Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Passport and planning!

The past few days have been a whirlwind of excitement, celebration, and attempts to plan international travel during a holiday week!

Our good news came on the night after Christmas.  Late on December 26, we were checking e-mail for a reply from a sweet India adopting family who had offered to deliver a photo album to Kavya for us.  Instead, we saw an e-mail from our agency with a most welcome subject line:  PASSPORT.

We were both in shock.  After waiting for so many months, I could barely believe it!

The boys were still awake, so we went into their rooms and told them.  The next morning, Anya climbed into bed with us.  We thought of a fun way to share the good news with her . . .  Since the first week of September, we've been telling the kids that we would celebrate Kavya's passport by going to our favorite Indian restaurant.

She stumbled sleepily into our room and laid down with her back to us.  We said good morning, and she mumbled "Good morning" back.  Then we told her, "We're going to S_____ restaurant for lunch today!!" and waited to see when she would figure it out.

After about two seconds, she whipped around with huge eyes, and said, "The passport came?!?"  Yes, indeed!!!

Since then, we've been frantically making appointments at the medical center and the embassy, and working with our travel agent -- we found out pretty close to the weekend, and there are holiday closures this week, so we had a smaller window of time to work with.

Then, just after finalizing our plane tickets and hotel arrangements, we discovered our cred*t card account had been compromised/hacked.  Yikes.  After a few phone calls, we got things sorted out and made sure that when we show up at the airport, our tickets will be there and paid for!

And we took down most of our Christmas decorations to boot.

Tonight, our family New Year's Eve celebration was especially happy as we looked at the empty chair at our table.  It won't be empty for much longer, thank God!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Somehow or other, He came just the same

Merry Christmas to all!  Christmas Eve brings the end of Advent, which means "to come" or "to wait."  I've appreciated that word in new ways this December, as we continue to wait for Kavya's passport.

I thought I might be kind of a wreck today -- when we received Kavya's referral in August of 2012, we never dreamed she would still be in India at this point.  But I am unexpectedly okay, and even celebratory.  I think there are a few reasons for that.

First, in the midst of our wait, I feel surrounded like never before by people who find themselves in heartbreaking circumstances.  Parents watching their child slip further away into addiction, a husband watching as his wife enters the final months of her journey with cancer, a friend whose parents are both hospitalized and undergoing surgeries this week, a relative battling crippling depression.  I am hyper-aware of people dealing with far more difficult things than waiting for their child's passport.

Second, I have been so loved and prayed for by so many people.  Our friends, other adoptive mamas, our church, our families -- so many people are lifting Peter and me up in prayer.

And third, this unexpectedly long and difficult wait reminds me of the place and world that Christ entered.  No one was expecting him -- the Jewish people had endured a few centuries when no prophets were speaking.  His timing, at least for the unmarried Mary and Joseph, was pretty inconvenient (and downright scandalous).  He arrived in a chaotic, overcrowded city that was occupied by foreign oppressors.  Difficult circumstances, no doubt -- circumstances people endured with no end in sight.

Yet, to paraphrase Dr. Seuss, somehow or other, He came just the same!  No matter what is happening on our noisy, messy planet, or in our noisy, messy lives, He came to dwell among us -- the Word made flesh, the fulfillment of many promises, God with us.  He really came here, and invites each of us to follow Him from the manger to the cross, to believe in the forgiveness, peace, and eternal life that is His alone to offer.

That's the main reason I am doing just fine -- no, the reason I'm joyful this Christmas.  Even while missing my daughter (and wondering with the nuns do to celebrate Christmas with the children?), Christ is reason enough to have joy.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Thanksgiving and other thoughts

This weekend we celebrated Thanksgiving with our families. Actually, we took advantage of the fact that the beginning of Hannukah and Thanksgiving fell on the same day -- the first time that's happened since the 1880s (and it won't happen again for hundreds of years).  So instead of turkey and stuffing, we ate brisket and beets and the kids played with dreidels.  I still made pumpkin and apple pies though -- gotta have those!

I've been trying to remain thankful during this season of waiting.  And actually, our delayed travel has brought a few benefits.  My back has had time to heal (I lifted weights today for the first time since September), and I've been able to help Peter's mom after her knee surgery, which I wouldn't have been able to do with a newly-arrived 2-year-old.  And we will be able to attend our sons' boychoir concert this weekend too, which we didn't want to miss, since it may be Aaron's last one (due to his voice changing).

But I've also been trying to allow myself to feel sad.  Some days are just hard, as we wait and wonder when we will hear about Kavya's passport. We are definitely having the sensation of missing someone we've never met.  And I am also grieving for the millions of other children living in orphanages in India.  About 8,000 of them will go home to families this year, and they all rely on the same maddeningly unpredictable process to get there.

The dates and timelines keep swirling around in my brain, too.  We began Kavya's adoption when Anya was 2, received the referral when Anya was 5, and now Anya's birthday is two weeks away . . . so Kavya won't be home until Anya is 7.  And it is so frustrating to know that we have legally been Kavya's parents since July 31, when the judge signed our adoption paperwork in court -- and she's still not home with us.

I'm trying to follow the model of the Psalmists, and be honest about every thought and emotion.  I bring it all to my Father, good, bad, and ugly.  And then after being brutally honest about my sadness, anger and frustration, I meander my way back to what I know is true:  He is still good, and He is the only trustworthy thing in this world.

He sees every child that is hungry, lonely, ill, or without a family.  He loves them and weeps over them more than I do. He is still good in the face of inefficiency, injustice, pain, and sadness.  He loves Kavya more than I will ever be able to.

I'd be lying if I said that takes away the sadness and frustration entirely.  But it does give me comfort to focus on something true and good.  And during these last, long weeks of waiting, that is what I need.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

I got the 'no passport' blues

If I were more musically inclined, I'd be sitting at the piano writing the song I've been singing for the past week: "The No Passport Blues."

Here's what we know: our RIPA director e-mailed to say that she would be applying for the passport during the week of Sept. 4.

During the last week of October, she said she was going to visit the passport office; the following week, she e-mailed to say that they didn't have a copy of the passport to give her.  So we are wondering now if the passport office lost her application, or what . . . or if that particular office just runs on its own schedule.

During our wait for Anya, we received her passport on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, which is also the anniversary of the day Peter and I were engaged.  We're praying that maybe it will come that same day for Kavya . . .

It would be kind of amazing to be back in India at the same time we traveled for our first daughter.  (Which was Dec. 6-16)

But we would be happy if it came before then.

Meanwhile, my mama/planner brain is thinking things like: when should we decorate our Christmas tree?? Will we be here for Aaron's and Nathan's boychoir Christmas concert?  Will we still be here for St. Nicholas' Day (Dec. 6 for the non-Dutch/German readers)?  So many questions -- and all the kids have a big one too:  "Will you be gone Christmas Eve and Christmas Day?"  I hope it doesn't take that long!

And I did dig out Kavya's stocking so I can bring it to an embroidery shop -- we've been hanging a blank fourth stocking for the past four years.  Last year, it felt too soon to have her name put on her stocking.  Even though we received her referral at the end of August last year, there were still so many hoops to jump through with approvals and court dates.

The most difficult thing to handle is my frustration that Kavya has been living an extra, unnecessary two months in an institution.  I long to be there when she is sick, when she's afraid, when she learns something new, when she just wants someone's undivided attention.  And my heart breaks for all of the children who are waiting months and years for this slow process that is their only hope for a permanent family.

But we are praying and hoping that this is her year!  Despite the unpredictable (but predictably longer than promised) wait . . . that name is going on her stocking!  She belongs here, with her name right beside her brothers' and sister's on our mantel.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Waiting: week 7

For those of you who are keeping track, we are in week 7 of our 3-9 week wait for Kavya's passport.  We received e-mails from Sister, the director of Kavya's orphanage, last week and this week.  She told us that she visited the passport office but that they didn't give her any dates.

We hope that her visit jogged someone's memory in the passport office, and may help our daughter's passport rise to the top of the heap.  With Diwali closures, we aren't even sure which government offices were open this week.  Please join us in praying that we hear news soon -- if it follows the official timeline, we only have 2 weeks left in our wait!

Thank you for following our family's journey to Kavya, and for praying and cheering us on all the way.  You have been my link to sanity so many times, and my reminder that God has been watching over our daughter and walking beside us while we wait.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The "four timers" club

As of tomorrow, we will join that elite group in the adoption world known as the "Four Timers Club."   If you haven't heard of it, it's because we are a small, exclusive group -- and we sincerely hope you will never have to join us!

Tomorrow we will drive two hours each way to renew our fingerprints for the fourth time.  Sarah's family and Karen's family have gone before us, so we are in good company . . . It has been a privilege to take this journey with them, but I wish none of us had to be part of this particular club.

We did receive an e-mail from our orphanage today containing our court documents, and it included a beautiful new (to us) photo of Kavya! But no passport news yet.  It gave me goosebumps to read the official statements that we are her parents -- that will tide me over for now.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

No passport, but good news from Show Hope!

I wish I could tell you that Kavya's passport is done (not yet!!) . . . but we are smiling today about something completely different!  We received some great news today. 

Waaaaaaaay back in 2010, the adoption grant organization Show Hope told us that they had chosen our family to receive a grant toward Kavya's adoption.  And today, they communicated with our adoption agency, Dillon International, to say that it's time to send the grant award!

What a thrill to be reminded that God was providing for this final part of the adoption over three years ago -- and how grateful we are to each person who made our grant possible by donating to Show Hope. 

We will have many travel expenses, and many post-adoption expenses such as required visits from our social worker.  It is such a gift to have this grant to help cover that!

Thank you, Show Hope!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Interview with an adult Ind*an adoptee

Last week, I had the privilege of sharing a long conversation with Esther.  She is a stunning, smart, articulate 25-year-old woman, who is passionate about living for Christ.  She also shares something in common with our daughters -- she began her life in India, and was adopted by a family in the United States.

Esther is the niece of a friend, and we first chatted last summer at a wedding.  She graciously agreed to be part of a longer conversation with me about her experiences growing up as a girl of color in a predominately caucasian environment, and her thoughts and feelings about being adopted.  She also agreed to invite all of you into the conversation. Thank you so much, Esther!

A little bit of Esther's history . . .
Esther's life began like many of our children's stories:  she was born to a young, unmarried woman who was unable to care for her.  Her birth mother made sure she was safely brought to an orphanage.  One other really amazing thing she knows about her history is that Mother Theresa visited that orphanage when Esther was a baby, and prayed over her and the other babies.

When she was four months old, Esther was united with her adoptive family and came home with them to the Midwest.  She has one brother who is her parents' biological child, and another brother who was also adopted from India.  She grew up in a very small town, and then moved to a medium-sized city when she started high school.

Her experiences with racism . . .
As a young child, Esther lived in a small town and attended a small private school that was nearly all-caucasian.  She and her brother were teased and bullied because they had brown skin -- Esther thinks it wasn't actually about any racial stereotypes about Indian people in particular, but simply because kids singled them out because of their skin color.  It was very painful for them, and she felt that the school didn't take the problem seriously.  When Esther started high school, her family did move to a larger, more diverse city.  She said it was completely different, and she didn't experience teasing or bullying during high school.

Esther's encouragement for us is to take seriously what our kids tell us, and be assertive with our kids' teachers, school principals, and guidance counselors.  We need to be prepared to insist on a response from our school if/when our kids encounter racism or bullying.  She also said that parents need to strongly consider their environment when adopting transracially -- if we live in small, predominately white towns, we should seriously consider moving to a more diverse town or city. 

She also mentioned that her brother, who was also adopted from India, has been on the receiving end of some racial profiling at the airport.  He is always subjected to the full-body, invasive searches at airports because of his appearance.  And he encounters further scrutiny because he is diabetic and uses an insulin pump.

On traveling to India this year . . .
Esther was part of a mission experience called the World Race.  (It's an 11-month trek around the world serving others, and experiencing what it means to share the Gospel in different settings.)  She spent time serving in India, part of which was spent working in an orphanage.  Returning to India sparked many questions and thoughts for her -- about children who grow up alone or in poverty, about her own journey as an adoptee, and about her birth mother.  She feels she is just beginning to process everything, and highly recommends finding opportunities for our children to visit their birth country.

Her thoughts about being adopted . . .
Esther's family didn't talk a lot about adoption, or do things to connect to her birth culture (such as Indian cooking, clothing or heritage experiences or camps).  She wishes now that more of those elements had been present, especially simply talking about adoption.  As a young girl, she didn't realize her family was different than other families, which was healthy in some ways.  She said with a smile that she just thought "the first kid comes out with pale skin, then you have brown ones."  In elementary school, someone called her "adopted," and it was the first time she really put the pieces together that she had been born to someone else, then brought into her family.

She recommends talking often with our kids about their stories, and being frank and open about what it means to be adopted.  She also mentioned that she and her brother often perceived things differently, and she recommends praying and being thoughtful about what each individual child needs.  Esther emphasized that kids understand things differently at different ages -- so it's really important to listen to how your children phrase things, so you can discern what they're thinking.

As an adult, she deeply appreciates the chance she had to grow up in a family, to be introduced to Christ, and to escape the poverty or exploitation that may have been her future with no family.  She wonders if she has biological siblings or other family in India, and hopes to find answers about that someday.

The "missing piece" . . .
She talked about a sense of something lacking that has been with her as long as she can remember.  Her parents divorced when she was 9, and she and her brother lived with her dad after that.  She has sometimes felt a sense of detachment with her family, and wonders if that is the result of their particular family dynamics, or if it's about being adopted.  She said that question stays with her -- "is this an adoption thing, or just how our particular family is?"  And there are no solid answers in the end, which feels unsatisfying.

She talked about being generally happy about her family and her life, but still having that lingering feeling of a "missing piece." She thinks it's important for parents to know that about their adopted children -- that sometimes there will be a feeling of incompleteness, and it's not a judgement on us as parents.

She encouraged us to build families and homes where it's safe and okay to express feelings like loneliness, anger, and sadness.  Our kids need to know it's okay to feel ambivalent about their history, and that it's okay to experience conflicting emotions:  loving your adoptive family, but wondering about all of the might-have-beens had she been able to stay with her birth family.

Other encouragements for adoptive parents . . .
Esther said that words of encouragement and belonging are important for every child, but may be even more vital for adopted children.  She encouraged us to speak words of affirmation and life to our children.  For her at times, and for many adopted children, are lingering questions:  why was I abandoned?  Was there something wrong with me?  She recognized that this question happened at times when she was vulnerable in some way, and believes that it was part of a spiritual attack on her.  As a result, she also encouraged us to pray consistently for our children not to believe those lies when they pop up.

What's next for Esther?
The next destination for Esther is Spain!  She is working and fundraising for 6 months of education about missions work, specifically using film/documentary filmmaking as a medium to advance the Gospel.  She has earned a B.A. in film production already, so this is continuing education about applying that knowledge.  She will be with the G42 organization, which is based in Houston, Texas.

If you'd like to thank her for sharing honestly with us parents about her thoughts and feelings, please consider making a donation toward her time in Spain.  (That was my idea, not hers -- but I hope we can surprise her!)  If you'd like to help her, private message me on F*cebook, or use the e-mail address to contact me (it appears if you click to leave a comment).

Monday, September 23, 2013


We are getting ready to have our 26-month-old daughter come home! We've been to the travel clinic -- and somehow, I was the only one who required vaccinations.  (How did that happen?)  The booster chair is in place at our kitchen table, bins of girl clothes are being sorted in the family room, and there is a suitcase for Kavya in the living room.  We've put the child-proof locks on the kitchen and bathroom cabinets, and I bought diapers and wipes for the first time in years.  Kavya, you are one joyfully anticipated little girl!

We also did a family game/experiment on Saturday to help our older kids understand a little bit how confusing things will seem for Kavya when she first arrives.  This is something I thought up in the early morning hours.  I don't know about other soon-to-travel moms, but I have woken up at 4:30 or 5:00 a.m. a few times in the past week, thinking of many trip-related, daughter-related things.

So here is the game I dreamed up: we had the kids do a chore, but all of the parental instructions/talking was in gibberish.  When I told Peter about it, he was a great sport, but I could tell he kind of thought I was losing my mind!  :) 

We have talked a lot with the kids about how confusing and scary everything will likely seem to Kavya, but we wanted to bring the discussions a little closer to home.  We wanted them to feel confused, and be able to empathize with how strange it would be to not understand anything we were saying.  We also wanted them to see how much our tone of voice will speak to Kavya -- that how we sound can really help her feel safer.

The chore we did was taking the old felt chair pads off our kitchen chairs, and replacing them with new ones.  Then we filled a bucket and scrubbed the floor (full disclosure -- the chair pads took a while, and so Peter ended up doing the scrubbing to save time, and to save my back).

It was HILARIOUS.  Peter was awesome at improvising and speaking gibberish, and I ended up using lots of (very bad) French because I'm not quite as silly and creative on the fly as Peter is.  We explained the basic idea to our kids, but they didn't know what the chore would be -- so they really had to work hard at first to understand what we were asking them to do.  And when the kids banged a knee or scraped a finger, they could see how our consoling tone and kind touches conveyed love and concern . . . mission accomplished!

After the game was over, we debriefed a little with them, and talked about how they felt throughout the game.  It was a fun way to make all the discussion about Kavya's first days with us much more tangible for our kids.

In other travel preparations, I'm going to the chiropractor again today.  Although I continue to have painful days, I am on a slow but steady path toward healing.  I continue to have trouble sitting in chairs -- unless it's in my straight-back wooden chairs at home, or on the edge of a firm chair.  Thank you, everyone, for praying for me . . . and please keep on praying for continued healing.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A bump in the road -- please pray

Last week, I injured my back.  It's not a new thing for me -- I have lots of back issues, including  scoliosis, a separated pelvis during my second pregnancy, an SI joint that doesn't stay how it's supposed to, etc.

Usually, working out faithfully at Strength Class keeps my back healthy, but every couple of years it gets tweaked just the wrong way, resulting in excruciating pain.  As in, worse-than-either-of-my-unmedicated-labors kind of pain.

So for the past week, I've been icing my lower back, going to the chiropractor, etc. I am slowly seeing some improvement, but the thought of those upcoming flights to India fills me with dread.  And even more -- the thought that I might not be able to pick up or carry Kavya?  That is my worst fear.

In the midst of it, Peter has been wonderful, taking on many extra "mom" duties.  And family and friends have pitched in and brought meals, or stayed with me in case I got "stuck" again and couldn't move.  I've been so, so grateful for them.

But that travel deadline (the one we are SO looking forward to!) is looming large for me.  Would you please pray for me?  Please pray that my back would be healed, and that I will be able to tolerate the flights, and hold my daughter.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Her name, and her lovely face!

Late last week, we received the news that our written court order has been signed by the judge!  We are now officially K's parents! 

The signed court order means that many things can now happen.  Our adoption has been officially registered in-country, and our orphanage can apply for her passport.  We've been told that her application will be sent in this week, and we will be waiting 4-8 weeks for for it to be completed.

Then when her passport is finished, we can book our flights to India!  After 4 1/2 years, I can't believe we are just weeks away from traveling to meet her!

That court order also means that we can share more details about her, and post her photo online! 

First, we are happy to announce that K's name is Kavya.  We plan to name her Kavya Monika Ann.  Like we did with our daughter Anya, we chose an Indian name and a family name for her, and kept the first name she was given.  "Kavya" means "poem."  "Monika" means "wise counselor," and I know two moms named Monika.  "Ann" is part of Peter's mom's name, and he has a sister named Anne, which means "gracious." 

Second, we are thrilled to finally share her lovely face with you!  This is the first photo we saw of her, taken when she was 10 months old.  As you can imagine, we fell in love with those huge, expressive eyes . . .

(We have two more pictures from last December, but are having trouble converting them to a format that this blog template will allow.  We may try to post those on F*cebook.)
We have a few more details about her that we will share here:  she was 5 pounds, 10 ounces when she was born, and weighed 14 pounds, 10 ounces when this picture was taken.  That is smaller than any of our other children at the same age.  Since we don't have a current weight or height, we will be guessing about what size clothing and diapers to bring.  But we don't even care about that -- we are just so excited that it's time to think about packing things for her!
We are thrilled to have Kavya make her "debut" here, and even more thrilled to be so close to seeing her in person! Every night finds us praying that God will prepare her heart and mind for the enormous change coming her way, and that He will keep her safe and well during these last few weeks.  We are coming soon, dear Kavya!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Aloo tikki for Rakhi Day

First, a bit of good news -- Anya's travel visa is finished and in our hands!

Second, this Wednesday is Rakhi Day (also called Raksha Bandhan), our favorite Indian holiday!  It celebrates the bonds of love between brothers and sisters.  Our kids exchange and wear string bracelets to symbolize the ties between siblings, and give each other candy to symbolize the sweetness of their love for each other.

Anya helps by mashing the potatoes.
This spring, when Sunil was visiting, I tried a new recipe that I'll be making again for Rakhi Day.  It's a type of flavorful potato patty served with tamarind or mint chutney.  You can make it as spicy as you wish by adding more chopped peppers.  We received this recipe when we attended Dillon International's India Heritage Camp last summer -- which is open to any India-adoptive families, by the way, not just those who have worked with Dillon!


6 medium potatoes, baked, peeled and mashed
1/2 cup peas
1 Tbsp oil
2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 Tbsp. cumin
2 Tbsp. finely chopped ginger (or 1 tsp. ground ginger)
2 Tbsp. chopped coriander leaves (or 1/2 tsp. ground coriander)
2 Tbsp. chopped green chilies
     (anaheim peppers or poblano peppers are a good substitute if you can't find fresh green chilies)
1/2 Tbsp. red chili powder
1 Tbsp. chaat masala*
1 1/2 tsp. garam masala
2 Tbsp. chopped cilantro

In a large bowl, mash the baked potatoes.  Add oil, peas, salt, cumin, ginger, coriander, chilies, chili powder, chaat masala, garam masala, and cilantro.  Make tikkis (patties) about 3 " in diameter. Brush the tikkis with oil, and place in a single layer on a cookie sheet or baking pan.  Broil for 10 minutes, then turn over and broil for another 5 minutes.  Serve with tamarind chutney and mint chutney.

*If you don't live near an Indian grocery store, you can G*ogle "chaat masala" to find recipes for the chaat spice combination.  Penzey's sells garam masala.

Yummy!  An easy, tasty side dish to replace mashed potatoes or french fries . . . Enjoy!!

Monday, August 12, 2013


Spices at a market during our trip to bring Anya home -- gorgeous and fragrant.
We are officially in court limbo.  Since hearing that our case was verbally approved, we have heard nothing about whether the judge has signed the written court order.  And that precious piece of paper is what will allow the orphanage staff to apply for K's passport! 

Also, we have no idea whether they will notify us when they send in the application for her passport.  The orphanage uses a computer that is off-site, about an hour away.  They are very prompt about e-mailing when they have news, but we aren't sure if they will consider each of the above steps "news."  (Although we sure do!)

Can't wait to be surrounded by beautiful faces in India again.

And Anya's travel visa is also in limbo . . . Would you all please pray about that?  We have been exchanging a frustrating series of e-mails and Fed*Ex packages with the visa office. 

E-mail from visa office:  "Please send us color photocopies of Anya Rashi's U.S. passport."
Us: Wha . . .?   Her passport is currently in your possession, in the first package we mailed. 

Another e-mail from visa office: Please send us an additional fee of $---.00
Us: Umm . . . the check for that amount is also currently in your office in the second package we mailed.

Muy frustrato.  (Not really a Spanish speaker, as you can tell.)

This week, we will be calling them to attempt to speak to a human being, and/or driving 4 hours each way to try and straighten things out.  Argh. Times like these are when I really appreciate the luxury of doing this as a team -- when I am frustrated, Peter has a calm head, and vice versa (most of the time!).  It really makes me admire my single friends who have waded through adoption paperwork on their own . . . you ladies are amazing!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Visas, balloons, golf & bike skills

In the two weeks since our verbal court approval, so much has happened!  We applied for travel visas . . . and discovered we had never renounced Anya's Indian passport.  Oops. 

So we had a little form-filling-out to do, and we're back in business.  So FYI . . . if you've/ already welcomed your child home and hope to make a return trip to India in the future, you're supposed to do that within 3 years of their arrival. 

We are still waiting for news of our written approval from the judge, then our orphanage can apply for K's passport . . . And when we have the written order, we can share her picture online!

* * * * * *

In other family news, my brother Matt, my sister Alicia and I had given our parents a hot air balloon ride for Mother's and Father's Day and their summer birthdays, and it was finally time for their ride.  The kids, Peter and I got to help the crew set up the balloon, and we "chased" it and helped pack up the balloon at the end.  It was just magical to see it take off into the sky!

And my sporty Mom -- that lady has a lot of gumption!  She is on a committee for a fundraiser/golf outing at her church, and had the idea to write to Wisconsin pro golfer Steve Stricker and ask if he would join them for the golf outing.  Well, he was a little busy this weekend playing in a tournament, so he couldn't come . . . but he sent an autographed baseball cap for the outing, and he signed a baseball cap just for my Mom too!  What a great guy -- and what a fun surprise for my Mom!

* * * * * *

And my former kindergartener is now officially a two-wheel bike rider!  During previous summers, Anya has ridden on longer bike rides in a trailer behind me -- but that screeched to a halt this year.  I was huffing and puffing during our first two rides of the summer, thinking, "Man, am I out of shape or what??!" 

Well, we've been able to see how tall she grew over the past year -- she's wearing size 7 and 8 clothes (how did that happen?). But we didn't realize that she's also about 10 pounds heavier than last summer.  No wonder it felt a little different for me as I pedaled!  That's a little salve for my fitness ego, too . . .  :o) 

She did an amazing job finding her balance quickly -- it took only two tries for her to ride away from her Daddy's balancing hands.  I loved watching her face change from tentative and fearful, to surprise that she was riding on her own, to gleeful victory. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Our court news: the rest of the story

Anya made a stand-in for K, until she can join us at the table in person!
She drew a face and wrote, "To K_____" and added 8 lines of XOXOs.
Our spirits are still soaring from hearing our great court news on Sunday! We are still in shock that it took only 3 months -- we had been expecting a 4-6 month wait at a minimum.  After 4 years of being in process, we are ecstatic when anything happens quickly!

I wanted to write down one other part of the story, though -- to remember God's kindness to us throughout this whole process.  As we followed other families' stories during Anya's adoption, we would often see strange or inexplicable things happen to them.  Our first adoption took two years and one month, and followed the expected timelines -- and we were overjoyed to finally meet Anya Rashi and welcome her into our family.  But none of those extraordinary or dramatic things happened as we waited.

This time, however, over and over again, there have been amazing and overwhelming things that have happened as we've waited for K.  I think God, in his loving kindness, knew that our 4 1/2 year journey would be difficult, and chose to remind us that He hadn't forgotten about K or us. 

First, He provided financially in unexpected ways, through people's generous gifts toward Peter's marathon, through receiving a grant from Show Hope, and most recently, through an unexpected donation from a family we only know a little bit.  We have been blown away by those things.

On a more personal level, He let us see how He is acting on our behalf in ways that are so loving and intimate.  The story of K's referral was one of those times -- God chose to "show off" a little bit, and demonstrate that He indeed heard the desires of this mama's heart.

Then, earlier this summer, He graciously showed us what happened to another little girl we'd received information about two years ago. She has the same name as our K, but we weren't home-study-approved to accept a child her age.  God orchestrated connections so we would know that she found her family, and is thriving -- and we even got to see recent pictures of her!

And now, He gave another gift to us.  Last Friday morning, I woke up from an incredibly vivid dream.  I don't dream regularly about K, and this was only the second time in 4+ years I had ever dreamt about her or our adoption process.  In the dream, we heard that her case had been presented and approved in court.  I dreamed that I was jumping up and down and shouting for joy at the good news. 

When I woke up, Peter had already left for an early meeting, so I told the kids about the dream.  It was so vivid and real, that I actually recorded the date on our calendar.  I was wondering if someday, we would look back and discover that something significant had happened on that date, Friday, July 19, 2013.

And then came the unexpected e-mail on Sunday, saying that very thing -- K's court case had been heard!  Of course, we don't yet know which day her court case was . . . but I have a strange feeling that, when we receive all of her paperwork, we will find out it was heard on Friday, July 19.

I hope that our daughter, when she has questions about her purpose and destiny, or the reasons why her birth family couldn't take care of her, will find reassurance in these details.  While it is never God's "plan A" that children would be torn away from their first families, he can bring something good from a painful situation. 

His eye is on you, little sparrow K . . . He sees you, He rejoices over you, and He has a plan and purpose for your life.  And we are so humbled and overwhelmed that He's chosen to include us in that.  We love you, dear one, and we can't wait to meet you.

Anya with a balloon animal made by yours truly --
I never thought that part of motherhood would be learning to make balloon animals!

Monday, July 15, 2013

K's second birthday

Today, on the other side of the world, our little girl turned two.  On this side of the world, our kids asked questions: 
"Will they celebrate her birthday in the orphanage?"
"What do you think she's doing right now?"
"Why is it taking so long to get her home?" 

How Peter and I wish we had answers for every one of their questions, especially that last one.

We are nearly at the 11-month mark since we saw the first smiley picture of K, and this birthday was bittersweet.  On one hand, we are overjoyed to know who she is, and be this far along in the process.  We have two final steps until we can travel to meet our daughter: first, we are waiting for the court date granting us guardianship, and then we wait for her passport.  Then we can buy those precious plane tickets to India!

But it is still difficult to wait with no indications about when our case will be on the docket.  We've been waiting since mid-April, and we've been told to expect 4-6 months if we have a speedy experience, and 9-12 months if it's a longer wait.  That time frame sounds pretty disheartening to us at this point, to say the least.  We want our daughter to come home to her family, to begin learning what that even means.

I do all the usual things, telling myself that these two years are such a short time compared to all the years we will have together after she's with us.  But it is painful to know that another week, another month, nearly a whole year has gone by.

As a family, we chose to celebrate this day, to celebrate her.  We had Chicken Makhani for dinner, and spent part of the meal trying to guess which month will be her homecoming month.  We went out for ice cream because this is the hottest week of the summer so far -- it was still 90 degrees at 8:00 p.m. when we left for our favorite ice cream place!

And then we headed for the riverfront in our city.  My brother Matt had given us a floating lantern, and we decided that was the perfect symbol for the many prayers we've offered up for our sweet little K.  After dinner, we had taken a few moments to write birthday messages for K.  And Anya is the perfect age for magical, breathless speculation:  "What if the lantern goes all the way to across the world, and someone in India finds it??"

We walked out onto the pier, and played a round of charades while we waited for dusk.  With great anticipation, our sons lit the flame, and the lantern slowly filled up.  Aaron and I held it on our fingertips, waiting for the moment when it was hot enough to rise into the air.  It was a lovely sight -- our golden lantern against the darkening blue sky.

With surprising speed, it caught the wind and rose up, up above the river, above the trees.  And we watched until it became a pinpoint of light, then disappeared.  And we prayed that it would be K's last birthday without us.

Monday, June 24, 2013

A visit from Sunil*

I've been computer-less this week (I am typing this at our public library).  Over the weekend, a techno-savvy friend has been trying to determine if our computer can be saved.  Hopefully, even if it is dead, my recent documents and recent photos can be saved . . .

I wanted to tell you about Sunil*, who was visiting from a large city in India.  He orchestrates rescue operations for girls trafficked in the red light district in his city.  He's been in our city for one month, and took time to speak to my ministry team about his work.

I don't mention it often on our blog, but I lead a ministry in our city that serves women who work in the local s*x industry.  We were able to listen to Sunil's life story and hear how rescue operations are conducted in his organization.  He was born into the red light district himself, as his mother and an aunt worked there.  When he became a Christian in his late teens, Sunil felt that God had placed him in a unique position to help women, especially minors, escape the degradation and enslavement that was forced upon them. 

He is an incredible man of God, serving out of his own past woundedness.  It was fascinating to hear how he gathers information about girls who are literally hidden away, works with the police to organize rescues, and gets the girls to a safe place where they receive counseling, receive an education, attend Bible studies, learn a trade so they can support themselves, and have time to heal from the trauma they've endured.

Please keep Sunil in your prayers.  His work is very dangerous, and can be discouraging because he knows they are only able to help a small number of the girls who are being exploited every day.  In the face of those realities, his dedication and relentless willingness to help are all the more amazing. 

*name changed for his safety

Monday, June 3, 2013


I know some moms are really emotional at the beginning of the school year, but I seem to always be that way at the end of the year.  The end of the school year makes me so aware of time passing . . . I think to myself, "Aaron will never be a 6th grader again, Nathan will never be a 5th grader again, and Anya will never be a kindergartener again." 

Aaron was a Safety Patrol captain this year, and his days on safety patrol are over now as he enters middle school in the fall.  He is about 1 inch shorter than me, and wears men's size 11 shoes. (Yikes!)   Nathan left Cub Scouts behind and became a Boy Scout this year.  They've both matured so much . . . especially Nathan.  He still has his goofy sense of humor, but has learned more about when it's appropriate (with some great reinforcement at school by his creative, wonderful teacher).  Their friendship with each other gives me such joy -- when they go to bed at night, we always hear talking and laughter.  But they are not too old to really play with their little sister -- the kindness they show when they include Anya warms this Mama's heart.

Of course, the end of the year brings a few bumps in the road . . . such as forgetting until Sunday that a video project and paper are due TODAY.  (During the last week of school? Why? WHY?!)  And my lunch-packing skilz have taken a nosedive.  Nobody's going to be putting my kids' lunches on Pinterest this week, that's for sure!

And Anya . . . what a huge year she's had. There are so many things I want to "remember-ize," as she says.  Over the school year, she went from being clinging and uncertain about school to a confident, relaxed, engaged almost-first-grader.  I am relishing that she still holds my hand every morning as we walk to the playground, and races out of school at day's end with a huge smile, running straight into my arms. 

I love all the questions she asks -- on the way home from church yesterday, I had to give her a scientific explanation of lightning and thunder, and explain how fog/mist/clouds condense into raindrops when cold air hits them.  And it wasn't even raining -- that's just what was on her mind!  After being scolded by a ground-nesting bird at a mini-golf course last week, we had to look up what kind of bird it was (ruffled grouse). She is so curious about the world!  Except for bugs.  She is phobic of those (I will not take credit for that -- I'm only spider & centipede phobic!)

She loves math and is a fluent reader. Anya loves to sound out words everywhere (including some billboards or ads I'd rather not have her read!).  She loves to write down her own stories and made many Mother's Day cards and drawings for me.  My favorite was 20 tiny pieces of paper that I had to read in consecutive order:
20.  I love you.
19. Do you love me?
18. Do you love me forever?
17. Cus I do.
16. So do you? Do you?
15. Cus I reiley do.
14. You can't take a secind!
13. I just can't wait!
12. I can't wait for you to ansor.
11. You have to tell me
10. if you do.
9. or if you do not!
8. So wat's your ansor?
7. Or do you have an ansor?
6. So do you? Do you?
5. Oh, your better than that.
4. Come on, you can tell me.
3. Your my mom!
2. Come on!!!
1. Yay! You love me !!!!!!

I do, indeed -- I love my quickly-changing kids so much.  And as much as I want to freeze them just the way they are, I also look forward to all the ways they will continue to grow -- and I'm so thankful that God let me be their mother.

Monday, May 20, 2013

"To help and not hurt"

The Appleton girls in their jammies.
Jen Hatmaker posted the second part of her three-part series on ethical adoption.

Because our family is multi-racial, we are often approached by people who are interested in starting adoptions.  I will be directing them to Jen Hatmaker's "Part 2" in a heartbeat! 

This post contains so much great information about choosing an agency and choosing a country to work with, and it lists "red flags" that may indicate your agency is dealing with corrupt people (or has less-than-stellar practices in place itself).

I have always been so, so grateful for our agency, Dillon International -- and they would get high marks according to the lists in this post.

When we first chose an agency, we asked LOTS of questions about the children in India, why they were typically relinquished, how long Dillon had been working in India, and more.  We also asked for references, and asked about other agencies (and asked those agencies about other agencies' reputations).  Dillon also helps provide care in-country for the children who aren't adopted, which was another sign of their commitment to children.  Asking all those questions make me feel like a nosy, rude person -- but now I'm so glad we asked so many questions and chose Dillon because of it.

We also heard one story that spoke volumes about Dillon's commitment to birth families:  one of their India families had received a referral for a child.  While in the courts, the birth mother came back to the orphanage and was now in a position to parent her child.  The prospective adoptive mother and father were heartbroken, of course -- but they were counseled by Dillon that staying in country and being raised by the birthmother is the ideal situation, of course.

I was so heartened that the orphanage and Dillon were up-front about the return of the birth mother.  They way some anti-adoption folks paint the picture, agencies and orphanages are in it for the money (which makes me think they have no idea what these non-profit employees earn!!) -- but here was an example of both agency and orphanage "losing out" on fees for the best interest of the child.

I pray that any families starting an adoption would be committed, as Jen says, "to help and not hurt."  And ask LOTS of questions -- the children and birth families deserve no less!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Can't wait for part two

This is such a good piece of writing!  Jen Hatmaker says it with grace, intelligence, compassion and a heart for justice: Examining Adoption Ethics, Part One

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Film and novel about Partition

Deepa Mehta
Director Deepa Mehta
For anyone who wants to learn about India, one event looms large in the country's modern history:  Partition.  On the stroke of midnight, the moment between August 14 and 15, 1947, the British rule of India ended at last, and the land was divided between Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan.  Millions of people were displaced and relocated, as lines and boundaries changed in that instant.

Salman Rushdie wrote a novel exploring that time in history called Midnight's Children. Most people, myself included, know about his book The Satanic Verses, which earned him death threats from Muslim fundamentalists -- but Midnight's Children is actually considered his masterpiece.  It follows the life of Saleem (the main character), and others who were born at midnight on August 14, 1947 -- and fleshes out that huge historical event with human faces and experiences.

Now Midnight's Children has been turned into a film by one of my favorite Indian directors, Deepa Mehta.  If you've never seen any of her movies, you're missing some really outstanding films!  She is well-known for her "Elements" trilogy of movies, Fire, Earth, and WaterWater, about a child bride who is widowed and must live in a house of widows for the rest of her life, is my favorite Indian film ever.  Like Salman Rushdie's, Mehta's work has been protested for religious reasons.  When Water was being filmed, Hindu extremists protested and rioted, and some of the film sets were burned.  Ultimately, the film had to be completed in Sri Lanka.

If you'd like to hear more about the film, here's an interview about Midnight's Children that aired on NPR's Morning Edition.  I don't know if it will come to our city's theaters, but I will be looking for it at my library and on Netflix in the future.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Birthday weekend

This weekend about did me in!  We had beautiful weather (finally!), and our weekend looked like this:

Friday night: We celebrated Nathan's 11th birthday with the grandparents and local uncles. We alternate years for our boys to have a big "friend" party, and this year it's Aaron's turn.  Nathan requested an ice cream cake, so it was my first attempt at making one -- and my good friend Go*gle came to the rescue with an easy recipe.  We loved being able to shower Nathan with love and words of affirmation, and had fun looking at pictures of his babyhood and younger years together.

Saturday morning: Peter helped friends paint their house, and we went back in the evening to help clean up (and play at the park across the street from their house).

Saturday afternoon: Grandpa surprised Anya and me with tickets to see The Lion King, which was an amazing show visually -- the most incredible fusion of set and costume design and music I've seen.  The story comes across as much more profound onstage than in the movie too.

Sunday afternoon: Anya had her long-awaited "friend" birthday party!  We had friends over to make bead crafts (tiaras and bracelets), and it was so nice outside that the girls ended up running around the yard, drawing with chalk and playing on our swingset.  Anya's actual birthday is the week of Christmas, so we chose to delay her "friend" party until a less crazy time of year.

Although the weekend ended up being kind of crazy anyway.  :o)  Whew! 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Amazing NOC news!

K is very much on all of our minds!
Anya's kindergarten class is studying India this month. 
Inside this elephant, she wrote "to K_____, from Anya." 
Melted my heart! She also brought home a map of India that she colored,
and she had drawn a boat in the ocean, and wrote "K____'s boat."
And just to bring a tear to my eye, her sweet teacher had
drawn in dot and written "Bangalore" on Anya's map.

I can hardly believe it's true . . . but we received an e-mail yesterday saying that we received NOC

Early last week, our orphanage e-mailed to say that the state clearance board had mailed our paperwork to CARA, so we were prepared for a much longer wait.  The shortest we expected was one month, as one recent family experienced -- so we were in shock when we read the e-mail from Jynger, our agency rep.

That means our NOC was granted in about ONE WEEK!  Amazing! 

Now our case will head into the court system.  We have no idea what to expect about how long court will take in our city . . . one recent family's case was very fast (one month), but another agency sent word that it can take as long as 9 - 12 months. 

So we are praying for another happy surprise, but prepared for anything . . . and thanking God for this awesome turn of events!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Adoption ethics in the media recently

Hang onto your hats, adoptive friends . . . this is a long post, but the topic is so important that I hope you'll bear with me.  My bloggy friend Missy alerted me to two articles regarding adoption ethics, specifically in the realm of Christian adoption.  Yesterday, on NPR's Fresh Air program, there was an interview with Kathryn Joyce, author of the upcoming book, The Child Catchers.  The book examines underlying motives about adoption in the Christian context, and the lack of attention often paid to ethical issues in adoption in the midst of the new "orphan fever."

And in Mother Jones magazine, there is a truly sad and horrifying article about adoptions from Liberia and other African countries that were entered into with little preparation, questionable motives, and tragic results.

The Mother Jones article is a particularly difficult read, mostly because of the frightening ethical violations and lack of education on the part of the adoptive parents.  I do feel, however, that it's important to read these articles, for two reasons: first, because it's always important to understand what our culture believes about Christians (so that we can communicate better about Christ), and second, because there are very real ethical concerns in adoption that too many Christians ignore.

I admit I felt sorrowful and defensive about the writers' lack of distinctions (or seeming lack of knowledge) about very different subsets of Christianity.  Michael and Debi Pearl and the abusive methods they teach in their books are lumped in with all of "evangelical" Christianity, when they are a tiny subculture that exists far outside most Christians' knowledge.  (The only reason I know of them is because of one real-life friend and one blog friend who were raised in abusive families/churches that subscribed to their methods.)  Likewise, the adoptive parents' ministry and magazine in the MJ article are people I've never heard of after being a well-read Christian for over 20 years.

I also wondered if the MJ reporter actually knows anyone who is a professing Christian, or if the reporter has been deeply hurt by Christians -- those are a few reasons I can think of for the lack of any semblance of balance in reporting.  The MJ article never mentions the precautions put in place by countries who have agreed to the Hague convention standards, never mentions the rigorous education requirements to adopt from Hague countries, and never contrasts the unethical, uneducated, abusive parents with an example of people who are great adoptive parents. 

Most importantly, the reporter did not seek out families who have left particular country programs because of ethical concerns.  I personally know of two families who have done this (one online friend and one real-life) -- and it would've made for better reporting to include examples like theirs.  When some Christians are aware of ethical issues, it contrasts with and holds accountable those who do not.  I understand that the focus was on unethical adoption practices, but making the article entirely one-sided does a huge disservice to the children waiting for families.  I hate to think that people are being scared away from adopting altogether by articles such as this when there is such a glaring need for loving families to step up.

I won't comment too much on the book, because I haven't read it yet.  I did read the excerpt included with the interview.  In it, Joyce mentions that part of the back story for writing this book was a friendship that began during a previous book about Quiverfull families.  She goes into some detail about her years-long communication with this woman . . . and it seems as though Joyce may, like the Mother Jones reporter, lump different subsets of Christianity together.  (Don't know what Quiverfull means?  It's a patriarchal branch of Christianity that eschews birth control in favor of God determining your family size, and can also include other practices such as women having long hair and wearing dresses.)  But the excerpt was short, so that's all I'll comment on for now.

I'm sharing the links not to upset you, but rather so we can all be prepared to answer well if questions about ethics come our way.  As Christians, we should be VERY concerned that our children come to us in ways that are above reproach.  We should be the MOST concerned.  We should be the ones raising questions first, out of our desire to honor Christ in everything we do.

But too often, we don't.

I am disturbed by the numbers of Christian adoption agencies that seem to pop up like mushrooms when new country programs open up, do not have the same high standards for pre-adoption requirements . . . and then disappear within a few years.

I am disturbed when I see some families get their children home very quickly, when I know other families working with the same country (and a reputable, by-the-book agency) who wait for years.

I am disturbed when other types of orphan care are not mentioned . . . such as sponsor programs, micro-loans for parents to earn a sustainable living, etc.  We should be equally excited about caring for children in-country, who will never be adopted, and creating solutions to alleviate poverty (the reason some families place their children in orphanages.)  Often in church settings, in-country care is never mentioned -- and adoption is presented as the only solution.

I am disturbed when Christian "orphan" conferences do not include the perspectives of any adoptees.  We need to be asking them about their experiences -- they are the experts, and their experiences are actually more important than mine, as an adoptive parent who was the only one who had any choices about my children's adoption experience.

I am disturbed when adoption agencies and adoptive parents don't take time to understand the foreign country's perceptions about orphanages or adoption.  (In many countries, impoverished parents will admit their children to an orphanage so they will have food to eat -- fully intended to get them back in a couple months, when the crops are in, etc.  They have no idea they're agreeing to relinquish their kids permanently.)

I am disturbed when I hear Christians talk about adoption as a mission field, or as saving orphans, or being a means to spread the Gospel.  Of course I will teach all of my children about loving Christ, but first and foremost, adoption is about committing to parent and love a child -- a real, flesh-and-blood child.  When we make it about a cause, we turn a child into a project, which is just dehumanization, plain and simple. 

We Christians who are committed to ethical adoptions need to be ready to speak up.  I know corruption and deception can happen in Hague countries too, and I would hate to unknowingly be part of that scenario.  But we are doing everything in our power, from our agency choice to our country choice, to our dedication to pre-adoption education to make it a good, ethical, beautiful, redemptive thing.

And I'm committed to spreading the word.  Last week, I spoke to our church's moms' group about adoption, and my focus was on the many complexities of international adoption, including loss and grief, making sure adoption is ethical, and being well-equipped to parent in new and different ways (for becoming a transracial family, and for parenting hurting children). 

So I'm speaking up in my little corner of the world!  And I hope you will take opportunities to do the same thing.  Our kids, and all children waiting for stable, loving families, deserve no less.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Great link & good news

Last Friday, we received much-welcomed news about K's case!  We received an e-mail that said our case had passed the state clearance at last!!  We've been waiting since December, when we submitted our power of attorney -- or October, when we received Article 5.  We're not sure which date . . . but either way, it was a long time coming, and we're very grateful to know that we're headed into the court system.

This week, I also heard of a terrific blog written by Kevin Hofmann, an adult transracial adoptee.  He is African-American, and was adopted and raised by Caucasian parents.  He writes thoughtfully about what it was like to look different than most people in his community, and how it felt to feel like he didn't quite fit in either world.


I really appreciate his honest perspective as a person of color.  I will never truly be able to understand what life feels like inside my daughters' skin, and I appreciate his desire to educate parents so we can serve our kids better. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Tears of joy

I can barely see the computer screen.  For the last two hours, I've been crying, then drying my tears, then suddenly sobbing again at the drop of a hat.  For all of the very best reasons.

Peter called me from work about something totally mundane -- he was checking if I could use a room at church for a meeting that had to be moved last-minute.  The woman who was going to host my meeting has a child with a miserable stomach bug.

Suddenly, I heard other voices in his office, and he said, "What? What?"  Then I heard one of the voices ask why he was crying.  I wondered what in the world was going on.

Then, she took the phone and talked to me.  A family I barely know has been talking and praying about our adoption.  They had a sum of money set aside, and felt that God wanted them to help us bring K home.  She quietly said the amount over the phone, and my face crumpled as I literally burst into tears. 

I am completely overwhelmed at their kindness and generosity.  They are choosing to be part of changing K's life forever.  I don't have any idea why they thought of us -- I believe it is just purely them listening to God and responding in love and obedience.  Our good Father delights in surprising us and lavishing us with unexpected goodness and provision.  Why does He do that?  Why would He bless us so?

What this family doesn't know is that we only had enough in savings to make our final adoption payment.  We had nothing to spare for the trip, and were wondering if we would need to ask for a loan from a family member, or dip into our home equity, or what.  Just this morning while he got ready for work, Peter was wondering if he should call our bank to start asking questions about refinancing our mortgage. 

Their phone call answered those questions.  Their gift will certainly cover all of our plane tickets.  I am still in shock, and so humbled at generosity that asks nothing in return.  They wish to remain completely anonymous.  That is so rare in this world.

Especially in these trying months since October, hearing nothing about K's case, this is such uplifting news.  We are praising the One who meets all our needs, and thanking God for this family's incredible gift.   

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Flash mob in Mumbai

Just for fun, a little musical diversion!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Bringing adoption to kindergarten

Anya in a nightgown Grandma sewed.

Today, I was a guest in my daughter's kindergarten class.  I brought in a basket of props and a doll, took a deep breath, and gave a basic explanation of adoption.  My goal was to talk about adoption at school while Anya isn't self-conscious about the topic or about having me in class -- and hopefully to introduce her classmates to positive adoption terminology at a young age.

I laid the groundwork last November, by asking Anya's teacher if she would be open to having me come in.  I wrote up an outline describing what I planned to do, and based it partly on an Adoptive Families magazine article.  I also linked to the article, so she could read a more expert opinion.  She read everything, and worked me into the classroom schedule.

She did have one very important suggestion for me:  there are two other children in Anya's class who are transracially adopted, and she wanted to check with their parents and see if they were comfortable with the idea.  We know one of the families, and knew they were very open with their child about adoption; I had already planned to e-mail that family if the teacher agreed to the talk.

But I am so glad she knew about the other family, and shared the information with them -- I would hate to have blindsided them, or had their child go home upset.  They were grateful, and wanted to tell their child in advance that adoption would be discussed at school.

Today was the big day!  I sat down in front of 25 eager faces, and started with the obvious: "I am Anya's mother, and she's my daughter, but we don't look like each other, do we?"  A sea of enthusiastically shaking heads and a chorus of voices told me that no, we don't look like each other at all!

That was my springboard -- that some families don't look like each other.  I talked about how families can have people who don't look like each other. Sometimes it's because the mom and dad don't have the same color skin, so their children don't look like one of the parents.  And sometimes, families have people who don't look like each other because the children are adopted.

Anya held up a photo of K, and we told the class we were waiting right now for another daughter -- one who also wouldn't look like me, but who would look like Anya.  Then I took the doll in my arms, and asked the children what we would need to take care of a little one.  I chose to bring in the doll to keep the focus off of Anya, and we also didn't share any of her personal details except for where she was born.  We used an older-looking, not-so-babyish doll, since K will be two when she comes home.

That's where my basket of props came in.  I held the doll and asked the children some things that babies or little kids need, and had children take turns choosing something from the basket.  One by one, they picked out objects that showed children need food, medicine, clothes, toys, books, and love.  When we had emptied the basket, I said that it was going to be our job to provide all those things for K, forever, because we were going to be her parents.  We left the objects out on a table where the kids could see them.

Then I said "There's one other thing we haven't talked about that every person needs, and that's to be born and brought into the world."  That, I explained was the job of the first parents.  Every adopted child has two sets of real parents -- the first parents bring her into the world and make sure she's born.  But then, sometimes, grown-ups have big problems that mean they cannot provide all the things a baby needs (and I pointed back to the objects from my basket). 

I stressed that the grown-up problems, like being too young to care for a child or having very bad medical problems, were never the baby's fault . . . and the other two adopted children each raised their hands and chimed in with parts of their own stories.  I wasn't expecting that, but it gave me an opportunity to say "Yes, that is a grown-up problem," and "They wanted to make sure someone would find you and take care of you," and affirm their contribution.

Then I briefly mentioned the helpers at adoption agencies who help the birthparents find families who can take care of their children, and that we were really looking forward to meeting our new daughter, being her family, and taking good care of her for the rest of her life.

Then the children got on a tangent about who had how many siblings, and at least one boy also claimed to have been adopted (I know him and his parents from preschool, and he's not!).  Hopefully that means he "caught" a positive picture of adoption today!  Another little girl told me, "I have light brown skin, and so does my whole family.  So we do look like each other."  It's always fascinating to hear what's going on in their minds.  :o)

I hope this experience will be a good building block for Anya and her classmates.  (And I'm fully aware that the only thing they may remember or report at home is "Anya's mom brought a doll to school!") It's pretty inevitable that someone at school will say hurtful things to her, or family tree/geneaology assignments could cause confusion or pain -- but I'm hoping that we have answered some questions before they needed to be asked, and reinforced my daughter's level of comfort in talking about adoption in general.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A little news . . .

Close-up of stonework at the Taj Mahal.
Just thought I'd share a little bit of good news . . . we heard that our case is being forwarded for SARA (state level clearance).  I don't know how long that will take, but please pray that it's quick!  Then our paperwork will be able to move on to NOC.

What a relief to hear something!

Monday, March 4, 2013

In memory of Mr. W and Jeanne

Our little crowd of faithful adoption supporters just grew smaller.  I'm sad to tell you that Mr. W died this weekend after six weeks of hospitalization and hospice care.  Please do keep his wife Sandy in your prayers, as she is feeling lost in these first days of grief. 

Jeanne, another person who also consistently asked about and prayed for K, died last week at age 84.  I first knew Jeanne because she served in our church's Lay Counseling Department (where I also volunteer), but during the last 4 years, I would see her at the YMCA a few times each week -- and almost every single time, she asked me if I had any adoption news for her.

It makes me sad to think that they've prayed for four years, and will not be here to see the day when we bring our daughter home.  I am taking satisfaction in the knowledge that they both got to see  pictures of her sweet face. 

And I have to brush up on my theology a little on this point, but I sure hope they will be clapping their hands and rejoicing with us in heaven when we finally travel to meet the daughter they lovingly prayed for. 

Until then, I'll remember this when I think of Mr. W and Jeanne:

But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.
-- C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Anybody else?

So, is anybody else going a little bonkers waiting for news from the CARA conference?  Or is it just me?

I don't think our case will be magically green-lighted (I wish!), but I am hoping that some confusion about the new process will be cleared up for orphanage staff and adoption agencies.  I am praying that March and April will reflect that by bringing some progress for the many families who are waiting for state level clearance and NOC.

In the meantime, I have been trying out a new author, Tarquin Hall. He has a series of mysteries (three, so far) featuring an investigator named Vish Puri.  I'm reading The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken, a title that jumped off the "New Fiction" shelves for me, because it's the alternative name of one of my favorite Indian dishes, Chicken Makhani.  :o)

I am about one-third of the way through the book so far, and it's a well-written, well-plotted mystery novel set in Delhi (where the author lives).  The plot revolves around the death of a man whose son is a famous cricket player, and reaches into organized crime and the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan.  Amidst these serious elements, the book has a refreshing sense of humor that is gentle and witty.

The books contain wonderful descriptions of everyday life in Delhi, which is a treat for a waiting mama.  The author also includes observations about the rising middle class and those left in poverty, and injects a longing for social justice into his main character. 

So, if you're going batty like I am while you wait . . . I recommend this book!  For a taste of Indian culture, a plot that will distract you from thinking about NOCs, and a good dose of wry humor, The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken is a great choice. 

Of course, I don't know how it ends yet . . .