The Insanity of it All

Holding up a planet in Tomorrowland. Chad wanted no part of such pics.

Griffin and Carrigan were very impressed that we met Iron Man

It was pretty ironic that after visiting some of the saddest places on earth (our children’s finding spots and orphanages) that we would end our trip at the happiest place on earth- Disneyland. Chad is definitely not from “Fun Country”, but it was great to hear him scream like a little girl, enjoying the biggest attractions the park had to offer.
It’s safe to say that since getting home life has been nothing short of chaotic. We arrived home on a Saturday evening, followed by just one “normal” day of extreme jet lag, then a huge joint birthday party at the bowling alley for 4 of the kids who have birthdays within 10 days of each other (two of whom had birthdays while we were in China, one whose birthday was yesterday and one today.) Whew! The next day was 4th of July, and then the movers showed up early the next morning. Today they moved out all of our belongings including half of our beds, meaning some of us are at a hotel, and some of us are at the house with what’s remaining. What’s remaining of our sanity is entirely in question!

The kids’ welcome sign for Chad (mangled by the new house owners, but that’s another story)

Absolutely American

 

I’m pretty sure Chad thinks we are all totally insane. Exactly a week ago we were stepping off a plane from the other side of the world, and today we are beginning a drive halfway across the U.S. and we are essentially homeless. We didn’t even tell him about the move until the day before the movers showed up, giving him two full days of somewhat “normal”, though his head was reeling between so many birthdays, gifts, neighbors and cousins coming to bid us farewell, and then the loud fireworks display over the lake just outside our house. He has no idea that our family isn’t always this crazy (though that’s debatable!). He’s said, “Oh my gosh” more times than I can count, and he plugs his ears at random times throughout the day, just trying to escape the noise between babies crying, little ones whining or fighting, and the constant chattering and commotion that is the daily background noise of a big family. If you remember the blog post describing the orphanage visit, you will know that an orphanage is eerily silent. There are no babies crying, children laughing or playing or fighting or whining- whether there are 600 children or 30, it’s a quiet place. To say he’s totally overwhelmed is an understatement.

Welcome home – let’s move! We’ll miss this place.

 

 He is curious about every new thing in the house, and he tends to follow one of the adults around, watching how we do things from cooking to laundry, and trying to figure us out as best he can. Watching him is like something straight out of “George of the Jungle” or the movie “Big”. He’s just discovering how things like automatic doors at the grocery store operate, he sniffs every new food including glass jars of pickles and raw pork chops, and taste tests frozen vegetables before they’re cooked. He plugs his nose when we enter new places that smell anywhere from lavender to a steakhouse- everything is just so foreign to him. Grammy even caught him testing out what would happen if he sprayed a can of Pam cooking spray on the hot coals of the charcoal grill with no one around…she glanced up just as flames erupted out the window. He flashed her his winning smile with a “sorry, sorry…shhhhhhh”, hoping she wouldn’t rat him out after he noticed she was watching him horrified from inside the house. We clearly have a lot to teach this boy! Sitting in a restaurant to eat is clearly something new to him as we had to several times remind him not to crawl under the table or stand on his knees to look over the back of the seat (as my toddlers looked on in horror), and not to stand up and call me loudly when I walk across the room, or try to “help” the waitress pass out food or collect the table condiments from surrounding tables after the meal.
I wish I could say he is getting the same warm welcome and undivided family attention each of the other children have had when they first come home from China, but because of our circumstances with the move, he’s getting the short end of the stick. He’s understandably confused and not happy about the move, we’re all stressed to the max, and fighting both jet lag and each other while the moving process threatens to bring out the worst in all of us.

The baby specializes in NOT doing this.

Just as I suspected, Chad and Carrigan as “buddies” is about to put this poor “peace and perfect country” boy over the edge. Carrigan would test even the patience of Christ Himself, and Chad has raised his voice with Carrigan at least hourly in every interaction. We can’t blame him. We did have to confront him once as he tugged Carrigan out of the van too hard and made him fall to the ground, sending Carrigan into a hysterical fit, and Chad into an hour long regression as he felt “punished” when Joey assumed responsibility of Carrigan and he had no “buddy”, and helping is how he feels useful in these early days. He’s also continued to treat Chaela harshly at times, and that relationship isn’t going as well as we had hoped. Chaela is back home with her family that she’s spent a year bonding with, and clearly shows her comfort and “American ease” almost in an intentional way with Chad, which has seemed to almost make things a bit harder for him at times. She tends to ignore him. It doesn’t help that getting him to join in with any given activity is a chore because he doesn’t really want to do anything the other kids suggest. He and Corin have not formed any sort of a bond as I had hoped, and they really haven’t interacted much at all even though they are almost the same age and share a room together. They are both more introverted, but I hope in time they can find some common ground.
He seems more comfortable at this point playing with the little kids rather than the big kids. We remember Chaela also not wanting to readily join in with the others at first, and part of that is just not really understanding how to play with toys or games or do any sort of imaginative play. Combine this with the early days of grief, jet lag and confusion of our whole lives being loaded into boxes, and we’re having some challenging days. About once a day he’s had a temper tantrum of sorts like he did in China where he hid in the bathroom for an hour. Both of them centered around someone messing with his stuff, and both times his emotional response (anger) was directed at Chaela, who really takes it quite well all things considered. We found him in tears furiously scrubbing his flip flops in the sink because Chaela wore them when she couldn’t find hers. When your entire life’s belongings and link to 12 years of your former life fits into one small backpack, it’s not that surprising to think that he’d be upset when his things are disrupted. His whole life has been disrupted, and that’s just a tangible picture of it, and anger is the way his sadness comes out. It’s tough to watch and there’s so little we can do to make it better right now. We know it will get better, but only time will tell that for him.

Family pictures are even new for him.

He also has many times throughout the day where he is really happy, much more so than Chaela was this soon home. He loves riding bikes and we were surprised that he already knows how. He gives us enthusiastic hugs and seems genuinely happy to do so at bedtime, he has been willing to try everything I have made for meals (even if it means he has to pour his spicy seasoning packet that he brought with him all over everything on his plate to make it edible). When he finds something he really likes, he tries to figure out creative ways of eating it. He loved the spicy pickles and as soon as he tried one, he went to get a cup to pour the pickle juice into it to drink. I laughed and told him ‘no, no, no, no…ew!’, so instead he got a piece of bread and soaked it in the juice and ate it soggy. I offered him a taste of a sweet potato with brown sugar and cinnamon, thinking he would love it after seeing him load his breakfast plate with brown sugar (in a heap with nothing to go with it) and as soon as I put it in his mouth he began gagging and spitting and nearly vomiting at the table (at the same restaurant that he had already made quite a scene, especially after the waitress came over and began talking to him and asking him all sorts of questions, having no idea he didn’t speak any English). To say we made quite an “impression” at this stop is an understatement.

At least he will have this fuzzy pic at Hershey to remind him of this time.

We are picking our battles right now, and almost anything goes as long as he literally isn’t playing with a can of Pam over a lit grill. It’s quite ironic that he is so easily irritated by loud noises because he can be very loud and crazy himself. He has a wild side, and sometimes we can’t tell if he is yelling as a game for fun, or if he’s really mad, because we don’t know what he’s actually saying. When it’s important, Chaela lets us know, but he can get quite passionate and worked up into a tizzy fairly easily, it seems. We are still getting to know his personality, and we know he will change and grow so much that like Chaela, it’s likely he’ll be completely different this time next year.
As stressed as I am with a billion things on my mind keeping me up at night, one of the things in the forefront of my mind the past couple of days is sadness over the new regulations that China just implemented regarding adoptions. The two most prominent changes that now exclude us from being able to adopt from China are the rules regarding family size. The maximum number of children already in the home to be eligible for adoption is now 5, and the youngest child in the family must be at least 3 years old to submit paperwork to adopt. We have broken this “rule” every time, which means that had this new regulation been in place 4 years ago, we would not have Charlotte, Carrigan, Chaela or Chad in our family. This breaks my heart. We literally got home with Chad days before this rule could have made him forever an orphan. It makes me sick to think how many more children will forever be without a family because the small pool of willing families was just made even smaller by a man-made “rule” that says a child is better off in an orphanage than with a bigger family or one that has a baby or young toddler in it. I can’t tell you how much Chad loves Gwennie- he comes up at random times all throughout the day just to kiss her, and she has made his transition in China and at home so much better.

China – a place of beauty…and of darkness. In that way, it’s just like the US.

I used to think that the orphan crisis was due to a broken child welfare system,  governments not working properly to care for the less fortunate of society. I now realize that it isn’t primarily a government problem, it’s a church problem. I read a statistic that if just one family in every church in America adopted a child, we wouldn’t have an orphan crisis. Just in America, there are over 100,000 children waiting to be adopted, and there are over 300,000 churches. Something doesn’t add up. Sadly, many churches are more concerned with the building fund or new program in the works than with promoting adoption or foster care, or coming alongside families who are in the process. I don’t think this is necessarily intentional, but that sometimes it is just that people on the outside looking in can’t see the struggles. It’s easy to see that a new mother who has just given birth could use a few meals to get through those first weeks. It’s harder to see that an adoptive family who may be all smiles at the airport coming home, deals with loneliness during those initial weeks of cocooning with a new child, jet lag, and a child who is dealing with night terrors, culture shock, food issues, and more. Having done both multiple times, I can say that adoption is much more exhausting and difficult than giving birth and coming home from the hospital with a new baby who sleeps a lot. These families need support! We have yet to go to a church that had any sort of orphan care ministry while we were with them, but what a blessing that would be to these families, and maybe it would spur others on to begin the process themselves.
Without a doubt, walking into an orphanage is one of the most life-changing things I have ever done. I wanted to scream, “Where is the church?!” Like the Casting Crowns song goes: “If we are the body, why aren’t these hands reaching?! Why aren’t these feet going?!” For some of these children, adoption means staying alive. We have friends who brought home two little boys who literally would have died if it weren’t for our friends who stepped in to parent them and get the medical care they needed. Another family in our adoption community just adopted a 13 year old boy with a heart condition so severe that he is not expected to live more than a few years, at best. They knew this going into the process. They wanted him to have the love of a family surrounding him when he goes- now that is sacrificial love! We know families who have brought home children with no eye balls, missing limbs, wheelchair bound crippled children, and those with deformities that would have been shunned in a culture that doesn’t do well with special needs. Children aging out under these conditions face a life that is unthinkable. As a friend wisely said, We have to stop asking how much it will cost us if we say yes. We need to be asking how much it will cost them if we say no. Church, wake up!
Please, don’t wait until you have “peace about it” or the “time is right”. It’s easy to have “peace” about something we already want to do, but when it’s something difficult, uncomfortable or sacrificial on our parts, “peace” might not initially be the primary emotion- fear will be. The time will never feel right to completely disrupt your life by inviting an orphan in. The peace might not come until after you take that first step…and it might not come until years after you have taken all of the steps to do the right thing. It isn’t even really something we need to wait and “pray about”. God has already told us in His word to “Go”. Go into all the world, care for the orphan, welcome in the stranger, take up our cross, die to ourself and our “rights”. There is no better way to do this than to open your heart and your home to an orphan through foster care or adoption. A short term missions project is only a temporary bandaid. Visiting is good, but it doesn’t solve the problem- these children need families, not another visitor who comes and goes. They have nannies who rotate and do that.
It seems the biggest obstacles keeping families from saying yes are fear and finances. If fear of “destroying” your perfect little family is holding you back, I can tell you honestly, it will. It will destroy your easy lifestyle, your materialism, your selfishness- it will destroy you in every good way. Don’t let finances hold you back, either. We have adopted four years in a row, and we aren’t “rich” by American standards. We live on one income, and we have never had to go into any debt to fund our adoptions. There are so many ways of fundraising and applying for grants that makes adoption affordable. Please, do not let finances stop you.

When the story is over, it’s always worth it.

Sometimes it can be hard to get started when you see overwhelming need in the world. There are so MANY kids needing families and the magnitude of the problem becomes even more clear when you get into the midst of it. No matter how many kids we take in, it makes very little difference in the big scheme of things, and that can be discouraging. The orphan crisis in the world is actually growing regardless of anything I can personally do about it.

But, God isn’t asking me to solve everything, He just wants each of us to do our part. As the body of Christ, the Church, we can make a difference as we all work together. Obviously, as individuals we can’t take in hundreds of thousands of kids— but we can start with one. And then two. And then guess what, you might realize you can certainly handle three, and what a pleasure and honor it will be to welcome a couple more if God calls you to that. Let’s arrive in His presence spent for His purposes, not our pleasures.