Thursday, June 11, 2015

Stepping into the darkness

She wouldn't even look at me, and without her having to say it, I knew. She resented me for having taken her away from her friends, China, everything that was familiar to her- and my heart sank. The girl that was described as cheerful, optimistic, and kind was gone, leaving an empty shell in her place. We had worked so hard to bring her home, and all she could think of was going back to her home.

I woke up from my dream with the same feeling of heaviness I'm becoming used to. The difficulty of what we're doing is beginning to set in- of raising a substantial amount of money, filling out piles of adoption paperwork, with five children under the age of eleven who are home for the summer. Juggling three monumental tasks that are each a full-time job in and of themselves.

Harold B. Lee said, "You must learn to walk to the edge of the light, and then a few steps into the darkness."

The comfortable security of the light is far behind us, and we are now navigating in what at times feels like overwhelming darkness of uncertainty. Uncertainty of how we'll secure the needed funds, and how we will bring home one child, without neglecting the others. And sometimes that uncertainty dances back and forth between the line of discouragment and despair.

But then come the flashes of light that remind us that God hasn't forsaken us- that the darkness we feel is only a temporary veil to test our faith.

It came  the other day in the form of a dear friend who stopped by with a handwritten note with words of encouragement and her favorite scripture. A $50 bill was folded inside, and she apologized that it was only a drop in the bucket of what we needed. I struggled to hold back the tears as I later wrote her that the impact of a drop in the bucket is relative to how empty the bucket is, not only financially, but emotionally as well.

It came as I was working on adoption paperwork, and came out of my room to find that my boys had cleaned the kitchen and tidied the house to surprise me.

And then it came again when another dear friend stopped by to give me the surprise that more than 70 friends and acquaintances had come together, without my knowledge, to organize a yard sale, a bake sale, a farm day, a haircutting day, and a jewlery sale. She told me I wasn't to worry about the details, that they were being taken care of. She had been on the receiving end of similar blessings several years before, and said how much she enjoyed being on the giving end this time. That night as I lay in bed, tears of gratitude flowed. If they could only know how much their kindness meant to me.

In my despair I had forgotten the other half of Harold B. Lee's famous words, "...then the light will appear and show the way before you."

In Sunday School a few weeks ago, I told my class that as we study the scriptures, that it is equally important to study the Lord's promises as it is to study the commandments. The promises are the safety line that we cling to when obedience seems out of reach.

Somehow this will all come together. I know it will. I don't believe in a God who leads His children towards paths doomed for failure. I may not see the finish line, or even a clear path to get me there, but somehow we'll get there.

"I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith." (Ether 12:5-6.)


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Something to prove

I came across one again today- one of those stumbling blocks that I'm becoming all too familiar with. I've heard that this happens to families after they commit to an adoption- this barrage of opposition. Every time it rears its ugly head, its a little different from the last. A master of disguise, it morphs itself into so many forms: self-doubt, financial set-backs, time restraints, outside criticism. The list is endless.

The first time I felt it was when I told someone that I would be starting to do photography again for clients as a way of earning money for the adoption, and a stinging comment was made about my work. I despaired the rest of the day, wondering if I was being delusional in thinking that anyone would ever pay for my work.

And then there was the time when adoption costs were beginning to mount and Dennis had borrowed a trailer from a friend to pick up a piece of equipment he needed for one of our fundraisers. And wouldn't you know it, he blew not one, but two tires on the trailer. And just like that, a painfully large amount of money we had set aside for our home study costs, went sailing out the window.

Then came the time we were on a tight deadline to have our passport pictures submitted to secure our commitment paperwork for our daughter. Costco was going to be closing soon, and we were trying desperately to get out of the house to arrive in time. Just as we were walking out the door, Dennis looked out the front window, and saw that a man driving by in a pick-up had tipped the trailer he was pulling, scattering its contents all across the road. "I just can't leave him there like that. He needs help," he said simply. I truly love how helping someone in need never involves a decision for my husband. Two hours later, Dennis walked back through the door, dusty and tired, but the job had been done.... and we had missed our window of time.

Today it came in the form of a person who, over the course of many years, we have come to trust and respect.

"If she's almost eleven, and has remained un-adopted all these years, it makes you wonder what's wrong with her that they're not telling you."

"You'll see, her medical issues will be only the tip of the iceberg."

"The Chinese culture is a matriarchal society, and she will over-run your children."

"Her file is probably completely fabricated by the orphanage in an attempt to cast her in a positive light so that they can get pawn her off onto someone else."

As I listened for almost 30 minutes, with blood pressure rising, I sensed something happening within me that hadn't happened before. I wasn't hurt by his words or doubtful about our decision, I felt furious. Not for me, but for her. My mama bear instinct was raging under the surface.

How dare you talk about my daughter that way? Say what you will about me, but I'll be damned if I'm going to let you tear her down! She may not be perfect, and when she gets home we will have to stitch back together the broken pieces of her life, but she's MY DAUGHTER, and I will go to hell and back for her!

...But being the coward I am, I simply listened and calmly asked that when she gets home, that he treat her just the way he would treat any of my other children. Gah! SO.MANY.THINGS.TO.SAY! Why am I such a coward?!?

In my last blog post, I said I had nothing to prove in our decision to adopt. But today, I completely and unequivocally take that back. As a matter of fact, I DO have something to prove now.

I want to prove to him that while adoption may be a cobblestone road of broken hearts, it can still be a beautiful journey- one that changes and blesses lives forever. I want to prove to him that God is in control and in the details of our lives- and in the life of a young orphan girl in China. I want to prove to him that these unrelenting stumbling blocks that keep coming our way will someday create a staircase of stepping stones, if we push past them with faith and hard work.

This is the beautiful little girl that we are working so hard towards making our daughter. I love her with the same affection I felt towards my unborn children when I carried them in the womb for those many difficult months. Thank you, sweet girl, for giving me something to prove.


Sunday, May 31, 2015

Changing family

My blog has been quiet lately, but I have been documenting more than I ever have before over the last few months, but in a private journal. We've had experiences too sacred and close to the heart to share publicly. It has been an amazing journey with feelings of faith and doubt, trust and fear, but ultimately love. I think a lot of my close friends and family had already caught wind that this was in the works, but now that things are more official, we thought it was time we make the announcement. This is an email I sent to my family a few days ago. It's probably more information than you wanted, but hopefully this will answer some of the questions you may (or may not) have.

Dear family,

I've spoken to a few people about this, but because of so many mixed reactions, have decided to keep it mostly to ourselves. I know we'll still get some negative reactions, though I hope by sending this, it will help answer some questions. Dennis and I are in the process of adopting a 10 year old girl from China. We received our pre-approval from China this morning to move forward with the adoption.

We've talked casually about adoption for the past several years, but over the past six months we've received some undeniable promptings that have made us realize that we needed to look into it seriously. I imagine some of you might have some of the same questions and concerns that people have expressed to us. I believe that most of the misgivings come from love and concern for our family. The unknown is always frightening, and there is a wide spectrum of feelings regarding adoption. I get how bizarre it seems, especially at this point in our lives. Had I not had some of the experiences I've had over the past 6 months, I would have likely doubted it as well. I'll try to address some of the concerns people have expressed to us as best as I can. I apologize if it's seems like we're going on the defensive right off the bat. That's certainly not our intent, but we learned quickly that people have lots of questions and some skepticism about what brought us to this point.

You don't know what you're getting into. You're absolutely right. We don't. But I can't think of a single major decision when we've really known what we were getting into. We've spent hours upon hours studying the adoption process, her medical condition, and what to expect in terms of bonding with an adopted child.  We've consulted with many other adoptive parents, participated in webinars, and done online classes. And we will continue to do so even long after she's home; and yet, I don't think we will ever be fully prepared. But I can say that out of all the decisions I've made in my life (even combined), this is the one decision I have studied, prayed, and fasted about the most. I have spent more hours on my knees praying for clarity and insight than I ever have in my life.

It's going to be hard. Like, really hard. Again, you're probably right. I'd be shocked if it wasn't. Children who have suffered this level of abandonment and neglect have endured more heartache in their few years of life than most of us do in a lifetime. This is bound to affect their relationships with others, especially those who are closest to them. But I know, without a doubt, that just because something is hard- sometimes painfully so- that it doesn't mean it shouldn't be done. The scriptures are full of stories of God commanding people to do hard things. Sometimes it's hard all along the way, and this might not be any different. But I learned long ago, that Heavenly Father never asks us to do something that we aren't capable of doing, or that He won't qualify us to do.

You're going to regret it and want to send her back. There might be times when we wonder, "What are we doing?!" I've already thought plenty of times.  I look at my little family that in so many ways seems so ideal, and worry about how this will all play out. Will she like us? Will she like me? Will she resent us for taking her away from her friends, culture, and everything she knows? Attachment and bonding with an older adopt children can span over many difficult years. These worries never leave me. Believe me, we are under no delusions. It is said that with adoption you should hope for the best, but prepare for the worst- and that is what we are trying to do, to the best of our ability.

Why are you adopting a Chinese child? There are plenty of American children who need good homes. Yes, there are a heart-breaking number of American children who also need homes, and adopting an older American child is virtually free. Our first choice was to adopt domestically. We've looked extensively into adopting out of the U.S. foster system, but were told, in no uncertain terms, that because we aren't looking to adopt a newborn baby, with our family size and the ages of our children, we would not be considered as candidates for many, many years. While a domestic adoption might be something we consider later on down the road, it simply isn't an option for us right now, and we feel like the prompting is for us to act now. We studied the Chinese adoption program, their orphanage and fostering culture, people's past experiences with adopting from China, and decided it was the best fit for us.

Why don't you just become foster parents? We've explored this option extensively as well. There is certainly a desperate need for them. We've attended informational meetings, spoken to parents who have fostered, researched it; and somehow it has never felt right to either of us.

You can't afford this. You're absolutely right. We don't have the money to bring her home. Adopting internationally is very expensive. But we do have the financial means to raise another child, albeit on a stretched budget. Even after doing extensive fund-raising, we will probably have to drain the little savings we have remaining after building our house. It makes me dizzy just thinking about it. But when I think of my children, there is nothing I wouldn't do, or a price I wouldn't  pay to bring them home- biological or adopted.

If you want to grow your family, why don't you just have more of your own? Growing our family is not, nor has it ever been, our intent with this adoption. With five children, our quiver is full, believe me. In fact, it's 2 more than I ever thought we'd have. I passed the "crazy lady with all the kids" threshold long ago, but there's not a luxury in the world that I would trade for any of my children.

Your kids are going to think that they aren't good enough for you, and so you had to go to China to find someone better. No kidding... someone actually said this. All of our children have been involved in the process since day one. I've told them all along that their opinions matter very much, and that if at any point they decide they don't want to do this, that we simply won't.  This is as much their decision as it is mine or Dennis'. They have sat next to me reading profiles and discussed how this child or that child might fit into our family. We've asked them to pray about the decision individually, and as far as I know, they have. They are all fully in agreement, though to be fair, I'm not sure how much they understand the full impact or longevity of this decision.

Why don't you just wait a few years? We are well aware that it would be easier if we waited until Mila is 5 or 6 years old, and then adopted younger than her. Adopting, so as not to disrupt birth order, is typically the ideal. But I've learned that the Lord's timing rarely seems logical or convenient to us. I've spoken to many, many people who have successfully adopted older children and/or disrupted birth order, and have even gone on to do it many times over.

What are you trying to prove? This one was the hardest to hear. Absolutely nothing. If this process proves anything, it will be to prove how reliant I am on the Lord to be a decent human being. I've never been more aware of my short-comings as I have been over the past few months.  Soon after we made our decision to move forward with the adoption, I was overcome with feelings of doubt about my inadequacies. But something from the scriptures came to my  mind as clearly as a thought ever had. "I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it." And I can't deny the series of events and feelings that have led us to this point.

I realize that this letter might not change some of your minds, and that's okay. We hope for your support in our decision, but respect that you still may have your reservations and doubts, and that certainly is your prerogative. We ask, however, that any lingering feelings of negativity be taken up with us, and not passed on to her. In the end, she is just a child who needs a family, and we are willing to be that family for her. Please feel free to give us a call if you want to talk it over with us.

Love,
Rita

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Disneyland

Several months ago, my kids donated the money they had been saving for over a year to go to Disneyland, to the Idaho Food Bank. We were watching the news one morning, and saw they were taking donations. We drove down together as a family, taking their jar of coins and a few dollar bills. It was a hard sacrifice for them, but I was proud of their decision to do it.

About a month later, the news station contacted me and asked if they could come to our house and surprise our kids with tickets to Disneyland. Of course!!! Here is a link to the clip they played on the news that night.


Fast forward a few months later, and we're on our way! I apologize for the picture overload, but a lot of people have asked us how our much awaited Disneyland trip was. Here are a few of our favorite pictures.
Starting the 15 hour drive






Becoming Wilderness Adventurers

Big brother giving his little sis a ride when she got tired of walking
This is how we felt by the time we were done riding the swinging ferris wheel...


Meeting Anna and Elsa were at the top of the girls' list of priorities.
We waited in line for almost an hour to see them,
which is a relatively short wait, from what I hear. 

And wouldn't you know it, my cell phone camera
mal-functioned just as they posed to take the picture.



At 39.5 inches, she was mercilessly denied riding
the rides that required a minimum height of 40 inches.
 Poor little thing... to say that she was ticked off
would be an understatement.

So we settled for riding the Winnie the Pooh ride
 over and over and over (and over) again.


Camden and I must have ridden California Screamin'
at least 10 times. It was his favorite ride,
and I was the only one who would tag along.
Thunder Mountain- the kids' favorite ride.

Poor Luke, he will never live down his "I'm beginning to think Disneyland is for babies" comment.
Famous last words...
The girls and I had a lot of time to kill while the boys went
on all the rides that they couldn't go on because of their height.
 Lauren, our little dare devil, was quite disappointed.





This little girl's expressions crack me up. She is by far our most expressive child. This was at Legoland aquarium, as she watched the sharks swim by.
We weren't as impressed with the rides at Legoland,
but the Lego displays were phenomenal!

It was a wonderful trip. The weather was perfect- low 70's, and the lines were short- on average 15 minutes. It was as close to perfect conditions as I think you could ever get. Probably more than anything though, we just enjoyed being away from schedules, homework, chores, and all the other things that can make us uptight. It made me realize how much nicer of a mom I am when I'm away from all of our responsibilities.

We were on a tight budget, so we lived off sandwiches almost the entire time (with a few exceptions), and stayed in a cheap hotel. But I don't think the kids even noticed. That's part of what made the trip so special. I loved the talks we'd have as we walked back to our hotel in the dark each night, stopping for pie or ice cream for a late night treat. You look at your kids with different eyes when you're away from the routine of every day.

I loved watching my kids enjoy the beach for the few hours we were there, and the simplicity of the joy that it brings people of all ages. It saddened me to realize that something I loved so much as a kid is not part of my children's childhood. Luke made me promise I'd take him back to the beach at least once a year, and that's a promise I plan on keeping.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Life according to my phone

(I borrowed the name of this blog post from a friend. Thanks, Cherilyn!)

I've been feeling bad that my last post was such a downer. After over a month of not blogging, my bad day was what I blogged about?! I've been tempted to delete it, but then I've stopped myself. I don't want to whitewash my life, nor do I want my kids to think that unless life is smooth-sailing, that something is wrong. Just because things in life aren't always perfect, it doesn't lessen life itself. It's usually the hard things in life that in the end bring about our biggest blessings.

As a family, we've been writing in a Blessing Journal every night. We each take turns, writing down something that blessed our life that day. I've noticed that it's the small things that bring me so much joy. Like the way I can look out our large windows and see the valley coming to life again after a cold and gray winter. It's the way Calista has named me as her blessing every night for the past month. It's my allergies that have miraculously subsided, allowing me to enjoy the spring and to have a cat in the house. It's watching my girls wiggle into their ballet suits every Thursday afternoon. It's listening to the way Luke's giggle fills a room. It's Camden's tenderness. Life is so good.

Here are some of the things that have blessed my life lately:

Last week on our date night, Dennis and I went out to dinner and had the worst service we've ever had from a waitress. This morning I was looking over our receipts and noticed that even after our waitress' sour sense of humor, messed up dinner order, and everything else that went wrong, Dennis had still tipped her well. I love that man.

This is the only picture that wasn't taken with my phone, but I love this one of him.


Camden and Dennis worked ever so hard on this year's Pinewood Derby car, as it was his last year competing before moving out of Cubscouts. They researched and schemed how to build the fastest car, and spent hours sanding and perfecting it. I loved seeing the smile on Camden's face as he walked through the door with the ribbon for first-place.


This past weekend, a friend and I took our boys on a Mother/Sons weekend to Sun Valley. We spent the weekend swimming, playing games, and exploring; all with a no-electronics rule. It was an absolute blast. One day we spent three hours along a river building a large teepee. How I adore these little boys. It has been my highlight of the year so far.


Celebrating my boyfriend's birthday. I have to be careful when I call Dennis that around the kids. My kids have started telling their friends that their Mom has both a boyfriend a husband.

Lauren's fearlessness always impresses and amazes me. When her first tooth became wiggly and was ready to come out, she grabbed a string, opened her mouth, and asked her dad to yank it out. She didn't even flinch when her tooth when bouncing across the room. She has brought me string several times since then and has asked me to pull out her other teeth. When I ask her why she wants them out, she reminds me that the Tooth Fairy pays double on Wednesdays and that she needs some cash.



One Saturday afternoon, we heard the thump on our window and found the lifeless body of a quail outside our window. Ever the resourceful one, Dennis took the opportunity to teach our children about the anatomy of a bird and how to prepare it for consumption. He cooked it up and ate all 3 chewy bites of it.


I joined Camden for the fifth grade ski night. It was another one of the highlights of my year as we skiied side-by-side on the darkened slopes and rode the ski lift, laughing at the tiny little skiiers below us.


A few months ago we were able to meet some of the team of our local news channel. They invited us back to take a tour of the station. Such kind a genuine people. We are so blessed to live in such an amazing community.


I'm sure people on Instagram will get tired of me posting the sunrises that I see outside my kitchen window, but I could live here for a million years and never get tired of watching them.


Camden won 4th place in the backwards jump-rope competitition for several schools in the district. He was so proud! Dennis and I had to hold back smiles at the randomness of the event.

What would a girl do without her friends? We laughed until we cried, and then we laughed some more.


My favorite thing about waking up in the morning: their epic bedhead.

Luke takes Wacky Wednesday at school so seriously, and scours the house. Ironically, he usually takes it off 5 minutes after getting to school.


Dennis seems to be constantly caught away in meetings lately, and it takes its toll on me. I'm grateful for my wonderful friend, Angie, who invited us to come over and insisted on taking the girls for a ride one evening when I was at the end of my rope.


Yes, life has been good to me.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Disappointment and Patience

Today I went to the physical therapist and was told that I should consider hanging up my running shoes for good. After a year and a half of back and hip pain from my last pregnancy, I can't say I'm surprised. Disappointed though? Very much so.

Dammit.

Perhaps it makes me less of a lady for saying it, but there just aren't any other words. I cried on the drive home. Sometimes it's hard to remember to take a deep breath and keep things in perspective. I love motherhood, I really do, and there's nothing I'd rather be doing with my life. But sometimes the loss of freedoms that come with it becomes overwhelming. Running was one of the few remaining freedoms I enjoyed- the fresh air on my face, my feet in rhythm with my breaths, and my thoughts gloriously quiet.

I came across this quote yesterday, perhaps as divine preparation for what was to come today. “Patience is not passive resignation, nor is it failing to act because of our fears. Patience means active waiting and enduring. It means staying with something … even when the desires of our hearts are delayed. Patience is not simply enduring; it is enduring well! Patience means accepting that which cannot be changed and facing it with courage, grace, and faith." -Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Apparently I'm not doing too well with the last three words of that quote.

Funny how our personal mantras change throughout our life. In my 20's, it was, "I can do anything."

Now in my 30's, maybe it needs to change to, "My limitations do not define me."

Some days I miss the lady I used to be when I look at old pictures. She seems so long ago and so far removed. But in her place, is someone that I think I like more. Albeit a few pounds heavier and not as swift on her feet. No, my limitations don't define me.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Dear man from the gym,

I'm flattered... really. You have to understand that in the past thirteen and a half years since I've been married, I've only really been picked up on maybe a total of four times. And three of those times came from Mexican men who were delirious from pain killers, when I worked at the hospital.

I was in the weight room at the gym this morning when you looked over with a smile and said something flirty. I wasn't wearing my wedding ring so there's no way you could have known that I'm married. You probably thought I was Heartless Hagatha when I popped me earbuds in and walked away. I apologize for what was blatant rudeness on my part, by any standard.

As a mother of five, it's hard to feel attractive sometimes, and I would be lying if I didn't say I was flattered by the fact that I was even noticed. To your credit, you aren't bad looking. Had I been single, I might have even smiled back and said something in return. But there's something about me you don't know. A lot actually.

There's a man in my life. Not just in it, but at the heart of it. He's a small-town farm boy with calloused hands and an old pick-up truck. He loved me when I was seventeen, with braces, dyed red hair, and a unibrow. He prayed and patiently waited for over a year for me to return his love. We've gone through college together, lived in and remodeled run-down homes together, and had five children. He's listened to me when I've been a babbling idiot and loved me when I've been a hormonal lunatic. He stroked my hair and rubbed my feet when I was writhing in labor pains. He's rocked my babies to sleep and cooked dinner for me more times than I can count. He writes me love notes on my bathroom mirror. When I say he can build anything, I mean anything. In every room and corner of the house, there are things he has built that remind me of how much he loves our family. We've built a life together in the past thirteen and a half years that has more love and memories than I ever thought I'd have in a lifetime. He says he's never thought of himself as a handsome man, but to me, he is the most attractive man on Earth, and my very best friend.

Now do you see why I wouldn't- couldn't- give you the time of day? I would be the world's most delirious woman to even think that there could be greener pastures than the one I already have. I know a lot of married people who enjoy the thrill of what they see as harmless flirting. But to me, there's no such thing.

I hope your pride wasn't too wounded by my rudeness this morning. As Paul Newman once said when referring to his wife, "I have steak at home. Why should I go out for hamburger?" I'm sure being compared to hamburger when you obviously take great pride in your physique is a blow, but don't take it personally. If you knew my steak, you'd understand.

Again, my apologies.

Sincerely,

Heartless Hagatha from the gym