Monday, May 16, 2011

an unexpected grief

I almost didn't write this post.

In fact, I have started and stopped too many times to count, each time wiping away the hot tears running down my face. My eyes are burning and I feel like at any given moment, my emotions will pour out of me like a river on its course.

Swift and steady.

With a forward destination.

Right now I feel like a stick that is floating along in that swift current, wanting to move forward, but stuck on the corner of a rock. Instead of progressing down the river, I am delayed. Everything else is moving forward around me, some things slower, some things faster.

But I am stuck. At least for right now.

After spending a month with our family, our Ethiopian host child boarded a plane with four other children and a chaperone this past Monday. Headed back to Addis; back to normal life.

And we're back to normal life too, the six of us. But the house sure does seem empty.

No theme music from Angry Birds playing in the kitchen...
No requests to watch Spider Man or the Karate Kid...
No neighborhood soccer games...
No piggy back rides and wrestling matches for David...
All pasta dishes have come to a halt...

It's strange. He was only with us for a month, but he just fit in. He squeezed right in the lineup behind Abbie but in front of David and Jayda. It wasn't a perfect month. There were challenges, mostly for my oldest son Stephen, but we all learned so much about how to love and care for others sacrificially. I learned afresh that kids are kids, regardless of what country they were born in.

I didn't expect to cry at the airport. I felt accepting of the situation before us. {name} woke up happy and seemed perfectly fine when he saw his packed bags by the front door. David was another story.

"Why does {name} have to go?" he inquired with a furrowed brow.

It's not easy for a just turned 4 year old to understand why his new friend and "brother" has to leave and live so far away.

After driving 2 hours and 40 minutes, most of which seemed to be spent sitting on 495, we arrived at Dulles. While the luggage was being handled, we got a chance to say our goodbyes.

As {name} could tell that the time was really coming to an end, his sat and dropped his head down, hands grasped together in front of him. My precious little Abbie; my girl with such a big ol' tender heart, knelt down beside {name} and told him how much she loved having him here. The interpreter translated for her and our little guy's head seemed to drop even lower. Turned out he was crying; grief finally showing itself in tears.

This led to Abbie falling into my arms crying.

One of my arms was on {name} and the other one was holding my girl with the big heart.

When Stephen was done helping with the luggage, he made his way over to our little crying huddle and expressed his thoughts to {name}. He then reached out his hand and rubbed {name's} little head that was bent down so low. So low in grief.

At this point, my little duo of David and Jayda ran over to us and wanted to hug {name}. With head finally raised and tears wiped away, he hugged each of them back. Next he hugged Abbie. Then me. Then Matt.

But he saved his last and tightest hug for Stephen.

Then, within a flash, the children were gathered and walking away from us, led by our fantastic Welcoming Angels director.

We yelled our final goodbyes and even waved, but {name} never turned around.

The following day, we learned that the children all arrived safely in Addis.

Back home.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

hosting: the final week

We kicked (no pun intended) off our last week of hosting with an afternoon of soccer playing with Lucas Winters, his sister Kaylie, my Abbie and the youngest three Dubell's: Scott, Megan and Leah.

On Saturday, when we had our interpreter available, I made sure that {name} knew that we had a fun Monday planned for him. Since he's beaten just about every kid in our neighborhood at soccer, I figured it would be helpful for him to play with a real pro.

Enter Lucas Winters.

After hearing what Lucas shared at this past YA Conference, I learned how God was at work in his life in very specific ways. I could see how He was using disappointment and a loss of a dream to draw Lucas back to Himself. I had heard that he played soccer; I knew a bit of his back story through Matt, but to hear the full story from Lucas himself was a YA highlight for me personally.

When I saw Lucas at church one Sunday, it dawned on me that I should see if he would be willing to teach {name} a few things about the sport he is so passionate about. He was more than willing and the planning began...

I must admit, I was probably more excited for the soccer date than anyone else. I was hoping I'd get to see some of Lucas's tricks with the ball and let me tell you - he did not disappoint.

The best part of the afternoon was seeing {name's} face when he was playing and when he was watching Lucas play. I mean, the kid was smiling from ear to ear and his face was so bright! He was definitely in his element and thrived on the challenge that Lucas brought to him. He was eager to learn some tricks and Lucas was so patient in trying to teach him. I bet he'll practice and show his friends in Ethiopia!

Although they couldn't communicate verbally - they were communicating in their own language: soccer-ese!

To {name's} surprise, at the end of our time, Lucas handed him a soccer jersey - one that he wore when he played competitively. He clung onto that shirt the rest of the afternoon, showing everyone he saw, joy in his dark eyes.

Thank you to Lucas and Kaylie for sharing their afternoon with us and for creating such a special memory for our Ethiopian guest! You guys rock!

Monday, May 9, 2011

hosting: week three

Hard to stay on top of the day to day because we've kept so busy!

First up, our Mexican dinner which included tacos with all the fixins', tortilla chips and rice. {name} seemed to enjoy the experience of making his own tacos just the way he wanted them. As you can see, we didn't use silverware except for the chicken and sauce. We used our hands for everything else!

One of the daily activities that {name} likes to do is play on the iMac. Once he discovered Photobooth, he's been having a blast creating funny pictures by himself and with the other children.

It's hard to see David, but he's on the other side of Stephen, squeezed in on the same chair. There are always so many giggles when the five of them gather around the iMac.

Thankfully, as they create funny shots, I have time to clean up from lunch, begin making dinner, or sneak away to the bathroom, undisturbed. These days, an undisturbed bathroom break is like gold.

We learned that {name} not only enjoys puzzles but is pretty darn good at them! Stephen has always loved puzzles so it was nice to find something they could both do together.

As you can see, {name} is wearing a soccer jersey which he found as he dug through Stephen's drawers!

His wrists are filled with Spiderman silly bands...some of which Abbie hopes to make trades for.


Central Presbyterian Church was kind enough to host a birthday party for all of the Ethiopian children and their host families. There were games, a magician, two delicious cakes and a presentation of birthday gifts and Bibles in Amharic. Again, it was great to see the children meet up with one another and interact.

We gave {name} a big Spiderman action figure as a birthday gift and as he opened it, he had the hugest smile on his face!

A week after arriving in the U.S. he was able to celebrate Stephen's 13th birthday with us and before he leaves, he will be a part of Abbie's birthday and my birthday. It's like Christmastime between late March and mid-May because each of our children have birthdays in that time frame.

For this reason especially, I am so thankful that we had a chance to celebrate HIS birthday.

It's hard to believe that {name} has been with us for three weeks now. The time has flown by! This time next week, {name} will be on a plane, headed back home to Ethiopia. :-(

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

a view from the poopy seat

There are VIP seats.

There are cheap seats.

And there are poopy seats. Today, the poopy seats is where I found myself in the middle of the afternoon when a certain someone should have been napping.

As I was changing the poopy "seat" of my on-the-way-to-being-potty-trained-almost-three-year-old, I had the perfect view of some special people.

And speaking of that almost-three-year-old, check this out:

Yep, that's my girl!

Anyway, back to my view from the poopy seat story.

Looking across the room and out my front glass door, I saw two boys. One African, one Russian. One very dark, one very pale. They sat on the sidewalk with a plastic bin full of sidewalk chalk. They were busy drawing and shading with the assortment of colors. They were intense and focused.

Our host child drew the flag of his country, Ethiopia.

Our son drew some artsy design.

Also from my view, I caught a glimpse of my kind neighbor, who surprised me today with a gorgeous necklace for Mother's Day. Her and her husband's thoughtfulness and generosity pretty much left me in tears.

I could see my little blonde-haired daughter too. She was out there, watching those boys create. Hands on hips, peering down at their work, it looked as if she was inspecting the quality.

As I rolled up and bagged the remains of the poopy "seat", I was actually thankful that I saw such precious people amidst the dirty work!

And now for the Chalk-work presentation:

hosting: day 11, 12 & 13

The hosting doesn't really feel like "hosting" anymore. Once we hit week two, {name} has seemed even more comfortable around our home, helping himself to things, doing dishes, making beds, helping with the little kids, teaching us Amharic words, and yes - even washing neighbors cars! He really has an eye for detail too!

Our weekend wasn't filled with activities like so many in the past have been. Aside from attending church and Sunday School with Abbie, we've had a few pretty relaxed days.

{name} has enjoyed what seem to be his favorites: playing soccer, riding on the scooter and eating chicken! :-) I also learned that he is excellent at puzzles and can figure them out quickly, even without a picture of what it is supposed to look like. This is not an easy task, especially when Jayda likes to take apart the puzzle as it is being put together. "JAY-DA! JA-DA!" I hear him yell from the other room...

Two highlights include our family trip to Annie's Playground and watching parts of Rocky 3 with him and then watching him box afterwards.

At Annie's Playground, Stephen spent almost his entire time trying to find and catch {name} which was hilarious to watch. {name} jumped from high places that are meant to be jumped from and always got away from my son - if even just by a hair. I had a blast watching but it reminded me of the Coyote and Roadrunner. I remember as a kid sort of feeling bad for the Coyote because he never won. Well...let's just say that {name} was definitely the Roadrunner! No one could catch him - NO ONE.

Matt is unashamedly a huge Rocky fan and once he learned that {name} likes wrestling, he decided that he need to show him portions of Rocky III where Rocky fights wrestler Hulk Hogan. There were lots of giggles from {name} and I don't know if that's because even he could see the weakness in the acting (my theory) or because people were getting punched so hard they were falling down (Matt's theory).

I know, Matt was probably right. It's a boy thing.

After the movie, Abbie ran downstairs and grabbed her (don't ask) boxing gloves and gave them to {name}. The rest was history. He was dancing around, punching our hands and again - we saw how naturally athletic he is!

It's hard to believe that he'll be boarding a plane back to Ethiopia in 13 days. The time has gone by so quickly and as a family we are learning so many great lessons about life and what's really important.

Monday, May 2, 2011

unplanned book review

My pal Al recently stole a book off of my shelf. I hadn't read it myself yet, but I agreed that she could take it and finish it as long as she wrote a review of the book for this blog.

She agreed.

So here it is. Allyson Watt's review of the book, "Unplanned."

Please note that the lack of capitalization is her doing. :-)

the clinic is surrounded by a gated iron fence, and on most days, especially abortion days, pro-lifers pace the outside of the fence, while clinic staff, volunteers and clients move about inside. is the fence keeping the protesters out, or keeping the others in? abby johnson opens her book, Unplanned, with a graphic and saddening account of what she experienced one day inside the clinic walls. she was director of the planned parenthood clinic at that time, but what she saw that day marked a turning point in her journey from one side of the fence to the other.

i was captured by that opening scene, but the rest of Unplanned is equally engaging. with honesty and courage, abby tells her story of the way that God opened her eyes and her heart to make a radical change. i was already familiar with some of the workings and policies of planned parenthood, having read articles about their practices before. but it was fascinating - in a horrible sort of way - to see these things from an insider's perspective.

i think that christians would do well to be familiar with the thought process and "talking points" that are used to sway people to support this organization. however, i think it was personally even more helpful to understand the genuine care and compassion for women that truly does motivate so many of the staff... they really think they are helping. as abby says, "right reasons, wrong decision." after reading this book, i think i will have a more charitable opinion of planned parenthood employees, while at the same time being even more convinced of the evil, deceptive tactics of the organization itself.

also interesting is the comparison of different tactics used by those outside the fence. certain actions and attitudes seemed to be much more effective than others, and i think there is a lesson to be learned in what she says about that. abby also makes some comments about the way she was treated by different churches at different times, and those statements, although brief, are worth thinking about.

God's plan and timing in the whole story really is amazing, and is talked about much more than i expected. and because the author writes so personally and honestly, i think the overall tone of the book is very sincere, and it probably could be read by somebody from either side of the fence. so, if you aren't sure about your views on abortion, or you don't know much of what planned parenthood is about, this is an easy read that will give you a lot to consider. however, if you are more like me and think you know enough to have a clear position on these things, i would still suggest that there would be much to gain from reading this book. there just might be things you would learn that would balance your thoughts and attitudes without compromising your convictions.