Just living my life, and making it work!

Yesterday my cousin went to our grandmother’s grave. As many people do, she cleaned it up, and placed flowers in the vase. It made me realize that in all the seven years since my parents died I have only been back out to the grave once, and only at the request of my grandparents.  Today is Easter Sunday, and it also made me think of the women who went to visit Jesus’ grave. They went there to pray, and grieve. On that first Easter Day they chose to go there, because that is where they thought He was. Of course, we know He wasn’t there. HE Is Risen!

It is because of this truth that I don’t go to my parents’ graves. My parents are not in their graves, because Jesus  is not in His. Sure, there is some decaying shell of the human bodies they once occupied while they were here, but they are not there anymore. Just as there was nothing for those women visiting Jesus’ tomb, there is nothing for me at those graves. Now, I don’t know exactly where they are, or what they are doing. But, I do know that where ever it is they are waiting expectantly, just as I am waiting expectantly for Jesus to return. We are waiting for His return to cast  out evil, settle up with non believers, and conquer death once and for all. Basically, this is the whole point of Easter. Jesus died for our sins, and rose again so that we can have hope in our grief, and not fear death. 

Jesus offers this hope to everyone, and just because some don’t believe it, doesn’t make it any less true. On that first Easter Day the tomb was either empty, or it wasn’t.  It is either true, or it isn’t. If you aren’t sure how to answer that, or if you think it’s a lie, I want to encourage you to really look into this question. All of us need to be absolutely sure about the answer we give. Like it or not, you are betting your hope,  your future, and your eternal life on it.  If you are thinking about giving the Bible a look, for what it’s worth, Romans is my favorite. 

There is a little girl in one of my preschool classes. She can be tender hearted towards kids that need help, and is very bright. She also has a will made of iron. The other day a teacher asked her to do something she did not want to do. She ended up under the desk, shaking it while crying out “God’s plans are NOT MY plans!”. We go to the same church as this little girl so I am sure she has been in many Sunday school classes where she has heard that we need to be obedient, and bend our will to HIS will.

I know exactly how she feels. Now, I haven’t screamed at anyone or shaken any desks over it, but I have been struggling with obedience, and trusting in His plan.  We never expected to go to China for our first adoption, and we sure didn’t expect to adopt a second time from China. Over the last few years China has become our normal, our comfort zone. We have done it twice, and know what to expect. We have the paper chase down to a science being able to anticipate what needs to come next. We know a little bit of Mandarin, and even know where our favorite restaurants and shops are in Guangzhou.  We have grown to love China and its people, and wanted to go back “one more time”. We were so looking forward to going back again. That’s been the “plan” for the last three and a half years. I can’t count the times I’ve said “Well when we go back to China I’ll…..”.

As it turns out, we won’t go back to China. I was shocked, and broken hearted to learn that the Chinese officials rejected our pre application for a third adoption due to our visual impairments. Of course we appealed. We made videos of us doing regular mom and dad things. We wrote an appeal letter, our 13-year-old adopted daughter wrote an appeal letter, and our agency fought hard for us.  We did everything we knew to do to change their minds, but eventually we had to accept that China was closed for us. We knew in our hearts that yes, the Chinese officials had said “no” to us, but so had God. After all we had two Chinese children that proved that their decision had made zero logical since.

I was so mad that I really wanted to give up. I wanted to settle for the five amazing and beautiful children we have. I wanted to be done, and move on. I mean life is good right now. Our adopted children are adjusting well, our kids are relatively healthy, and are all doing well. My youngest will go to Kindergarten next year, and we will be moving to a new stage in life as parents of older kids. Did I really want to have another preschooler or toddler? Did I really want to risk a child with a difficult adjustment to living in a family, or might have attachment issues? There were a million reasons why it was ok for us not to adopt again, but through every excuse I made God quietly whispered “You still have room in your home and heart for another child who needs a family.”

I then began looking at other international countries. Many internet searches, and phone calls later I was disheartened that none of those programs were going to work for our family. Eastern Europe countries wanted loooong incountry stays. Several other programs such as India have a four child already living in the home maximum, and we have five. After crossing off each country I knew I was moving closer and closer to domestic foster care adoption. THAT WAS NOT MY PLAN!!!

There are good reasons why we chose international adoption to begin with.

1)     I don’t want to deal with biological families.

2)     I don’t want to deal with seeing kids that I love on, sent back to the same terrible conditions they came from.

3)     I don’t want the State THAT involved in my business.

4)     I don’t want the State telling me what I can and cannot do with my child.

5)     I don’t want to deal with the aftermath of a broken-hearted child whose parent didn’t show up to a visit, or showed up high, and couldn’t see the child.

6)     I don’t want to deal with a child who has BIG feels and BIG problems because of the abuse they have suffered by those who are meant to love them the most.

7)     I don’t want to deal with how losing a child we loved for so long to an extended family member would possibly affect the children we already have.

8)     I don’t want to deal with a broken system full of misinformation, turnover, and protecting the rights of biological parents when it isn’t the best interest of the child.

Basically, I told God domestic foster adoption was too hard, too risky, and required too much of my heart. This is pretty much what He had to say about all that.

Dear Elisabeth,

I know you do not want to deal with all of that stuff. No body does, but do you honestly think the kids that are dealing with it every day want to deal with it any more than you? Could you look one of these little ones, and tell them “This is too hard. You’re not worth it?”.  These are real children, with real needs that you can meet. Remember when I brought you Quinn? She was an older child adoption with a scary special need that you had zero experience with.  Yet, now you cannot imagine your life without her, and more importantly, you can’t imagine her life without you.  Y’all are experienced parents of five, experienced adoptive parents well acquainted with connected parenting. You both have counseling field degrees. I have prepared you for this. I don’t ask for what I am not going to provide for. Get out of your comfort zone, and TRUST ME.

Soooooo yeah, my husband and I attended our first orientation meeting with CPS yesterday. We have no idea what this will look like. If we will love one child, or many. If we will love them for a day, or lifetime, or somewhere in between. We do know that the Lord Himself goes before us, and will be with us: He will never leave us nor forsake us.  We will not be afraid or discouraged. (Deuteronomy 31:8) We will get out of our comfort zone, take a running leap, and say “Yes Lord, send me!”.

 

 

 

 

For those of you not playing along at home we have five children. We have three biological children, and two kids adopted from China. We submitted paperwork to the Chinese government to adopt another little girl which was summarily dismissed by their authorities on the basis of our low vision. We appealed the decision to no avail.  For the last 2.5 years we have been working and planning to adopt again. My children  were super excited to have another little sister, and to go back to China. That door has been closed for our family, so now what? 

First, we are broken hearted for the daughter who is loved and desperately wanted, but will never know it. I pray almost hourly that another family will  step forward for her. She has medical needs that  are not being met in China. She very likely has a rare genetic disorder that her care takers don’t even know she has. It requires screenings that she is not getting in China. Knowing that God loves her, sees her, and knows what she needs even more than we do is the only thing that makes this bearable. 

We are shocked, and angry. This is straight up discrimination, and it would be illegal here in America. We were denied based soly on having a disability. They ignored our proven track record of TWO OTHER CHINESE ADOPTIONS. They ignored our glowing post placement reports for those two kids. They ignored our videos showing us to be capable parents. They ignored the letter our oldest  adopted daughter with spina bifida wrote telling them how she is now learning  to walk because of the medical care she received since being in our family.  They saw the diagnoses of low vision, and that was that.
Despite our heartache we will choose greatfulness. We are grateful for the two children we do have from China.  Both of our adoptions had someone in China try to disrupt the adoption when they knew we had low vision. With the adoption of our first son we were in China signing the final paperwork . The lady made a phone call, and was on the phone for a good 10 minutes. We thought nothing of it, but later our translator told us the woman took one look at my husband’s cane, and called  the social welfare people to ask if they were sure she should let us take Kai home.  With our daughter one part of the process was taking longer than it should. We found out later that a particular person was campaigning for us not to be able to adopt her. Apparently the same person is the one who rejected us this time. Every child added to our family, be it through biology or adoption, is a mirical of God. The last few days has been a sobering reminder of that.

We will choose love. It is tempting for us to harden our hearts against China, but we are going to choose love, and mercy. This is the first home of two of our children. If we reject China it would be rejecting part of our children. We loved our time in China, and hope to visit again some day. Telling my teenage daughter who was only adopted 18 months ago, and was really looking forward to going home agin, that we couldn’t was heartbreaking. We will continue to support other China adoptive parents, and agencies serving Chinese orphans. 

We are going to choose faith. The song “Trust In You” by Lauren Daigle conveys our feelings perfectly. Adopting a third child from China to complete our family has been a dream, and goal go ours for seems like forever. We did all the “right” things to make that happen. The reality of that not happening now was crushing.  BUT, like the song says, we will lay that dream at His feet. We also know that when God says “no” to a dream it’s either because it’s not for you, or because He has something better planned. Either way we trust Him, and will accept it even if we don’t understand. 

We are going to choose hope, and go where He sends us. China is closed to us, but we still have room in our hearts and home for another child. We are exploring other options to complete our family both international and domestic.  China was comfortable as we had done it twice, and know exactly what to expect/do. We aren’t sure what will happen next, or that we will even ever have a sixth child. But, we aren’t giving up now. We definitely know what James 4 :13-15means. If the Lord wills it we will add another child to our family. I am a planner, and don’t do well with uncertainty, or rejection for that matter. We are choosing to consider this a season of growth and refinement.  

Let me start by saying I am a conservative Libertarian who is pro capitalism. Choice and a free market seem to work really well in the economic sector. So well that initially I was very pro school choice. You can read here how I was a never public school mom who now has four kids in my local public school.  Once  I really started digging into he subject I realized school choice programs are a terrible idea thatt will KILL our education system

  1. Its not a free market because public schools have so many more mandates and requirements that cost a small fortune to comply with. Take transportation for example. Neither the private school or the charter school my kids’ attended offered transportation to anything. Even at the charter school the cost of renting a bus for a field trip was passed on to parents.  Think about it, that is like saying Wendy’s has $100,000,000 more dollars of regulations they have to comply with that McDonald’s does not. McDonald’s would be able o use that extra money to make their food better or lower prices. It wouldn’t be very long before Wendy’s went out of business no matter how good their food.
  2. Education is a common public good , not a product. The better educated our population is the better off we all are. This is why everyone pays taxes for schools no mater where their kids’ go to school, or even if they have grown kids, or kids at all. We all benefit from, and are responsible for, quality education. Can you imagine what would happen if people got to choose to spend their road money only on the roads they used?  We’d end up with a few super nice awesome roads that everyone would want to use. And mostly crappy roads full of potholes. People that lived in rural areas would be screwed because they wouldn’t have the combined money to fund their roads, but would live too far to enjoy the nice awesome roads. Same with the poor neighborhoods.
  3. We will largely give up our collective representation in the public school system. School Boards are elected by, and responsible to, the people. This means you have a say in how schools are run, and what your child is learning. If you are dissatisfied you have an elected governing body to voice your grievance, and demand change. Private schools, and charter schools have governing bodies, but they are not elected by the people.
  4. It isn’t as big of o choice as you’d think. If you are dissatisfied with one public or charter school you can just pick another one right? Wrong. Many charter schools and private schools are at capacity with long waiting lists and huge lotteries every year. Finding another one that has openings will be difficult especially if you want to change mid year. Not to mention changing schools is a luxury poor families who don’t have their own transportation don’t have. Lastly, private and charter schools do not adequately serve most students with disabilities, or ESL students. I have both kids with disabilities, and immigrant ESL  children. We have been to a private school, a charter school, and now a public school. The public school is the only place that I could get the services my kids needed.
  5. Mixing public funding with private religious schools is a terrible idea. Think about it, once a private school accepts public money they will have to meet certain requirements. It is giving the government permission to tell you what you can teach, and what kids of families you have to let into your school. Don’t like common core? Don’t want to teach evolution? Once you accept public money you may have to.

I know our school system is badly broken, but school choice is a solution in sheep’s clothing. It seems like it would work when you first hear about it, but once you look a little closer you realize it will be the death of our public education system. The only people who benefit from school choice are those middle class or above families hat can self-transport, the “normal” kids without disabilities or a need for ESL services,  and he corporations making money  off charter schools. Just say no to school choice reform and call your senator and tell them to say “no” too by rejecting DeVos as Secretary of Education

 

 

 

My husband and I have recently started telling our friends that we are ready to adopt again, and are actively searching for a little girl to round out our family. To be sure many of our friends and family have been excited and supportive. However, the most common response is a look of half confusion, half shock accompanied by the words ” What? Five kids isn’t enough for you?”.  They say it as if somehow we are being unreasonable or even irresponsible with our choice to add another child to our family.  It’s almost as if adding another child is like adding a luxurious accessory such as a sports car, or vacation home. I mean seriously, just how many of those do you need? Mostly I respond with a polite grin, and chuckle, but this is what I am screaming on the inside. 

For us, five is enough. It’s enough laundry, and meal prep, and homework, and after school activities, and, and, and……. 

But, for at least one little girl sitting in an orphanage half way around the world tonigh, five isn’t enough.

 For the little girl who waits for a mamma to love her through the good times, and shepherd her through the bad ones, five isn’t enough.

 For the little girl who doesn’t get enough to eat, or have access to quality healthcare, five isn’t enough. 

For the little girl who even if she is lucky enough to get medical care doesn’t have a mom to advocate for pain management or even make sure her lunch is served in the hospital, five isn’t enough.

For the little girl who even if she is in a “good”orphanage still sleeps in a room full of cribs or cots, five isn’t enough. 

For the little girl who will be on her own after she ages out, and likely will have trouble getting a job due to her “orphan” status, five isn’t enough.

For the little girl who isn’t allowed to go to school because of her special need, five isn’t enough.

There is a little girl half way around the world who needs a FORVER family. A family to love her, protect her, and provide for her as much as they can for as long as they can. We have room in our hearts and our home for another little girl, so how could we not add another child to our family?  The saddest part is that six isn’t enough either. Neither is seven, or eight, or even 100. For that reason, my prayer is that every person who feels the tug of adoption on their heart would be able to overcome the fear and doubt to open their heart to “one less” little girl or boy who needs them. 

Let me start by telling you right off the bat that I don’t even know what rating my kids’ elementary school received. Know why? Because I don’t care. I used to care about school rating sheets, and report cards. When it was time for my first child to go to school I was a NEVER public school parent. Under no circumstances was any child of mine attend a  public school. As far as I was concerned nothing good came from public schools. I can admit that my attitude was largely based on my local public school’s report card and statistics. Long story short, after spinning our wheels for several years at a couple different schools my kids went to our local public school for the first time last year.

Here’s what the ratings wont tell you about my kids’ school.

Last year we adopted a daughter from China. She did not speak English, and it was her first year in an American school. Our school knocked it out of the park! The teachers and students welcomed her with open arms. They allowed us to enroll her in a grade level one down from her age group to give her time to learn some English , and acclimate a bit, before pushing her into the hell that is Middle School. The librarian let her order some books in Mandarin for the library. Her language arts teacher went out of her way to find the books they were reading as a class in Mandarin. Her PE teacher encouraged her to play on the volley ball team even though she uses a wheelchair. The school counselor helped her on tough days when she was missing China, and had had enough of constantly listening to, and trying to learn in, a language she didn’t speak. And as far as academics goes…. she has moved to Middle School taking all Pre AP classes except for math which she is taking the advanced class. She does her own projects, and I rarely even need to translate her homework for her. Did I mention she has only been an English speaking American for 17 months now?

The ratings won’t tell you anything about the low vision teacher who taught my son to tie his shoes or use tools that will help him be successful in the future. She goes above and beyond helping me file summer camp paperwork, and giving each of her students Christmas gifts. It won’t tell you how the teachers work hard to foster an inclusive classroom quickly addressing any concerns of bullying, or how hard the math teacher and special ed teacher work to help my daughter on the spectrum succeed.

The A-F scale doesn’t’ take into account how many extra hours teachers work to prepare and grade lessons, or for the teachers who give their lunch to a child that doesn’t have one. It doesn’t take into account all the extra money teachers spend on their kids because they found some really cool thing that isn’t in the budget, but they know will help their kids learn. The ratings know nothing about the principal, and how supportive she has been to my family. It won’t tell you that I know if I have a problem with something in the classroom she will listen and do her best to work it out. She loves her students, and her teachers.

You know what the A-F ratings will tell you about my kids’ school? It will largely tell you how well the kids did on a developmentally inappropriate, invalidated, and hugely expensive exam that they took once. So basically the A-F ratings tells you more about who ate breakfast that day, and the educational levels of their parents which is more closely tied to standardized testing outcomes than actual academic knowledge and skills. So no, I didn’t read the A-F grade the powers that be gave my school. I don’t care, and you shouldn’t either.

#ignorethescore2017

 

 

 

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Leading up to Halloween there was lots of things circulating social media about the plight of kids with food allergies on Halloween. Stories of parents asking, and sometimes demanding, that candy or treats be purchased by the neighbors and passed out that meets their child’s dietary needs. I’m sorry, but if you’re one of those parents you’re doing it wrong.

To be sure, I get that no one wants to see their child be hurt by feeling left out. It hits you right in the feels to see the disappointment on their face as tears run down cheeks. I get it, I really do. Although I don’t have a child with food allergies, I do have a child who struggles on Halloween. My oldest daughter has Spina Bifida, and requires the use of  wheel chair. We live in a very hilly part of the country, and several of our neighbors have steps or a large curb up to their front door. I watched as she struggled to make it as close as she could to the porches. I watched her face cringe every time she had to wait until all the other kids left the porch to be seen. I saw the embarrassment as she heard her younger brother explain that he needed extra treats to give to his sister when she couldn’t make it close enough to the door for a neighbor to see her. Of course I helped her push up the steps when possible, but there were a good many homes where getting to the front door using a wheel chair just wasn’t possible. I still held her at the end of the night while she cried about how left out she felt, and how unfair it was that she couldn’t walk like the other kids.

I noticed that several of our neighbors decorated their yards and set up tables and chairs in their drive way. She rolled right up with the other kids, and could easily participate fully in the trick or treat experience. I could put out a flyer next year explaining my daughter’s difficulty with Halloween, and ask them all to set up shop in their driveway. I won’t be doing that, and here’s why.

  1. It teaches my child to expect fairness. Life is in no way fare, and it is crippling to teach your child that it is, or even that it should be. In the real world your child will encounter frustration and disappointment. Better for them to learn to deal with those feelings in a positive way than to try to manipulate the environment so that your child avoids hard and negative feelings.
  2. It teaches my child to make her problems other people’s problems. Using a wheel chair in a world designed for people who walk requires lots of problem solving skills. Halloween won’t be the only time accessibility becomes a problem for her. Just like it is not the only time a child with food allergies has to deal with people eating potentially dangerous food around them. Teaching my child to get what she needs and wants while facing accessibly issues is an important life skill. Instead of expecting everyone else in the neighborhood to make it easy for her I teach her to speak up for herself, and let the homeowner know she is at the bottom of the porch steps.. If I had a child with a food allergy I would encourage them to say “I’m allergic to nuts, and cannot eat Snickers. Can I have those Skittles instead.”. I’d also talk about how donating the candy they cannot eat will bring joy to someone else, and promise to buy them their favorite treat they can eat.
  3. It teaches my child its not OK to be different. The fact is my child is different. She will never be able to blend in, and there will always be situations that point out to her just how different she is. I want her to know that different means different, not less than. I want her to feel comfortable and confident in her own skin. If I ran around all the time manipulating situations so that she doesn’t have to feel different, it not only robs her of practice dealing with those feelings, but it teaches her that I am uncomfortable dealing with her being different. If I cannot accept and celebrate her in her diffenetness, how on earth can I expect her to be able to?

I know it is HARD to see your child struggle, but personal growth, problem solving skills, and self acceptance are born out of that struggle. Just as the struggle a butterfly experiences emerging from their cocoon is necessary to fill their wings and allow them to fly; so too is it necessary for our children’s to fully development, and eventual  flight.  Romans 5:3 says” … we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance,  character; and character ,hope.” As a parent my job is not to go out of my way to fix everything for my kids so they avoid uncomfortable feelings. My job is to shepherd them through those feelings when they have opportunity to arise.