Miracle Soup

My mother-in-law has shared stories with me on how she managed a home with four kids on a budget. One thing she did – freezing left overs in a carton.  Once the carton was full she would pull it out and make soup.  You never knew what fun soup creation would result.

I kinda feel like this blog post is a bunch of tid-bits from the month of September.  Not really sure what the end result of this post will be, but want to save these precious moments and share them.  Mostly so I won’t forget.

We have celebrated an anniversary this month, Little Man’s 6th birthday, family day for both of our youngest kiddos and some milestones for our upcoming adoption.  It has been a big month.

 

My baby is 6 years old!  We had fun celebrating him with gifts, chocolate cupcakes, and his first ever birthday party.  So much fun to plan a Dragon Training Camp that ended with a piñata (created and painted with much love by two older sisters) that was fought with a sword.  Nothing like watching a bunch of kids swinging a wooden sword while your husband holds a piñata from a broom handle in the living room.  Fun times.  We may also have launched stuffed sheep across our living room at the book shelves and made our own version of corn hole…or feed the dragons.  The whole thing was a hoot.

I was having so much fun celebrating our big, 6 year old, funny, first grade guy…not one tear.  Then a couple of days later he lost his first tooth!  I must admit, that is when I lost it.  He is six.  He is missing a tooth.  My baby is all grown up.  Sniff.  Sniff.

img_2691

Maybe that is why I was savoring our “Family Day Celebration” with more vigor and focus.  Little Monkey has been in our family for 6 years this month – Little Man for 4 years.  On the outside it seemed that we celebrated by going to a huge ball pit/playground.  We then ate our favorite Chinese meal out – Hot Pot.  Fun times. Good food.  But, as I watched Soccer Dude carry little Man to the top point of the playground, I delighted.  When I had a little in my arms for a few moments of rest, I savored the warmth of my space in time.  I felt the joy and the miracle of my family that afternoon.  I wanted to hold on and take in the moment. Not to keep the kids from growing up, I have longed since learned there is no trick for that.  I just wanted to remember – never forget – our family that was brought together through pain, sorrow, redemption, joy and a lot of paperwork.

I felt the miracle of it.

I truly feel that every adoption is a miracle and as I watch our children grow and blossom, shaped by adoption (not just my younger two, but all four of my children…heck, me too) I am filled with awe and thankfulness.

photo-of-isaac-and-beth

We are on a journey that will take another miracle.  I see the miracles our first two adoption were and I expect nothing less this time around.

We have completed all of our paperwork to submit to China for our next miracle.  It is being authenticated and soon will be on its way from our adoption agency in the US to our side of the ocean.  The next step….to be matched with the child God has for us.

Would you pray with us?  We know that Father has a child in mind for us….and He will confirm who the next Williams will be during this next step.  This will be part of the story of the miracle of our family.  It will be miraculous, life changing, and we are praying hard.

Thank you for standing with us, following our journey and praying. Can’t wait to share our next miracle with you.

17 years and counting

We had been living out of suitcases for at least 5 weeks by the time we hit Ohio.  The kids were fighting in the van and I was nervous about the friends we were about to see in our state of mind.  That is when Hubby pulled onto Brice Road.  We looked at each other and smiled ignoring the chaos.  At a church called Brice 17 years ago, that is where it all began.

We have moved 8 times, finished degrees, experienced two births and three adoptions, lived in 3 countries, learned two languages, and worked countless different jobs since that hot day in September.  I had no idea what I was getting into!

That is exactly what I was thinking as I asked our kids to tumble out of the van to take photos on the steps of the church.  We have a photo of our young selves all dressed up in a tux and white dress on those very steps.  I still am amazed that at 24 I made a good decision like marrying this redhead. The grace of God.  That is all I can say. I have been thankful for and marveled at that decision every year since.

IMG_2566

Here’s the thing.  I would do it again.  Not because it has been easy.  It hasn’t.  Good but not easy. We now have tasted and seen sick, poor, bad, sad and a bit of ugly. But, there is something about choosing to do life with the same person.  I never doubt who is going to be by my side during each season.  He keeps on choosing me and I choose him.

Our new photo on those steps – we for sure are not as pretty.  Those capri pants were wrinkled from travel and I had been sweating over my peacemaking efforts as momma to my crew.  I am pretty sure I wasn’t wearing any make-up and I no longer can count the gray hair in somebodies chin strip.  But, I think I will treasure this photo more.  It shows us 17 years into this thing called marriage.  I know what I am getting into now.  I held his hand, gazed into his eyes and said yes again.  It grossed out my teenagers and did all of our hearts some good.

We have come a long way in 17 years.  I wonder what the next 17 might hold and am thankful that this redhead will be by my side.  Choosing him one year day at a time.

IMG_2571

 

 

 

Breaking News. 4 +1 = 5

5We have news.  News that probably won’t surprise any of you, but news that might be shocking all the same.

I have gone over and over how to write this blog post – sharing our decision.  Some cute photo perhaps? A snappy saying?   In truth, this long-in-coming decision can’t be summed up in a cute phrase or a witty blog post.  So, I will just blurt it out.

We are going to adopt again.

 

 

Yup.  Five kids.

It is kinda crazy.  We know it.

Something that is even more crazy?  Children are growing up without parents.  I know them.  They are my students.  Often, my students will plead with me, asking me if I would please adopt them.  I really don’t think I can explain how my heart hurts for each of those kids who long for a family of their own.  It is so very hard to say, “No.”

You see, when you teach at an orphanage…you face the need.  There are not enough families and there are so many amazing kids waiting, hoping, praying.   We can’t adopt them all.  But, we feel that by God’s grace we are able to be the family for one more.  We will grieve that we just can’t care for them all, but we will do all we can for one. We know we are able to love and care for one more.

We are facing the need I see on a daily basis and choosing to do what we can.  The true crazy part…we will be blessed for it.  I know that is truth.  As a result of our two adopted kids, my life is so much fuller, brighter, happier, and filled with more slobbery cheek kisses.  As a dear friend of mine (who has adopted 8 times!) once said, “We are just gluttons for blessing.”  Amen.

I never set out to have a large family, though my high school Sunday school teacher might argue otherwise.  I did once say I wanted 13 children and a station wagon.  No husband.  I am so thankful God hasn’t made all of that a reality.

There are moments – like today when we were shopping for jeans for our current four children and it took two extra strength tylenol, a half a gallon of sweet tea and the entire afternoon to get the job done, I wonder what kind of crazy woman I am.  And when I think about adding another child to the mix for next year, well, sanity may be a bit overrated.  Just keepin’ it real.

Then there are moments – like holding a small hand, reading a book, snuggling in bed, saying evening prayers, playing ping pong, and talking about the joys and pains of growing up – so many moments that I will not trade for anything.

We have never regretted adding any of our four kiddos to our family.  We won’t regret #5.  And at the end of our lives, we won’t look back and regret providing a home and a family for one more kiddo – even if it means stress and craziness and pressure in the short run.

I can’t wait to look #5 in the face and say, “Yes!”  I can’t wait to tell them, ” We are now your family. No matter what life throws at you we will all be in your corner, walking with you, cheering for you, grieving with you.  We are yours, and you are ours.” Oh, what a moment that will be!

 

So, we would really appreciate you praying for our family as we step out in faith to adopt again.  We have just completed our home study and we are facing much more paperwork and a lot of fees.  Please pray for God’s provision and strength as we wait, as well as His will as we seek being matched with the child He has for us.  We will keep you posted as God unfolds another story of His miracles and grace in our family.

 

 

Thanksgiving in August

We ate turkey dinner with all of the trimmings.  Yup.  It was August 19th and we pretended it was Thanksgiving and it was so very yummy (mostly because it was lovingly made by my mom!)

Even though it was a fake Thanksgiving, I still paused over the gravy bowl and took a second to realize how many things I have to be thankful for.  Even just a week earlier I would have been hard pressed to visualize my whole family healthy and sitting around the dinner table.   I am one thankful mom.

Two and a half weeks ago Soccer Dude was bit in the face by a large dog – a large well trained dog.  It was a freak accident.  Really.  But as freak of an accident as it was, it landed our boy in the hospital for 5 days.  He needed two surgeries to repair the damage and in the process we discovered he is allergic to several antibiotics. As you can imagine, none of us were happy about this turn in events. We were supposed to be having fun at my parents home in Michigan – not sitting around a hospital in Detroit. Every time Soccer Dude would introduce himself to the nurse coming on duty he would mumble between the hundreds of stitches in his mouth, “this is the worst summer vacation ever.”

At about the same time, Little Man was struggling with muscle weakness and the process of making a new prosthetic leg was not going well.  The physical therapist who was helping us shook her head and told us he would need months of physical therapy.

So things haven’t gone as we planned this summer. It has been a ride.  But, we are amazed at how two weeks and a lot of prayer can change things.

Soccer Dude’s face is healing and he has had no infection in his wounds. He is still struggling with crazy allergic reactions that are causing full body hives, and he has some swelling in his face.  We are starting a new journey with him to figure out what all he might be allergic to…related to antibiotics, the accident and maybe even more.  Let the fun begin!  We would appreciate you keeping him in your thoughts.

Little Man –  He has worked hard over the past two weeks and his strength is coming back.  His story also is nothing short of miraculous. When the docs saw him Monday they were amazed and instead of recommending three months of physical therapy as they expected, they declared there no longer is the need.  We were able to move forward in the fitting process of the prosthetic and he gets his new leg tomorrow.

There have been times this summer that I wondered if we would be able to return to Asia this fall as we had planned.  We still have some loose ends hanging out there, but we are taking strides to be off this coming week.  We are taking it one step at a time and are thankful for each small victory that takes a step closer.

Not an Issue

IMG_0893Having a child with a limb difference is a total non-issue, except when there is an issue.  I mean, I often forget that Little Man only has one leg.  In the morning he puts on an extra sock, a limb sleeve and a plastic leg.  I don’t think about it again until bed time when we take it all off.  We would never call him disabled and most of our neighbors, until recently, had no idea that he was any different than the other children who play around campus.

 

… and then a sore appears.

 

The last few weeks we have struggled with what seem to be minor sores on Little Man’s residual limb.  Even a tiny sore can keep him from being able to wear his prosthetic and an infection in a sore becomes a concern.  This really is the first time we have dealt with any of this, which doesn’t help.  We are new at this, trying to figure out the best way to care for our boy with our doctors living on the other side of the globe.

We are thankful for the American doctors who live in our city who have helped us keep the infection at bay.  We are also very thankful that we had planned a trip to the States to see his medical team.

We are not sure what those doctor appointments will lead to.  Right now the sore is not getting worse, but not healing which might be the result of many different things – his need for surgery or that his prosthetic hasn’t been fitting well.

So our summer plans are shaping up a bit differently than we had planned, but it is a small road bump.  We know it will all go back to a non-issue soon.  Until then, we would appreciate your pr@yers for extra grace, wisdom to make decisions about his care, and a speedy recovery.

For now we are struggling with an active pre-schooler who is suddenly immobile, which creates for some interesting moments and some challenging decisions.

IMG_0927We have begun the quest to find a stroller for a heavy, growing, pre-schooler with on leg.  A new stroller is a must on our shopping list for the States because our cheap umbrella stroller just isn’t cutting it any longer.  Who knew there were so many types of strollers!  And, I am pretty sure they cost more than my first car!  Okay, maybe not that much, but it sure feels like it!  Wisdom.  I truly need stroller wisdom!  We are pr@ying the wheel of our stroller stays on for the next three weeks till we get to the States to buy a new one, and in the mean time Little Man is enjoying many piggyback rides.  He calls himself “Agent W” because he “flies” around on our backs!  Can you believe that Little Monkey can carry him?

We also need wisdom and grace as we interact with our neighbors and friends.  Out on our family walk after dinner we had a woman stop us and with utter shock tell us that our son had lost his leg! We laughed so hard!  We just couldn’t help it.  We have had many folks ask us what happened to his leg, but never had anyone tell us it was missing!  🙂  We know it is gone and we love him the way he is.  We would appreciate your thoughts as we strive to communicate that to those around us.

We will keep you posted on how his leg is healing, our next steps for his care and the funny stories that come up as we go along!  Thanks for keeping us in your thoughts!

 

 

 

Encounter with a birthmother

A simple encounter at the bus stop that rocked my soul.

I was waiting with three of our kiddos.  Par for the course, they were playing and oblivious to all that was going around them.  Picture a lot of laughter, noise and a bit of running around my legs.  I was enjoying watching them play when I grew self-conscious that we were being watched.

Nothing new about that.

When out and about we are constantly watched.  We hear comments like, “Four kids?  Really?” and “Are they all yours?” and “They don’t all look like you.  Two look like you and two look Chinese.”  Usually I take it in a stride. I understand that for a population where one child is not just the norm but the policy, we are bound to draw out comments and stares.

But I had never heard this one.

A middle-aged couple was standing off to my left and I heard the woman comment to the man, “She could be our child.”

A wave of shock rolled over me and before I could think twice, I was starring into the woman’s eyes.   I am positive she assumed I couldn’t speak Mandarin and wouldn’t understand the comment she made.  To be honest, I wish I hadn’t understood her, looked up or reacted.  When our eyes met – both mothers who understand grief and pain that should not exist in the world – the understanding in our eyes was full and real.  She stepped around behind the bus stop and hid herself from me.  I asked the children to stop playing so as not to make her pain more intense.

There is no possible way this woman was connected to our Little Monkey.  Her birth place is hundreds of miles away.  We were simply a symbol to this woman.  Grief over what could have been?  Wonder over what is?  Hope that her child is in a family playing with siblings?  A memory that had been hidden and now was pulled forward?

The encounter brought forward some emotions that I can forget in the daily routine and joy of life.  My joy is someone else’s loss.  Just because there are so many unanswered questions surrounding the early years of our adopted children doesn’t make them not exist.  There are real people living lives with the memories of children who belonged in their arms.

Weekly, I see the reality of lonely hurting children who live their lives in an institution, and I want to question the people who chose not to care for them.  Daily I am blessed by the love of two children who did not grow in my womb and sometimes I lose sight of the painful reality that the people who could not care for the ones I love now may still be out there wondering about them — wondering what their lives are like.

But it goes even deeper.

In relation to the majority of the world, I am a rich privileged woman.  I have access to resources, health care, community support, and I have a voice.  It stinks that the majority of women…mothers…in the world don’t have all of that…which at times result in some painful realities.  It is injustice.  When my children are playing around my legs and filling my life with laughter, I want to rage against a world where poverty is real and an injustice.

The woman at the bus stop – she brought my privilege up close and personal.

Those of us who are rich and privileged (dare I say that would be everyone reading this blog) we can do one of two things.  Do something with our resources and ease the suffering of the orphans of the world and speak out against the injustice that creates orphans to begin with….or we can pretend.

Pretend.

I have looked into the eyes of orphans living in an institution.  I have looked into the eyes of a suffering mother who can not parent her child.

I no longer can pretend.

 

Traditions & Changes

pbear2We have entered a new season of parenting.  It has slowly snuck up on us in small ways.  At one time we enjoyed a silent apartment once all four kids when in bed by 7:30, I understood all of the Math in his school lesson and I was fussing over booster seats.  The changes aren’t all bad.  Now, I have a night owl who rattles off random facts from NPR and is a responsible babysitter.  It’s just taking some getting used to and I am thinking through this next phase with our young man.

It is time to give him some more freedom – but the idea of that totally freaks me out.  It is time to let him test out what we have been trying to plant in his heart – but I lay awake wondering if he has learned the lessons we have tried so hard to pass on.  It is time to let him stay up passed 8, but ya’ll seriously, how do you get a private moment once you have a teen in the house?!  sigh!

 

We don’t have all the answers.  Tak’n it one day at a time, but what we have figured out….he might not need us hovering over him at bedtime, but when he does seek us out we need to drop everything to listen.

This prompted us to start a new family tradition.  One on one time with his dad seemed like the best gift we could give soccer dude as he enters his teens.  So they packed backpacks and went to a nature preserve in the south to celebrate Soccer Dude’s birthday.

They saw lots of pandas, ate hamburgers and just hung out.

 

lots

 

I dreamt of them having deep conversations about what it means to be a man (I tend to be an idealist).  That didn’t happen.  But the shared jokes, memories and the idea that “I am worth dad taking time off to hang out with me” hopefully will have a lasting impact.  (The girls are already planning the 13th birthday trip!)

It was a good reminder that we need to be spending one on one time with each of the four kids.  Just being honest, we have great intentions, but with the business of life, homeschooling and work….it is one of the first things that slips.

5 more years, people.

That is what we have before this guy will be off to college.  The first 13 years have gone so fast.  I want to make the most of these years enjoying the fruit of what we have been working towards.

 

sambear2

 

Soccer Dude made dinner the other night.  He was frying eggs and pancakes for us.  I walked past the kitchen door and he called out for me to watch him flip an egg in the air.  As I watched him and laughed, I was taken back to the cafeteria at Asbury College.

There was a cute red head who was pretty proud of his skills.  He could make a perfect omelet at the egg bar. (Yes, that is a thing.)  Half way through he would flip that omelet in the air.  I fell in love with that boy.

If Soccer Dude turns out like his dad…..I will be one thankful momma.

I am tempted to worry.  How will he turn out?  Are we teaching him the right things?  Are we giving him what we can and pointing him to the One who can meet all of his needs?  Will he get off track during these confusing teen years?

My goal is to turn my worries over and simply enjoy the next five years before he catches the eye of some sweet girl in a college cafeteria.

 

 

A Magic Bean for Parenting

Can I just tell you what my eldest said during homeschool reading time this week?

We start our morning sitting around the living room reading.  Great learning moment.  Can you picture the kiddos lounging around curled up in fleece blankets coloring as they listen.  Well that happens sometimes.  Also there are mornings when I have two fighting over the same coloring book, another making such loud airplane noises I can’t hear myself think (and I am supposed to be reading) and the fourth is curled up in the fleece blanket with his back turned away from me.

Yesterday was one such morning.

I was trying to get us all back on track as I asked a question from our science reading to my son who seemed so disengaged.  “So what can you tell me about the part of our brain called the medulla?”

Without missing a beat he rolled over and with a grin replied, “I just learned that the medulla is responsible for all my involuntary reactions….like when I want to hit my sisters.”

I couldn’t help but burst out laughing.

Learning moment became even better as it evolved into a teachable moment.  Wouldn’t it be great if the medulla in addition to controlling our breathing and blinking would control our attitudes and how we treat others?

 

More than anything I want my children to learn to bring Glory to our Father by being responsible people who love and serve others.  I don’t know about you all, but I spend so much of my time and energy as a mom, striving toward that goal.  It is a maddening goal….one that I wish I could control, but know that I can’t.  You pour in hoping that it will stick, but realizing that ultimately it is up to these little people to make their own choices.  Scary.

I wish there was some list that included a silver bullet that would make our job as parents easier.  You know….10 ways to ensure your kids will become kind and responsible adults.  I have read blogs by those titles.  Yes, I do click on them….even though I know it is a bunch of whoeey.  (I made that word up.  like it?)

Let me tell you another story that stars my smarty pants eldest son.

We get two suitcases each as we travel from the States back to our home in Asia.  You can imagine the conversations we have as we decide what to include.  (With homeschool supplies I must admit the left over weight and space is minimal.)   As we unpacked our treasures at the end of our summer excursion to the States my son proudly handed me an early birthday present.  He bought me a waffle iron and put it in his carry on.  He was so excited to have such a special gift for me; he couldn’t wait until October.  “Mom,” he explained, “You don’t bring much for yourself, always packing things for our schooling, I wanted to bring something fun for you.”  As I held that waffle iron in my hands and realized how many books my reader must have taken out of his suitcase to make space for this gift….I was overwhelmed.

We now make waffles for breakfast every Monday morning.  As I pull that iron out and as we eat, I am reminded that kindness and selflessness are rooted in the heart of my pre-teen son.

There are some mornings that parenting is ‘pull your hair out’ hard.  But I am learning not to look for a magic bean that will make it easier, but to stay the course and keep reminders in front of me that progress is being made.  If I focus on the moments where I need to talk over the fighting,  if I keep count of the times I say, “We are kind and respectful to each other,” if I despair on the mornings that attitudes are bad and my goal seems so far off….then I know myself, I would quit.

Instead I am making a list of the moments that I see G0d forming the hearts of my children.  I am keeping that list in front of me as a marker of how far we have come and where we are going.