Friday, November 2, 2012


Days continue to come and go.

Weeks fly by.

October is G.O.N.E.

November is H.E.R.E.

Though the seasons are changing outside the window, inside it remains the same.  We are stuck in a fiery season of reds and yellows...a season of defiance and not listening.

As a result, for me, it has been a season of until I think I just can't give anymore.

A season of loving....when some days I say to myself, "Okay, Self, if you can't LOVE, at least be KIND".

A season of sacrifice and service...

  • shoes for "him" are more important than shoes for me, 
  • lunch with "her" trumps organizing the closet, 
  • one more bedtime story takes precedence over catching the last ten minutes of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives (did I really say that?),  
  • rising at five in the morning is worth it to spend some time with the Lord 
  • rising at five in the morning also means that I can make six healthy homeade lunches, and chat with and pray for my teenagers before they walk out the door at 6:25a.m., and sign all the school folders, and clean toilets/tubs, and start laundry, and respond to emails, and write emails (primarily to teachers), and make breakfast before the Princess and the "Storm" (aka Thunder and Lightning) awaken for the day,
  • time spent making reminder charts and positive behavior reinforcement plans outweighs engagement in cutesy crafts, 
  • the phone, the computer, and social networking are all put aside to make time for homework and one- on-one time with each of five children every day...
  • S.A.C.R.I.F.I.C.E. and service.  This season is a deep and profound season of dying to self, again.  No, unfortunately, I have not accepted every day of it without some kicking and screaming and "what about me's" passing through my lips.  And then God so graciously and mercifully reminded me of the days/weeks/months following the births of each of my biological children...the giving, the loving, and the sacrifice that was required to grow happy, healthy, well adjusted, well mannered little people.  There were seemingly endless days of pouring myself out to meet the needs of a tiny, helpless baby.  There were days that spun one into another without any gratitude displayed, without love being returned, without smiles being reciprocated, without my own needs being met (or at least what I thought were my needs).  There were days when my babies cried endlessly and I had no idea how to meet their needs.  Then suddenly one day, that same baby who had pitched a fit for weeks, would smile when he/she saw my face, or calm at the sound of my voice, or respond lovingly to the touch of my hand.  Suddenly, one day, calm returned, and the fruit of my sacrifice was visible.  The baby was happy and bubbly and giggling and responding to affection and comfort.  It was a fiery season full of emotions and sacrifice and service (and an occasional pity party).  As the yellows and reds of one season faded, a new season of vibrant green was blossoming.  Thunder and Lightning did not experience a biological birth into our family, but they have nonetheless been birthed into our family and in many ways they are as helpless and selfish and cranky and non-communicable as newborns.  And this is yet another season of sacrifice as we wait for what we know from experience is coming...the season of vibrant green when impulses fade, self control is gained, selfishness diminishes and patience takes its place, goodness abounds and authority is recognized and respected, good choices are made, lies are replaced by TRUTH, and "to listen and obey" becomes a way of life.
"If you carefully observe all these commands I am giving you to follow-to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to hold fast to him-then the Lord will drive out all these nations before you, and you will dispossess nations larger and stronger than you."  Deuteronomy 11:22-23

I am "holding fast to Him" (and I never leave the house without a copy of Karen Purvis' The Connected Child).  Amen and amen!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Rubber Ducks and Rainbows

Perhaps the most frustrating thing to me about our entire post-placement time, from GOTCHA Day on, is that Thunder and Lightning do not know how to PLAY.

It's true.

From day one, they have had little to no interest in "things".

Toys have NEVER excited them, NEVER held their attention, NEVER left the shelf for more than three minutes at a time.  In Colombia, the Imaginex building blocks would entertain them briefly, especially when they discovered they could make PISTOLS out of them as long as they told Mommy that they were "TOOLS"!

The match box cars, the Mr. Potato Head, the Cooties, the coloring books, the deck of UNO cards, the blocks, the TOSS IT game, the Etch-a-Sketch, the stuffed animals, OLD MAID, the MATCHING GAME, the action figures, the Little Pet Shop animals, the puppets, the bug collection box, the binoculars, the race cars, the puzzles, the construction vehicles, the train track, the LEGO village, the Ninetendo DS, the Leap Frog lap top computer, the name it, they didn't use it.

After being home, it dawned on me that perhaps PLAY had never been modeled for them.

For example, they would carry their big Brueder trucks around the house, set them on the sofa, then return them to their rightful parking spot in the playroom.  They would snap the train track together, push the toy engine around it once, then disassemble the whole thing and push it back under their bed.  They would look at a LEGOS brochure and create what was on the cover, then stare at it.  Within seconds, it was taken apart and put away.  They colored pictures using only one color of crayon although 20 or 30 were available to them.  And PLAY-doh?  What were they supposed to do with PLAY-doh?  We spent more time picking it up off the floor and washing the residue off the table than we did doing anything else with it.

I found this frustrating.  I thought ALL kids LOVED to play.  What was I going to do?

I began to intentionally model "PLAY".

I made roaring engine noises and raced their trucks through the house.  They laughed so hard, I thought they were going to pass out.  Then they started doing it.  They started having fun.  I gave them sticks to haul and empty egg cartons to transport to the grocery store.  I reenacted a conversation at the loading dock and at the gas station and at the garage.  Next thing I knew, they were PLAYING...not for long, BUT they were PLAYING!

We set up a LEGO village together and used True Princess G.A.'s Polly Pockets to live in the buildings we constructed.  The little people would go from their home, to the store, to the doctor's office, to the school, to work, and back home again.  We used cats and dogs and pretended to take them for walks and feed them.

They watched me pick up pretty stones and catch lovely butterflies that I put in a collection box.  The next day they were filling their boxes with sparkly stones and big stones and small stones....all treasures in their eyes.

Today, they color pictures using a rainbow of colors.  Their world has gone from mono-chromatic to COLORFUL!

Their knowledge bases are expanding day by day as are their life experiences.

Life is no longer viewed through the bars of an orphanage.  Thunder and Lightning are immersed in a family and immersed in daily activities.  They go to church and to school and to the super market and the pet store and the doctor's office and the dentist's office and to Daddy's office...WOW!...what exciting and new experiences their days are now comprised of!

Today, they make pizza and popcorn and hot dogs and ice cream and strawberries and chicken legs and pancakes and eggs with the PLAY-doh.  They also make shapes and numbers and letters and animals.  Most impressively, they make people out of their PLAY-doh...a mommy and a daddy and an Aidan and a Bryan.  ISN'T THAT SWEET!

With an old, pink BARBIE cash register, they have started playing store.  They use grocery bags and play money to purchase items throughout the house and from their toy baskets.  It sounds like this:

THUNDER:  "Hello!  How are you?"
LIGHTNING:  "I am good thanks.  How are you?"
THUNDER:  "I am good.  And how are you?"
LIGHTNING:  "I am good.  Have a nice day."  (he pays and walks out the door with his bag of goodies)
THUNDER:  "Have a nice day.  Thank you for coming.  See you soon."  (and they do it all over again)

I filled an old egg carton with plastic Easter eggs and gave them some plastic bowls and spatulas and paper plates and measuring cups to play with.  They love it.  For weeks they have been watching me in the kitchen and now they have a chance to be creative themselves.  They cook up some delicious meals!

A few weeks ago Lightning had no clue how to put a puzzle together.  This weekend, HE DID ONE ALL BY HIMSELF.

Thunder often disappears into his room to read...he loves books and rarely watches t.v.

I am discovering new things about my kids everyday.  For instance, Lightning enjoys pushing a baby buggy around the house and whenever "the baby" cries, he feeds it because it is always hungry, and  Thunder loves basketball, not the soccer we thought he would.  He is also an amazing artist.  

I think they themselves are also discovering who they are day by day.

Last night Lightning sat in the bath tub with his 20 or so mini rubber ducks and two buckets.  He began to sort the ducks.  He told me (in English) that one was full of "RED" ducks.  They had made "bad" choices at school.  They didn't listen to the teacher, or sit on the carpet, or stay with the class.  Some of them had been fighting with their friends.  Not good.  The other bucket was full of "GREEN" ducks.  They had made "good" choices at school.  They listened to the teacher, they kept their hands to themselves, they sat on the carpet all day.  They were helpful.  And then Lightning showed me the little duck he clutched in his hand.

I questioned who that duck was and why he wasn't in a bucket.

Lightning just smiled at me and said, "Mommy, this is Aidan.  He is "PURPLE".  He made VERRRRY good choices today!  Are you happy?"

Yes, my friends, life with children is all about rubber ducks and rainbows.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Life After the Airport

We have been home for nearly six weeks.

Thunder and Lightning started second grade and kindergarten, repsectively, at our local, year-round, public school immediately after our arrival in the States.  After a five week bonding vacation in Colombia where every day was fun and games and free time, we were  more than ready for routine, structure, and learning now that we were home.

The boys attended school for 8 days before experiencing their first "track-out".  For the next 2 and 1/2 weeks they attended "Mommy's Front Porch School" as a way to maintain routine and structure as well as to continue their immersion in learning.

Now, public school has been back in session for over a week.

For every one of his first 12 days in public school, Lightning's behavior clip stayed on "RED".  Finally, on day 13, he achieved "PURPLE" behavior grade BETTER than "green"!  (Truth be told, if he had a behavior clip at home, it, too, would have been on "RED" most days.)

For every one of Thunder's first days in public school, he was a model student, attentive and motivated.  On day 9, the tide turned and both his motivation and behavior went south.

School days 14 and 15 have found Lightning back on "RED", and Thunder is regaining his motivation and model behavior.

ROY G. BIV symbolizes the colors of the rainbow.  Through the spectrum, from the fiery reds, oranges, and yellows to the calm, cool, greens, blues, and purples, every color combines to create something beautiful in the hands of God...something hopeful. He set the rainbow in the sky as a visible symbol of His promise.  The rainbow is a symbol of hope, a reminder that He has not forgotten us.  

We have experienced every color of the rainbow in these days after the airport, and I have great confidence that God is taking us through the spectrum of colors as He creates a masterpiece worthy of His glory.  In the meantime, through the fiery red days and the calm blue hours, we live faithfully in the shadow of His promises looking daily to the heavens for a glimpse of the rainbow, the hope, that He is painting in our sky .

In many ways, life after the airport greatly resembles life on the Adoption Highway.

There are days:
  • ...of great joy
  • ...when expectations are too high
  • ...when expectations are too low
  • ...of despair
  • ...of great triumph and progress when you move forward by leaps and bounds
  • ...when you feel like you have been in reverse from sunrise to sunset
  • ...when the responsibility (financially and emotionally) is overwhelming
  • ...when FAITH, HOPE, and LOVE are literally tangible
  • ..when fear lurks and doubt haunts
For the last 6 weeks, I have spent a lot of time refereeing and modeling appropriate behaviors.  I have spent a lot of time giving examples of "good" choices vs "bad" choices and the consequences of each.  There are days when I have wished that we could afford to buy three of everything we own and that sharing was NOT an option in our family.  The enemy still lurks, he didn't disappear with the placement of Thunder and Lightning.  Although generally GOOD, the days can be long and exhausting.

There are also those banner days when Lightning runs to me and says "Mommy, Mommy, come see!".  And the child that could not walk up and down stairs without holding both of my hands is climbing the rock wall in the backyard ALONE, without help, and loving every minute of it.

There is the moment when I am washing dishes, absorbed in my own thoughts when I turn around to get a dishtowel and there is Thunder with his arms open wide coming to give me hug...a hug from the child who is very stingy with displays of affection!  As he wraps his arms around me, he says ,"I love you so much.  I want to be here forever."  He sheds a tear and so do I.

We continue to:

  •  talk about House Rules 
  • discuss what it means to be a family, 
  • identify positive character traits.
  • read a lot of books and search the illustrations for clues about how the characters feel and then how they react, and how they solve their problems in appropriate, and sometimes inappropriate, ways.
  • have an interactive bath time where I wash them and towel dry them and lotion them before bed when each is read stories and given a massage followed by quiet lullabies.  Their day also starts with touch as they are awakened  with a back rub and limb massage to get their engines going without a grumpy roar.  All of these things help to satisfy their craving for appropriate touch and closeness.
  • remind them that asking permission is a necessity in a family.  With this realization has come a greater respect for authority.    
Most significantly, the days after the airport are spent WAITING.

You WAIT :
  • ...for language acquisition
  • ...for a deepened level of trust
  • ...for behaviors to become internalized
  • ...for a routine that works
  • doctor's offices, and dentist's offices, and in labs
  • ...for wisdom
  • ...for assessments and progress reports
  • ...for acceptance
  • ...for walls around hearts and minds to crumble
  • comfort the grieving child
  • ...for some sign that they understand, that they are happy, that they know they are loved
  • ...for them to share their possessions, their thoughts, their feelings, their wants
  • ...for affirmation and words of affection
  • ...for the idea of teamwork to take root
The WAITING continues, but this time it is different because you have traveled the Adoption Highway, and you have learned HOW to wait.  

Now you wait hopefully and confidently.  You wait while engaging and immersing yourself in life around you.  You wait knowing that God is in control.  His timing is perfect.  He is there.  He has a purpose and a plan in every circumstance.

You wait while loving God with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength remembering that His grace is sufficient and that you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.

You WAIT while passionately loving your children.

Adoption IS love in action!

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Last Chapter

August 28, 2012

The Embassy:
Our appointment on the 27th had been cancelled, so we returned on the 28th in an attempt to get visas for the boys.  Once the visas were in my hands, we would be able to fly home.  I was told to bundle up for the Embassy visit because it would be cold.  Indeed it was...COLD.  The seating at the American Embassy in Bogota is OUTSIDE...surprise!  I was expecting the building to be unheated, but NOT outside.  Upon making it to the inner "courtyard", we took our seats in folding chairs and sat silently waiting for our name to be called.  Eventually from a distant window, I heard it.  I approached the window and picked up the telephone to talk to the agent on the other side of the glass.  Things were going well.  Papers were being processed.  One child...COMPLETED...necessary data had been entered into the computer.  As the agent began to ask questions and process papers for the second child, the data base became inaccessible because the system had irreparable CRASH according to the computer technician that had been called in to evaluate the situation.  A malfunction of this magnitude had only happened TWICE before that anyone could remember.  With a very apologetic look on his face, the attendant told me that this was VERY rare.  The only option we had was to wait for the computer to "correct itself"...maybe minutes, maybe hours, maybe one knew.  We had 30 minutes for the problem to correct itself before it would be impossible to get the boys' visas that day.  We opted to wait, and in utter disbelief, our in-country facilitator said to me, "Kelli, let's and me, let's do it now.  Let's pray."  And PRAY we did.  As I prayed tears rolled down my cheeks.  I was pleading and praising.  There was an ache in my heart and I prayed and I wept.  After twenty minutes we sat in silence unable to make eye contact with each other.  Emotions were running high.  We were preparing ourselves for the reality that we may be leaving the Embassy without the visas...
Five minutes later, just five minutes before our deadline for things to start working, my name was called from the window.  The attendant had a sheepish grin on his face.  He was shaking his head...almost in disbelief, as he said, "The computer has "self corrected" and we can access the needed database.  Your visas will be ready in twenty five minutes.  HAVE A SAFE TRIP HOME TOMORROW."  We were going home!

August 29th

I woke the boys at 3:30 AM.  We arrived at the airport at 4:30 AM and boarded a plane to Panama City, Panama at 7:00 AM.  After a four hour layover we were Miami bound!  The flights were turbulent.  The boys were troopers.

Notable story:  I am deathly allergic to peanuts and although most airlines have banned peanuts from their snack offerings, passengers are allowed to board with and eat their own peanut snacks if they so desire.  To this point in our travels, I hadn't had any issues.  Then on the flight from Panama to Miami, the woman seated next to me tapped my shoulder.  She was in the middle seat, I was in the aisle.  "Would you care for a peanut?", she asked as the snack cart was approaching with a drink offering.  I had a momentary panic.  Epipen?  Where's my Epipen? is all I could think to myself because all it takes for me to have a severe allergic reaction to peanuts is for someone to be eating a peanut product in my vicinity...
At that very moment, in a split second, as the passenger next to me was holding an open can of peanuts, the plane jerked from side sending the stewardesses at the snack cart tumbling into passengers laps...drinks were spilling...AND THE CAN OF PEANUTS WENT FLYING INTO THE AIR!  The plane rocked and rolled.  People were tossed left and right.  When it was over, people were stunned, and the woman next to me said, "I guess we won't be eating peanuts today.  Sorry."

We were prepared to spend hours in Immigration upon arrival at the airport in Miami.  Long story short, we were there for fifteen, YES, fifteen minutes.  In and out.  We waited longer for the hotel shuttle than we did to get through Immigration.  The Marriott welcomed us to a room with two cozy beds where we would spend our first night in America before embarking on the final leg of our journey to NC in the morning.

August 30th:
Home!  Home Sweet Home!  Home!

August 31st:
First Day of School

September 2nd:


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Day 33: Sentimental

I am sentimental tonight.

My oldest son starts school as a freshman in high school tomorrow morning and I will not be there to kiss him good bye before he gets on the school bus.  We didn't get to go supply shopping together.  I wasn't there for orientation or "meet the teacher".  I wasn't there to cook our traditional back to school meal or pray over him before he went to sleep.

My oldest daughter is here, in Colombia, with me.  She will miss her first days of school.  Knowing that this might happen, she chose to stay with me and face the challenges of catching up in her classes whenever we get home.

For the last four weeks, Kind Hearted Warrior has been holding down the fort at home.  He has been getting his little sister ready for school everyday...fixing her breakfast, packing her lunch, and walking her to the bus stop.  He stays home most days and takes care of the house, inside and out, while his dad is at work.  Faithfully, he has been there to get his little sister off the bus in the afternoons.  Then they wait for daddy to get home from work.  In my absence, he has sacrificed his summer to fill my shoes.  He is just fourteen years old and he is shouldering the responsibility of an adult and shouldering it well.

While Kind Hearted Warrior has been at home doing his part to preserve the family, Fair Maiden has been here with me.  At fifteen, she has laid her heart on the line for two little boys who, before being matched to our family, had no hope and no future.  She has never hesitated to offer them love or guidance.  She wakes up at the crack of dawn when they do and her day begins...playing, helping with meal prep, cleaning, laughing, consoling, and modeling the right behaviors.  She has sacrificed her summer to live in a foreign country with her mom and new friends, no parties, no modern conveniences, but when asked, she has no regrets and would do it all over again.

These are my teenagers, doing hard things.  Selfless.  Responsible.  Committed.  Caring.  Helpful.  Patient.  Understanding.  Dependable.

My teenagers understand about family and the fact that privilege comes with responsibility.

My teenagers do everything they do to bring glory to the One who made them.

Tonight, I think back...back to their birth days...back to their first days of kindergarten...back to all those precious memories I have of them, and I shed tears.

Why?  Because I am so proud of them.  So proud of the teenagers that they are.

My teenagers have integrity.  They are good servants.

They have faith.

And they live their lives for something greater than themselves.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Day 32: Hoops & Hurdles

On one side, adoption is LOVE.  On the flip side, adoption is a series of hoops and hurdles and high jumps which you must navigate before becoming a family.  When LOVE combines with jumping through the hoops and over the hurdles and high jumps, you discover "the process".  Without LOVE, an overwhelming, Spirit-filled LOVE, I dare say that no one could complete "the process" of jumping through the hoops and over the hurdles and high jumps because "the process" is not for the faint of heart.  The stamina to withstand the obstacles does not come from the flesh, it comes from surrender and obedience to Jesus.

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."  Philippians 4:13

Today another hurdle stood before us on the course to home.

Both Thunder and Lightning had to test NEGATIVE to TB.  If one or both of them tested POSITIVE, a mandatory xray would be required thereby lengthening our process and subsequent arrival at our destination...HOME.  The results were read this morning.  The residual mark left on their arm from the serum injection had to measure less than 10mm.

Lightning had a residual mark that measured 4mm.  Result:  NEGATIVE

Thunder had a residual mark that measured 9mm...yes, 9mm!  Result:  NEGATIVE

My boys LEAPT into my arms!  I cried tears of complete joy.  We are going home on the fast-er xrays necessary!

Monday morning they will have a physical exam...a hoop to pass through.  Then, Monday afternoon, another hurdle looms at the US Embassy where we have an appointment to present our papers to get the visas.

I can see the finish line.  It is in sight.  And though I want to sprint to it with one last burst of energy, I must pace myself to get through the hoops and jump over the hurdles and high bars remembering that this is a process, and the process has a protocol.

Goodbye, Cali...

Lightning loves the sand pit

Hello, Bogota...the street we live on

The park right out our front door

Our casa in Bogota

Pastry for mama

MORE pastry for mama

A beautiful castle in the sand

Brothers...together forever

Friday, August 24, 2012

Day 31: Bogota

Our last day in Cali could be likened to a nightmare, luckily, like most bad dreams we were awakened just before complete despair set in.  I could tell the story, but I'd rather not.  Somethings are best forgotten.

I will say that walking off the plane in Bogota was like walking into a "wonderland" of delights.

Oh, the air is beautifully crisp and clear.  The landscape is lush and green.  Traffic flows at a normal pace and drivers obey streetlights and stop signs.  Chinese Restaurants sit on every corner.  The Papa John's Pizza sign flashes bright in the night sky.  There is a rhythm here quite different from the city we had just come from.

Fair Maiden and I looked at each other and smiled.

This place was peaceful, and that very peace washed over us like a refreshing rain.

Arriving at our second home away from home was pleasantly surprising.  The apartment is two-stories with three bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs, and a large living, dining, and kitchen space downstairs as well as another full bath and laundry room.  There is also a maid...a real live maid.  She is Mairisella and she arrives at 8 a.m.  She cooks, cleans, launders, irons, grocery shops, and makes me a hot pot of coffee every afternoon to take the chill out of the Bogota air.

We are living in a quaint, quiet neighborhood with a park and shops right across the street.

People smile and kids play.  There is a rhythm to life here that is quite different from the city we had just come from and I like it very much.

Then there is Gloria, our in-country, Bogota, facilitator, and her husband Cesar.

If ever there was a couple that exemplified hospitality, it is Gloria and Cesar.

Today she invited us to her home for a special snack in the afternoon...and that is exactly what we expected, a special snack, not a formal dining room table set with fine china, fresh flowers, and candles where we were served a delicious home cooked meal accompanied by mango juice and herbal tea.

Fair Maiden asked for a glass of water and Gloria replied, "Sweetheart, this is your home.  Make yourself welcome.  What's mine is yours."

We toured her grounds, taste tested the wild raspberries, and picked orange colored leaves off the ground.  Thunder and Lightning ran and played and collected firewood.  Then we went to the family room and sat around a lovely, large, wood burning fireplace where we stoked a fire.

Everyone gathered around and the hours flew by as we talked and we laughed and Thunder told us a short story...the story of Rapunzel and her Prince.  He is a very entertaining funny and engaging.

Just like a fairy tale, it was a night that we didn't want to end, but it did, and my children wrapped themselves around our gracious hosts giving a great big hug and asking if they could please "come home again before leaving Bogota."

My sweet, so full of satisfaction, so grateful for the life and love they have been given, so blessed by the ordinary angels God continues to put in our path.

They had their TB tests on Thursday morning.  We return to the lab bright and early in the morning to get the results.  The results of the tests will determine our next steps here in Bogota.

Praying without ceasing...