In the beginning, JD adamantly only wanted two children. I thought that four would be perfect. Once we caught God's vision of putting orphans into families, our plan was multiplied by God. We are currently blessed with 12 children; five biological, six adopted and one more waiting in Ethiopia. Our first adoption was from the U.S., the next three were from Liberia, West Africa, and our last two were from Ethiopia. We are supporting our 12th child in Ethiopia after her adoption could not pass court.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Plugging On

 Just sitting at this key-board holds a risk that I will start typing as fast as my mind is spinning and before I come up for air, I will have three pages. (The reality is then that I would never be able to hit the publish button, so I'm going to skip that outburst.) Let's just say that one of the 11 has once again thrown at us some parenting challenges that we never anticipated. Dealing with this latest issue has really made me spend time contemplating what makes me feel like a success or a failure; I'm afraid far too many of my feelings are helplessly tied to the irrational decisions that a few of my children continue to make. I will spare you with an attempt of a blogable version of my journey, but it is proving to be a challenge, both in day to day life and in minute to minute living in my mind. 

In the meantime, between appointments and brain-wracking, I am still schooling the children and tutoring at CC. 

This is our current idea of art - draw what you'd like where you'd like

Bella's green person had a sad face - I'm deciding to not over-analyze it; she is a happy girl. 

As soon as I can possibly wrap up a day of homeschooling, the school bus delivers my home-work crew. Tori is blessing us with some recorder practice each night. Check out how seriously Elijah is taking "Hot Cross Buns". 

We are having a party here on Saturday, so I took the kids out a bit this afternoon for some yard clean up time. I am still getting tomatoes! Since the temperature is dipping tonight, I picked some green ones to ripen in the kitchen windowsill in case they freeze. 

"Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is illusion." - Brennan Manning

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Broken Children, Hurting Adults

They Break, You Know

It was something about the phrasing that got to me. Something about the cadence of his words, the staccato of his speech.
“Nobody loves me. Not even my mother who gave birth to me.”
It is an odd turn of phrase, isn’t it?
Not even my mother who gave birth to me.
He was buckled into the backseat of my Toyota, still too little to sit up front. At seven he had already moved more times than the total number of years he had been on the earth. And this time, like the times before it, he moved with his belongings in a trash bag. A suitcase, at least, would have added a small degree of dignity to the whole affair – to being “placed” in another and another and yet another foster home before reaching the 3rd grade. Trash bags break, you know. Trash bags can’t possibly support the contents of any life, and certainly not a life as fragile as this.
They break from the strain, eventually.
This move was harder for Stephen than most. It was a home he thought he would stay in, at least for awhile. He had felt affection there. When I went to pick him up, after his foster mother gave notice that he could no longer stay, he came easily with me; head down, no reaction on the surface of it. It was only when he got into my car that he began to sob the kind of aching sound that leaves you limp in its wake.
He could barely get out the words. Nobody loves me. Not even my mother who gave birth to me.
Months later, in a repeat scene (another foster mother, another removal), he would put up a fight. He would run around the living room, ducking behind furniture, refusing to leave. But on this night he had no fight in him.
That was Stephen at seven.
Nine-year old Stephen grips his report card in sweaty hands. We’re headed to an adoption event, where we will meet families who want to adopt an older child; families who do not automatically rule out a boy like Stephen with all of his long “history.” And he wants to impress them, these strangers. He wants to win them over, and so he brings his good report card along as tangible proof that he is a child worth loving.
A child should never have to prove they are worth loving.
Twelve-year old Stephen tells me that I’m his best friend. I’m his social worker, and he should have a real best friend, but I don’t say this to him. We’re at a taping for Wednesday’s Child, the news spot featuring children who are up for adoption. Stephen is engaging on camera. Maybe somebody will pick him this time. Maybe he is offering just enough evidence, at twelve, that he’s a boy worth loving. And he is lovable, truly. But it is not enough. A family never comes.
Years later, long after I’ve left the agency, I get an email from my old boss asking how I’m doing, and ending with a short P.S. Stephen is in DYS lockup after running away from his foster home. You need to adopt him.” My stomach drops. I’ve had this thought many times. I should adopt him myself. But I don’t.
I heard about his murder from a friend who had seen it in the news. Shot outside a party over some foolish dispute. Dead at 18, dead just as he became a man. Not my Stephen, I prayed. When I realized that it was really him – that it could be no other – I sobbed gripped by the kind of anguish that leaves you limp in its wake.
The newspapers ran very little about the murder, as if it were an afterthought. Barely worth a mention, really. Anonymous strangers posted nasty comments online: “Just another gangbanger,” they said. You don’t even know him. You don’t know the first thing about this boy. You don’t know that as a child he would trace letters into my back with his finger to pass time at the doctor’s office, asking me to guess what phrase he was spelling out. “I ♥ U” he traced between my shoulders, the last time we played this game.
Stephen had been wrong, that night in my Toyota. His mother did love him, in her way. She was there, at the funeral. She greeted me kindly. I think she knew I loved Stephen as I knew she did. We both failed him in the end, and that joined us I suppose. Neither of us could give him a family.
There were no photos from Stephen’s childhood at the funeral home. No images of the green-eyed boy with the sweet smile to remind us of what had been lost. There were no pictures of Stephen with his brothers, and so I printed up snapshots of the four boys together, taken on a supervised visit, and brought them to the funeral to give to the family. It was something I could do, against the larger backdrop of nothing I could do.
There were very few social workers at the funeral, and none of Stephen’s many foster mothers. Stephen spent more of his life being raised in the system than out of it. If you claim legal responsibility for a child, you best show up at his funeral. You should show up when he dies. He was yours, in a way, wasn’t he? You owe it to him. And if he did not belong to you, then who did he ever belong to?
His mother was there, at least. His mother who gave birth to him. I hear the echo of his voice from those many years ago.
Somebody does love you Stephen. I want to tell him. But it’s too late.
Stephen was the one, for me. The one who embodied all the failures of a system so broken that to heal it would take far more than the casts that heal the literal broken bones of the children growing up within it.
They break, you know. These kids we leave behind. Eventually they break.
November is National Adoption Month. For information on adoption from the foster care system, visit the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.

*Stephen is a fictional name for a real boy the world lost.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Bit More San Francisco

Here are a few more shots of San Francisco. This was the view from our hotel downtown. It was only three blocks to Chinatown, so we headed there several times.
Here's the world famous Golden Gate Bridge, which does have a barely visible golden gate under it on one side.

We saw a lot of the city and surrounding area. Recognize this shot from the old TV show "Full House"?

I have always been interested in real estate; it must stem from my mother toting me around to open houses as a child. I started looking at their housing market. Check out these houses - nothing like a 3 bedroom, ONE bath little house for $525,000. Downtown, you couldn't even get a rundown town house for under 600,000. 

 Want to live in Sausalito? It's considered the Beverly Hills of San Francisco. These houses were wild. They are built on about four levels of the hill overlooking the Bay and Alcatraz. The top has a road behind them and the bottom has a road in front, but the middle layers seem to only to reachable by steep stairs or these elevators that run up the side of the mountain. Can you imagine moving? Or just buying a couch? Oh, and they cost about 10 million. (I'm yet to figure out what the tens of thousands of people do for a living that can afford the housing market there.)

 Our last day we headed out of the city to Muir Woods, a redwood forest. The pictures don't really portray the true grandeur of the place.
I really liked this quote from John Muir -

 We really enjoyed our time away.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

San Francisco

We just returned from our trip to San Francisco last night. I feel about it much like I do New York City - nice place to visit, but I'd never want to live there. San Francisco is much more crowded and pricey than even San Diego. I was especially impressed with the fee of $57 a day to park a car at the hotel!

The city was beautiful and we really enjoyed seeing as much of it as our time allowed.  

Not a bad picture for a phone!

Nice of this gull to land for the photo
The reason we went was for the commissioning of the new amphibious landing, helicopter attack ship, the USS AMERICA.  I had never attended a commissioning before this one and it is a really big deal. The AMERICA is home to 1,000 Sailors and can also accommodate an additional 1,700 Marines. It is impressive to say the least.

 We attended some functions there that were work related for JD.

 Two of them were rather formal.

We covered many tourist spots in San Francisco, but my favorite was Alcatraz. We had to get up at 4 a.m. to be in line by 5 a.m. to get one of the only 100 available same-day tickets; otherwise they are sold out weeks in advance.  It was an awesome tour and has some fascinating history. It actually has an interesting history as a war post in the Civil War and military prison before it was converted to a federal maximum security prison.

Another interesting piece of information is that the American Indians claimed it in 1971 as "their" land. President Nixon allowed them to remain in possession of the island for about 19 months until they burnt down the warden's house and the light-house that was still in use. Why they would want to live in an old prison with no plumbing, water or electricity is beyond me, but the marks from their time is still there. 

We did an extensive audio tour that even walked through the few attempted escapes, including one successful one until they probably drowned trying to swim the bay. 

This is the closest that I want to experience a prison!

Especially the solitary cells in the dark!

 A few more sights tomorrow -

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Last New

 Against all odds, I am heading out tomorrow for a new city that I've never been to - San Francisco. It literally seems that if I plan to leave my clan, I am asking for exceptional drama. This week has plagued our family with a serious child challenge and we are just praying our way through. I heard someone talk one time on how easy it is for people to begin well and how hard it is to end well. No one walks down the aisle to get married thinking of divorce court. No one holds a tiny new baby at the hospital and imagines conflict with that child that breaks communication with the family. Adoption is also full of hope, but the reality of day to day parenting children that suffered serious neglect and abuse years before they became your child often takes a toll. I have been deep in testing and therapy to try and find hope for situations that appear quite dim to me in the hours that I'm tired and weak. For me, the lowest moments are when I start to lose hope; hope is a powerful emotion.

So, tomorrow I leave the craziness behind physically, but can not escape emotionally. I pray to return Monday with renewed vigor, ideas and hope. If you think to pray for the crew while I am away, I am quite sure that my sister would appreciate it!

I'll plan a blog post in San Francisco. 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

The New 7 Year Old

 Another new at our house is a new 7 year old; Selah's birthday was yesterday. Since it was a school day, I took cup-cakes to her class.

Selah up front while everyone sang Happy Birthday
 I let Selah pass them out to her friends.

She enjoyed herself. 
Since cup-cakes were consumed in the afternoon, we concluded the day by ordering pizza, make sundaes and, of course, present time.

We all kind of felt like it was our birthday because Gabriel sent a box of presents from Japan.  I'm as happy with my coat as Elijah is with his Ninja accessories. 

 We are only a month away from the two year anniversary of Selah and Bella coming home!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Two News

We have had such a high rate of new around here that I'm struggling for the blog to keep up. My first new is -  Guess who has joined the working, tax-payers of America? MORIAH! Moriah has always been a huge fan of Sheetz food, so now she is in the kitchen creating all that food she has eaten for years. We have known the Sheetz manager and much of the staff for several years (from many more food purchases that I'm willing to admit) and am thankful Moriah was able to be hired. Jobs for teens are in short supply in our rural county! She is in training now, so has been there everyday, but it will settle into a routine that should allow her to work and finish homeschooling high school comfortably.
Moriah - first day after working

My second new is the arrival of our future stud goat, Vinny. Vinny is short for Vincent Van Goat and he made the trip from a farm in Missouri. We have had a bit of donkey drama, because Chewy didn't take to him when he followed James into the fence and ran over his leg. It isn't broken, but he is limping and we have him separated from even the other goats. He isn't minding all the kid attention while he heals. He will grow into a stinky male goat, but for now he sure is cute and sweet.

I'm going to continue with my new post tomorrow, but now I'm off to take cup-cakes to a new 7 year old!