Wednesday, April 30, 2014

these crazy nights

Allow me to describe one of our recent nights.

7:30 PM - Bath water running. We are getting Brody ready to take a bath while watching Brecken sneak into the bathroom.

7:32 PM - Brecken is in the tub, clothes on.

7:35 PM - Two now-naked Littles are now in the tub, scrub-a-dubbing.

7:45 PM - Brad takes Brecken out to get his "P-jammies" on. I get Brody.

7:48 PM - P-jammies on both boys. Brody is settling in to watch a little Daniel Tiger before the 100 easy steps to putting a toddler to bed. Brecken wanders off. (Have we mentioned that his attention span is 0.7 seconds on a good day, and even shorter at night when he's fighting sleep?)

7:49 PM - Brecken has wandered back into the bathtub, fresh P-jammies now soaking wet.


7:55 PM - Brecken now wears fresh-er P-jammies and has made himself comfy in our bed.


8:00-8:25 PM - Enter the 100 steps phase of putting the boys to bed. I think it's actually exponentially more steps if you have multiple toddlers in the house; therefore, we complete the 250 steps to putting two toddlers to bed.

8:26 PM - Brad and I are asleep. Yes, it's borderline narcoleptic but we are tired, people. (OR "We are tired people.")

10:00 PM - Brecken is crying. I go in to check on him, only to be met with an absolutely PUTRID smell. People always say you can handle the smell of your own child's bodily fluids and grossness better than you can handle someone else's. This smell, however, is almost unmanageable to even my nostrils, which are pretty tough (if  I do say so myself). It's puke. And it's all over everything: Brecken. The crib. The sheets. The pillow. The floor. EVERYTHING. Brecken gets a bath (third of the night, if you're counting) while he screams. I suppose it's quite a rude awakening to be thrown in a tub within 2 minutes of waking up, but what are my other options, people? I hand him off to Brad to be dressed in even more fresh P-jammies. I also begin laundry to get rid of that nasty stank as quickly as possible.

10:10 PM - Brecken has new P-jammies. while Now in bed with us.

12:07 AM - Hear a thump, then a quick pat-pat-pat-pat, door opening, then closing with a thud. Brody has entered our bed.

1:15 AM - Brody is coughing straight into my eardrum, so I take Brecken back to his room (which is also Brody's room.). We lay in Brody's bed for a while until Brecken falls asleep.

2:07 AM - I put Brecken in his bed and return to my own bed, where Brody has sort of stopped coughing.

4:30 AM - Brecken is crying again. I go in to check on him. Poop. No, actually, it's diarrhea. All over his crib. More laundry. More bathing. More sleeping in Brody's bed.

5:15 AM - I'm up and getting ready for school. Brecken is now sleeping well, so I leave him in Brody's bed. As I walk by my own bed I see that Brody is sleeping as well as he has slept all night. Not even one cough throughout the entire time I get ready. Of course.

I feel that this adequately explains my reasons for any one of the following characteristics:

grumpiness
fatigue
ugliness (literally or metaphorically)
lack of clarity and focus
confusion
a total mess
appearance resembling one who has been punched in the eyeballs over and over.

It's a little game of "musical pillows" we like to play about once a week. We are such a playful little family...

Monday, April 28, 2014

Seeing C

Even amongst the latest disappointing news that adoptive parents will not be allowed to obtain visas to visit their adopted children in DRC for a certain amount of time, I had a sweet dream Saturday night.

If you read my post last week, you learned that other people have had dreams of Sweet C. I was feeling a bit left out of those Sweet dreams and talked to God about it.

And he responded with a brief and blurred dream, which was all I really needed. 

In it, I had my hands full, kneeling down with either Brecken or both Brecken and Brody, and when I looked up I saw her. Well, I didn't really see her; I simply knew her. She was walking toward me, and I thought aloud, "So you CAN walk! They didn't tell me you could do that yet!"

I was absolutely thrilled to see it in my dream, and I'll be thrilled to see it in real life, when that day comes. Please continue praying for the adoption process in DRC. Hundreds of families are waiting for their children to come home.

(I will also say that Secretary of State John Kerry will be visiting DRC as part of his trip to sub-Saharan Africa this week. I am drafting a letter to "his people" to request that he discuss adoption during his visit. If you'd like to join me, comment here or send me an email. His visit begins TOMORROW, so this is urgent.) 

Friday, April 25, 2014

5K the Kenyan Way

I've been busy getting ready for the 5K the Kenyan Way, which will take place tomorrow at the Branson RecPlex (Pavillion D). If you're interested in running and haven't yet registered, head over to www.generationnextcares.org to do so and save $5 on your entry. 


    And if you're out of state and want to help support the awesome ministry that is continuing to help so     many people, you can register and run a 5K wherever you are, and I'll find a way to get you a sweet shirt!



The weather is looking PERFECT for a morning 5K.


We've got some yummy donuts for your "nutritional" needs:
And we have some great prizes from Ultramax Sports and Play It Again Sports

I triple dog dare you to run it in bare feet, the true Kenyan way. Might even be a surprise or two along the path. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

still dreaming

From the beginning, we have said that we are "dreaming big" for this adoption. We even printed that phrase on our adoption t-shirts.

And lately, people have been telling me they've actually had dreams with C in them. It's a bit weird, because I get a little jealous when people see C in their dreams. (Why am I not able to see her and hold her in mine?? Instead, I have dreams about waking up super late for school--which happened in reality this morning.)

However, it is cool to hear about the dreams featuring our girl.

For example, Brad dreamed we were headed over to DRC to get her and bring her home on September 21. I am hoping that it's true (in 2014, not 2015), but in reality it probably isn't, due to the fact that we have been waiting five months to get our Act of Adoption, and this isn't even the longest part of adoption from DRC. (Sadly, the longest part is waiting for the US Embassy to do investigations, which can take 5-10 months. Good job, US.)

And Emily, one of our amazing nannies, recently had a dream that C was home with us. Emily said she came home one day to find C on my lap, just like it was the most normal and natural thing ever, like she'd been there for a while and all three little Lotz's were just playing as usual. Oh, how I wish that were true.

I read this morning that another family (who has also lost children in DRC and are currently continuing their journey of adoption from DRC) received Act of Adoption paperwork for their kids today. This has given me some hope that MAYBE our Act of Adoption will come soon, as that family accepted their second referrals just after we accepted ours for C. I haven't heard news of adoptions getting through court recently, and I was worried they had stalled out with the suspension of Exit Letters, even though that wasn't the official word.

So there's a little bit of hope that we'll get some fun paperwork and we might get to go visit our girl soon.

But for now, we wait until that dream is a reality.

Monday, April 21, 2014

three sources of instruction for parents

There are times in every mom's life when she realizes what she is truly teaching her kids.

For example, when then-one-year-old Brody found the Hershey's syrup bottle and walked around the house with it to his mouth, I wondered: Why on earth would he automatically choose syrup over other food items?

Mystery solved: He probably saw me hanging out with a Hershey's bottle more often than he saw me hanging out with a carrot. To him, it was normal to spend daily time with Hershey's.

Or when Brecken began rifling through everyone's Easter baskets yesterday, looking for candy. Well, not just any candy; specifically, chocolate candy. I often wonder why he goes straight for the good stuff (the chocolate stuff) that I want to eat when he goes to bed.

Then my husband kindly points out the fact that much of my pregnancy diet consisted of bedtime ice cream snacks and Milky Way minis. Drat. But that's why he is so sweet, right?

Sidenote: Actually, if Brody were to describe him, he would call him "spicy," as he calls all remotely sour foods. Yes, Brecken is remotely sour...ah-em..."spicy." But he is also super sweet. Case in point: This pic was taken in a sweet moment right after a very spicy 10 minutes in his be last night.


We are trying to teach and train our kids well. We are trying to teach them about biblical truths, how to treat others, whom to trust, and how to eat nutritious foods (and I am trying to be a better example in all of the above).

However, I have found that much of our parental instruction comes from the following three sources (or a combo of all three at one time, if necessary):

1 - What my parents did. My parents raised some pretty good kids who became great adults. (No, I am not referring to myself. I was the last child by a long eight years, and I'd say by the time I rolled out they said, "we get what we get" and then proceeded to still be awesome parents.)

2 - What the Bible says. We get help in this area by learning from people who are more wise than ourselves: Teachers, church leaders, friends whose kids are kind and caring, and authors who have written the following mind-altering books:



I truly believe I need a hat with a clip on the front to hold Plowman's book open in front of me as I go about my day. It helps me learn to teach the boys in biblical language (Example: "lies" vs. "fibs" or "stories")

I have tried to memorize all of the kind, sweet, gentle statements in it, but to no avail. I still yell in frustration or simply take deep breaths when one child has turned the bath water on while the other throws my makeup in it to make colors or when one child has a panic attack because the other child touched his leg with his toe.

And I still huff and puff in agitation when one child jams bubble gum inside the container of soapy bubbles and then wails when I won't fix it. Oh, the tragedies.

But the easiest words of instruction come from our last source...

3 - What Daniel Tiger sings.


I come to him when I need certain gems of practical wisdom. Things like:

"When you're frustrated, take a step back...and ask for help." (Did Daniel provide this advice for children or moms? Seriously.)

"Grownups come back." (For when Mommy and Daddy leave for work or simply go downstairs for laundry.)

"You can take a turn, and then I'll get it back." (But only if Mom is watching...if not, I'll fight or bite you for it.)

"Find a way to play together. And find a way to care for each other." (For when one child bites the other child...see above.)

[Need to hear the songs mentioned above? Here are some snippets.]

Brad was gone last night because he and his manly-man buds are hunting, and Brody got sad he wasn't there to tuck him in bed. Then, out of nowhere--like a chorus of toddler angels from heaven--he started singing, "Grownups come back." Kids are SPONGES, I tell you. He *nailed the pitch. (*Parental opinions are not accurate.)

On that note, a quick pause for a shout-out/moment of silence/e-hug to single parents out there corralling multiple munchkins. Good gravy. Not sure how you do it all day, e'ery day...and then all night.

Lastly, the other day when Brody got mad because he couldn't get water to spray out of the hose, Brad called him over to talk to him.

"What happened over there?"

Without missing a beat, Brody sang, "When you're frustrated, take a step back..."

Brad came over to me a minute later saying, "That's not how I envisioned that conversation going, but I'll take it."

(On that note, a quick pause for a quick shout-out/moment of silence/e-hug to single parents out there. Good gravy. Not sure how you do it all day, e'ery day.)

Clearly, I'm still learning how to be a parent. Now, if I could just get my kids to stop telling on me to my own parents. This morning, when my parents came to get the boys before school, the first thing out of Brody's mouth was this: "I put gum in my bubbles and Mommy threw the bubbles in the trash."

Yes, yes I did. "When you're frustrated, take a step back and ask for help."

Daniel Tiger, I need you.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Celebrating

It's Good Friday. It's April 18. We have much to celebrate. 

Clearly, we celebrate Christ's work on the cross and His resurrection. We celebrate God's perfect plan and His fulfilled promises. We celebrate the fact that it appeared death had won, BUT GOD. He had a bigger, mysteriously miraculous plan to overcome all earthly odds.

We celebrate the W. 

And today we, personally, celebrate other W's. 

On Good Friday three years ago we received the unbelievable news that we could bring Brody home to Missouri with us after five weeks of stress in Kentucky. We breathed a sign of relief as we crossed state lines with miraculous ICPC clearance to spend Easter with our home church and framily (shout out to Sprint for the terminology). 

It's also April 18. On this date two years ago we finalized our adoption of Brody. The odds were against us. Things looked bleak for a long time. We imagined the worst for ourselves and a future without Brody.

But God.  

Again, God had a plan. We breathed a sigh of relief as His bigger, mysteriously miraculous plan worked for our good once again.

So, today, we celebrate. (Awkward smiles and all.)




These are our miraculous children. (We celebrate most things with cupcakes and these are the faces they make when I tell them to smile...what can I say?)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

fetch me a paddle

Lately, hopes have risen high, only to be dropped back down again with a thud. We have this crazy adoption. We have these hopes for next year. We have these plans about how it "should" go.

For you visual learners, we have this:

Image shared by JD Huitt of Hallowed Ground Outdoors

So here we are. I picture us in that valley of water (above) without a paddle in our boat. We can still reach the end, but we will have to be daring.

The delegation that planned to visit the US to see our awesome adoptive families...they aren't coming, at least for now. DGM will not allow it. At least for now.

We had such great hopes for this visit. But we wait again. At least for now.

The adoption decree we hoped to have in our hands by now. It's not here yet. We hoped to officially be a family of five by now. But we wait. At least for now. (Just so you know, I am still praying for good news by Friday. After all, we did receive great news that we could go HOME with Brody on Good Friday 2011. Why not make it Good Friday again? That would add to the goodness of Good Friday, indeed.)

The hope we had for next year: Less stress, less worry, more time for our kids, more time for others. That hope was in our hands. We had everything but a formal contract. I was making plans. (Maybe I shouldn't have been making plans--counting chickens before they hatched--but I couldn't resist the thought of a less stressful future.)

No contract came. Instead, a closed door. But maybe an open window.

So we wait again, at least for now. Because, honestly, we know there's a plan that we don't know now. (Try wrapping your head around that one.)

So what shall we do? 

"And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." (Galatians 6:9)

"Count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." (James 1:2-4)

Dear Lord, please do not let us faint. And help us to count this wait as joy. We trust your plan. 

"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end." (Jeremiah 29:11...one of my favorites)

But maybe I'm being melodramatic in my weariness.

After all, I've always liked a good adventure. Someone fetch me a paddle and a granola bar. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

respite

As I have mentioned before, I have been learning plenty about foster care. (You can read some of the local stats here.)

But there's more.

In July 2013, there were 406,822 children in foster care and 161,000 orphaned children in the United States. (This might lead some to ask why we are adopting from a different country. I get that. However, kids in the United States have a much healthier society, and a more stable government and environment than do children in DRC. About 20% of children in DRC, for example, die before their 5th birthday. This does not mean, however, that we won't be serving the US foster care system in some way.)

Also, OVER 200,000 children have "aged out" of the foster care system in the last decade.

Results of aging out: 
Homelessness: More than 50% experienced homelessness
Pregnancy: More than 75% of young women had been pregnant since leaving foster care
Unemployment: Over 50% were unemployed
Criminal action: Nearly 60% of young men had been convicted of a crime, with more than 80% being arrested

And consider this: Only 6% had a 2- or 4-year degree (which greatly diminishes opportunity) and  66% of children in foster care move 7 or more times while in care.

Financially speaking, the estimated social cost per child per year is $300,000, totaling to an estimated $8,000,000,000 cost to the United States per year.

So, while we all can't necessarily get involved in foster care at this very moment, we can do something very simple and important to help the system: Respite care, something I didn't even know about until our recent adoption ministry meetings at church.

Respite care provides foster parents with a much-needed break to spend time alone, to unite with friends, or take a vacation. It's not that the kids are bad; it's just that trying to change lives and be a solid example of love and grace can get exhausting. Who wouldn't need a vacation with all of the ways foster families are trying to change lives for the future while also dealing with the past from so many different angles?

Respite care for  foster families is needed in a huge way. One woman at our meeting said that it's a huge blessing to foster parents, as rest is not something they get to enjoy often. She also said she hates to call people to ask for help, but sometimes it's necessary. When those people say no and there is no one else on the list to call, it can feel like they're falling into a black hole of desperation.

But the good news: Respite care is not hard, and it doesn't require a huge or lengthy commitment. It might be a great way to get your feet wet in the foster care system. All you have to do is call your local Children's Division to get licensed (without doing the 9-10 weeks of training that is required for foster parents). And you don't have to provide care for weeks at a time; maybe just an evening or two.

Sounds easy enough, right? I dare you to check into it.

*Stats are from Cherish Kids, JRA's Foster Care and Adoption Ministry.

Monday, April 14, 2014

but seriously

Last week, I laid out the plan for next year as I enter a new adventure in life: staying home. I was a bit idealistic and shared some pretty ridiculously high standards I'd like to meet next year, but I recognize that I won't meet them most days. Despite impending doom and failure, I still plan to try to meet those standards. I've done a lot crazier things in a 24-hour time period.

However, if all else fails, I have a more flexible "Plan B" to fall back on. It involves the following:

Working from home (This is a necessity, people. The kids still need to eat and be clothed and, therefore, I still need to make money.) Good thing I thoroughly enjoy what I'll be doing. Thoroughly.

Being with my boys WAY more, and being with them in a less time-constricted, stress-packed state. And hopefully being with my girl at home, too.

Watching my friend's sweet baby in the afternoons.

BSF.

Cooking more/smarter grocery shopping (Again, a necessity.)

Exercising WAY more regularly. I just feel so much better when I'm active. SO. MUCH. BETTER.

Writing. I just love it.

Volunteering (with ABI, Convoy of Hope, our church adoption and college ministries, etc.)

And lastly, more of the stuff I used to do before life got out of control. Things like writing letters to my Granny, making cookies for other people, and sending words of encouragement. I used to be decently good at these things, but they've been dropped like a bad habit in the past few years. But they're good habits, and I'm bringing them back, people!

Friday, April 11, 2014

a love letter {for Sweet C}

We are in the middle of a campaign to help bring kids home from DRC. It has involved writing letters, sending emails, making calls, and writing some more. The petition I mentioned last week now has almost 46,000 signatures that have sent 110,000+ letters to members of Congress. In addition, as a result of those letters and phone calls to offices all over the US, as many as 200 members of Congress are stepping forward to sign a letter that extends their hands to DRC officials, seeking a solution to expedite children's trips HOME. Hallelujah! 

The next part of the campaign involves writing short love letters to the kids and sharing our pictures. Hundreds of these love letters and pictures will be combined into a book that will be presented to DRC officials and delegates on their trip to the US in a few weeks (when they will also be meeting with families who have adopted from DR Congo and have their children home). 

I've decided to share our letter. 

Hello little one, Sweet [C]. This is the first time we have put into written words the depth of our love and the width of our desire to be your forever family. It’s hard to know where to start when telling you of our love and our family. We have loved you since we saw our first picture of you in October, and although we are separated by thousands of miles of land and sea, our love for you grows each day as we wait to bring you home.

We have two little boys at home now; they are your soon-to-be older brothers. Brody, who was also adopted (from Kentucky), is three years old; he asks about you daily. Sometimes when he sees a plane flying in the air he asks if it is going to Africa to bring his baby sister—you—home. We always answer him with this: We wish that was true, but it’s not today. One day it will be true and our family will be together forever. Brecken, our one-year-old, is too young to understand that you will be his little sister, but we think you’ll get plenty of slobbery kisses from him. (Lucky you.)

Our arms long to hold you, snuggle you, kiss your ouchies, and tell you how much we love you. We can hardly wait to hear you call us “Mama” and “Daddy,” and we already call you “daughter.”

[C], your name means “mercy.” We believe God gave us mercy in finding you for our family. When you come home, we plan to give you the full name [C] Kaleo Lotz. In its entirety, it means “Mercy Called.” We think that’s fitting for you, and we can’t wait for the phone call that says, “Go get your daughter. She can come home.”

Thursday, April 10, 2014

the plan

Way back in February, I wrote this post about people wanting to know my "plan" for next year. I accidentally lied and said I'd be back the next week with "THE PLAN," but never made it back around to the topic again. (I got distracted by a few things--one of which was a costly broken well pump that sent me into a brief spiral into the depths of despair and annoyance, ok?)

I'm back now and no longer angry about the well pump issue. That's life, right?

Here is my perfectly planned daily schedule for next year:

5:15-5:45 -- Get my sweat on. (Run, pushups, burpees, situps, etc.) I want a regular exercise schedule so badly, but it's nearly impossible right now. Next year, I'm sure it will be easier, like this:

Whether you're pajama-bound by subzero temperatures, trapped in a gym-less hotel room, or you're just purely 100% anti-gym, the Do Anywhere, Body Weight Workout can provide a BEASTLY sweat-session regardless of location. This turbocharged full-body circuit will torch your muscles and make the sweat drip, all without the need for costly equipment.

5:45-6:00 -- Shower and look awesome in 15 minutes or less. Probably look like this when I"m done:


6:00-6:15 -- Eat food that was prepared overnight and set plates for the boys' breakfasts.

6:15-noon -- Work on Generation Next nonprofit stuff, which includes social media, development, event planning, and grant writing. (Did you know I was doing this? I am. And so excited about it!) I will need to work about 25-35 hours a week to financially help the family survive the times.

We plan to have a college girl live with us for free again and watch the boys for a few hours a day. Surely the boys will sleep in until at least 7:30 each day, right?

Kids will be dressed like this:

summer outfit for Baby J...crop shorts, a cardigan, AND a tricycle? I can't handle the cuteness...

12:00-12:30 -- Cook and eat homemade organic amazing meals full of veggies and whole foods. They will also be pleasing to the eye and tastebuds, like this:

Project Lunchbox: 30 days of homemade, unprocessed, healthy lunches. Has a link to a PDF that includes all the meals.  great for summer for kids while home, too  makes it easy for them to grab lunch when they get hungry; this and snack boxes including frozen ones with homemade Popsicle from yogurt or fruit juice are really handy to have around... make a week's worth on weekend with kids to help Fresh Food Friday: 25 Kid-Friendly Healthy Meals and Snacks | Six Sisters' StuffSummer Salad Chicken Flautas with Spicy Avocado Sauce


12:30-1:00 -- Teach Brody to read chapter books and help him understand theologically sound doctrine. Teach Brecken to speak one full sentence.

1:00-3:30 -- Boys nap for 2.5 hours. I will complete daily household tasks, such as folding laundry, cleaning, doing dishes, wiping gunk off of the floor from lunch, and paying bills. Then I'll do more GN work.

House will look like this:

patterned garlands great post on affordable RUGS. Easy and Cheap DIY Plank Wall!  So Pretty... LOVE it! organized master closet-see all the details to keeping a master closet organized and maximize a small space.

Also in the afternoon: My friend's sweet baby will come to my house so I can watch him. My boys will instantly become more kind, considerate and caring. :o)

3:30-4:00 -- Craft time. The boys and I will probably make some things that look like this:

kids crafts, dutch site. cute felt finger puppets (no sewing machine required)Handprint Caterpillar Preschool Craft, Spring Kids Crafts Love this for our green day! toilet paper roll owls... cute crafts #kids #crafts by Naghma

4:00-5:00 -- Outdoor fun time! Probably exactly like this:

25 Water Games and Activities for Kids DIY Outdoor Games -Perfect for Backyard Fun

5:00-5:15 -- "Sensory" play activity for development -- Remind me to Google what that means, exactly.

Moon sand. Just 8 cups of flour and 1 cup of baby oil, really soft and easy to clean up. Great Sensory Activities for Kids

5:15-6:00 -- Dinner will magically cook itself because of my excessively awesome cooking skills (hmm) and our entire family (and maybe my friend's baby, if he's there) will all eat together and enjoy life, stress-free. Dinners will look like this:

Creamy Chicken Quinoa and Broccoli Casserole - real food meets comfort food. From scratch, quick and easy, 350 calories. | pinchofyum.com chicken lo meinScampi-Style Steak & Scallops with Roasted Asparagus: 30-Minute Valentine Dinner Easy week night meal! Garlic & lemon chicken with green beans & red potatoes! Just toss it in the oven.

6:00-7:00 -- Family time: Outside play time or reading time.

7:00-7:30 -- Unwind time for all. Like this:

Fire pit area...

7:30-8:00 -- Bedtime baths, teeth-brushing, Bible-reading and prayers. ZZZ's for kids.

8:00-9:00 -- Brad and I will watch Parenthood while I coupon, craft, or do volunteer work. Because Brad just loves to watch Parenthood.

Crafts will probably look like this, after I learn to sew and take great photographs, of course:

Don't let limited seating keep you from inviting all your friends to your next soiree! Make these giant floor pillows by Mandy Made!  cute for frame wall #wreath Evergreen 12 Patch Canvas Wall Decor - PerfectHarmony...DIY with scrapbook paper?

9:00-10:00 -- Pack a lunch for Bradlee, BSF study time, finish reading through the Bible in a year.

10:00 -- Bedtime (Sadly, this is over an hour past my current bedtime.)

The boys will sleep all the way through the night every night and wake up around 7:30 or 8:00 in the morning. I'll also volunteer at Convoy of Hope and our adoption agency, and we'll do foster care or begin another adoption while waiting to bring Sweet C home. :o)

*All pictures are from Pinterest, where all moms go to feel inadequate. 

**I'm not an idealist at all. 

**Please note the tones of sarcasm involved in this post. I hope to share a more flexible plan later. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

fostering hope

I recently heard some CRAZY statistics regarding foster care numbers in our area, so of course I'm about to try and blow your mind.

If you're like me, you probably assume that bigger cities have the biggest problems when it comes to child neglect and abuse, and by sheer number you might be right. However, per capita, Greene County's numbers exceed those of several other counties in Missouri, including those encompassing St. Louis and Kansas City.

Here are the most current numbers (from December 2013) related to Greene County, according to the program director at the Missouri Baptist Children's Home:

Child abuse/neglect reports: 311 (that's 10 per day in Greene County alone)
Children entering foster care: 12
Children entering other placement types (adoptive homes, relative homes and group homes): 20
Children in foster care: 331
Total children in care (foster care and other placements): 518
Number of licensed foster care homes: 112
Number of foster homes in use: 86

Furthermore, these numbers reach into the THOUSANDS in our extended area, leaving hundreds of children out of foster homes because there are not enough homes available. Instead, children are placed in group homes where--as you can imagine--it's much more difficult for them to feel secure, special, and loved (try as the directors might).

This is more than a shame; it's a tragedy. We need more people willing to put a child's heart before their own hearts.

Some people say they just can't do foster care; it's just too hard. Their excuse usually sounds something like this (and I may have been guilty of using it at one point in my life): "I will love those kids too much and then have my heart broken when they leave."

I would imagine that when a person who IS a foster parent hears this, they think: "You don't think WE love those kids? You don't think WE have had our hearts broken for them over and over again? You don't think WE care for the kids by waking up in the middle of the night to receive them into our home and then taking them to visit their birth families, only to see them go back to heartbreaking situations? You don't think we cry when we think about losing them or about their uncertain futures?"

Foster parents do all of that, and they do it while knowing their hearts might get shattered at any point along the way.

Foster love is deep love. It loves kids it doesn't even know, and it loves them so fiercely that it just wants what is best for them. It loves children out of hard spots. Sometimes it just loves children through hard spots, only to have to send them back into the hard spots. Foster love is messy. Foster love accepts children as family while recognizing that forever might not ever happen. Foster love might hope to be forever-family love, or it might be a brief blessing during a time of family crisis. Foster love gets its heart broken over and over again. And, even then, it usually goes back for more.

Because foster love wants to help children so badly that it puts its own agenda aside and hopes to mend little broken hearts that don't understand what's going on. (Or, even worse, those broken hearts do understand what's going on.)

Foster love recognizes the many risks involved, but it thinks little hearts are more important than potentially huge heartbreak.

I recently met a woman who had hosted over 120 children in her home through foster care. If you don't think her heart was broken at least that many times, you are probably somewhat delusional. However, her persistence and passion for the mission of foster care leads me to the conclusion that foster love will tell you it's worth it.

Today, please pray for the foster families you know and the children they are loving, far and wide. Please ask God to hold them and bring them peace, and ask him how you may help.

And be ready if he tells you to risk the heartbreak of it all to be a loving family to a child who needs one.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Three specific reasons Congress should listen

Here are two AMAZING reasons it's important for Congress to inquire about the on the Department of State's delay in working on behalf of US families and children in DR Congo:

1)
Baby Joshua, found in DRC weighing under 2lbs.


He now looks like this!!! (Due to an emergency Exit Letter 
and excellent medical care in the states.

2)
Sweet Imara, who was abused and tortured 
because extended family believed her to be a witch. 

And here she is now. 
What a difference! 

Clearly, both of these children are still battling through some pretty major health challenges, but without the persistence of our adoption agency, some open hearts in Congo, and some clear MIRACLES, they didn't stand much of a chance. 

Currently, the Congolese office that issues Exit Letters says none will be given to anyone, even those with severe medical issues. Sadly, just yesterday morning I read that a little girl with a family that was waiting to bring her home died because she couldn't get an emergency exit letter for medical purposes. She was very sick and needed immediate care in an advanced facility, but red tape prohibited her from getting it. This should not happen when care is available.

So really, there are THREE reasons--two successes and one tragic loss--that our Congress should be checking on the Department of State to make sure they are doing everything possible to work with DRC to find a solution to this problem. DRC has every right to make sure adoptions are processed ethically and legally; however, lives should not hang in the balance to do so. (And, no, I don't really blame DRC for checking on adoption cases, I just wish they'd do it quicker. I do blame people who have not acted ethically for some of these delays in adoption. But that is for another day.)

Want to know more about Joshua and Imara? Go here.
Want to know more about the situation in Congolese adoptions? Go here
Want to see the petition that got over 101,000 signatures in less than a week? Go here

Friday, April 4, 2014

JM

As an adoptive mom, I see HUNDREDS of stories every week about children who are aging out of the system. "Aging out" means they will NEVER have a family, and they will be on their own to fend for themselves the rest of their lives. Can you imagine?

It's hard to hear the stories and imagine what life will be like for them unless something changes.

So then I start researching 15-passenger vans while my husband shakes his head at me. (He'd be researching it, too, if he wasn't so stinking realistic.)

Truth be told, we can't afford to help all of them through adoption. But maybe we can help in other ways, and I'm going to try.

I feel compelled to share information about a precious boy who needs a family, just in case there is ONE family out there who might be able to help.

He goes by JM. He is twelve years old and from Philippines. He desperately needs a Christian home where he can be the youngest or only child. (This is not because of anything he has done, but because he will thrive best under the direction and protective covering of older siblings or parents).

JM was matched with a family that quickly fell in love with every little piece of him, but due to a crisis situation they were unable to finalize his adoption. Now he is just WAITING in an orphanage in the Philippines for a family to come claim him as their own child, and his time is running out. 

From mere pictures, it's hard for us to even understand the depths of his sweet personality, his desperate desire to have a family and the immediate need for a family to find him. He can't seek out a family on his own, you see. A family must FIND HIM and CLAIM HIM and LOVE HIM as their own. 

The woman who shared his story told me that, "without a doubt, if he does not find a family NOW his chances are very, very slim at ever finding one."

Oh, the heartbreak! Yet his pictures don't show it. He looks like THE HAPPIEST, most content, adventurous little boy I've ever seen. I have been told that he is smart, very athletic, and extremely cute. It helps that he is LOVING LIFE in every picture I have seen.

(UPDATE: The pictures I have are of when he was with the family that hoped to adopt him, which explains that amazing smile. Double heartbreak: being THAT CLOSE to having a family and not seeing it happen. I hope he is smiling as he waits. It's the most glowing and joyful smile I've seen in a long time.) 

Can you imagine just waiting for someone to claim you? It's unfathomable to me, yet it's happening to him (and thousands of others) and he has done nothing to deserve it.

I have four pictures in my hand but am unable to share them publicly. Please let me know if you are interested in learning more about him or seeing his pictures.

Prayers for and hugs to JM. He deserves a family. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Ignore what I just said

Remember that one time (ah-hem, yesterday) when I said I don't ever expect anyone to do anything regarding the things I share?

I need you to ignore that, just for today, and go sign a petition to help bring kids home from DR Congo. (As usual, great timing on yesterday's blog, Jenny.)

Both Ends Burning (the creators of Stuck, a film about the issues in international adoption) has joined forces with adoptive parents of orphans in DRC to create a movement, and we now have a petition to express the intense need to bring these children home quickly.

You can find the petition here, and it only takes a few minutes to sign. When you sign, it automatically sends emails to Congresspeople in your district and state, and it also sends one to President Obama. This petition just went live last night, and it already has over 14,000 signatures.

Here it is again. Please sign it, and know that tomorrow you can go back to disregarding the things I write: http://www.petition2congress.com/14960/please-help-resolve-pending-adoptions-from-democratic-republic-co/?m=5285847

I don't think I need to remind you that 20% of kids in DRC die before their 5th birthday or that dysentery, malaria, a lack of adequate food, and a multitude of other problems are all serious threats to their health every day. This means that every day a child remains in DRC, particularly those without parents to protect them, is a day they could become seriously ill.

Not to mention the fact that it's one more day that adoptive parents' hearts are spread between two different countries.

Several people I know have been waiting over a year--sometimes two--to bring their children home. It is heartbreaking that, although they have officially adopted a child, they are not allowed to bring that child into their home because of one office in DRC.

It's weird how I never wanted to get involved in politics, yet in the last three weeks I have signed more petitions and sent more emails and letters than I could have ever imagined, and I have gotten up early to write more and become more involved in government than I had ever dreamed ("nightmared?").

Oh, the things you do for your kids.

Hugs,

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

the heart

I have a deep-seated need to find purpose and meaning in what I do. Whether it's folding clothes (all day, e'ery day!) or sharing stories of a village in African in desperate need of clean water, a sense of purpose brings my heart such joy and satisfaction that I would hate to imagine spending my time just punching a time clock or doing paperwork for a company in which I don't identify or find some sort of meaning.

Some of you are doing these last two things; I realize this. I have done it, too, and there is nothing wrong with it. My need for intense purpose is a weird personality quirk/character flaw I'm working through, and I totally respect you and your hard work in your job. Furthermore, I'm thrilled to say that "punching a time clock" at a PR company long ago gave me skills, desires, and practice to get me closer to a calling I hadn't yet discovered. Take heart!

My heart has always been pulled in multiple directions. In college, I am pretty sure I declared four different majors, graduated with two, then worked in PR and returned to school to become a teacher. Nice.

In fact, my heart is pulled in so many directions that I'm not sure where I would follow it if I were to follow the world's advice to "Follow your heart." Or, to put it better in the song of Lady Antebellum: "Let your heart, sweetheart, be your compass when you're lost and you should follow it wherever it may go." (Catchy song--and I love it--but sometimes it's not that simple, people. If only life were a catchy singalong melody where people randomly joined in with a banjo and a few collective claps and "heys.")

And maybe I shouldn't follow my heart; it's not always been a great compass. After all, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" and "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies." (Lamentations 17:9 and Matthew 15:19) 

Yikes. 

However, I also know that God turns hearts, and I think he's turning mine in a few very distinct directions. (So maybe it is like a compass...does this make Lady A biblical?! I kid.)

My heart has been turned toward certain convictions. It bleeds for the hurts of the broken and defenseless, and it wants to speak up for those who cannot.Many causes are important, and I find such extreme joy in helping (or at least trying to help) in those situations that I want to spend my time and energy trying to fix them. ALL of them.

However, I do not assume or expect that others feel the same or share the same enthusiasm for the same things I do. As a preliminary example, I have a deep desire for chocolate, and I will spend a great deal of time and energy eating it because I think it's awesome and worth it.

But some of you weirdos don't understand that desire. And that's ok.

Let's take another example: My heart leaps for adoption. I could talk about it all day long; a large feat for someone who admittedly dislikes talking. Adoption has changed my life in more ways than one, and it's hard for me to understand where others are so resolutely against it.

But I don't expect everyone to adopt. Our friends once told Brad and I that adoptive parents have sometimes made them feel guilty for having biological children, and not adopting. I never want anyone to feel that way. I don't even want anyone to feel guilty for not supporting us financially in our adoption. It was our decision to adopt, and while we know we were called to it and God will provide through it (using others to do so as He desires), we do not expect that our friends and family provide for us, because they didn't make the decision to adopt; we did. After all, other people are called to other things.

How about another example: My heart beats for orphan care. I've read too many awful stories of children who have lost both parents, then their siblings, then were nearly starved in an orphanage deep in the jungle because no one was around to help. This happens thousands of times over and over again, and for the longest time I was absolutely blind to it. But now I know, and I can't help but be passionate about it.

But I don't expect everyone else to be passionate about it.

Take another example of : Pregnancy Care Center support. As someone who has felt just the slightest sting of empty arms, supporting an organization that empowers women facing unexpected pregnancies to choose life--amazing, miraculous life--has helped me heal from some of the hurts of loss.

But I don't expect everyone else to be passionate about it. After all, I was everyone else once, too, and I am currently "everyone else" in a lot of different categories. Need examples of this? Supreme pet love, animal rights, steak love, sports on TV, Paleo diets, and Nerium. (I don't 'get' these, but others do. I think that's ok.)

I'm also passionate about fitness and family preservation and preventing child hunger and access to clean water and serving a great God with amazing plans.

After all, these causes are all very personal to me. But they might be lost on others, and that is okay.

We don't give to all of the causes I mentioned above. We don't even give money to all of the causes I share on Facebook or mention on the blog. I wholeheartedly wish we could do that, but we've chosen just a few things we can support financially (which automatically has to include school fundraisers for our students and family; and even then, we sometimes say no).

Therefore, I certainly don't expect people who read this or my Facebook posts to give to all of the things I support (financially or otherwise), our adoption, or things I share on the blog. We don't expect anyone to give anything to any of the causes, for that matter.

The last thing I want as a result of this blog is for people to feel guilty or obligated to give when they read. I never want anyone to feel like they should run from me or this blog because of the guilt they might feel when I share information or hurts based on something that's going on (such as dysentery tragedies in DRC, education in Kenya, and foster care needs right where we are...more on this later).

In other words, I'm not a salesperson, offering up products I want you to buy or opportunities in which I think you should be involved. Do I want you to be involved in these things? Of course, but only because I've seen such amazing things come out of opening my eyes to bigger issues. But don't ever mistake me for a salesperson--I never could be--and I never expect your involvement.

Shoot, I don't even want people to feel obligated to read the blog.

So why do I share a lot of articles, opinions, and information here and on Facebook? I share them because I think they are important--so important that they change lives--and I share them so can join the cause if they so choose. As an educator, I truly believe knowledge is power, so I write to inform. Just one person who becomes a foster parent, respite care provider, adoptive parent, donor for clean water, or anything else has the potential to change hundreds of lives directly, and thousands of lives generationally.

But if that person isn't you--if you have other things on your heart that don't involve any of the things about which I write--do those things!

Lastly, my heart is to encourage others through this blog. While I know that not all of my posts are encouraging (take last week's post, for example), I think some people can take heart in knowing that they're not alone in some of their struggles.


(PS I just like this song.)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

letter-writing

I had a few thoughts to share today, but I found out yesterday about an effort to help the DRC adoption situation, and I've been working on it since early this morning. (This after a crazy overnight experience that included 4 baths for our almost-two-year old, his pukey mess incident, his diarrhea mess incident, a 90-second interval-coughing 3-year-old, and two trips to the washing machine. Do I share too much?)

Adoptive parents are working in a united effort to bring attention to the issues with exit letters in DRC, and we have a plan over the next few days. I'm not sure who wrote the form letter, but I've adapted it and left out parts of it for blogging purposes to maintain privacy and potency so our efforts are not diminished. If you are interested in helping, please consider writing a letter to your state's Congress members on our behalf or on behalf of all parents adopting from DRC. I am sending these letters to every Congress member in Missouri and the White House, provided I can get it done.

And of course, prayers are always appreciated. We know who is truly in control here, but He allows us to be involved.

Dear Representative .....,

Our names are Brad and Jenny Lotz and we reside at .... Missouri.  We are adopting from Democratic Republic of Congo and have been waiting five months to finalize our child's adoption and begin the process of bringing her home. Her name is "C" and she is approximately eight months old, although we will never know her true age, as she was found (.....)

We am writing you to ask for help in uniting our family. Currently, the DRC has suspended issuing exit letters, which are normally issued by the DRC government and needed to leave the county with adopted children, even if the adoption has been finalized. Our adoption is in process, and in a few months "C" will officially be our daughter, although I must tell you that she is already our daughter in our hearts. Several other families have already completed adoptions from DRC, but they have not been allowed to unite their families because of this suspension in the issuance of exit letters. The Department of State has sent a delegation to DRC and are planning a DRC delegation to come here, but the officials who are coming are not from the DGM office, which is where exit letters are normally issued and thus, where the current problems lie. They are saying the suspension was put in place because they have concerns about the welfare of the children who are already in the US and want to see them and the parents. We understand these concerns and are glad they are checking on the children, but we are wondering why it is taking so long. The investigating began in September 2013, and they say they "may" begin issuing exit letters in September 2014. 

Why is the DOS not addressing this issue with the DGM?  Currently, there are approximately 130 children sitting in DRC with US visas, but they cannot cross any borders to come home, and approximately 500 children (our “daughter” included) are in the adoption process. We are begging for your help in finding a solution to get these children home. Every extra day they stay is a day they may get sick and die. DRC is the second poorest country in the world, 40% of children do not make it until their 5th birthday, and most people eat only 2-4 meals a week.  Recently 33 children died of dysentery in an orphanage. Two of those children were two-month-old twins we were in the process of adopting, and our hearts ripped in two when we heard then news that they had suffered and died and then considered the fact that they would have had to stay in a dangerous place even longer because of the DGM’s decision to halt exit letters. We need your help desperately before something else happens, but also because it feels as though our hearts are living in two different countries at this time.

We appreciate your help and ask that you please send me a response letting me know if you have reached out to the Department of State and expressed your concern for the welfare of these children.

Thank you for your time and for considering our request.

Sincerely,

Brad and Jenny Lotz



FYI: Tomorrow we are emailing, Thursday faxing and next Monday, calling. Help us if you can!