Saturday, April 30, 2011

Pretty in Pastels

My boys showed off their pastel colors Easter weekend. We had such a fantastic time with friends and family and celebrating that the stone was rolled away and that life conquers death.

On Saturday, we visited Grandma and GaGa's house and had MANY egg hunts.

Finding the first egg. I love his face in this picture!
A rare family picture.... that still leaves much to be desired. But I think we are mostly looking at the camera.
Look at those eyes!
Coloring Easter eggs. P insisted on wearing gloves.... evidence he really is my son (those of you that know me, know I where latex gloves any time I am doing anything remotely gross.)
I love B's expression in this picture! I think he must be wondering... a real egg, really?
Easter morning.
B egg hunting at MomMom and DadDad's house. Yep. On a farm you don't use baskets to gather the Easter eggs, you use the horse's water buckets :)
I had a great time hanging out with my family. I love this picture of my beautiful cousin and her dog, Izzy.
The day was complete once we unleashed the giant bubbles.

Happy Belated Easter (Fasika)!

It still hurts...

Our first beautiful picture of our son, Bunte. June 2010.

I am going to try to share this part of our family's journey without violating too much of my son's privacy, as most of this story is his to tell. But part of it is our story, and one that still hurts.

Tears welled in my eyes one Friday night as my husband was honest, brave, and direct about his experience in Ethiopia. He told an abbreviated version of his story, our story, our son's story and the story of orphans waiting for the ones they will call family. This man I love demonstrated to me once again that his heart shares my passion as he unloaded this story onto complete strangers who inquired about our unique family. They were probably just wondering why this uber pale woman (me) had two cute little brown hands clasping her cheeks and why the little brown lips were yelling "Mommy, look at me!" Or maybe they were just noticing that our kids are 2 and 4...and act like it. Or maybe that noticed the sheer joy that bubbles up from under their smiles. Regardless, they flat out asked, "are they adopted? Are they brothers?" I smile,buying time to think about an appropriate response to "The Question" we field all too often. Meanwhile, the kids charm the strangers with their beautiful laughter. Wes answers, "Yes. and Yes." (We know what people mean when they ask if they are brothers, and in our opinion they are now. Right or wrong, we leave it at that most of the time.)

The couple continued to ask more questions, and even expressed an interest in adoption. Wes indulged them. Among other things, he said, "Ya know, people talk about Angelina and give her a bunch of crap for adopting more kids. (I think she is currently in the process again.) But how can they? Have they seen the hands of orphaned children waving through the gates of an orphanage as you walk away with one of their friends, their only family, wondering when it will be there turn? Have they had these children cling to them to just get a taste of affection? It changes you. You cannot forget their faces. That image is seared into my memory. Forever. I get it. I understand her choices."

Don't get me wrong, we don't really know Angelina's motivations for adopting, but if her experiences were anything like ours, we understand the choices she made/is making to build her family.

(Side note: Wes traveled without me to Ethiopia for the second trip for embassy. Bunte had a VERY difficult time leaving the orphanage and it was a very traumatic and emotional day for all involved parties. It was not the happy, hugging, you are my new son/daddy, moment you might be imagining.)

As Wes continued to share with strangers, I stood there, stunned, that my husband who is usually quiet about our family and our story, laid it on the line. The truth is, we have both had a lot of emotions bottled up for awhile about our journey and maybe we are finally ready to let it out. Truths that only we know (and maybe the few others that have made this journey through international adoption) and have been reluctant to share. Anger. Sadness. Brokenness. As we got into the car, my sweet husband said to me, "I could not look at you. I saw your cheeks get red and knew... [that I was crying]." You see, Wes knows me. He knows that my heart aches for the fatherless, the motherless, the orphan, and the waiting child. I've always felt this way, but after my trip to Ethiopia, these thoughts consume me. My passion grows.

The truth is, ever since our time in Ethiopia, and even upon Bunte's homecoming, I've been angry. We've been angry. It HURT to see children living this way. It HURT to watch his Dad hug him for the last time and leave tear stains on his shirt. It HURT to sit in a courtroom and watch surviving birth relatives relinquish custody of their precious children. It HURT to hold a 15 month old child that only weighed about 9 lbs because he never had proper nutrition. It HURT to hear that many parents who are forced (not by people, but by poverty) to relinquish their children to an orphanage often name their children "Don't Die" because that is their greatest fear and probable reality. It HURT to see a mother on the street holding her sick, severely emaciated child, begging for money. It HURT to feel utterly useless to change her situation. It HURT to walk away from the little hands at the care center and orphanage wanting to hold mine. And it continues to hurt. And as much as my heart ached, I can only imagine how much more their little heart's ache. How much more my son's father's heart is breaking tonight as he wonders what has happened to the precious son he named, "My Crown."

I witness many of these conditions and experienced many of these emotions on a brief mission trip to Jamaica that I participated in as a young adult. But this time was different. Perhaps because I am now a mom and know how awful it is to see your own child hurt. I don't really know why God opened my heart this time to be so incredibly saddened by the brokenness of our world. But He did.

And now I am angry that our world is so broken, so unfair, so polarized. Why is it some can have so much while others go hungry? Why do some live healthy lives to 100 while others die of diseases so young? Why is it some grow up in stable homes, with loving parents, access to education, and have all their needs met while other children beg for food to help their dying parents? Why is it some throw away half-empty bottles of clean water while others walk for miles just to have dirty water to drink? Does one's blessing have to come at the cost of another's curse? And, to be honest, I have cried out to God in anger that this is our world and that so many people do nothing about it. That He allows this pain to continue. The God I know is pretty tough, so he can handle my hurled accusations and frustrations. I feel a rage rise inside me when I see posts about foreign aid being "wrong" because we should care "about American's needs first." Americans, who in my opinion, did not earn or deserve access to so much more (food, water, education, medicine, etc) than the majority of the people in this world. It is simply by grace that we live in a land of plenty. I feel anger when people drop loads of money on completely extravagant, wasteful items. I am devastated by the continued selfishness of pharmaceutical companies that do not distribute medicine in appropriate ways when so many diseases could be so easily prevented. Diseases that caused my oldest son to become an orphan. I am angry when pop TV makes inappropriate comments about adoption and portray children
as easily replaceable commodities (saw it twice this weekend). Have they ever considered why these children are orphaned and why there are so many? I am angry with myself for the selfish decisions I make, and continue to make, in life. I am angry that I am still not doing more that I am to help those still waiting on someone to call family. Because I think about those little hands... the one's I left behind. These children are not TV ads. They are real people, with real needs, needing real homes, and real love. Many of their first families were forced to make an awful decision because of poverty and disease. I don't believe adoption is the answer to the world's problems. I believe adoption is a last resort for first parents who cannot find a better option. But if more of us cared about those in the world who are hurting, maybe there would be fewer orphans waiting for a place to call home. Maybe if we all just did our one little act of random kindness each day, more families could stay together forever.

Why God built our family this way is unknown to me. But it was known to Him long before that my precious little boys would call me their Mommy and Wes their Daddy. That I would be able to witness a broken body and a broken heart gradually heal. That it would be our blessing in life to be the ones that kiss their booboos, rocks them to sleep, and reads them bedtime stories. To be the ones that would give up everything for them. They each have one parent that already made that sacrificial choice and put their child's well being ahead of their own wants. They each have a birth parent that made a sacrifice out of love. I hope my boys will appreciate this as they grow.

There is so much we experienced during our adoption journey to bring Bunte home that I just cannot write about. It is too much. Too sad. Too broken. Too ugly. But some of it had to come out. As Bunte shares more and more of his stories
and emotions with us (that bring tears to my eyes regularly), maybe it is time to share some of ours. Even if it hurts.

Ultimately, we chose to adopt to build our family, not because we wanted to "save" anyone. We still don't think we were the ones that "saved" our children. There are many other adoptive families out there and they both may have found wonderful families. We don't really know what either of our children's futures would be without us as a part of their story. We can speculate (and sometimes I weep when I even let myself go there), but ultimately it was about being a family. We want a (somewhat) large family and choose this as our path to share our life with our children. However, this journey was life-changing. What if more people experienced personal encounters like this? Ones that change your world so much it is hard to look a life through the same lens, with the same perspectives and values, again. While my sadness is still great and the pain so very real, I am also blessed to experience so much more joy than I have ever known.

Each of Bunte's milestones seems so amazing to me. He is a reminder of hope and healing everyday. As we have struggled through attachment issues (an entire story for another day), medical issues, grieving issues and family issues, we have also witnessed how love and laughter cause a child to thrive and blossom. Our prayers answered. What if we (people living in lands of plenty) were less selfish? What if we shared the heart of a Man who sought to love "the least of these?"

We volunteered to share our adoption journeys with our church before Bunte came home. Things got a little crazy, then it was time to travel... twice, and we never got around to it. We've been invited to do it again, but I have not been eager to do it. After writing this post I think I now know why. I just wasn't ready to do so. Underneath the joy of our new family, we have a lot of hurt and anger about the ugliness, sin, and selfishness in our world. I cannot lie when I share this story and act like it was all beautiful and easy. Because it wasn't. It still isn't.

But I know that my tears returned a few days ago when I overheard my once-orphaned child praise his father for his compassion toward a homeless woman on the street. You see, my little boy knows and remembers what it is like to have a hungry belly, no clothes, no medicine, no clean water, no toys, no bed, no shoes, and no mother. His recent stories from his life in Ethiopia confirm this. He can fully empathize where I can only sympathize for those struggling with to live with so very little. While I pray his painful memories fade with time, I also hope that he never forgets to have compassion for those living in such conditions. Wes and I have always tried to give something to the people in need that we encounter on the streets, whether it be money, food, or a smile if we have nothing else to give. We recently passed a woman with a sign asking for assistance. Wes smiled and gave her the only $5 he had in his wallet at the time.

Bunte asked, "No food, Daddy." (Meaning, "does she not have food to eat?")
"Yes," Wes answered.
Bunte replied, "Good job, Daddy. I'm proud of you."

His heart is growing. He understands. We don't take credit for it. After all, he has 4 years and 4 months (at least) of his life that were molded by others. But I believe God watched his heart during this time and made Himself known to Bunte before we ever met him. We hope to continue to model these actions of compassion after of the One who made the greatest sacrifice. The Man who sought out those that society rejected. The One who has planted seeds of compassion in my husband's heart and my son's heart. I pray those seeds begin to sprout and that my boys will be part of the solution, not the sinful selfishness that permeates our nation and continues this growing divide between the haves and have-nots in our world.

Bunte, March 2011.

I don't really know why I wrote this long, rambling post. Heck, I don't even know who, if anyone, bothers to read these posts of mine. But maybe it was just to get it out there, off my chest. Maybe it was to believe that there is Hope. Hope that I can continue to have a compassionate heart without feeling bitter and angry about the injustices in this world. Just look at my little boy. He HAS changed. He has hope. He believes. He has joy overflowing.

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." Matthew 25:40

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Forever Family Day

Today we celebrate that we are family forever. Two years ago today Payton legally became our son. Of course, in my heart he was my son from the moment those tiny five pounds rested in my arms. However, we spent the next seven months feeling a little anxiety over the fact that we still were not legally his parents. Our state requires a six month period after placement before you can file for adoption. Although there was really no reason to feel nervous that he would not be forever ours, my heart still jumped out of my chest every time the phone rang. What if....? The court procedure was very simple and we were not even there, but we anxiously awaited news that he was our son forever. Sweet relief. Payton, you are the sunshine in our lives and today we celebrate that we are, FOREVER, family!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

More Firsts

First time on the National Mall...

First day of PreK...
First surgery and hospital stay...

We've been a tad busy around here lately adjusting to a lot of changes. I went back to work (I try to think about this part of my life as little as possible when I am home, so not blogging about that!) B started preK and LOVES it. He goes M-Th, 9-12. We have a new sitter that comes to our house, she is FABULOUS, but Payton has struggled a bit with me going back to work. B had surgery on his teeth and gums due to his juvenile periodontitis. We are hoping that it was successful. We've been to NoVa quite a bit to visit friends and see the museum of natural history. A tad bit of an overload for both boys. We are still plugging along with the whole attachment thing. I struggle about how much to blog on this issue. I know some APs would love for me to be real about it on here to know that others share in your struggles (I am with you!) but I also know that this is accessible to anyone and I am just not sure how much I want to share on a public forum for the sake of my son's privacy. I guess the easiest way to summarize what we are experiencing is a quote from a fellow AP, Monica. She adopted her son and is currently in the process of adopting again. She said that, "Attachment is a marathon, not a sprint." She is so right. We are slogging (slow jogging for you non-runners :) along, but making progress.