Thursday, May 31, 2007

Out of Town Visitors

In a span of 14 days four grandparents and CrazyMom's brother and family visited from out of town. F.G. and K.D. now understand that the photos around our house represent real people that they will get to meet and love.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

School in Ethiopia

With just three months under their belts, our Ethiopian kids have learned enough English that they can talk about what life was like in Ethiopia. The other day, K.D. was sharing about school in Ethiopia.

"Me school Ethiopia . . . I don't know . . . whack, whack, whack," K.D. said to CrazyMom as he acted like he was holding something and beating himself.

"Did they hit you at school when you did not know the answer?" CrazyMom asked.


"Did you cry?"

"Me quiet," K.D. said. He demonstrated how he cried quietly by crouching down by the stool, hiding his face and rubbing his eyes.

"I'm so sorry," said CrazyMom giving him a gentle hug.

"I no like Ethiopia."

"There were good things about Ethiopia. What was something you liked?"


"The food was yummy?"

"Yes," said K.D. with a big smile and then he trotted off to play school with F.G. and Little Foot. They played American style – no corporal punishment.

Later in the day CrazyMom and F.G. were sitting on the glider on the deck.

"K.D. told me they hit him in school. Did they hit you when you did not know the answer?" CrazyMom asked.

"Yes. This one," she said pointing at a nearby tree. She acted like she was breaking off a branch and then using the branch to hit herself.

"Where did they hit you?"

"Here," she said pointing to her back and thigh.

"Did you cry?"


Since the memories from the far away land seemed so distant now, the mood was lighthearted.

"Maybe mommy should try using a stick when we do school together," CrazyMom suggested.

F.G. smiled and laughed.

"Mom silly."

Thursday, May 17, 2007

An Irreplaceable Mom

On Mother's Day it is customary to give mom the day off. I did some of CrazyMom's usual stuff: emptied the dishwasher 3 times, cooked breakfast, and cooked lunch – dinner was self-serve cold cereal. But I wanted to do more. I thought one of the best ways to give CrazyMom the day off would be to give her a break from the endless questions she gets asked from our six kids. So I told the kids that if they have any questions to ask me, not CrazyMom.

It was early on Sunday morning when the first question came. I was working on making biscuits & gravy when Ed passed through the kitchen looking for CrazyMom.

"Where's Mom?"


"I need to ask her a question."

"Ask me. It's Mother's Day."

With a well-ok-if-you-really-think-you-can-answer-this look, Ed says, "Does this match?"

Ed was sporting a pink bandana on her head, a white blouse, and a pink skirt of a slightly different shade of pink. The scarf and the skirt were not actually pink, but I don't know the name of the actual color and pink is the closest thing in my vocabulary. You don't need to know color names, however, to know if something matches. I could see that the white blouse was definitely not a problem, but the bandana and the skirt I put in the "kind-of" match category.

Now here is the dilemma. If I say they match and sometime before now and the end of the day Ed finds out they don't match and that she should have worn her other pink bandana of a slightly different shade, she will be sad. On the other hand, if I say they don't match and she does not have another pink bandana of a slightly different shade, she will be sad. But I don't know if there is another pink bandana of a slightly different shade and so I can't answer the question. Argh.

"Go ask your mom," I say, already discouraged.

A smirking girl twirled on her heels and set off to find CrazyMom.

So I failed on the first question of the day and many more after that. I probably batted about a .300 for the day, which might keep me in the line up in baseball, but it feels pretty pathetic as a father trying to give mom the day off.

Oh well. I will try to numb the pain by telling myself that it is the thought that counts. Maybe CrazyMom had a better Mother's Day than I know. It must be satisfying to watch me demonstrate that she is an irreplaceable part of our family.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

CrazyD's Icca

An Ethiopian adoption changes things in more ways than just having additional kids in the house. My perception of my own materialism has also been changing.

62 full size dinner plates

When we were in Ethiopia visiting with some new missionary friends, they spoke of the effort it took to sell all that they had in order to free themselves from America: the business, the primary house, the cars, the beds, the couches, the blenders, the tools, the lawn mower. . .

2 refrigerators and 2 chest freezers

They did not sell all that they had. They kept the second home, the photos, and the family heirlooms. They also kept a host of other things that makes them really wealthy: access to clean water, access to health care, and access to bank accounts.

107 shirts for CrazyD - full family count too painful

This family tells me that many Ethiopians want to come to America - to be Americans. Americans have so much icca, "stuff" in Amharic. And they want icca, too.

3 cars

They want icca? I want less icca. They don't know what if feels like to be claustrophobic in a multi-thousand square foot home. Our home is only cleaned up if everything is skillfully packed/stacked/stored into closets/corners/crawl spaces with the same care as packing a suitcase.

9 bikes, 1 tag-a-long, 1 two seat child trailer, 4 scooters, 3 big wheels, and 1 wagon

But when I am honest with myself, I realize that I don't want less of my stuff. I want less of the kids' stuff and less of CrazyMom's stuff. My stuff is already trim. What I have, I tell myself, is necessary and important. I want to clear the house of all of the junk. The McDonald's Happy Meal toys, the birthday party grab bag items, participation trophies, broken toys of sentimental value, rarely used placemats, half of CrazyMom's shoes, and the fish.

9 sinks

But now, in my post-adoptive state, I am beginning to realize that I am the one with the icca problem. The solution to my icca problem is not to pick up a copy of "Storage Systems for Success" or "The Art of Clutter Clearing." This is not the solution because even if the clutter were cleared and the rest was neat and tidy, I would still have an icca problem. My problem is that I use my limited time and resources to take care of my stuff.

185 music CDs

It was not just my trip to Ethiopia that changed my thinking, it was adopting. Adopting Ethiopian children has given me a heart for the people of Ethiopia in a way that just traveling there would not. In my home I now get to see Ethiopian children side-by-side with all of my icca, and all of the icca is pretty icky compared to them.

1,252 books - not counting the books in the crawl space

I now realize that I have bought into the American lie while believing I had not. The American lie tells me that I need something that I don't have, right now, and that that something will make my life a little better/happier/easier/more fulfilling. That a new gas grill will in some way satisfy me more than sponsoring an orphan in need.

1 hockey table, 1 foosball table, 1 skee-ball table, 1 Basket Brawl

I have always told myself that I am not materialistic. I don't drive fancy cars, we shop at thrift stores, I would rather go to jail than to a mall, and I don't own an iPod - yet. But I now realize that this is not true. I am materialistic. Look at what I own. And deep inside of me I am beginning to feel that there is some conflict between what I own and my desire to care for orphans.

1 four drawer filing cabinet and 4 two drawer filing cabinets

A conflict between owning stuff and helping orphans? In America, this is an absurd thing to say. These things don't seem mutually exclusive. In America, it seems the more I own the more I will be able to give away. But now I am beginning to wonder.

3 film cameras, 3 digital cameras, a host of lenses, and 1 digital video camera

In my hands I see all of the worldly possessions that I own and my fingers are wrapped around them. All around me I see people in need and I want to lend a hand. But I can't. My hands are full.

No time for Johnny who is hurting. I need to mow/mulch/trim/pull weeds/spray/fertilize.
No time for Sally who is down. I need to pick up/repair/refinish/rearrange/install.
No time to care for God's people. I need to care for my stuff.

1 large stereo, 3 portable stereos

Christ stood on the edge of the Sea of Galilee. He called to Simon Peter and his brother Andrew.

"Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men."

Here is what Scripture says that they did: "And they immediately left their nets, and followed him." (Matt 5:20)

They left it all behind. Nets, boats, and fishing gear are the things that keeps us from being able to go along with Christ. Michael Card has a song about this scene with the line:

"And it's hard to imagine the freedom we find
From the things we leave behind"

Father God, I pray that you will cause my fingers to uncurl so that my hands are free to do Your work in this world. Amen.

1 life to give

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Silly Singing Sisters

Ed is our performer (although not normally in public) and F.G. has decided to follow in her footsteps. Here is a video clip of Ed singing and F.G. imitating her rather dramatically.

(Permission to post this video was obtained from Ed. F.G. does not yet know what the internet is, so her consent probably would not hold up in court.)

Monday, May 7, 2007

Amish Day

Yesterday was an Amish Day for us. It all started years ago with a family that was close to us. They suggested that on an occasional basis we should get together for a Saturday Amish style. The men would work all day on a home project (no, never raising a barn) while the women would prepare food and watch kids. It was both productive and a lot of fun. When the family moved away, our Amish tradition stopped. But recently, we have formed a new three-way alliance and the Amish days have been resurrected. Saturday, the families (6 adults and 17 kids) gathered together to work on one of the homes.

When you gather this many people together at one house, it is important to remember the primary objective:

When all damage to the house by kids playing is subtracted from all of the progress made by projects being done, it will be a net gain for the house.

The primary objective was sometimes jeopardized when the adults got fully absorbed in either the project or in conversation leaving all of the kids loosely supervised. To make matters worse, the primary objective was seriously threatened when it began a long sustained rain forcing all kids indoors.

Picture in your mind painting a two story foyer. It was filled with ladders, paint buckets, roller pans, rollers, and brushes. Now add a constant stream of housebound kids through the foyer as they went upstairs, then back downstairs, then upstairs again. We got off pretty easy with only four unintended paint incidents (two kids and one dog twice).

At the end of the day when we were loading kids into cars to travel home, the damage side of the equation was at a remarkable zero. That is, until our son Buddy became enamored with the gas lamp post in the front yard, shook it, and knocked off one of the mantels. Oh well. At least we still met the primary objective.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Is adoption risky?

"You have taken a big risk. I am so glad it has worked out for you."

"You have been very lucky."

"You are fortunate that things are going so well."

My wife and I can almost hear the collective sigh of relief from friends and family that care for us so much. This long exhale comes now that it seems like all is well with our family after our recent Ethiopian adoption. After all, we did take a big risk.

Or did we?

My wife and I don't feel like we bet the farm. Did we really jeopardize our family? Did we jeopardize our relationship with our birth children? Did we really jeopardize our sanity? (OK, yes, I will give you that one. But our sanity was nearly gone anyway.)

Is adoption risky?

I think that adoption carries no more inherent risk than having a birth child. There is a great cloud of uncertainty surrounding a potential birth child. All of the possible birth defects, complications, the child's personality, even gender can't be known prior to conception when you are debating on whether or not to have a child. With an adopted child, certainly more is known about such things. Of course there are other unknowns. Were they loved by their parents? What experiences have they had? Have they been traumatized? Are they well adjusted? These unknowns feel more foreign to us than the more familiar unknowns of a birth child.

Even if one concludes that adoption is more risky, the next question is this:

For what are we willing to risk?

In American society, we are willing to take all sorts of risks. We sell short, buy stocks on margin, use home equity lines of credit for vacations, drive fast on interstates while talking on cell phones, develop tan lines, go bungee jumping, and eat fast food more often than we should.

If we are willing to take these risks -- to risk for self gain and self pleasure -- then let us also be willing to risk for others. And what better risk to take than for a child in need of a family.

John Piper says, "Risk is right." And so it is.