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.