A letter to..

I just read this in a group we are a part of on Facebook. Perhaps it will be useful to you if you are bringing home a child anytime soon (or if you didn’t know this still applies to our family). These are the words I was looking for! (Thanks, J.W.N)

______ been in an orphanage for the past 6 years, with little meaningful adult contact. She’s a remarkably adjusted and lovely girl, but she’s learning a lot right now about families and relationships. Right now, as far as emotional relationships, the only thing _____ and I have over any stranger on the street is about 2 months of time. We don’t have a long history of fixing her boo-boos, proving our trustworthiness, and providing for her needs. Without those memories in her “bank”, we’re pretty interchangeable for anyone else that can provide a few months of clothes and food. That parent-child trust and attachment take a lot of time. For many of these kids, as they start to feel that attachment develop, they actually get scared. They don’t want to trust an adult so deeply when so many adults have failed them so miserably. So they push away and look to invest themselves more lightly in other places rather than really attaching to the family. I’ve personally known a family where their kids have run away after 2-3 months to go stay with a friend’s family or their new aunt&uncle or grandparents because they were scared of the emotional connection they felt developing. They couldn’t explain that until later, but that was part of it.

I love you all (I’d say love you like a sister, but most of you ARE my sisters). I know _____ will also love you. But it’s not me being selfish when I say I need her to love ME MORE. It’s for her best interest to learn to love her parents and learn to count on a reliable, loving, consistent parent. She needs to know that she can always confide in me, trust me to help, trust me to have her best interest at heart, and trust me to provide for her needs. This means lots of perhaps strange things.

First: always have my back. Always. If you disagree with something talk to me privately–I’ll screw this up a lot and appreciate advice–but don’t go around me. This goes for totally silly stuff like letting her have a snack or purchased item if I said no, to letting her complain too much about life in our family. If she complains that something is unfair or miserable or whatever, let her vent, but please don’t AGREE. Try “that sounds really frustrating” or “I can tell you’re upset. What do you think would help?” but not “you’re right, she’s the worst. I would never do that!” etc. I can’t emphasize how important this is.

Second: we need her to think of our house and home as her base. We’ll come visit you all as a family, of course, and meet up at places…but we’d like most visits and get togethers with her cousins and friends to be at our house. She needs to feel rooted here.

Third: Let us be the main source of the good things. Kids from orphanages and hard places don’t know how to measure love so they count gifts and compliments and degrees of physical touch and assume more stuff = more love. We’ve missed out on 16.5 years of birthdays and Christmases and treats and snuggles. 16.5 years of telling her she’s loved and special and beautiful and cherished. All kids like to hear that from other adults, too, of course, but we all build that core up from our parents. At holidays and birthdays, please check with us for gift suggestions so you don’t “out-do” us. Let her hug and snuggle, but if it starts to seem overly sweet, please encourage a reasonable boundary. We need her to know that we are the MOST love. Tell her she’s beautiful, or that something looks pretty on her, or that she’s smart and clever and funny and witty (she is! I know!) and give her a hug or a shoulder squeeze. This one is hard to really define—but let us be the parents that fill her up with love. You can be the cool aunts and friends that reinforce it.

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Choosing Public School(s) and Humble Pie, Plus FACE LAMP

 

BOTH BOYS ARE IN SCHOOOOOOOL!

After 2 weeks of back and forth between Kaiser and EWCSD, much wailing and gnashing of teeth, paperwork shuffling and finally caving in to stick our child with YET ANOTHER unnecessary needle, Jude has been deemed TB free (on 4 separate occasions, by the way) and allowed to enter the illustrious public school system. All that could be said about that process aside, I am at peace with the choice to have them both in the public classroom setting.

Before they came home, I was not at peace with this choice. It seemed like doing so would be weakness somehow, or that it was unfair to bring children out of institutional settings and then place them in an institutional setting for 6 hours a day. But then, we met our children, found out that they enjoy learning in a classroom, and discovered that they need to relearn how to interact in social settings with their peers. Runner up reason for coming to peace with this is that everyone in this house gets along better with a break from each other and school is that break right now. I would love for homeschooling to be an option for us in the future. Perhaps it will be. In the mean time, humble pie for thinking I was mentally prepared for homeschooling, or that I could have possibly known in advance what would best suit our family make-up, or that any one option is “the right option” for everyone.

In unrelated news. Most of you are too kind to ask why there is a bruised, scraped, lump on my forehead. For this reason (and so that perhaps you can have a laugh at my expense today), I shall share.

The boys were hiding under one of Jason’s ten-trillion pillows yesterday morning (if you can’t see their eyes, they have achieved invisibility),  when I decided to pick up said pillow and give them a sound down beating. They giggled as I raised the pillow above my head, until suddenly, we heard a clang and a thump…

Home-Alone-GIF-014as the track lighting above our bed detached from the ceiling and swung down by the electrical wiring. The arc of travel was such that the farthermost lampshade connected splendidly with my forehead and sent me reeling into the dresser. The good news is that the plastic ring around the edge of the razor-metal lampshade cushioned the blow by smashing into several pieces against my face. The bad news is that the plastic ring around the edge of the razor-metal lampshade cushioned the blow by smashing into several pieces against my face.

The boys, surrounded by a snowlike drift of popcorn ceiling, were first shocked into silence and then rejoiced at the Home Alone scene I had just reenacted for them. I, too, first stared blankly at the dangling track lighting (read: bloodthirsty murder weapon) and then laughed, because head trauma.

Have a lovely day, friends!

 

 

3 Weeks (and 9 Months) Later: Our Family of 4 in Other People’s Words

Hi friends.

We are exhausted. Jason and me, yes, but also our boys. The stretching and learning and living as a family has definitely pushed back any misconceptions that the “honeymoon” will last any longer than it (debatably) already has. Patience is short, gratitude is frayed, and Jason and I are being carried/dragged along by the grace of God. BUT.

BUT.

In SO many ways, things are great and better than expected. There have been so many unwarranted mercies shown to our foursome that we can’t complain for long about the hard parts without falling back on every promise kept and every miracle displayed.  It is a tired, tired place to be, but it is completely worthwhile. However, a tired mind’s word dump does not make for great reading, so without further ado, words by other people that basically sum up a lot of our experience right now:

Your sweet one is grieving. This is sorrow and loss and fear and trauma; it is visceral. It is devastating. You and your spouse are haunted, unshowered, unhinged, unmoored. You stare into each other’s eyes, begging the other one to fix this: What have we done? What are we doing? What are we going to do?

This is a messy, new life for all of us

I’m going to go back forever…

Dealing with the pain

Next Year, Lord Willing

 

Lord willing, next year:

  •  Our family of four will be on the same continent, at the same time.
  • Both adoptions will be finalized in US courts.
  • We will find a new normal.
  • We won’t forget the amazing lessons we’ve been taught this year.
  • Our time in the word and time spent reaching out will remain consistent and fruitful.
  • We will be able to transition from receiving so much support to coordinating/providing support to others.
  • We will have some respite from the adoption process.
  • God will make clear to us where we ought to expend our energy.
  • Thanks and joy will outweigh all else, even in the midst of what will undoubtedly be a tumultuous period of transition.

Lord willing.

Thank you for walking with us through 2014 in prayer and in so many other ways. We are truly grateful for you and we pray that your 2015 will lead you closer to Him.

The Lord is in the Details :: Merry Christmas!

May I take a moment to reflect publicly on how amazing God’s timing is?

When we decided to grow our family through adoption, we had no idea what the outcome would look like. Jumping in to the application process we didn’t even know if we would be accepted, thought we would be ready for a child around 3 years old (HA!), and thought we might become parents quickly. We really had no idea. Before that date we would not have been prepared for what lie ahead (not that we necessarily are now, but I think you know what I mean), and after that date we would have missed the time-constraint-boat on both of our sons. I don’t know how to organize this post so that the absolutely incredible timing and circumstances are done justice.

Let’s start here. When we heard about the hosting opportunity for J.V. last December, we were able to accept for three reasons: 1) The hosting was paid for. We only needed to open our home, 2) A (now)friend from church happened to be in the hosting know-how and heard about his availability, and 3) Our home study was complete for a child his age and recently renewed because we were still waiting for a travel date to pick up J.

When J.V. left, we submitted an inquiry to find out if he was registered for adoption in Ukraine, all the while thinking we were doing this for the purpose of finding a family for him. When the information arrived that he was available, there were several things that needed to be true in order for us to become that family: 1) He would need to be available AFTER we had brought home J and AFTER our post-placement visits were complete, 2) Our placing agency would have to have no rule against adopting in such quick succession, 3) Our home study agency would have to have no rule against having two adoptions processing at the same time, 4) Our social worker would need to approve a second child arriving in the home so quickly, and 5) Both adoptions would need to be carried out in a way that would not break the rules of either of the boys’ home countries. Apparently, most placing and home study agencies have policies that restrict adopting like this. Also, the odds of coordinating the dossier and home study timings to work out perfectly with the expiration dates and travel dates and post placement visits and adjusting as a family are just crazy unlikely. Keep in mind, we started the process for J in 2011 and that makes it all the more crazy that the things I am talking about all played out during the final year. Additionally, if we were not part of such a prayerful, helpful, knowledgeable local Church body, adopting two older children in this fashion would have probably been impossible.

But, the rough timeline estimates worked out for both boys, and our agencies didn’t have prohibiting policies, so we proceeded, and both sets of paperwork were completed well without interfering with each other. We were able to bring J home, complete and mail off a dossier, complete post-placement reports (even one that took place in between Jason’s trips out of country for J.V.) and by the grace of God and your generosity, somehow paid for/survived the whole thing. We found out that the finalization paperwork for J arrived the week before J.V. officially became a Camorlinga exactly one year after we met him. Even more, J is THRILLED to have a brother, and has been a champion with the best of us for bringing J.V. home. This year has felt like a puzzle with all of the pieces falling exactly into place in ways we didn’t foresee (and often with unfavorable odds); it is very clear to us that we were not assembling this puzzle.

There were moments where both adoptions seemed as if they would fail. Remember the time we were initially rejected for J? Remember the time it seemed J.V. was being kept from our home? The story that is being told is one of incredible redemption and we are SO blessed to be witnesses to it. God has been good to us. The “happy coincidences” are far too perfect to be only that. There are beautiful details (J’s best friend was adopted this year as well by a family in the US and he also has a brother with J.V.’s first name! What?!), answers to prayers, and through the stress and the paperwork and the ungratefulness that I am prone to, I can see God’s hand lovingly fitting each puzzle piece snuggly together. It isn’t easy, but it is beautiful.

This is the point I really want to make:  Isn’t it amazing that the God of all creation condescended Himself to become a human child, to enter into human history at an exact point that would enable word of His life to spread throughout the earth, to live a sinless life and die on the cross so that all who believe in Him will be forgiven and have eternal life? This triune God is a God of details and love and redemption and JOY and may we remember that on Christmas day. May we turn our eyes outward and upward and rediscover the amazing amount of detail and preparation and glorious execution of His almighty plans. Lord, remind us through our own stories to hold in high esteem the INCREDIBLE story that You have written, beginning in the garden and echoing throughout eternity before Your throne.

Merry (( ISN’T IT INCREDIBLE?! )) Christmas.

Our Ukraine Timeline

For those of you who have been following along all along, are just joining us now, or who have no idea who we are but are trying to navigate your own adoption process, we thought it might be nice to share the timeline of our adoption process through Thailand in a simple(ish) list. I’ve definitely consoled myself in the past (okay, yesterday) by looking at timelines on other families’ blogs, so I hope that this is helpful to some of you!

December 1, 2013 – Learned about a Ukrainian child in need of a host family through our church’s orphan care group

December 2, 2013 – Were approved to be his host family

December 19, 2013-January 16,2014 – Hosted Vitalii. Sent petition to inquire about his adoption status to Ukraine with him on the 16th

February 19, 2014 – Receive official letter stating that Vitalii is registered for adoption in Ukraine

February 23, 2014 – Learn that we are able to simultaneously pull off both adoptions and commit to pursue adoption of Vitalii

March 26, 2014 – Completed home study revision

June 24, 2014 – Summer hosting of Vitalii fell through the night before hosting was to begin. It was a very difficult, uncertain time

September 23, 2014 – Received registration letter from Ukraine

October 1, 2014 – Received invitation letter from Ukraine to travel

October 13, 2014 – Jason traveled to Ukraine for SDA appointment/ first visit

October 21, 2014 – SDA appointment, matched with Vitalii

October 23, 2014 – Traveled to Vinnitsya to see Vitalii

October 28, 2014 – Vitalii signed his petition to be adopted

November 14 – December 3, 2014 – Jason returned to the US to wait for the delayed court date

December 8, 2014 – Court date. Beginning of 10 day waiting period

December 19, 2014 – Unification day! Jude Vitalii is a Camorlinga!

December 22, 2014??? – Obtain passport and travel to Kiev for completion of medical and immigration documents.

December 30, 2014 – The day that Ukrainian winter break begins. If paperwork is not complete by this date…. they will be there an extra week twiddling their thumbs.

10 More Days

Today, we finished  James’ required post-placement meetings with the social worker. This is a relief. The meetings are largely perfunctory.  Now, we will begin finalizing the adoption, which means soon James will “officially” be a Camorlinga and we can begin sharing photos freely.

In 10 days, Jason will be flying out to Ukraine for the first of two trips to bring home our son(s?). God has this all worked out, we just need to remember to remember that. Praying for Jason’s safe travels, and our boy’s prepared heart. Praying for James during his papa’s absence.

Since the TB debacle (yes, that’s a thing. If you missed out, just imagine prolonged drama and bureaucracy and Danielle on the verge of leaping from a building [mostly exaggerating]), we have been struggling with some persistent behavioral issues at home. Your prayers concerning this would be greatly appreciated: that Jason and I would handle our son with grace and compassion, that our disciplinary choices would result in a child that becomes a well-adjusted adult, and that James would trust us.

This book (when tempered by the wisdom of Dr. Karyn Purvis) has been a reassuring fount of ideas: Try and Make Me!

Time to Pray

We have been praying the whole time. From the moment we said yes to hosting our boy, to the moment we got the call that Jason has an SDA appointment (AKA travel date and hopeful matching-us-to-our-son date), we have been praying.

For wisdom, for discernment, for patience, for strength, for forgiveness, for the ability to forgive, for resources, for community, for work, for speedy paperwork, for barriers to be removed, for our actions to reflect Christ… and we have failed. SO. MANY. TIMES. No matter how hard I try, I’m still a foot-in-mouth, overreacting, hair-trigger, untrusting, stressing, ever-forgetting mess. At work today, my coworkers briefly reflected on the strange pre-occupation we have with extending our life – though the extra days or years we may accrue are the ones that will undoubtedly be filled with disease and pain – when we know that our future home is SO much greater than any pissant thing we are presently capable of scraping together.

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” – C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory (Thanks, cousin Aaren!)

This is how I find myself behaving. I behave as if the paperwork is the end goal, or the clean house, or the adoptions, when they are just the means to a greater end: the outworking of my salvation to the glory of God. I’m so thankful for the mirror that our journey has held up to my sinfulness (in that grumbly sort of way, of course). It has encouraged me to try to reach out to others more intentionally, to pry my eyes off of my own crap and lift others up instead. It has also helped open our eyes to the ways that our life fits in to the overarching story. We have seen pieces fall into place. We have felt spiritual darkness. We have felt relief by resting in Christ. We are learning to embrace pain that brings forth growth (in that grumbly sort of way, of course).

As we begin preparations for Jason’s first trip to Ukraine (he goes for a week and change, returns home, then flies out again for an indeterminate amount of time), it is imperative that we continue to pray. Otherwise, we will be doing these things in our own strength, and that is missing the point. Praying for safe travels, for ethical interactions, for protection, for a joyful reunion between father and son, for the hopeful possibility of an as yet unknown but available to us sibling, for James’ heart, for Jason’s health, for heavy reliance on God, and for God to be glorified at the end of it all. Small potatoes, right?


The Last Jew in Vinnitsa
The Last Jew in Vinnitsa

The Last Jew in Vinnitsa: A bit of trivia from the region that Jason will be traveling to.