Wednesday, August 31, 2016

#8. one year.

One year ago we stood in a tiny Ukrainian courtroom. Explaining to a judge why Auggie should be adopted. Why children need families. Why we should be Auggie's.

One year ago, I was told we may be adopting a terminally ill child.
As it turned out, he was simply starving.

   

One year ago, Auggie wore two, TWO newborn sized diapers because his legs were too thin for one.

 


One year ago, I was scared. 
I still can be. So can Auggie.
And honestly, it has been a slightly scary year.
We have had surgeries, many hospital stays, infinite doctoring visits.
We tease him a bit about all of this...he is slightly high maintenance.

 

It has been a year of ups and downs.
Our plate is full. Our schedules overflowing.
We need naps. A lot of them.

Auggie is still very nervous around new people.
He still startles very easily.
He still hyperventilates a bit. But not as much.

Auggie has been our teacher this year. We have learned about patience and perseverance.
We have learned about hurt and healing.

I have learned that I possess very few answers. I cannot tell you why such tragedies occur in this world. I cannot explain away 4 years and 7 months of too-little nutrition. There is no explanation for the sedation, starvation, and absolute neglect that our boy endured. 

I do know there is redemption. There is life beyond beginnings.
I also know there are many that are not offered any possibility.

Auggie is now 23ish pounds. And 32ish inches long.

He grows.

September 2015


August 2016

He smiles.  Big and beautiful.




 He has people. A tribe of protectors, cheerleaders, helpers, friends. A precious, silly, amazing group.






 






 


Every adoption adds new elements of adjustment to a family. Auggie's was no different. I look over these pictures and I remember. I remember holding Auggie for the first time. I remember his bones poking into my arm. His sunken cheeks. His baggy, newborn sized clothing. I remember explaining again and again to people who would ask, how old is your baby? 

I have spent some of the last year being angry. 
And all of the year being thankful.
For this life. This child. This family. 
As in all things, there is purpose. Even in the difficulties.

If you ever wondered if you should adopt...
If you ever need another reason...
From orphan to brother and son.
One year. 

August 2015

Siblings. Family. 2016.
      








Saturday, July 9, 2016

#1

I have long called my kids by numbers on social media posts. 
8 years ago TC legally became our #1. 
TC. My most elderly child is going to a military program to finish up high school. He is 17. 
And that is super old.
 

I am 36. I think. Someone correct me if I am wrong.
I met TC when I was 26. He was adopted when I was 28 and he was 9.


When TC first came to live with us, he was a terror. A goofy, angry, furious, raging, terror. TC is a survivor. Dealing with some of the darkest parts of humanity as a child will alter the world view and create extreme compassion and bitterness, simultaneously. Which describes TC so well. We have witnessed healing and growth. But the scars remain, like so many of his former-foster-youth comrades. 

And here we are, a few years later. And he is moving out. 
It went by so fast.  


Adoption Day


I have known TC for 10 years. In parenting land, that isn't long. 
Seasoned parents, when your child leaves, do you have SO MANY THINGS YOU WANT HIM TO KNOW? My brain is a mush of advice, sayings, bossings...I have so many bossy words. 

Bossy Words From A Bossy Mom 


Doing stupid things make life harder. But you will do stupid things. 
It is how we handle the stupid that defines our character. Apologize. Make it right. Accept the consequence with a good attitude.  And move on.

Be a good friend.
Be a good friend and you will maintain good friendships. You will have people, community, cheerleaders, shin-kickers. All the things we need. Being a good friend will bring about purposeful friendships that begin with a small kindness and are fed and flourish with honesty and trust.

Love. Not hate.
Even in deep-rooted, horrid, angry disagreements, there is no place for hate. There is always another side to hear. Another story to hash out. Your generation will never drive out injustice by drawing lines in the sand and touting obnoxious ultimatums. The resolution will almost always be found on the other side of a kind word, lovingly said and well received.

Always choose to forgive. 
Even when the person doesn't ask for forgiveness. Even when you are still mad. Even when you want to throat punch someone. Forgive. 

Stuff is irrelevant. People aren't. 
The name brands. The phones. The silly things that are so easy to get attached to are not what is important. People. Search for the value in the people around you and you will always find it.

Which brings us to...

Always fight for the marginalized. Whoever they are. 

Marginalize - 
to relegate to an unimportant or powerless position within a society or group

Son, this is where your heart is split open for the world to see. How we treat the incorrectly stereotyped, repressed, and persecuted populations broadcast who and what we value. Value people. Value life. Value what is good and kind. It is so, so easy to jump on the high horse of judgment and self-righteousness. But please remember, we are only one decision, one mistake, one step away from the hungry, the orphan, the homeless. We aren't as far removed as we want to believe. 

As you go from man-child to man, remember all of this. And if you forget, come visit and I will happily remind you.  

Choose what is right, noble. Go to church. Love Jesus. Love your wife, your children, your friends, your family. Work hard. Speak kindly. Value what is actually valuable (and it is absolutely, 1000% not your cell phone.) Fight against injustice. Remember where you came from and make a plan to get to where you want to go...wherever that may be.

You have a voice. A compelling story. Use them to change the world.
Life is quite a ride and almost never what you expect.
So hold on. 
And off you go.











 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Auggie is five.



Auggie turns FIVE TODAY!!
I can't even contain myself. I am not sure if I should cry or clap or I don't even know.

Can I please tell you, I love this kid.
He has not had easy beginnings.
But, how he has come alive.

Let us peruse the photographic evidence.
My favorite kind.
It is the easy answer to the question, Why do you adopt?
Because. This. 

Auggie getting admitted to the hospital. 8 lbs. 4 oz. 
Auggie and the oldest.
Auggie getting his first round of fluids. Wearing 0-3 month pj's
These boys find one another very humorous

Gaining weight. November 2015.

It is Auggie's birthday today. My five-year-old now weighs 17.6 pounds. More than double his weight in September. He has grown almost 4 inches. He has chipmunk cheeks. And the sweetest smile. 
He LOVES to hear his oldest brother call him "Tater"...poor Auggie will probably never be called Gideon. He has ALL the horrible nicknames. Tater. Sweet baby boy. Bebe Gaga (Adam's version of "Baby Auggie") Sweetness. Tiny. Tiny Hiney. Teensy. Bitty Boy. It is pretty gross. We are gross people.

This boy has had four hospital stays in five months. Auggie has not been very good at being sick. yet. He is getting progressively healthier and will have surgery to begin fixing his airway as soon as he is well for 4 weeks in a row. This 4 week-in-a-row rule is proving rather challenging. But we are working on it.

 Big kids. The big kids are just so cool.





 





They love little Auggie.
They squeeze him and love him and call him all the horrible nicknames.
And he laughs. 
And I smile.

Auggie turns five today.
He is smaller than an average 12-month-old.
His tiny, weary, body bears witness to years of an entirely deprived existence. 
One that no human should ever have to endure.

I will not sugar-coat...this has been hard.
Some days we are tired. And some days I cannot sleep thinking of his little friends.
They will always haunt me. Living and dying in my dreams.
Alone. Cold. Hungry. 
With no one to hold their hand as they drift between this life and the next.
I can never erase the images. The smells. The horrifying silence from my memory. 
I wonder if Auggie can.

Today, Auggie will hear us sing a very out-of-tune, obnoxiously loud "Happy Birthday."
He will see us smile and he will smile back.
He will tolerate us squishing his face. A little. 
Today, he will spend his first-ever birthday out of a crib and in the thing every child should have...
a family.

Today, we celebrate this boy. 
The one we never thought we would meet.
This precious life. 
Our tiniest of tiny boys.

Happy Birthday, Little Auggie.
How we love you.





Sunday, September 27, 2015

The New #8. In a semi-long nutshell.





Well friends. We are D.O.N.E.


We always considered the possibility of Auggie. The possibility of the little boy with the big eyes and the gaunt face. That boy. The boy that started us on our road to international adoption. The boy that became unavailable before we could get him. So we got our sweet and wild teeny boys, Adam and Asher.

But, Auggie was still there in the back of our mind...the "what if" of our life. The missing piece to our ever enlarging crew of people. The child we talked about getting if  everything was perfect, we could afford it, our house was done, and our kids were doing well.

Laugh with me, or at me.

Our life was entirely the opposite of ready. Completely the other side of perfect.

We found out Auggie may become re-available (is that even a word?) in the midst of absolute craziness. In the midst of one of our children falling apart. In the black, dark pit...In that time was when we got information that we may be able to get Auggie out. In the most inconvenient, inappropriate time. So we thought that surely, surely we just could not. We could NOT.

We prayed. Sweet Moses, how we prayed.

And in a decision that went against all my rational, logical upbringing ever taught me...we said yes. But only sort of. The possibility that Auggie would still be unavailable was rather large. And we knew he was in a delicate condition...could he travel? Would he survive? I prepared myself for the probability of Auggie not ever getting home. We did some paperwork, but assumed chances were strong that it just wasn't going to work. 

Then door upon door opened.
Resources made available.
One mountain after another moved.
And the Lord clearly, graciously whispered: GO. 
And when I ignored and fought and disregarded what was so clear...
He yelled. 

So off we went.
To Cherkasy, Ukraine.
To meet a boy we were not prepared for.
An 8 pound 4 ounce 4 1/2 year old.
A starved, emaciated, withering bit of humanity.



A precious, weak, broken boy.
With the sweetest smile.

There is no part of me that was prepared to hold a starving child. I could feel every. single. bone. jutting out of his little body.

But he was alive.
His breathing was labored. His skin color was a pasty white-ish gray. All his veins and arteries clearly visible through the pallor. I could put my thumb and forefinger around his thigh with space to spare.

And I was so sad for this boy. And the others there with him.
And the series of injustices that put them in this forgotten Ukrainian orphanage.

After the cross-oceanic commute. We had court. And the orphan previously listed as "Augustin" aka Auggie, became Gideon David August. Loved son, big brother, little brother, grandson, nephew...a beloved, precious and important member of our tribe.
Thank you, Jesus.

Because of his fragility, we left him in the orphanage as long as we possibly could to keep from shocking his system and to stave off refeeding syndrome until we could get to the states and the blessing of American medical care.

But his day of freedom did come.
Former orphans leave orphanages with nothing. They own nothing. I brought 12-month-old clothing for him to change into. It was completely enormous. He was entirely swallowed in blue and gray fabric. The nannies tucked his pant legs into his socks to keep the pants from dangling long past his feet. And rolled the arms up repeatedly. We made it work.


I walked my son out of that place forever. 
He was scared. So was I. 

We waited in Kyiv for his visa and then we were on our way home-ish. Via the large children's hospital 3 hours from where we live. This turned into a two week stay to stabilize our boy. 

Many times it was a frightening visit. And long. And tiring. And beautiful. 
We met the most wonderful doctors, nurses, therapists, case managers. I am forever, forever grateful for the beginning they gave Auggie in his new country. When I was a blubbery, bumbling mess, these sweet doctors and nurses and staff guided, encouraged and treated Auggie with tremendous kindness. 

There were days when Auggie just felt bad. 



 

And days when he would perk up for a bit. 
Which was so much fun. 


And slowly.
Bit by bit.
Life was restored.

Our gray-ish boy is, in fact, olive-skinned. Dark hair. Dark eyes.
Completely and wholly beautiful. 


During all the testing and doctoring...nothing was discovered out-of-the-ordinary with Auggie. He has cerebral palsy and was severely malnourished. All other medical issues are secondary to his severe undernourishment. Our boy needed food. And has needed it for a long time. It just seems so simple. 

Auggie is now home. And adored. His bigger siblings cart him around constantly. And his only younger brother, Adam, kisses him 500,000 times (or more) a day.

I will absolutely never understand why and how we live in a world with simultaneous epidemics of gross excess and gross want. Why my son was left to starve. Why his little roommates are starving still. There is no person that will ever acceptably explain this. Because there is no acceptable explanation.

Auggie should never be 25 + pounds lighter than his younger brother.


I have become convinced that to be indifferent, to do nothing, to ignore, to refuse to act, to stand back and allow broken and wounded populations to continue to suffer...this is the great sin of our lifetime. We are a generation of emotionally paralyzed people, and thus our behaviors become paralyzed. We spend so much time waiting for a sign, a signal, a calling...that we forget to DO. This simply must change. We as humans, as fellow travelers in this life, in this moment, must work, and work HARD to change what is unjust. The moment is now. Stalling has only ever cost us liberties, time, and lives. The procrastination just isn't worth the price.

So, I end this Auggie adoption nutshell (with bonus morality lecture) saying:
GO and DO.
Change the world.
Change a life, and in so doing change YOUR life.
Pay attention to the brokenness. 
Give generously. 
Love big and refuse to look back.
Even when it is hard, you will never regret it. 

It is a life of service. Full and beautiful. Broken and hurting.
Exactly where we are supposed to be.
If we had gone with our initial instinct and decided we just couldn't squeeze in another, new #8 would not only not be with our family...He would no longer call this world his home.

So please. Go.
Say yes, and simply begin with go. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

from another mother.

Happy Mother's Day, Moms.

Adopted.
Biological.

To all the moms.
This is your day.

This morning Asher pooped on my foot, the bath mat, the floor, and the tub.
Again.

Happy Mother's Day to me.

I used to think today was about me.
wrong and wrong.

Mother's Day around here brings about BIG emotions.
Because four of our ten family members remember biological moms.
And sometimes, it hurts.

We spend Mother's Day carefully celebrating the mothers that gave our children life.
Our kids need to know that we still love mothers.
Especially mothers that aren't me.

Some people think celebrating the women that wounded my children is a bit odd.

Our kids have different histories.
Physical abuse. Emotional abuse. Domestic violence. Arrest. Lots of alcohol.
One of our children was shaken. Until his brain knocked against his skull and began to bleed.
Many of our children were exposed to drugs in the womb. Some were exposed after.
One of our kids really wants to meet her mother one day.
One of our kids wishes he could forget his mother in one second, and in the next he wishes he could save her from herself. And falls apart from guilt. from hate. from feeling guilty about hating.

This is our Mother's Day.

Our kids need to know we do not hate biological moms.
We choose to love. Even when we do not understand.
And I really do not understand.

Several years ago, while I was bemoaning our children wanting to celebrate their biological moms once again, Nigel (also adopted) set me straight.

It isn't that adopted kids don't love their adopted mom. It is that they need to know that their origins are still important. That their biological mother is not evil, even if their actions were. Biological moms are a part of their biological children. No matter what. And if we exclude biological family memories from celebrations we are just telling our children that their past doesn't matter, or that it is shameful. And that isn't the truth. 

So, today we will pray.
We will choose to forgive.
And choose to love.
We will hang out with friends and act slightly normal. Slightly.
We will remember the precious women that gave our children life.
We will choose to be grateful instead of bitter.
We will celebrate other mothers.

Happy Mother's Day.
















Thursday, April 30, 2015

enough.

I get lots of feedback from people when we get asked the question..."Will you adopt more?"

I usually say "I have no idea." 
Because that is the truth.

That seems to strike people as odd. Because we have eight kids.
People assume we can't handle more, don't or shouldn't want or have more...

And that always gets me thinking.
Are these people right?
Have we done enough?

How do I explain to my children with emotional scars, physical scars...

brain damage..


unimaginable neglect...

That we have done enough? 
That we have administered enough comfort to the lonely...
And enough justice to a forgotten population?

What does enough look like? And when have we reached it?

I am not sure.

Is enough even quantifiable? Is it what we decide? Is it a destination? Or more like a journey?
Is it possible, as a believer, to love enough, sacrifice enough or give enough? 
or perhaps we will never see or know what is considered enough this side of heaven.

I am afraid to admit...
Somewhere along the way, I lost my faith in what is real. I lost the ability to decipher what God is and isn't requiring of me. I exchanged what I am called to do for some kind of selfish, quasi-faith that requires nothing but the occasional, temporary discomfort.
And I have to ask myself, is that even faith?

What happened?
I honestly don't know.

But I do know, when I get to the end of this life, I don't want to regret what was left undone. And at the end of our days, we hear about humankind being sorry about the risks they didn't take, not the ones that they did.

What has happened?
Somewhere along the way I began to twist God into what is comfortable. And in so doing, have deceived myself about what is really required of me in this life. Because, you see, I like to be comfortable. So, I convince myself, because we have done "good" things that we have done enough. 

I traded in Truth for the American Dream. And purposefully ignored what I should have been doing in order to satiate my appetite for security. And all that my erroneous logic and arrogance has taught me is that security is a myth

I have spent the larger chunk of my not-so-long-life trying to be safe. Trying to control. 
And friends, it isn't working. 

Now, I find God tearing away at my comfort. He is, once again, stripping away my perception of what is comfortable and secure. And replacing it with Truth. This lesson is currently exceptionally painful. Because it means scraping away at my deep-seated life rules and fighting what comes naturally...day by day. hour by hour. second by second. I have to choose. 

How do I exchange my cultural Christianity for what is real?
I am finding myself in a state of refusal. To merely exist in a half-lived life.
Even if it seems easier. 

I say I trust. And that I have faith and that God is in control. And then, in the same millisecond, I turn around and argue with the Creator of the Universe about what is and isn't enough for me to sacrifice. I argue about what is and isn't justice in my life. I do like control.

So how do we decide what enough looks like?

If I am supposed to be mimicking Christ and He sacrificed His life, can I offer anything less?
I am afraid I can't. Neither can you.
Are we, as Americans, living out a comfortable quasi-faith, offering paltry, often unwanted, scraps of our lives? I am certainly guilty.

So back to the question at hand.
What is enough?
The truth is, as a believer, my answer must be:
Nothing less than all of me. Nothing less than all I can possibly give.
My life, a sacrifice. In joy. In horror. I give up. I give in.
I have decided that enough is nothing less everything.


What that looks like, in our family, I don't quite yet know.
But, I feel God whispering and beckoning.
Prying comfort out of my tightly clasped hands.
Showing me He is faithful.
Proving step by step that He is able to be trusted.
Even when I am scared at what enough looks like.
He is there. Graciously prodding me along.

Maybe, enough is when there is enough food for the hungry.
Enough families for family-less children.
Enough love.
Enough justice.
When there is enough of whatever is needed to go around.
Not just for you.
Not just for me.
Until the day we have conquered the tragedies of: poverty, hunger, orphans, war, persecution, slavery, famine, My assumption will be that enough has not been reached.

So, join me on this journey. Where social media outrage is simply a powerless and ineffective means to mollify our conscience. Where we (as haves) recognize our superfluous blessings and begin to advocate and serve in the realm of have-nots. Where we set aside judgments, wants, selfishness...even when it feels impossible. Where we meet people in the dark pit that we were once in and blindly offer a helping hand. Only then will enough begin to transition from pipe-dream to possibility

Enough: as much or as many as required

My prayer is that my idea of what is or isn't enough is not determined by fear.
And that we recognize enough may look slightly different for you than it does for me. 
And even when contrary circumstances are stacking up we never, ever quit.
And just like every planetary crises, we must all join together.
In justifiable outrage.
In willingness.
To search, endeavor, work, bleed, die, live, sacrifice...for enough. 




Email: thesometimes8irons@gmail.com
Please feel free to comment below.

































Monday, February 16, 2015

counting.

As a mom...
Sometimes, I am wrong.
Sometimes, I am afraid.
Many times, I don't know what I am doing.
There is just so much uncharted territory.

Parenting children with special needs has proven especially heart-wrenching.
It would be so easy to excuse behaviors. But, I cannot. I will not.

This week has been hard.
We are tired. We are confused. We are hurt.
We have cried. We have been angry.
We have been so, so sad.

There are some things I cannot fix. And when the damage is done, all I know to do is move forward. Proceeding with caution. With specialists. With interventions. With counseling.
With everything in me, I wish I had answers. And maybe time-traveling capabilities.

I am sometimes reminded, when our life seems normal, that maybe, it isn't.
And I wonder if it ever has been normal.
And if normal does visit us, will it stay?  

I want to scream. Or run away.
I want to repair damage that I can't repair.

God and I have had some major disagreements.
I have questioned. And wrestled. And doubted.

And even in this current despair, I find that I still pray, begging God for healing.
For answers.
For help.
For grace in my many missteps.
For the ability to forgive.  And not ever give up.

I am reminded again and again that I am not enough.
And that I live in a home filled with beautiful, wonderful, injured souls.
And, I am finding, I will not always be able to save these children from themselves.
Even though I desperately want to.

In these hard weeks, I question everything.
I don't understand. And I probably never will. Why children are so often, and easily thrown away.
And why this throw-away mentality can produce generation upon generation of victims.
And victim-makers.

And I am overwhelmed by the enormity of the obstacles.
And when I am finding it difficult to breathe.
And put one foot in front of the other.

I am reminded (by my mother, who is so wise)...to count.
In an annoying, obnoxiously loud, irritatingly repetitive ditty:

Count your blessings, count them one-by-one. Count your blessings see what God has done... 

When I truly examine my surroundings, there always seems to be more blessing than disaster.
Even in collapse and confusion. There are blessings.
Even when, once again, my expectations have been crucified.
I am reminded to count. Because, even in the cruelest moments the blessings are still there.

So, in these times, when broken children seem to be everywhere. When darkness billows and settles. And a functional future is an assumed impossibility. I will sing the song (with the appalling tune) in my head. And count.