Thursday, August 09, 2007

Education Question

Bob has enrolled in an online biblical counseling course and is staying busy with that, so I thought I would post an education question that someone asked and both of our responses to it.

Just as we're ready to start our new year of Bible & worldviews studies, I'm having some second thoughts... Not about studying the Bible or even necessarily about studying other worldviews. The program we've chosen for our daughter this year takes a high schooler through ancient literature and simultaneously stands it up against the Bible, so you're reading both at the same time. Lots of questions to ponder; lots of Francis Schaeffer help w/ reasoning; lots of Bible. Excellent stuff. However, in reading an excerpt from a book called "Heart of Wisdom" (re: the Hebrew model of education), the author asserts that it is not necessary to read the whole Iliad and Odyssey in order to find its fallacies. She points out that you wouldn't allow your children to spend a lot of time w/ people who would talk to them about unbiblical or immoral things--why would you allow them to do the same by reading an author whose whole worldview is antagonistic to yours? Isn't it the same thing?

So how much of Iliad & Odyssey is enough? Do I have to read all of Harry Potter to find its worldview? Do I have to read any of it? Does a doctor try to experience every disease in order to understand it or does he just observe it from a careful vantage point in order to recognize it?

I completely see her point! My children are going to and already do see things all around them that are antagonistic to the gospel of Christ, and my thinking is that, like a bank teller, if we spend our time studying the real McCoy, we can spot fake tender w/out blinking! So why would I subject them to Homer's complete teaching?

I'm asking in the context of high schoolers, but truly, is it necessary for me as an adult to read it all either? What about Philippians 4:8?

How much is enough?

Ramona's reply:
We have ten kids at home, nine of whom are teens, so I have a wide variety of experience from which to draw from for this question. To a great degree, it depends on the spiritual maturity and discernment of the child or person. We have one daughter (age 16) who recently wanted to spend the night with a friend and go to church with her the next day. This daughter is very susceptible to outside influences and we chose not to allow her to go to another church without us there to help her understand what was going on. However, another 16 year old daughter is very mature and discerning. She works with folks who are gung ho about the Harry Potter movies, so she asked if she could read one of the books so she could discuss it intelligently. This daughter is NOT easily influenced, but she did want to understand "where they were coming from" in their discussions of the subject matter. She read it and her comment was that it was "fluffy" and not at all interesting compared to CS Lewis. She also told us how the books were much different than the movies. The children are not as disobedient and rebellious in the books as they are in the movies, for instance. Not all of our kids would have been able to make these distinctions. As a matter of fact, some of them might have tended to pick up the beliefs and/or habits of the people in this book, so we would not have allowed all of our 16 year olds to read this particular book (although our 11 year old probably would have done fine with it!).

I would suggest that, as a parent, you should try to understand your child's level of discernment and judge how "deep" to go into the subject matter according to that. If you see them start flailing, back off a bit. Do remember that the goal is to prepare them to thrive in a sinful world, where they will eventually be surrounded by these books, movies, etc. that you are teaching her about right now. It is best for her to learn to defend her beliefs while in your "greenhouse" rather than putting her out in the storm unprepared. Just keep a close eye on her and increase the scriptural influences if she is not growing straight and strong, though!

Bob's response:
Let me add something to what my wife said. When we adopted Jennifer she was 14. Because of that we had no reason to expect to have her more than five or six years. In fact, we had her five and a half years before she got married and moved away. She and several of our others that we adopted did not have much schooling in their native countries, and were having to learn a new language on top of that. We have had to think long and hard about what it means to educate a child like this.

Having done that let me propose this as the purpose of education: To teach WISDOM. Facts are nice and necessary to achieve true wisdom,but they are not the purpose of education, wisdom is. What do we need to obtain wisdom:
1) The ability to learn God's Word.
2) The ability to learn about the world around us.
3) The ability to reason from what we have learned in #1 and #2.
4) The ability to apply what we have learned to our own lives
5) The ability to communicate what we have learned to others.Thus we believe that it is more important to give children the tools for learning than it is to fill their heads with a group of unrelated(at least to them facts). Given the tools they can learn on their own after they have left your house.It sounds like you have the basic right idea, but perhaps keeping the focus on learning HOW to deal with these things rather than the WHAT will help keep her training in focus.Let me suggest that she would be far better off having dealt with a small amount of material in depth than a great deal of material in a shallow manner. If she encounters something new, she can always apply those skills to the study of it. However, without the tools she won't know how to deal with something new if it comes up. Not that there is really anything new, but it often comes wrapped in a new package. Hope that helps.

If anyone is interested in more, let me know. The conversation did go a bit past this, but including the rest of it would make for a very long post. If there is enough interest, I can make another post, though.


Monday, July 23, 2007

Suffering for the Elect

When you adopt a child at an older age, you may be the first person to ever bring discipline and authority into their lives in any meaningful way. You become to them the embodiment of the Law. It is not surprising then when they act according to their nature. They may be rude, rebellious or even call down curses upon you as one of my daughters did. Over time they can bring a great deal of suffering into your family. However, this is not surprising as Paul tells us in
2Ti 3:12-13 'Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived."

The shock comes to us as adoptive parents when we realize the source of this persecution comes from our own child. But before we run away, or try to rid ourselves of this difficult child we need to understand the roll of suffering in the life of the Christian. One reason that Christians suffer is for the sake of the gospel and those that will be saved. Again the apostle Paul says:

2Ti 2:8-10 Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. (ESV)

Here the Apostle Paul gives us a reason for his suffering, that the elect may obtain the salvation that is in Jesus Christ. We as parents should likewise be willing to suffer in order that our children might come to salvation.

In my own life, I have seen this worked out. One of my daughters came to us from a disruption. When she came into our house, she was bitter and angry. In addition, she had very little experience with authority or discipline. On more than one occasion, she litterally called on God to curse me. To this day, I still have scars on my arm from one episode with her.

However, today she is not only my daughter, but my sister in Christ. In the day I saw he heart turn to Christ, I truly understood:

Act 5:40-41 and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.

Oh, that God, who is rich in mercies, might grant us the will to suffer for the sake of the gospel, whether in the world or in our own homes.

I hope to give some practical help for dealing with suffering in future posts.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Theology Matters - The Doctrine of Suffering

Getting back to the theology matters subject, I have been pondering how to say something that I have seen be a constant problem with families we have counseled. The problem is that they lack any doctrine of suffering. When life becomes difficult their first response is to run away giving up on the child that they have so recently adopted. Having found that, instead of a grateful child willing to obey because of the great sacrifice these parents have made, they have been given a sinful, angry child, they respond with something similar to “God surely wouldn’t want us to be this unhappy, would he?”

As I considered this I ran across the following quote from John Piper’s The Hidden Smile of God. He says well much of what I have want to say.
The Christian Life is Hill Difficulty

Bunyan’s life and labor call us to live like Pilgrim on the way to the Celestial City. His suffering and his story summon us, in the prosperous and pleasure-addicted West, to see Christian life in a radically different way than we ordinarily do. There is a great gulf between the Christianity that wrestles with whether to worship at the cost of imprisonment and death, and the Christianity that wrestles with whether the kids should play soccer on Sunday morning. The full title of The Pilgrim’s Progress shows the essence of the pilgrim path: “The Pilgrim’s Progress from this World, to that Which is to Come: Delivered under the Similitude of a Dream wherein Is Discovered, the Manner of His Setting out, his Dangerous Journey, and Safe Arrival at the Desired Country.” For Bunyan in fact and fiction, the Christian life is a “Dangerous Journey.”

The narrow way leads from the Wicket Gate to the Hill Difficulty.

The narrow way lay right up the hill, and the name of the going up the side of the hill is called Difficulty. Christian now went to the Spring, and drank thereof, to refresh himself (Isaiah 49:10), and then began to go up the Hill, saying,

The Hill, though high, I covet to ascend,
The Difficulty will not me offend;
For I perceive the Way to life lies here.
Come, pluck the Heart, let’s neither faint nor fear;
Better, though difficult, the Right Way go,
Than wrong, though easy, where the End is Woe

This is the Christian life for Bunyan – experienced in prison and explained in parables. But we modern, western Christians have some to see safety and ease as a right. We move away from bad neighborhood. We leave hard relationships. We don’t go to dangerous unreached people groups.

Bunyan beckons us to listen to Jesus and his apostles again. Jesus never called us to a life of safety, nor even to a fair fight. “Lambs in the midst of wolves” is the way he describes or sending (Luke 10:3). “If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household!” (Matthew10:25). “He who loves his lifes loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal” (John 12:25). “Whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33, RSV).

The apostle Paul continues the same call: “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). We are “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him” (Romans 8:17). We should not be “moved by … afflictions ... [since] this it to be our lot” (1 Thessalonians 3:3 RSV). Faith and suffering are two great gifts of God: “To you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Philippians 1:29). The apostle Peter confirms the theme: “Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for the testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12). It isn’t strange. It’s normal. That is the message of The Pilgrim’s Progress. The Hill Difficulty is the only path to heaven. There is no other. Suffering is as normal as a father disciplining a son. That is how the writer to the Hebrews describes the suffering of the saints: “God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons” (Hebrews 12:7-8). The pattern is rooted in the Old Testament itself. So the psalmist says, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous” (Psalm 34:19; see Galatians 4:29).

Oh, how we need Bunyan! We are soft and thin-skinned. We are worldly; we fit far too well into our God-ignoring culture. We are fearful and anxious and easily discouraged. We have taken our eyes off the Celestial City and the deep pleasures of knowing God and denying ourselves the lesser things that titillate for a moment but then shrink our capacities for great joy. Bunyan’s Seasonable Counsel for us is: Take up your cross daily and follow Jesus. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25).

In light of the sufferings of those Christians who have gone before, and in the light of the sufferings of Our Savior on our behalf, O that God would grant us mercy because we do not want to suffer on the behalf of a child.

Addenda: Also check out this post on Pyromaniacs

The Heart of Anger - book review

Probably the book we recommend most to parents of older adopted children is _The Heart of Anger_, by Lou Priolo. Although not written specifically for parents of internationally adopted children, it is an excellent resource for helping deal with what is often one of the biggest issues with these kids - anger - using biblical principles. Basic communications will need to exist between parent and child in order for the suggested methods to be used, but Mr. Priolo also includes a section in the appendix regarding how to apply these to non verbal children. In his example the child is a two year old, but older children who are learning the language could be reached with a similar approach.

_The Heart of Anger_ is guaranteed to step on your toes, but don't let that stop you from reading it! From the beginning, parents are instructed to examine their own lives (take the log out of their own eye) before tackling the problems their children are having (taking the speck out of their eye). There is a list of 25 ways that parents provoke their children to wrath and if anyone can read that and say honestly that they do not fall prey to some of those temptations, I will be very surprised! A number of them surely hit home with me...

Chapter 5 is a very excellently written description of "Practicing Biblical Communication". He addresses all kinds of situations parents might find themselves in with their kids (ungracious speech, disrespect, interruptions, not communicating, name calling, judging motives, raising the voice, rolling the eyes, manipulation, sulking/pouting, an angry countenance, and inattentiveness) and suggests biblical ways of responding. This entire book is filled with one practical application after another, all of them quite realistic and appropriate to the subject matter.

Journaling is a major way that the author suggests to help your child work through their anger issues, and the heart issues that prompt that anger. Sample journals are provided and copying privileges granted. We have used these journals with some of our own kids and they can be very helpful in difficult situations.

The chapters dealing with manipulation by children are particularly good, and appropriate for our subject of dealing with older adopted children. As most parents of these children soon come to realize, they are absolute masters of manipulation, having learned many of these techniques as a means of survival in their earlier environment. My favorite quote from this book is in Chapter 9, titled "Disrespect and Manipulation". Priolo states, "Again remember, that your child may have practiced his manipulative ways so long, that at any given moment he may not be aware of what his desires really are. Your job is to help him see what they are and that they are selfish and sinful." Ha! Is this not life with the older adopted child, in a nutshell?

In the end, this book offers more excellent suggestions of how to deal with these problems on a day to day basis (i.e., the Think Room) and outlines a process that your child can use for appealing decisions he/she feels may have been made without all of the necessary information. Again, Priolo provides much biblical basis for this appeal process. I was actually quite surprised at all of the appeals he pointed out that were made in the Bible!

This book is an absolute "must-have" for parents of older adopted children, and strongly suggested for all parents, regardless of the backgrounds of their children. Lou Priolo does an excellent job of using biblical principles to guide parents as they deal with this very difficult subject. He also does not shy away from pointing out the need for them to first examine their own lives, which I greatly appreciate.

This book can be purchased from Amazon or from Grace and Truth books (see link on sidebar). Buy an extra copy, because you will find yourself recommending it to others and most likely giving your own copy away, as we have done numerous times!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

"Undoing the Wrong"

This is a question that was asked on an email group we moderated a couple of years back, along with Bob's answers and Ramona's practical applications:

Would any of your like to put a little flesh to the quote I've read from Ramona in discussing sin, "We first have to untrain the wrong before we can train the right behavior." That makes sense to me, but I want to SEE it in action.

Bob's answer:

Let me say first that it is probably better to say "at the same time"rather than first. Let me give you a passage from God's Word.

Eph 4:20-32 But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, putting away lying, "Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor," for we are members of one another. "Be angry, and do not sin": do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor,working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.

The Biblical principle expressed in this passage is one of putting off and putting on. We are to put off the old man and put on the new. This passage has several examples. We need to do more than just not sin, but we need to actively put on righteousness. The one above that is perhaps best for your question is the one of stealing. If you steal, you are to stop stealing. But more than that, you are to labor so that you will have something to give to others. We are to replace the sin of stealing, with hard work and giving to others. Put off stealing, put on hard work and giving.

The problem with older adopted children is that they have often been taught either actively or through neglect that it is OK to steal. So we must teach them to not steal and to replace that with hard work and giving to others.With a biological child you have a clean slate (as much as any sinful human being can be considered clean without Christ). However, from a habit standpoint they are a clean slate. They can be trained with good habits from the beginning. With older children they have already had training with wrong behaviors and have developed habits with these behaviors. This important to remember as you deal with them, because they have been taught previously that it is OK to steal. If you do not remember this, you will become frustrated with the slow progress. We have to remember that they have twice as far to go, since they are unlearning at the same time they are learning.

Further, some children have a personality that naturally resists change and finally add that the tendency of children to believe that the way they were taught first is the "right" way, and it may take even longer. One of the things we constantly heard from the teenagers we adopted was"but in Russia we did..." If I had a nickle for every time one of them said that, I would be a rich man. As an example, we are still working on the notion that Stalin was not one of the good guys. Sigh. Some of what they learned is hard to get rid of.

Another example is with one of our kids, who was taught through experience that the "truth" is the answer that the person asking the question wants to hear. It took me some time to realize that he had no concept of what it means to tell the truth. To him, the right answer is the one that keeps him out of trouble, not the one that represents what actually happened. I think after five years he is finally understanding that, but he still has a hard time telling the truth when there is the fear of consequences looming. This is a hard one to deal with because often the object of the lie is a transgression that demands its own consequences. I guess my main point would be that it is not as much a matter of there being a process of untraining as that you need to realize that it will take longer because you are trying to break old bad habits at the same time you are training new ones.

Also, let me say that I assume that while you are training them toward outward conformance, you are also working on the heart issues. Teaching them God's law, so that they recognize their sinfulness, recognize their need for a Savior, and turn to Christ. In the end, all you will have without a heart that has been changed by the Lord is a well trained Pharisee.

Hope this helps. Maybe Ramona will chime in as she is usually better atthe concrete side of things.


OK, concrete examples. This is my department. I am always demanding (gently, of course), "Give me practical examples!!" So, I will try to illustrate this with some of my own.

One of our kids used to look at me with what I called "dagger eyes", right after we brought him home, any time I would confront him or try to correct him. Finally, our communications got good enough where I would say to him, "The way you are looking at me right now is wrong. Your eyes are saying bad things to me. You need to look at me in a nicer way." He really didn't seem to be aware of what he was doing, but when I told him, he was able to change his look to a much better one. After he practiced that a while, with me having to tell him each time, he no longer gave me those dagger eyes (well, with a few exceptions, of course).

One daughter used to be one way with us (nice and sweet) and then turn into a whole different person when she was behind "closed doors" in her bedroom. This nasty behavior had to stop. First, it needed to be identified, though. So, I would hide behind doors and peek through cracks in order to "catch her" while she was in the middle of it. Right then, I would go to her and say, "THIS is what I want you to stop doing - how you are acting right now." Then, I would show her how she needed to act instead. It took a long time of doing this, and we still have struggles with this, five years later, but for the most part it helped her unlearn the wrong ways and learn the right ways to act.

One of our sons was about 4 years old when he went to the orphanage. He did not know how to eat from a plate, with utensils. Those bad ways of eating had to be unlearned, at the same time as he learned the "new" way of eating - like a civilized person.

Lying is a hard one, I must admit, since it is difficult at times to document the lie and show them the correct way. The key for us seems to be to find times when they are definitely lying, and we can prove it. Then we explain why we know that the child lied and how they could have better handled the situation. Our deaf daughter has a problem communicating - she wants to talk in grunts and monosyllables. I have to slow her down and make her talk right. She needs to unlearn the bad way of talking and learn how to better communicate, on a daily basis.


(Note - It is interesting to read these posts, three years later. I assure you that we are still working on many of these behaviors with our older adopted children. It is a life long process, not a goal to be conquered and then put behind you.)

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Theology Matters

As we go back to a new beginning I want to address some foundational issues. We have many times talked to individuals who were struggling with their child that they had adopted. In these cases we have identified three primary reasons why they struggle:

A lack of knowledge. With a child that you have had from birth you have as complete a knowledge of the child as is possible with finite human beings. You know their genetics, their family history, their culture, and life experiences. With an older adopted child this is seldom true. While the results of this lack can be frustrating. Time, patience, study, and listening to the child will eventually solve most of these problems.

An unregenerate heart. Many of the problems we have dealt with have been the result of an unregenerate heart on the part of the parents. Unbelieving, they are simply unwilling to ask "what does God say about this issue" and then obey. Sadly, these are often individuals who profess the name of Christ. The answer in this case is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Bad theology. This is the one I hope to address in these series of post. John Frame says in his The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God that theology is “the application of the Word of God by persons to all areas of life.” As such theology is the place where the Word of God intersects with life. A failure to understand God's Word or a failure to rightly apply it means trouble for the individual. If someone buys an appliance in the store and ignores the warnings in the user's manual, he can expect problems to result. How much more so the individual who lives life ignoring the designer and His revelation of how life is to be lived in relation to Him.

In the upcoming articles I hope to identify some of the bad theology we have seen, and demonstrate how it shapes the struggles in ours and others' lives. Of course, in keeping with the purpose of this blog, we will focus on the adoption of older foreign children.

Till then

By His Grace,


Sunday, July 01, 2007

Back to the Beginning

Along the lines of what this blog was originally intended for, I am going to post a letter from a troubled mother of an older adopted child and then my reply to her. All personal information has been removed from both of these.

Mother's letter:

Now for our problem. We adopted from China lastJanuary, and our daughter turned 14 in July. We knew that the bonding process would take a long time, and that it takes a whole lot longer for a teenager to adapt to a new culture, but we did not expect everyone to be so miserable almost a year later. Our daughter exhibits many (almost all) of the signs and symptoms of RAD. We have been spared the rages and for that we are grateful. But we have a child who seems unable to function in a family setting. Although she spent her first 11 years with a family (not her birthfamily) apparently she was allowed to rule the roost. She will not follow our rules (and trust me, we only have a few), she constantly talks back, she has alienated her brother and, for a time, was abusive to our younger son. (When confronted about this, she simply smiled) I will not leave her alone with him now, and although I know she did it out of extreme jealousy and it may never happen again, I cannot forgive her nor trust her with him. She is jealous of all our other kids, even the grown ones. As long as we are not asking her to do something, or turning down a demand of hers, she can be pleasant. But Friday night, after an hour long, calm (for once) discussion about treating us and others with respect, and how much happier she would be(and all of us) if she would try to be nicer to everyone (therefore causing everyone to be nicer to her), and we thought we had finally made some progress she announces that we were the ones who needed to change. It would be too hard to be nice and follow the rules. We were the ones who were wrong. She did not have to do what we said. She could continue to refuse to eat, refuse to go to bed, or basically refuse to do anything unless she wanted to do it. We are exhausted. The whole family is unhappy. We have taken away her internet (messaging total strangers and visiting very inappropriate websites),and pulled her from the school athletic team because of her behavior. No changes. She attends a private school and although she excels in math, she has no real interest in any other subjects. She audited school last spring,and was enrolled in her age appropriate grade this fall. Major mistake. She really needs to be homeschooled, but that is not an option for us. She misses the other girls in the orphanage, and the closeness they shared, but we have boys at home. We need some guidance! Any suggestions, comments or ideas? We are so tired of the fighting. The other morning we sat at the dining room table for 4 hours because she refused to drink her milk. We have raised kids to adulthood, but dealing with her is more painful than anything the others ever did or are doing now. Help.

Here was my reply:

Wow, it sounds like you have some real challenges before you! I would be happy to help, if I can. My husband and I have had the privilege of helping a few families who are struggling like you are, and I sure hope we can help you, too. Hearing your daughter's history, I am not surprised that you are having the problems you are with her. Not at all. It sounds like she may have been in a "family", but didn't have the family structure that we accept as normal here in the US. God's plan for families is for the adults to be in charge and the children to learn from them and respect them. Any other form of a family is a dismal failure, as her's ultimately was in China. It sounds like there was no discipline whatsoever. You are basically dealing with a 14 year old girl who never learned that actions have consequences, when she was a toddler. She never had the advantage of being taught respect for adults as a two year old. You have to go way back with her, to the point where she missed the basic facts of how adults and children must act towards each other.

My husband and I have what appears to be a unique opinion of RAD behaviors. This long, long list of behaviors that post institutionalized children may exhibit are sinful (wrong) behaviors that they have picked up during their life and have not been trained otherwise on, and they need to be dealt with as such. When a child does something wrong, they must have consequences for it, right? It sounds like you are already doing this, but you may need some help, encouragement and suggestions. As I read over the list of RAD behaviors, I see many things that our bio kids do that are on the lists! It is just when you put all of these things together on a list targeted towards a specific group of children (adopted) and then put a label on it that things can get dangerous. Parents and professionals alike may tend to let the kids get away with these behaviors due to the fact that they have been through so much, or because they are adopted, or due to a myriad of other reasons. The fact is though - these kids need to UNlearn those behaviors! They need to be trained to behave and obey their parents. This is particularly hard with older children who did not learn respect for adults when they were young. Many institutionalized children never even interacted with adults, much less learn how to respect and honor them. These teenagers, or preteens, must be taught and trained, (lovingly and firmly) as a two year old would!

One note on actual attachment issues - those are not necessarily the same as RAD. Certainly, these kids who have been in an institution may have great challenges in bonding with a family. That should not at all be surprising. We, as parents, should keep realistic expectations of these children and not expect more out of them than they are able to give. Even some bio kids are more affectionate than others. Perhaps we should not expect a child adopted at an older age to ever be emotionally like a child we nurtured from birth. That is a much different relationship. This does not mean that we cannot have a GOOD, LOVING, and HEALTHY relationship with that child - but we just need to keep a very open mind and see what the child is emotionally capable of.

OK, if you are like me, you are wanting some practical applications now!! I certainly understand that, as I am a very concrete person. Well, basically you need to choose a particular area or two to work on with her and then buckle down to concentrate on that and put other problems on the back burner for now. "Choose your battles," as we say around here. Find something that you and she both know she CAN DO, so that she cannot use the excuse of, "It's too hard - I can't do it." One thing that might work is to require her to say "Yes Ma'am and Yes Sir" to you when you tell her to do something. That is a habit for our kids now, and they don't even think about it. She CAN do something like that, if she can speak English, right? You could also insist that she pick up her clothes, or put them away, or put her plate in the sink when she is finished, turn lights off when she leaves a room, etc. The goal is to establish a habit of obedience and to avoid big issues at first. This will also help to establish your authority over her, though, a bit at a time. As the Bible says, "Precept upon precept" (one thing at a time, building on the thing before). Work on perfecting your calm "game face" when doling out the consequences. "Oh, I am so sorry that you chose to not do that, honey. Remember those consequences we talked about? Well, now I have to enforce them," (with a smile on your face). DON'T negotiate with her. Your terms have been set already (you stated what the consequences would be for particular behaviors) and you must follow through with them. She WILL test you over and over again, to see if you are serious and if you will be consistent. This will take up much of your time for a good while, but it is imperative that you get it done now and not wait until she gets even worse.

Also, carefully consider what things are important to her, so that you can start your strategy of taking them away from her, as consequences for her misbehavior. Does she get an allowance? Charge her a quarter for every time when she does not say it. Does she watch television? Take away a certain number of minutes per day for every misbehavior. Make sure that she knows ahead of time what the consequences will be if she does not obey you in the area that you choose. Then, FOLLOW THROUGH EVERY SINGLE TIME. Every time. Did I mention that you need to do that every time? :-) In a calm manner, state that she will now have the consequences that you have chosen, whatever they are. You may need to keep a chart or do something that she can see the privileges being actually taken away (or money out of a bank, etc). Now, be prepared for additional misbehaviors in other areas while you are doing this. Do not try to deal with them all, though. It will overwhelm you and you cannot do it. This is why you need to choose your battles carefully - make sure you choose the ones that really matter but are not the huge issues that you aren't ready to touch yet. Try to not get upset when she misbehaves in other ways. You can state calmly to her, "We will work on that misbehavior later." That way, she will know that you are not letting her "get by with it".

Also, let your older son know what you are doing, since he may be the brunt of some of her additional misbehaviors. You mentioned that you do not have many rules in your home. You may want to consider making some new ones. Kids need the structure of rules, whether they realize (or admit) it or not. There was once an experiment done at an elementary school where they took the fence away. All of the kids huddled together in the middle of the playground, afraid to venture too far out. However, once they put the fence back up, the kids felt free to wander all the way around the playground, within the safe boundaries of the fence! Go figure!

You might also want to give her a list of the few items you are going to expect absolute obedience on, and another list of things she has a choice on, so that she won't feel overwhelmed. She will still have some opportunities to assert herself, but on the other hand she will be learning to obey as she goes along. Once she gets those few items of obedience down pat, then move on to other things. A good illustration is the training of a horse. They must first learn to wear a bit in their mouth. This takes a good while. After they get used to that, then they get one more piece of equipment for a while. Then another. Then another. Then, they start to get trained for riding. BUT, that is not done all at once, because the horse would be a bucking bronco and completely unmanageable!! (I don't consider kids and animals to be on the same level at all, but I do like to use animals for illustrative purposes at times.)

One more thing. You mentioned food issues. Kids (especially girls) are great at making the table a battleground. Parents are so afraid that kids will starve - I must admit that I have this same weakness. However, it is highly unlikely that they will. It would take many days of going without any food at all for a child to starve. Many, many days. They might get weak and green around the gills, but that could be a good lesson for them. If she starts to balk at eating what you set before her, then cheerfully say, "Oh, I am so sorry you are choosing to not eat this. I will put it in the refrigerator for you and you can eat it at the next meal!" Then, do it. Do not let her eat anything at all in between meals. This may mean taking all snacks out of your house, if she insists on making this a big deal, so that she cannot sneak in at nighttime and eat. You may have to bring this unsightly plate back meal after meal after meal, but if she gets hungry enough, she WILL eat it, so that she can go on and eat something else. It sounds like you have the perseverance for this, since you made her sit four hours one time when she didn't want to drink her milk.

OK, really one more thing this time. Our kids have really been easy. I give the glory to God, fully and completely, but I know that one way God used was to convince us to keep them at home for a time, away from their peers. We were able to deal with any and all behavioral issues at home, rather than on the school battlefield. It helped for us to be able to work on them all day, and not just in the evenings and on weekends. So many families that we see spend as much time UNdoing the negative effects of peer pressure as we do training our kids each day, and they have not even gotten started with the training time! I know you say that homeschooling is not an option for you right now, but in the long run it might end up saving you time? That is something you have to decide on your own, though. It is a very personal decision, just like most parenting decisions are.

Well, I will let you digest this for now. I tend to ramble and get carried away, so forgive me if I have done that now! Please ask me more questions, too. I do best when I have specific questions to address. Our own personal guide book for parenting is the Bible, and all of our advice is given with a prayer and the hopes that it lines up with God's Word in every way. I will be praying for you and looking forward to hearing back from you!

End of reply.

copyright, 2007

Saturday, June 30, 2007

A New Start

We started this blog a couple of years ago, with the thought in mind of using it to help parents who were struggling with their older adopted children. Well, at least that was my husband's purpose. I stubbornly wanted to hold out and put our thoughts into a well written book format, but somehow that has just not happened. God has not provided the time or energy for that to take place. And, I am certain there is a lesson for me to learn here. I think it starts with the letter "s" and ends with "ubmission". Gulp.

So, I have moved my most recent posts to a new blog, where I can post my own personal updates, musings, and meditations as the Lord leads. I will attempt to return this blog to its original purpose - to post articles which may help parents who need help with their adopted children. Some personal posts will remain on here, in order to allow others a peak into our little family.

If you would like to visit my new blog, please go to I have copied my most recent posts on that blog, although I regret that I could not move the comments over.

Write on!!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

DBS Operation Update

These are the before and after photos of me getting a mohawk before my first surgery. Naomi has thought she might want to be a hairdresser someday, so I gave her an opportunity to cut my hair before it was buzzed off. When the girls started playing around with a mohawk, I told them to just leave it like that, since they would shave the middle in the OR anyway. The surgery personnel got a kick out of it, too. The girls who helped were Naomi, Anna, Irina, and Kathryn.
Sorry I have not posted an update regarding the surgeries and recovery. The second surgery went pretty much the same as the first, although I did insist on more anesthesia when they placed the frame on my head that time! They also thought they got a good electrode placement that time, and the test stimulation in the OR went well.

The third surgery was the placement of the battery packs and it was an outpatient procedure. Like I thought, it has been quite a bit more painful than the first two surgeries, though. Two new incisions were made on my head so they could get to the wires (and they shaved more of my newly grown fuzzy hair!) and it looks like they kind of poked holes down the sides of my head as they guided the wires down to the battery packs.

The batteries were placed in my chest, just below my collarbones. I ended up with a large bruise on one side for some unknown reason, and that side is also a bit more uncomfortable to date. The incision sites are sore and I also have a hard time turning my head due to the wires leading down to the batteries. I am hoping that is something that will resolve itself as time goes on.

I have an appointment next Tuesday, May 15, to have the stitches and staples removed. They will also turn the batteries on that day and begin the programming of the stimulators. It will take a while (possibly weeks to months) to reach the optimum settings, but I hope to at least have some indication of how well it will work that day.
Thank you all so much for your prayers and support. We have been overwhelmed with all of the help we received from our local church family. What a blessing they are to us!
And, in conclusion, I will share the wisdom we have gained from this experience:
It is not really a good idea to have a wedding and three surgeries within a time span of less than three weeks. (By God's grace we have managed quite well, but given the choice, we would have spread things out a bit more!).

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Surgery Not As Expected, But Successful

Thank you all so much for your prayers for my DBS surgery. God was merciful in answering them!

Yesterday's DBS surgery did not go exactly as expected, but it would still be considered "successful." Any who know us will not be at all surprised by that, of course. ;-)

The stereotactic frame placement was more painful than I had expected and the drilling was quite a bit more intense than the "dentist's drill" it was said to resemble, but once we got past those two items, things began to move along.

It took a while to do the brain mapping, but they finally found what seemed to be a good spot. (It was very interesting listening to neurosurgeons talk among themselves...) They were quite excited to make such a good placement and when they turned on the electrical stimulation to try the electrode, the right side of my body actually stopped twitching and jerking! I was suddenly able to touch my finger to my thumb in rapid succession, rather than in a jerking fashion as I had done before! To say I was very happy would be a bit of an understatement.

However, sometime during the surgery I lost some spinal fluid. This can cause the brain to shift positions, although I am not clear on whether it actually did or not. Because of this loss of spinal fluid, they chose to stop the surgery at that point, in case the brain had shifted from where they had already measured and marked it to be.

I was pretty disappointed by this turn of events, but asked if they could do the battery placement at the same time as the second electrode placement. The neurosurgeon said he would consider that possibility, but when he came to see me in the NICU he said they had decided to do two more surgeries due to the increased possibility of infection with having the two surgeries at the same time.

So, the surgery was successful, although I will be having two more surgeries rather than just one. This has always been part of God's plan, though, and I submit my will to His. I had a number of opportunities to share information about our family and why we chose to make room for all of these kids, so perhaps God is not finished with that, yet.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Mr. and Mrs. Micah Smyth!!

And we now present to you, the new Mr. and Mrs. Micah Smyth!! Jennifer and Micah were married in a family ceremony Saturday, April 14, in Madison, AL. A reception, provided by and for friends, followed the ceremony.

After an overnight trip to Guntersville, they hurried home to Michigan to start furnishing and arranging their new apartment together. ;-)

We would like to extend grateful thanks to everyone who has prayed for Micah and Jennifer as they prepared for their wedding and marriage. Your continued prayers would be greatly appreciated, as they now start their new lives together.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Newspaper Article

Here is a link to the article on our family that appeared in today's Huntsville Times.

We were quite pleased with how Yvonne was allowed to keep God in the story, especially considering that our local newspaper does tend to be a bit liberal. ;-)


Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Story Behind the Story

Never a dull moment around here, truly. Today we were scheduled to be interviewed for a newspaper article. The reporter, who also happens to be a friend of mine, was exactly on time and we promptly sat down so she could start on the very long story of our little family.

In the beginning, we were going to only be part of an article on international adoption, but when the editor saw our family photo, well... Let's just say he changed his mind. We are hoping now that it doesn't have to become a series in order to get everything in! ;-)

Since Kathryn was going to work early, we wanted her to have the opportunity to be interviewed first, but Yvonne first wanted to get "a bit" of background information. About the time I was telling her what it was like to adopt Vanya and Irina, Anna came upstairs with a panicked look on her face (very unusual for Anna). I asked her what was wrong and she told me that something was very wrong with Charlie. She said he was lying down and couldn't move his legs and or get up or anything. Having been through numerous "crises" that weren't, I was calmly trying to determine the seriousness of this particular situation. A small voice from across the room (Yvonne) said, "Uh, maybe we should go check on him." I agreed and we all began to make our way downstairs. On the way down, Yvonne asked, "Should we call 911?!!" It then occurred to me that she did not realize that Charlie was our Black Lab!! She thought he was one of our kids! Oh my. I hurriedly reassured her that Charlie was a dog and not a boy, but we continued to rush downstairs to check on him.

By this time, Trey had informed us that Charlie had stopped breathing, although once we got there he was conscious and breathing. He was indeed having serious problems, though, so I tried to comfort him while determining what was going on. Kathryn had heard a loud noise in the garage, where Charlie was, and when she opened the door he came barreling into the hallway, causing her to hurt her hand on the door. He was in a state of panic at that point from whatever was going on, and fell down on the floor without being able to move.

We decided that Charlie needed to go to the vet right away so I called Tessa at work to tell her we were on the way (she works at an animal hospital). Yvonne climbed in the van with Charlie, Trey, Anna, and I and we made our way to the animal hospital. I was able to fill in a few more details along the way, although I am not sure how much sense I made.

Charlie was doing somewhat better by this time, although he was still quite dazed. Tessa met us and we were taken into an examination room to wait for the vet to examine Charlie. Yvonne got a chance to interview Tessa this way, as she would not have even spoken to her otherwise since Tessa was to be at work while the interview was taking place. Sitting in the examination room, I was able to fill in the details through the end of Jennifer, Sergei, and Zhenya's adoption before the doctor came in to talk to us.

In the end, and $152 later (including Tessa's employee discount), it was determined that Charlie must have had a seizure of some kind. We were informed of the nature of seizures and what to do if it happened again. They will still run various blood tests to rule out other illnesses, but we can hope that this will be an isolated incident.

Once back at home, the interview finally got into full swing, with Bob and more of the kids being involved. Honestly, if Yvonne manages to put her notes together into an accurate and newsworthy article, she will be a miracle worker!

I suppose Yvonne at least got to see how our family does work together in a crisis. It has been our prayer from the beginning that this would be a God honoring article and I am certain that He worked things so that she could witness that cooperation between siblings.

She commented a couple of times that this would be an interview that she would not soon forget and, at least once in there, I heard the words that have become our family mantra, "But I've never done it this way before!!" No, friend, neither have we. Each day is a new beginning!

Edited to add:
I get it now. Once again, God's plan was different from mine and His was perfect. I had things all worked out in my mind regarding how I would tell Yvonne "our story". There were certain areas I wanted to emphasize and comments I wanted to make. I had thought to show her Sergei's photos, Tessa's published poem, print off a copy of our 2001 adoption story, etc... But that was not how it was to happen. Rather than hearing me blabber the whole time, she needed to see our family at work. Forgive me, Lord, for thinking I had everything under perfect control! And, thank you for sparing our dear, sweet Charlie.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Tessa is Published!

Tessa is officially a published author, now! If you go to you will actually see her name listed among the authors of the new issue of _The Sword Review_. She will be receiving a contributor's copy, but the rest of us will have to pay to read her work. ;-) OK, well, I admit that I DID read it as part of her school work, so I guess that is not completely true.

Hopefully this will be only the first of many writings she has published over the coming years.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

End of an Era

Yesterday I sold our big blue van. As we first thought about selling it, I felt like I would be losing a friend. I so enjoyed the days when we would all pile into that van and go somewhere together as a family. We would sometimes take day trips to a zoo or go to the nature trail on Green Mountain. Having everyone together like that, safe and secure, was so sweet to me. I knew the day would soon come when they all started going their own ways.

Well, those days are here. It is rare that we all go one place together anymore. No one has recently asked us if we are a school group on a field trip. I have to admit that I enjoyed being able to respond to some of the questions we got when we were out together, too. It was like a game to us, coming up with fun replies to those questions.

The blue van now belongs to a small church just down the road. We can see it every time we drive by. Our lives are changing and I must accept that. I love seeing the young adults that our children are growing into and I will treasure the memories of the fun times we had in that van.

I do have to admit that I am enjoying being able to pull into a regular sized parking space these days, though, in our mini van. I don't even have to worry about pulling out from the front so that I won't run over someone! There ARE advantages to driving smaller vehicles, too. ;-)

Monday, March 05, 2007

Words of Wisdom

I recieved an email from a friend regarding the news of my upcoming surgery. Her response was the most wonderful one I have gotten yet and I would like to share it with everyone in the world:

"My dear sweet friend...what NEWS! Deep Brain Stimulation. Where do I sign up?

I need this! My brain is asleep and cannot comprehend the love of God for me...that He died, so I might live. That daily he gives Grace to live that day and get over all the days that were previous to this one. I cannot comprehend what it ment to send His Son here, and fiddle around with us, to get us on the right path. Maybe Deep Brain Stimulation would wake a sleeping sluggish soul..."

I simply cannot add to that. To God be the glory, great things He has done!

Friday, March 02, 2007

Committee's Decision

I finally heard from the surgery nurse today and she said the committee had indeed recommended me as a good candidate for the DBS surgery. I am still chuckling over the neuropsych testing, though. Today she said, "You could not have had any more flying colors on your neuropsych test." Imagine that. A "crazy" mother of 11 wowing the doctors on a neuropsych test! Sorry folks, but that is hilarious. I have spent so much time having doctors tell me I was just "stressed and depressed," and now that I finally get a neuropsych test done they are all shaking their heads over it in amazement. I think it was all of that "stressful" homeschooling that helped me ace their testing so well, actually. ;-)

I did ask some questions that were specific to UAB and this particular surgery, for us to consider over the weekend. The neurosurgeon who does this type of surgery has been doing it since 1997 and he currently does 3-4 unilateral surgeries per week, for Parkinson's and Essential Tremor. The Dystonia surgery is a bilateral one, however. They have actually only done four other dystonia patients, but have had good results in them all.

I had requested that the surgery be after Jennifer and Micah's wedding, so they were able to accomodate that...barely. If we choose to accept the date, they have it scheduled for April 18, which is four days after the wedding. We will think about this over the weekend and call them with our decision on Monday.

The risk of complications with this surgery is quite low - only about 1% - and the potential for improvement is around 50% - 75%, with some dystonia patients reporting up to a 90% improvement. Success is not guaranteed and perhaps the greatest risk is having the surgery and it not changing things at all, though.

Thankfully, my hope remains in the Lord and not the doctors. I trust Him for guidance and wisdom as we continue to pray over this decision. At this point it looks like we will decide to go forward with the surgery. Please pray with us that God will be glorified throughout the entire process, if we do make this decision in favor of the surgery.

The Vehicle Shuffle

Our normally busy life has gone on overload the past few days/couple of weeks. In addition to the wedding and surgery stuff, we have been doing a vehicle shuffle. It is kind of like musical chairs, but with vehicles rather than chairs. Since we have two large vehicles that we are paying teenage driver rates on but none of our teenagers could drive them comfortably, we decided to make some changes. The first thing we did was buy a small car for the girls to drive - a Dodge Neon (wow, that looks so easy when I write it down, but the hunting, researching, and calling was a huge chore). They love it and so does Zhenya. (He actually wants to buy it from us.)

Then, we decided to put our large truck up for sale, but waited until the end of Ollie's two week jury duty stint to place it on the lot. The day I parked it, I also found a good deal on a mini van, which is what we were planning on replacing the truck with. We bought it last weekend and it has very quickly become MY favorite! My brother is considering buying our large, 15 passenger van, if his church is interested in buying it from him.

Today we sold the truck. Since the guy we bought the mini van from has another one he wants to sell, I called him to let him know we were interested in it (to replace the big van). Are you keeping up? I hope so, because I am lost. I will have to go out to the driveway to see what vehicles we actually end up with tomorrow.

Oh, and Sergei had an accident last night. He was OK, but his car was not. We thought it might have been totaled, but our cousin who also happens to be a mechanic says he can get it running again for around $500. Add that to a $200 towing and storage fee and Sergei is learning to not follow cars so closely on dark rainy nights.

And we are signing up for AAA.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Tessa and Sandy

No real story here. I just love this photo that I took today of Tessa and Sandy. Tessa is working at an animal hospital and it turns out that her love for dogs is mutual. Some dogs that no one else is able to work with are putty in her hands.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Surgery Evaluations

Yesterday Bob and I traveled to Birmingham for the evaluations required in connection with the Deep Brain Stimulation surgery. It was a very long day and tiring day, so we were happy to come home and be treated to a supper of pizza (supplied by Charlotte Campbell, who stayed with the kids during the day) and sushi (made by Jennifer). OK, so maybe we have eclectic meals at times. Keeps things interesting! ;-)

The neuropsych testing was scheduled to last 4-5 hours, but we were finished after about three hours. I was beginning to think they were not going to believe my answers on their questionnaires (mood type questions - I answered them all with a zero, indicating that I had no problems with that part of my life), but Bob backed me up in his interview. They also were quite impressed with my cognitive scores, apparently, which lent credence to my psychological answers. At one point the technician mumbled something along the lines of, "I have never had to go this far before," (in regards to the memory portion of the test). I am certifiably sane now!

My brain was pretty scrambled after the hours of testing, so we had a lunch break before heading for the brain MRI. I told the technicians that the MRI noises made my dystonia worse, but they didn't seem too concerned. I put in my own ear plugs and used their headphones on top of those, but the noises still caused very intense dystonic spasms. Although it was a relatively short MRI (15 minutes), I was in tears and unable to walk by the time it was finished. At one point during the test the technician came and asked me if I was having a seizure, but I told her it was the dystonia. I guess they understood what I was talking about then...

There was a woman in the waiting room who was waiting for her MRI when I went in to have mine done. Her eyes got pretty big when she saw the shape I was in after mine, though! I tried to assure her that it really wasn't THAT bad, but she looked a bit dubious as they led her back.

The DBS surgery nurse came to talk to us and she videotaped me while I was having the intense spasms. I apologized for being so "bad", but she seemed excited at all of the dystonic activity. She said that the worse I was, the more likely the committee would be to recommend the surgery.

Before she left, she let us know that the committee is meeting next week and she would call me and let me know their decision. She seemed certain that they will consider me a "good candidate" and then the final decision will be left up to me.

I have learned much about this surgery over the past couple of weeks, but have not come to a final decision regarding whether or not to go ahead with it if the committee considers me a good candidate or not. Prayers for wisdom would be greatly appreciated.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Jennifer's Home from Michigan...At Least for Now

Jennifer returned home from Michigan on Tuesday, having had a wonderful two weeks with Micah and his family. This photo was taken at a waterfall which was near his house. The family took a walk to see it and Jennifer took lots of beautiful photos there.

They are planning an April wedding now - just a small family gathering at the chapel on Green Mountain. Hopefully we can have a reception at church the following Sunday, but that is not a certainty at this point.

A heartfelt thanks to those who have been praying for Jennifer and Micah. God's grace has been wonderful to behold. We very much look forward to having Micah has an official son in law, although he is already that in our hearts.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

An "I" Examination

Not long ago my ophthalmologist examined my eyes and sent me home with a prescription for glasses. Now it seems that I may need an "I" examination, also.

Yesterday, the Movement Disorder Specialist that I go to in Birmingham told me he was going to recommend me for Deep Brain Stimulation surgery for my dystonia. This totally took me by surprise, although I knew it could be an option "down the road". I am the type of person who likes to have my days and weeks nicely planned and this was NOT in my schedule (it requires a long evaluation period plus lots of medical tests prior to surgery and much afer surgery care). I also like to do my own medical research and this was not one of the options I had researched and thought he might mention. Hmmm, maybe that is why he gets the big bucks rather than me?

What were my thoughts on the way home? Mostly along the lines of, "I don't want this surgery, I don't want to have to make these trips time after time after time, I am scared to have someone drill into my head, I don't want to have my head shaved, etc." Of course there were also thoughts like, "What if they don't consider me a good candidate for this surgery, what if insurance won't cover the costs, what if the surgery does not relieve the symptoms..." Are you getting the picture here? Way too many "I's" and "what if's", right? According to my wonderfully wise mother in law, I now need an "I" examination.

The doc pretty much blindsided me with his declaration, but he was not responsible for my reaction. I was. It was not a God honoring one, either. This is one reason that I went immediately to those folks who I know would be willing to pray for me, to ask them to pray for strength and wisdom. Of course I also prayed to my Lord and Savior, as I needed much of His wonderful grace at that time. I talked to my husband, who is always willing to help me see things from a biblical perspective, and then I had a good night's sleep.

God's mercies are indeed new every morning. So, did I wake up today ready and raring to go with the evaluation process?!! Uhhh, I am afraid not. This will certainly be a journey and I pray that God will teach me along the way, allowing me to grow closer to Him with each step.

So, as I begin this new journey, I pray that God will show me how He can be glorified through me or those around me. I have to admit that at first I drew a total blank on this topic. Then, as sleep began to heal my tired body and mind, I was able to part the clouds of doubt and frustration and begin to see some ways. Here are a few that have come to mind today. First of all, I need to share my journey with others, including the joys, trials, and lessons I learn along the way. If I allow others to see my weaknesses, then God can show them His strength. (II Corin. 12:9-10)

Secondly, if I do need to shave my head I will recognize that it is the inner person which God looks at and not outward adornment (I Peter 3:3). I have decided to not cut my hair until the surgery (if indeed it is done) and then allow the kids to help me shave my hair and send it to Locks of Love. This will not be easy, but by the grace of God I could do it.

Thirdly, I will be open to God's will. That is easy to say, but can be so very hard to put into practice. What if this treatment is not chosen or does not work and then I am left with the problems I have now, perhaps multiplied many times? Oops, that was a "what if", wasn't it? God doesn't need to hear those, as He has a plan. It is a matter of me submitting to His will, whether it is pleasant and fun or not. I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.

Lastly, I can assure you that I will falter, probably on a daily basis. I will confess those faults and go on, not allowing them to deter me from following Christ. I will remove the "I's" from my vocabulary by having "I" surgery along with brain surgery. Even if the brain surgery does not happen, the "I" surgery is still essential to my health and spiritual well being. By the grace of God...

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Birthday Photos

Ahhhh, success! I started off with my photo at the top and actually figured out how to change that. Aren't you impressed? Well, you should be, if you aren't. I am not the computer geek in the family - it is definitely my hubby.

These are the three that celebrated birthdays yesterday (Irina - 17, Zhenya, 18 and Shawn, 11). And the photo of me shows what happens when you celebrate three birthdays in one day! By the way, Bunny Tracks ice cream is really yummy. You gotta' try it.

Friday, January 12, 2007

January Birthdays

I said that I would post some things the kids had written around Christmas, but I never got around to it. I do still have those items, though, and maybe one of these days will find the time to post them.

However, time goes on and now we are close to our January birthdays. Three of our kids have birthdays this month and that is an interesting story in and of itself. Shawn was born on January 27, so we were delighted when we began the process of adopting Irina and discovered that her birthday was two days before his, on January 25! However, we were quite amazed a couple of years later when we started the adoption of Jennifer, Sergei, and Zhenya and we realized that Zhenya's birthday was right in the middle of theirs, on January 26th! Somehow it made me feel like God was smiling at us, helping us realize that He had our family planned long before we did.

This year, Shawn will be 11, Irina will be 17 and Zhenya will be 18. How time flies! I would like to share something that Zhenya wrote about his 18th birthday:

January 26th is going to be my birthday, and I'm going to be eighteen years old, which is cool and all that, you know.

In most states, I think eighteen is when people are adults, but in Alabama it's nineteen so I kind of want to turn eighteen and kind of don't.

The reason I don't want to turn eighteen is that I kind of don't want to grow up. You know, part of me still wishes that I could be a kid and go play with those Lego action figures and toy things that little kids do.

But on the other hand, I kind of want to turn eighteen because I'm going from a teenager to being more like an adult.

I'm thankful to God for letting me live this long, because we don't know how long we have to be on this earth. (Editor's note: If you knew some of the things they did in Russia, you would realize the humor in this comment.)

Five years ago, I didn't know that I was going to turn eighteen in the United States with all the things that I have and with the family that loves me and takes care of me.


As a mother, I very much enjoy reading the writing that our kids do for their schoolwork, especially when they share things like this from their hearts. Zhenya's honesty regarding his hesitations about becoming an adult were particularly refreshing to read. During their adoption, Zhenya had serious concerns about living in the US and had to be talked into allowing the adoption process to continue. We are so very glad that God worked in his heart so that he would agree to being a part of our family!