Thursday, January 31, 2013

Gotcha Day

Today was Gotcha Day. I have to admit that I have been emotionally preparing and praying for this day since we were told that he has been residing in a foster home.

Emotionally, it was every bit of the roller coaster I was expecting. 

We started the visit by dressing him in the clothes that foster mama laid out for him as we weren't positive that we were taking him, today. He was very helpful and compliant with my fumbling. Then, she allowed me to feed him breakfast which was some kind of meat pastry. He didn't seem to be a big fan, but he did eat about half of it before starting to spit it out. 

He seemed tired and kind of "droopy" all morning and the social worker told us later that he got up early, today. We visited sitting on the floor of their small living room for about two hours when the adult daughter, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren arrived. We knew the social workers were due to arrive around 2 p.m. and even though we still weren't sure it was gotcha day, they were clearly there to say goodbye to him.

Finally, the social workers arrived, including the one who speaks some English. She asked if we were comfortable taking him today and we readily agreed. I was fairly certain the foster mama couldn't have handled another day of us hanging out in her house. 

We dressed him in the clothes we brought for him, although they did give us his long-sleeved onesie to leave on him because the crazy Americans weren't dressing him warmly enough. (It was about 50 degrees F.) She also packed some other clothes for him, a bottle of juice, a large bottle of some sort of milk concoction, and his favorite stuffed hippo that he sleeps with and I was overcome by the sweetness of it all.

The family gathered around and took pictures of him, hugged and kissed him, and then handed him over. 

I bawled. 

I asked the social worker to communicate how very grateful we are to them for all they have done for him and then I hugged foster mama and we held each other for a few moments, she jabbering away in Serbian and me jabbering away in English as we attempted to communicate all that was in our hearts. 

We managed.

Foster papa had a very difficult time holding it together and granddaughter (3yo) finally caught wind of what was happening and started sobbing. We took our leave, B riding on my lap of the backseat of the social workers' car, foster mama waving until we were out of sight. 

Back at the hotel, the social worker checked out our room and explained that they will return tomorrow morning to check on us and then we are free to return to Belgrade until the ceremony which could be as early as next Tuesday. That is not normally the routine, but our translator, Zoran, has been telephoning them daily and has explained how much easier it will be for us to care for him in Belgrade due to the apartment and closer proximity to the supermarket.

Then they left and B sat in the room for about three minutes and just started to quietly cry. We could not distract him and decided to go for a walk and get some lunch/dinner. 

I am now laughing that I mentioned how proud I was of us for dragging that umbrella stroller from America. It's pretty obvious he has never ridden in a stroller and he is actually quite terrified of it. I pushed it anyway while Shawn carried him, in case he changed his mind.

He didn't, but at least I had somewhere to put my purse and leftover pizza after we ate!

He took everything in while we were out. He never stopped watching. He interacted with us at the restaurant a little. He thought he was quite funny for having figured out how to kick his slighty-too-large shoes off under the table, but mostly he just quietly watched the other patrons and snuggled into Shawn occasionally. 

When we walked back into the hotel room, he immediately started to cry, again. We gave him a bath by stopping up the shower with a towel and letting it fill the few inches it could without spilling over. He was unimpressed, but we made it quick and now he smells of Johnson & Johnson. :)

He cried for a bit longer until he fell asleep on Daddy where he is sleeping, still.

So many emotions for all of us this day. I am so sad he must go through this, but I know that the harder the short term, the better the long term for him. Because he has these attachments with his foster family, he will be better able to transfer them to us. 

But it's unbelievably painful to watch him grapple with this and bittersweet doesn't even come close to the depths of emotion felt on this day.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Second Visit

Today, we had a nice visit at B's foster home. They wanted us there at 11 a.m. so we could see him eat breakfast. He had a hot dog, some salami-looking-sausage, bread, and a yogurt drink. 

She fed him all of it, although sometimes he would stuff more food in with his fingers after he already had a big mouthful. I sat at the table with them and sipped Turkish coffee which is kind of growing on me. He was in show off mode at first and was tossing food onto the floor with his little smirky/flirty smile he does so well. I noticed that he mostly gnaws food with his front incisors.

We played cars and balls, today, which he loved. It was fun to watch him vroom cars and arrange them in a straight line on a shelf. He's a smart little cookie and imitated some things that we did with him without any prompting. 

I am pretty convinced that his ears are filled with fluid. We were told that they attempted to test his hearing, but were unable to because of tiny ear canals. Once we get him home, we'll get them checked. He doesn't appear to hear much and loves to press loud toys against his jaw/throat area just below his ear. He also likes to put his hand on the speaker of the television while watching it. This afternoon, he watched bits of "Sponge Bob" and "Madagascar."

Without a translator, we were able to determine his bedtime routine, how he eats and drinks and how he communicates hunger, thirst, and the need for a diaper change. We were also able to get a taxi back to the hotel. (I'm so impressed with our mad gesturing skills!) The family also showed us pictures of him when he was younger. I was so blessed to discover that he has had a cake and celebration for each birthday! I owe them a huge debt of gratitude for loving on my boy.

Tomorrow, we meet the social workers at the house. There was talk we might receive custody at that time. I hope so! The wheezing was so much better, as long as no one was smoking. 

He has just recently started walking and still has the "frankenstein" walk that kids start off with. He much prefers to butt scoot across the laminate flooring, but he's getting it. I'm very happy that we were told by another family to bring an umbrella stroller with us. We priced them at the mall today and they were about $200 (US)! 

I just want to express again how smitten I am with this little guy! He spent some time on my lap, again, but also willingly climbed into Shawn's a time or two. I think Shawn scored huge points when he brought out the balls for him to throw. He is going to fit in so well with his siblings. I'm also grateful for my background as an occupational therapist and our experience with Eon. I think we'll rely heavily on both in the months to come.

Please pray for him as he transitions into his new life. Pray for us as we attempt to get to know him by keeping him occupied for days on end in a hotel room, too!

First Visit!

Yesterday, we left the flat about 9:30 a.m. and drove to the US Embassy. Our translator parked about a block away and we walked up to it. It was intimidating as there were people just standing around in front of the door, but a guard opened it and took our names then motioned us inside. They sent us to a waiting room after we passed through security and we waited...and waited. They'd taken our phones, so we had no clue what time it was and I was worried we'd miss our appointment with the Ministry. 

Finally, they called our names and told us which window to approach. There was an American young woman who kept asking personal questions about why we chose Serbia. She seemed suspicious of our answers for whatever reason, but she finally let it go. Our caseworker is a large Serbian gentleman who would not give us his name ("for security reasons") but gave us his direct phone number. It was all very cloak and dagger...and hilarious to me. He gave us a ton of forms to fill out. Once we have our adoption ceremony, I'm to call the mystery man and set up the visa appoinment.

We made it to the Ministry on time even though our official translator (not Zoran, the one who has been our faciliator...this one is certified by the country to translate/interpret even though her English is half as good as his) couldn't figure out the elevator (it was weird and confusing) and sent us to the wrong floor(s). We all crammed into a tiny office and introduced ourselves and then the social worker told us all about B, most of it we already knew and some of it we didn't care about (like how old the biological aunt was when she moved to London. ???)

They gave us two new pictures of him. One where he is standing on a chair looking mischevious and the other he is climbing out of the freezer. :)

After the meeting we followed the social workers to his hometown and up to what looked to be a small shack. The yard was made of mud with a dog chained up in front and clothes hanging on the line across the porch. We were enthusiastically greeted by B's foster mother who is about 60+ and reminds me of an italian grandmother. I liked her instantly. 

And then there was B. 

He has shaggy brown hair and big brown eyes, but what I noticed first was the wheezing. They say he has asthma and they give him breathing treatments when he needs them. I thought he needed one right then, but they didn't seem concerned. His lungs seemed to settle after a bit and he had been crying before we got there, so that might explain it. That, and all the second-hand smoke. I felt a bit asthmatic, too, by the time we left.

I sat on the floor and it was less than a minute before B came over and started touching my boots. He started patting them and tried to lick them a few times. "Ne! Ne!" He giggled. It wasn't long before he was hiding his toys under my legs and then pulling them apart to find them again. Then he belly laughed. Oh my heart! That boy can laugh! When he laughs, his eyes completely disappear. Cutest thing, ever!

He throws toys and always gets a response, so he keeps throwing them. He didn't warm up to Shawn as quickly as he did me, but he kept making sure Shawn was watching, especially when he was chucking toys. I think he already senses that Shawn is an authority figure and was guaging his reaction. He kept that mischevious little smile on his face while interacting with him, too. It was pretty cute.

While we were playing, the foster family, Zoran, and the social workers were scheduling our week. Initially, they were saying that by tomorrow we could take him on an outing. Then they noticed that he was sitting on my lap snuggling with me and decided that by tomorrow, we can have custody. They kept exclaiming that he never warms up to people that fast. I wanted to tell them it's because we've been praying for so long that God would prepare his heart for us.

The foster family and social workers were already discussing who was going to take his place in their home. They feel they can take on two more kids with special needs when B leaves with us. They have one typical little girl there, as well. I was pleased they were discussing it. I know he will leave a void in their hearts and home. They obviously love him, and they have spoiled him rotten, but they are so happy for him to be adopted. 

Because we were unprepared for him to be in foster care when we started this process, I initially felt guilty for taking him away from a family. Now that I have met them, I see that they were a wonderful substitute for a family of his own, but they always knew they were a substitute. I am also very aware of how bad for his lungs that environment is for him. I feel a real sense of urgency to get him out of there, so he can breathe. 

Today, we will go visit again to get an idea of his routine. She wants us there over a meal so we can see how he eats, etc. They already showed me that they feed him, although he can feed himself finger foods...he just chooses not to and they comply. :) We won't have a translator for this visit, so this should prove entertaining. Thankfully, she's pretty demonstrative and seems to have a good sense of humor. We'll figure it out.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

We Have Arrived

We are in Belgrade! We have to wait until after the Ministry meeting on Tuesday to finally meet our boy.

I hate waiting, but I am so happy we chose to come early. I was a foggy mess after arriving and sleeping eleven hours last night was a delicious and necessary treat. 

We are staying in a cozy and charming flat in a quaint little area that has shopping and dining within walking distance. Our translator has given us a driving tour of the city and promises a walking tour tomorrow if the weather is better. It is snowy and cold, today. No pictures because the internet device he purchased for us doesn't work with our laptop and so we are using a loaner...with a cyrillic keyboard. Sorry for any typos and I have no idea how to load pictures onto it. We should have wifi at the hotel in B's city, so I will share some then. 

Belgrade is a fascinating city, both visually and historically. The buildings that NATO bombed over a decade ago, still stand and serve as stark reminders of days gone by. We passed and discussed the oldest restaurant in the city. It is simply called "?" because what do you name an eatery that is 400-years-old?

There are things that surprise us. Somehow, I missed them, but Shawn tells me there are dogs everywhere, running amuck all over the city. I was surprised by all the graffiti. It touches nearly every building. I was also surprised by Brad Pitt's face around every corner. He must be incredibly popular here because I think he is the face of about every product.

Beyond that, it reminds me very much of home. The people look and dress like us, although I am pretty sure I am the only woman in the city with a chartreuse winter coat. I've noticed that they pretty much keep to themselves, but when engaged, seem genuinely interested. 

I did blow a fuse when our power converter failed to convert, but that was easily fixed. Scared the dickens out of me. A loud bang, lights went out, followed by a terrible odor and then I realized  I burned my finger. My hair is still disappointingly straight, though.

Shawn was questioned by airport authority as we were exiting the Belgrade airport, yesterday. His passport was demanded and he was asked why he is here. When he answered, "adoption," the officer didn't understand him and demanded, "I will ask you one more time, why are you here?" Shawn was pretty quick to explain in more detail and he was apparently satisfied. I was glad it wasn't me. At that time, I probably would've blubbered, "I have NO IDEA! Please, just let me go home!"

We were both pretty raw last night. Things that seem so clear, become less so after enduring nearly twenty hours of travel that include little sleep and lots of turbulence. I think we both wondered what we had done.

But, we had an honest time of prayer and reminisced about all God had done to get us here, and then He gave us eleven hours of sweet sleep. 

Things always look better in the morning.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Just Me

You know that woman who gets pregnant for the first time, and acts as if there has never been another pregnancy in the history of the world? As if there has never been anyone else who has experienced exactly what she is experiencing?

Yeah, that's how I've been with this adoption. Honestly, I am so sick of myself, I can hardly stand to be around me.

No one else has ever left her children, gotten on a plane, traveled half way around the world to become momma to a child she's never met. 

Just me. 

The truth is, this feels very much like walking off a cliff.

I really did not anticipate the fear this has stirred up in me. We are moving toward something over which I have no control and it terrifies me! I foolishly thought I was more together than this.

Thinking about leaving my children with other people while I will be on another continent leaves me breathless. Plunging ahead to gain custody of a child I've never met and to parent that child forever without knowing the simplest details of his personality or having the slightest idea of how he'll fit into this family makes my heart race.

I have struggled to set my mind on things above, countless times over the last few days. I have quoted every Scripture on fear I know, to calm my nerves. I have worried that I might never regain my calm and confidence. 

But, once again, I'm reminded that it's not really about me, is it?

It's about a big God who has done amazing and incomprehensible things for us and has asked of me a simple thing. 


Empty out yourself. Love the unloved. Minister to the least of these. Be My hands and feet. Listen. Relate. Connect. 


When I remember that...that it's about Him who has called me...then I feel brave. I can be strong. I can act courageously. 

I can join the adventure that He has laid out for me. I can lose the me in the equation and remember that it's all about Him. I can humble myself in gratitude that He is the One running this show and be thankful that He is allowing me to be His sidekick for His glory.

I can do what countless people before me have done and leave the sheep I currently have to relentlessly pursue the one who is lost.

I can breathe.

"The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will neither leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." Deuteronomy 31:8

Monday, January 21, 2013

Set Your Mind

I am too overwhelmed to focus on anything except one of the 900 things on my to-do list, at the moment. But, one of my good friends sent me this and I thought it was worth a read. Hope you enjoy it, too! 

And, seriously, a few prayers sent up for us would be appreciated. THREE days until take off. ACK!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

I Am a Hypocrite

Something has been weighing on me. There are times in my life when my paradigm shifts before my actions can catch up and I am left with fabulous ideals, but very little fruit.

This is one of those times. 

I have come to see the gospel of Christ very differently than I have in the past. My focus has shifted and Scripture has taken on new meaning and come alive to me in a whole new way!

I see love differently. I see ministry differently. I see church differently.

Every time this happens, I feel the need to have others convicted with the insights the Lord has shown me. I want to set them straight. Really, wouldn't that be so much more fun than actually living my new world view? 

I recently bought a t-shirt from Sevenly. I love that ministry and I love the shirt. It says, "Love the Unloved." 

Isn't that awesome?

We should definitely do that. 

When I ordered it, the ministry they were focused on was Reece's Rainbow, which raises money to help orphans with Down syndrome be adopted. It was with those orphans in mind that I pressed "buy now."

I was totally ready to love the unloved. Who wouldn't love those adorable looking kids in all those pictures? 

It's easy to love a picture. 

I wore the shirt this weekend hoping that others would see it and be inspired by the message. I don't know if they were. I only know that I was crazy convicted. 

I have a confession to make:

I'm not ready to love the unloved.

At least not all of them. I want to pick and choose the unloved that I am most comfortable loving. Those that appeal to me or that I deem worthy, I will totally love.

Orphans? Check. After all, I am traveling soon to make one of them my own. I am pretty sure I have the unloved orphan category sewn up.

Except, there is a girl down the street, whose mother left her in the care of grandparents in order to chase her addictions...again. She's just obnoxious. She's all Eddie Haskell with me and then bullies my kids. She's a poor sport, she leaves trash in our yard, and she's manipulative. 

I don't want to love her.

She meets the requirements, though. She was abandoned, repeatedly, by the woman who should love her most in the world. Her behavior stems from that rejection. The grandparents try to make up for her loss by saying "yes" to her every demand, and she demands much, trying so hard to fill the void her mother left behind.

I see all that and my heart softens toward her. 

Then, I hear her throw the r-word around or she makes fun of my kid's lisp and I ban her from my yard.

I am a hypocrite. 

Been there. Bought the t-shirt. But haven't actually done it.


"To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices." Mark 12:33

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Open Letter to a Certain Young Serbian

Dear sweet boy B with the big brown eyes,

I call you sweet because that's how I imagine you are. I have a total of six pictures and one description of you written in stilted English. I have all of them memorized, so often have I poured over them, trying to glean just one more hint of who you are. For now, you have a personality invented totally by me that lives only in my mind.

Don't worry. I'm not too attached to it and I won't mind terribly if you choose to be someone else entirely. You don't even need to be sweet. We have the gamut of personalities here and all kinds of children are welcome in this house. (Except, could you please stick with being a good sleeper like they told me you were? I am kind of attached to that part, k?)

You have a big day coming up. It's the day some crazy Americans and their handlers are coming to invade your space and try to make you like them. 

Just a warning. The Americans will try really hard to restrain themselves, but you may catch them staring at you with huge, stupid grins or even with a few tears in their eyes. Please, don't be alarmed. They mean well.

The female talks a lot and uses a lot of words, none of which you'll recognize. She will, at times, suddenly remember that you don't understand and will then proceed to speak slowly, and probably loudly, in a language that you still will not understand.

Please bear with her. Again, she means well. 

Probably better to stick with the quieter male who can speak volumes with one look and who seems to be mastering the few words they are trying to learn in your language. He's much more nurturing of the two, anyway, even though he's bald and kind of scary big.

They'll have with them a book that has pictures of strange, and seemingly endless kids that someone will probably tell you are your new siblings. 

Hmmmm. That might be a lot to take in.

Well, keep your chin up, kid. At least they're bringing toys.

Thursday, January 3, 2013


I had a panic attack this morning. 

People say that sometimes when they get stressed out about something. That's not what I'm saying.

I had a literal wild-eyed, can't breathe, chest exploding panic attack. 

I had trouble getting myself to sleep last night which is normally not an issue for me at all. All the things left to do before we travel were swirling in my brain which led to thoughts of actual travel which led to thoughts of leaving the seven kids that we currently parent, here, while we're gone.

And I became anxious. 

A half of muscle relaxer helped me drift off and I was awakened a few hours later by my tiny princess calling, "Mommy....Mommy....MOMMY!" Unsure of what prompted her need for me (and entirely too tired to care) I brought her in bed with us where she shared my pillow (read kicked and punched me) for the rest of the night.

I laid there and began to wonder, "What happens when she calls Mommy and I'm not there to respond? Will the very capable adults who are caring for her in our absence be able to comfort her? What if she gets sick? What about all the things that can happen to her while we are a whole ocean away? What if our plane crashes?

What if she chokes on a banana?!?

The imagination can be a dangerous thing. Instead of reigning those thoughts in, I allowed them to move from child to child, lingering for a bit on Eon as I'm acutely aware of the recent losses we've had in the Down syndrome community, until finally:


Obviously, there's a reason Paul tells us to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). I had that thought briefly enter and exit when the anxiety was still in it's early stage. By the time I'd reached full blown panic, it was too late. It was all I could do to breathe.

What I'd forgotten and what I am reminding myself of even now is that I'm not even in control here, on the same continent, heck, even in the same room! These children are not my own. They never have been. 

The One who created them has numbered their days. He has numbered mine as well. I trust Him. I have no choice. 

As much as I want to plan for every possibility and prepare my heart for every outcome, I can't. And I will lose my mind if I continue trying.

I was reminded of this post I wrote three years ago when I apparently had a lot more wisdom. Peace on earth, indeed.

For now, I'm working on breathing, casting my care on Him, and making lists...lots and lots of lists. 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all your understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phillipians 4:6-7)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Not in Spite of...Because of

It's unusual to have such a large family in our culture. People erroneously assume we are a good catholic family. (Nope. Just passionate protestants!) Like any atypical American family, there is a story behind how we got here. But this is not the blogpost (or even site) for that.

It baffles many that we would choose to add another when we clearly have our hands full with "our own." We tend to get undue credit for having larger than normal hearts or for being so patient. 

Neither is true.

In fact, more often than not, we are counting down (sometimes aloud) the minutes until bedtime, when the house is finally, and blissfully, quiet even if for just a moment. Sometimes, I feel like I live in a state of perpetual frustration that "my stuff" is used, misplaced, lost. (This morning found me wrapped in a towel, dripping wet, and storming down the hallway in search of my shampoo that disappeared from my shower.)

People are amazed that we would adopt another in spite of our already large family size. They do not understand that it's not at all in spite of, but rather because of that has set us on this path.

As Christians, we believe in living beyond ourselves. It's when we come to the end of ourselves that God can move.

The Bible is full of promises that I mention often on this blog.  One to which I always come back is 2 Corinthians 12:9, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Another is Phillipians 4:19, "And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus."

Having a large family has given us ample opportunity to prove these promises; to live it out and see if He who has promised really is able; to see if He who has called us is faithful.

And He is.

There was a seven year stretch where I was either pregnant or breastfeeding or both. I do not do pregnancy well. I am exhausted, sick, and often immobile, not to mention emotionally erratic. During the early months of one of the pregnancies, while I was wrapped around the toilet for the umpteenth time that day, Romans 1:1 came to mind, "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship." From that moment on, every time I retched during pregnancy, I (somewhat sarcastically) told God, "That's my worship for the day. It's all I've got to give." 

The thing is, He met me there. He sustained me, he upheld me, he nurtured me around that toilet. His strength made perfect in the misery of my weakness. And He made something beautiful out of it...a loud, demanding, life-interrupting bundle of unspeakable joy.

He also met me during the struggles with our oldest son that I wrote about here

These children have taught me that He is faithful. 

They've also taught me that life is fluid. 

My sister tells the story of sitting on the couch, wearing her husband's pajamas, covered in spit-up while nursing her newborn and watching morning talk-shows, thinking, "So this is my life." As that baby is now in her twenties, my sister has the perspective to look back on that with humor, but at the time, she had no way of knowing just how fleeting those moments would be.

All moments in life are temporary. Those that cause immeasurable pain, as well as those that bring us to unbelievable heights, will pass. They may change us in the process, but they, too shall come to pass. 

I remember well when my two older boys were five-months-old and two-years-old. Shawn worked second shift everyday, leaving me alone to do bedtime. Zak, the youngest of the two, would only go to sleep while nursing, so I would put ten-year-old Michaela in charge of Ben while I nursed the baby to sleep. When Zak was sound asleep, I would read Ben a story, pray for him, and tuck him in. Every night, when I walked out of his room, he would scream and cry and race down the hallway after me...and wake up Zak. Every. blasted. night.

I tried reversing the order and that was a disaster. I tried laying in bed with Ben until he fell asleep only he'd wake as soon as I stirred (plus, I still had the girls - aged ten, seven, and three - to supervise.) I felt like a huge failure and was unbelievably frustrated and exhausted. I begged God to give me wisdom, almost demanding that he solve the problem for me. 

"It's just a season," was His almost audible response. 

I just needed to ride it out. It would pass. I wasn't a terrible mother just because there was some chaos. There really wasn't a good way to make it work, given the circumstances. Of course, it did pass. Now, at 7 and 5, I can pray for them, kiss them, and send them on their merry way to bed! Bliss. 

I love that God's plan is individual. Without having experienced all that we have with this big family, we wouldn't have the faith to take a leap and experience the miracle of adoption. Adding in another to an already large brood isn't really that big of a deal.

I am in awe of families who choose to adopt without having to prove God first. They are obeying on faith, alone. They take Him at His Word and they will find Him faithful. They are the true heroes of the faith.