Happy (Birth and Otherwise) Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother’s Day to the mothers with birth children,

to the mothers with adopted children, and

to the birthmothers who chose life for their children.

Happy Mother’s Day to the mothers that love their families well and teach their children to love well.

Happy Mother’s Day to the mothers and all other women who honor Christ with their faithful lives.

This is a bittersweet Mother’s Day in the Camorlinga house. It is the first such day without my mom (in fact, the last time I spoke to her was on Mother’s Day last year), and it is the first day as a living-it-out mama to our child.

Thankful for the beautiful examples of motherhood that we know, thankful for a mother that raised me well, thankful for a mother (in law) that loves me like I’m her own, and thankful for James’ birthmother, who protected him in her womb and made him cute, and who I look forward to one day thanking in person.

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Shoes, Anyone? Shoe Drive!

Shoes!
Shoes!

Our sweet friend Jennifer (fundraising entrepreneur extraordinaire, by the way) started collecting gently used shoes for our hosting/adoption fund. Please start saving them and collecting from anyone you know. Message me on Facebook (or Jennifer or Jason!) or email me (dnc.mook@gmail.com) and we will arrange to get them from you! You can also just drop them off at our house if you know where that is.

Please spread the word and start cleaning out those closets! Our goal is 5,000 pairs (enough to make a good dent in hosting and adoption!). It sounds like a lot, but let’s be honest, we’ve all got some shoes that we NEVER wear. 

The collection will be given to Angel Bins on JUNE 6 and they will donate the funds.

 

Summer Surprise – Hosting Part 2

We had a big, last minute decision to make.

When we discussed possibly hosting JV again, Jason and I thought we were told that he would not be available during the summer. This was good for us, as we looked ahead at the prospect of another international adoption, and as we braced ourselves for the adjustment period with James. But then, we received an email from the hosting agency confirming whether we did or did not want to host JV. That’s when we realized it was actually an option and that we had a hard choice to make (in one day).

The cons, as I saw them:

  • James is still adjusting and we are all still getting to know each other.
  • Saving for the adoption(s) is already a task.
  • This could be disorienting to have James experience being an only child, brother, only child, brother in just a few short months.

But the pros:

  • Ukraine is a hot mess right now. There is the (Lord forbid it) possibility that this might be THE chance to see JV again.
  • The boys will get to meet and we will get to love them both together for at least a short while.
  • JV will get to see his friends and family over here again and not be sent to a camp for the summer.

So we prayed, and we asked you to pray, and we asked for clear discernment and leading. We are so grateful to those of you who offered your encouragement, advice and support. Your responses were answers to our prayer, and ultimately money should not stop us from doing what feels and seems to be what we are being called to. My faith is so much smaller than I would like, or would like to think. The entire story with JV has been propelled forward by choices and people beyond our control…

And so it continues. He will be joining us all again for July(ish). Now we will pray that we can see and rejoice in God’s hand in our lives, that we are as grateful as we ought to be to Him and to you for your love and kindness, that JV is as thrilled about this new development as we are, and that James would be prepared to meet him. We are also waiting to hear back from Lifesong about a possible matching grant that would be an amazing way to double the worth of folks’ donations! Thank you for joining us during this crazy, but beautiful time.

My prayer tonight:

Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” 

Clarification of Boundaries: Sorry I Scared Everyone!

Hi all! It has become clear that my older post about ground rules was overwhelming and left some folks unsure whether they should approach us or not. I’m sorry for that. All of those boundary lists were things I had been mulling over for 3 years and watching other folks live out, so they didn’t seem daunting and foreign to me, but that was probably not the best way to go about it.

So, here is the short list and there is always grace. James is adjusting well, so hopefully we can say never mind to these in several months! But for now (just 3 things!):

-please don’t feed him directly.
-please don’t give him gifts without checking with us.
-please don’t parent in our place. Tattle on him right away and talk to us 😉

There you go. That’s much better, yes? I’m sorry to have created a shadow of worry over the whole thing, but thank you to those who mentioned and helped me see it from a different angle.

In other news, there is the slight possibility V is available for hosting over a month in the Summer. We need real discernment about whether to do that if it is an option.

First Days Home: A Few Brief Thoughts

Thank you for the wonderful welcome home! We are impressed and encouraged by your hearts for the fatherless and the ways you have shown James he is loved.

Just about 4 days have passed since we arrived at LAX, and our sleep patterns are nearly normal. Granted, I’m typing this at 2 in the morning, but it’s closer to normal than before. We are working on James’ alphabet, numbers, colors, general manners (did you know that saying “please” is not a cultural practice in Thailand?), and family skills. There is a school of thought that suggests adjusting the parenting of a child to suit their family age (how much time they have actually been in your family) rather than their physical age. Though in most ways we are treating him like a 6 year old, thinking of him as a 2 week/6 year hybrid helps as we enter a stage of bedtime struggles, infantile reactions, and learning what it means to function as a family. If you see what you think are overly juvenile behaviors when you spend time with us, yes, you’re right, but they’ll pass.

I’ve debated sharing this next part in a public place, but since it was the advice/comfort of others that helped me to see my reaction was normal and work through it, here goes, in the hope that it will be a comfort and warning to other waiting moms:

Once we were home from the airport, while James was investigating the toys in his new room and we ate a bit of graciously provided food, I started to lose it. Once James was preoccupied, I started crying and could not stop. These were not happy tears, folks. These were tears of bitter, surprising grief. I mourned our losses. Our adventurous travels as a couple, our spontaneity, our ability to have 5 house guests at a time, to interact with misled sect participants; I was stuck on all of my perceived losses and filled with a deep sense of regret. Why did we make this choice? This is permanent? What are we doing? Who is this little person? It was ugly and I am not proud of it (especially in light of the overwhelming losses James has experienced). Feeling that way is apparently normal and hearing that could not have been more helpful. I was able to repent of that selfishness, that unbelief and fear, and move forward. Surely goodness and mercy have followed us throughout the entire adoption process, and God’s leading has set us firmly on a path toward a growing family. When I woke up the next morning, the grief had subsided. The things that I was suddenly fixated on are still there in the background to varying degrees, but there is rest in experiencing the other side of those feelings: the peace, the enjoyment, the thankfulness.

I’m thankful the grief passed quickly, I’m thankful that God has entrusted us with this child, and I’m thankful for the parents who have gone before us on this road; who generously shared the reality of their experience ahead of time and offered commiseration in the moment. So, when your bundle of joy comes home, fully expect to be filled with emotions that are totally contrary to what you “expect” … and come to me for sympathy.

We are looking forward to the days when we will get to see each of you again!

 

One less orphan. But.

You know that moment when you get into the back of a taxi with your sobbing child, who looks nothing like you, who keeps looking out the back window and cries uncontrollably for the duration of the ride? Or that moment when you realize the taxi driver, who doesn’t understand enough English for you to possibly offer an explanation, is suspiciously eyeing you and your husband in the rear view mirror? The best part is that I know some of you really DO know what that moment is like, and the rest of you can imagine.

I’m really not sure how best to sum up the goodbye party from yesterday. The long term benefit is that James was given an opportunity to say goodbye and he will have video and pictures of him with his friends to look back on. The short term result has been that he is keenly aware of his losses, and though we are glad he is able to grieve openly, it is extremely difficult to comfort him well while the language barrier and newness of our relationship is getting in the way. We need prayer for these things and take comfort in the knowledge that we aren’t walking this road alone, or first, for that matter.

The orphans. I’d love if some of you would share links to your blog posts about your orphanage trip or some of your thoughts on your orphanage visits in the comments on this post. Perhaps some of you will read these and be moved to action or prayer. There were about 17 children in James’ group, with varying degrees of special needs and institutional behaviors, and each one should be in a family. As we handed out balloons and stickers and the playtime was underway, most of them made some attempt to catch our attention and interact with us. One girl would come up every few moments and show me where she had placed a sticker on her body. Her face was marred by a massive scar, but she was a smiley one. One small girl would come up and insist that I separate the sticker from the backing for her. Several kids approached us and made sure to double check that we weren’t their mommy and daddy, also. One very small boy (3?4?) seemed to have learned that he could get attention by reaching up skirts or pinching legs, and when my attention wasn’t on him, he would plow into other children. Anything for a bit of attention.

The chaos in that room. The needs going unmet. The utter brokenness that had brought each child together in that place. There aren’t words, friends.

It isn’t right.

I think we all know it in our hearts, but we need to start moving. The least of these is worth our time and our effort and our own discomfort… But I don’t feel like preaching at you all, so I won’t.

I feel more like begging.

I AM. LEGEND: Balaclavas, a Visa and a Swastika

Danielle does the blogging and you should be thankful for that. However, tonight she is in bed and I am wide awake trying to process the day. I think I will leave the going away party for her to write about; she is the wordsmith and was there for its entirety. I will tell you about a trip to the US embassy.

As a result of the expeditious processing of James’ Visa, I took my leave of the going away party early leaving Danielle to face the room of clamoring orphans. It was difficult to leave early and miss such a meaningful moment but I would be lying to you if I said there was not a part of me that felt a modicum of relief. Relief from the eyes; eyes within which a cocktail of hope, desperation, loneliness and joy swirled. Eyes that asked why we hadn’t chosen them, that pleaded for attention and sparked when they received it. I will not soon forget them.

I had waited for the last possible moment to leave so I hurried down the sun drenched street, sweat dripping into my eyes as I looked for an available taxi. In Bangkok it is often quicker to walk a block and catch a ride in a less congested area. Once it took us 30 minutes to travel one block, traffic here is horrible. As I walked past Lumpini Park, home to the Yellow Shirt protests, the bullhorn speeches and shrill whistles could be heard coming from the tent city. Danielle and I had mistakenly walked into this camp last week thinking it was a night market. We should have been tipped off by the bag checks and lack of tourists if not by the fist pumping and soup lines. At the edges of the park there were sandbag bunkers filled with military, across the street were police trucks next to a burned out car. The military tends to support the yellow shirts while the police tend to support the red shirts. It was then that I saw a group of men wearing balaclavas sitting on some steps. Did I mention how hot it was… far too hot to be wearing balaclavas for any innocent reason.

Still failing to find a taxi I decided to broaden my experience and take a motorcycle taxi. There are gads of these fellows along the sidewalks wearing bright pink or orange vests who would love to take you on a harrowing adventure as you weave through traffic toward your destination. I haggled a price from a pink clad man and then we were off sans helmets. Perhaps I should specify that I was without a helmet; his head was safely encased in protective gear as I clung to James’ paperwork in one hand while the other grasped the back of the bike. There were moments that I enjoyed myself but mostly I focused on not falling off or worrying about my driver’s deft threading of traffic.

I made it to the embassy with one minute to spare. In the movies there is always a tall gate manned by marines and the hero plus one damsel in distress run toward the gate yelling, “I’m an American citizen, open up!” I had hoped to do this at some point. Thus far I have been disappointed. Perhaps the marine gate is located elsewhere but only Thai security manned the doors to the consular.

I was the only one in the Visa processing area when I entered. I sat for about three minutes staring at poster warning that false visas and passports will open lots of doors (iron barred ones behind which you will sit for years) and close one (to the US) forever. Then my name was called, I was given a sealed envelope for US customs and told in no uncertain terms that I should not open it for any reason lest a sniper emerge from the brush and execute me on the spot. Or maybe it was a hefty fine plus extra hassle at the airport, who can recall details?

I chugged a few small paper cones worth of water and headed back out into the heat. Taxis were plentiful on the street and I caught one with no hassle. Why not have another go at the motorcycle you ask? I was nervous that the sacred envelope might be damaged and said sniper would exact his revenge. Anyhow, taxis are air-conditioned. My driver, Mr. Noppadon, had a swastika tattooed on his right hand. I have seen hundreds of these in Thailand proudly displayed on shirts, patches, temples and now taxi driver hands. Now before you lecture me on the religious significance of the swastika know that I am aware of the distinctions between that use and Nazi use. I am not so sure that the Thai people are aware of that though. Many of the ones I have seen on shirts for example are full on German Nazi Swastikas but I digress. Across the inside of the windshield Mr. Noppadon had written, “I AM. LEGEND.” This stuck me a certain way at the time but I will forgo explaining this as now it strikes me differently. “I am.”

I made it back to the Children’s Home just in time, Danielle and James were about to head back to the hotel. Again, I will leave the parting for Danielle to tell you about but the upshot is that I’m pretty sure our taxi driver thought that we were abducting James.

Dear readers, thank you for your prayers and support along the way, it has meant a great deal to us. Some of you have been down this road already, other are preparing to make it. Some of you are considering adoption yourselves. If I could properly convey the look in those children’s eyes to you dear readers, you would start the journey today.

If you’re happy with him you can have him.

Today consisted of heading to the DSDW board interview and the US Embassy to apply for James’ visa. Thankfully, the board interview went well and they granted us approval to take him home. They asked questions about schooling, our jobs, whether we are prepared to care for him when the “honeymoon” period is over (how much longer do you all think we have? Want to take bets?) and asked him which of us he likes best. He told her he likes us both equally, which has been his answer each of the three times he has been asked that question. Imagine our relief!

The interview ended with one of the women telling us that “if you are happy with him, you can have him,” and that was basically the official blessing from Thailand. She didn’t say it in a way that was meant to be offhanded, but it did sound a lot like someone might give away a puppy. We left the meeting in pools of sweat, but also very relieved. James was very polite during the meeting but spent much of the morning dazed by the activity and formality.

The visa interview went well, though we discovered upon arrival that we couldn’t bring our backpacks in the embassy (we seriously had to go ask some shopkeeper to watch our bags for us and thank goodness they did), and then discovered the embassy credit card system wasn’t working, so Jason had to run to find an ATM. They told us that James’ visa will be ready to pick up at 3pm tomorrow, which is AWESOME, since it means we will be on track to fly home as planned. Thank you, God.

Once we arrived at the hotel, all three of us collapsed onto the ground and made exaggerated sighs of relief. The day was trying and the trials were compounded by the 104• temperature, James’ confusion (too many people, too many transitions), my super-fantastic cramps, and Jason’s extremely unpleasant gastric disturbance (those are the most polite ways to describe what was seriously the worst day health-wise for both of us).

Tomorrow afternoon is James’ goodbye party with other kids from the home. We are praying that he has a good time and that it will be a day of closure and joy for him. Now, we are off to the pool, because the boy is a fish (that sinks like lead) and they told us we can have him.

Baby steps & counting down the days until we are home.

Today, our son got to ride on the Skytrain to get from point A to point B. Vo told us the other day that it had been a dream of his to do so, and he was SO thrilled that he hollered and squealed as he got on and off and was pleased as punch in between. His eye contact has been sustained today, he has been seeking affirmation as he tries new things or performs tasks, he is allowing more physical affection, and he is picking up English words at an impressive rate (counting 1-6, red, yellow, orange, green, blue, pink, thank you, punch, kick, okay, etc.). We are feeling REALLY thankful right now.

He also hurt himself for the first time with us. We’ve been waiting for this to finally happen because homeboy is bonkers when he gets going. He has had a few bumps, but today he fell off the bed and smacked into a chair on the way down (playing with balloons is a full contact sport), and we knew it was go time. He was obviously hurting but could only oscillate between a pained, blank face and maniacal laughter. Immediately, we helped him back on the bed, and held him as he figured out that it was sad he was hurt, that we weren’t laughing at him, and that our faces were properly somber. He melted into the bed and showed us where it hurt after some prompting. We kissed his arm, and though he was mostly confused by the gushing attention, he calmed down and accepted the babying. Small win.

On a happy note, he went in the pool today, and though it took some coaxing (has he ever been in a pool before??) by the end he was splashing like a mad man and holding his breath under water. Another win.

After we read ALL of the books in the room out loud, he went to bed wearing his Spider-Man costume (still sleeping in the mask– we should probably take that off, right?) and was all puffed up and proud that HE was Spider-Man. Thank you for praying for his heart and his hurt. Praising God for a day filled with love.

Resurrection Day is tomorrow, and we are truly grateful for Christ’s death and resurrection for the forgiveness of our sins. We do nothing to deserve it, but He freely gives it, and thank goodness, because I’m a hot mess.