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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

meeting!

Yesterday, my husband had the privilege to meet a family that we have "known" (virtually) for many years.  This family adopted a little boy from the Ukraine who has Down Syndrome.  Because of my husband's travels, he was able to stop by and meet this family, who we supported throughout their adoption journey, and who played a role in our decision to adopt a child ourselves.

Jon admitted that he was just a tiny bit nervous.  The truth is, while our family actively embraces special needs, we've never met a child with Down Syndrome.  Yet, we know of this child and we know how amazing he is.  Would he be amazing in person?

The answer - unequivocally - was YES.  He was even more amazing in person!  From my husband's reports, we learned just who unique and inspiring this little one is.  (Their family is pretty awesome, too!)  Jon was kindly treated by a wonderful, Godly family while on his business trip and it was the highlight of his time there.  I was, naturally, insanely jealous that he was able to actually meet a family that I've known for some time, but I hope our time will come sooner rather than later.

Yes, it can be daunting to meet a little child with special needs.  I know some feel awkward meeting my daughter, or they cannot understand why she behaves differently.  Recently, my niece, who is six years old, asked me a question that is a natural one to ask.  "Why does Chelsea repeat everything I say?"  The truth is, she doesn't repeat everything, but she often repeats.  It is part of her disability.  It is called echolalia.  Sadly, some of her older cousins will begin to notice she is different.  It is our job to work as hard as possible to assist Chelsea to be as typical as she is capable of being, while respecting and appreciating her differences.

In the meantime, I am left with heartwarming stories of my husband's travels to meet this tremendous family and a peace in my spirit of how we helped them.  One of the things I remember doing was giving them the proceeds of a savings bond I found.  Inexplicably, while we were briefly living with my parents (as we waited for closing on our new home), I discovered a savings bond tucked away behind a dresser (we were preparing to paint my father's bedroom).  With all of the accumulated interest, it was worth more than $90.  Certainly, I had plans for that cash, but I immediately felt that it was best used by this family to pay for their adoption expenses and I sent it to them. 

Was it a huge sum of money?  No, not really.  But the blessing it provided to them was enormous.  It was not the last time we helped them.  In fact, I entered a giveaway and won a Nook Color from them! 

The truth is, I wish I had done more.  I wish I could have given more to them.  Knowing what an amazing child their son is, I simply wish we could have found a way to give them the majority of the funds they needed.  That was not possible, and I am grateful for what we could do for them.

It is very likely that you will never get to meet the child (or children) you help bring home with your donations and prayers.  But if you do, trust me. I know you will feel just as inspired and blessed as my husband does. 

and the waiting.

I've unhappily begun another semester of classes.  I am unusually annoyed to begin again.  I feel burnt out.  For nearly two years straight, I have taken classes with no traditional "summer break" in between.  During the summer I take classes.  During the fall I take classes.  During the winter and spring and then back into summer.  For two years I have done this - longer than that, really - and I admit, I am worn out.  My mind is elsewhere, and not in the material I should be studying.

Oh, but what I am studying.

Some of it is a review or enhancement of concepts I've previously studied.  And no matter what some may think of book knowledge, it is a necessary step for the application of life knowledge.  I must admit, my eyes smiled wide when I began to read the first chapter of my textbook - "Social Justice".  I nearly laughed aloud as I reacquainted myself with the questions of whether social justice is a socially constructed entity, or implicit in society.  What defines social justice?  How do societies define social justice?  The delicate balance of social justice as it relates to equality and rights, and desert and need.

I really could - honestly - write a whole lot more about this.  I won't, but I could.  I could, and I would giggle hysterically at those who flippantly decide that the world's problems as it relates to orphans are as a result of "easy to solve" poverty, or that posting photographs of children is a clear violation of rights and is therefore unjust, because...well, because they say so, that's why.  That nations in the world can immediately and without reservation change their opinions of special needs children to align more closely with our Western understanding of special needs (as valued members of society who deserve accommodation and inclusion instead of being shunned and ignored). I would giggle with my answers that came from books far more scholarly than fan fiction, and yet shake my head in sadness as I look at images of a place in so much disrepair and with so few resources that children lay in forgotten beds, waiting for the winds of change to twist them back to a more humane reality - a wind that has, thusfar, not arrived.

Collateral damage in a cause for the greater good, while adoption is tucked away as Evil and Poverty is blamed for every ill.

*sigh*

I could do this, but I won't. 

Instead, I will talk about waiting.

I have waited for so long to finish my college degree.  Right now, I am waiting to hear if I've won a scholarship for the fall.  More important than all of that, however, is the wait I have to hear about the Ministry of Justice in Bulgaria.

The worst part?

They have already met!  But I do not know the results.

The results I am praying for is the result of a referral that will then result in travel dates to meet our future son and at long last, travel to Bulgaria - a trip that I simultaneously seek and dread all at once.  It has nothing really to do with meeting this child.  It has more to do with my current daughter, the plans we will need to arrange, traveling to a nation I know little about and have never seen, and finding the funds to make it all happen comfortably and with as little trouble as possible.

Which is likely IMpossible :)

I do believe that waiting when the answers are already known to some is more frustrating than simply waiting.  Someone knows what was said in those meetings, but that information has not been relayed through all of the parties involved, and so we must wait. 

God's timing is much better and greater than my timing.  I know this, but it doesn't always make the waiting any easier. 

"Yet those who wait upon the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up like wings of eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary." Isaiah 40:31

The process of adoption will change a family.  It is working to change our family; to stretch our faith into the unseen, to teach us patience and humility, and to reap upon us great blessing.

"Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary." Galatians 6:9

Patience is built into this process, in the same way that it is built into pregnancy.  A normal, healthy pregnancy lasts about nine months.  A baby who is born too soon will die, but a baby who remains in the womb for nine very long months comes out prepared to meet the world.  (This is a generalization, but true in most cases).  Likewise, a child borne out of adoption comes into their future parent's world from a process that requires a wait - unlike pregnancy, it is not a predetermined wait - and a child who arrives too soon from that process is more likely to arrive to unprepared parents.  We must use this time to prepare for our child, and we are.  Yes, we complain about the wait, but the wait is necessary.

"For if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience."  Romans 8:25.

God is with you in your frustration as you wait...as WE wait...and though our children may wait too, they do not escape the watchful eyes of our Father in heaven.  Though they may not yet be in our arms, they are in His. 

And so we wait.

Friday, May 25, 2012

QC (Quality Control) - the Song

<Jon posting>
So, I'm one of those people that hates to do things half-way.  Or, better yet, hates to do them unless I feel like I can do them perfectly.  Or at least darn good anyway :)

The more I listened to that song I wrote (the little button that's been on the left hand side of the page now for about 6-7 weeks), the more I thought the sound quality wasn't up where I wanted it.  Frankly, recording a song (this is about the 4th or 5th one I've done now, but the first that I wrote and actually presented anywhere), you learn a lot along the way.  There really is no substitute for experience.

So I figured - why not.  I'll re-record it.  Upgraded my software (thanks Reaper for being free!), learned some better mic techniques and engineering techniques, even made some musical changes, and did it all over again.  And I'm really pretty happy with the result (at least for now - that's how I roll LOL).

So - without any further ado - please feel free to check out the new and improved Adoption Prayer song, linked to the left.  If you haven't heard it before, check it out - it's better than the first one (at least I hope!).  If you have heard it, and thought "eh", check it out again.  If you loved it the first time, I can assure you it's better the second time :)

I also switched distribution providers so that you can preview the entire song - not just a 30 second clip.  I did that so everybody could hear the whole message of it.  However - if you want to keep it, you can download it for a buck (and of course you know where all the dollars go).  Please consider it if you love it - I can assure it burns to a mighty fine CD in the car :)

thanks!

http://jonmenges.bandcamp.com

the waiting.

I guess the reason I have time to rant these days is because there isn't much happening in our adoption process.  We have many things to do, but they are not adoption-specific (meaning paperwork related) things.  We have a room to prepare for our future son, services we can inquire about for him (although we're not certain when he will be with us) and a host of other things.  But there is a lull in the paperwork.  After working tirelessly on paperwork for weeks and weeks, it's a bit strange.  The "ball" so to speak (our dossier) is in Bulgaria, waiting to be presented to the Ministry of Justice, which we pray will happen next week.  The hope is that we meet with their approval and can schedule our first trip. 

Once we have a date, we are going to consult with our international adoption doctor to discuss things we can do when we physically meet him that might help us get a rudimentary assessment of his needs.  Obviously, I'm not a therapist and I can't make informed clinical opinions, but I've had a good amount of experience with Chelsea's therapists, so I hope with some guidance I can at least get some sort of baseline on what our future son will need.  A much more formalized assessment will occur sometime after he comes to our home.  The reason I don't feel comfortable scheduling an assessment for him when we get our pick up trip dates is because I don't know what we'll be able to expect when he comes to us.  He may make a very smooth transition, a terrible transition, or something in the middle.  As anxious as I am to get him help quickly, I respect and appreciate the challenge it will be for him.  I need to let him lead the way as much as I can in this process of learning what it means to live in our home and not in the place he has lived for the past two and a half years.

Currently, updates about the children who are in the process of being adopted from The Bad Place must come from the Ministry of Justice.  This means, for instance, that we cannot get timely updates about his progress.  I'm suspicious and unhappy about this development, but it could be as a result of the publicity that this place has received in the press.  It could be that the MOJ is controlling access to information because of how uncertain everything is there.  Or it could be something more sinister.  I pray it is the former and not the latter. 

The helpless waiting is so difficult.  Unfortunately, I know that most of our future son's needs are not being met.  Were this my daughter (here at home), I would be racing to secure the resources she needed.  I can't do that in this case, and that is sad, frustrating, and scary for our family.  We see this child, who is in need, and we are forced to wait to intervene.  We respect the process that must occur, but in our parent's hearts, we simply want the time to magically disappear so we can begin the real tasks of assessing need, integrating our future son into our family, and beginning our lives as a family of four. 

Meanwhile, I begin another semester of college.  Summer's agenda includes a class about American Social Policy and an additional Latin American Cultures class.  I suspect I will have to interrupt my studies for a trip to Bulgaria, but I plan to reach out to my professors to explain.  One has already given me permission to work ahead of the syllabus so that I can maintain my attendance.  I pray the other one will as well.  I've also applied for a scholarship for my college, but I won't know for several weeks if I am selected.  If selected, it is less funds I need to use for school and more I can put toward the adoption.

Funds for the adoption continue to accumulate, thanks to the generosity of friends and strangers alike.  Our family continues to be blessed.  We are just over halfway to our goal.  We are also blessed in that we are actually fundraising for only 1/3 of the total adoption costs.  We have already paid, or are prepared to pay, the majority two-thirds.  Of that 1/3, we are over halfway there! 

There are many ways to help.  Sharing, donating, purchasing, praying.  Some ways are free and some cost money.  Whatever you can do to help us is appreciated.  More than anything, we pray that you share our blog so that we can be a voice for children who suffer in The Bad Place.  I'm not permitted to say the name of the orphanage.  This amazing mother (http://theblessingofverity.com/) knows a thing or two about bad places and bad orphanages. Since her daughter is already home, she is permitted to talk about things that I cannot.  In the future, however, I want to be a voice for those who still live in that dark place, praying for swift change and hoping the children who remain there can be unified with loving families instead of starved and neglected.

Thank you for following our story, for praying and thinking of us.  Please pray for our future son.  We want so much to begin his new life as soon as possible, and we must wait.  This process of adoption is designed to change people, and I know it continues to change our family in positive ways.

starvation.


Today, I want to draw your attention to an article written by the same folks who decided to pick apart my blog.  In the interest of brevity, I can’t cut and paste the whole article in the same way these fine folks chose to cut and paste my blog.  However, in the spirit of full disclosure, I want to direct you to the article so that you may read it in its entirety:  http://www.reformtalk.net/2012/05/24/food-abuse-part-i-starvation/.

You can probably guess that an article with “Starvation” in its title would pique my interest.  Moreover, I really try to listen to both sides of an argument when I can, even when the entity making the argument is ill informed, poorly spoken, and otherwise off their rockers.

I’ll note comments in bold, and remove some of the less salient pieces of text.  Again, I encourage you to visit the link provided to read the entire, unedited piece.

REFORM Talk would like to add some information and commentary about this serious and disturbing issue from the perspective of those who [generally dislike] the adoption community for years. We don’t claim to have all of the answers,[yes, we do. Just ask us] but do have some educated theories on the subject [provided by thoroughly researched, scholarly sources]. We will discuss the issue of food abuse in two parts, the first addressing the most serious aspect, when children die from starvation [like they do in the orphanage my future son lives in, where according to us, he ought to stay until poverty is eradicated, the entire adoption community is 100% reformed, and world peace is achieved.  Anything that happens prior to that is…unfortunate at best.] 

 In order for the child to learn self-control and self-discipline, their basic needs need to be met as well as their past traumas dealt with. When traumatized children are placed with underprepared families [and we think every family is ‘underprepared’, by our own standards that are unsupported and generally our own opinions]  the result is a downward spiral of children not getting their needs met followed by the child’s natural reaction to that—exhibiting behaviors that are on a scale of anywhere from annoying to deceitful to destructive to dangerous. When a child does not automatically fold into the existing family culture the adults become frantic to establish order and control in the home. [Frantic?  Gee, that’s not editorializing…] What we see happening [where are you ‘seeing’ this? Please don’t tell me you are reading it anywhere, because reading is bunk. You said so.] in case after case are parents who have preconceived false notions about how and when a child will integrate into their family and home life. They lack skills and the ability to meet the child’s needs at the child’s level of trauma and fear.[So do about 99.5% of orphanage workers, but we give them a pass because they reside in the child’s native country] They[most orphanages and foster homes] lack resources and support to accomplish this as well, and the newly placed child also suffers as do all other children already in the home [No, not ‘all children suffer in the home’.  Most probably do.  But not ‘all’]. The child who is afraid and traumatized is expected to settle in and quickly adapt to the new and foreign home life [If adoptive parents really feel this way, they should rethink this.  No adopted child is going to ‘quickly adapt’ to a new and foreign home life.  Do regular people think this way?  I don’t.]. They are expected to be happy that they now live with a family. This ludicrous expectation [Something I can agree with.  This is a ludicrous expectation indeed.  NO CHILD from ANYWHERE is going to be magically ‘happy’ to be part of a family.  The fact is, the institution is the only place this child has known.  He doesn’t know it’s a lousy place.  It’s his home.  I don’t expect my future son to smile hourly because he’s suddenly in a family – even if it IS the best place for him] is regularly propagated by the adoption industry and foster community [It shouldn’t be, if it is.  The transition from orphanage or foster care to home is challenging and should be represented as such].

In these types of families, compliance is achieved by taking away things of value and restricting the child’s world in order to force obedience. [Okay, this doesn’t work.  I don’t know what adoptive parents you talk to, but THIS adoptive parent understands that this type of discipline can NOT work with an adopted child, for a host of reasons I read in a book, which probably renders that information useless] Unfortunately, if a child has a fighting spirit (as many survivors do) this doesn’t work and the downward spiral begins. The parent takes away a privilege or something the child enjoys with the understanding that the child may have this back once they comply with the parent’s request or demand. When the child does not comply, they take something else away. When this doesn’t work, parents without a skill set to reevaluate their strategy [this is not me] begin to look for the most basic need a child has to be withheld for compliance. For all humans, this is food. And here is where situations become deadly.  [This is where they describe the food deprivation process.  Food cannot be used to instill compliance in an adopted child.  I’m sorry if some APs do not understand this.  We do.] Sadly, children die as a result [just like they die in the orphanage where my future son lives, but we don’t care about that and he is better off where he is anyway].

Washington state needs to look no further than their own screening process for potential parents, the preplacement education they provide, and post-placement monitoring and resources for the child and family. Placing traumatized children in [any] families can be disastrous [because fundamentally, we don’t believe any family can be prepared, and since the adoption system is so corrupt anyway, children should remain in their birth countries at all costs, period.]

We like to write things as if we really care about children.  And some of us probably do.  But most of us despise adoption.  We like to set the rules for the families who adopt – and for the record, no one will meet those rules. Education isn’t enough.  Experience isn’t enough. We actually don’t really like special needs children very much, and privately, in places we don’t talk about at parties, we can’t possibly fathom why anyone would willingly choose an undesirable child.  We find the worst offenders on the internet and then we paint every adoptive family with the same brush.  We criticize Reece’s Rainbow in part because we take issue with photolistings – photolistings that exist in the United States as well – but mostly because we really, truly, just don’t get it.  We really don’t see why anyone would want to adopt a child who looks or acts that way, but we know we can’t say that out loud, so we pretend that it’s other things.

We take examples of corruption and abuse in the adoption industry – real examples, to be sure – and then decide that every agency is terrible.  We take legitimate situations of abuse in adoptive families and then decide that anyone anywhere who is adopting a special needs child will suffer the same failure, because we ‘know’ it’s 100% proven every single time.  We rail against ‘child collectors’ and magically decide that even someone adopting just one child is a ‘child collector’.  We get angry at adoptive parents who fundraise – we call them names and tell them they are financially unprepared to have a child – but happily deposit the change in the jar for the little girl whose parents are fundraising for her cancer treatments.  We never try to find that family and tell them, “Boy, you should have thought about paying for her cancer treatments before you had kids!  Screw you!” but we’ll be quick to point out that someone who can’t shell out upwards of $30,000 at a rip can’t afford to have a child.  We do this because we really don’t like adoption.  We really wish the world would change into the perfect utopia that we dream of.  A place where poverty doesn’t exist and life is like a box of chocolates. 

Finally, we are horribly ethnocentric.  We believe, truly and completely, that every parent who abandons a child in a foreign nation does so with coercion, under duress, or because of poverty.  We cite real examples of this which are honestly shameful.  Therefore, we generalize this to include every biological parent in every nation for every child.  We firmly believe that if poverty were eliminated, no children would be left in institutions.  We take this view because we judge these societies based on our own value system, which is why we are ethnocentric.  We can’t understand or accept differences in society and culture.  We assume they are just like us, because if they are not, they ought to be. 

We feel so strongly about these views that we will actively search out your blog.  We will leave comments without our names.  If we can’t do that, we will create shell accounts to leave you messages that are nothing more than hate speech.  If we cannot find a way to reach you that way, we might just decide to visit a website of yours and insert our information or website into your address book.  We have so much courage and are so convinced that we are right that we choose not to engage in intelligent debate.  Instead, we stand on our biased platform, preaching to a crowd that is primed to hear our message, and then smile knowingly when we get a lot of “atta boys”. 

Once again, I encourage you to read the entire, unedited message from their site.  Some of what they are saying is absolutely spot on.  Some of what they are saying, if true, is sad.  And some of what they are saying is actually crap.  You know what else?  I don’t fall into the “traps” that these folks are talking about.  I’m not na├»ve.  In one of their documents, they said that an adoptive parent who isn’t scared to bring home a child with special needs should be scared.  I am scared.  Do I believe God has my back?  Yes.  Am I scared anyway? Yes.  I’d be crazy not to be scared.

I know a real good example of starving children.  They live in The Bad Place.  It is one of the reasons why we are reaching out to adopt our future son (ONE of the reasons….not THE reason!).  If you want to worry about starving children, that’s fine.  Stop criticizing those families who are going into places where children starve and die.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

never knowing.

When we decided to adopt a child with special needs, we didn't know a thing about special needs.  Not one little thing.

Our daughter was sitting at the table this morning eating toast with butter.  This is a simple task for a three year old, is it not?

It should be, but it isn't for her.  So I sat, carefully cutting up the pieces, keeping a sharp eye on her (in case she gagged) and cheering for every crunchy bite.  She has feeding issues related to her developmental delays, and has almost since she was born.  When Chelsea visits friends on playdates or when she goes to school, she has meals packed for her, generally by me.  I try to keep the nutrition content high but the chewing difficulty low.  Before she was able to eat table food (which was only about a year ago) I used to make her "baby" food in a special blender.  That way, I could augment the thickness and texture of the food for her needs.  I could also ensure she got some measure of proper nutrition.  (I'm grateful I didn't sell or give away this machine, as I suspect I will be needing it again.  But what do I know about special needs?)

Yesterday, a document came in the mail called an Individual Education Plan.  It's an important document that spells out the types of supports Chelsea will receive in school and home environments.  It's the results of weeks of work with evaluations and meetings - meetings that Chelsea's parents (that would be US) attended and provided input for.  I made sure to note that the extra thirty minutes of speech therapy was included as I had requested.  It was.  When the meeting happened, I had to stand in front of therapists and a case manager, and argue as to why my daughter needed more therapy than they were offering.  I'm grateful they agreed, but my husband and I had to develop a plan of attack in the event that they didn't.  It's called advocacy, and it's something I study in classes and use in the real world too.  But what would I really know about that?  I don't know nuthin' 'bout advocacy.

I'm counting the days (yes, I really am) that I will be permitted to call Chelsea's case manager and begin the process of...hmm.  What do I call this?  I typically call it "nice bitching", but I'm trying to think of a nicer word for it.  It's basically when I call someone who isn't doing what they are supposed to be doing and...very nicely request...that they begin doing what they are supposed to be doing.  I write notes and then make the next phone call, until I finally secure what we're looking for.  In my daughter's case, she hasn't been assigned any therapists yet.  This can take a period of time, but I'm not willing to wait for that because it's not in Chelsea's best interests.  So, beginning next week, I will be working on creative ways to encourage the people involved with Chelsea to move more quickly.  With children who have special needs, it's a good idea to be proactive and as persuasive as possible.  It's not a fun job, but it's the best scenario for the child.  I've been doing this since Chelsea was nine months old and refused to accept the pediatrician's assessment that she couldn't sit independently because she was a "big baby".  (She wasn't; and two different physical therapists disagreed too).

If I hadn't had these experiences with my daughter, I wouldn't feel comfortable talking about special needs adoption.  It is the existence of my child that ultimately led me to believe that parenting a child with different needs could be done.  If I had merely been looking to add to my family, I would have plunked down my husband's bonus to get more rounds of IVF.  It wasn't that; it was so incredibly more than that.

There are lessons our future son will teach us; things that Chelsea never needed help with or things that we never knew about.  For instance, our future son has a terrible situation with his eyes, and Chelsea doesn't.  Now I'm researching pediatric opthamologists in Delaware, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia.

The truth is, many of the blogs and people I know who adopt children with special needs have experiences in their history that make it appropriate for them to consider.  Some already parent children with special needs and know some of the things that can make this successful.  The unfortunate part is there is a contingency of people in cyberspace, who hide behind "reform" and (fake/inaccurate) "statistics" and pretend to be a voice of reason against what they feel is a tide of insanity...and then they choose a situation like mine to pick apart.  The mostly fully funded, only adopting one kiddo, 30-something, mother of a special needs daughter.  Honor student who stays at home and parents full time.  I mean, let's face it - some parents out there are adopting several children, or parent children in large families, or need complete funding to make their adoptions possible.  This is NOT a criticism of those families, but would you agree that those families are a little "easier" to criticize?  Kind of like the "low hanging fruit"?  If you were generally inclined to criticize adoption, surely you could find things to criticize in situations such as that.  (You wouldn't necessarily be correct, but hopefully you get what I mean).  I mean, when I'm writing a research paper, I try to choose the best resources to support my argument (I don't use, um, SUPERFREAKONOMICS, but...well, I digress). It make sense to do that.

When you see people who choose some of the worst possible examples of international adoption to highlight their disgust, you can draw only one conclusion:  It's adoption they despise.  Never mind what their mission statements say and never mind how they may hide behind fancily-worded diatribes to the contrary.  It's not that.  It's that they hate adoption.  They hate ANYONE who is adopting.  While they preach tolerance, they spew hatred.  They think their hatred sounds better because they can use the spell checker and write pithy, sarcastic responses, as if they somehow cornered the market on that skill.  They don't believe in God and they are intolerant of others who do.  They can't make themselves visible to the public, preferring to plaster blogs they just can't stop reading (?) with anonymous comments and fake blogger profiles.  I've seen many wonderful, Godly adopting parents who post an address on their blog (!) while these Wonders hide their IP addresses and use false email addresses.

Bravery at its finest.

I'm not afraid or ashamed of the choice we've made to pursue a child from The Bad Place.  I do this with full knowledge that he has a family somewhere in his country who is not taking care of him.  I don't know why that is.  I suppose I could use my first trip - not to meet this child - but to find his family, interview them, determine what needs they have so they could parent him (and their five other children) and then be a really strong advocate for them.  This assumes that they are actually willing, but we'll just assume that they are and it's simply a matter of evil circumstance (probably caused by conservatives in the United States) that has separated them from their child.  I'm sure some wealthy rich folks could sponsor this family so they could reclaim their son.  In the meantime, while I'm doing this, a little boy sits in an orphanage, getting two diaper changes per day, as his eyesight atrophies and his legs bow still further from poor nutrition.  His developmental delays become more profound, the important window of learning in his life closes still further, and he continues to suffer absent of parental care.

Collateral damage while we figure this out?

UNACCEPTABLE.  Inhumane.  I saw pictures of a child who weighed 14 pounds at 9 years of age.  You wanna sit and "think on a solution" while she's laying in a crib?  You wanna go scare up her parents and see if you can shoot them a couple of grand so they'll take her back?  Really?  Is that the answer?  Or would you rather she lay there until she died, just like over a dozen of her friends and neighbors did in the same orphanage last year?

My future son is sentenced to that fate if he does not leave that place.  My future son will be cast off too.  My future son can live his life, breathing the native air and sleeping on the native soil, and he could die.

Unacceptable.

Some may believe that a good orphanage (and there are good ones, comparatively speaking) in a child's native country is better than a family in a foreign land.  I don't agree, but you can debate that.

You can never, however, debate that the place my future son is in, nestled in his native country, is better than  what he will have when he lives with us.  I want to see that debate.  Hell, I'll let you use SUPERFREAKONOMICS for the citations if you can prove that one.

Stand up and be heard. Don't hide behind a facepalm.  Don't let fancy words and misplaced sarcasm rule the day.  Stand up.  Be heard.  Do what is right.  Identify adoption hatred for what it is.  See it for what it is. Let those voices speak, and then speak more loudly.

Thank you for reading this blog.  For supporting us and praying for us.  For supporting our future son and the terrible place he lives.  Thank you for the help you've given as we move forward.  If you are reading this, then I hope you care about what you've read.  I hope you are ready to stand bravely in the face of adversity.  Thank you for sharing this space with others.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Final Solution.

Now that we've finally cleared everything up, and we're all far more educated on the evils of adoption, we have to use this newfound knowledge.  Shall we?

For starters, we're going to make a pact that no one - not one person - begins an adoption ever again.  No international adoption of any kind.

Now, I can't speak for anyone outside of the United States, so we'll just say that no one here in the United States will initiate an adoption of a child outside of the United States. (I haven't gone back to look at the view of some on domestic adoption and while I'm certain it's just as thoroughly researched as their position on international adoption, we'll just talk about international adoption.)

From here forward, no United States citizen will adopt a foreign born child.  This will "rescue" approximately 10,000 children per year from the horrors of international adoption. 

*WHEW*

I feel better now.  Don't you?

*chews lip*  Well...maybe not SO much better.  I mean, there are children in orphanages in foreign countries, right?  I do, you know, SORT OF feel badly for those kids...

What to do?

No adoption, THAT'S for sure.  *shakes head seriously*  So what now?

Well...maybe I could ask the fine folks who run websites what THEY do to support countries of origin to maintain the population of children in orphanages.  Because I'm sure they are emptying their piggy banks every year to find a solution to THAT. 

But then what?  I mean, maybe that's not quite enough. 

Let's take Bulgaria.  I have a lot of hope for Bulgaria, because they are a country in the European Union.  This also means they siphon MILLIONS of dollars to their country because of that affiliation which, thusfar, has done wonders for their orphanage system.  I mean, the orphanage they call "worst than the Holocast" has done remarkably well

Well, now let's be honest.  Maybe that place hasn't done quite so well.  Even with an influx of resources from non profit organizations, assertions of corruption, unaccounted for funds, and continued accusations of abuse and neglect persist. I don't know how this could be possible.  The learned folks who run those websites assured me that adoption was evil and unnecessary, and that we should be funding programs in their countries of origin to preserve and protect the faux orphans, and they told me this would work if we did this.

Why hasn't it worked so far?

No matter.  I'm sure it will work.  If it hasn't worked, then I'm sure it will work very, very soon.  In fact, I'll bet these new initiatives will work so well so quickly, that there will be no children arriving in orphanages this year.  Whether they have families and cannot care for them, or if they are true "orphans", the population in Bulgaria is going to be so incredibly transformed by these works that I'm certain not one child will arrive at an orphanage this year.  Not one.

We're two-thirds of the way home already!  First, we stopped the adoption of foreign children into the United States, and now we've magically stopped in inflow of children into the institutions in Bulgaria!  Praise the Lord! Don't you feel productive today?  I know I do.

Wait, though.  What about the children who ALREADY LIVE IN THOSE ORPHANAGES?

Dammit! I forgot about them!  *beats head against the wall*  Man, this is tough!  But let's press on.  Remember, no one from the United States can adopt these children.  The existing population has been so transformed and enlightened by these highly effective social programs that there are no more orphans showing up at the institutions for any reason whatsoever.

But I gotta be honest, I feel a little sorry for the kiddos who didn't make the cut before the Mass Enlightenment.  I feel just a little sorry for those children.  A slight twinge of guilt.

Maybe some of the parents who are now fully actualized and able to care for their children will come back to the orphanages and take some of their children back!  Hold on a second! That might happen!  I know there are probably thousands of parents whose only crime was poverty.  Now that they are not in poverty anymore because of the Magic Pixie Fairy Dust that the industrialized world has sprinkled on the population of Bulgaria, I'm certain these parents will return.  Let's be really optimistic and say that FIFTY PERCENT of these children are claimed by their now-enlightened parent(s) (one or more parents - it's generally the mother because a majority of birth certificates don't list a father) to raise and love and care for and apologize for ever placing them in an orphanage.  We can wave as they walk into the sunset, to live happily ever after. 

But that leaves 50% of these children remaining.  50%!  Maybe these are the children who are actually true orphans (without mother or father).  Maybe some of these children live here because their parents are too old or too sick now to care for them.  I won't assume that ANY of these parents don't want these children, so there has to be a reason that is beyond their control.  Since poverty has been eradicated and every single parent in Bulgaria desperately wants to and is capable of raising their children, there must be a pretty awful reason why these parents didn't show up at the orphanage door with the other half of their kiddo's gold locket.  *laughs.  One point for you if you get the reference.*

With no children entering the orphanage system, and no adoptions happening either, it looks like the Republic of Bulgaria has a little problem on its hands. 

Is an orphanage setting the right answer?  Do we pay to transform every facility into Disney World, complete with piping in "It's A Small World"?  Or maybe we roll out an aggressive, robust foster care system.  The one in the United States works really well, because a child is never abused, neglected, or killed while under the care of their foster parents.  Only adoptive families kill and abuse their children.  Believe me, I know this. The kind folks who run websites told me all about it. 

What is the answer for this small but significant population that continues to be in care?  I guess an orphanage is the answer.  But we could make it look pretty terrific, right?  Install flat screen tvs, give every kid an Ipad, send them to some exclusive private school...they'd live like Kings and Queens in this orphanage, and they'd be the last in their generation to do so, because remember: no children anywhere will ever appear at an orphanage again.  We've stopped that problem by transforming the population.  An orphanage is not a bad place.  We could make it super terrific.  We could send them on vacations to exotic places, so when they get home, they have no mother or father to show pictures to.  We could send them to a great college, where no parent will stand and watch them graduate.  Maybe someday, they can grow up to be parents of their own, and smile knowing that their child has no grandparents to chase after.  But I'm sure they can develop some really awesome friendships that will completely and totally make up for the fact that they no longer have a family. 

Well, that was easy, wasn't it?

And I feel so much better having developed a solution, because it would be really stupid to just talk about a problem and then never come up with a solution!  That would be unproductive!  When I see a problem, I want to do something about it, and I'm just glad I was able to think of such a creative, easily workable, totally doable, positively useful solution.  Thanks.  I feel better now.

Wait.  What's wrong? You look almost as confused as the folks who pen the diatribes I'm now happily lapping up!

You don't think that immediately stopping adoption, instantly transforming the population of a country (even an EU country like Bulgaria) so that every person in the populace is 100% prepared to parent any child, releasing 50% of the orphans to their newly self actualized families, and giving the remaining 50% of the orphans Ipads is realistic?

Wait, you DON'T?

Well..."I GUESS" you could be right.  Maybe I need to go back to the drawing board on this one slightly.  Maybe I miscalculated something somewhere.  I have an idea.  I'll go back to my new friends, who will most certainly point me in the right direction, and provide super-duper scholarly sources for me to cite to boot.  I'm certain of that.

/end sarcasm.

Friends, when we ignore idiots, they only multiply.  It's like ants.  You see one, chances are there are several.  If you never get out the ant spray, they just keep climbing the walls.  We can mostly ignore them, but sometimes we can't.  Call them out.  Ask them for answers instead of accusations.  And if they don't have an answer (they won't), feel free to offer them MY final solution.  I think it's about as workable (realistically) as anything they come up with.

I've seen the light.

I want to take a step back from the usual information and such, and direct your attention elsewhere for a moment.  Please be warned that the words you will read are not only inaccurate, but poorly written, oddly phrased, and otherwise hard to process, but I ask you to please bear with me and do your best:

http://www.reformtalk.net/2012/05/04/blog-gag-me-2/

Please refer to #3 on the list.  I apologize that I couldn't muster the coveted #1 slot.  I'll try harder next time. 

There's no way I have the inclination to address all of the gross inconsistencies contained there.  Sadly, I know of these Fair Canadians and their relentless attempts to discredit adoptive parents with the most ridiculous, baseless, downright dumb accusations.  I'm afraid I couldn't think of a better adjective than 'dumb'. Sometimes simpler really is better, especially when it's pinpoint accurate.

"Because taking classes and reading about institutionalized, traumatized children with special needs is 100% adequate preparation for adopting such a kid.  Book learning is enough!" (an attempt at sarcasm)

Question:  Precisely what qualifications would be enough?  (Never mind the three years I've had with a live, in person, special needs daughter.  Throw that one out for a moment.  Because you all just read every word so clearly).  But let's try this. 

First, these folks love to quote "experts".  They have many experts that they use with abandon, to "prove" their "points" very clearly. 

Last I checked (and I did) most of these "articles" from "experts" come from people with, you know, "degrees".  (We call that book learning sometimes.)  We trust that they are "experts" because they have "letters after their names" and they got "degrees".  Degrees, which by these folks standards, are utterly useless in the application of discussing special needs, adoption, or anything else for that matter. 

Hmm.

Second question:  What amount of "experience" would be considered "enough"?  (Loving these quotation marks?)  I'm just wondering what certificate I should search for in order to be qualified to parent a child with special needs.  What about a bachelor's degree with three years of clinical experience?  (Wait...I just about have that...)  More?  Less?  Shall we designate parenting special needs children only to the elite - to the highly learned?  (Wait.  Book learning isn't any good to these folks)  Or maybe a better answer is to gather 'round the campfire, humming to Mother Earth, searching for answers in the ashes. 

(Don't worry about trying to  unravel that and find an answer.  There isn't one.  There never is an answer.)

"Not being in a position to care for an additional child without fundraising.  Planning is really important and you appear NOT to have planned to take care of this child (caring for a kid includes FINANCIALLY)."

NO WAY.  I want to thank the person who so astutely pointed this out to me.  NO WAY.  F-f-f...what?  FINANCIAL?  *sigh*  Please don't use big words you don't understand.  It's amazing to me that no one said word ONE to us when we received some (but not all) of the funds we needed to do to pay for IVF.  No one said a word.  Apparently, it doesn't matter that (to date) we've paid all of the fees ourselves.  Apparently, we're thrown into the same barrel as everyone who fundraises for adoption.  Also, apparently these financial geniuses can't grasp the concept that the monthly liability of another child (or children) is more easily absorbed than a large, $30,000 outlay all at once.  I think my husband just finished his accounting class.  Maybe he can explain it to you.

"Hoping to fund your adoption by illegal means, such as a giveaway of an Ipad, Ipod, or other expensive gizmo, that may be construed as an illegal lottery."

This comment goes on.  Poor little writer got confuzzled I think, since we haven't done any of that.  It's a shame.  I got thrown out with the bath water on that one.  But I'm quite sure these kind souls don't EVER GET FACTS WRONG.  As my three year old daughter would say (quite beautifully), "TRY AGAIN!"

"The Kitty Genovese story is a myth."

IS SUPERFREAKONOMICS REALLY YOUR SOURCE?  Really?  Folks, they used SUPERFREAKONOMICS as their scholary, irrefutable source.  Yeah, yeah.  It's Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner.  (Who happen to have college degrees - how stupid of them.  What could they ever know?)  I want anyone who reads this to understand where these people get their "facts" from.  You need to know that.  It matters.

"Perhaps your friends do pray - but are praying for things like better supports for families of disabled children in developing countries?  Or programs that will enable families to keep their beloved children at home? Or for 'early intervention' programs to assist programs in seeing that it really is feasible to keep their disabled children home AND those kids can have fulfilling lives, just like, say, kids with DS or autism or any number of other medical conditions in the US?"

I apologize for not editing the above for clarity. 

I'm pretty certain the writer of this sentence (and you know it's a chick.  You just KNOW it is.)  would advocate for all of us adopting from places that are compared to the Holocaust to simply sit outside the orphanages and have a candlelight vigil.  That's what we should have done in World War II.  Jews being starved, fried, killed?  Keep them in their native countries, dammit!  Because that's the utopia.  That's the perfection that we should strive for.

It IS the perfection that should happen.  I hope someday, children can be valued and helped in their countries of birth.  I hope that parents find less of a need to abandon their children in "poor kids boarding houses" (the proper term for these children is generally Social Orphans.  Look it up.)  I really want that.  I've often said that if something happened during this process of adoption - if our future son (NOTE the difference, it's not semantics) had family step up and decide to take care of him and parent him, terrific. I would be sad for us, but happy for him and ultimately at peace with it all. 

In the meantime, what is really meant by comments such as the run-on nonsense above, is to do nothing.  Better to cross our fingers and let children starve, disintegrate, and ultimately die while we wait.  Let's hum and hope and cross our fingers reeeeeeally really hard and something good will happen to these children in their countries of birth.  What, might it take a bit too long?  Folly!  No matter!  The ones who die and suffer will ultimately be giving their lives for a cause greater than themselves.  They can be collateral damage as we try oh so hard for change to come to these countries.  I'm sure it will come.  When it does, orphans who are true orphans will remain in their shining countries of birth, with access to every available medical intervention.  Others won't go to the orphanage, as parents in these countries will be empowered and inspired to care for their disabled children.

It'll happen.  It's happened in so many other countries.  Like Honduras.  Or Romania.  Or Guatemala. It's worked wonders there.  (Tell me again why I directly sponsor a 'social orphan' in an orphanage in Honduras again?  Surely I must be shrooming.)

Remember this when you read the link above.  Remember this as you read poorly writtten drivel from people who spout "facts" (*coughcough* badly "researched" garbage *coughcough*) and tell you to Fear Not!  For it is better to let children suffer and effectuate CHANGE than to step in and do something.

They are right.  I've seen the light.  In fact, as of this moment, because of the truth and substance of blogs like these, I'm going to abandon my plans to adopt.  Good luck, little boy.  Good luck in your Holocaust.  I'm sure you'll be fine, riddled with scurvy and rickets (PREVENTABLE THINGS, by the way...and despite a budget that should be sufficient, poor nutrition remains. Why is that?) .  I'm sure that, at some point, your life will turn around.  And if it doesn't, know that you  have given your life for a cause beyond your years.  You have died a noble death for the children in your country, that someday, future generations will remain with their birth families because of your sacrifice.

Really?

REALLY?

Is that the best you can do?

*sigh*  Facepalm.  Just...hopeless.

Bye now.

Monday, May 21, 2012

the legacy.

My daughter's birthday is today.  My little girl is three years old today.


We had a wonderful, family-filled party to celebrate the anniversary of her arrival into this world and into our lives.  She received presents and attention and had a special day.  Of course, I reminded myself that this will be the last year she celebrates a birthday as an only child!  Next year, her birthday will be shared with a brother. 

Daddy helped opening presents with her. 


So much joy.  I don't know what our future little boy will think of all of this.  I just know he's never had a day as special as Chelsea did yesterday. 



Don't all children deserve this?  Whether they live in the United States, Canada, or some foreign land...don't they all deserve a time to dress up special and receive a gift?  Are you ever too old to remember your birthday?  Are you ever too disabled, or too ugly, or too....something?  No.  I don't believe that. 

The children that live in dark places without parents do not have these experiences, and they deserve them.  They deserve to be seen and loved in a family.  Maybe you are not a family that can step forward.  Maybe that is not your calling. 

But you can help the families who are stepping forward. 

We are so grateful to anyone who shares our story, our blog, and helps when they can.  You are stepping forward by helping us to step forward and rescue our future little boy; our special and valuable future son. 

The legacy of Chelsea's birth is that she has shown us how to parent a child with special needs.  God showed us, through the emotional birth of our daughter, that special needs can be manageable and full of triumphs.  The darling little girl you see has autism.  What you see in this picture is a delightful little child, dressed in a specially-picked pink tutu.

What you don't see is how she couldn't hear the song "Happy Birthday" sung to her (we chose an alternative song that didn't make her cry) or how my one niece asked, "Why does Chelsea repeat everything we say?"  (It's called echolalia, and it's part of the manifestation of her challenges).

But look at her.  She is a blessing.  She is a miracle.  Three years ago, she arrived with a croaky cry and was rushed to the NICU.  She spent ten days there, recovering from respiratory distress syndrome, and then she came home. 

Soon, her brother will come home too.  With your help - through fundraising, buying Avon, sharing our story, and most importantly praying for us, he will come home.  We are very close to learning the dates when we will meet him.  VERY CLOSE.  I hope I can soon announce when we will travel! And then we can count the days!

One of the legacies of Chelsea is her opening our eyes to special needs.  Maria - the daughter of Steven Curtis Chapman - left a legacy too, in spite of her death four years ago in a terrible accident .

You can leave a legacy of your own.  We are a family adopting in a horrid place, reaching out to a child who lives in sickness, malnutrition, and neglect.  There are other children who live in this place too.  Please.  See their faces here.  And see what love and care does for a child -  how it changes a child.  Because it does change them.  I know this will help change our future child, too. 

Thank you for your prayers, your thoughts, sharing our blog, making an Avon purchase, or donating to our Reece's Rainbow account.  Thank you for following our story!  

Friday, May 18, 2012

Not lost in translation!

The news we prayed for finally happened.  After a last minute scurry to complete our final dossier document, our paperwork arrived safe and sound in Bulgaria, which was an answered prayer.  But the bigger answered prayer was that we learned yesterday - our dossier has been translated and it is ready to be presented to the Ministry of Justice next week!

Next week, we will be issued the official referral of our future son.  For him, there will be true, documented evidence that his life will be forever changed and his days in The Bad Place are truly numbered (and a short number at that, I pray).  I could not believe my eyes when I saw the news yesterday.  Our dossier was translated so quickly!  Things have moved so swiftly!  As I begin to prepare myself for my next semester in college, I am slowly beginning to believe that we will be traveling during this semester.  We will be seeing him!  We will finally "know" him from more than a picture, and we will be able to prepare ourselves for his needs and concerns.  One of the reasons we refused to waive our first trip was so that we could really see him for ourselves and use the time between trips to investigate therapies and find resources that can be beneficial for him.  I hope we can learn a little something about him from his Baba, because I doubt we will learn anything from the staff.

Up next on our prayer list is to receive the written, translated referral quickly so that we can prepare our travel dates.

My daughter will celebrate her birthday for the last time by herself.  Next year, she will celebrate with her brother playing beside her.  I realize she may not like this concept, for at three years old, you'd really like it to be all about you, right?  But she will learn to adjust to the presence of another sibling.  In the meantime, we are spending excellent time with just her, and we've stretched as far as we can muster to provide her with special experiences.  She will even be attending a wonderful preschool in the fall as we stretch our budget to give her the best of everything, just as we will do for her brother.

My secret prayer is that our little boy will be home in time for his birthday (in November) even if we do nothing but personally acknowledge that day.  It would be amazing for him to spend his birthday home with us.

Soon, our dossier will be formally presented.  I find myself thinking of our Little Dude's birth parents.  Certainly, they do not know that there is a family across the ocean who has been working to bring their son to the United States.  If they did, would they care?  Would they understand?  What would they want to know from us, if anything?  Do they ever think of their child in The Bad Place?  I think of his extended biological family; of cousins and aunts and grandmothers and grandfathers.  What do they think?  What would they like to tell him, if anything?  Will we ever meet any of them someday?  Will our future son want to do that?  Do they push him out of their minds because he was born imperfect, or do they wonder about him and pray for him?

Your prayers and thoughts are so appreciated.  Our family is grateful for the support we've received and for the prayers for our family and for our future son.  Thank you for sharing our story, contributing if you can, and sharing it with others.  We are grateful and blessed.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Being Chelsea's Mom

I am the mother of a child with special needs, and this is true now and will be true when our future son becomes our son.  It was not a role I coveted or a role I wanted.  It was not a role I expected, nor was it a role that I felt called or prepared to do.  In fact, had you asked me just a few years ago, I probably would have told you that I could "never" parent a child with special needs.  And I would have meant it wholeheartedly.

I also believed that I could never survive the death of two children.  Somehow, I did.  When I tell people that part of our story, invariably some react with, "Oh God...I could never have stood that.  I would have climbed into their coffin and died too."

My answer is usually, "You wouldn't have.  You think you would have, but you probably wouldn't have."

What we think we can handle and what we actually can handle are almost always two different things.  Human beings, by creation, are somewhat flexible in what they can handle and what they can do.  This is sometimes a bad thing.  Ever watch that show HOARDERS or other shows like it?  You see people living in shocking conditions and if you are anything like me, you think:  Oh, how can they live this way? I could never live this way.

The truth, however, is that you probably could.  Incrementally, over time, you could become used to the chaos and challenge of your environment and it would become your "new normal".  Of course, this is a sad example of resilency.

Better examples of resilency are found elsewhere.  When we are resilent, we are strong.  I am strong (resilent) because my sons died and I did not die with them.  I am strong (resilent) because I can separate my emotions and look at my daughter clinically.  I can see her amazing gifts and also identify her challenges, even when I don't like to see them. 

My daughter's behavioral and learning challenges are new frontiers for me.  There is no history in my family of learning disabilities, so I am in uncharted territory.  Because of this, theoretical concepts are a reality for me.  I understand educational plans, and therapies.  It is part of my life.  It is part of being Chelsea's mother.

Chelsea is a special gift. 


She is the reason we know, without a doubt, that we can parent her future brother.  There was no way to know when she was born, five weeks early and rushed to the NICU, that she would be the child that she is.  But she is who she is; and her existence has taught us that we are resilent, we are strong, and we are capable. 

In just a few days she will turn three years old.  Today we said goodbye to her dedicated team of therapists and we will say "hello" to her new therapists.  Before she turns four, she will have a brother from Bulgaria, and his life will also have therapists and educational plans.  We will have her to thank for the experience we have to parent her brother.  And because of Chelsea's older brothers - because of Jacob and Zachary - we learned that we were far more capable than we ever believed.  When Chelsea began to show signs of delay, we could muster that strength to help her. 

I don't know why, but God wouldn't have it any other way.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Mixture on Mother's Day

Mother's Day, for me, is a day full of paradox and emotion.  It is not a simple day to celebrate my motherhood, for my journey into that institution was (and is) a journey with complexity, sadness, joy, and anxiety.

My first Mother's Day was in 2008.  It was a day of great sadness and terrible confusion.  My dear twin boys were born just two months before and had died hours after their birth.  The question burned inside of me:  Was I truly a Mother?  If I was, how was Mother's Day built to include me?

The answer - quite simply - was that Mother's Day wasn't designed to include me, but that I was certainly a mother.  My children were gone, but their permanent imprint on my life was to bestow upon me the title "Mother" for the very first time.  Their little lives transformed my own forever, even as they slipped into eternity so soon after their birth.  I could never wipe their little noses or choose the overalls they would wear.  I could never shout at them to hold my hand, or smile when they built a tower of blocks.  I could not worry about them or train them up to be little boys of God, because they were with God.  In that way, my parenting duties were minimal, at best.  But on Mother's Day in 2008, I went to their grave in Lancaster County, and carefully laid flowers there for them and tidied up the space.  (I used to call that 'cleaning their room').  I made everything look as perfect as possible, fussing over every details as any mother would.  But when I left that space, the world didn't see me as a mother.  I ventured out on Mother's Day with my arms empty and no one wished my "happy mother's day".  Few family members understood what to do for me on that day, and I could not tell them.  In 2008, I was left to wonder if the only children I would ever hold were the children that I had buried.

On Mother's Day 2009, my belly was round as I carried my daughter.  She was due in less than two months (but would actually be born in mere weeks!) and I was dressed beautifully in a pastel maternity dress.  We went to brunch.  My arms were still empty, but there was no mistaking my figure - a child would be born.  Strangers would smile at me.  I remember one person who said, "Oh, it's too bad your little one didn't show up sooner - you've just missed Mother's Day!"  I nodded at his ignorance, for he could never know the tiny twins who made me a mother a year before, or understand that even though Chelsea was not yet born, I was already a mother to her.  It was a Mother's Day of expectation, joy, and sadness.  Expectation for the child we had yet to meet, joy and hope for her safe arrival, and sadness for the little boys who didn't share a space at the brunch table that day, but who were very much in our hearts.

Mother's Day 2010 was the first Mother's Day where I ventured proudly into the world.  It was the first Mother's Day where everyone who saw me smiled at our little girl and said, "Happy Mother's Day".  There was no hesitation or confusion.  I had entered the "club"; my daughter looked adorable in her flowered dress and I was a mother, inside and out. 

Mother's Day 2011 wasn't particularly spectacular.  I had been in a car accident the previous day and spent some of my time in the emergency room being examined for injuries! 

Enter Mother's Day 2012.  Again, I venture out with my family.  Again, my little girl looks adorable in her purple fluttery dress.  We sit at brunch, and everyone smiles at us and wishes me a happy mother's day.  I receive a card and the special attention I have earned in my role as mother.  It is a day full of joy, sadness, and anxious anticipation.

There is joy for the little girl who sits at the opposite end of the table, asking for "More bread please!" and playing games with her Pop Pop and Grandma.  There is sadness for the two little faces who will never join us at an earthly table.  There is anxious anticipation, beause this year we know our future son is far away.  He doesn't know he has a mother who is coming.  He has no one with him on this day.  It is my last mother's day as a mother of one living child.  Imagining the Mother's Day table next year is difficult to envision, yet we pray that it will happen quickly and there will be our little Joshua beside his sister. 

Mother's Day is a complicated day, and this one has been no different.  I am the mother of little boys who I scarcely met before they died.  I am the mother of a little girl with autism who has an infectious laugh and glimmering eyes.  And I am working to be the mother of a little boy who weighs 19 pounds and lives in The Bad Place, where few take notice of him and where his health continues to deteriorate.

God bless all mothers today; those who have children in their arms, those who are waiting for their children in faraway lands, and those mothers who are "invisible" mothers, but mothers just the same. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Not quite!

Oh...the paperwork really will never end, will it?

Despite submitting our dossier this week, our foundation has asked for ANOTHER power of attorney to be signed.  I know we did this early in the process, but apparently it's different or it's changed or who knows!  The store where we normally notarize documents didn't have their notary there when we arrived, so we went to another place that did have their notary.  The document is notarized, but...of course! It needs an apostille!  There's no one available to do this...and waiting isn't really an option...so I'll be driving 4+ hours round trip with my little girl tomorrow to get it done.  Praying that it is the very last document for a long while.  I admit, my patience has been tried to the maximum on this issue.

I am in the middle of final exams.  My semester of three classes over the last eight weeks is almost at an end.  It was insanity to do this, but somehow I did.  I sacrificed my GPA only slightly with the choice, and got nine credits out of the way in the meantime.  I am on fire to finish my degree quickly, particularly before our little Dude comes home and likely takes time away from me to complete my education.  When this semester ends, I will have seven classes remaining in my college education.  I wish I could find a way to finish sooner, but all I can do is continue to work hard and pray. 

"But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar like wings on eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."  (Isaiah 40:31).

I am praying for our little, precious future son, who waits and lives in The Bad Place, not knowing what his future is, and knowing nothing about us.  I pray for the families who are considering adoption.  I pray for the children who may never know the love of a family - for little Christian; a forgotten child in Bulgaria whose darling face may never be seen by a Mommy or Daddy.  I pray for all of the families who are adopting, that they remain in peace with themselves and with each other.  It makes me sad to see parents who are striving to do good argue among each other over petty disagreements.  I pray for peace and strength to continue to move the mountains that sometimes stand in our way as we reach across continents to find the children who need families - or across the miles for those who are lovingly adopting the children right here in our country.

I did a good deed yesterday, though.

I noticed my spatula was looking a bit worse for the wear.  We are putting together a small bake sale this Saturday, baking chocolate chips as a small fundraiser for our future son.  It has been nearly impossible to manage, with finals and Avon orders, and everything else to take care of.  So far, I have baked two batches of cookies and plan to make more.

I also noticed my tongs were broken.

I had a choice.

I could find time to run to Target or Walmart and purchase a set of tongs and a new spatula, and likely pay a few dollars less.  If I wanted to, I could go on Amazon.com and buy something.

Instead, I made mention of it on Facebook, asking if any adopting family was doing a Pampered Chef or other kitchenware fundraiser.  Someone said that they were.  I went on their website and purchased my spatula and tongs. 

Was it more than I would have spent normally?  Yes, I'm certain it was.

But I knew that I was supporting the very best cause imaginable.  But it was more than that.  I informed this family (who I do not know at all) that I was buying.  They responded, "Oh thank you! No one has purchased a thing from us - thank you so much!"

So many of us are fundraising and praying for the funds we need to complete our adoptions.  We know what it is like when we put together a giveaway, or ask for donations to our accounts, or set up a t-shirt sale.  We know what it is like when that isn't terribly successful.  Even if we are faithful, sometimes it can hurt.  I can't tell you how happy it made me to spend a few extra dollars for something I did actually need, but to be able to support someone else's adoption AND bring them happiness in the process!

Let's try to think this way as we work through our adoptions.  Do you need some new clothes for your kiddos?  Consider an adoption t-shirt! So many people are selling those.  Do you need a kitchen gadget?  Find a fundraiser!  Want to own a Kindle, a Nook, an Ipad?  Enter a giveaway!  Looking for inexpensive gift items, or new makeup?  I'm selling Avon, and I'll bet others are too.  We are taught to think globally but act locally.  Let's think that way too.  I know for me, I may have paid a few extra dollars for those kitchen items, but I'm so glad I did :)

"In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and and praise your Father in Heaven!"  (Matthew 5:16)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

On its way!

It's a super rhym-y phrase - but the dossier is on its way!

Our agency did a remarkably quick turnaround and the paperwork is headed to Bulgaria, hopefully to arrive by Thursday.  We're hoping for about a week for translation, and then our paperwork must be presented to the MOJ.  I hope we can have dates to travel (or at least a verbal referral) by the end of this month.  Can it be??

It is exciting when there is progress.  It keeps our hearts set on our goal, which of course is Our Son In Bulgaria!

Thank you for all of your support and prayers.  We continue to thank you for blessing us.  We also want to reiterate the offer of putting on Avon Online Fundraisers for any family who is adopting, splitting the profits 80% with you, keeping 20% for ourselves and our fees associated with Avon.  It is 100% online and it costs nothing to try.

In keeping with that, if you know of an adopting family who is doing a Pampered Chef fundraiser, or something else with good kitchen supplies, could you tell me?  When we need things for ourselves, we do try to find it through adopting families so we can support them, and I'm in need of a few new kitchen utensils (like a spatula). 

If you know a family who is putting on a Pampered Chef fundraiser, or if you would like to participate in an Avon fundraiser, please leave a comment, or visit our avon website at www.youravon.com/jennifermenges.  Right now, the Skin So Soft Deet-free Bug Guard is half off! 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Dear Mommy (waiting child)

My name is Christian and I am almost six years old.  I live with many other children in a faraway place.  Even though I am a generally happy child, I don't know what it is like to have a Mommy or Daddy or sisters or brothers.  I don't know what it is like to have a bed that is all my own, or toys that have my name on them.  I share my shoes and clothes with my friends here in the orphanage, and I've never had a dresser full of clothing that is all mine.

I am almost six years old and I have lived here a long time.  Even though I can run and walk and climb, I do it in a different way, and so the doctors say I have cerebral palsy.  I don't really understand what cerebral palsy means, except that I guess it means that I can't have a Mommy.  I also have some trouble speaking, and I guess that also means I can't have a Mommy or Daddy of my own.

I have tried to be a good boy my whole life.  My friends and caregivers say that I am a boy who likes to give hugs.  I am a big boy, too. I can drink from a cup all by myself and I know how to feed myself too!  I can do puzzles pretty well and I even turn around when others say my name.  Showing affection and turning to my name being called are really good things, but because I can't talk right now, I guess it isn't good enough to have a Mommy come to where I live and bring me to a new place where I could see great doctors and therapists.

The words that people use when they talk about me can be scary, and I can't really tell you what my future would be.  For some people, not knowing is too scary and so they have to say "no" to being my Mommy.  Other people like to pretend that I don't exist, and so they turn their face away because it is too sad or too scary.  And still other people might like me well enough, but they say that because I am a big boy and almost six years old, I am too old to have a Mommy.  I sure don't think I am too old to have a Mommy though!  There are a lot of things that I could do with a Mommy or Daddy.  I know I am a big boy - but am I really too grown up to have a Mommy and Daddy all my own?

My face isn't up on the more popular websites, so fewer people see my face.  But I really think I have a cute face, don't you?


Thank you for reading this letter, and for helping me find my Mommy.

Love,
Christian.

Dear Christian,

You are a little love who is indeed worthy of having a Mommy and Daddy just for you.  I know some of what is said about you sounds scary to some parents.  I know cerebral palsy and other issues (such as possible autism or speech delays) are really big words and some parents might know that this is not something they could handle.  But you are a special, valued, child of God.  You can walk and run and point to the things you want.  And you are still young enough to benefit so much from the love of parents.  Almost six years old is definitely NOT too old to have a Mommy and Daddy!

Right now, I am working to adopt another precious little one from a terrible place - not where you live exactly, but close by.  We are so excited to meet him.  I'm so sorry that I cannot be your Mommy right now, but I promise that I will help you find a Mommy.  I will pray that your Mommy sees your picture and knows right away that you are her little special boy.

Love,
Joshua's Mommy.

Please, if you can, share Christian's story.  He isn't seen on many websites, but he's still valuable and precious.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Dossier complete!

Today is a glorious, joyous day for our family.  We have completed the long process of gathering paperwork, and our dossier now sits in a Fed Ex envelope to go to Bulgaria, by way of our adoption agency in the United States first.  It took perseverence and God's hand, but we have finished it!

My dear husband drove for hours in the rain to get to our state capital, only to be told that one of his documents was not signed by the proper government official and could not be authenticated.  Jon was undeterred, however.  He drove to the courthouse in a neighboring county, and was then told that this particular official was out of the office.  Still unshaken, the workers in the courthouse were helpful and kind.  They phoned the official, who spoke to Jon personally.  It happened that this official was in our state's capital that day and was willing to meet Jon and sign the document.  A few hours later, Jon met him in a small coffee shop in the shadow of the capital building, and quickly returned to the office to have the document authenticated.  With that last hurdle cleared, he was ready to bring the documents to the Fed Ex office and send them on their way!


A gorgeous pile of documents, weighing just over a half pound, ready to leave our hands and speed to our future son's country. 

For those interested in timelines, it took us just about three months to complete this process; from the time we committed to our future son until now.  We have worked very  hard and made it through many hurdles to make this happen.  It will not be the last pile of paperwork we must complete, but it is one of the most significant piles of paperwork.

Unfortunately, our state does not "cap" the amount a family must spend to authenticate documents, so the total was $195 for this stack.  This doesn't include out of state apostilles, although New Jersey offers a significant discount for families who are adopting.  We only needed one document for that, however.  The vast majority had to be authenticated in Pennsylvania.

We are entering another exciting phase of our process; the phase that will start us toward our first meeting with our little boy.  This is a critical moment that brings us amazing joy, unbridled excitement, and even a little fear.  Our costs and fees continue to pile on, and we need the prayers and support of so many of you to make this adoption actually happen.  Our Reece's Rainbow account hasn't received donations in weeks, and we are praying that this money will grow enough to be able to afford our travel expenses.  If you are reading this, would you please consider a donation of any size to that tax-deductible account?  If you cannot, would you please consider sharing our family's story with others who can pray for us and give? 

We have also received ten orders from our Avon website that helps support our adoption expenses.  Please share our website with anyone who might be interested - it is another unique way to help us by making yourself beautiful and doing something beautiful too!  And do you know that when you share this link, it is helpful?  We received an order from someone last week who did not know us, but knew of our Avon website from someone like you!  When you share, you help!

http://www.youravon.com/jennifermenges

Thank you for all of your prayers and thoughts! Thank you for caring for us and for our future son.  Thank you for REJOICING with us on this wonderful day - the day our dossier is complete and ready to arrive in our future son's country of birth! 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Notarized!

We drove over 90 minutes through the terrible traffic that is Philadelphia (in RUSH hour, on a Friday!) to meet for fifteen minutes with a notary who was available TODAY to notarize every remaining document we have for our dossier.  With our shiny new I 800 A approval in hand, we were ready!

We let Chelsea chew on a Dunkin Donut while we worked, and then we were headed toward home.  Fifteen little minutes, but fifteen important minutes!

Now, every document is notarized and ready to be apostilled.  We will hand carry our documents to Harrisburg on Monday to receive the authentications.  Everything from "out of state" is already apostilled.  This means that, by Monday afternoon, our completed dossier will be speeding its way to our agency - and then to Bulgaria!  It will not be too much longer before we receive approval for our first trip and finally get to meet the little boy we cannot wait to call our son.  By the end of this year, we pray, he will be with us and our family will have grown in a way we have prayed for for so long.

It's funny when I hear questions or criticism about adoption, as if it's some easy little process that magically gets a kid plopped in someone's lap.  That the people who do this are simply interested in collecting children to serve their own needs.  I can think of infinitely easier ways to expand a family.   Cheaper ways, too.  IVF doesn't cost as much as this adoption will.  Having a baby biologically wouldn't be near this expensive or complicated for most people.  If all I wanted was another child, by golly, I could think of far easier ways.

To date, every dime of adoption expenses have come out of our own pocket.  I can think of a hundred ways I could have spent that money.  Some would have been fun ways, others very practical ways, and some a combination of the two.  I know there are some in cyberspace who have had most of their adoption expenses donated to them.  That has not been us, and that is okay.  We have been blessed with assistance at just the perfect moments, and that is enough.  God promises to fulfill our needs when we ask (Matthew 7:7-11).  When we have most needed it, kind people have stepped forward.  Thank you.

We could have spent our money so many ways, and yet we were led, through the word of God, to pursue - not just adoption - but the adoption of a child with special needs from a terrible orphanage.  The Bad Place.  The Terrible Place.  The place where children are frequently starved, left in their own filth, and unloved.  Because our precious little Dude, our future son Joshua, lives in that place, his life will be more challenging than children who have lived in better places.  We know this, and we work to bring him home anyway.  We do this because God has laid it on our hearts to advocate for the least of His children.

It is so much more complicated than "wanting a son" or "wanting to have another child".  My goodness.  That hardly sums it up!

For today, we are one step closer to meeting the child we will proudly call our son.  The paperwork - the long road of paperwork - is ready to be sent away.  Now the work in Bulgaria begins.  Soon we will lay our anxious eyes on our child.

The gravity of that moment is beyond description.

Please help us get to that moment.  Thank you for your thoughts, prayers, and support.  May you be blessed, even as God blesses us.