Blessed be the name of the Lord
from this time forth and forevermore!
On a recent trip to visit the Ark Encounter (it opens July 7, please buy tickets!) and Answers in Genesis, my friend Tim Dudley asked me why I had not blogged in about a year about our adoption. When I explained how busy I’d been, he gave me his trademark eye-roll and “Really? Too busy to write 500 words?” (At the time, I didn’t realize that Tim hasn’t updated his blog in five years!) As usual, Tim was correct.
When we were first considering adopting six children; we went to the authoritative source on all things important – the blogosphere, and found several blogs written by families who had adopted large sibling groups. The sites were typically profuse regarding the decision to adopt, fluent regarding the initial stage, but then the posts became fewer and fewer between. That fueled my adoption paranoia: they started happy and optimistic, but then it went bad so they stopped blogging – didn’t want to share the horrors and strife that ensued. Or so I imagined from the darker crevices of my mind.
Well, having ten kids, six of whom we were given custody of 18 months ago as part of the adoption process, I’ve become one of “them”: after an initial flurry of blogs, I recall blogging once in the past 18 months about our return from the airport from Latvia. Now I know what I had before only suspected – it isn’t a desire to hide the horrors of our situation. To the contrary, the Lord has more than answered our prayers and richly blessed our family, as I’ll explain more below. No, it’s just that 24 hours has become much shorter. On the rare events we have any available, uncommitted time at the end of a day – I like to spend it in some form of a semi-vegetative state.
So for those few and far in between who might be considering large group adoption from Latvia, I offer some observations in no particular order from our experience thus far, a few of which may translate to adoptions from orphanages in general:
- Our Latvian children loved Ketchup® and sour cream, on EVERYTHING. Now, after 18 months, they simply really like those on most things.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff and they’re all small.
- Make sure you like your dentist. Lesley was there at least weekly for about six months.
- Karyn Purvis is a huge blessing and resource. Watch her videos and absolutely first thing read her book The Connected Child.
- Kids flourish quickly and learn English even faster.
- Sanctification. I wrote previously about how adoption further personalized the Gospel for us. As I explain further below, in the past year I’ve learned how it also furthers my sanctification.
- Everyone has their eyes on the stress of the new kids. The stress from the changed family dynamics can be more difficult on your biological kids, particularly where the “new” kids outnumber the original kids. The process was at least equally disruptive to both sets of kids, but nearly all the focus naturally goes to the new kids.
- Structure is king a.k.a. we’ve made rules for EVERYTHING! It started about day 3 when we were consuming more than a gallon of milk a day. First new rule: limits on milk consumption.
- The common guidance we received was to cocoon our family for most of the first year. We didn’t do that. Instead, we signed the new kids up for the same sports our bio kids were doing, which meant a lot of soccer teams, year round swimming, gymnastics, music and martial arts. It’s worked for us. With seven boys under one roof and many kids 10 and under (then), the activities gave added structure and plenty of positive outlets for energy.
- Our kids have become good friends with each other.
- You quickly realize how much you taught your children from the youngest years when contrasted with a child who hasn’t had the same, consistent level of parental involvement.
- The second law of sockdynamics: socks trend towards total disappearance. If you think your socks don’t match now, just wait. Our kids have turned a fashion into mismatched socks. I also try to only buy black sports socks for my boys since they can be worn with everything and for all occasions and all fairly closely match each other. Lesley also bought laundry bags for each kid to put their socks into, zip shut and keep socks together through the wash dry cycle. The bags quickly went the way of half the socks: disappeared.
- Life is loud at our house. We live the definition of boys: noise that moves.
- All meat is “chicken.”
- There are a lot of cool people in the adoption community.
- Americans are friendly. (Our new kids tell us this.)
- Feeding candy to our little new kids was like feeding Gremlins after midnight. For the first year, we purged high fructose corn syrup from our house and greatly limited candy and processed sugar consumption. We also fed them a lot of Omega 3.
- Everyone likes Nutella and it makes everything edible and makes anything a dessert.
- Christ has cared for us in so many ways through his church.
- There are so many special memories.
So many special memories.
One of our children on their first day in a new Bible study class at church – each child had to tell the class something special about themselves. Our child proudly told the class he had a Mom and Dad. The teacher, not familiar with us, looked puzzled.
That same child, soon after arriving with us back to the States, now our child being adopted, was puzzled and perplexed one night at dinner. He asked earnestly, “Why when we were hosted was everyone nice to us but now they’re not?” I asked him what he meant. He explained that when we hosted them, our biological son Sean of about the same age shared everything with him and was alway pleasant, but now he does not share as much and they sometimes fight when they play. “Do you fight with Joshua and David [his biological brothers]?” I asked. “Yes,” he answered, which I knew having seen it often. “Well,” I explained, “when we hosted, you were a guest in our home. We are pleasant and tolerant to guests because we know that at some point they are going to leave. That is what it means to be a guest. But you are no longer a guest here. You are family and Sean is now your brother. Do you see the difference? You are no longer a guest; this is your home and you are family.” You could see the lightbulb turn on in his young mind as his face lit up. He smiled and looked down at his plate so his brothers didn’t see the tears streaming down his cheeks.
More hugs and kisses now when I come home from work.
One child often voluntarily gets up early and make me an egg sandwich, exactly the way I like it, before I leave for work.
Homeschooling ten children has been quite a challenge, particularly when six of them barely spoke English. Our three youngest had not learned to read at all (even in Latvian) while in Latvia. To help with the workload, we incentivized the big kids, particularly with teaching the little ones to read. We had small rewards for different milestones, culminating with our grand prize: a trip to Disney when we felt they had mastered beginner reading by reading through the dozens of early reader Bob books. All of the kids did a great job and they all learned to read far more quickly than we anticipated.
Most importantly, the adoption of our children has brought us closer to our Father in heaven. We find God most when we come to the ends of ourselves. Adoption brings me further outside myself and my natural limits, and thankfully beyond my abilities I find more of Christ and far less of me. When I married my beautiful bride Lesley, there was a paradigm shift – living with and for someone beyond just myself. I was not a Christian when I met Lesley so it was a paradigm shift. Having children was another paradigm shift. Not only did it deepen my comprehension of a deeper love (and a better understanding of the Gospel – the intimate, painful nature of a father sacrificing his son), but it also brought me into regular contact with my weaknesses and failings. Parenting is good at that in my experience. Adoption even more so. I have found it somewhat ironic that “outsiders” sometimes tell us they see us as special servants because we adopted a group of kids. Maybe that’s so, however, having ten kids has caused me to realize what a wretch I am in the flesh and how I am in need of a savior and in need of the strength of Christ in my daily walk. It has been humbling. Which is a good thing.
If you are interested in hosting, see here, here (play the video!), and here. There are a lot of children out there yearning for a family, for a mother and father to love and protect them. If interested in adoption, see here. I encourage you login into these sites and view the pictures of the many children and read their stories. If you are considering hosting or adoption, pray hard and trust God. It will not be easy, but you will be glad you did. He will provide.
God is great.