Too Big to Fail?

Today was report card day.

I’ve got a kid in kindergarten and 1st grade, and I can’t make any sense of their report cards whatsoever. Their report cards say things like “on target” and stuff like that, but as long as they are not eating glue and are being decent citizens, I’m not too worried about them. I’m not apathetic, but I do know Beth is checking up on them, and she’s pretty good about letting me know if there’s a problem.

My two 3rd graders are doing well too. For the most part, they bring home A’s and high B’s. One is pretty darn smart, and the other is a really driven worker, so they tend to be neck and neck. I do always ask, “Did you do your best?” To me, this is an equally important component since our grades indicate how much we learned and our level of effort indicates our integrity and self-discipline.

However, my 4th grader is a different story. For the past two years, he has consistently been getting C’s in Math and English. There are a lot of reasons why I think this is.

  1. He has only been speaking English for about 18 months. While we have been in the US now for three years, we only began making English the official family language about the middle of last year.
  2. Three years ago, he could barely count. With so many transitions before coming to the US, he didn’t have a solid educational foundation poured, and he is playing catch-up in a lot of areas.
  3. He’s now going to an all-English school and doesn’t have the bilingual program that we had before. We’ve made Alabama a lot more diverse by being here. Before our family descended on our new Elementary school, they only had 3 Latin children, and all of them came from one family. Needless to say, they don’t have the need to put programs in place to help children with a Spanish background.
  4. School is just not his thing. He just doesn’t enjoy learning that much unless it is about dinosaurs or Indians.

However, at the end of the day, that’s just a string of excuses. He may have it harder than some, but we do not give ourselves permission to under-perform because of it. That sets us on a path of lying to ourselves and denying the reality.

For this reason, every report card he has gotten, we do the same routine. We see the C, we ask the teacher what we can do differently, and we keep working hard each and every day to make things better. It’s felt (even for me) like that part in “Rudy” where he keeps getting rejected to attend Notre Dame, but every time, he’s gone back and tried again. I’ve also been honest with him that if he slips further, failure was a very real option, and he could be repeating a grade with his brother and sister if that happens.

(As an aside, I’m tiptoeing that delicate line of always encouraging him to do better at school but making sure he understands that I love him no matter what grades he gets. It’s hard, but I think we’ve struck a good balance. Also, I’m saying some things in here that might be blasphemous for most adoptive blogs… If I wasn’t 100% sure he felt connected and loved, I would definitely be emphasizing that even more than I am now. I don’t want others (or him) to confuse my attitude about hard work and good grades as conditional love.)

I do believe he is trying his best, even though his best has been a C. A month or so ago, when we first came to a new school in Alabama (a month ahead of our old school), he redid his homework about three times, staying up until 11:00 pm to do it. He didn’t enjoy it, and there were a few tears shed, but he didn’t complain, and he worked his tail off. I’ve never been prouder of him, and I made sure he knew. Let me say, all too often we concern ourselves with moving strife out of a kid’s life when, if in a controlled environment, it could be good for them… I hated having to watch him suffer through it, but he not only learned the school material that night, but he also learned about grit, tenacity, and follow-through.

Though he hates it, I believe he is starting to value his education and understands why it is important. Case in point: his late-nighter was a significantly better outcome than last year when he told us his bad grades were Beth’s fault because she didn’t help him enough with his homework. Oooo! That little comment led to a 30-minute talk on personal responsibility. By the end of that conversation, he knew learning was his job, not his mom’s or his teacher’s.

All of that leads me to today. I came home to the happiest 4th grader in America… All A’s and B’s, finally! Rudy made the football team! Bear in mind, one was an 80.6%, but it still counts, and he was more excited about that B- than some kids are about making A’s.

Thank you to the two schools that had the courage to tell my son that his work was sub-par when it really was. Thank you to all the teachers that honestly assessed his work and gave him those C’s. You didn’t do him a disservice by lying to him and making him think his effort was great. You didn’t cheapen his education or coddle his emotions in the process by eliminating poor grades. You were and honest broker, and you helped him assess where he needed to focus efforts. You didn’t do it to make him feel bad. You did it because it was the right thing to do.

That string of C’s, those long nights at the dinner table, and the extra work at home and school have made this victory taste that much sweeter. His failures have amplified the success he has just had. We are not out of the woods yet, and he knows we have to keep up the effort to at least maintain what he has, but he knows that great feeling of working seriously hard for something and finally getting the result. I’m hoping this gives him even more resolve in the future.

A few years back, we, as a country, decided that there were certain companies that were “too big to fail.” Even though the free market was cleansing itself of poor performing businesses, a natural mechanism of this economy, the government stepped in and put those businesses on life support.

That’s a conversation for a different blog, but I will say, when we take away our ability to fail, we inherently take away our ability to succeed. We are never too big to fail, and if we can pass that lesson on to the future generation (always couched in encouragement and detached from acceptance), they will be better for it. For this reason, during Thanksgiving and the holiday season, I have been thankful for C’s and F’s, losing games, bench warming, and last chair in band.

At the dinnermesa,

Ty

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Boys to Men…

Before we started our adoption, I wanted a girl. I thought it would be so cool to have a daughter. The reason could be due to growing up in an all-boy house and wanting something different. I really can’t explain it. I was ultimately cool with God’s sovereign will in deciding what I got, but secretly, I was routing for the fairer sex.

I remember talking to one of the people at our adoption agency during the process, and she told me that statistically, most people want to adopt newborns (no surprise there) and most people want girls. I would not have guessed the second part. I would have thought that was unique to me or, at the very least, not something that was so clearly skewed in one direction.

When we decided on our five Colombianos, I got the two girls that I wanted, and fathering them is everything that I hoped it would be. I also got three boys. If I can say something without sounding like a terrible person, I was not super excited about the idea of having boys. I would love and care for them, without question, but my heart wasn’t into chasing these three hyper little disgusting monsters around my house for the next 14 years. During the first few weeks in Colombia when we got them, my non-excitement only got worst. I almost loathed having these boys (terrible to say, but honest). It could have been that I only chose to see the things that reinforced my point-of-view, but I was reminded of why I wanted girls in the first place:

The girls would sit and color or play with dolls. The boys would run around and turn anything into a projectile or a weapon.

The girls could focus on one thing. The boys would lose interest within minutes of starting.

The girls were constructive players. The boys were destructive players.

The girls could play in a group and encourage each other to do the right thing. They boys would drag each other down when they played together.

I have to tell the girls something a few times before they followed my directions. I have to tell my boys the same thing ten times as much to get the same results.

It didn’t help much that my oldest son was a bit defiant learning how to fit into the new family dynamic, and we came to blows (literally for him, figuratively for me) several times before he understood that we were in charge, and we were disciplining him because we loved him. A lot of people will say, “I love you, but I don’t like you right now.” That’s where I was with my boys for months. I loved them, but I didn’t like them at all.

That was twenty-nine months in the rear-view mirror now. Looking at my boys today, I can say we have made amazing progress. The same chasm between the sexes is there, but it’s more of a ditch than the Grand Canyon we had before. Case in point – my boys all worked, un-disturbed for nearly seven hours two days after Christmas putting their Lego sets together (constructive, focused, calm, group play). I’m also glad to say that God (and my boys) have changed my heart over that time. The boys are no longer the thing that I put up with to have my girls.

Quite the opposite. If I were in a foxhole at the edge of no-man’s land, and I could pick any three people in the world to be by my side, my boys would be my band of brothers.

Now, I see them in a different light. They are not violent. They are courageous. They are not ridiculous. They dream big. They are not hyper. They are adventurous. They are not foolish, stubborn, or irresponsible. They are tenacious, undaunted, and unyielding when the others give up or give in. They are not heathens. They are leaders and vision-casters.

Beth told me a few weeks ago that God has put boys on her heart, and she was glad we got our boys. She even went so far as to say that if we ever adopt again, she is leaning toward boys in general. I asked her why, and she said, “There are not enough good men in the world, and these boys are going to grow up, whether they are adopted and shown how to be men or not.”

It’s true, and it is almost becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. At our church, men can not change diapers if we work in the nursery. Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally fine with not doing this job, but the simple fact of the matter is that the overwhelming majority of sex offenders and pedophiles are male, and it is a liability issue for the church. Men commit more crimes then women. Approximately 4 out of 10 children in the US are born to unwed mothers, and these children do not understand what a man/father is or have it modeled for them in any way. Even in a two-parent house, the man is marginalized more each day. Watch any commercial that has a married couple in it, and almost without exception, the husband is portrayed as the lazy, thoughtless, backwards, stubborn, bumbling fool that the wife must lead in the right direction. It has gotten to a point in which a man is guilty until proven innocent. Just ask the 2006 Duke lacrosse team. Maybe this is why most people want to adopt girls in the first place…

Boys will be boys, but they need our help to be men. They need our help to know how to be leaders. Otherwise we continue the cycle by declaring them unfit heathens or a lost cause and give up on them before they’ve even got a shot. I was definitely marching down that path myself, but now I see how wrong I was. Boys are hard to raise (I am not by any means saying girls are easy… I’m still wondering how the teenage years will be with them!), but it is worth the sweat equity.

Da boyz.

Da boyz. We made the assumption that the Ninja Turtles traded weapons every once in a while to keep things interesting.

I just want the world to know, there are good men out there. We are not all disgusting animals. We are not all stupid, irrational, gross, and sex-driven at all times. There are good men out there, and with a little prayer and luck, there will be at least three more soon!

At the dinnermesa,

Ty

Timeline…

Hello Interwebs…

Beth and I have been getting a little lazy with updating our blog with the things that are happening in life, and we’re waiting until New Years day to make a resolution to not procrastinate as much.

Things are good, and God has blessed us with fairly smooth sailing over the past few months. We’re just busy, like most people. However, in the routine of day to day life, we sometimes find a gem like we did today.

Our oldest son, who’s in third grade brought home some of his graded homework today. Here’s what we got:

Timeline

Timeline

It is a timeline. Please bear with him. For a kid that didn’t know most of his letters two years ago, he has come a long way, writing in another language. Here it is if you are having trouble.

Timeline Title: “About my present life.”

1. “I was born in 2005 in Colombia.”

2. “I was in first grade when I came to Texas.”

3. “And then I see (saw) my family.”

4. “Then I go (went) to my house.”

5. “Then I (went) to my school.”

To be picky, he did meet us before he came to Texas, but it’s the spirit of the assignment in which I am more interested.

This blog records our adoption from our point-of-view, but we really don’t understand or fathom what our adoption was like for our kids. Out of all the events in his life, these are the five that he chose to record on the worksheet, and the last four happened within two months of each other. Four major (in his mind) events jammed into such a small space of time. It had to be a shock to the system for him and the rest of his siblings. I forget that everything in his life changed in that space of time… parents, culture, church, language, weather, country. Thank God that the one thing that didn’t have to change was his siblings! They all did it together.

Also, it’s interesting to compare his timeline to my own. To a non-adoptive kid, being born and seeing your family for the first time happen together. Here, they are spaced apart by nearly seven years. I can’t remember a time before my parents, because there wasn’t one. They were constants in my life from day one. Here, the parents drift in at the middle of the story.

It’s fun to look at this and play arm-chair psychiatrist, but the thing that makes me happy is this is a beautiful story, and he is proud of it. He is not so embarrassed by his past that he keeps it from his teacher or friends. He doesn’t lament not having a family before 2012, but instead celebrates that we have one now.

This boy now has a family, a house, a school with teachers and friends that love him, and he has Jesus in his heart. He is not an orphan. He is not fatherless or Fatherless.

After two years, it still doesn’t get old to me. This step in our lives took more risk and courage than any other, but God has blessed, and it was so worth it!

At the dinnermesa,

Ty

The French Connection and 2 Years Home…

Two years ago today, we woke up for the first time as a family of seven on American soil.

The day we physically got to hold our kids for the first time was August 3, 2012. We were declared a family in the eyes of the Colombian government September 10, 2012. We came to the United States on September 20, 2012.

We don’t know what date is most important, but they are all special to us. In some ways, it feels like an eternity, but in other ways, it feels like just yesterday. We still fight some adoptive-specific battles here and there, but today 99% of the stuff we deal with is normal kid stuff.

We look back from time to time and remind ourselves of how far we’ve come. Two naive parents that didn’t have a clue what to do and five kids who’s entire life and culture were about to change… With a lot of on-the-job training and the grace of God, we are where we are today.

In looking back, a film crew from France was doing a documentary on adoptive children in Colombia on the day we met our kids, August 3, 2012. Because of that, we have those first few moments of seven strangers becoming a family captured on video (with French overdubs). Feel free to watch:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GmK8-nmPTR0&feature=youtu.be

As you can see, the baby was not certain about the whole idea of a new family. To be honest, none of us were, but it is amazing to see how the strangers in this movie would become the most important people in each others’ lives.

Thank you to all and thank you to God for making that moment the start of the hardest, most fun, scariest, most worthwhile, happiest journey of our lives.

At the dinnermesa,

Ty

Counting the Costs…

I’m about to share a lot of personal stuff, but this blog is not for my glory. This blog is for God’s glory. Please read it as such.

Last month, March of 2014, we finished a financial journey that was started in September of 2011. We mailed in our last loan payment for our adoption. It was a huge relief, and it was a moment we thought might never come.

This is a breakdown of the costs associated with bringing our children home.

I’m going to talk in percentages, not actual dollar amounts… that way it is inflation insensitive. Also, most people can probably figure out, pretty closely the dollar figures anyway if they do a little research.

What I would term an “adoption cost” would be everything we needed to do to get five children in our home with the means to care for them… that represents 100% of the cost of adoption, and it breaks down like this:

EXPENSES:

1. Normal Adoption Fees and Expenses (36.98%) – These are all of the costs of the actual adoption from Colombia. They include the fees we paid to our adoption agency, they include home studies, psychological evaluations, and dossier work, and they include our lawyer costs while in country and re-adoption after.

2. Additional Fees for Additional Children (3.86%) – The cost listed above is for one child. Every child needed to have a checkup from the doctor, a passport, and associated paperwork. These were the costs that we had to do four more times in order to bring all the kids home.

3. Travel and Time in Colombia (24.87%) – This includes two plane tickets one way and seven plane tickets on the return (Buying seven plane tickets on two days notice can burn a hole in your pocket pretty fast). It also includes the renting of our apartment, all meals, and entertainment while we were in Colombia for seven weeks.

4. 2006 Ford E350 12-Passanger Van (20.89%) – It is true that we already had a car, but if we had only adopted three kids or fewer, we probably wouldn’t have needed to upgrade the car we had (2007 Toyota Matrix). We were trying to be responsible, so we bought one a little older with low miles (46K) so we could pay for it outright without financing, but in the end, we should have spent a few more dollars and gotten a more reliable car. We have since had to replace this vehicle, as chronicled here, but the new van is not included in these costs.

5. Conversion of Breezeway (4.36%) – Since we would be needing both spare bedrooms in our little, 1300-square-foot house, we were looking for a way to add a little more space. Fortunately, there was a covered breezeway between the garage and our kitchen that we were able to enclose and make into an office/mud-room and gain about 80 more square feet of space. We did all of the labor, so we were only out the cost of materials. That project was shown here and here.

6. Interest on Loans (4.19%) – We work hard to live debt free as much as possible, but unfortunately, our adoption moved a little faster than our saving. We took out two loans. One, we took out when we realized our adoption was going to be complete in less than a year. The other we took out right before we went to Colombia, concerned about not knowing how long we would be there. Our hope was to not use much of it, and put the money back as soon as we got it out, but unfortunately we used most of that second loan too.

7. Clothes, Beds, Toys, and Other Random Home Goods (4.86%) – This encapsulates all of the things that a married couple doesn’t need but a family of seven does. Fortunately, we were very blessed with a number of people giving us toys, beds, mattresses, and clothes, but we still had a few things we needed to buy. Some of it was spent on buying a freezer for the garage. Some of it was used to put up shelves in the garage. We tried to be thrifty, but I have to confess, we did buy a pretty nice camera since all we had was Beth’s phone, and we were expecting quite a few memories to be made.

OK. That should add up to 100%.

So that’s the hole. Now let’s talk about the shovel. How did we pay for it?

We had some rules…

1. We never asked anyone for money. We did ask people for help with time and donations for a garage sale (more about that later), but we never asked for money. God has blessed me with an amazing job (again, not my glory, but His), and because God has blessed us so well financially, we felt it would not honor Him to do this. That doesn’t mean we think it is wrong or are against it in any way… we just felt like all other avenues needed to be pursued before we did. Having said that, a number of people, out of the goodness of their heart, blessed us financially, but it was unsolicited and purely their decision. I’m thankful to say, we never got to that point.

2. We never stopped giving… Our tithes and offerings are our business, so I won’t get into the details about how much we give or to what ministries we support, but all you need to know is we follow our convictions and have peace about what we do. Having said that, we didn’t change anything to our giving practices during the adoption process. We believed that God put adoption on our hearts, but her never told us to hit the pause button on participating in the work He is doing that is already on our hearts.

3. We looked for odd jobs. Beth was able to work at the college bookstore a few weeks before the semester began. She also worked a little at church over the summer. I worked over the holidays at the hardware store in town. I was also able to do something that I have grown to love over the past few years – teach college. I teach one or two math courses a semester at the university.

4.  We were as thrifty as we could be. I built the breezeway. I built a lot of storage. Beth, for a few Christmases made presents for others to save money. She shopped on garage sales, Craig’s List, and Facebook to get the things we have. We haven’t eaten out much… About two times a week I have to tell my coworkers I can’t go out to eat with them (I’m sorry to say, but they’ve stopped asking). We got our lifestyle as lean as we could so that every extra dollar was going to the adoption. It was also good practice for learning how life would be when kids got here anyway!

So, here’s the breakdown of how we paid for it all:

ASSETS:

1. 2007 Toyota Matrix (4.09%) – Since we bought the great big van, we no longer needed the little car. We were able to sell her to a sweet young lady who is in our Sunday School class a couple of years ago. It’s nice to still see the little car at church.

2. Garage Sale (11.73%) – This was Beth’s brain-child, and it was far more effective than any of us thought it would be. She thought it would be a good idea to ask friends and family for donations of old junk that they didn’t want to sell in a garage sale. We wound up getting donations from over 30 families, and had the largest garage sale I have ever seen. It was in the garage, front yard, driveway, and back yard. I’m pretty sure we upset the neighbors when they couldn’t pull into their driveways for all of the cars. It was crazy, and it raised about four times more than we expected.

3. Employee Stock (7.85%) – My company was kind enough to give me some stock in the company as a thank-you for my work in 2009. When they gave it to me, the only rule was, it had to sit for at least three years before I could touch it. As God would have it, the three years wrapped up at exactly the time we needed it.

4. Company Adoption Program (12.78%) – Again, God has blessed me so much with the place I work. My company has an adoption program that pays employees a set amount of money to go to qualified adoption expenses after the adoption is finalized. After I filled out the paperwork, I was shocked to find out that the amount was per child! Again, this was something I was not counting on, but helped in a big way.

5. Love Offering (3.45%) – Our church, during our time in Bogota took up a love offering for us and sent us the money. We did not ask them to do that, but they did, and not only did it help us out financially, it lifted our spirits when we were getting pretty discouraged.

6. Gifts and Showers (9.99%) – Our friends at church and my friends at work threw us showers in which they gave us a number of things that the kids needed. In addition, they also gave us a lot of cash to cover adoption costs. Beyond that, a great number of people gave us financial gifts through the adoption process, even though we never asked. We even had another Sunday School class (that we don’t go to) take up a collection for us. By the time it was all done, it was a pretty hefty portion of the costs.

7. Hard work and saving (50.11%) – This is where the extra jobs and overtime came in. We paid for as much as we could as things came up, but the majority of this went to cover the two loans we took out. As said above, the last loan payment was paid last month, 18 months after we got back home.

We also had some other help along the way. The amazing people I work with donated their vacation time so I could draw a paycheck while I was out of country. They blessed me with 9 weeks which allowed me to stay in Bogota with my wife the entire time as well as have a couple of weeks at home when we got back to make sure everyone was settled in before returning to work.

It was hard work. It took a lot of sacrifices on our part, but a LOT of people have a hand at bringing these five beautiful children home to us. We are forever grateful to them, and to God who has blessed us so richly to accomplish his God-sized vision in our lives (if I may rip off Pastor Johnny’s phrase).

Easter in Bluebonnets - Texas tradition.

Easter in Bluebonnets – A Texas tradition.

It’s amazing to think that at one time, they were orphans. Thank you to all, and thank you to God.

To quote a famous credit-card commercial, Five beautiful children finally home: priceless!

At the dinnermesa,

Ty

15 Minutes of Fame…

“Hustle and bustle are like my right and left arms…”

That is a quote from Lil’ Spice, which was re-quoted by Strongbad in a well-thought out Englilsh paper he wrote for Kyle “The Yellow Dart” Smith (Google it if you are confused – Homestar Runner was really big back in my day).

But, these days, it is true.

Papi leaves at 5:45 am to get to work by 6:30 am to get finished by 2:30 pm to get to the university and start class by 3:30 pm to get home by 5:30 pm to eat and put the kids in bed by 7:30 pm to finish paying bills, study Sunday School Lessons, or grade papers to be in bed by 11:00 pm. Rest and repeat.

Mami wakes up at 5:45 am to get the kids to school by 7:30 am to get home and run errands to finish by 11:45 am to drop the youngest son of for school to get home and put the baby down for an  hour and get more work done to pick the kids up at 2:30 pm to get them home and finished with homework by 5:00 pm to get them in bed by 7:30 pm to finish laundry, dishes, craft projects, lunches for the next day, or any other odd jobs to be in bed by 11:00 pm. Rest and repeat.

Routine and structure are great. I will never say anything contrary, but sometimes, hustle and bustle can be like my right and left arms… We work hard trying to cram as much as we can into the day that God made for us.

Also, there is another dynamic at play in our house. Even though we try to have fun and silly times with our kids, we still deal with our children in bulk. If we can do something fun for two, it will always trump doing something fun for one. That’s why board games, movies, and trampoline time seem to dominate our activities. Please don’t misinterpret this. I love that we do things as a family, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

However, over the past few months, I began to notice that our routine and our entourage were stifling our individual relationships with each kid. The only time they are with Mom and Dad is when they are with their brothers and sisters, and we are usually focused on whatever is scheduled for that particular part of the day.

So, after talking last weekend with Beth, we instituted a program called “15 Minutes of Fame.” Each kid already has a day of the week to help with dinner, to lead Bible time, and to pray in the evenings (5 kids, 5 week-days). With “15 Minutes of Fame”, if it is your day of the week, after all the other kids go to bed, you get to stay up an extra 15 minutes with Mom and Dad and talk about whatever you want to talk about. Mom and Dad do not do anything else while you are talking, and you don’t have any brothers or sisters listening to you or vying for attention.

The idea was I wanted to connect with all my children on a personal level, but I was skeptical of how it would work. Beth and I figured, if it was a disaster, we could always figure something else out the next week.

Monday’s child was up first… Our middle son. So, at the end of Monday, all kids are down, he’s up, and we explain the game to him…… EXPLOSION! So many words! There were words about friends, words about school, words about games he is playing with his friends, words about his best friend, words about church and what he is doing at school. There were words about a game he plays that, after he described it, sounds a lot like “coodies”. He plays with his friends on the playground almost every day. How can something be so important to my son and I not know anything about it?!? So much information!

Tuesday’s child, full of grace…. Our oldest. Same result. More un-turned rocks in his life too!

Wednesday’s child…. Our oldest daughter. Ella puede hablar! It was a Spanish whirlwind!

We’re now to Thursday, and I can tell you, it is safe to say that “15 Minutes of Fame” will become part of our routine from now on. In our year and a half of being a family, these few minutes have been some of the most fruitful in attaching with each child INDIVIDUALLY. We have attached as a family, but the individual bonds were something I think we have been lacking for far too long.

I’m lucky I’m in a place in life where my kids still want to tell me stuff… I work with teenagers at church, and, from what I can see there, I know that those days won’t be around forever. Also, we have always let our children know from the first day we got them that they can always talk to us about anything. We want to be there for everything they need. I think they knew that, but having a forum to put it into practice helps a lot with that too. People with smaller families may not have this issue (I honestly don’t know), but we learned that each of our children has so much to tell us if we just let them.

At the end, we call time, and every child (without exception) has asked if they can have 5 more minutes of fame. I bet Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer are asking the same thing!

At the dinnermesa,

Ty

1 year ago today…

We met them.  They called us Papi & Mami.  Our lives were forever changed.

I can still feel the nerves in my stomach as they rounded the corner, they were like a train heading toward us at full force.  Spanish was being thrown out rapidly, feet were running & stomping, my heart was pounding.  One year ago today we met the Fab 5.  We became 7.

1

They had just ran in & are giving us pictures that they were coloring while they were waiting to meet us.

3

This is when Darth backed herself in a corner & wanted nothing to do with me, luckily she likes coloring books so I wooed her back.

5

Middle saying, “I’m not so sure about this guy”

6

Big Brother, “I’ll push them harder than anyone they have ever known, they’ll crack & leave me for sure.”

7

Big sis, “I’ll let Mami take the title, but she’s going to have to fight me for the role of Mami in our family”

8

Our first family photo, we are basically herding cats

9

Ahh the look of a naive parent, we knew so little back then

11

Doe-eyed Mami, she doesn’t know how her world is about to change.

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Big sis, “I’m scared, I don’t want a family, take me back to the orphanage”

Ooh it was a hard day, followed by more hard days, then weeks, maybe even a month.  But we stuck it out, all of us.  We’ve become a family.  A support-each-other-always, trust-filled, beso-giving family.  I’ll still have moments where the miracle that I have 5 children overwhelms me.  Like today when we celebrated Big Sis & Middle Bro’s birthdays.  Last year she spent it in the orphanage Papi got to sing to her over Skype.  Middle Bro celebrated his the day after we met them with a small cake & 3 pieces of chalk & a matchbox car.  This year they were surrounded by friends & family, had presents specifically picked out lovingly for them, & their cakes were a representation of how they see themselves…

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A beautiful princess

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A superhero

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Please notice that he wanted the head for his piece, he even squinted so I could see the resemblance.

So different from the orphans that we met a year ago.  Because something amazing happens when you join a family; you become a new person.  This year my kids went from being labeled as orphans to: daughters & sons, friends & neighbors, grand-daughters & grand-sons, nieces & nephews, brothers & sisters (they were able to reclaim these roles specifically & unburden the adult-role that had been thrust upon them).

It’s just a daily reminder of my adoption into God’s family, & with that adoption the promise that:  “if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”

At the dinnermesa,

Beth