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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

M-Dog is the Man...


My tender-hearted,
quiet boy.

Out of all our kids, I initially worried the most about M since he was already three when he was placed with us. I felt like I had missed out on so much of his life. He had been in 3 homes and was exposed to many unfortunate circumstances. I prayed for what the ensuing months would hold...

The ensuing months, however, exposed a sweet child. Probably one of the sweetest I know. M has a kind heart and aims to please.

He loves to play outside and take care of his baby sister.

M has made leaps and bounds in speech. He started out mostly nonverbal, and now speaks in sentences and people can {usually} actually understand him!

I know the Lord has a special place in the world for'll be exciting to see exactly what is in store for him. We've always said he would be a great counselor, because he's such a good listener and is so gentle in his demeanor. =)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

And Now For J-Man...

This picture pretty much sums up J-Man.

He's my feisty,
loving boy.

He loves to be hugged, kissed, and thoroughly enjoys seeing his daddy and I give each other a big smooch in the mornings.

J-Man has an affectionate heart. He thrives on encouragement, but is easily dismayed by the thought of failure. If something seems too difficult for him (in his own eyes), it's often not worth trying for.

I frequently forget that the first 6 months of his life were bumpy and disrupted. I can imagine that living in 3 homes by the time he came to us has a lasting affect. And although I like to think that he has no long-term ramifications, I think it's necessary to give him a bit more wiggle room at times.

J-Man loves to cook...and truly delights in eating! He has a knack for music and was given a Gift by our Creator that I hope we can nurture as he grows. I am filled with joy each week when he begs to come into "big church" so he can hear the band play. It's not very often that kids plead to go to church!

He is a natural communicator, a friend to many, and a rambunctious little lad. We are so blessed to have this boy in our lives.

So, off subject a bit, what is a characteristic that you have discovered in your child that you were surprised by?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Introducing Mr. C

I figured I'd do an exposé on each of our little whippersnappers. That way those of you who don't know our family personally can "meet" each one of them. Maybe I'll even do one for Superman and I...if you're lucky!

Mr. C.

My cherished,
thoughtful boy.

He thinks of others before himself. He is a natural first-born. He has one of the kindest hearts of any kid I know. He, when he sold his snake for $120, gave more than half of it to the child we sponsor in India because, "he needs it more than me." He is smart, focused, ambitious and he loves math (which is good, considering his daddy is a math teacher).

He is great at soccer pretty much any sport he plays (which didn't come from me unfortunately).

He has never complained about having *four* younger siblings and the responsibilities that go along with that....yet.

He takes failure personally and struggles when he feels like he's not good at something. He sometimes puts too much pressure on himself.

He went to the "carpet square" almost every single day in kindergarten, and I dreaded first grade, thinking that he was going to have a new victim in his teacher. However, he surprised both his daddy and me when his teacher told me, "He is a role model of behavior to the rest of the class." Wha-?? Who??

Mr. C is a joy to parent. He has moments, that's for sure. He's bossy to his siblings, thinks he's a third parent around the house, and can be more manipulative than a female teenager at times, but I love him deeply, passionately, wholly.

So that, dear friends, is my eldest boy. Tomorrow, I'll introduce J-Man!
Tell me, for you mommies out there--what is your favorite characteristic of your eldest child?

Friday, September 25, 2009

I'm Not Perfect

I'm not perfect. As previously stated, I can be selfish. Oh, and I can be prideful, too.

I think it's hard as parents not to fall into the "facade" temptation. We're tempted to create a disguise, a fake exterior, a mask, a veneer...we don't want people to know that we struggle, right? We don't want people to see our kids arguing, fighting, disobeying, or eating their boogers. We don't want people to hear questionable words come from our little cherubs' mouths or see them licking that sticky gunk off the end of the tube of toothpaste. Not that my kids would do that.

I especially feel pressure, having adopted kids, to keep that appearance up. For some reason, I feel like it's my responsibility to prove to the world that having adopted kids is just as rewarding as having biological kids, and that they are equally important. Now, I truly do believe that, but why I feel like I need to prove that to others is beyond me. I worry when my kids do something wrong that it will be assumed that it must be due to their background. They have, after all, gone through tough times. As much as I hate to admit it, there are stereotypes that are placed smack-dab in the middle of foster kids foreheads. As much as I'd like to deny it, I have seen it over and over. It hasn't always been vocalized, but people's body language and responses can say a lot.

I try to keep it real with people. But to be quite honest, I think I'm like many moms in that I enjoy sharing the good things...who wants to share that they almost imploded that morning, or they yelled at their kids, or let their barely-2-year-old wipe themselves after pottying, or they *gasp* watched a t.v. show instead of doing laundry? I mean, don't we all have everything perfectly organized, the laundry put away, the floors vacuumed, and the mirrors wiped clean of those spit-spots that come from the kids brushing their teeth? Of course not. But why don't we share our imperfections more?

I really do have many imperfections, both in parenting and in my existence as a wife, friend and woman.

I've left laundry sitting on my bed, moved it off my bed so I could go to sleep, and then put it back on the bed in the morning, only to move it off again that night. Really.
I've broken my vacuum and then gone a month without vacuuming because it was too overwhelming to find a new one.
I've let our 10-month-old eat ice cream. And cookies.
I've told myself to write a note to a dear friend who needed a pick-me-up only to have weeks go by and then realize it was too late for the note to be applicable.
I've written thank-you notes right after Christmas, and then had them sit for TWO MONTHS on our desk because I was too lazy to get out the address book to address them.
I've watched the Food Network instead of doing...just about anything.
My kids bicker. Endlessly.
They disobey me and then lie about it.
They lick the gunk off the end of the toothpaste tube. I've SEEN them!

I've failed in many ways. Heck, I'm still failing as we speak. But, I'm OK with it. I have no need to be perfect. I'm saved by Grace. There's nothing I can do to earn my salvation. God knows my shortcomings and He loves me anyway.

Now, if I could just remind myself that when a friend asks how I'm doing, instead of saying, "Good!" (which is my canned response), I actually tell her that I spilled milk on myself, yelled at my kids, and haven't bathed them in 3 days. Then, I think I'd be getting somewhere.

So what about you? What are some of YOUR imperfections???

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I Saw a Dog Get Hit and Killed Today

I was driving to pick up J-Man from kindergarten today when I had my first experience seeing an animal die right in front of me. I was about 20-30 feet behind a Ford Expedition when suddenly two dogs came dashing out in the street. Dog #1 made it safely to the other side, but dog #2 went right under the Expedition and it was an awful sight. I slammed on my brakes so I wouldn't run over him too, and just stopped. Right there in the middle of the road. I was frozen. The gal who hit him pulled over and came out of her car crying. I started balling, too. The dog's owner came running from across the street and knelt down next to his old Yellow Lab and crumpled in despair.

It was horrible. I saw that man scoop up his dog in his arms and cry. He didn't care that he was quickly being covered with blood. I know some may say it was just an animal, but that man loved his dog. And it made me think about my love for our kids. Sure, they didn't come from my body. Sure, they make bad choices sometimes. Sure, they don't always listen to my words of wisdom and sometimes ignore my cautious pleas to ensure their safety. But gosh, I love them. I drove away, crying and mouthing, "I'm so sorry" to the poor lady that stood helpless watching the owner hold his dog. I thought about our Lord, and how when we fail, when we miserably, undeniably fail and lay on that pavement in despair, He scoops us up and doesn't care about the stains we shed. He only cares about holding us in His arms, comforting us and assuring us: I am here.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Smooth Sailing

J-Man's adoption was nothing short of perfect. It was Monday, June 7, 2004. We had barely finished our home study, when we got a call saying our social worker came across a little 6-month old boy. We set up a "disclosure meeting" where we would meet with the baby's social worker to hear his story. It was up to us whether we wanted to pursue him or not. Usually people meet with the social worker, hear the often-gory details, and then set up a time to meet the child.

J-Man's worker told us that his foster family was going on vacation for 2 weeks so we wouldn't be able to meet him until they came back. I asked her where he would be staying when they were gone, and she said he would be going to respite care.

On the drive home, Superman and I discussed this sweet little boy. He had already been in 3 foster homes, and was going to temporarily go into a fourth until his foster family came back from vacation. It just seemed wrong to put him through that unnecessary movement. So, before we even arrived home, I called the worker back and asked if we could just bring him home. She said that had never been done before--we hadn't met him; heck, we hadn't even seen a picture of him. She said she would talk to her supervisor and let us know.

The next day, we got a call that on Friday we could pick him up. Amazing. And even more amazing was the fact that when we got the address of where to pick him up, it was less than a mile from our house!

So, Friday, June 11th 2004 we left home at 9:45 a.m. and came back at 10:15 with a new baby. A brother for Mr. C, a son for us...and it was quite surreal.

J-Man's hair looked as though it had been collecting some kind of sticky substance that did NOT want to leave its cozy home. We ended up cutting off most of it so we could get a fresh start. I tell you, 6 months was a great age. J-Man was already sleeping through the night, he was a mellow baby, and he was quite content being in our home. You would think after being bounced around so much he would be wary of people, but he was happy to be with us! Of course, things weren't as easy for me, but as you all know, things became better as time wore on.

His birth mom's parental rights were terminated a few weeks later with no hitches--she didn't appeal, so within 6 months we were ready to finalize. No objections by the court, or birth mom. It was probably the smoothest adoption I've ever seen. Now, M and N (and G) are a different story...which will be for another day. We have learned a lot about the appeal process from them.

In the meantime, I'm off to change a poopy diaper, arbitrate an argument between two little ones and clean out my big ol' purse. The day is still young!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

C'mon people! I need some followers! I'll make it worth your while...

Ok, once I get up to 10 followers, I've got a good GIVEAWAY! So, post a comment, become a follower, and I've got a great prize to reward you for your devotion.

C'mon! Help my bribery to work! =)

Monday, September 21, 2009

What's In A Name?

I had a friend suggest that I write a blog entry about names.

Superman and I always knew we'd have a Mr. C and a J-Man. The two names go together like hot chocolate and whipped cream.

J-Man had a unique name that started with a "G" when he came to us. We chose to move his first name to his middle name, and thus he became J-G-L. I think birth names are an important part of an adopted child's identity. To get rid of it completely, in my humble opinion, and in our circumstance, just seemed like we would be trying to "erase" his previous history. We decided we wanted him to know what name his birth mom gave him and have the choice to go by that name later in life if he ever chose to do so. Again, this is just what we felt would work for us--not necessarily the solution across the board.

We followed the same method with M and N. They kept part of their birth names as their middle names. We plan on doing the same with G once we finalize with her next year.

M had called all his foster moms AND birth mom "mommy." I didn't even tell him what to call me when he came to our home--he just automatically called me "mommy." We would show him pictures of his birth mom and foster mom and ask who they were, and he would say, "mommy." After a few months when we showed him photos, he just said, "I don't know." I would pick him up in his Sunday school class, and he would often stare at me for a minute, knowing he recognized me, but not remembering if I was the one that he was supposed to go with.

Actually, with M, we planned on calling him by his birth name and tacking on his "new" name to give him some transition time. We planned to call him, "D-M" for awhile until he got used to it. But, just for kicks, on the first day, we called him "M" to see if he would answer to it. He did, so the name just stuck! Kids are amazingly adaptive and resilient, and he quickly responded to his new name.

Names are great. Each of our kids names has a special meaning, a reason we chose it, dear to our hearts.

Here's M and N the day they officially, legally, forever-ly got their "new" names:

Friday, September 18, 2009

How We Make Plans...And the Lord Determines Our Steps

I can be selfish at times. I mean, all of us can be selfish...we're all capable. But I actually choose to be selfish on occasion. I know. I'm an awful person.

You see, I had plans. I had planned on a couple kids (a couple meaning two), a calm life being able to fully enjoy watching my kids grow, but not being harried at all. No, not me. I would never take on more than I could feasibly handle. Oh, yeah. And I planned on going on a cruise with Superman* for our 10th anniversary. I also planned on being able to carry a small purse when I had little children. I didn't plan on having to carry a big ol' old lady bag (no offense to those of you out there who have already gone through "the change"). I was going to still wear makeup and earrings and sometimes get my nails done and sit around and eat Bon Bons (ok, maybe not that last part).

*my husband

In all seriousness, though, I did have plans for my life. I never saw myself parenting FIVE (I wish there was some kind of flashing lights I could put on that word FIVE) kids. To be quite honest, when we found out that M and N's birth mom was pregnant, I told Superman no way. There was no freakin' way I was going to take on another kid.

M was 3 when we got him. He and N had been in 3 homes and had gone through more than any child should have to experience. He was pretty much non-verbal. He uttered sounds, but really didn't talk. He was a sweet boy, but I felt frustrated by his inability to communicate at times. N was one year old and needed a mom. She had never had anyone to bond with and so when she had me, she latched on like a, well, like a leech. She freaked out if Superman looked at her. She wouldn't let me put her down. She screamed if I left the room. If I took the kids to the park, she clung to me like I was going to disappear if she looked away. It was tough. So there was NO WAY I was going to take on a baby.

Well, thankfully I'm married to Superman. He insisted that it was our responsibility to take in G. We had room in our car, room in our home (we decided to add on a few bedrooms and a bathroom after we got M and N) and definitely had enough room in our hearts, so we had no excuse. Sigh. Sometimes it's hard being married to such a wise man. Really, it is.

So, once again, it was up to me. I knew that my heart said NO NO NO NO NO NO NO. I felt overwhelmed even thinking about getting a brand new baby while still tending to 4 other little ones. So I went back to my ol' prayer asking the Lord to change my heart. Only this time, I actually believed He would do it. And sure enough, He did.

When G came to us, I bonded with her quicker than I did with any of our other kids--even with Mr. C. I immediately felt intensely connected to her, as if I had birthed her myself. I have to praise God for his faithfulness and devotion to me. He truly is an amazing God who answers prayers and provides for our needs.

Don't get me wrong--it's hard at times. There have been tears, meltdowns, feelings of inadequacy and doubt. There have been heartfelt prayers asking for the Lord to sustain me when I felt like I just had nothing more to give. But, I'm still alive. I'm still kickin'.

And, here I am. I carry a big purse. My life is anything BUT calm. Our 10th anniversary came and went and we are definitely not going on a romantic cruise any time in our near future. I do have to commend myself that I usually do wear makeup, but the earrings are a hit-or-miss. But, it's all worth it. I can't imagine if I would have denied little G coming into our lives. She has graced us in ways beyond imagination and I know the Lord will do great things through her.

So, my friends. We all have plans, but the Lord truly does determine our steps.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Black and White

I'm gonna jump back and forth in time on this blog. Things come up and I gotta write 'em down when they do, or I'll forget...

I'm a pretty sarcastic person. I usually don't let things bother me unless they're actually worth being bothered about. I must admit that I do hope our kids inherit a bit of that...being able to let things roll off their backs instead of getting hung up on other people's opinions.

J-Man came home from school on Monday and informed me he was being made fun of in kindergarten. Now, you have to understand: Out of all our sweet crumbsnatchers, he would be one of the last ones I would think would get mocked by other youngsters. He's just a cool kid.

He likes skateboarding. He has no fear. He's social. He's fun. As a matter of fact, he cares more about having fun than learning.

But, J-Man told me one kid in particular was calling him "bald." True, true. He's pretty much bald. But this is by choice. My little man is, afterall, black. We live in Whiteville. We considered this when we moved here, but didn't expect something like this to come up in Kindergarten. However, it has, and we must face these matters head on (pun intended).

Superman suggested J-Man respond with some uplifting remarks about this child's mother...such as, "Yeah? Well, you're MOMMA'S more bald than me!" or such kind words. J-Man said he just laughed when the kid mocked him. I told him that was probably a good way to approach reason to be upset about it. I mentioned that this little boy has probably not had many {if any} black friends before, and that it was up to J to show him how lucky he is to have him in his class. J is, afterall, cool.

I let my sweet boy know he can always talk to me about how he's feeling and to let me know if things get any worse. I also ensured him that he can grow his hair out as much as he likes and that I think he's a Super Duper Manly Man and that he's my most favoritest 5 year old in the entire world. So what about you? How would you approach someone calling your little boy "baldy?"

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Beginning of Our Adoption Journey

June 11, 2004. We bring home J-Man, a little 6-month-old bundle of joy. We've taken all the classes, read the name it. But nothing could truly prepare me for the roller coaster of emotions I felt during the following months. No one ever told me that it may take awhile to bond with this little one. I mean, it seems obvious now, but I must be dense or something. I was expecting to hold this little guy and immediately fall in love with him. But instead, I looked at him and as the months wore on, I thought of him more as a "nephew" than a "son."

My soul was in anguish. I felt like there must be something wrong with me. I would look at Mr. C: our dear biological son, and be filled with pride. My heart would skip a beat when I saw him accomplishing new things, learning about the world around him. But with J-Man, he was like a child I was babysitting. I wanted to protect him, take care of him, provide for his needs. But I didn't yearn for him when he was in my absence. I didn't look at him and think, "That's my son. He's perfect."

I prayed nightly that the Lord would change my heart. I felt my worst nightmare was coming true--I had brought this little boy into our lives, but I didn't love him like he needed. I desperately sought comfort and guidance from the Lord. I confessed to Superman (my husband) that I was struggling. He comforted me, told me to give it time, that it would be a process, not something to happen overnight, but I had to work at it.

Almost seven months went by. One morning, J-Man took his first step. Suddenly, my heart went pitter patter and I thought, "That's my son! He's perfect!" And I realized, surprisingly, that the Lord had answered my prayers. Yes, my friends. I doubted. Sure, I prayed those prayers, but I didn't really believe that they would be answered in the way I expected! Quietly, nonchalantly, He had taken my heart, and reformed it. I loved this child! I looked at him and filled with pride. I was joyful in his triumphs and saddened by his struggles. How this happened is a mystery to me. I only know that HE did it. I've never looked at Prayer the same.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

First post on this new blog

Have you ever woken up in the morning and wondered how you became a grown up? I think I'm a grown up now. I mean, there are 5 rug rats running around here. I cook food, wipe bums, kiss ow-ees, fasten seat belts, unfasten seat belts...fasten seat belts, unfasten seat belts...I brush hair, brush teeth, brush the toilet (with a toilet brush, of course!), and brush off minor complaints from small ones tugging on my shirt. I think that makes me a grown up. Right?

I remember one starry night when I was 6 or 7 years old, sitting on the porch of the house I grew up in. I didn't like the way my life was going...not one bit. I wanted someone to swoop down, rescue me from what I thought was a pitiful existence, and plant me in that perfect family. You know--the one that had two loving parents that would dote on me, opportunities laid out before me, hugs and kisses abounding, and more money than we would know what to do with so we could travel to exotic places walking hand-in-hand along white sandy beaches. That family. Alas, I knew it was not going to happen. So, I promised myself that I would one day rescue someone else. I don't think I planned on giving them white sandy beaches, but the love and kisses I thought I could do.

Fast forward about 20 years. My husband, my soul mate, the man I truly call my best friend, and I decide we're ready to change our lives. We have a kid...Mr. C. You know, the "old fashioned" way. We're happy. We're content. We are filled with awe and wonder at this little creature the Lord has planted in our home. But soon we know we are meant for more. We know there is someone out there waiting for us to find him.

When Mr. C is just 6 months old, we start the process of foster-adoption. We do classes, fill out paperwork, jump through hoops and whine about how much red tape is involved in helping a child who is waiting for a home. Right before Mr. C's first birthday, we get matched with a chubby (and I mean CHUBBY) little black boy (that's right--I did say "black." I realize that "African-American" is politically correct, but this boy is darn proud of being called a Godly Black Man!) He was almost 6 months old at the time. His name starts with a J, and will thus be called "J-Man" on this blog. We're happy. We're content. We're done having kids (ha! so we think...) and are ready to start our life as a family of four.

A few years go by, we move a couple times, and finally settle in a cute little house in a cute little town. 1300 square feet is plenty of room for our {complete} family. We're enjoying life as our kids get a little older and more self-sufficient. But, alas, once again the Lord has other plans for us, and before we know it, we're re-doing the classes, the paperwork and all the red tape that we did before so we can add to our family yet again. After about 7 months, we're matched with a boy and a girl, M and N, ages 3 and 1. And soon, our calm, collected lives become more chaotic and enriching. Soon after the kids are placed with us, we find out birth mom is pregnant...surprise! #5 is on the way! Seven months later, little G graces us with her presence at just 6 weeks old.

And we are, almost 9 months later. Mr. C is now 6, J-Man is 5, M is 4, N is 2 and G is 10 months old. Silence is not a regular attender of our household activities. However, I wouldn't trade in the craziness of it all for anything.

So, such is the story of how we got where we are. I've been feeling as of late that it's time to start chronicling life as an adoptive mom...the joys, the trials, and the humor. So, dust off that seat, get those old french fries out of the cracks, and strap on your seat belt (if you can get it in past the sticky mess that's in the belt buckle)! You're in for a wild ride...
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