who made Himself to be one of us, and therefore identifies in a very real way with the hurting and the broken. A God who asks us to be His hands and feet, to show His love to everyone that we meet. A God who gives dire warnings to those who refuse to be compassionate to the wounded.

"Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me."  Matthew 25:41-45

Sunday, August 8, 2010

My Lompster can crap his fingers...

David here, as you no doubt guessed by the potty post. Sorry for that, but you'll see in a minute that it's not what you think it is.

I arrived home one day early this week to a darling... er, I mean ferocious... boy who viciously proclaimed through bared teeth: "I'M A LOMPSTER"...

Having just arrived home, I wasn't sure of the day's activities, which would have lent clues as to whether I was being faced by a vile monster or a dangerous lobster, but regardless, the proclamation ruined the intended effect.

Later in the week, and after trying for months, Y was finally able to snap his fingers for the first time and ran up with his excitement spilling over to proudly proclaim: "I can crap my fingers!" (snicker) Now I'm not sure what portion snap and what portion crack that represents, but it's just proof once again that he fits into my family perfectly.

Anyway, the real reason for the post, and the reason I'm just lovin' up my son so much is as follows:

I've known about the tragic accident in Steven Curtis Chapman's family since the time it occurred; I remember hearing of his daughter's death the day it happened and have prayed for their family and their continued witness. However, a reminder of this sad event came back to my life last week when Steven's song "Beauty Will Rise" got so stuck in my head -- the words are breathtaking... but that's not what I'm writing about either.

The music led me back to an interview the Chapman family did with Larry King and, from there, to the topic of this post: "Heaven is the Face."

Heaven is the face of a little girl
With dark brown eyes
That disappear when she smiles
Heaven is the place
Where she calls my name
Says, "Daddy please come play with me for awhile"

God, I know, it's all of this and so much more
But God, You know, that this is what I'm aching for
God, you know, I just can't see beyond the door
So right now

Heaven is the sound of her breathing deep
Lying on my chest, falling fast asleep while I sing
And Heaven is the weight of her in my arms
Being there to keep her safe from harm while she dreams

And God, I know, it's all of this and so much more
But God, You know, that this is what I'm longing for
God, you know, I just can't see beyond the door

But in my mind's eye I can see a place
Where Your glory fills every empty space
All the cancer is gone
Every mouth is fed
And there's no one left in the orphans' bed
Every lonely heart finds their one true love
And there's no more goodbye
And no more not enough
And there's no more enemy
No more

Heaven is a sweet, maple syrup kiss
And a thousand other little things I miss with her gone
Heaven is the place where she takes my hand
And leads me to You
And we both run into Your arms

Oh God, I know, it's so much more than I can dream
It's far beyond anything I can conceive
So God, You know, I'm trusting You until I see
Heaven in the face of my little girl
Heaven in the face of my little girl

I can't tell you how emotionally raw these songs have made me; the poignant lyrics hit a nerve and have taught me to weep and rejoice with the family all at once. They've also taught me to delight in the every day moments with my son...to share in his great joy over the smallest things.

So for all of you parents out there: take that Maple Syrup kiss from the messiest of mouths. Let your child fall asleep in your arms, read that book, play that game. Because there is no guarantee that you'll be able to do so tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Vacation at the Beach

We just returned from a fabulous week in Ocean Isle, North Carolina with David's entire family. We do this every four years - rent a house on the beach and share a week together - and this time around there were 23 of us. Thankfully, the house had 8 bedrooms and bathrooms, as well as two refrigerators, two dishwashers, and at least 3 coffee makers, so we didn't lack for space even with all of us there.

Yikealo absolutely LOVED this vacation - the pools, the ocean, and most of all, the attention from 22 other people. I have a feeling that this will be a rough week for my little social butterfly now that he's stuck at home with just Mom! Yikealo was one of three new additions to our family since our last trip to Ocean Isle, and the other two were right down his alley: his 4-year old cousin and best buddy Quinn,

and Jarin, the husband of our niece Julie. Jarin loves little kids, and he spent so much time playing with the boys - throwing them into the pool, playing a Lightning McQueen driving game with them on the X-box, and swinging them up onto his shoulders. Julie was laughing about the fact that every time she walked into a room, she would immediately hear a chorus of "Hi Jules-Annie! Where's Jarin??"
One really interesting thing from the week is Yikealo's perception of his tan. He's definitely becoming more aware that he is darker-skinned than David and I, and has been asking all kinds of questions about it lately. He's asked several times when he will turn white like Mama...and we've talked a LOT about God's creation and His creativity - that no two people are alike, that God loves variety, and that we should be happy that God created us just as He did. Our heavenly Father made some people with light skin and some people with pretty brown skin, and either one is just perfect. We've compared the similarities and differences of the three of us: Daddy and Yikealo have black hair and brown eyes while Mama has brown hair and blue eyes, Daddy and Yikealo have plain skin while Mama has freckles, Mama's skin is light while Daddy's is medium and Yikealo's is darker, Daddy and Yikealo are boys while Mama is a girl, etc.) One thing that has really worked in our favor is that David's entire family is very dark complected, and there is not just a whole lot of difference between Mr. Y and his cousins. The following is a photo that we took last summer right after we returned from Ethiopia. It shows Yikealo's arm next to the arms of three of his new cousins, and Yikealo's arm is not the darkest in the picture.
Anyway, as Yikealo's skin continued to darken in the sun last week, he became very excited about how "white" his bottom was getting! I couldn't help but to laugh at that, because in fact, David's skin is actually darker right now than Yikealo's "natural" color. Don't get me wrong - I don't care in the slightest what shade of brown my son is. He could be as black as ebony and that would be absolutely fine with me. I've just been thankful as he's started to notice "differences" that we could point out so many similarities to him - that he doesn't need to feel singled out or unusual in the slightest, because he is a perfect creation of God! I can't wait for the day when we stop separating ourselves mentally from our brothers and sisters because of a silly thing like how much melanin we have in our skin...for the day when we finally recognize that there is only ONE race, because we all descended from Adam and Eve and then later from Noah and his family.

Okay, off my soapbox and on to some more family photos from the week! We spent Wednesday evening on the beach attempting to get some good pictures of the families, and for the most part we succeeded. It's just way too tempting for little boys to get filthy splashing in the water and digging in the sand, and they're really not interested in having their fun interrupted for boring old Mom and her camera. It doesn't  help when Daddy explains the ordeal this way, "Yikealo, 'family pictures' is a time when everybody gets dressed up so all the boys can get yelled at." Thanks a lot, dear!

Anyway, here is the whole lot of us:
Mom and Dad, who made it all possible:

Jim and Karen's family:

Mark and Julie's family:

James and Susan's family:

and the three of us:

Here is one of the grandkids:

Finally, a few goofy ones to finish this post! Yikealo fell in love with these horrible frog goggles and wore them constantly all week. He looked like a little alien creature with his water wings and goggles.

The little boys generally ate their meals outside on the picnic table, which worked great for the most part. Unfortunately, at times the desire to fling things over the deck railing was just too much for them. One evening at the beginning of the week, we looked outside to see a line of boys pressed up against the railing. Yikealo's shorts were around his ankles, and as we headed outside to start yelling, he turned around and proudly announced, "I went shinte on Uncle Jim's truck!" Needless to say, Uncle Jim got a lot of teasing for the remainder of the week, and the next morning, after a thorough washing, the truck was moved to the "safe" side of the house - far away from ornery little boys.

I must confess, however, that it wasn't just the little boys who were behaving badly! My dear husband and his younger brother James tend to become more hopelessly juvenile the longer they are together. Their older sister Karen described it this way: "I think that they regress a few years for each day that they're together, so by Friday, they were about eleven years old again!"
On Friday evening, they decided that they needed a "team look" for their euchre game...
and then they came up with the brilliant idea of trying to take "forced perspective" photos of David "holding" James...
Let's just say that there was a lot of rather hysterical laughter, considering that it was around 11:00 PM at that point.

All in all, it was a great week, with lots of family bonding, spiritual discussion, and quality time. We can't wait for the next OIB vacation in 2014!