Thursday, November 22, 2012

Attention! Black Friday Shoppers:

What if you could not only give joy to others this Christmas with a gift, but help another human being that you don't even know at the same time?  Wouldn't that be a win/win situation? 

I'd like to challenge you this Christmas season to think outside the box when it comes to shopping for the loved ones on your list.  There are a number of ways to do that.

1)  Support missions that employ people and raise money for the mission.  What missions are close to your heart?  No ideas?  Here are some that are close to mine:

www.embracinghopeethiopia.com employs women to make beautiful necklaces out of magazines.  We spent some time with the founders, Jerry and Christy Shannon, while we were in Ethiopia.  It's an exciting time in the life of the ministry.  The women really role the beads all day long and string them.  They are very creative.  The ministry helps moms keep their children so the children do not become orphans. 

www.livefashionable.com makes gorgeous scarves.  We toured the facility a couple times and talked to some of the women who make the scarves in Ethiopia.  It's all hand made on looms in a large room inside the FashionABLE compound.  The women are now employed after once being on the street or in a life of prostitution.  They support each other and have Bible studies together. 

www.krochetkids.org has the cutest hats!  Their mission is: "To create sustainable economic development programs that support holistic growth of individuals and communities within developing nations. To inspire the knowledge of a generation about their ability to bring change to a world that is in need."

www.justlovecoffee.com offers fair trade coffee (totally delish!) and you can also help families going through the adoption process.

www.solerebelsfootwear.com  is an awesome company that makes shoes out of totally recycled materials like tires.  They employ women to get them out of poverty to make the shoes.  Their first retail store just opened in Ethiopia and we purchased some shoes there.  Just to let you know- their flip flops are the most comfortable I have ever worn, and I've worn a lot!

www.divinechocolateusa.com  is fair trade chocolate.  Chocolate!  Need I say more?  The cool thing is that the farmers own almost half of the company.

www.wiphan.org  is "a Zambian-based Christian ministry that provides biblical teaching, skills training and education to widows and orphans in Zambia, Africa who have been devastated by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Wiphan's Skills Training programs offer widows the opportunity to learn jewelry making, hospitality or typing. This essential training provides the means for these ladies to earn income to feed their families."  *Take a look at the bags the women make in the Store section of the website.  Each one is different- no two are alike.

2) Use sites that, with some research, you can go to and order things that have been made with fair trade.  No sweat shops, no child labor.  Sites like....

www.planetonegifts.com has a huge range of products.  My favorite is The Bath and Body section which "offers a number of natural, Fair Trade spa products, body soaps, gift baskets and other delightfully fragrant and soothing natural toiletries."  (wording comes from their website)

www.fairindigo.com, a great site for fair trade clothing

Try sites like www.thefind.com and enter "fair trade toys"

or www.shopwithmeaning.org, which "connects consumers with brands supporting social causes".

3) Don't know what to get the person that has everything?  Maybe they don't need another thing.  Visit the World Vision gift catalog at www.worldvision.org and give a gift in honor of someone.  For example, give the soccer fan on your list a pretty card with their name on it letting them know you donated two soccer balls to kids in need.  World Vision prints the cards and you donate the money.  Two soccer balls to kids in Africa or Mexico would be $16.  Teacher on your list?  Donate money to send a woman to school in her honor.  Farmer?  How about seeds for someone who's unemployed to start their own garden?  There is a wide range of gifts available. 

Google it!  Get some info!

According to www.businesspundit.com, some of the largest companies that participate in slave labor are..

Victoria's Secret
KYE (a Chinese supplier), who has customers including Microsoft, XBox, and Nokia
Forever 21
Aeropostale
Urban Outfitters

Does this mean I am going to stop letting Alan wear his Aeropostale shirts after doing this research?  Not right now.  It's a personal decision.  I'm not saying you have to go cold turkey.  What I am doing is making myself do more research in the future before I purchase something.  I can't afford to redo our entire wardrobes at the moment, and chances are you can't either.  

But being aware is a good thing.  

Research is a good thing.  

Taking the focus off yourself and putting it on someone else is a good thing. 

Have fun this shopping season.  But if you get to the store and the cool toy on aisle 12 is sold out, use that opportunity to find a creative way to not only help yourself or your kids, but someone else's kids.  Someone who, without you, may not have a Christmas at all.



 

Monday, November 19, 2012

4 Month Update

As of this past Friday, we have been a family of 7 for 4 months.  Time for some highlights of the past month (actually, about a month and a half would be more accurate)!

Easton and Yohannes's flag football team won the championship!  You've never seen two more pumped boys. 
Yohannes had his very first birthday party, complete with friends, family, presents.....

....and a giant cookie.  He picked that instead of cake.

Paulos and Yohannes had eye surgery.  Both of Yohannes's lazy eyes were corrected, and now he looks straight ahead!  We are thankful for All Children's Hospital in Tampa.  Every person we came in contact with was wonderful.
Paulos's pre-school class took a field trip to a pumpkin patch.  He thought the pumpkins were cool.
Yohannes, Paulos, Easton, and Alana had friends over to carve pumpkins.  Even though Yohannes and Paulos chose not to participate (and the moms ended up doing most of the carving- thanks, Stephanie!), they still had fun with their friends.




Have you ever tried explaining Halloween to someone from another country?  Not an easy feat.  However, they lit up at the prospect of filling a bag with candy.  Some years we have participated in trick or treating, some years we have not.  This year we were invited again to our friend's house to join with their family walking around a large neighborhood.  We brought along a genie, a Star Wars clone, cowboy, Spiderman, and an Indian.  

Easton has begged for a real suit for a year.  He finally received one and has worn it almost every Sunday to church.  We'll definitely get our money's worth.  Isn't he handsome?


Paulos lost his first tooth.  He was so proud!  He promptly lost it 10 minutes later, but still woke up the next morning to find a dollar under his pillow.  From his family, not the Tooth Fairy.  We won't even attempt to explain that one.
 
Paulos's class had a Thanksgiving Feast: 
 
Chief Paulos picked out all the chocolate to eat first from his bag.  In this picture he's holding a chocolate kiss up for the camera (not just his middle finger, I promise).
One night while the girls were away, Alan cranked up the fire pit and the boys roasted marshmallows.  It was Yohannes and Paulos's first time ever roasting them over a fire.  Yum!

Our family took Grandpa's boat out (and sang that country song, "On a Pontoon...") to go fishing.  Though we didn't catch anything, they all enjoyed going fast and having a picnic on the boat.
Oh- and helping Daddy drive, too!

 
Today I am thankful for:  a conversation with a new friend that reminded me God is FULLY able to restore- He makes all things new, a bag of clothes for the boys that included new nice shoes for church and even a Darth Vader costume complete with light sabers, and a chance for Jayde to keep playing volleyball at the Y with friends.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

T'is the Season to Give Thanks

 **Disclaimer: The last thing I ever want to do with this blog is discourage people from adopting.  Yes, it is hard.  But it's also beautiful.  God really does place the lonely in families.  He does not and can not lie.  It's against his nature.  We are in a difficult place that not all families go through.  The majority of my adoption friends are posting stories of their easy attachments with their child/children, the automatic love they feel for them, and the God-given beautiful moments.  We also have had some beautiful moments. Please do not let our small statistic of the reality we live in scare you if you have been considering adoption.  God wants the Church to take care of orphans, and adoption is one way to do that.  Now to move on.......**

I am thankful.  Sometimes I don't think about it like I should.  Deep down, though, it's always there.  Thank you for my breath, Lord.  Thank you for eternal life, Lord.  Thank you for my parents, Lord.  Thank you for my husband and children, Lord.  Thank you for this house, Lord. 

There are some days I just don't think I can parent a child from a hard place for another minute and I want to scream.  I question whether or not I actually listened to God's call.  Did I imagine it? 

The answer is no.  It was as real as the pink toenail polish decorating my feet.

Still, the "what-if" syndrome creeps in on a daily basis.

One of my adoption friends described parenting a RAD child as "the death of a dream".  She was right.  

There have been two rare occasions in which Y rode with Alan to work (because of a bad morning) and I have caught myself at the table with Paulos and Easton with Alana across from us (Jayde does her work in her room).  I looked around and thought, "Yes, this is what I imagined.  A blended family with challenges, but love.  This is manageable."  Then when Y comes back, the entire household is thrown into disarray.  I am no longer able to speak to another child.  He consumes all of me.  Yet at the same time, he does not like or trust me. 

It will be hard for a long time.  We have had the privilege of families contacting us and giving us great leads on therapists for our family who specialize in RAD children.  Also a family camp that we are looking forward to after the holidays.  There is a light.  A dim light, but it's there, and I need to focus on it.  Continue to pray, please. 

We are thankful for the families who have come forward the shared their experiences with us to let us know we are not alone.  Thank you for giving up personal details about your lives to virtual strangers.

This Thanksgiving season, I am grateful for:

My husband, for without him I would go crazy.  I could not do this alone.  We know the research shows the effects of RAD on a family often includes the breakup of a marriage.  We are determined not to become a statistic. 

Our parents:  My parents have provided the Jeffries Shuttle Service (I need to get them chauffeur hats).  They have picked up Paulos from pre-school and fed him lunch while I finish schooling the others more times than I can count.  Alan's parents help with the children, run them to and fro, and let us go on much-needed date nights to keep us connected.  Whoo-hoo!

Friends:  Dude.  Our family is blessed with some of the best friends on the planet.  They come over after the kids are in bed to visit.  They donate stuff like scooters, bicycles, balls, and clothes to our family.  They invite us over for dinner and let the kids play in a small setting.  They understand if we need to leave early or cancel plans at the last minute.  They listen to our rants.  They are awesome.

My Children:  Each one teaches me something.  Each one has a special gift from God and is a special gift from God. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Hard Road

This is, to date, the most difficult blog post I have written.  Why?  It's open and raw.  It will be the cause of a lot of opinions, judgements, harsh comments, and gossip.  But it's true.  And I promised to be open and honest here.  At the same time, I know all of my children will read this some day.  I'm going to try to tread carefully.

Alan and I have been debating on how much information to share about our family.  It's hard to get personal, because you open your family unit to so much criticism. At the same time, it has been extremely frustrating to try and find out information about our situation.  What I would like to concentrate on in this post is information and education. 
In the above picture, do you see that sullen boy to the right? It's our oldest son.

Our oldest son has a severe case of Reactive Attachment Disorder.  Our youngest son has a mild case.  This is an introduction to RAD.  http://www.attachmentdisorder.net/What_is_attachment_disorder.htm

These are the symptoms and causes: http://www.attachmentdisorder.net/Symptoms_Causes_Research.htm

If you really want to know a little bit about life with a RAD child, here is a letter to an adult that may work with that child, like a teacher.  I include it because Yohannes does so many of the things she talks about in this article.  Please read it if you want to become informed!!!:
http://www.attachmentdisorder.net/overviewforteach.htm

In the previous article, we are seeing the following (one of many), which she mentions:
"What you may see as a teacher is a child who is, initially, surprisingly charming to you, even seeking to hold your hand, climbing into your lap, smiling a lot, you're delighted you are getting on so well with such a child. "
Our sons can definitely be charming.  It's a classic symptom of RAD- Indiscriminate affection.  Paulos, especially, will hug anyone and go with any person.  He has not made sufficient connections with me and Alan yet.  Yohannes will obey and smile at people for a while.  Then, once he feels comfortable with you, will begin controlling and manipulative behavior.

"They may express an offhand or even seemingly sincere "sorry,” but will likely do the same thing again tomorrow. They are not motivated by self or parental pride, normal reward and punishment systems simply do not work. "
Oh yeah, we experience this every day.  The way we parent our bio children just does not work with a RAD child.  That is difficult to explain to anyone. 

If you'd like to know how I'm feeling, read this page: http://www.attachmentdisorder.net/You're_Not_Alone.htm
Alan and I are between numbers 6 and 7 on the grief scale at the bottom of the page. 

I could share all the gory details about day to day life with our son.  In the future, I may do a "day in the life of a RAD child" post.  The wild-animal-like screaming and thrashing, throwing furniture, knocking things off tables, sending items flying across the room, punching and kicking furniture and walls, yelling at his brothers, hurting himself, the list goes on and on.  For hours.  Tonight I'd like to ask for prayer.  PRAYER.

It has been difficult to have counselors tell us that they wish our son had been placed in a home with no other children because he needs 24/7 one-on-one care that we can not give.  That our choices are: to let the other 4 kids go and focus solely on him, focus on the other 4 and try to get through the next 7 years until he turns 18, look into residential care when he hits adolescence, or consider an adoption disruption and put him with another family who can give him the round-the-clock focus he will have to have to heal.  Paulos is headed down the same road, but we are praying that earlier intervention will help him.

What do we do?  We don't know.  We just honestly don't know right now.  Of course we want to fight for Yohannes.  But what does that look like?  We have no idea. 

Read and pray.  Feel free to ask questions, but please try not to judge what you think we are doing wrong/right with our parenting.  It's hard enough with loving support, much less with criticism.  If you think you may know another family who has a child with RAD, look into becoming educated to be a safe listening ear.  Safe people are few and far between. 

"If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him." - James 1:5

Please join us in praying for wisdom for our family.  This is spiritual warfare, friends!!  If you have a church prayer list, please add our family to it.  If you are a member of a small group, please pray for us in your group, especially Yohannes.  If you do personal prayer time, please, please pray for our family.  I would love to come back a few years from now and tell you how much prayer changed our lives. 

Will you stand with us?  Will you intercede for us?  We need you, body of Christ. We can not do this alone.