Saturday, April 27, 2013

Pet Peeves

Pet peeves. We all have them. The toilet seat being left up, people chewing with their mouths open, dirty socks left on the floor, whatever.

When I started this post, I had my biggest pet peeve listed as: When people tell me what I can or can't do. I hate being bossed around and I hate people assuming they know my limits. It drives me freaking CRAZY. Just because I am doing something that you can't/won't do, does not mean it can't be done. It does not give you the right to tell me that I can't do it.

But then I realized that I have another pet peeve: When people, specifically Christians, KNOW that kids are dying all over the world, and they do nothing. "Therefore, to him who knows to do good, and does it not, to him it is sin." ~James 4:17.

I've spent three months off and on working on this post. I wanted to be honest without being harsh. Originally, I had a entire post written with a list of some of the most frustrating/hurtful/infuriating things people have said to me over the years. Lots of: "You can't _________" or "You will always __________." And I was happy to look back and see each hurtful thing proven wrong; proud to say I overcame. But it sounded like bragging. And then I realized that I wasn't accomplishing the goal of my post, which is to tell you that the impossible CAN be possible. With God. So I rewrote everything. And I'm not going to list all the cruel naysayer words. I AM going to list and talk about one of them though. The one that frustrated me to no end over the past three years.

You can't adopt.

People had all kinds of reasons why we couldn't adopt. Why it would never work:

-You're too young.
-You don't have enough money.
-You haven't been married long enough.
-You have too much debt.
-You have to finish college first.
-You need to have biological kids first. 
-You have to have a house first.
-You can't adopt two kids at the same time.
-You can't adopt from Africa.
-Your kids will have AIDS.  
-You can't adopt older kids; you won't be able to parent them.
-Your kids will have serious behavioral/mental problems and emotional issues.
-Your kids will hate you. They will rebel and run away and make your life a living hell (insert adoption horror story).
-Those kids won't really be YOUR kids.

These are all things people have said to my face. Family. Friends. Professors. Strangers.

Every single thing on that list hurt. It hurt to hear it, especially because they were all bluntly worded as above. It hurt to wonder it if was the truth. It hurt to hear it from people who "care". From people I care about. Regardless of the fact that the list is a bunch of crap, it HURT.

So before I go any farther, I am now going to refute that list. Naysayers, listen up.

You can't adopt. Well, we did. And we will again.

You're too young. We always knew we were going to adopt deaf kids internationally but we assumed we would do it when we were 30+. Not start the process at 21 and 24. But it wasn't a choice; it was a calling. And we had the opportunity to step out in faith and watch God work. It was LONG. It was PAINFUL. It was HARD. And it was WORTH IT. 

You don't have enough money. Never was a truer statement made. But God doesn't call you to do things fully prepared. He provides along the way. This leads to greater faith/trust as well as proof that all the glory goes to Him, because we COULDN'T afford it. And yet we paid off our adoption, $60,000, in cash. A miracle, people. One of many.

You haven't been married long enough. It's about (or should be about) the couple themselves, and their maturity and relationship, not the length of time since they've exchanged rings. Relationship and personal maturity varies for everyone. We started the adoption process about six months into our marriage. It sounds crazy. It WAS crazy. That's how Abe and I roll. We do everything backwards. The traditional "normal" thing is school, marriage, house, kids. We did marriage, school, kids, house.Whatever. Worked out great for us. :)

You have too much debt (school loans). Also true. We went to a great school, and got great jobs, but it cost us. We have a lot of school loans. God has taken care of us and we have never missed a payment. Budget. Be wise with your money. Word hard. End of story.

You have to finish college first. Probably smart in most cases; in ours, that didn't happen and it worked out fine. Abe graduated with a high GPA and that was that.

You need to have biological kids first. My question is: why? I never did see any sense in this one. Someone dear to me said, "Well, your own kids can help you with the adopted ones." Orrrrrrrrrr my adopted kids could help me with my bio kids. Or with my other adopted kids. Why bios first? And if you're dead set on wanting a baby first (nothing wrong with that), you CAN adopt one, it just takes forever. Sorry, that's the truth. And honestly, adopted kids often come from very hard places and a plus to having them first is that you can dedicate all your time and energy to helping them adjust and reconnect. Adopted or bio, they are YOUR kids; what does it matter who came first? Oh yeah, it doesn't.

You have to have a house first. Again, WHY? An adequate apartment is just fine too. And most people have moved at least once in their lives. So having an apartment and moving to a house (or wherever) later will not destroy your child. Do I think it is better NOT to move, at least for a while? Sure. But it's not the end of the world. And as far as an apartment goes, many adopted children are coming from a place where an apartment is considered a palace beyond imagination. And if you're worried about the stress of buying a house after the adoption, please don't. Anyone who has been through the adoption process will consider buying a house CAKE. In fact, Abe and I laughed at the paperwork and said, "Is this it?" Purchasing our house was the easiest thing we did last year.

You can't adopt two kids at the same time. The more the merrier, right? There are pros and cons to having two at the same time. Here's a couple of each. Pros: they play together, have someone who can relate with their adoption experiences, and really, what's one more? Cons: both will require 100% of your attention and balancing that can be tough. And maybe they don't get along the greatest. But how is that so much different than biological kids?

You can't adopt from Africa. Let me interpret this for you. You can't adopt from Africa because your kids will be black and everyone will know that they were not nurtured in your womb. Sooooooooooooo you're racist. Or ashamed of someone's skin color. Or an idiot. Or all three.

Your kids might/will have HIV/AIDS. Clearly you know nothing about HIV/AIDS. Are meds needed? Yes. Will insurance take care of a lot of it? Yes. Can those kids have a normal life? Yes. Can you catch HIV/AIDS? No. There is not ONE documented case of another person becoming infected through regular contact/life. It is transmitted through blood, dirty needles, and sex. Again, not ONE documented case. I can't tell you how many HIV kids I hugged and kissed and played with in Ethiopia. And I CAN tell you that Abe and I were open to HIV for our first adoption and will always be. For more information on HIV/AIDs, please visit Project Hopeful.

You can't adopt older kids. Older kids need a home and love just as much as babies do, and they are just as precious. Are older kids typically more challenging and come with more issues/rotten backgrounds? I think yes. But that doesn't make them any less in need of love. And I know plenty of friends who have adopted babies who are having a harder time attaching/bonding/adjusting than many older kids.

You won't know how to parent them. Again, very true. But I am guessing unless you are Dr. Karen Purvis, you wouldn't either. Nothing with parenting adopted kids is normal. Nothing with parenting kids from unimaginably hard places is normal. All the usual rules are tossed out the window. Nothing I learned or observed growing up as the oldest of seven could have ever prepared me for raising my kids now. I spend a LOT of time praying for my kids and myself. Because only God can heal and change their hearts. And I just need the patience to hang on and keep loving them unconditionally. I have no CLUE what I am doing. But I am super proud of my kids and how far they have come!!!!!

Your kids will have serious problems and emotional issues. That is highly probable with any adopted child. It doesn't mean that they should be left in an orphanage, starving/dying on the streets or sold into prostitution. And if you or I had been through what they have been through, I'm sure we would have serious behavior and emotional issues as well.

Your kids will hate you. They will rebel and run away and make your life a living hell. My kids love me and there are no words for how much I love them. I have an entire drawer of notes and pictures that say, "Mommy, love you much so, forever!!!" Have they rebelled? Of course! What kid hasn't? Have they run away? Nope. Is my life a living hell? Absolutely not. Is it exhausting, and do they sometimes make me crazy? Yeah. And that's totally normal. And they also bring me the greatest joy. They fill my life with light and wonder and laughter. They are my best friends. I read a quote somewhere that said, "Adoption has the highest highs and the lowest lows." I think that pretty much says it all.

Those kids won't really be YOUR kids. See, I don't get this one either. Isn't your spouse your closest family? No one would ever doubt that. But you "adopted" each other. You became family, the closest bond, the strongest tie.....without blood or genetics. So adopted children aren't my kids because I didn't physically carry them for nine months? Because they didn't grow in my stomach? Because they aren't from the same gene pool as me and my husband? (My kids are the luckier for that, trust me.) Or because I haven't had them since day one? I completely disagree. I fought unbelievably hard for THREE YEARS to get my kids home. Every day, for three years. I WANTED these kids more than anything. I loved and love them more than anything. They grew in my heart. (Z actually asked me the other day, "Mommy, will you have more heart-babies soon?"  #loveit) I gave them everything I had and I still do. 100% of my time is dedicated to making them feel loved and safe. I love them so much it hurts. These are MY kids. MINE. And no gene pool could ever bring us closer.

I think the most eye-opening thing I learned from our adoption journey was that Christians, even people I have always thought were strong Christians, are afraid. Afraid to step up to the plate. I'm not talking about selling all their possesions and moving to a foreign country to become a missionary. I am talking about doing something right now, WHERE THEY ARE. Even something totally do-able, like sponsoring a child in need. That is the SMALLEST thing you can do! Christians are afraid to step out in faith, they are afraid to go against the grain, they are afraid to get out of their comfort zone. (I include myself in this group....I would rather live in my happy bubble and be comfortable. And most of the time, that's [sadly] what I choose.) During the adoption process, most of the people who tried to discourage us, were Christians. When people demanded a reason for the insanity of us trying to adopt, and we would explain that God had called us to do it, people scoffed at us. They rolled their eyes. They gave us a look that said, "Clearly you heard wrong, or you're just making up this 'calling'." I can't tell you how many of these people were family and friends. But also strangers and random people. They all tried to warn us against what we are doing and told us adoption horror stories. The Bible clearly tells us to protect and take care of the fatherless and yet more than half of the people we spoke with tried to talk us out of adopting. Don't get me wrong, we had TONS of supporters and people cheering us on. In fact, the support we did recieve was overwhelming and amazing. We couldn't have done it without you. We had people donating and encouraging us left and right. However, the amount of close friends, family and strangers who DIScouraged and doubted us was staggering. And saddening.

Now that the kids are home safe, and things are going fairly well, everyone is happy with us and our decision. Everyone is on board now that this specific adoption is over and was successful. And I'm sure when we go back and adopt again, the naysayers will be much more open and supportivee because we have already blazed that trail. We've proved God can do miracles if you follow Him. But if you're reading this and you were a doubter, please think twice before you discourage someone else who is following a calling in their life, however bizarre it may seem. And to ALL people reading this, please go out and sponsor a child. PLEASE. And in case you're wondering if I am preaching but doing nothing, Abe and I are partnered in sponsoring a family in Ethiopia. I get that not everyone can adopt. But sponsoring a child is such a small act on your part and such a HUGE thing for them. It doesn't take more than ten minutes of your time and you won't even notice the money if you get an automatic withdrawal. It's seriously a coffee a day. You are helping save a life. That's an eternal impact, friends.

World Vision

Hope Chest

Thursday, April 25, 2013

To All the Waiting Mommas:

I know there are a lot of people stuck in the waiting phase.

I know how hard it is to wait day after day and not get a referral, a court date, embassy submission. To check your email over and over, or to carry your phone obsessively so you don't miss a call that never comes.

I know it is hard to see other people's happy emails posted in the support groups, detailing their referrals, trips, and children, and be stuck (indefinitely) WAITING. And hurting.

Honestly, that is the worst part, in my opinion. Not KNOWING is complete torture, and I just want to encourage you to hang in there!!!! I know it is extremely hard and painful and cliche phrases like, "It will be worth it!" and "God has a plan!" don't help, but I promise you, God DOES have a plan that is better than ours. Looking back on these past three years I can now see why a lot of things happened as they did, and it makes sense and I am SO thankful. There have been times in this process when I felt totally abandoned by God and I have thrown temper tantrums like a 4-year old when I was frustrated, and cried my eyes out on more times than I can count. But even though this adoption took longer and was more painful than I ever could have DREAMED, God is unfolding His plan and it is perfect. And I can't imagine my life in any other direction.

And cliche or not, when you look into the eyes of your kids, it WILL be totally worth it. ;)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

DIY. How 'Bout Not.

I've decided that "Do It Yourself" is ridiculous for people like me. I already knew that, but the past ten days have confirmed it. I have friends who Pinterest their whole house and do EVERYTHING themselves.... and it looks great. They buy old furniture and refurbish it, they use leftover scraps of material from their everyday life to make masterpiece decor, AND they sew their on clothes. (When I say clothes, I mean like pretty blouses and tops. Not old school 1800's clothes.) These friends make me sick. I don't enjoy doing things like that, and I'm not good at it. Yesterday, stiff and cramped from bending to spray 50 slender 4-6' railings (explanation to follow), truth was spoken into my life. The truth? Marissa, screw DIY. It's a lie. Okay, fine, that's my personal life-application translation. The truth is actually: You don't have to be crafty or enjoy making things from scratch. You really don't. It doesn't make you a better spouse/parent/homemaker/person. It makes you unique and talented, for sure. But I have my own unique talents. Making things from Pinterest or other crafting resources is cool but it's not who I am. In fact, it's both painful for both me, and anyone who sees the final product. I'm a person who works hard to earn some extra money to purchase whatever it is I need instead of making it. Making it myself is stressful and it never turns out right (or sightly). And usually ends up being more expensive and time consuming than if I had just gone out and bought it. That's just who I am. This re-realization sprang from my most recent failed DIY attempt. I thought, "Let's give this whole DIY thing another shot." Well people, I've been shot. And it's a crafting fatality. I just wanted to paint Z's metal bed frame to match her room. Not so hard, right? I decided to use spray paint and Abe went out to get it (we have been down a car for three weeks). The store didn't have a color to match, so Abe brought home a rather expensive but totally awesome paint, which changes color in the light (blue/green/purple). He took apart the bed and the kids and I sanded it down outside. It took a solid hour and our hands were cramping half way through. That was when the first wave of doubt hit me. Carry on soldier. Sanding: check. We washed the frame, let it dry, and then it rained. Every day for a week. When the sun finally showed its face, I started painting. Only to realize the bed has to be painted black first, before you spray the multi-color on it. Project halt. I waited for Abe to get home that night, and then went and got paint. I spent three days getting the frame sprayed black. Why three days, you ask? Because it's windy here. So all the debris in the Northern Hemisphere gravitated towards the wet frame. So did all the grass, even though we haven't mowed yet AND I used a tarp. And since it's windy, I couldn't hold the spray can 12-14" from the frame as it instructs; I had to hold it 4-6" so the paint wouldn't spray away. This resulted in major dripping. Actually, dripping is too kind. It's more like waves. Black paint: check. Repeat process with multi-colored paint. Of course, on the last piece of the frame the paint decided to wrinkle. Yes, literally. Why, I have no clue. The black paint was already dry. The multi-color just decided not to work on the fifth piece of frame. It looks like elephant skin. An old, old elephant. (I'm going to label it "artistic texture" though, when people ask though. Elephant skin doesn't sound pretty.)

So in the end, the frame DID get painted (although we won't talk about what it looks like, or post a picture) but I spent ten days total and $72 in paint to get it done. I should have just gone and bought another bed from Craigslist.

Lesson learned. DIY, you're the oil to my water.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Forget Kung Fu Panda

Public Service Announcemet: Parents, do not allow your kids to perform any Kung Fu Panda moves on you, even in gentle play!

Okay, even with the title of this post and my "PSA", I love Kung Fu Panda. I really do. It's a really cute movie. I'm just blaming because I can't blame the actual people in this story, and I need SOMETHING to blame! :)

So now you're probably wondering: what is she talking about? But I know you are smart enough to know someone got injured. And that it involved child martial arts.

It was around 8pm the other night and we were just getting ready for bed. The kids were super excited to see Abe and for some reason, Z decided she wanted to demonstrate her "Kung Fu Panda" moves. She and Levi had a cute stunt set up where she spins and "kicks" him and he falls dead to the ground. It's really funny to watch. They performed it for Abe, and then she and Abe acted it out. That was even funnier. A 4'2 tiny baby girl takes down her 6'2 father with some spinning dervish moves. So when she came after me, I joined the acting too. It was all fine right up until I thought she was done and was talking to Abe. She was crouched down in front of me facing away, and I bent over to kiss her or something--just as she came straight up and back, full force. All 63lb of her slammed dead up and into my jaw.

It sounded like a gunshot. I FELT my teeth break. Once, a year or so ago, I had a nightmare once that a bunch of my teeth fell out. Standing there in shock and pain, I wondered if it had come true. I could feel pieces of teeth in my mouth. I ran to the bathroom and started spitting into the sink. It felt surreal, but I knew it wasn't. My jaw was throbbing and my mouth was gritty. I was scared to look in the mirror but I forced myself to. It was blantantly obvious where the worst had hit: four teeth had chunks missing out of them. Not tiny chips; CHUNKS. Literally sheared off by the force of my teeth being driven together. And all the seriously damaged teeth were in the front of my mouth (mostly on the left side). I took a deep breath. "It's not the end of the world," I told myself. "This can be fixed." I didn't cry. I didn't freak out. I wanted to, but what was the use? It was too late. Over. Nothing could be done, so why flip? Plus, I felt SO bad for Z. After rinsing my mouth (which was killing me), I tried to comfort the kids, who were beyond upset. I went to bed with my jaw pounding and aching.

At work the next morning (4am), I called my dentist office and left a message. Thankfully, they called me back later and told me to come in for 8am. I went straight there and everyone was so awesome. The hygenist was gentle and my dentist came right over to check on me. His first words after looking at my mouth were, "Wow, she got you GOOD." Seven chipped/broken teeth and one cracked (although we aren't sure if the crack-a hairline- was already started and worsened or if it was a direct result of the 'Kung Fu'). My entire jaw bruised from the trauma. Most of my teeth bruised from the trauma. My dentist told me, "I can't believe how hard you got hit. You're really lucky you have an overbite and got hit from underneath, although of course you aren't lucky. But if you had been hit from the side at this force, you would have lost a bunch of teeth." He then explained that some of my teeth were now really thin and he had to file them down so they wouldn't break (I have to be careful when I eat now) and that some of my chips couldn't be fiIled because of their location. I spent almost two hours there while they cleaned, smoothed, filed down, filled, and reshaped my teeth. I teased my dentist, "This is so unfair! I have a perfect tooth record and now I am going to lose it because there is cement in my mouth!" He said, "Oh no, you still have a perfect record! This wasn't your fault; it's not a cavity or anything, so it doesn't count." He also explained that I had been hit so hard that the nerves in several of my teeth may have been killed, but that it will take six months to know. If the nerves are dead, those teeth will have to be pulled. He said, "I'm so sorry. All we can do is wait and see." Fun times. So if you would like to pray that I don't lose some of my teeth, I would REALLY appreciate it!

Oddly enough, I am not upset about the whole thing. I am a little bit sad;  I mean, it hurts and I HAD nice teeth and now they are a bit funky, but it could have been so much worse. And I didn't lose any teeth (yet.....). And I've had great teeth my entire life, and they still look pretty good, thanks to my magic dentist. And Z isn't hurt. And I have a crazy story I get to tell and everyone feels bad for me and feeds me ice cream. ;) So everything's okay. :)