Saturday, April 12, 2014

Seven Years Old and Six Years in My Heart

When we started the adoption process Grace was not born yet. From the time that China accepted our paperwork it was over a year before she would be born.  And almost a whole year more before we got to bring her home.  We didn't know what she would look like, we didn't know what kind of person she would grow up to be.

We had no idea she would so remarkably change the course of our lives.  Oh how I love this little angel.

Last week Grace turned 7 years old.  Oh my goodness, that is so old!  How does this happen?  I blink my eyes and another year has passed.

Grace has had an amazing year.  She has turned into (in my humble opinion, of course) a really charming, funny, witty, creative human being this year.  Some of the fears and struggles she's had in the past are starting to fade.  She loves to laugh and play, especially with her very dearest friend, Haven. She loves to make things and be artistic.  She loves to be outside, digging and exploring.  She LOVES her dogs and loves when we call her "the Dog Whisperer".  But she really is. According to Grace:

  • Her favorite color is rainbows.
  • Her favorite food is ribs.
  • Her favorite movie is Frozen.
  • Her favorite thing to do is play with her brother.
  • Her favorite toys are her dolls. 
  • Her favorite holiday is Christmas.
  • When she grows up she is going to be an artist (last year it was a doctor, so I'm a little sad about this new development).

Grace had a small birthday party at her favorite park.  She designed the cake herself.  I want to thank all of you that came and made it special.  And I want to apologize that no thank you notes have arrived from Grace yet.  About 10 minutes after her party ended she came down with a stomach bug that had her laid out on the couch for over week.  We're all just starting to recover.  So thank you so much.  Her birthday was wonderful! I can't wait to see what this year has in store for her.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Have You Thought About Moving to China???

So readers, as you can see I've been out of commission on the blog for another few weeks.  While the rest of the country was experiencing "Snow-pocalypse" we were suffering from "Poop-pocalypse".  Three weeks straight of diarrhea times six kids and two adults equals "holy moly when will it end"!!!!

Brian and I were also exploring the possibility of taking a couple of jobs in China.  Yep.  China.  The country with all the Chinese people.

So I've been a bit distracted.

Here's the skinny: Brian and I have talked for years about living overseas.  Even before we decided to adopt we looked into applying for DOD jobs or working in international private schools.  Then after Grace's adoption we very seriously thought about living in China.  We both loved our 3 weeks there and we knew that we would want to go back someday.

But that was 5 kids ago.

More recently we had daydreamed about joining the mission field.  My time in Congo has had a profound effect on me.  I feel very drawn to that region of the world. I've been casually browsing job listings for NGO's.  A couple from our church is planting a new church in Kenya and I've thought a lot about what it might be like to join them there.

Then a few weeks ago Brian struck up a conversation with another couple we know who are moving this summer to Shanghai, China.  They will be working with an organization called Charity Dream Shanghai. They lived in China a couple of years ago for a job transfer.  They got hooked up with Charity Dream Shanghai and are now going back to work for them. The organization includes a baby home for children with cleft lip/cleft pallet, a private school, a leadership program and a church.

And before you knew it we were interviewing via Skype for the jobs of 1st grade teacher (for me) and 3rd/4th grade math and social studies for Brian.  And the interview went well, and we got tentative offers and our kids could all go to school for almost free and ......

Then reality hit me like a ton of tofu. Six kids in China.  Six kids in an apartment.  Six kids on an airplane for 24 hours straight.  All the logistics of a move to China started to flood my brain with anxiety.  Selling or renting our house, selling our cars, filling out a trillion new forms for passports and visas.  Not to mention all the details of actually living in a foreign country. And not just a little foreign.  This isn't a move to England or Australia.  This is a big time case of "Dorothy, you're not in Kansas anymore!"

Strangely, the more nervous I got about the idea, the more excited Brian seemed to get.  He has followed the development of the Christian church in China for a long time and for him the idea of being part of this emerging culture is an invitation to a huge adventure. And I get that for Brian most days the greatest adventure he faces to finding out what accidentally ended up in the load of laundry he just washed. He is starting to suffer from a case of housewife blues and China seems like an amazing escape to a whole new life for our family.  It's just that I'm not sure I want this whole new life.  So as you can imagine this has lead to some very tense discussions.

However, he is not completely unrealistic.  After lots of talking we have decided that a move to China is off the table for at least this August.  But it is still a possibility for the following year.  Below is a list of my pros and cons.


  • We would get to live in a new culture and totally submerge ourselves in it.
  • It would only be for 2 years to start.
  • Grace would have a chance to live in her birth country.
  • We would all have an opportunity to learn to speak Mandarin Chinese
  • We would both get to work together and make more than we do now.
  • I would get to try my hand at teaching a new age group.
  • All of our kids would get a private school education.
  • All the Chinese food my heart could desire.
  • We could probably sell our house for a decent profit.
  • We would not need to own cars.
  • We could afford to have a housekeeper.
  • We would be part of a grass roots church.
  • Our friends and family would have a really cool vacation destination to visit.
  • We might have an opportunity to travel and explore China.
  • My kids are young enough that they won't regret leaving behind friends and such.
  • Brian really wants to do this and I don't want to disappoint him.
  • This could be a once in a lifetime opportunity.


  • We would be the outsiders in another land.
  • Two years seems a lot longer than one year.
  • Racism towards dark skinned people can be very severe in China and I have a lot of black children.
  • Everybody there speaks Mandarin Chinese
  • We would both be forced to work in order to make enough to get by.  I would get paid less than I do now, which sort of hurts my old veteran teacher pride.
  • I would have to teach 6 and 7 year olds.  Oh my!
  • If I do move overseas I would really prefer to do sort of NGO or mission type work.  Not just teaching a different cross section of children.
  • Grace still struggles with social anxiety and does not want to go to school.
  • Chinese food 3 meals a day.
  • I really have a strong sentimental attachment to my house. It's ours, warts and all.
  • We would have to move into an apartment that is smaller than our house, doesn't have a backyard and might be up several flights of stairs.
  • We would have to walk everywhere, rain or shine.
  • The idea of a housekeeper sort of weirds me out.  Have you ever read the book "Nickel and Dimed"?
  • I really love my church.  It is the first church in my life that really completely feels like family.
  • We would be very far from family and friends.  Most people we would not see for the whole 2 years we are gone.  We would not be able to attend our annual China Reunion and OFA Reunions.  And I wouldn't get to go my my Mom's Retreat.  
  • Grace really loves her dogs.  She's going to love them even more in another year.  Leaving them could be quite traumatic.
  • I would have to close my shop for at least 2 years.  I'm not raking in the dough, but I love it and I've been able to help a few adopting families with a few small donations.
  • It might turn out to be very difficult if not impossible to travel with our children.  Right now a trip to McDonald's can be a chore.
  • Our kids are still at a really hard age and dealing with some really hard behaviors.  A major change like this could be even more challenging.
  • Air and water pollution are a huge concern.  So is food contamination.  
There are many more issues on both sides of the chart.  I've gone over and over and over them in my head. I'm really not good at having things left up in the air.  I need decisions to be made, I need closure and finality, so that I can move on to worrying about the next thing.

I guess this is one of those decisions that can't be made quickly.  Holy moly, thinking about it for a year might kill me.  I've never thought about anything for a year.  But God, if you're listening, a really big burning bush sort of sign would be nice this time.

Have any of you had to make a decision about overseas living?  Anyone doing it right now?  If you have some great advice I'd love to read it.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Why I Haven't Been Blogging

A friend at work asked the other day when I would be posting a new blog entry. She said she looks forward to laughing at the crazy stories I tell about my kids.  It has been a very long time since my last post. In my brain I always plan on posting at least twice a week.  So here's the scoop:

Yes, I'm too busy.  Yes, I'm too tired.  Yes, somebody's been sick.  Yes, there are a million small reasons why I haven't been blogging.  But there are two big reasons I've slacked off in the last couple few weeks.

First of all,  I've been trying really hard to be really present with my kids.

A couple weeks ago I came home to this message.  Uggggg.  A big punch in the gut for me.  I really struggle with my role as "working mother".  I don't exactly relish my time away from my kids like some moms do. For some moms work is a great escape to adult conversations and invigorating projects. But I really really miss my kids.  And apparently they miss me, too.

So I've tried to spend every minute that I am at home really soaking up my kids. I have tried to stay away from the computer.  I haven't done a thing in my shop lately.  I've been playing and cuddling and reading and chasing and trying really hard to give them lots of focus and energy.

Consequently, the second reason that I haven't been blogging is my kids are totally kicking me butt.  We are living through a really hard patch right now.  Some days it feels like someone is crying before dawn until all of them are in bed at night and every second in between.  

Things have been especially hard with Manny.  We know that all of our kids have experienced some level of early or prenatal trauma, but the effects seem most profound in our Manny-Boo. He can roll from hysterical tears to screaming rage to scratching/hitting/kicking/biting maniac.  His periods of calm are sweet and joyful and silly, but some days we're not sure we'll see any calm.

For instance, yesterday was a real doozy!  We got up and had breakfast, but he didn't want to eat what Brian had fixed and the tears started.  Then it was time to get ready for church.  Manny had flipped out the night before at bath time so we had to shower him that morning (lately he has had a sudden and severe aversion to water). So he screamed before, during, and after his very short shower.  He screamed while I lotioned him and screamed while I dressed him.  Then it was time to put on shoes.  He could only find one of the pair he wanted to wear and this sent him into another huge meltdown.  When we got to church he refused to go to his Sunday school class.  He's the only one of our kids that usually goes with no struggle.  So Brian and I went into class with him.  When he saw me trying to sneak out with Grace after a few minutes, he dropped to his face and started sobbing. 

All this excitement and it wasn't even 10:30am yet.  The rest of the day didn't get much better.

So a lot of the time that I haven't been spending with my kids, I've spent crying myself.  It's exhausting and depressing.  Some days it feels like the day will never end.  Some days it feels like my kids will never heal. Some days I'm not sure I will either. 

But then the sun shines, and we dance and sing and play drums in the driveway.  And it seems like there just might be a little bit of normal happiness in our future. 

Yes, that's Manny on the roof of my car.  Maybe our normal isn't exactly like everyone else's :)

Hope you had a little sunshine in your day! Today was better for me and Manny, too!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Cookin' It Congo Style

A couple of weeks ago I got my copy of the Congolese Keepsake Cookbook written by my sweet friend Heidi Deschryver Ramsey.  She is selling them as a fundraiser on her Creations for Congo page on Facebook.  The Ramsey Family are raising funds for another adoption. About the same time we brought home Manny and JoJo, they brought home two sweet babies, a boy and girl.  Their son is just the spitting image of Manny, so he holds a special spot in my heart!

Heidi's cookbook is so wonderful and unique.  First of all, if you go to say, Amazon, and search for a Congolese cookbook, you will find none!  So it is definitely filling a niche.

It is filled with gorgeous photos of Congo and, of course, lots of authentic Congolese recipes.  Heidi was a missionary kid whose parents served in Congo and then she continued to live there into her twenties, fully immersing herself in the culture.  So Heidi didn't just Google Congolese Food and copy and paste them into a pretty book.  She really knows her stuff!

I must admit, I was not super impressed with Congolese food I tried on my trips to DRC (no offense to the cooks at the guest house). So I wasn't really sure if I would LOVE the dishes in this book.  But good news--I did!

We tried two dishes: Meat Moambe and Pili Pili.  Meat Moambe is sort Congolese beef stew and Pili Pili is a very spicy condiment that is on every table in Congo.  I never tried the Pili Pili while we were in Congo because I was a little afraid it would aggravate my already sensitive travelers gut.  But Brian said it turned out to taste remarkably authentic. The Moambe can be made with almost any kind of meat, but we used beef stew cubes.  It can also be made with palm soup base or peanut butter and we used the peanut butter.  We served it with white rice.

I loved it. The kids ALL loved it (even Grace, the pickiest eater on the planet).  I had it again for lunch the next day at work, so it reheats beautifully.

Just so you know, I did not prepare the food.  Brian is the cook.  Always and forever, 'til death do us part. He is a fabulous cook. I would have managed to screw up this recipe and would still not like Congolese food.

So anyway, buy the book.  It's worth the price, it would make a great gift or keepsake, and it is for a wonderful cause and a wonderful family!

Monday, January 13, 2014

And the Winner Is...

Well, the big winner of course is the Gyorffy Family.  I want to personally thank you for all the love and support you showed them this week.  They blew the lid off their original goal and their revised mid-week goal.  They ended up raising over $10,000 in one week.  All of their travel expenses to Uganda will be covered and their re-adoption costs here in the states will also be covered.  I can tell you from past experience that the stress of adoption expense issues is a really really big deal.  Knowing that those bills have been covered is huge.  Take a look at the Gyorffy blog and see who the big winner of the i-Pad contest was, too!

And now for the winner of the $50 store credit to the More Love Mama shop!  And the winner is...

Kelli Kozee Warren

Kelli, I'll be contacting you by email to find out what you'd like to from More Love Mama!

Thanks again for all the donations and prayers!!!
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