We've definitely hit the doldrums - no, not a place of depression, as the expression has come to mean in our modern-day language, but rather something like that stagnant place near the equator that was dreaded by sailors on the ships of a few centuries ago. The place that was known for no winds, no movement, and the occasional sudden squalls. The place where you could be stuck for days or weeks, with no real way to leave. The place where you could go crazy with boredom or illusion or where you could be sucked into crippling laziness. That's a bit how this adoption feels at this point. Our numbers for the month of October were #34 for a girl and #24 for a boy...not a whole lot of movement to the waitlists lately. It doesn't seem real to me any longer. I'm perfectly happy with my little family of three, we're in this quiet place with no winds, and the smallest things are starting to make me question my readiness for parenting another child. We've lost the momentum of the paper-pushing days of the homestudy and the dossier, and we're almost up to one year on the waitlist. This isn't ever really going to happen, right?
Yikealo is still actively praying for and asking about his "new little boy or girl." The other day in Social Studies we were discussing the difference between needs and wants. He was supposed to draw a picture of something that was a need and somethings that was a want. Under "Need" he drew a glass of water. Under "Want" he drew a smiling stick figure. I asked him if it was supposed to be a Lego guy. (He's recently discovered Legos and had just informed me that morning that he wanted to get some "guys" for his small collection.) He looked at me like I was a crazy person. "No, of course not!" he replied, "It's our new little boy or girl!" Oh yeah...I'd forgotten again.
It's a strange place to be at times: yes, I pray for my future child, and yes, there is a part of me that wants to "move on already." The deeper part of myself, however, realizes that in order for me to receive a referral, a child must meet shocking and severe tragedy first. I don't want that to happen. While I adore Yikealo more than I can say, and I am SO very thankful that God brought him to my life, I do not begrudge his first Mother one single moment that she had with him...not one. I'm so thankful that he had that time with her. It's the same way now. If my next child is being loved and cared for by his/her family right now...please, Lord, don't take that away from them just yet. Sure, if they're already languishing in an orphanage somewhere, let's hurry this whole process along, but if not...
These thoughts are hard, and yet they always bring me back to the same place of thankfulness for God's sovreignty. I'm so glad that I'm not the one in charge. I'm so relieved that He knows the future, that as we read in church yesterday afternoon, "...I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil..." He knows where this ship is going, and I do not. I can't control the winds, the storms, the doldrums, but He can. My job for now is to sit back and allow Him to take the rudder.
"From where I'm standing, Lord,
It's so hard for me to see
Where this is going,
And where You're leading me.
I wish I knew how
All my fears and all my questions
Are gonna play out
In a world I can't control...
When I'm lost in the mystery,
To You my future is a memory,
Cause You're already there.
You're already there,
Standing at the end of my life,
Waiting on the other side,
And You're already there." Casting Crowns
We recently returned from one of the most perfect little get-a-ways that we've ever taken. David's vacation year is centered around his date-of-hire at his company, so it rolls over in mid-October. There is a "use it or lose it" policy, and due to our adoption, we had been hoarding vacation days all year until we knew for certain that we wouldn't need them for Ethiopia. We started using them up at the end of July, but as we moved into the fall, we still had 2 days left. David came up with the brilliant idea of heading to the Niagara Falls/Buffalo area for a long weekend. We were able to use credit card points for our hotel and for restaurants, so we were also able to do this little trip on the cheap!
We left on a Friday morning and stopped for several hours at a great outlet mall in Grove City, PA, where we managed to put a big dent in our Christmas shopping. Yikealo was less than thrilled about this part, but he did pick out a keen racoon-head hat at The Children's Place, which he then refused to take off for most of the weekend. All kinds of people gravitate toward this kid already...you should have seen what the addition of the raccoon hat did! This child has some serious magnetism.
The drive was beautiful. We were blessed to be travelling during peak leaf season, and everything was bright, colorful and gorgeous - even in the rain!
On Saturday, we headed up to see Niagara Falls...or "Neraggrer Falls" as Yikealo called it. It's always so jarring, somehow, to be at an American landmark (read: tourist area) and to realize that almost NO ONE around speaks English! We are pretty certain that most of the continent of Asia had relocated to up-state New York for the weekend. After all, it makes perfect sense that travelers to the US would be visiting one of the beautiful natural landmarks that our country features. We walked around for awhile down by the American Falls
and then took a ride on the Maid of the Mist. That was pretty incredible! We got soaked, of course, but it was well worth it to see that pounding water so close. David remarked at one point, as we looked up at Horseshoe Falls, "I wonder if this is a tiny taste of what it looked like when God opened up the "fountains of the deep" during the Great Flood?"
Following Maid of the Mist, we caught an Imax film about some of the people who have gone over the Falls, and then headed back toward our hotel for dinner and some swimming before bedtime.
On Sunday, we headed back up to the Falls for some more sightseeing. We checked out an aquarium and walked up to the "Cave of the Winds." The actual Cave of the Winds was buried in landslides a number of years ago, but the current attraction is a series of wooden walkways that take you up to within 10 feet of the Bridal Veil Falls. When you are standing at the top on the "Hurricane Deck" it really does feel like you are caught in a crazy tropical storm of sorts...albeit a very COLD one! The following picture is not zoomed in at all:
Yikealo absolutely LOVED the Cave of the Winds walk. He splashed and stomped and shouted and got completely drenched. I loved it too...it is always so exhilarating to see a tiny example of God's majestic power so close! I couldn't help but sing "How Great Thou Art" as we waited in the tunnel to go back up to ground level.
That evening, we went to see the musical of Lion King. We had really hoped to keep this activity a complete surprise from Mr. Y. He adores the music from this production, and has most of the soundtrack memorized, including the African words. We had no idea how we would be able to keep it a surprise until the famous opening notes began, but things worked out perfectly! We got stuck in traffic trying to find parking, had to race through the rain to try to find the theater, and by the time we picked up our tickets and found our seats, we really only had 5 minutes to spare. In our rush through the lobby, Y completely missed all of the posters with the huge Lion's head on them. He sat there looking around expectantly, while David teased him with helpful comments like, "Did you notice that there aren't any other kids here, Yikealo? That probably means that this won't be any fun for little people." Yikealo looked around and gave a little snort, "Dad, there are LOTS of kids here!"
I wish that I could have taken a picture of his face when Rafiki sang the opening note from behind the stage curtain. He recognized it immediately, and sat riveted through the next 2 and a half hours. We couldn't have planned the whole thing any more perfectly! Needless to say, we've been hearing Y's renditions of the songs ever since!
There is one song called "Shadowlands" where Nala sings about the pain of leaving the only home that she's ever known, while promising to always remember her people. I've heard the song many times, but this time, it brought me to tears, as I thought of my two little nephews waiting for their new family in Ethiopia. They can really have no idea what is going to happening to them within the next few weeks. "The river's dry/The ground has broken/So I must go/Now I must go/And where the journey may lead me/Let your prayers be my guide/I cannot stay here, my family/But I'll remember my pride..."
On Monday morning, we packed up and then left for one more day at the Falls. Although it was windy, it was also our first sunny day there. We walked over the bridge to the Canadian side, so Mr. Y had the chance to use his passport and visit another country. It was really the perfect complement to our History lessons of late.
We spent several hours walking around and taking photos of the glorious falls. We saw several beautiful rainbows, and enjoyed our time in Canada very much.
Getting back through to the American side was another matter, however. We had to pay 50 cents apiece to move through some turnstyles, and let's just say that they were not very cooperative with me! The first time, the machine ate my money without opening, and the second time, the turnstyle slammed shut and refused to turn again with one of my legs through and one of them not...yeah...awkward! I have some fairly massive bruises from the wretched thing, but I'm sure that the French guys standing behind us were highly amused!
After going back to the American side (finally!) we spent some time walking around Goat Island and the Three Sisters Islands by the Canadian rapids. It was a lovely way to end our time there, and it was a wonderful place to just spend a few extra moments in worship of the One who created it all.
Within about 10 minutes of leaving for home, I turned around to see this in the backseat:
Yeah, I think that a certain someone was just a little exhausted after all the fun! Farewell, vacation, for another year. We HOPE that David's recently refilled vacation time will be used for a couple of trips to Ethiopia before next October!
Wednesday was a bad day. Yikealo has been a bit sick with croup again, and the breathing treatments required to loosen his horrid cough have the unfortunate effect of making him crazy, out-of-control hyper. He completely loses any ability to focus or listen to anything that I say, and let's just say that I don't deal well with that. Add in the fact that we took a great little family getaway to Niagara Falls last weekend (another story for another post) that left us a few lessons behind in our school plans, and along with my control-freak, we-must-catch-up personality, we had a bit of a mess on our hands.
I held things together rather well, I must say, through the first half of the day, in the midst of some truly horrendous, uncharacteristic behavior from the boy. We had done all of our lessons but one, and by late afternoon, the majority of the hyperactivity had worn off. Okay...time to tackle the history lesson. We've been studying the various continents, with the last month or so being centered around Europe, and this was the final review. Yikealo has virtually no interest in the subject, and after 8 lessons on Europe, still cannot consistently name which continent we've been discussing. Now, I do feel that it's a bit lofty to think that a Kindergarten student should be able to place 8 different European countries on a map, along with naming them, recognizing several major landmarks in each one, and knowing what the flag for each country looks like. Seriously? Before starting this unit with him, I couldn't have done that...certainly not the flag recognition...and I'm 36! Why is this necessary for a 5 year old? On the other hand, considering that we've talked about it on at least 12 different days, shouldn't he be able to say the word "Spain?" Keep in mind that we're talking about an extremely bright child who is considerably ahead of his age group in both reading and math skills. He has memorized a couple of chapters in the Bible, and he can quote verbatim almost the entire soundtrack from the Broadway production of Lion King. This is what Wednesday's lesson sounded like, however:
Me: "Yikealo, this is the map of the continent of Europe. Can you show me where Spain is on the map of Europe?" (He points to the correct place.) "Great job! Now, what is the name of this country?" (I point to Spain again.)
Y: (blank stare) "Uhhhhh....I don't know."
Me: "It's called Spain. I want you to point to it and say, 'This is Spain.'"
Y: "This is Spain."
Me: "Good job! Now, what is it called again?"
After about 15 minutes of this, I decided that we both needed a break. We'd come back to it after supper, and surely things would be better, right? An hour later, after supper, we tackled it again. It didn't go any more smoothly than it had earlier, and after about 45 minutes, I completely lost my temper. "WHY AREN'T YOU GETTING THIS? I'VE JUST TOLD YOU THE ANSWER! THIS IS NOT DIFFICULT, AND YOU ARE A SMART KID!" That didn't help at all, of course. Yikealo dissolved into tears, and I stomped away from the kitchen for a few seconds. Immediately, verses like "Love is patient, love is kind...love never fails" started running through my head, and I went back to grudgingly apologize for yelling. Yikealo snuggled up against me, wiped his tears away, and asked in a small voice, "Mama, is it your turn to lay down with me tonight?" My voice still hardened in slowly subsiding anger, I asked, "Why? Do you want it to be?" I was positive that he'd say, "No...I want it to be Daddy's turn." Instead, he wrapped his arms tighter around me, and replied, "Yeah, because I just need some time with you."
I started sobbing, and he just held on tightly and whispered, "I love you, Mama." Oh my...I had just behaved so badly, screaming like a banshee , taking out my frustration in a harsh, completely inappropriate way, and Yikealo just wanted to be with me. I can't possibly live up to or deserve that kind of unconditional, surrendered love. But then, that's the thing about love, isn't it? We don't ever deserve it, do we? Certainly not the love that God gives...it is always a freely given, completely undeserved gift. It reaches inside of our cold, angry, dead hearts and changes us, transforming not only our lives, but the lives of the people around us. I stammered out another apology (a real one this time) and asked for forgiveness. Y leaned back, looked at my red, swollen eyes, and replied, "Of course I forgive you."
Later that night, as he snuggled up against me in bed, he whispered, "Mama, you're just the prettiest girl in the whole world. I just love you so much." I said that I loved him too. He smiled, closed his eyes, and said, "Now sleep tight, my Hunkin-Pun," as he patted my back. (I have sometimes called him my "Punkin-Hon", and now he often refers to us as his "Hunkin-Puns.") When I carried him over to his own bed and tucked him in, he whispered again, "I sure do love you." I spent some extra time just praying over him, thanking God for the enormous blessing that He gave us when He placed this child in our lives. We have learned so many life-lessons just through watching the way that Y loves and forgives, and I need those lessons so badly. Learning patience doesn't come easy for me, but I know that it is worth it!
A few moments ago, I discovered Y conducting "school" in the living room with his rescue hero guys. The "teacher" was dressed as Superman, and was reading Calvin and Hobbes to his students, as well as singing various bits from Lion King. He had written out a class list, which included such interesting monikers as Wvur, Poiloldad, Iol, Blov and Voo. He did inform all of them that they needed to "stop goofing around and pay attention"...hmmm....sounds familiar, somehow!
In all seriousness, we are loving the whole homeschooling thing thus far. I have enjoyed the time with my little guy, and it has been so much fun to watch him explore new things. I know that it's cliche', but I love the freedom that having "the world as our classroom" brings! A few weeks ago, we were at Mom's for the weekend, and Y's cousin Zavier enjoyed doing a couple of lessons with us.
Yesterday, our daily lessons included a trip to the Cleveland Zoo with Susan and Quinn.
We've been studying the various continents in Y's history course, so it was really fun for him to see things like an example of the Great Barrier Reef, and the South American Rain Forest.
As well as the lions, tigers and bears, of course!
A few Sundays ago, Y spent most of one service writing various letters on several small sheets of paper. When he was finished, he handed it to me, and told me that he'd been "blogging" and he had a "new post" that I needed to read. See if you can get more out of it than I managed to...
And finally, we heard the best news earlier this morning: my sister's family has passed court in Ethiopia!! Now their file will be forwarded to the US Embassy in Addis Ababa, and they will wait for a visa appointment to be scheduled. Please pray that everything will move quickly...we all really want these two little guys to come home soon!