Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Some Progress

Sorry I haven't checked in for a while. I wanted to update you on the progress I've made so far, though! (Also on the lack of progress, to hopefully help motivate me to do more.)

So first, the most significant piece of progress: Sabrina has a family coming for her! They have already met her, they will accept a referral for her shortly, and she'll probably be home within a couple of months. I am so, so excited for her! I'm not sure yet if the funds I'm trying to raise will still go to her (depending on if her family is funded yet) or to another orphan waiting for a family, but either way they'll help make sure one child is an orphan no more.

The next bit of awesome progress: before Sabrina's family committed to her, she already had $380.50 in Angel Tree donations. That's more than a third of the way to the $1000 goal. If any of you contributed to that amount thank you so, so much!

And now for the updates on my more personal goals. Well, those are okay, but not going quite as well. I have never managed to finish NaNoWriMo, and a big reason for it is that November is Thanksgiving break, and we almost always go on a family trip then (usually to visit extended family). Oddly enough, I pretty much don't manage to write on these vacations. I probably could, but it would mean not much time actually interacting with either my immediate or extended family, and as much as I want to write, I don't think that's really the trade-off I want to make. So though I started off all right, I've only written about 3800 words this month. I'm extending my writing goal to end when my exercise goal and fundraising goal end (the end of December), and hopefully I'll be a lot closer to writing the 50,000 words by then.

My exercise goal is going a bit better -- so far I've walked or run 22 miles, which is close to a quarter of the way to my goal of 100 miles. I need to pick up the pace a little bit, but even if I don't quite make it, I've still exercised a lot more this month than I have any other time in recent memory, which is definitely a success.

And, as further motivation for myself, I'm going to stay off facebook until I've gotten 30 miles and 20,000 words under my belt. Hopefully that will get me motivated to really get back into a groove now that vacation is over! (Also, if you see me on FB, ask me if I've finished, and if I say no, tell me to get off!)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Three Goals!

When I started this blog, before we had committed to adopting, I decided that even if I wasn't able to adopt right then, I could do something. I could help change the life of a child. And I did do some advocating. I don't know if it helped a lot, in terms of money or children finding their families, but it has certainly helped me to pray for and love these children.

Then we committed to adopting, and I mostly concentrated on that here on the blog. And then Brigitte was transferred, and since then I've been struggling, scrambling, babbling, and in general just trying to figure out what to do from here. And I haven't really come up with a solution, but I have come up with a purpose and goal, at least temporarily.

To begin with, when I started this blog and used "changing lives" in the title, I was thinking about the ability to change the lives of orphaned children. But one of the first thoughts I had was that if I wanted to change lives, I might do well to start with my own. And even though I haven't talked about it a lot on here, I have worked on that, and been semi-successful. But not nearly as successful as I could be, or as I probably ought to be. So over the next two months I'm going to buckle down.

November is National Novel Writing Month. For anyone who doesn't know, I write. I've been writing for years, but have yet to actually finish anything. Now, there are good and valid reasons for this (mostly 3 kids and a husband who works long hours), but it's still something I would like to change. I try to be good about writing every day, but while I manage for short periods of time, something always comes up and I slack off again. I've tried doing NaNoWriMo before, but I've never gotten close to the 50,000 word goal. But this year, I'm going to try again.

Since you're supposed to start a new project for NaNoWriMo I've decided to work on the sequel for the novel I'm about 3/4 done with. I'm hoping that will get me back into the setting and characters, so I can then use December to finish the first draft of that one. Plus, it will hopefully help sell the first one (either to a publisher or as an e-book I publish myself) if I have another in the series that I can finish soon after.

And, since I'm very prone to distraction, I'm putting limitations on them to encourage my productivity. No FB, reading blogs, or computer games until I've written 2000 words in a day. So, um, if you don't see me for the entire month, that's why. :)

Also, since I often fail miserably when making big goals, I decided why limit myself to one? If I can't manage one, it would be better to try for THREE, right? I know, I make no sense. It's been a long time since I claimed to.

So, on to number two! I really need to be better about exercising, and I've been thinking about doing a couch-to-5K type program for a while. And I'm going to try to start that this month, too. My goal is to run/walk 100 miles in the next two months.

And to top the other two goals off, I've signed up to be an Angel Tree warrior for one of the little cuties on Reece's Rainbow. This is a program designed to raise awareness of orphans in the holiday season, and also to hopefully raise $1000 for each of them during the months of November and December. Usually the Angel Tree is limited to kids with Down Syndrome between the ages of 0 and 5. Not because these kids are more special or more worthy than any others, but just because there's only so much you can do at once, and so you have to choose something to focus on. These kids have been the focus of Angel Trees in years past. But various advocates love many kids who don't fall into that age range/diagnosis, and so every year they ask if Angel Tree will be expanded to include more kids. And this year it is! Three children from each of the other groups of kids on Reece's Rainbow were chosen (by voting and donations) to be included on the Angel Tree this year. Including 3 from each of the age ranges of the HIV+ kids, who have my heart. I decided that I couldn't push to get those kids included in the fundraiser and then not be willing to step up and help fundraise for them.

I'm pretty much horrible at fundraising, but I have a few ideas and I'm going to be doing my best over the next two months to share the profile, and hopefully raise the grant fund (at least a little bit) of a gorgeous girl named Sabrina:

She's five years old and lives in Eastern Europe. When we weren't able to adopt Brigitte, I wondered if maybe we should go for Sabrina instead. I prayed about it, but I've always felt was not supposed to be ours. But I know she has a Mommy and a Daddy out there somewhere, and hopefully I can help them find her.

In the meantime, I've decided to kick off my fundraising efforts by (hopefully!) getting a few of my friends to sponsor my self-improvement efforts. Do you want me to finally finish a book so you can read it? Maybe you would be willing to pledge just $.01 for every 100 words I write (that would be a $5.00 pledge if I meet my goal of 50,000 words). Or maybe you'd rather promote healthy living. Would you be willing to pledge $.05 for every mile I walk or run (again, that would be a $5.00 donation if I make my goal of 100 miles). I'm hoping that if I know people are donating based on what I accomplish it'll provide the extra incentive I need to not just start these improvements but actually meet my goals!

If you'd be willing to make a small pledge, let me know here or on FB! And even if you can't, could you share Sabrina's profile and join me in prayer that her family will find her? Thanks!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Truth -- It's Not About Me

Some days lately I wonder why I'm still trying to make this adoption thing happen.  I've tried to stay at least mostly positive here on this blog, but the truth is that many days I'm not that positive.  The truth is that while I still want to adopt, while I still feel like it's something that we're supposed to do, Jacob doesn't.  He feels like it's not the right thing, or at least not the right time.  And the truth is, when you and your spouse are both honestly praying about something and getting different answers, it's hard.  Really hard.

And so some days I wonder, "Why am I still trying?"  And lately, many days, I don't have a good answer.  The truth is, I'm often overwhelmed.  School's starting, therapy schedules are changing and becoming more complicated, we're starting activities for the younger kids, and things are busy.  Jacob's often working long hours, we're both over-tired, and the house is kind of falling apart a lot of days.  And I think, "Why add more?  Can I actually handle more?"

And it's more than that.  I feel like we should adopt, but whereas before I had some pretty clear direction, now I don't really know who, or where, or when, or anything.  And I don't like disagreeing with my husband (okay, if you know us, you're probably laughing right now, but, well, I don't like it on the important things, at least).  If I don't have a clear direction, and he doesn't want to move forward, why create contention by continuing to talk about it and ask about it?

Plus, the truth is that while I adore my kids, being a mom is not really my favorite job ever.  Don't get me wrong -- I feel very blessed to be a mom to my kids, and I've felt like staying home with them was the right decision for our family (at least for now), and I'm grateful that my husband makes enough that we have that option.  But really, in thinking just about _my_ career choices, it's not even close to the top of the list.  I completely respect people who teach or do childcare for a living.  I'm so grateful for them, and how awesome the good ones are with my children.  I'm not someone like that.  I enjoy kids, but mostly in small doses, and that generally goes for my own kids, too.  I have a lot of fun with them, but then I turn on the TV so I can distract them while I escape.  And the truth is that I'm pretty happy with my 3 boys.  They're great, we have fun, and I really don't feel any longings to have another baby.  (Honestly, I've never really gotten those.)

But though I've been feeling discouraged lately, wondering why I'm even still trying, I got a great reminder today of why I am.  Why it's important, and why I still want to do this, in spite of all the reasons for not doing it.  My friend is over in EE adopting for the second time this year.  I want to share with you some of what she wrote after returning.

And, now the sorrow. When we came here 6 months ago the groupa was about 15 children.  Today I saw 6 total.  That includes V.  The other little girl that was so close to EM and V was not here anymore.  She could not be adopted so that means she aged out of her baby house.  Another little girl that pulled at my heart-gone.  Most of these children were not available for international adoption.  These kids were in the oldest groupa in the orphanage. Most of these children have been transferred.  Whether they went to the institution or the internat depends on how severe their needs.  But either place will not be what they are used to. It will also not be a family.  And their chances of being adopted as they age gets smaller.

I looked into these children's eyes. I held their hands.  I talked to them.  For them to be gone, most likely transferred, is heartbreaking. I am hoping that some of the parents came for them. I am hoping some of them were adopted.  But I will never know.

And how awful for V and the other little ones that have been left behind. Can you imagine losing most of your friends in 6 months?  One after another.  Being left behind.  Can you imagine what that would do to your heart? How that would harden you over time?

I hope our girl was just nervous today. But I also imagine it has been a rough 6 months.  I am so glad we are here for her. That she won't be left behind to age out and face the internat alone.  But so many more have been and will be.  It is overwhelming.  They are all deserving.  Where are the parents for these other precious children?

And that is what it is like to be over here doing this. Full of joy, love,  devastation, heartbreak, fear, sorrow, happiness, elation, worry, anger, frustration, hope.  It is so emotional.  so hard.  so draining.  And yet I am, of course, so grateful to be here.  Not only for my family and my daughter.  But for myself. That my eyes have been opened.  Better to see even when it hurts than to look away ignore the painful reality. These kids are real. These kids are there. waiting.  wanting. needing whether we want to look at them or not.  As hard as it is for us, imagine how hard it is for them. If we open our eyes and see, we can do something.

It was just the reminder that I needed today, that it's not about me.

I was reminded of a conversation I had with a friend recently. She was asking about our adoption, what we were thinking, if we were planning on moving forward, etc, and I mentioned (off-hand) that I didn't want to adopt a healthy baby. She looked at me in genuine confusion and asked, "Why not?" It was a legitimate question, asked thinking about the heartache some of her family members have gone through with their adopted daughter (who was adopted as an older child, and has some special needs). She wondered, if I could choose, why I wouldn't want to adopt a healthy baby and avoid some of those issues? I told her a truth -- that if I wanted a healthy baby (though really, there's no guarantee of that through birth or any type of adoption) I could have my own. I probably didn't delve far enough into the greater Truth -- that it's not about me.

This isn't about me, though I know I would benefit, learn, grow, and become a better person through the process. This isn't about my bio kids, though I know they'd love another sibling, and would learn valuable lessons about love, caring, and being grateful. This isn't about our family at all, though I think if we do adopt we'll be blessed. This is about children who have nothing and no one, who are simply waiting for someone to love them, someone to choose them. This is about being the hands and feet of God, reaching out to the least of these, and saying, "I love you. 'Come unto me.'" The truth is, these children need someone to step out of their comfort zones, be willing to go out on a limb, and say, "We choose you." If not us, then who?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Catching Up

I know, it's been forever since I blogged.  What with vacations and summer breaks and kids being home all the time I haven't been on the computer quite as much (which is really a good thing, overall).

But since I love all my blog readers, I thought I'd catch you up a little bit.  We went on an awesome long vacation during which my kids saw both sets of grandparents, all three great-grandparents who are still living, 10 of their 16 aunts and uncles, and 19 of their 23 cousins.  We also went to theme parks, aquariums, dinosaur museums, and national parks. 

It was great, and exhausting.  At the end I was more than ready to come home, and the kids were, too.  They were so happy to see all their toys again, and I was happy to let them play without worrying what they were getting into or what they might break.

Not much else has been going on around here.  We've been trying to have some sort of routine to the rest of our summer, but other than therapies we don't have much going on (I rather like it that way).  School starts in just 2 weeks, so that will end soon.  Spencer will be in 2nd grade and Travis will be in 1st grade.  I might try to find a Pre-K for Nathaniel if he ever decides he's willing to use the potty.  We'll see.

As far as adoption plans go, I'm still obsessing about trying to figure out what we should be doing, but we continue to not get any answers (or rather, the answer is probably just that we need to wait, but I'm not very good at that).  I'm hoping things will change sometime, but I guess we'll just have to wait and see.  I do hope to at least start updating the blog a little more frequently, though!

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Things We Learn

We learn a lot of things from being a parent, and it's not just the things we expect. Sure we learn how to feed our kids, we learn how to take care of them, we learn how to sacrifice and put someone else's needs before our own. But we also learn other things, things I certainly didn't realize the importance of before I had kids.

It's a little different for everyone, but my guess is every parent has a list of things they've unexpectedly gotten to learn. For me, it started with the names of all the Thomas trains.

Yes, I can probably name every train in that picture without having to look them up.  My younger two were that obsessed.  (Luckily, the makers of these trains provide parents a built-in cheat sheet by printing the names on the bottoms of the trains themselves.  Someone is brilliant!)

I've also learned the names of quite a few of the Transformers.

I already knew the names of quite a few Transformers, but I've learned quite a few more.  We're still in the Transformers phase.

I've probably learned the most about dinosaurs.  Do you know how many different types there are?  Hundreds.  I certainly can't name them all, but you'd be surprised at how many I can name and identify.  Probably more than you've ever heard the names of.  And do you know how much more they've learned about them since we were kids?  It turns out Triceratops likely had feathers.

The other thing I've learned a ton about recently that I never expected to is sea creatures.  I already knew there were tons and tons of different kinds (and that they're always discovering more), but I never expected to be able to tell you so much about them.  This happens when your child is obsessed.  This is one of Spencer's current favorite creatures:

Those are cookiecutter sharks.  They're only about 20 inches long, but they can take huge, round bites out of the sides of much bigger creatures, like whales or dolphins (thus the name).  Spencer thinks they're awesome.  He wants to see one.  I don't know of any aquarium that has one, but if one does we might end up traveling however far it takes to see one.  Even though I don't think they're that impressive in person.  That's what happens when your kids are obsessed.  But hey, he's learning, I'm learning, his dad and brothers are learning, we take field trips to educational places on a regular basis, and the kids like it.  You can't get much better than that, right?

So, share with me.  What unexpected things have you learned about since becoming a parent?

Saturday, June 9, 2012

A Few Favorites

So, I'm struggling to come up with much to talk about. Some days words flow, other days not so much. At least when we were actively working on adoption stuff I could update on progress (or lack of it) on the slow days.

So, since I don't have much to say today, I thought I'd link to a few of my favorite adoption blogs. All these blogs are written by friends of mine. I love their hearts, and I love reading their words. I'm blessed to "know" them, and their words have lifted me numerous times.

First off, Julia adopted a little boy named Aaron from a mental institute in Eastern Europe. It was a hard road for their whole family, especially for Aaron. But he's been home for a while now (a year and a half, maybe?), and he's made amazing progress! Julia now spends her time shouting for those still waiting, and helping raise funds for the kids and the families coming to get them. She's awesome. http://covenantbuilders.blogspot.com/

Secondly, Renee recently went to Eastern Europe to adopt her cute 6yo Emma. They were told she was in an institute and went expecting the worst. What they found surprised them -- the children were wonderfully cared for and cared about by the staff there. Unfortunately, since they are all physically handicapped in some way, there is no life for them in their country once they age out of this institute at 16. There are no wheelchair ramps or elevators, and therefore no place for them to live or work. These children need to come to a place where they have a chance. The director and staff are very protective of the kids there, but Renee and her husband made friends with them, and told them there were families who would love and care for these children. They took new pictures of the kids, and then Renee started blogging. She started telling the world about these kids, their personalities, and their amazing potential. Many of these kids had been listed for a long time and no one had ever inquired about them, but once Renee started blogging, and everyone started praying, miracles happened. Ten of the fourteen kids listed from that orphanage now have families coming for them, and hopefully the others will soon! http://butbygraceitcouldbeme.blogspot.com/

Last is Catherine. She's adopted a few times, most recently two little cuties from Eastern Europe. One has Aperts and one has arthrogryposis, and both have needed multiple surgeries, lots of therapy, and mostly lots and lots of love. Their family is a bit crazy, but Catherine tells it like it is. It's awesome. I'm pretty sure if we lived near them our kids would have a total blast being completely crazy together. http://wronginalltherightways-travcat.blogspot.com/

There are lots of other blogs I like to read as well, but those should keep you busy for quite some time, and I need to save something for the next time I can't come up with anything to write!

Friday, June 8, 2012


2 days in and I already missed a day. Oops. But life happens, you know? Like yesterday, when my 5yo decided to use pretty much an entire roll of toilet paper after he used the potty. And then when it didn't go down after the first flush, my 4yo decided to flush it again, and again, and again. I don't know how many times exactly, but enough to have an inch of standing water covering the bathroom floor, the carpet in the entire hallway soaked, and water dripping down through the ceiling. And they were upstairs by themselves for all of about 10 minutes.

So anyway, days like this sometimes make me stop and wonder what the heck I'm thinking when I want to add another kid. Aren't the ones I have enough? The truth is, yes. They are. If we never had another child the three we've got would fill up our days completely. There would be more than enough blessings and triumphs, pain and frustration. Life would be great many days, aggravating many days (probably the same days, most of the time). But the truth is, I could have (and would have) said the same thing if we'd stopped at just one child. There would have been both wonder and aggravation in hefty doses, and we would not have been lacking in things we needed to get done that we never quite had time for. I could have said the same thing after number 2, as well. But that doesn't mean I regret for an instant adding number 2 or number 3. The good moments more than make up for the bad ones.

And do you know what? My kids feel the same way. I don't think they ever wish, even for an instant, that they were an only child (though I suspect as they get older there probably will be a few of those moments). Even when they fight (and boy do they fight some days) they adore each other. Brothers are awesome built-in playmates. My kids are best friends, and it's wonderful. And because they love each other so much they are incredibly enthusiastic about more siblings (one day when I asked my 5yo told me he thought we should add 17 kids -- 10 and 7, though I don't remember now which was brothers and which was sisters -- either way I thought he might be going a bit overboard). And whoever we add to our family will be loved (probably stiflingly so), and have the best built-in playmates and best friends.

Which brings me to the reason for wanting to do all of this. It's not about me, it's not about my family. It's not because I have things so together I feel like I should take on more (anyone who actually knows me would laugh in your face if you suggested such a thing). It's not because I'm such a great parent I feel like I should pass my wisdom on to more kids (again with the laughing). It's because, as much as my life could be complete how things stand, there are so many kids out there whose lives aren't complete, and won't ever be unless people are willing to step up, leave their comfort zones, and take a chance. Our family would be fine as it stands, but theirs would not be. Though I'm sure the blessings will be multiplied on all sides, for all of us, if we're blessed to bring another little one home.