Friday, December 21, 2012

Friday, Day 2

Friday turned out to be a very low-key day. I had a fabulous time getting to know several of the volunteers that were at Liberty this week. They all  are really selfless, dedicated people from different countries and walks of life who have come to Liberty to try and make a difference in these kids' lives. More on my new friends in the next post.

Our kids woke up and they were still beaming with delight to have me there. Zarrina continued to appear more happy and affectionate with me than last January, and she has maintained a pretty steady camaraderie with me. This has been  a wonderful encouragement to me .

Tyler especially seems to really love my presence, which from our phone calls I am not surprised about, but he is very affectionate, holding my hand and insisting that I go with him everywhere about the compound. Miss Delfena took him to get new shoes today and she said she could not remember him ever being so happy and that he was singing out loud the whole way to and from Belize City.  Both of us take this to be a very good sign! (But don't even get me started on the "music" they love to sing to such as; "She ain't got the junk in her trunk"...)

While Shadrock continues to be busy, busy, busy he loves to come up behind me and surprise me with quite the exuberant hugs!  Whenever they have to stop and sit...meal times and movie times, both Tyler and Shaddie fight to sit on my lap. So I now have to say lunch time is Tyler's turn and dinner is Shadrock's. Tonight, Rupert really wanted me to sit with the bigger kids and Shaddie was quite upset about having his turn on my lap missed! The compromise was he got to sit on my lap during the entire movie that night.    
Shaddie's pillows, top sheets or blankets
At bedtime the younger two both asked if I would put them to bed and tuck them both in. I won't go into the lack of proper bedding is still an orphanage and they sleep in one room with 4 other boys and someone(s) are still wetting the bed  so it smells STRONGLY of urine in there. But they were just eating up having me there and  making sure they brushed their teeth ( It looks like Shaddie and Tyler  haven't brushed their teeth in a very long time as they now have obvious stains and pits right on the front of their teeth) and used the bathroom and then tucking them into their beds and kissing them goodnight. So that was all very good for connecting. And because they are both SO immature for their ages, Shaddie actually asked me to carry him to bed in my arms, baby style! They are starving for a Mom and they love that I am affectionate, yet firm with them. And this is while I am still on their turf and they know they don't have to really obey me yet, but they do. And poor Shaddie is so SKINNY!  I can put my thumb and first finger around his wrist and still have room to twist my fingers around. I can't do that even with Tyler, who is 2 years younger. The boy is ten years old and still wearing size 5/6.  Ben is wearing size 5's. And he is covered in scars. He took his shirt off today and it almost am me cry he has so many scars on his torso. Plus I also think he has parasites or something because he has that African ├╝ber-skinny chest and arms and legs, but a distended, hard belly. I can't wait to get him home and to see our Doc.
Tyler's bed

Rupert's bed is to the right
And Rupert has been very sweet and loving as well. He is the kindest, most generous child here  at Liberty, hands down. He never complains, is always sharing and looking out for the younger kids, and is just plain a good kid. But the nicest part for me is that he now likes to seek me out and give me kisses on my cheek. He also asked me to "say good night" to him in his room and of course this just meant him showing me where he sleeps and all his school stuff. He also showed me the newspaper article  from his sailing race where he took first place. He gave it to me to bring home so I could put it his room for him. He loved the watch we bought him for Christmas and the "5000 Amazing Facts" book and he is going around telling everyone..."Did you know that .....? " quoting the book. He is really so helpful and generous. For part of their Christmas presents, we gave the boys each a jar of peanut butter and graham cracker and Rupert's was gone by tonight because he shared his with everyone. The girls got Nutella and crackers and they ran off and hid them in their room, although Brittney did thank me profusely and several times over for her gifts, so that was a very nice response from my Sugar-Sugar.

Now unlike the younger boys who are still very immature, Brittney seems to have grown exponentially more mature and settled this past year. Miss. Delfena confirmed to me that Britney is doing much better in all areas. Her grades at school are the best of the bunch.  She told me that she had Brittney alone one day and asked about her true feelings...did she just want to be adopted to get out of Belize or did she really want a Mom and  Dad and a new family? She said Brittney answered clearly and unequivocally that she wanted a family. Honestly, I think this is true for all of them. All day Brittney has held my hand or sat on my lap or asked me to do Mom stuff...everything from  helping to tie the bow in the back of her shirt, to undoing her hair that was all in braids and twists with rubber bands that were twisted more than 20 times.
Brittney after I took all her braids out
That was REALLY time consuming and difficult and I am sure I pulled her hair uncomfortably more than a few times trying to get those stupid rubber bands out of her hair. But she not only never complained, she started to fall asleep! Then she asked me to wash her hair and conditioning it with the stuff I brought and gave to the girls. She also wanted me to try to "plait" it, but since they were all getting their baths and hair washed because  this weekend is a big concert/fundraiser,  and everyone was to look their best, I thought it would be wiser to let the more experienced caregivers do that! But, I watched them do both Britney and Zarrina's hair and all I can say is...WOW!
Now in anticipation of their homecoming, I have been doing a lot of reading and watching videos on how to care for the girls' hair, but OMGosh I cannot even begin to imagine doing that kind of intricate weaving and braiding myself! And spending hours and hours doing their hair it was INTIMIDATING to say the least!
 Miss D. suggested ... no she TOLD ME that it was time for Zarrina to get her hair relaxed as it would be good for her self-esteem now that she is at "that age" and we don't want other kids mocking her if her hair isn't "done right" and obviously, *I do not have the ability to do it right. She said that if it is relaxed then Z can just " brush her hair and go..." Oh, and btw..I need to take her to a salon every 4 weeks so she can have it professionally done. While I readily admit I am a novice at this hair care stuff, I am first and foremost not too keen on putting all these chemicals on my daughter's hair every 4 weeks! Nor do we have the resources to be traveling to the salon every 4 weeks for an expensive straightening treatment. And while it may be a possibility in Belize that mocking may occur, certainly in our culture, mocking Z because her hair isn't up to Belizean weaving standards is NOT gonna happen. So we will just have to see about this whole "necessary" hair straightening thing.
Brittney after her hair was done
Zarrina and L after their hair was finished
And with the newness factor gone from our January visit, I have been able to deal with all of them in a much more real way and they all seem to be very accepting of my role as Mom, and authority figure. Of course this has not ended the refusal to answer if they don't feel like it and Good God Almighty, do these kids have ATROCIOUS table manners...well not so much the older two, but Miss B and the boys...yikes!  But most importantly they all seem quite happy that I was there for them and they are all looking forward a great deal to the day when we can return to take the home for good.
What more could you ask for?
Tomorrow, the First Lady of Belize, Mrs. Kim Simplis Barrow is hosting her annual Christmas Concert at the main theater in Belize City for all the orphaned and handicapped children of Belize and all the kids are greatly looking forward to it. More on that in tomorrow's post.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Surprise...Day One in Belize

Thursday ~ arrival day
After a fairly uneventful morning of traveling…well, the handle of my carry-on did break taking it out of the car, forcing me to carry it instead of pulling it, which was a bit more strenuous than I was hoping for, especially in the huge Atlanta airport! (However did we manage all those years before wheels on luggage were invented?) And once I got to Belize, trying to finagle the two huge checked bags filled with clothes and treats for all the kids at Liberty, the broken carry-on, my lap-top case and my backpack…well let’s just say I’m sure I did the Three Stooges proud what with one of the other suitcase always tipping over while I was trying to pick up the last one that fell. Finally I made it through customs and spotted my ride and without any more mishaps we were off to Liberty.

Unlike the other trips down here where we stayed at a local bungalow, I would be staying right at the children’s home so I could maximize my time with the kids. We had told the kids that since they could not be home for Christmas, we were sending them a Christmas surprise that they should receive on Thursday. As soon as we pulled in, Zarrina came up to the car to see if she could be helpful, and when she saw me in the back seat, she got this strange, almost blank look on her face, like she knew she knew the face, but couldn't believe it. So I said…SURPRISE! And she broke into her famous ear-to-ear grin and said, MOM! Is that really you? And she gave me  lots of hugs and kisses and took me by the hand and led me to where I would be staying.
 Now last January when we were there to meet the kids, Zarrina was understandably much more shy and reserved with me. She is by nature shy and very introspective. However since we have been talking together of the course of this year, we have gotten to know each other much better and in her genuine excitement and happiness that I was there  she let her guard down to give AND receive much sweet  affection. It was really wonderful! None of the siblings were there at that time as they were either out on a shopping trip or finishing up exams at school, so we were able to sit and talk together for about an hour before we were interrupted. Z was animated and glowing during this whole one-on-one time together and I was blessed to see a part of her she normally keeps hidden.

Just then Tyler came in and walked right by me. I came up behind him and hugged and kissed him on the back of his neck and said…Guess who this is? In his adorable raspy voice and lilting Kriol accent he said, “I dunno; who eezzit?” and he turned to look at me. Again, like Zarrina he had the look like…I recognize you, but it can’t be.
He said, “You look like mah Mom… you-ah my Mom?”
“Yes, my son, it is me …SURPRISE!!”
And the boy just buried his head into me and held onto me so tightly…like if he let go or looked up he feared I would disappear, and that made my heart just sink for him, because I knew what would be coming next.
Excitedly he asked. “Mom, Mom, Mom, (he was so excited he only said it three times instead of his usual five times…)You comb fo me to take-ah me home?”
Sigh…. No my son, not yet. I am just here for a few days to surprise you for Christmas. Pretty soon though you will go home.
“Aftah Chreestmas we go home?”
Yes…just a few weeks after Christmas, Daddy and I will come back to get you and your brothers and sisters to go home for good.
“Ok  den. You bring me Chreestmas presents?”
Yes, I brought you all a small gift.
“When can I have eet? Can I have eet right now-ah?”
This boy makes me laugh out loud! I told him he had to wait a while longer and he was happy to wait. I asked him where the others were and he told me Shaddie was just around the corner, playing marbles. I snuck up behind Shaddie and repeated the same thing I had done with Tyler, only Shaddie was quick to recognize my voice. He still looked at me with disbelief, but also quickly held on for tight hugs and happily beamed as I planted several kisses on his beautiful face. We discussed how long I was to be here and then he went back to his game of marbles.

Now an interesting thing happened while I was with the boys…I noticed Zarrina had gone back to her usual reserved, almost aloof behavior and even though I went back to sit down and talk with her, she no longer wanted to be engaged. I decided to keep talking and acting like nothing had changed on her part and while she never came back to the joyful camaraderie that had marked our first hour together, I could tell she was enjoying me being affectionate with her. Back in January when she retreated like this and refused to even answer me, I thought she didn't like me and was “dissing” me. Boy, I had totally misread her back then. This girl just wants to be pursued and sought after. She wants to know that you care enough to work hard to earn her affection and once that light bulb went off in my head (DUH!)  it totally changed the dynamic of our relationship. Now that I finally “got it” I don’t mind at all carrying on one-way conversations with her as I know she is listening and enjoying my attempts. And when she refuses to even acknowledge that I am rubbing her shoulders or back, stroking her arms are kissing her head that’s way ok too, because I know now for sure that she secretly really loves the attention and the motherly touches that I am giving her. This was a huge break-through for both of us. And as the days progressed she took my hand a few times while we were walking, acting of course like it was no big deal. And often she would come and stand right near me, waiting for me to hug and kiss her and then rub her back. Our sweet girl couldn’t help herself and she will now let a small smile escape her lips.

Ok, so back to day one and Rupert’s arrival…
I was looking out the window and saw Rupert arriving back at Liberty after school. He stopped to talk with one of the caregivers and then all of a sudden he starts running towards the dining hall with a huge grin on his face, so I knew she must have said something. He came in the room and ran straight towards me and gave me a big hug and planted a big kiss right on my lips. Now this was very surprising…almost more shocking than Zarinna’s affection to me as Rupert did not volunteer any physical affection towards me last January. He was very sweet and polite and thoughtful, and he didn't seem to mind if I loved up on him a bit, but it definitely was not reciprocal. It wasn't until the very last moment just before we were leaving that he ever gave me a hug and a quick kiss on the cheek the whole week we were there! But here he was now, so happy to see me that he was both hugging and kissing me in front of his friends! This trip was turning out to be pretty cool so far…all that was left was the capricious Miss. B.

She was out shopping for the upcoming big fundraiser with the Director, Miss Delfena and the minute the van pulled into the lot and slowed to a stop, out she jumped and ran like a track star to the dining hall. Miss Smarty-pants had put 2-and-2 together after overhearing one of Miss Delfena's conversations in the van and our telling her there was a surprise coming on Thursday that the surprise was me. I’m warning you all now…not much will ever escape our would-be-dictator and she has the brains, determination and vivaciousness to make things happen her way. This child has a huge personality and lives right out loud, every single day. She can be quite overwhelming to the meek of heart…good thing she is coming into a family that already has experience with guiding and training determined, vivacious would-be-dictators and actually likes how stubborn they are…right Sarah?
Anyway all 100+ pounds of her jumped into my arms and almost knocked us both to the floor, except that I had calculated her non-slowing pace and braced myself before she hit like a tsunami. She smothered my face with kisses and then promptly told me before I could say how long I was there for that as long as I was here I will have to just stay until after the court date to save on airfare. That be mah Sugar-Sugar, Miss B. and she warms my heart with her zest for life.

The rest of the day was spent catching up looking at a year's worth of photos on the Ipad and having all five sit as close to me as possible, if not on my lap.  By 8pm I was so beat I excused myself to go back to  the Volunteers Dorm with a smile on my face and a grateful heart that it had all gone as well as it had.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Guardianship Court Date and another trip to Belize

 Well so much for it only taking a few days to get another Court took over 3 weeks, but we finally heard a few days ago that we have our official date. The children will be assigned to our legal guardianship on January 18, 2013. We do not need to be present for this court hearing as our lawyer will handle this for us. Then we wait for the paperwork to be filed at the Registrars office. (This could take 2 days...could take 2 weeks or more.)
 After the papers are filed, our lawyer can then obtain the legal copies we need to request a Consulate appointment. As it stands now, the Consulate is saying they need a two-week advance notice before they can issue an appointment, but we will request one ASAP anyway. So it means we could be traveling to bring the kids home (best case scenario) by the end of January to about mid-late February. This of course means the kids will not be here for Christmas, and while everyone was happy that we at least have a court date, they were all still pretty disappointed in the timing and rightly so. Based on the information we had been given, we have been telling them for almost a year now that they should be home...soon.

As the year dragged on, their initial excitement has faded and you can hear the weariness and frustration in their voices during our weekly phone calls. Often, one or more would refuse to talk on the phone to us at all they were so discouraged. This last bit of bad news was enough to sadden even the most optimistic of the bunch. So David and I thought the best way to ease their hurting hearts would be for one of us to travel down and surprise them for a few days. Since he went down in June, and I really wanted to go, we decided it was my turn. We then held a family meeting and explained to the kids that their brothers and sisters in Belize were sad and hurting and they could really use a visit from Mom for a Christmas gift to brighten their spirits and help re-establish the fragile bonds we forged last January.
This meant that Christmas back here would be extra meager...even though we do not believe in doing much of a materialistic Christmas this year’s would mean only a few stocking-stuffers for everyone. The one big annual family gift would be the airfare to Belize. Well it warms my heart and fills me with a joy like no other that EVERYONE...all the way down to 6 y/o Ben and Isabelle instantly agreed that would be the very best way to do Christmas this year. I am so proud that our kids are willing to sacrifice for the good of others.

 So I leave on Thursday the 13th and will return on Monday night, December 17th. Pray that this short time I have with the Belizeans will encourage them and leave them feeling loved, chosen and precious to our family. And please pray that for ONCE during this incredibly long process, that the final process will go quickly and that our oldest , Z, would actually be home for her 14th birthday on February 3rd! The internet is VERY sporadic in Belize so I will update as I can and hopefully will do a more thorough job once I return home.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Court Date 

 We were originally told we were waiting for the very LAST thing we needed before we could bring our kids home...the Supreme Court date that would grant us guardianship of the Fab Five. Well as it turns out, that is NOT the very last thing we needed. We now need TWO court dates...the first now being a hearing granting a legal custodian to the children, and the second one will be( after said legal custodian reviews our case) legal guardianship to us. Well we just heard our Custodian case will be heard on November 13... It should be a one day no brainier. That SAME day, we were told, the custodian will ask for a court date for the guardianship date. We we told that court date should take no more than two weeks... Please, if there is anyone out there after 3-1/2 years of trying to bring these kids home that still read this journal and believes in prayer, please,please, please pray with us that these kids can come home before Christmas. We have been talking with them every single week since last December, and they are MORE than ready to come home. We are MORE than ready for them to come home.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Testing, testing...Is this thing still on?

Or how I  could list second-guessing myself as a possible occupation...

Well, since I am writing this entry more than six  months after the last one it would seem that either I must be really, really busy or I am a really, really bad blogger...or a combination of both!

Our old home~ a beautiful Victorian built in 1840, on a large city lot
It's true that the last six months have seen some pretty crazy times. What with house-hunting, then packing up our large household, moving our large household (Lord, I hope we NEVER have to move again...ever!) and then weeks of setting up our new home. Then throw in a houseful of kids with alternating winter sicknesses of which I succumbed to not just one, but TWO down-and-out for two weeks cases of strep throat, all the while trying to keep up with home-schooling the youngest four and gosh, I really do have plenty of excuses for not keeping this journal updated.
A side view of our new home; a Colonial built in 1822 on 6 acres

But in truth, those really are not the main reasons I haven't been writing. It seems I have "lost my voice." I have started and deleted several posts countless times now since January…written them in my head during the day and then when I tried to write anything down the right words seem to escape me. Granted, it is a definite challenge to sit and put a coherent thought to paper when I have the constant interruptions that are inherent when you have many little children. But even in the quiet times when all my Littles are in their beds and the biorhythms that have my hard-working “early to bed/ super-early to rise” husband sleeping, this night owl has time to reflect and compose in peace, but my mind always just goes... blank.

All day long I have these thoughts of things I would like to share...some good thoughts sometimes too! And I have lots and lots of pictures of the family as they are growing and becoming the fascinating people they really are. We have been incredibly blessed with some truly amazing and interesting people in this family. Yet when I get a moment to actually sit and share, I stare at the blank screen, unable to put a single word or photo on there.

Now part of this stems from the fact that I go back and forth as to if and why I should even be doing this. Some days I think that by sharing the pictures and stories of our family's journey it might be encouraging to others who may be considering adoption as a way to grow their family, or just keep growing their family. No matter how or when or what shape or color they arrive into your family, children are ALWAYS a blessing from the Lord, and "Blessed is the man who has a quiverfull of them." I suppose that alone would be a good reason to keep this updated. If I thought that even a single orphan was adopted into a loving, Christian home because of our family's example, I would gladly continue.

Then there was the thought that maybe by sharing my personal story and my history of living the first half of my life totally screwing up my life with bad choices and of how Because of His Grace I am no longer that person it might also encourage another sister who is struggling with her past. If God can redeem and still use this broken vessel...He can use anyone! I would love to be able to encourage others but I wonder if this is really the best way to do that?

Other days I stop myself from writing wondering  why I should be taking the  time and effort of putting our private lives out there when maybe either:
 A. Hello? No one cares about what goes on in your family or anything you have to say lady! No one reads this stuff, so you're not helping anyone!!
Obviously, I know there are far more interesting family stories out there and they are being written by extremely talented writers (And I know this because I already subscribe to their blogs!) so really, why should I even take the time if no one cares and no one reads this stuff?? Good question I think!
And or/or:
 B. The Wrong people may be interested. Yes, I sometimes do get (I think legitimately) paranoid about our privacy in this electronic, billions of people on the WorldWideWeb planet. Besides the possibility of attracting the attention of nasty trolls and cyber creepy weirdoes, we are also a family that has been pretty vocal about how unhappy we are with how far Big Brother feels that can legally be sticking their nose into our private affairs and telling us what we can or cannot do. But don't get me started on THAT now...)

So what to do? What to do? Well first off, if you are interested in reading some really good stuff, check out some of my favorite Christian writers, like: Katie,  Ann,  Sara  and Susanna. Each of these women have a unique and different encouragement they share in their writing. Additionally, Ann and Sara often guest write for other venues and from there, you will find a host of other spectacular women writers that will bless your socks off. Read their stuff and you will quickly realize why I feel foolish to even blog on the same planet as they do! Also, there's my friend and kindred-spirit Alynn, who does an exceptional job documenting life with a large, adoptive family and from there, really the list of fabulous family blogs out there are endless.

Still, I know that some of my friends that visit are really curious in how our adoption from Belize is going. Writing about adopting internationally a large, older child sibling group is not your typical blog content and it certainly does have its unique challenges and perspectives to share. I suppose how we navigate these challenges may be of some interest to those who may want to see how it all turns out. We certainly are curious about that too! And since I haven’t updated how that is all going since January, I will give you long-story-short answer here:

When we left Belize in January, we were told by the officials that The Fab Five would be home by June. At the time we were devastated it was going to take six more months to get these kids home. HAH! As of today, June is nearly over and at this point we are hoping The Fab Five  will be home by the year's end.  I  really cannot say too much right now, but can tell you this; the enemy of our souls has been doing everything he can to stop it. He nearly succeeded a time or two, but we are not giving up.  I have to remain silent about most of this for now, but I assure there is  MUCH I could say about this process, and possibly I will in due time. For now, if there is anyone who still reads this stuff and believes in the power of prayer, pray that the officials who are holding this process up will either get going or be replaced by someone who will get it going!

Now the only other reason to keep this journal going is so that our extended family member and friends who live in far away places can see and stay in touch with how we are doing here. But I can only do this if I can be keepin' it real with ya ~ We happen to think our large, blended, and colorful family is exceptionally beautiful and we are blessed beyond our wildest dreams. But at times our lives have also been quite hard, messy and some heartbreak is inevitable when you choose to raise a large family. No way around it. I would not be painting an honest picture life in a large, adoptive family if I only share the picture perfect days. And that’s just not me. I realize the risk that this may not exactly be an encouragement to others who are thinking about adoption or having a larger family, but I feel I would be doing them a great disservice if I don’t also share my fears, failures and struggles as well as the many joys and blessings.

For example...

I spend a majority of my days just trying to finish up home schooling without my brain exploding all over the ceiling because I am STILL trying to teach Bella that the word "had" is the same word "had" she just read in the sentence above it AND the 12 pages with the word "had" on it before then...or  improper fractions for the 500th time this week to a child who stares at me with that blank, deer-in-the -headlights look. Or explaining that in the English language we have this  noun/verb connection wherein "one cat sleepS, but two catS sleep... day in, day to a relativity new English language speaker who when corrected, cops an attitude usually reserved for hormonal teen girls. Or the impossibility of trying to teach my 5 y/o genius son who can read and do advanced math that he really should not hold his pencil like Neanderthal Man...
Yep...keeping my brain from implosion or explosion is a daily chore.

Or how my laundry room is by far the most visited room in the house...and gracious sakes how I must not forget to get the clean clothes out of the dryer before my husband's shirts get all wrinkly, because God knows if I have to iron them... he will never see them again. My ironing and mending pile is referred to around here as “The Bermuda Triangle.” I have several of David’s shirts hanging on the back of chairs right now trying to become a bit more de-wrinkled, just so I can get this much written.

Hopefully you weren't hoping to come and find any Pinteresting activity here either. No pictures or recipes of how I bake my own freshly ground, 100% whole wheat breads or find me making creative dinners with adventures in other cuisines that might actually intrigue my home-schooled kids into possibly learning geography. No, I am happy nowadays just to scrape enough of my brain off the ceiling in time to  get the semi-folded pile of laundry off the kitchen table before Bella’s granola bar crumbs adhere to it all and  attempt to get a meal on the table that has a semblance of nutrition and taste AND that won't have Ben complaining because it's not spaghetti and meatballs. Ok, forget that...if it's not spaghetti and meatballs he WILL complain! Dinners are pretty simple around here.

You will not find any creative gardening ideas here either as most of my various half-dead plants are dying for a simple drink of water and forget any  glorious photos of  beautiful gardens as all I have here are the choked-out, seedlings in pots that I planted in this spring in anticipation of doing a huge garden. Go ahead, laugh. My husband actually spent several hours after work roto-tilling a 40' x 40' plot, but  yeah...sorry  about that all you little seedlings still stuck in your pots; I really meant well.

Ok I am slightly exaggerating here as after all the work that David did turning over  such a large plot I finally did manage to plant some of the plants he brought home from Lowes. We have some tomatoes, zucchini, peppers and cucumbers and even some strawberry plants that I mail-ordered and that wound up arriving looking like a bunch of dead roots (but lo and behold, most of them actually survived). But now weeds are rearing their ugly heads and the grass that doesn't like to grow in the lawn is all of a sudden prolific in the garden. What's up with that? Sorry, no photo op there. And wow... I really don't like weeding and I have the blisters on my soft, lily-white hands to prove it! Hopefully the more established vegetable plants will be able to duke it out with the weeds and bring forth some measure of a harvest without too much more effort on my part.

You will never find any home decor tips here either.  There are just too many dust bunnies in most of the corners and a few sticky counter-tops as I try to turn a blind eye in order to encourage my twin 5 y/o they really are big enough to pour their own milk and I am pretty sure all of my windows have little fingerprints on them. And all the pictures that used to hang on the walls at our former home are still in a heap on the dining room floor, along with the girls' beautiful tea sets from Vietnam and Korea that don't seem to have a good place to go.  Oh, and the real, wooden shutters that  I found that just need to be scraped and refinished, then painted into some really neat headboards or shelves? (yeah, thanks for the great ideas, Pinterest) They are gathering dust in the barn along with heaps of packing boxes that are still waiting to be put away. You know, I think I really prefer the simple life who really needs to know where I packed the iced tea container with the bottom spigot anyway. Let's use an empty plastic juice jug instead of putting it in the recycle ~

You can easily see after that bit of blogging that I prolly won’t be getting a call to be replacing Martha Stewart any time soon. So if you are looking for someone who has it much more all-together in every aspect, well you will not find it here. I realize even this post is too long and disjointed, but that's what you get when I take 6 months off!
But should you still desire to stop back and see what's going on at our crazy household, I'd truly love to have your company. Please feel free to let me know you're here and for heaven's sake...why?

Because I know what I hope you can take away from a visit here is that in spite of the many times in a day that I fail and fall short, Because of His Grace we really are still doing amazingly well. I kinda shake my head in wonder at that, but I know that it is because Jesus really has got my back...and when I let Him, (‘cause lesson #1…you actually have to give up your ideas of how it should be done and let Him have His way…go figure ~  He was really serious about that!) …He makes up for my lack in profound ways. HE is the glue that keeps us all together. And I know that He's got your back as well.  Maybe that's enough all we really need know to be able to celebrate this crazy life together. Well that, and maybe some Pinot Grigio …

I am determined to get some pictures of what's been going on around here lately, so please check back if you are especially interested in seeing how the family is progressing.  Maybe I can even find some interesting photos that are in focus...

Oh..PS: If you were waiting to hear back from me from a recent (or not so recent) email, I truly, sincerely apologize. It seems my "lost voice" has even effected my responding to personal emails as well. But have no fear as I am perfecting shushing and shooing away my children with my favorite go-to exasperated voice, asking them "WOULD YOU ALL PLEASE BE QUIET AND LEAVE ME ALONE FOR FIVE MINUTES SO I CAN WRITE THIS NICE FAMILY BACK AND EXPOUND ON THE JOYS OF ADOPTING AND HAVING A LARGE FAMILY!!
SHEESH! Now, where was I?..."
That personal email response should be coming to you any day now...

HAH!! PSS: Seems when I get the chance to write a certain side-effect is that my brain forgets how to tell time. I was only able to get this written because my Youngers were at VBS for three hours this morning. Only I just looked up and realized I was already 10 minutes late to pick them up. YIKES...visions of my four little ones with forlorn expressions on their sweet faces waiting to be picked up had me driving like Mario Andretti to get there before everyone else left. (Thankfully,  I am very glad I wasn't the only Mom to arrive late...phew!)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Day 6 ~ Monday
and it is time to say, goodbye for now

This was a very hard day. We met with the social worker and even though she said she was “very optimistic” and she was “highly motivated” to get this case processed, she still thinks it will be six more MONTHS before these kids will be able to come home.
She sited that she was on vacation until February 20 (for real?!?!) and could not meet with the kids to get their feelings about this week and she needed to do that before she would be able to finish her report approving us for proceeding with the adoption. She also pointed out they should be finishing the school year as a reason (I guess she doesn’t realize we have schools in NY that takes kids in the middle of a semester…) and the climate differences which would not be so extreme if they came home in the summer and it was all very practical excuses, but our hearts just sank. We went away, appreciative of her efforts, but deeply saddened that it is still going to take so long to bring them home.
I didn’t feel like walking around anywhere, so we went back to our bungalow that we are renting and chatted with our wonderful hosts, Scott and Michelle, who are ex-pats from the States who moved down here last year. It was so refreshing just to sit and talk with adults and just relax for a few hours. We really needed that little break…little did we know how much we needed that break until we went back to Liberty to say goodbye to the kids. After that evening we needed a drink!

AS we mentioned before, every time we go there just about all the kids there run up to us and hang on us and call us “Mom and Dad.” From the beginning this has been emotionally exhausting experience. Now initially our kids didn’t seem to mind, but as the week progressed they started becoming more territorial about us. Shy Miss B (::eyes rolling::) started pulling the others’ hands off of us and declaring that we were HER Mom and Dad and not theirs and the boys just sort of surrounded us to prevent the others from getting too close. While we saw this as a good sign for our was devastatingly heartbreaking to see the sadness in the other kids’ eyes.
The questions started coming…“when will some one come for me?” and “why didn’t anyone pick me?” What do you say to that? Especially when these children are all older, and many of them have two, three and even four siblings??

As David mentioned in a previous post, we particularly connected with a sibling group here of, believe it or not, five siblings whose ages are close to our kids. Four of them joined us when we took the kids to the water park and every one of them are SUCH sweet spirited kids...shy and thoughtful and tenderhearted...MUCH easier than our wild brood! The nine year old girl L, and her six year old brother, A especially bonded with us, often running to greet us before our own kids. Did I mention they are strikingly beautiful...model gorgeous children? Well that night while saying goodbye, I pulled sweet little L on my lap and she started to cry. She said she loved me and would miss me. I looked her in the face and told her I loved her and would miss her as well. I promised her I would go back home and we would do all that we possibly could to find her a family too. Her brother, A was clutching David, and buried his head in David’s chest and this little boy that was always smiling and giggling was just a sad and solemn little boy. He asked if we would come back for them. We again said we would try and find them a family even better than ours. Miss L thought for about 20 seconds and said…”If you can’t find us another family, then will you come back for us?”

And in this whole wide world, dear sweet child, we would like nothing better than to give all of you beautiful children a home where you will find the love and commitment and encouragement to be all you are destined to be. To add these sweet spirits to the mix here would be an honor and a great pleasure.

But surely there must be another family our there somewhere who would be willing to give these children the same love and commitment and encouragement that they so desperately need! We will need at least a few years to focus on these new five and these children need someone who is willing to step up to the plate NOW!

I’m telling you these five children, two girls and three boys, ages 5,6,9,11,13 are absolutely PRECIOUS and they will bless your socks off. The 13 year old girl is best friends with our Z and she loves to cook. She worked with me that day in the kitchen and she is very shy, but so helpful. When I told her I would try and find a family for them she put her arms around me and just cried. The eleven year old boy is R’s best buddy and he is a tall for his age and is quite the strong, handsome young man with an ever present big grin. Then there is Miss L with the face and the spirit of an angel and who immediately stole our hearts. Then the two younger boys 6 year old, A, who is our Mr. T’s buddy. He has an infectious giggle that gets everyone else laughing whenever you hear it...which is quite often, which gets him going all the more. He is also strikingly beautiful and just eat 'em up adorable. The youngest boy is one of the youngest children there as he only just five years old. His first name also starts with A, and like his siblings he is a very shy, but ever smiling type. He is also all boy and it is so cute to watch this little guy determinedly trying to keep up with all the older boys riding bikes and playing ball.

I have pictures of these kids and several other beautiful children who also need families and I’d love to share more with anyone who is seriously interested. Because our case is a kind of a groundbreaker the process has been inordinately long. In our last meeting we asked the kids’ social worker what time frame families should expect to be able to finish the process. She said that now that now that our family is working out the kinks, (you’re welcome…) the process should take only about one year after your paperwork lands in Belize. Not too horrific a waiting period in the adoption world.

Please pass this info along to anyone who you feel might be interested in considering an older child or siblings. The blessing is waiting right there for them.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Day 5 ~ Sunday

Today, we planned to take the kids out for the first time with just the five of them and us. No caretakers for extra support or any of their friends that would provide for more distractions. The kids had asked if we could take them out for lunch at a “fun park” they called Jamboree. This was located down in Belize City, which is about 15-20 minutes away from the Children’s home, so we would again need to rent the 15 passenger van to get them there safely.  We forgot to mention in the last post after our dinner and meeting at the Director’s house we came out to find the van battery was dead. Thankfully Ms. Delfina had some jumper cables and we were able to get the van started using her van to jump us.

SO the next day, when we all piled into the van to head down to Belize City, once again the van would not start.  This time David used our rental car to jump the van, and while we had misgivings about whether this might happen again, we thought that the long drive into the city would charge the battery well enough to keep it going for the return journey. Z promised us she knew the way there so off we went in search of this park that boasts the largest restaurant options under one roof in all of Belize City and a three-story playground that could hold up to 70 kids at one time.  The kids were initially excited and boisterous, but being that this van has a DVD player on board and the new, Alvin and The Chipmunks disc with it, they quietly watched the movie till we arrived, It seems the ONLY time that these kids are quiet are when they are watching a movie…or eating, but even then LOUD complaining can ensue if one child picks too much food off another one’s plate and they all do that to each other, with the bigger girls being the worst offenders to their little brothers.

We were able to find the place without much trouble, but there was really no more to than a what we would find back home in a McDonald’s with a play area, except they served pizza as well the Mickey D’s fare and of course, the kids FAVORITE food, fried chicken. The boys all ordered a 3-piece chicken meal and the girls both ordered a small pizza each and they were thrilled to be allowed to have a soda. While waiting for the food to arrive, they each played one arcade game and I can’t figure how, but the youngest, seven y/o Mr. T was able to beat his “opponent” in a street-fighter game! He was pretty pleased with himself! Then they all went out and played on the playground until their food arrived.

Now we have a great deal of experience in watching orphaned kids eat…and mostly it ain’t pretty. The younger boys, S and T have little- to-no table manners at all and the older three are only slightly better. They all can consume HUGE amounts of food….I mean HUGE!!  It reminded me of when I first got Sophie in Vietnam and she ate like a voracious animal. It was heartbreaking and disconcerting to watch our little Vietnamese girl stuff herself, hovering over her bowl and almost growling if it looked as if someone might take it away before every last drop of consumable food was gone. We often wondered where our tiny, 37 pound, 7-1/2 year old girl could put all that food. Evidently, she really needed all that nutrition as after being home for 3 years she has nearly doubled her weight and has grown almost 10” and she is still  thin!

Well all the boys are SUPER SKINNY, due to a lack of good nutrition and the fact that the youngest two are Tasmanian Twins, rarely stopping their motion unless the TV is on! Missy Sassy-pants B is also very active, but she has a normal, healthy body weight and is often willing to take as well as share her food with her siblings…unless it is ketchup. They all LOVE ketchup and when it is available, they put it on everything, with Miss B even licking her plate afterwards and saving the ketchup cups to take home. Now we wondered how it was that our oldest, Z does not reflect body weights of malnutrition like her siblings do and we eventually figured out it was because she helped in the kitchen and therefore was privy to more food.


After the kids were done eating, they went back to the play area, but whether it was a new found comfortability with us or all the sugar from the soda, or maybe both but the youngest three started to get out of control, with Miss Sassy-pants blatantly ignoring us. At one point, she grabbed a handful of ice out of her soda cup and was going to throw it at her brother…who was in front of slide where a bunch a little children who were there for a birthday party were standing next to him. I called to her to stop it immediately…she turned looked at me…turned around and promptly threw the ice at her brother and the other children there. We called her back to the table and told her because she disobeyed she was not going to get any ice cream after we left there. She acted like she didn’t care and ran off, but you could see she was MAD! Because of that and all the boys becoming way too rambunctious, we decided it was time to leave. After some loud resistance from the younger boys, we all headed back to the van…only to discover it was dead…sigh.

We thankfully had purchased a chip for the cell and were able to call for help, but it took almost an hour for them to come and give us a jump. This was not a fun time for anyone, what with Miss B angry and pouting and the younger boys, who are now bored started to disobey as well. Z was happy as she sat in the van and finished off everyone’s leftovers and R, who is really so sweet and helpful was content to keep talking with Dad; except Dad couldn’t talk much with having to corral the Tasmanian Twins back from a motorcycle and a mad as-a-wet-hen Miss B, who said she had to use the bathroom three times while we were waiting, just so she could go back inside and fuss with the arcade games.

Finally our help arrived and we went off to find the ice cream store. Z said she knew right where it was, but she didn’t and we drove around in circles several times, with she and B yelling loudly back and forth at each other over the directions. This is where David is so much more gracious than I am. I wanted to just give up and head back home while the van was still running, but he was determined to find it and give the kids an extra treat. We finally did find it and gave Miss B a chance to redeem herself by admitting what she had done was wrong and apologizing, which she promptly did and her smile returned…hmmmm. Enjoy it for now, ‘cause that ain’t the way it’s gonna work back home, sugarsugar…

So everyone got their cone and they were all happily and loudly lip-smacking away the entire journey back to Liberty. We had told them our plan to Skype with the kids back home in the library there, so everyone could “meet” each other and they were excited about that. I grabbed my laptop and we headed over to the locked, on-site library that also has a couple of computers and WiFi in it. A caretaker was there with a couple of other kids and they promptly left as we entered so we had the place to ourselves. David and Z went to the back and were looking at maps while I set up my laptop for Skype and that’s when all hell broke loose.

Evidently, (and honestly,  we should have had some clue ahead of time as the question that had already been answered several times a day was “how many computers do we have? Still only three; Dad’s laptop, Mom’s laptop and one that everyone else shares for schoolwork) the sight of those available computers was like crack to them and the younger four went wild. They each were fighting and jostling and yelling at each other trying to get the biggest monitor and get there favorite game loaded…which they were able to do in veritable milliseconds. No amount of confronting them verbally or physically did any good…they were mesmerized like zombies, intent on doing exactly what they wanted to do….consequences be damned.
The chaos brought David and Z quickly upfront and David, who they respect more than they do me,  could not get these kids to obey and get off the computers. Even R, the most obedient of the younger bunch seemingly could not stop playing his game and get off the computer. It was astonishing to us. Finally we were able to just turn off the machines to get their attention enough to tell them they had to be reported to the Director for their behavior and only Z would be allowed to skype back home. They were told to leave the library right away and immediately, R became quite remorseful to the point of tears. He apologized sincerely and left quickly, followed by his younger brothers who looked stunned, but also apologized.
Then there was our Miss Sassy-pants B who again became quite angry and gave us a very insincere, “Sorry!” and trounced out of the room with fire coming from her eyes.

We Skyped back home with Z, where eight of our kids were anxiously awaiting this call. We realized after a few minutes of THEIR disappointment at home in not having the others there, that we would have to shift gears. One-by-one David brought them back up with the knowledge that it was for the other kids’ sake we were doing this, and if we had to speak to any of them for ANYTHING they would have to leave again. All the boys came back and were really very good (I did have to pinch Mr. T’s hand once when I saw him reaching for the mouse and he gave me a stunned look and said, “Ooooww, that hurt” but I didn’t need to do that again!) and everyone had a blast  getting to know each other.

Gotta say, we have THE BESTEST kids ever at home, as they all went out of their way to engage the kids here and make them literally laugh out loud. When it was Miss Sassy-pants B’s turn to come in, she refused, telling us through her brother (who was quite worried about this) that she no longer wished to be adopted by us anymore.  We said to him, not to worry anymore…that I guess she will stay here then when we leave with you guys as that really is her choice.

Well of course after about ten minutes of laughter coming out the window (and Z has a very loud, infectious laugh) Miss B started looking through the windows...then eased into the room… then came close enough to see the computer, but refused to talk. Once she was visible on the screen and all the kids back home started cheering for her arrival, well that was all she needed to get over her attitude and join in the fun. We talked for about 45 minutes and everyone really enjoyed themselves and felt a bit more connected to the siblings they had only heard about and seen pictures of. Mr. Hurricane  told Carissa he though she was pretty and that he loved her…(so cute) and then he asked if he could change his name to the same as “the strong boy, Josiah.” We told him we thought maybe one Josiah in the family would prolly be plenty, but if he wanted to change his name we have several options he could pick from. However, he seemed kinds stuck on Josiah!

After the call was over, Miss B, who is loathe to ever admit she is wrong, did apologize for her behavior and attitude and clung to us hugging and kissing us both profusely, smack dab on our mouths.

Now this may sound odd, even though we were pretty worn out after this long day of them testing us and pushing us to see what we would do, we were really glad they had started to act like themselves in front of us.

While we were only there for a week we came in as  parents…there  to meet the children we hoped to one day bring home. The hunger and the longing in ALL the kids’ eyes for more than  a hug and a piece of candy was heartbreakingly apparent.  So initially especially the Fantastic Five were on their very best behavior with us, even Miss Sassy-pants! This was truly evident when their social worker was visiting with us all on Thursday morning. They KNEW she was there to observe our interaction and they were all as loving and obedient as if it were a scripted Hollywood movie.  So the fact that only a couple of days later our kids were ready to get past the honeymoon stage and were openly showing us their true colors made us overjoyed as the fake honeymoon stage that a lot of kids use to ensure they will be liked and taken home  ALWAYS ends with this kind of pushing anyway, so let’s get to it and the sooner the better! We really wanted to get a taste of what we are up against with these five as quickly as possible, and we got our wish!

And you have to admit it really is a weird scenario in that out of the blue, on day one we meet these kids and tell them we are their new parents….but we have no real authority while we’re down there. During these few days, David and I tried to earn enough trust and respect to gain a modicum of willing compliance but we know this is a process that will take years and years. We also take it as a very good sign that there were all comfortable enough with us to drop the act and to start the pushing So the fact that we saw any obedience or remorse for lack thereof is a good start.

The bottom line is we are not scared or intimidated at all by any of these kids or  their actions. Actually as many of you know, thanks to our own strong-willed bio brood, we actually prefer to raise the strong-willed, determined personalities and we won the jackpot here! It’s truly exhausting, but the end result that we have experienced is beyond gratifying as a parent. Please feel free to remind of my stated preference when I'm pulling my hair out with five strong-willed hooligans I'm trying to corral!

Tomorrow is our last full day in Belize and we have to meet with our SW in the morning. We might take in some sites in Belize…or we might catch a nap before the kids come home from school and we have our last meeting with them…we’ll see if we get any rest tonight between the screaming birds and the geckos and the wild, all-night long dog fights!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Day Four ~ Saturday

First, from Dad:
As the first three days with our children here in Belize wound to a close yesterday, I begin to have two concerns. One was that we needed to burst the all-Americans-are-rich bubble, the illusion many of these children seemed to be expressing. Do we all have our own bedrooms (uhm, do you think I have an 11 bedroom home?). Can you buy me this, can you buy me that? Are we rich?
The other concern was discipline. Frankly, as much as the children's home prides itself on firm discipline, and certainly they do the best they can on a shoestring budget, still the kids get away with a lot. As often as not they don't even respond to various caretakers commands... and there is only so much time and energy to chase down every non-responsive kid. Most of the caregivers frankly don't even try most of the time. Lying, stealing, and forcibly taking things are common. Standard orphanage behavior for sure.

And don't get me wrong. There is a sweet spirit to most of these kids that certainly comes from the fact that the people who serve here love these children and serve them sacrificially. That does get deep into the children and there are many fruits in their actions. But survival is still survival... And kids WILL still be kids if left to their own devises.

So yesterday I suggested to the director that we meet with the kids as a group and with her to have a kind of "let's deal with reality" meeting. The director agreed and suggested we all come to her home for dinner, and that get-together happened tonight.

After a lovely homemade meal of "escabeche", a Belizean onion and chicken soup with LOTS of chili peppers in it, and a fresh green salad, we all sat around and asked each other some questions. We told them more about our home... what it is and what it ain't! That Mom buys much of our clothing from the thrift store... not the mall!
I told them they would share a bedroom and that they would have chores and responsibilities, that they would be expected to be honest, not steal, and not talk bad about others, etc. I told them we go to a huge and crazy fun water park... but only once a year! I told them we have great and fun vacations... camping, not at Disney... etc, etc.

We talked about discipline in our home and that we are two very strong parents... So don't even think about playing one parent against the other!

There was more that we shared of course and they and the director had their questions of us too. An interesting thing happened as the meeting progressed, and you have to understand this was also at the end of a pretty great day of hanging out together. The bonding and rapport just built by the hour today and all hearts were slowly getting a little taste of what love in a family is like.
So the interesting thing that happened is this... As the meeting progressed all the children started to beam more radiant and more radiant! The director was the first one to come right out and say so, and this is an ex-military career woman who has known these kids for seven years and who doesn't put a lot of stock in emotions sometimes. Anyhow the radiance on all faces was more and more evident and she said she had not seen it before. She said... It was hope! It was joy! It was peace!

So we asked the kids at the end of the bubble-bursting session... So do you still want to be adopted by us? I don't know how to explain it other than to say... the sunshine just flowed from their faces as they all peacefully and joyfully radiated... YES, YES, YES, YES, and... YES! I guess that means yes!

God is up to something remarkable! And we are so honored to be a part of it.

Thanks for your prayers... We are sustained by them!

My turn:

Today was a very good day. Many adoptive parents can testify that these initial first meetings often go like this... a good day...then a challenging one...then another good day. Now, everyday the good and the challenging are all swirled together for the 12 or so consecutive hours of our awake/togetherness time. It’s just how much of the day's final balances of good vs. challenging thatday, that decides the final outcome!

But today had so much more of the good than the challenging that it must be considered a very good day. Z was back to her radiant, smiling self,(this girl can light up an entire ballroom with her smile!) She was still preferring Dad to me in a profound way, but she was sweet and helpful and loving towards us both. She sat on Dad’s knee for awhile and while it seemed new to her, she seemingly enjoyed the camaraderie that took place whenever we were together.
B, our super-dynamo girl was incredibly helpful and attentive, helping me do dishes after lunch...which meant I did the hand-washing of the dishes for about 50 people and B stood at my side rinsing and drying with a big smile on her gorgeous face. It was delightful. Absolutely, undeniably delightful, especially for this melancholic Mom. B just radiated happiness rinsing and drying dishes as long as she was beside “her Mom.” Well shake my head in awe…at the end of the day B took my face in her hands and kissed me square on the mouth several times to say goodnight. WOW!

This morning I was also invited by their wonderful, DELIGHTFUL cook, Veronicia, (Vear--roh-nee-see-ah) to observe her cooking methods and help her in various ways. Gotta say for the first time since we landed here I felt like I fit in completely. I got to cook (a little) and knead bread dough for her special rolls she makes, (she was impressed that I really did know what I was doing) and we talked recipes and ingredients and cooking methods and children and we laughed and laughed over all our stories. Unfortunately for ME only, Veronicia left today for her first holiday in over four years, so we will not see each other again this trip, but we pinky-promised (with tears) to stay in touch as she loveslovesloves our kiddoes like her own. And who, do I ask you, needs a pinky-promise to keep that vow?

The kitchen that feeds 50 people, three times a day...

Ok back to the day with the kiddoes…again,I have to admit, it went really well. David wants to say we turned a significant corner, relationally ...he’s an optimist. Me? I’m a die-hard skeptic so I say it was a good day... yes, it could be said even that is was a very good day. All the boys related to us as parents and boy do they love their Dad. Especially the oldest boy, can see the hunger in his eyes to “be like his Dad.” For hours he sat with David and asked him questions and like a sponge he absorbed it all. The Hurricane, also known as S, came and went some, riding his bike and even finding time and place to step on a nail today(!)but when he was with us, he was like our favorite thing, all sweet, yet sweaty and boyish and charming with his GIANT grin, looking for a hug and kiss and an affirmation before he swirled off again.
And then there is the youngest, affectionetly now known because of these posting purposes as “Mr. T.” He is very much like his older brother, “The Hurricane,” but just that much younger and AH-DOOR-AH-BLE! (That’s the only way to say it when you are looking at a young boy with chocolate skin and huge brown eyes and a smile that absolutely melts your heart.) Mr. T could charm a snake if he so wanted but he could care less. He’s off from the word go ~ all boy and action and then every so often, he darts back in, shouting at the top of his lungs “MOM, DAD, MOM,DAD where are you?” And then he sees one of us, hugs us just to be sure we are real and disappears with the speed of light, off to another adventure.
So, we are very tired tonight, but very happy ...God is good, even when He's up to something REALLY scary!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Day Three ~ Friday

This will be a quick update from both of us... this first one is again, from David:

Today was day Three. We left our little bungalow a bit apprehensive this morning knowing we had a challenging day ahead. We knew we would be taking the kids off the property for the first time today and this would be a bigger test than anything we've had thus far, because today we would see how they would respond to our authority when away from the orphanage. To add to the mix, each of the five kids would be allowed to bring one friend.

Not only would this be a parenting / group supervision challenge for us, but also its the the first time I had driven a larger than usual full size van full of loud kids in a country of narrow pothole ridden streets. Buckle your seat-belts race fans... Oh that's right, we don't have any!

When we arrived at the children home, the first challenge was that quite a number of other children also had their bags packed and we're literally begging us and our fab five to let them come too! But we stuck to our guns - each child could only bring one friend! There were literally a dozen kids standing around the van as we shut the door and slowly back through the small throng. Our hearts broke again as this poignant moment played itself out.
Miraculously we made it to the "water park" safely and without incident, well except having to dodge that cow was crossing the road, er the cow path, at one point. Just jumped out of nowhere! Thankfully I have a lot of experience dodging deer in upstate NY so I swerved and missed that side of beef like a pro!

When we arrived at our destination, our daughter Z (12 years old) took my arm as we walked across the parking lot and we then held hands all the way to park entrance. She never said a word.

The park was basically a large swimming pool with a little water slide that swirled out of a little 15' hill, but the kids simply loved it of course! They played till they were starving, so we ordered lunch from the pool-side restaurant. After taking almost an hour to arrive (nothing happens fast in Belize), the children dug in with a vengance. They all seemed to have the same pattern of eating... save your favorite food for last... and don't leave a crumb behind. Some of the children literally licked their plates clean... and licked the catchup cups dry too!

Believe it or not there is another five-child sibling group at this orphanage also, and three of those children were among the ten we had out today. And they are just as beautiful as our fab five. The little 7 year old boy from that sibling group spent much of the afternoon sitting on my lap and soaking up love for hours!

Our hearts just break for the roughly 35 other kids here who have no families yet. They are sincerely sad and it is hard to watch them see us interact with our five children. Many of them hang on us and ask us to take them too. It is very hard to see that.
The day turned out a success as we got to know our kids better and learn about them more as we see them interact with us out "in public." It was interesting to see the reactions of the basically white tourists at the water park and we troop in with ten black kids in tow... who by the way all called us mom and dad.

We are physically and emotionally spent! Between navigating travel, food, and basically life in a third world country while simultaneously trying to give to some of the most emotionally hungry kids we have ever encountered... well it's a drain to say the least.

Tomorrow we will spend some time in the mid morning in their kitchen so Regina can be learning to cook what they are used to eating... And then it's off to the Directors home for a later afternoon meal with her family and our kids. The point of that time will be to have some time with the kids off the property to explain to them some "reality" stuff about our family and our life in America... Like the fact that we are not wealthy as they seem to think we are, and basically to help them really understand what life is really like where they are going.
More soon. Thanks for your prayers!

Now a more emotional, maternal viewpoint:

The day went great in some way and not great in others. The youngers, S and T who have been polite but ignoring me in for the much higher favor of having a Dad, today decided they might just like me as well and I had a wonderful time mothering them, especially T the 7-1/2 y/o who looks about 5, maybe 6. He and his brother S are really tiny! Gotta admit, it’s really easy to love these boys and today T let me hold him and love up on him and he really enjoyed it. S, the 9 y/o decided he might want a piece of that action since T seemed so happy and plopped himself on my lap several times today and by the end of the day he was insisting I hold him whenever he wanted to sit...which is not very often. THIS boy is a hurricane!

R, the 11 y/o is a quiet and sweet soul who seems more like an old man in a boy’s body. While all the other children were swimming and playing he sat with us and asked the most thoughtful questions…and gosh does he have a good memory!! He is like a sponge for details; it’s really amazing! He is a year ahead of his older sister in school and he loves to learn.

Then we have the girls... B may out-do Sarah as my most strongest-willed child. She practically exudes her power in the way she takes command of any situation she is in, and how she tries to make them come out the way she wants to. If she is thwarted, she pouts and I guess that must work for her as she does it all the time hoping for a response she considers more favorable,. However, it has the opposite affect on us, so she is a bit miffed at times that we have not fallen under her spell. She would be my biggest concern if not for the fact that this child is STARVING for a Mom and a Dad and even if she has to bend her will a bit to get it (and this seems to be almost an anathema to her) but she is willing to at least consider it as a trade-off.

Then there is Z, the oldest and the matriarch of the bunch. In many ways, she IS their mother and is wise and caring beyond her years…and in many other ways she is VERY immature for her age (and size!). Weird to see a grown-looking girl squealing about Hannah Montana, right? She also is very moody and emotional, but unlike B who is in your face with her objections, you never know what it was that set her off. For the first 2 days she was like Velcro with me, happy and smiling and answering me with thoughtfulness. Today? Who knows what it was, but she was VERY distant and silent with me and every time I tried to engage her, she barely responded. Today, she was Daddy’s girl and wouldn’t give me a second look. Oye Vay!

Okay I have so much more... I fell, head-over-heels in love with one of the little girls that was brought along today. WOW she is such a beautiful inside/out little girl and I wanted to take her and her little brother home with me. Definitely gotta find a family for this treasure for some lucky family.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Day Two

I think it's always good to get another perspective of how a day went and how better to do that than to get the Dad's take on the day.

Belize update day two, by David

First thing that we encountered on our second day in Belize... was to blow a fuse in our bungalow and not be able to rectify the situation before we had to leave for an appointment with The Department of Human Services. Evidently the electric two-burner counter top cooker works okay, and the electric water heater under the kitchen sink works okay, and the electric coffee pot works okay... but NOT at the same time. We found a fuse panel and reset all three breakers, but to no avail. There must be a hidden breaker somewhere. Oh well... we split the 1 cup of coffee that came out of the coffee pot before the electricity kicked off and I had a half a cold bagel...

Next we followed the director of the children's home into Belize City for our appointment with DHS. Mind you this is the first time I have had the distinct privilege of driving a car in a "developing nation" (the roads are not as developed as some other parts... ). Well it's a good thing I am relatively fearless behind the wheel, because the director drove like she was an hour late to a fire call and it was all I could do in the diminutive Suzuki something-or-other I had rented from Jibaru Auto Rental just outside the airport to keep up with her. And to say the roads are narrow, bumpy and treacherous would be a gross understatement.

Nevertheless, the appointment with the social worker handling our Fabulous Five seemed to go well. She even rode with us back out to the children home and hung out with us for a couple hours to see how the kids were doing around us.

The boys are all boy! Noise with dirt on 'em as they say. Full of rambunctiousness and energy. They came and went as we visited but the older boy, R, and the girls hung out the whole time as we visited, looked at pictures on the camera, and arm wrestled! That's right, all the kids wanted to arm wrestle Dad starting with the nine year-old boy, S, who weighs all of maybe 55 pounds. Well of course, little Miss B was not going to miss out on the fun, so she arm wrestled dad wit two hands and basically her whole body. Which led miss Z (12 years old) to get in on the act. Then afterwards we played who could slap Dad's hand fast enough before he moved it. In the end of the matter, these two precious girls were most likely just trying to find ways to have some physical contact with the Dad without just coming on over and holding hands.

We have to remember these kids have had very limited contact with any male authority figures in their life and though their Dad apparently is not too far away, he has never come to visit them in the six years they have been in the states care.

We had lunch with the kids at the children's home today and that was fun to see what they ate and how that whole thing works. Little Mr. S even got me a glass of water and took my plate away without being told when I was done eating. We also brought an entire suitcase of clothing donations for all the kids we gave the Fab Five first was chaos and bedlam at first and when they were done there was nothing left over. But fear not after trying on their selections, anything that didn't fit (and most of it didn't as Regina had no clue of their sizes and the boys are MUCH smaller than we had anticipated) was passed off to the other kids that live in the Children's home.

We spent most of the rest of the days with all five looking at pictures on dad's iPad, , and watching them play and interact with each other and the other kids. As the novelty wore off we saw two things. First, they became more comfortable around us, both to call us mom and dad more naturally, but also to be themselves. And secondly we began to observe some of, shall we say, "the real deal." Kids in institutional care have to learn certain survival skills and ways of trying to stay "in control" in a world that had more pain than they should have to deal with.

Thus we ended day two, reminded that the honeymoon phase will soon be given over to reality, and that the hard work of raising and re-training kids that have had a hard road to go on, will be here soon enough. But then again, we knew that day would come over 26 months ago when we started this journey.

This will not be easy, but it will be doable, by Gods grace, and we will get through it... And we know that God has great plans for the family that He assembling. I know that I know our children will have a mighty impact on their generation, much greater than what we have been able to accomplish in ours.

And for that we are humbled, and grateful!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Day one in Country

Wow, we made it and we are exhausted, but doing well. This will be just a quick note to let you know everything is good here. We apparently can't get on a fast enough internet connection in our actual room / bungalow to make the internet work too's VERY slow!

Long story short, the flights were uneventful though long and tiring. The visit with the kids this afternoon was very good. The girls, Z & B were a little distant at first whereas the boys jumped right in. But Z and B warmed up over time and did just great as things progressed.

We visited with the kids for about 6 hours today. They showed us their rooms and the whole facility where they live, and we played Wii with them for a while and visited and played till well after dark. Tomorrow we visit DHS and the Social Worker that is in charge of the kids to ask permission to take them out of the Children's Home for trips. Please pray this visit goes well and we make a good impression on this woman as she is the one who holds all the cards regarding the timing of when to release the kids' paperwork to us so we can file for the I800 and get this adoption back in the fast...well faster...lane!

Now while we were visiting with the kids, dozens of other children literally hung all over us during the entire visit. Many of them said things that let us know they wanted a family too. It breaks our heart to know these other beautiful children here are hurting. They know their friends will be leaving soon... and knowing they do not have a family yet. It is a shame that more Christians don't see the need and answer the call.

Well more tomorrow as we are BEAT from this long physically and emotionally challenging day.

Sending love and gratitude for all the prayers from this lovely country ~