Wednesday, March 31, 2010
It is a collaboration from adoptive parents, psychologists, counselors, and adoption experts put out to be a handbook of real life solutions to common adoption challenges.
Out of all the adoption books I've read this one felt like a breath of fresh air. I didn't feel it sugarcoated any possible issues, but it offered practical solutions backed by scripture and didn't manage to suck all feelings of hope away.
It covered such issues as:
- attachment and bonding
- sibling and extended family relationships
- past abuse
- nurture and discipline
- developing a support network
One thing I have been concerned about is how we might be disciplining Eli in a very different way than we do Ella and Ezra (at least at first)...and how do we explain that to them. The book offered several different dialogue suggestions for talking with Ella and Ezra and the advice that we, "must not deny that there is a difference in how the children are being treated. Don't dismiss the fact that the difference doesn't feel fair. If you deny it, your children will learn not to believe what you say. Always allow for further discussion later." - pg 85.
I loved this advice:
As Christian parents, we have a significant, life-changing resource in the presence of the Holy Spirit. As promised by the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit brings peace - He is the one who provides a defense against the current stressors of life and the power of past trauma events. As parents, you can learn and invest all that you can for your child to be healthy and whole. But the Lord alone can reach into the depths of your child's heart and psyche where no one else can reach and bring healing. Remember the words of James 1:4 "Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." That verse encapsulates the parenting process: Endure. Trust. Relate. Grow. Enjoy. - pg 30
For what it is worth, I recommend this book for anyone thinking about adopting, or in the process, or who has adopted before.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
How's that for a controversial blog title.
Actually, I'm really not all that excited about the new health care bill.
And it is a big but.
Politics aside, I am excited because a provision was made that extended the adoption tax credit through 2011, increased the amount, and made it refundable! Previously the tax credit only lowered your tax amount due, but didn't necessarily give any refund money back. That is a big change for families like us, with modest incomes, who after exemptions and such don't actually pay out a lot of taxes at tax time, so the old tax credit really wouldn't have been much of a benefit to us.
Here's an article I found about it that explains it well:
Amidst the intense controversy of the health care bill signed into law by President Obama last week, there’s at least one provision every orphan advocate can cheer. The adoption tax credit was preserved for another year…and increased in value!
To encourage and support adoption, the adoption tax credit was expanded by President Bush and Congress in 2001. This increased the value of the credit from $5,000 to $10,000, and indexed it for inflation (meaning the credit would increase each year to keep up with inflation.) For 2010, its value had risen to $12,170. However, the 2001 increase was scheduled to “sunset” at the end of 2010. This would mean that any adoptions finalized after December 31, 2010 would be eligible for—at most—a credit of only $5,000.
This sunset has now been extended one year. That means that it will need to be extended again before the end of 2011. For the present, however, this extension comes as very welcome news for families considering adoption or in the adoption process.
Specifically, the provisions contained in the health care bill include:
- The current adoption tax credit has been extended until the end of 2011;
- The value of the adoption tax credit has been increased from $12,170 to $13,170.
- The increase is “retroactive,” meaning that any adoption occurring after January 1, 2010 is eligible for this higher credit.
- The credit is now refundable. This means that even families that owe zero taxes can receive the full tax credit in the form of a tax refund to help with their adoption-related expenses.
To read the legalese in the bill itself, see page 903 of 906 here.
I laugh in the face of buckets.
Instead I just try to carry them around in my arms and get frustrated when they fall out.
Then I try to eat them. After all they are eggs.
Ok. Then I find my master hiding spots and carefully tuck each egg in.
You know you want to come play!
Monday, March 29, 2010
We created a mini version of the cross and empty tomb and planted fast germinating grass seed...so by the end of the week we will (hopefully!) have a visual example of new life!
Sunday, March 28, 2010
Today that idea has morphed into a full week that we affectionately call Holy Week, where we celebrate the week before Easter as a family with daily devotionals and activities.
After all...Easter is THE foundation of our faith. As parents we want to do all we can to impress into our children's hearts the significance of this holiday.
I mean, who really cares about Christmas if Easter didn't happen. Really.
Today we kicked things off...
We read through the story of what happened on Palm Sunday and even acted out the story. I must say that Jeremiah makes a rather fetching donkey. The kids really got into shouting hosanna too. What? An excuse to shout! Bring it on!
Stay tuned throughout the week for posts about our activities.
You'll also want to be sure to check out Josh and Tasha's blogs throughout the week for even more ideas!
Friday, March 26, 2010
Let me explain...
We switched out his normal blue sheets with a more, shall we say, girly set of sheets.
A little closer...
Yep. Princess sheets for our boy.
We will let you know if we notice any changes in him...
Ok, here's the true story:
Ezra has been wetting through his diapers several nights in a row and I just got behind on the laundry and the princess sheet was our only option.
Of course the wetting through the diaper issue seems to have resolved itself now that he is sleeping on the princess sheets.
A gentleman never pees on a princess you know. (That's gotta be a rule somewhere.)
And as for the whole nature vs. nurture thing...
Well you might have noticed that he is sleeping with a mack truck, a race track, and about 67 individual cars on those princess sheets.
I'm pretty sure that cancels out everything, huh.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Oh. My. Wow.
Would you start praying with us even now that all the documents and people are in place on the 8th in order for us to pass court.
Oh. My. Wow.
If we pass court on the 8th (approx 40% of cases don't pass on the 1st try) then we travel anywhere from 4-10 weeks later to GO. BRING. OUR. NEW. SON. HOME.
That puts us traveling as early as May or as late as early June.
Oh. My. Wow.
News came from our adoption agency today. NO extra trip is to be required for us at this point. Ethiopia has decided to suspend the two trip rule indefinitely, according to our agency director, who is in Ethiopia at the moment.
I am happy to know how to make plans, or rather, know that we won't be needing to make plans for a trip to Ethiopia in the next two weeks. Our adoption savings is happy about that too.
My heart is sad though. The thought of getting to meet Eli several weeks sooner than we ever thought possible had thrilled us.
And still no news on a court date as of today, but they expect one to be assigned for us within the next week or two. Not that the actual court date will be in the next week or two, but we will have a date assigned to us. The orphanage workers in Ethiopia will be handing out the welcome bag we put together for Eil this week and we should have a new picture of him receiving it soon. New pictures of Eli are my drug of choice at the moment.
That and furniture rearrangement.
I realize that I never wrote about our fundraiser party that was held a few weeks ago. It was a really sweet time to eat some good food, talk with all our friends about the adoption, shop, eat some more good food, and raise some money for Michaella and Andy's adoption and to help bring our Eli home.
Shame on me for not posting pictures sooner...
Thank you to all the wonderful ladies that worked together and helped support us!
And, since this seems to be an adoption and furniture arrangement dominated post...
We have finally decided on what to do about the kids rooms. If you remember we had played around with several scenario's...but have decided that (at least for the first few months) we will keep all three kids together. We will bunk Ella and Ezra (betcha can guess who is NOT getting the top) and give Eli one of the twin beds. A lot of thought went into this decision and I am finally at peace with it. Shew.
On an unrelated note...now that flip flop weather is here to stay (mostly) I gave my toenails their first painting of the season. Nothing like some red toes to make it feel like Summer is on it's way...and what a summer we have to look forward to!
Total before coupons/sales: $81.67
Total actually spent: $12.67
Look here for a great list of deals.
For all my other coupon loving friends out there...have you gone yet and how'd you do?
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Abraham, my blind brother, had a really hard time with this growing up. Poor, poor Abe.
I got the bug to move things around over the weekend. So move things around we did.
In the past we have been very limited in this house to minor rearrangements because our television armoire could go in only one spot because of the cable connection. Seeing that we are currently sans television opened up a whole new world (or room) of possibilities.
Since I didn't actually have any "before" photos, the "after" photos won't be quite as dramatic for those of you who haven't actually been to our house before...sorry =)
The new living room arrangements:
The new downstairs playroom:
It's like moving to a whole new house...without the moving part!
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders us and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Coupon use rose 27% with $3.5 billion in redeemed coupons! This was the first annual increase in redemption since 1992. Brands issued 367 billion coupons with an average value of $1.44 ($528.5 billion total). This was the highest number of issued coupons ever recorded.
Manufacturer Coupon Changes and the Future of Couponing:
Manufacturers did alter the offers they released to help compensate for the increase of coupons. The face value of coupons decreased by 1 penny on average and expiration dates were shortened by 10% over previous years .
The economic downtown in the last 18 months has drastically changed the way that people look at shopping. Many wonder if we all start using coupons, will they stop releasing them. I think this past year is proof that the companies are not looking at ending this system but instead are putting more of their resources into it.
Also, a quick alert that Harris Teeter is doing triple coupons starting this Wednesday through the 31st. You can check out a great list of deals here.
I know a lot of people give up coffee, tv, soda, etc. for lent this time of year. I decided (now, don't laugh) to give up CVS-ing. After all, the emphasis is not what you give up for lent, but what you make time and room for in your life.
Thank you Guess Road church billboard for that line!
However, I am a terrible person. Terrible. Because I broke my fast of CVS by doing their incredible diaper deal this week. I'm sorry but free diaper deals just don't come around that often.
Monday, March 22, 2010
Here's one I've been thinking on a lot lately:
You are safest when you are in the center of God's will.
I've had the above phrase said to me before. I've said the above phrase to someone before.
The problem is it's just not true.
How safe was John the Baptist when he was beheaded?
How safe was Jim Elliot when he was murdered by the indian tribe he was a missionary to?
How safe was Paul when he was beaten and imprisoned?
Yeah. Not very.
Were they not doing God's will?
Why do we equivocate safety with a persons proximity to God's will?
I truly think that if we are living a life in the center of God's will there is bound to be risk and inevitably pain. The Lord has a history of calling his people to things that are full of risk and at the point of our greatest fear. What we feel most incapable of doing.
(Ask Moses on that one.)
Just because it isn't safe or comfortable doesn't mean he isn't calling us to do it.
Actually, I would go so far as to say that if it is safe or comfortable it probably isn't from Him.
So I ask myself what is my goal in life?
...or living a life in the fullness of His will, risks and all?
p.s. For the record I am not talking about risks just for the sake of taking risks, like me skydiving in the above picture =)
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Friday, March 19, 2010
No official news about how the new two trip rule change for all Ethiopian adoptions will affect us. We are still waiting to hear of our court date. It can take from 2 weeks to 6 weeks from submission of case in court...and we are sitting right over the 2 week mark. There is a big part of me that would love for the change to affect us: We would get to meet Eli in as soon as possibly 2 weeks! We would get to bring him home on an IR-3 visa and not have to do a readoption. (translation: about $2000 in legal fees). Then the logistical side of it: Adding an additional $5000+ cost due right now, arranging time off for Jeremiah, where to take the kids, etc. is a lot of variables to work out.
We trust that God is in control and we are finding our peace in that.
Cleaning out my closet is a nice coping mechanism as well.
Side note: I spent ten minutes out of my day yesterday cleaning 1/2 inch plugs of sand out of Ezra's nose. How does one get so much sand up the nose while not at the beach?
A purely hypothetical question of course.
In school this week we learned about St. Patrick and all things green. We did a science experiment (flashback from my elementary school days) with carnations and green food coloring. We experimented with paint and creating as many different shades of green as possible. We played a "find the four leaf clover in the midst of all the three leaf clover" game. We made a collage of all the varying shades of green found in nature...moss, leaves, grass, etc.
It is supposed to be gorgeous weather this weekend here in North Carolina and we are planning on taking full advantage of it!
Thursday, March 18, 2010
These last six months have been a doozy for him (and the rest of us who live in close proximity with him).
Here is a brief synopsis of his little two and a half year old life.
He still loves fruit. Fruit, fruit, and nothing but the fruit. He basically likes everything else too, with the odd exception of pizza. The kid won't eat more than one bite of it. He still has this habit of turning over his spoon at the last second before it enters his mouth and losing most of the contents.
He sleeps about twelve hours at night...usually from 8pm till 8am. He takes one nap from about 2-4:30. He seems to have developed this "window of opportunity" in regards to his nap, where if we put him down after 2pm he won't go to sleep, but if we put him down before 1:30 he won't go to sleep either. The upside of this is that if he misses his nap he is not quite as cranky as he used to be and will go to bed a lot earlier for us.
His vocabulary has exploded ever since we booted the paci several months ago. He can talk in 4-5 word sentences and even strangers can understand him at times. He no longer says car-cars or car-yays...they are just cars now. And you had better not confuse a car with a motorcycle, bus, van, or truck. He will let you know the difference.
His favorite things remain Daddy, Ella, and anything with wheels. He has also added quite the attachment to balloons recently. He sleeps with one, carries one around with him the majority of the time, and we often even run our errands with one. If anyone knows me and my love of balloons (dripping with sarcastic tone) you will understand that the Lord really has a sense of humor on this one. He loves being outside, fishing (with a hook-less barbie pole), playing in the sandbox, fighting with sticks, and jumping on the trampoline. He loves the library and has really developed a longer attention span for books. Sometimes during the day if he has gotten a little wild I will send him to his bed (not as a punishment) for some book time and he will happily look through 5-6 books...and calm down to a manageable level for me =) He also loves to "fix" his cars and especially loves helping Daddy with any project.
Oh man here comes the discipline paragraph. Where to start? Where to end? I am going to be honest and admit that the last six months has been my toughest stage with him. He is wide open. He tests. He retests. He pushes limits. He is so incredibly active. And his skill set is incredible. He can scale a dresser in 0.3 seconds. We set limits. We consistently enforce those boundaries. He tests again. It is sometimes hard not to feel a sense of defeat after a series of difficult days.
Impulsiveness trumps self control in this stage of his life.
Because of this I do have to focus on the behaviors and look for those teachable moments to address the deeper heart issues. He is super quick to apologize and make things right after wrong choices. He is also super quick to flash his dimples at me in hopes I will be won over by his cuteness.
(i admit, sometimes he gets me)
He loves all people with the exclusion of white haired ones at the moment. He attempts to go home with other families at parks and stores on a weekly basis. He loves his friends at church and playdate. He is super affectionate and insists on a series of hugs and kisses (big hug, little hug, fishy kiss, caterpillar kiss, big hug...) at goodbyes and bedtimes.
He loves to do school with Ella and has surprised me with how long he will give his attention to it. He knows all his shapes, and his colors 50% of the time =) He can recognize at least a dozen letters and even tell you the letter sounds for a few. He loves puzzles (or fuzzles as he calls them).
He brings so much energy to our family...
So much laughter...
So much stretching of our spirit...
and so much joy...
Ezra James, despite the difficulty of the stage you are in, I love you completely and unconditionally and I have (still) loved every moment of being your Momma.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
A few little known facts about St. Patrick:
1) He wasn't a beer drinking leprechaun like most images suggest.
2) He wasn't Irish.
He was actually a Romano-Briton. Meaning, he was British. At the age of 16 he was taken as a slave by Irish raiders. He remained a slave for 6 years until he escaped and returned home. As an adult the came to know Christ and even became ordained as a bishop. Here is the power of Christ in this story: He then decided to return as a missionary to the very people that had enslaved him.Christ, be with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ where I lie, Christ where I sit, Christ where I arise,
Christ in the heart of every one who thinks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
Salvation is of the Lord,- St. Patrick
Salvation is of the Christ.
May your salvation, O Lord, be ever with us.
Therefore I have a lot of photos of Ella and Ezra.
I keep them organized by their names, and then organized by month.
So if you were to open up my picture file you would see an Ella McKay file and an Ezra James file.
Today I added an Eli Cade file.
It's in those little moments that the reality of this adoption hits me.
If you were to have a camera on me this afternoon while I was creating his new file you would have seen the goofiest smile on my face. I am filled with an unexplainable joyful anticipation and overwhelment in those moments. A sense that I am doing exactly what God has called me to and prepared me for.
p.s. Eli's file already has 27 photo's in it. And we haven't even met yet =)
Monday, March 15, 2010
On the agenda was fingernails, toenails, make-up, bubble baths, princess movies, popcorn, and lots of girl play time.
Watching them put on make up (without a mirror!) was my personal favorite...
I love Ella's face here when she see's what Rainy looks like =)
Areyna then decided she needed to check it out for herself...
Her exact words to me were "Aunt Jenn, I look weird."
She was quick to wash it all off =)
They disappeared in Ella's room for several hours and came out dripping with necklaces, fairy wings, princess shoes, rings, and the remnants of wiped off make up.
We let them camp out in the basement in their sleeping bags and eat popcorn and watch a princess movie.
Surprisingly, they slept.
In the morning they told us "we tried to keep our eyes open all night but we just fell asleep."
Too cute, these two girls together!
Eli Cade Hambrick
Eli: Hebrew "Our God Uplifts"
Cade: Hebrew "Pure of Heart"
We chose another "E" name, not because we intended to name all our children with the same first name (we aren't normally cutesy like that) but because we wanted him to feel like his name helped him to fit and identify with us as his new family. Knowing the meaning of Eli, and knowing a little of our son's history...the Lord has certainly uplifted him. We choose Cade because it shares the same origin of his original Ethiopian name and retaining that was important to us.
It is our prayer that he will be a man that recognizes how the Lord has had his hand on his life and will live his life in purity(by living according to the Word - Psalm 119:9).
Of course then we did not paper-rock-scissor it out to decide who got to get which kid dressed after bath.
(and I'll only give you one guess as to which one is a little...um...harder to get dressed and therefore the one we both didn't want to lose for!)
I always feed my children well balanced healthy meals.
That said, we did not have pancakes and ice cream for dinner last night.
I always just "give it to God" when I am feeling anxious or overwhelmed by all that is happening with the adoption stuff right now. Therefore, I did not resort to controlling what I have control over and spending the entire night cleaning out/organizing all my clothes, shoes, underwear, bra's, bathing suits, jackets, socks, and bags.
After all, I have Phil 4:6 memorized. I would never do that.
Friday, March 12, 2010
There has also been a very active rumor mill about the possibility of Ethiopia changing the way they handle the passing of court in the future, requiring adoptive parents to be present at the court hearing. As it stands now, we are able to do court by proxy and have a power of attorney representing us at court. This means that we don't have to travel until we go to pick our son up. If things change we might have to make two trips...one for court, and another to bring him home.
Honestly, I am not opposed to making two trips, as it would allow us to meet our son sooner...but the average price of airline tickets to Ethiopia are around $2,500 a piece, plus lodging and food cost...and that is a lot of money to be surprised with.
Good thing money is never an issue with God!
We also heard that all adoptions from the Oromia region in Ethiopia are on hold. When I read this I had a freak out moment, because, yes, our son is from the Oromia region. Our agency director told me that this is not affecting cases whose files have already been submitted to court or who have already passed court. We barely missed the cutoff by days. DAYS. Wow.
We have also decided on a name for our little guy (besides football Sally)...
There was quite the process that went into deciding on his name, so I'll have to write about that at a later time. Sorry to leave you hanging but I just don't have the time to give the full explanation right now. I know, evil of me. Just evil. I won't keep you hanging for long =)
So there you have it. File submitted to court. Name decided on.
Moving right along.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
And so, I thought I'd write a more...um...shall we say...shorter term parenting goal list for my week with Ezra:
1) Don't lose him at park
2) Don't allow him to eat all the cousins food while at the park
3) Don't allow him to throw sand
4) Keep him from getting hit by a car at the park
5) Don't allow him to throw rocks
6) Don't allow him to throw anything
7) Don't lose my temper at him
8) Don't allow him to push Ella
9) Don't allow him to take Ella's toys
10) Don't resort to two year old behavior myself
11) Don't allow him to pull Ella
12) Don't allow him to touch Ella
13) Don't allow him to climb on the tv cabinet
14) Don't allow him to climb on his dresser
15) Don't allow him to eat the cat food
16) Don't lose him at the library
17) Don't lose him at the grocery store
18) Don't lose him at the post office
19) Don't lose him. Period.
20) Don't lose my temper with him.
21) Don't allow him to paint the carpet.
22) Don't allow him to use Ella's toothbrush.
23) Don't allow him to use Ella's cup.
24) Don't allow him to use Ella's spoon.
24) Don't allow him to eat Ella's food.
25) Don't put him up for sale on craigslist.
Some days I am able to be intentional in my parenting.
Some days I am just focused on keeping him alive.
The farms is just bursting with them. Water birds because of the pond. Wood birds because of the woods. Field birds because of the fields.
Blue birds, blue jays, robins, woodpeckers, chickadees, goldfinches, crows, sparrows, cardinals, and even a heron.
We've looked at bird nests. (Don't you love the look of amazement on their faces!) We've talked about how birds hatch and have hollow bones. We've counted all the different kinds and talked about why God gave them differences. We built an Ella and Ezra sized bird nest. We read books about birds. We sat and watched a woodpecker go to town on one of the oak trees with the binoculars. We painted with feathers. We fed the birds. We read how God cares for even the tiniest sparrow.
Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
That last one. Intentionality.
1. done by purpose or design
2. a determination
3. implications of effort directed toward attaining or accomplishing
I am learning that as it applies to parenting it means not just floating along and allowing randomness and convenience to dictate my parenting choices. Not just doing what is expected or what everyone else is doing or what my mom did or what is popular or what is easy. Taking the time to reflect on why I am choosing these discipline methods or educational choices or _____________. Taking the time to honestly look at my heart and motives and habits and weighing them against scripture. Opening myself up to the Holy Spirit and his leading.
Being prompted by these thoughts Jeremiah and I took some time recently to define our parenting goals. Things we feel are important to teach our children.
Because it is kind of hard to be intentional in your parenting when you don't even know what you are supposed to be intentional about.
Our Parenting Goals (What We Want To Instill in our Children):
1) Fear The Lord (Esteem God over man) Ecc 12:14
2) A sense of contentment and generosity (you can't have one without the other) Pr 11:24
3) To love learning/reading 2 Tim 2:15
4) To be compassionate/respectful Matt 25:31-46
5) To be critical thinkers/problems solvers/creative Acts 17:11
6) To be servants Matt 23:11
7) To have a strong work ethic Pro 6:5-7
8) To be resourceful/not give up Phil 4:13
You might notice that being happy and a good athlete aren't on that list. Neither is earning a college degree or becoming wealthy.
Not that we don't want our kids to be happy or good athletes or go to college or become rich. We just believe that their best will be found in a life that esteems the things the Lord esteems. We just believe that true fulfillment and satisfaction come from living lives bigger than themselves.
Academics and wealth and athletic prowess just don't have that same staying power.
I feel like I need to make the statement that parenting with intention does not always result in the best possible outcome. My children will make their own choices in life and it would be wrong and naive of me to think that I am able to some how guarantee perfect children by parenting with intention.
(I wish it were that easy!)
I don't get a do-over on this mom thing. My family and children are the greatest legacy I will leave.
So I choose to evaluate my choices and parenting decisions in light of what we feel the Lord has impressed on us as the most important things. Not out of convenience and randomness...but with intention out of obedience to the Lord and our calling as parents.