Monday, May 24, 2010

Our First ER Visit

Friday night, the two older girls were at friends homes sleeping over. So, Steve and I were enjoying some time with the two younger kids. We were sitting in our porch as Samson and Avery ventured off to the trampoline. With a close eye on them, Steve made a comment about when we will see our first broken bone as a result of the trampoline.

Then Avery asked if we would jump with them. One of us agreed and followed the kids to the tramp while the other one of us went to clean up dinner dishes.

Just a few minutes later, Samson was down and noticeably injured in his arm. His left arm was dangling. Just the sight of this made my stomach weak.

We loaded up in the van and headed to the ER. I was driving, so I dropped Steve and Samson off and Avery and I went to park the car. When Avery and I entered the ER waiting area, the receptionist asked us to have a seat - they didn't want anymore people in the room.

A few minutes later, we could hear Samson screaming. Avery started to cry for her little brother, which brought tears to my eyes. I prayed that God would give Steve strength to endure watching his dear son experience what ever they were doing at the time.

Soon after the screaming, a nurse came out to the waiting area and told me that I needed to replace my husband in the room with our son. I had flashbacks of when I was delivering one of the girls and when the doctor put an IV in my hand, Steve almost passed out.

I found Steve lying on a bed sweating with a cup of water in his hand. It must have been too much for him.

So I took his place and Steve joined Avery in the waiting room. After getting settled with Samson, I learned that the only thing they had done so far was take an X-Ray of his arm. The hardest part was yet to come. Later I talked to Steve about what triggered him to almost faint and he said it was the news that the X-Ray showed 2 broken bones in his arm.

With Samson on my lap, the doctor proceeded to cast his arm from his hand and past his elbow. Then as the cast was drying, the doctor reset his arm. That was the painful part for him!

Apparently little kids heal fast, so the cast will come off in 4 weeks.

Lesson learned... A game of "Crack the Egg" on the trampoline with an adult and toddler may result in cracking more than the 'egg'!!

Monday, May 17, 2010

A New Endeavor

A few posts back, I shared how my daughter Olivia was so overwhelmed with pain over those who suffer needlessly. She was so overtaken by the American Idol Gives Back show that she could not breath normal.

She questioned why we just sit here, talk about doing something to help "the least of these" and not take action.

Even before that time, our family has been praying for God to show us where to serve, to show us how we can give back to Ethiopia.

After several emails back in forth with a newer organization, I came up with this idea that could potentially raise a significant amount of funds and proposed this idea to this organization. Well, they loved it and gave me the green light to proceed.

This is such a small way I can help this organization. However, the project seemed a lot simpler when I proposed the idea than it does now that I have this project on my plate. Yikes! What have I signed up for?!

I have zero experience with any of the work that it will take to complete this project. So, you can imagine that I quickly became fearful of this task. I don't have the skills, the knowledge, the experience for many parts of this. I began to feel more inadequate than I had ever felt in my life. What if I fail and let this organization down?

But I am part of this awesome small group of couples and we have all been ready to take on a project together. So, I proposed the idea to my small group and nobody hesitated to jump on board. Now I am not doing this alone. We have the talents and resources available within our small group to pull this off.

Then God showed me that even though this is a whole new experience for me, I do have the gift to coordinate, the ability to find the right resources, the capacity to pull things together, to research and find the information I need. The bottom line is that nothing is too big for God.

The women of our small group met to pool our ideas together. We are using our creative juices to their fullest and we have already come a long ways with this project.

My biggest prayer request over this endeavor is that seeds will be planted and God will be glorified. We want God's fingerprints all over it, not ours.

Please pray also that we are able to work through the details in unity and offer the most we can to this organization.

God is so good!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

9 months home

I pulled up my blog today and realized that it has been a long time since I last posted. So, today I have decided to ponder and write about the changes we have seen in Samson over the nine months he has been part of our family.

We have seen some major physical changes. When we first received his referral, he was not on the US growth charts. Then when he first joined our family, we discovered that the food at the Care Center served him well, because by then, he had reached the 5% - 10%tiles. Over the past nine months, he has gained at least 4 pounds and grown at least 4 inches, putting him in the 50% - 75%tiles today! And he is on his third shoe size. He currently has 3 pair of shoes, his tennis shoes, his 'dress' shoes and his crocs, which he calls 'my rocks'.

First home with our family, he didn't know any English speaking words except "Ring round rosies, ashes, ashes, we fall down" (by the way, ashes was pronounced without the 'h'). Communication is no longer an obstacle.

First home, he could not sit up from a laying down position because of the size of his tummy and lack of stomach muscle. He could not jump either because of lack of muscle in his legs. When we put him on the trampoline, he would just roll around while we carefully jumped around him.

He is no longer the kid who rolls around. Now when I watch him on the trampoline with the girls, he is right in there jumping with them with much grace, strength and very good balance. Yesterday, he jumped off the coffee table to the floor. I encouraged him to jump over and over because I loved seeing the joy in his face over this major accomplishment.

When we were first home, he would not allow me to get too close to him. He always put up a fight each time I had to change his diaper, rub lotion on him or just try to hold him. I remember trying to scratch his back and he would pull away from me. He was afraid.

But I don't blame him for reacting the way he did because I know my girls would act the same way if a stranger tried to rub lotion on them or put their hand up their shirt to scratch their backs. This morning when he woke up, he said "Mommy, will you scratch my back?"

The first few months, he was by my side every minute of the day even though he resisted me doing anything for him. Each task or housekeeping chore, he had to be right there helping me. Each time I had to use the bathroom, even though we weren't really trying to potty train him, he had to use the bathroom. Except, he wouldn't let me help him - he had to pull down his pants, take his diaper off, sit on the pot, wipe himself and when he was done, wash his hands without help and put his diaper back on. I guided him through the process as much as he allowed without throwing a tantrum.

Each time I took a shower, he protested and was waiting with a towel ready to dry me off and help me get dressed. He was over anxious about doing everything, that he was willing to do anything, including wiping his mother's bum (no I didn't let him) to give him a sense of being in control.

Today, he has almost no interest in potty training, he gets frustrated only about half the time when I have to take a shower and he no longer disturbs me when I need to go to the bathroom. All of these changes have happened in just the past 4 - 6 weeks.

One thing that we can see will be a challenge in the future (and a challenge today) but will serve him well some day is that he is very determined to get what he wants. And many times he suceeds because he has become so good at out smarting us and he is a very tough negotiater.

It used to be that he would never sit down and play on his own or watch more than 2 minutes of TV without me sitting with him. Now, he is a HUGE Barney fan! Yes - the big purple dinosaur! We have several Barney movies from Lauren's growing up years and he can't get enough of him. The other day he told me that he was going to find out where Barney lives and go see him. He asked me if I know where he parks his car, because maybe then he could figure out where he lives.

If Barney is #1 in his life, garbage trucks are #2. He is infatuated with garbage trucks. Each Tuesday morning, he helps me drag the garbage out to the curb and most of the time we are fortunate to witness the truck pulling up to dump our can. The garbage man always gives a friendly wave as Samson stands, fixated and intrigued by the process.

The other day, I told him to eat more of his bananas that I had given him for lunch. I told him how important it was to eat healthy because one day he will grow up to be a man. With much excitement in his voice and big eyes, he said, "You mean, I will grow up to be a garbage man?!"

Speaking of food, Samson ate EVERYTHING when we were first home. He would ask for seconds, even thirds of PEAS! I'm sorry to say that now he has joined the ranks of children in our home who we have to connive into eating their green veggies.

I also still have to remind him to chew his food. After several episodes of surviving heimlich (sp?) maneuvers, I am paranoid each time he puts something in his mouth that requires him to chew before he swallows. We realized after the first few weeks of watching him choke several times, that he may never had food in his life that he ever had to chew.

We do have many fun times and lots of laughter together as a family. Samson cracks us up with his interpretation of things. For example, when I tell the girls to 'get dressed' in the morning, he will say, "I'm going to get my dress on."

When I call him my "sweet little baby boy." He calls me his "sweet little baby mommy."

By the time the girls get home from school, I am ready for them to keep Samson busy. I love spending time with him but by the end of the day, I am tired out. The girls love to step in and take over with activities, such as dancing, playing board games and reading to him. It's especially good practice for Avery as she is learning to read this school year:

We have come a long ways. The days are much less intense. There are still times that Steve and I throw our arms in the air and say, "What do we do now?" but overall, we are happy about the progress that we have made as a family. I try to focus on the milestones we have reached because this is what helps me stay positive. The victories are what motivate me to press on. He is such a great kid and we love him very much!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Summit Recap

My mind is overflowing with information. I've been home for 6 days and still trying to sort through how I can apply what I have learned to be an advocate for orphans.

First, I was just incredibly impressed with the high caliber speakers they flew in to share their stories or positions on caring for the orphans all over the world. The most important of those that had a presence of course was God. He was sitting in on each worship time, each session and set up divine meetings with many for the purpose of sharing and coming together with a common passion.

Through the main organizers, God orchestrated this event and brought in many voices for the orphans to speak and share their hearts. Among these voices was former First lady of Gautamaula, Patricia Arzu to talk about her efforts to get children off the street and into homes; Senator Amy Klobuchar came and spoke about the legislation she is helping write to improve the international adoption process; The Desperation Band from New Life Church in the Springs came and gave their testimony and led worship; Steven Curtis Chapman and Mary Beth gave their testimony through speaking and music.

All of these people are well known advocates for orphans. Then we heard from a very inspiring pastor from Russia and another pastor from Uganda; Tom Davis, author of many books I've read, including "Red Letters", "Scared" and "Fields of the Fatherless"; Then John Piper wrapped up the closing session.

Then there were the 6 breakout sessions I attended in addition to hearing all the above well inspiring individuals. Also, during lunch breaks and networking time, I met some very courageous adoptive parents and heard their stories of advocating for the orphans.

One young man in particular told me their family's adoption of their 2 beautiful children from Kenya a year ago. The process took a very long time with many unbelievable hurdles and obstacles, including his wife having to live there for 1 full year before they could bring their children home. They now have set up a child sponsorship program for the children of the village their kids are from. This was just one of many stories that I had the privilege of hearing during the 2 day conference.

I was just blown away by the efforts of the organizations and individuals and their hearts for the orphans.

The sessions I chose to attend included topics about Attachment and Trauma; Orphan Permanency; Global orphan care; How to help a family begin the adoption process and the last session I attended was...... "Global Orphan Care: are we doing more harm than Good?"

I was not originally registered for this class but I felt like I needed to be there and actually it ended up being the class I learned the most from (took 4 pages of notes) but also kind of turned my world upside down and challenged me in areas more than I have ever thought I could be challenged. I gained a new perspective from the course and so glad I made myself attend.

The attachment and trauma session was taught by Karyn Purvis.

I have already applied some techniques that were taught to my parenting of Samson and wow! What a difference! They were simple things like, children with a history of malnourishment and trauma need to eat every two hours during the day to keep their blood sugar up. When their blood sugar is down, the chemical in their brain that causes them to throw tantrums goes up.

Also, children who have a history of malnutrition are most likely chronically dehydrated. They need to drink LOTS of water. When they are dehydrated, the same thing happens, a chemical in their brain is elevated and thus they are more likely to tantrum.

The "Are we doing more harm than good?" class was an important class for me at this stage in my journey. Our family has been praying and discussing what is next and what we should be doing to give back to Ethiopia. I am a zealous person and when I feel my heart stir, I go after whatever is making it stir. I want to act right away, do something even if it isn't clear direction from God. But this class has shown me the importance of careful planning.

Something that has been on our hearts even before our adoption journey is to find a way to help children not become orphaned. We still have that on our hearts to help children stay with their birth families. Whether we adopt again or not, this will be something we will work towards - a resolution that is sustainable, even if it takes more time.

Some good advice I took away from this session is "Don't let our intentions to do good out way our discernment." In other words, "balance compassion with discernment."

Another relevant good point is the fact that we as Americans many times go into a village and just do what we think the people need without a solid understanding of their culture. We also like to go in and just take care of things for people instead of empowering them to manage on their own. This causes a dependency that is doing more harm than good because it does not offer a long term solution.

Matt Storer, the man from Vision Trust who presented this session summarized what I thought of as very wise advice:
1. Gain a clearer picture of the economics of the situation.
2. Educate yourself and study the worldview of the people you are serving.
3. Slow down and pray - research and get counsel.
4. Acknowledge you don't know everything.
5. Never conclude there is a perfect way.
6. Leverage the local people.
7. Balance compassion with discernment.

Another key point I kept hearing over and over during the conference is once you choose your area to serve, whether it be somewhere overseas or in your community, make a commitment to serve long term. In other words, don't bounce around from country to country on short term mission trips. Short term mission trips may only be helping you feel good. The long term commitment is much more impactful to the people you serve.

This confirmed in my mind that Ethiopia is where we will give back. We have had opportunities presented to us for short term mission trips to different parts of the world but none felt right and now I know why. However, I do believe that short term trips can be preparation for something bigger God has planned for you. In fact a short term mission trip may be necessary to serve as a vision trip. Just be careful about jumping in without God's direction.

Building a relationship over time seems like the best approach to helping in an area you are called to serve. Teaching and giving them the tools they need to accomplish things on their own, gives them hope for their future and goes much further in changing a person from the inside out.

Overall, the conference has given me a sense of urgency to help but has also taught me to be patient, wait upon the Lord and proceed in a way that will make the most lasting impact and that will be a solution, not a band-aid to the problem.

Our family is connecting with resources, praying and waiting patiently on the Lord's timing and His direction. I have so much more to share...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Our Referralversary

Today marks one year from when we first learned of Samson. One year ago today, we got "the call" from our social worker that they had the referral for a 2 1/2 year old boy for our family. A few minutes after the call, she emailed the referral information on him and we saw his face for the first time in two different pictures. He had a half forced smile and lots of sadness in his eyes that just broke my heart.

Just one month prior to our referral of Samson, we had the heart breaking experience of a referral falling through so you can imagine that we proceeded with much caution with Samson's referral, trying not to fall in love and then have our hearts broken again.

But there was no way we could keep ourselves from falling in love with this beautiful young toddler. And the instant we pulled up his picture, we all thought that he had many characteristics that matched our family. Even today, home almost 9 months, friends, family and acquaintances will approach us and comment about how much he looks like our family.

God told me in a dream one year before we received Samson's referral that there will be something significant about February in relation to our son. Samson's birthday is February 11th.

God woke me up from this same dream, I looked at the time and it was 4:55 a.m. and the Holy Spirit told me to remember this time as a confirmation of who our son will be. Just a few weeks ago, I was viewing Samson's referral file we saved on our lap top. The time it was saved was 4:55 p.m.

The next day after that call, Tuesday, May 5th, we claimed him as our son. We knew he was our son and there wasn't anything holding us back from proceeding with our adoption of him.

The following Sunday was Mother's Day. I had much to celebrate as a mother of now 4 children, including being a new mom of now my first son - the best Mother's Day gift ever!

May 5th, the day we officially (on paper) accepted the referral of our beautiful new son was also a day God spoke to us as a day that would mean something special related to our son. I wrote about this mystical experience here.

We waited almost one full year after we submitted our dossier to learn about Samson. I remember wondering if this would ever happen. The day we received the call was so surreal. He had lost his birth family just two weeks prior. There was so much to take in, so many emotions and so much to think about. It's so different than giving birth. Trying to be cautious on top of our excitement, felt like a prolonged labor with the emotional pain instead of the physical pain. Does that make sense? We were happy, scared, tentative, yet we knew this was our son.

We hope to celebrate this evening when everyone is home but for now, looks like a beautiful day for Samson and me to spend outside together.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Journey Celebration

We celebrated Lauren's Confirmation yesterday. Our church calls it "The Journey" instead of confirmation, which basically involves the same course work and steps it takes to be "confirmed" on Confirmation Sunday but 'Journey' better describes the process. Getting to know Christ and growing in your faith is a life long journey. Their salvation is not guaranteed or 'confirmed' on Confirmation Sunday. It's recognizing where they are at in their faith walk and encouraging them to continue on their journey. Each child being confimed prepares and reads a statement of their faith journey to the congregation. It's a very courageous step and so touching to hear each of their hearts.

Lauren does have a relationship with the Lord. She recommitted her life to Christ 2 years ago at a Bible camp. She talked about a few experiences in her life since that time that have strengthened her faith, including her transition from a private school to a public and Samson's adoption.

Lauren's Journey class and teachers:

A good friend of Lauren's who is walking this journey with her:

Another good friend since the nursery days:

Not only did Lauren have to prepare and read her testimony of faith, but she also played "By Your Side" by 10th Avenue North on her violin (part of my playlist at the bottom). She did a beautiful job!

My dad with the two little ones - they love to be held by grandpa!