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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

What'd You Do Today?

I tell my kids all the time, "Don't be a hater."  Well, I use this word as honestly as I can. I really hate it when someone asks, "What did you do today?" Not that I don't want to answer. Not that I really did "nothing." It's just sometimes easier to keep it simple. Then, of course, you run the risk of sounding like you really do sit around eating bon bons. (What are bon bons, anyway?)

I can truly see why the kids often answer that question with, "Nothing."  It's just too hard to explain it all. Moms really do want to hear the details of their child's day, but does anyone really want to hear the details of a mom's day?

Monday, my plan had six simple things on it:

1) Clean porch.
2) Water newly-planted flowers.
3) Place final three bags of mulch.
4) Clean the kitchen.
5) Mop floors.
6) Make cobbler and ice cream for book club.

Instead of checking off my "to do" list, I got a wild hair and kept a "done did it" list.

My list doesn't really start until the kids get on the bus, but you know we do a passel of work to get them from bed to bus stop!

After that I:

1) Made Granddaddy's follow-up appointments from Friday's foot procedure.
2) Informed Grandaddy of his follow-up appointments. (He can't hear in person much less over the phone, so this takes way longer than you might think.)
3) Started first batch of ice cream.
4) Enrolled kids in their gymnastics classes on-line. (Helped gym discover their on-line enrollment glitches, so this also takes longer than you might think.)
5) Checked bank account to see if Homeland Security check has cleared so I can call immigration and nudge them along with our 3rd re-fingerprinting appointment. (No luck.)
6) Began cleaning paint splotches off porch. (Because no matter how many drop cloths you have, when you paint with children under 10 -- or Brian -- you will get paint where you don't intend to.)
7) Ran to answer phone (with some urgency since immigration should contact us soon) and spent the next ten minutes explaining to Grandaddy that THURSDAY is the 22nd and his appointment is not Tuesday.  But you said 8 and 22. Yes, I said that. But tomorrow is the 21st. No, it's the 20th, but you don't have an appointment tomorrow, you have it Thursday. But that's not the 22nd. Yes it is.  8 and 22. Yes. So, tomorrow is the 22nd? No, Thursday is the 22. Just go on like that for another ten minutes and you've got the gist.
8) Finished cleaning paint splotches.
9) Visited with good friend who only had a few precious minutes and I gladly gobbled them up!
10) Watered plants and put away hose.
11) Placed final three bags of mulch.
12) Started 2nd batch of ice cream.
13) Washed Chase's baseball uniform. (Always amazed at how dirty an 8 year-old boy can get.)
14) Returned something to storage room in basement and realized dehumidifier needed to be emptied. 15) Emptied humidifier.
16) Made giant Greek salad for lunch.
17) Watched 30 minutes of Adult Attachment Style training for our adoption education hours. (Realized I am an "entangled/dismissive" style and immediately begged for more grace and mercy to parent in a way so as not to ruin my children forever.)
18) Emptied trash. (Realized trash drawer was disgusting, so cleaned the trash drawer.)
19) Cleaned dining room table. (Realized all the kids' chairs were disgusting, so cleaned the chairs too.)
20) Swept and mopped kitchen and dining room. (It was so disgusting, I mopped twice.)
21) Took a shower and dressed. Decided to do my own manicure/pedicure. You're welcome, Brian. (Waiting for everything to dry was the longest 20 minutes of my life!)
22) Cleaned fridge doors of the 8 photos, 7 pieces of art, 6 reminders (from last year), 5 strands of chore/electronics clips, 4 square feet of hand smudges, 3 assorted schedules/calendars, 2 turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree.
23) Made peach cobbler for book club (to go with said ice cream.)
24) 4:15 kids got off bus. I focused on getting Chase started on a large snack (i.e. dinner)/homework/uniform donning/baseball gear gathering.
24) Then focused on getting the girls dinner/homework and lunches packed for the next day.
25) Made cucumber/cracker snacks and set up for book club.
26) Laughed until my sides hurt hosting book club.
27) I read for the last hour of the day. (Orphan Train, if you're interested.)

Tuesday seemed like it would be a treat, since I "only" had laundry to do. (When I recover from Tuesday's actual laundry trauma, maybe I'll write about it.)

So, don't feel too badly when the kids say they did "nuthin'" at school. We all know the truth.


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

School Fears

As my kids enter their second week of school, the real concerns about this adventure begin to surface.

Like any mom, I wonder if the new friends they make will be a positive influence or a negative influence. I wonder if they'll trade the healthy lunch we packed for someone else's chips and Oreos. I wonder if they will be bullied on the playground or will they turn into bullies.

As a homeschool mom, I'm concerned about whether I focused on enough of the "right" things. I focused on what I felt was important at a pace that worked for each of my kids, but that doesn't mean it will translate to where they are in a public school. How soon will they be able to tell that I spent more time on teaching my son to read than teaching him to spell?  Maybe 5th graders are already supposed to know geometry, when we spent a lot of last year doing fractions. Will my children single-handedly cause an investigation of the entire homeschool community?

I have absolutely loved hearing their stories at the end of the day -- what they liked, what they didn't, who's really goofy and what new friends they made. They raved about their teachers -- especially Sammie.

"Mr. May let us have snack as part of our activity!" Chase said.

"Ms. Cobb said I went above and beyond as a helper today," from Ava.

Sammie ran in Friday and said, "Mom, you've GOT to see this video Mrs. Publow plays for us every day."

Then it occurred to me what my biggest fear of all is with this public school experiment:

I'm afraid they'll like their teachers more than me.


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Why Public School Now?

At the end of each school year I wonder, "Should we homeschool next year?"  We take stock of how it went, what's working, what's a total bust. 

All of last year THIS school year was on my mind. We didn't know what age our new little person would be, nor did we have a clue about his background. If his needs were great, I wondered if this would be our year to have the big kids in public school. I wondered if I'd be able to handle nurturing a young one with a hard history and teaching three different grades. (And if ALL that happened to him was to be transferred from his birth mom's arms to my arms, THAT would be big trauma to deal with! It's rarely that simple - if you can call that simple.)

Mind you, we've never been against public school.  We've always felt there are pros and cons to any school situation and I'm so thankful that we have many terrific options in our town. Between "four star" public schools, private schools, several Christan schools and a significant homeschool community, we have amazing support no matter what our choice.

Then we got our referral in May. At the time, a one-year old boy who'd been in two orphanages already in his short life. Now we knew -- a toddler would come home sometime before Christmas. Joy set in, along with mild panic.  I was leaning toward public school even then, but my kids said they WANTED to stay at home. Ava was tired of getting up early every day and "doing the same thing all the time." Chase had NEVER wanted to go to public school (something about being finished by noon and getting to play the rest of the day and eating whenever he wanted.) And even Sammie had gotten the bug out of her system when she saw all the rules Ava had to follow. (Like only eating one time a day and having to pay attention and follow instructions for 7 hours a day!)

So how'd we end up waiting for the bus to pick them up for our little country school yesterday?

Two fairly simple (yet not so simple) things.

One: I sat down to dinner about a month to all three of my kids saying they wanted to go to public school. All three.  You've got to know by now, that I believe some things are just not explainable. Some things that don't come from us. It seemed out of nowhere and totally bowled me over!  Ava confessed she really did like it and would get to be with her BFF. Chase said, "We get recess every day and we won't have really long math!"  (We will be defining "rude awakening" any day now.) And Sammie calmly explained that she'd just like to try it. "I've been homeschooled all along and I just want to see what it's like." I was secretly relieved that her answer wasn't something like, "I fear I'm really not going to like you if we have to spend one more full day together."

Two: as I stewed over all these things -- their hearts plus the feelings I already had -- we got notice to travel for our court trip. My decision was made after our first trip to the orphanage. We spent two hours in a room full of about 15 toddlers. Seven or eight beds on either side of the room -- and nothing else. Nothing. We watched the nannies bring in clothes and change the children one by one in that room. We watched them bring in food and feed them on the floor one by one in that room. We asked if they had toys. They brought out two balls. One was gripped by a little boy the entire time while the rest of the kids played/tried to share/fought with the other one. Because it's the rainy season there, they don't go out to play. It occurred to me in that moment, that our Little Man had probably not ever been out of that room. Prior to this orphanage, he was only crawling, so I'm fairly certain he hadn't left that room either.

Yes, my big kids will be fine in public school. They have a new adventure: learning in ways and about things they simply couldn't in my dining room. Because it was their desire, I won't have Mom-guilt about feeling like I "sent them away."

And I'll be able to spend the next 180 days helping Eyob believe that he matters to SOMEONE more than anything in this world.  That there is someone -- a handful of someones right in these four walls -- that will drop everything to change his clothes when he's dirty, feed him when he's hungry, hold him when he cries, play pat-a-cake and sing songs with him when he's happy.

Or kick a ball -- a whole LOT of balls if he wants.


Monday, August 5, 2013

He's Not Home Yet

I've realized by some of the comments coming in that we haven't been clear on our next steps. Little Man is not home yet.

The process is such that we travel two times to Ethiopia. The first to appear before a judge attesting to the fact that we met the child, accept the child and pledge our commitment to raise this child as our own. That's what we did last week. It allows our names to be put on a birth certificate, which then allows for a U.S. passport to be prepared. THEN, we are invited to travel the second time.

We don't get to bring him home until that next visit -- what we all call "the Embassy trip." Yes, I said, "embassy," -- as in,

"19 US posts to remain closed this week as lawmakers say terror threat 'specific' and 'serious.'"

Those embassies are in the Middle East and North Africa.  I never realized how close Ethiopia is to the Middle East until we began to make flight arrangements a couple of weeks ago.  One of our layovers was in Dubai -- where the U.S. Embassy is now closed for the week.

(As an aside, we also received a rejection when we returned for some U.S. government forms that weren't filled out properly, so that will be a further unexpected delay.)

I'd be flat out lying if I said these things didn't give me cause for concern. Of all the places in the world for there to be trouble. Of all the times in history for threats to spike. I'm sure the militants have their reasons, but I know they haven't a clue that the fate of a roomful of precious babies is in their hands.

No, wait. I know that's not true.  There are a lot of things I don't know. Things I'm not sure of -- so I HAVE to cling to what I know to be true. Otherwise, I'd lose what's left of my little mind.

Here's what I know, that know: God is faithful to complete what He starts.

I don't believe it was coincidence that when I learned of the terrorist threats I was studying the life of Abraham -- specifically, the beginning of his journey when God called him to come out of Ur. God didn't lay out all the steps, the hills and valleys that he'd travel, but we have the privilege of seeing the complete unfolding of his story. The entire point of that day's lesson was this: when God takes the initiative, He brings to completion all that is on His heart. God is not only the beginning (the Alpha,) but also the ending (Omega.)

I learned an old Gospel song a long time ago that has a line like this:

I know not what the future holds, but I know Who holds the future.

That's what I'll cling to in these coming weeks. I don't know the end of this story, but God does.

"For I am sure of this very thing, that the one who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:6

He's just got to.


Saturday, August 3, 2013

What's In A Name?


There is tremendous pressure in naming a child. The first-born may be slightly easier since there are family namesakes to consider or that one name you've dreamed of your entire life. But then you remember you're married and he thinks he gets an opinion too. Drat.

Our newest addition is named Eyob. It means "Job."  Bible names are extremely common in Ethiopia and in fact, we met other Eyobs while we were there.

It's an interesting debate whether to give him an American name to go by or to keep his Ethiopian name.  I could make a case either way.  In our university town ethnic names are on every street.  And as I joked with a friend of mine yesterday (who subs in the local high school) someone who pronounces her name Carrie is just as likely to spell it something like Xahryes. (Hard "x" and the "s" being silent, of course.)

I found it difficult enough to name our birth kids. For me, someone who reads a ton and has a thing for lyrics, it was very important to have a name that rolled off the tongue naturally. It has to SOUND like it goes together.  With a last name like Arnold, many German, Danish or Austrian first names connected. Not so much Irish, Czech, Asian or let's say....Ethiopian.

I also wonder (or should I say worry?) about our little guy having to adjust to many, many things in his life as that black kid in the white family. Will he want to explain his name every time he's introduced to someone new? A veteran adoptive family said, "You just teach him to say, 'That's my Ethiopian name.'" Could it be that easy?

My name, Kristin, means Christ-follower. Did my parents know that when they named me? I don't know. Was it a hope they had for my life? I don't know. But it has turned out to be true.

The first lines of the Book of Job say this: "Job was honest inside and out, a man of his word, who was totally devoted to God and hated evil with a passion."

Yes, we want that said of all our children.

Later, in the Book of James (written by Jesus' half-brother,) he is encouraging the Jewish Christians to be patient when treated unjustly. The Message version says it this way: "Take the old prophets as your mentors, they put up with anything, went through everything and never once quit, all the time honoring God. What a gift life is to those who stay the course! You've heard, of course, of Job's staying power, and you know how God brought it all together for him in the end. That's because God cares, cares right down to the last detail." 

Is a name considered a detail? 

The staying power of Job. Bible scholars or not, we've all heard of the "patience of Job."  No one has ever heard of the "patience of Kristin." Maybe that's one of the things our Little Man will get from his Ethiopian Mom.

Everyone keeps asking if we will keep Eyob's name or give him an American name to go by. We, truthfully, haven't decided. (Well, I've decided and Brian's decided, we just haven't decided the same thing, yet!) GRIN.

If we keep it as Eyob, then may it come with a prayer that he will be honest inside and out, a man of his word, who is totally devoted to God and hates evil with a passion. A man who doesn't quit. A man with staying power.