Abiding in Him, Adoption, Parenting, Uncategorized

Been M.I.A.

I have been M.I.A. this week…you can find me buried somewhere under the craziness of Christmas preparation, party hosting, adoption paperwork, home study prep at my house, and life.

The reality that we are doing this AGAIN is settling over me more and more and hits in waves. Sometimes overwhelming joy. Sometimes paralyzing panic.

Case in point ~ this past Sunday morning. Being a campus pastor, Mark is out the door to church alone and early on Sunday mornings. Leaving me to get the crew up, ready, and out the door….which is why we attend the latest service possible=).  As we were running crazy late, and I had one middle school girl melting down over her hair, a energetic boy who just took his steroids bouncing off the walls, a super compliant child, who is always up and ready, but this particular day was having a crisis of attire, and a teenage son who was sleeping like a hibernating bear….I thought WHAT IN THE WORLD ARE WE DOING??????? These children can DRESS THEMSELVES. They can BRUSH THEIR OWN TEETH. They can even pour THEMSELVES a bowl of cereal…and we are STILL RUNNING LATE!!!!  I am turning 40 years old in less than 3 weeks…..WHAT ARE WE DOING ADOPTING A TODDLER??????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!?????????????? In essence starting over. Dax is 9yrs old. Mae is 17 months. That is over a 7 yr gap. WHAT IN THE WORLD???? I am shopping in the toddler section AGAIN!!!! SUREAL.

And just when I think maybe we have lost our minds I catch a glimpse of the WHO. The WHY. The TRUTH. The HOPE. The JOY. The precious little one that God has chosen to bless our family with. I suddenly feel this deep instinctual drive to GET to HER!!!!!!!!!! To wrap my momma arms around her and kiss the top of her head. The moments of fear fad away and SHE ~ Mae Yossell ~ replaces them all. I suddenly feel that super momma power that would move heaven and earth for your child. And then the “I HAVE TO”…..help a little one get dressed, learn to potty, brush their teeth, and pour some more juice (a million times)…..blossoms into “I GET TO”. I get to.

Children are a gift. Never ever to be taken for granted. God is blessing us with another one!!!!!!!!! Now that is an amazing Christmas present!!! So I am taking a deep breath, embracing my busy days, loving my hubby and kiddos, and KEEPING MY EYES SET ON THE HOPE BEFORE ME IN CHRIST.

Praying you each have a great Christmas week as you keep your eyes focused on the GREATEST GIFT of all….Jesus.

Blessings

Tona

Abiding in Him, Adoption, Parenting

On waiting, wondering, controlling, & grumping

It has been 7 years since our last international adoption, but the feelings have flooded back, like an old friend picking right up where we left off. They are all too familiar. The aching and longing to be with my child. Yet, we are separated by an ocean, an incomplete home study, a dossier to finish, a million appointments, money to be raised, a to do list as long at the constitution, and months and months and months of waiting. All I have to cling to is the idea of her and a few pictures.

Questions flood my thoughts….

Who is tucking her in? Does she get a good night kiss? Do the nanny’s sing bedtime songs or do special night-time hugs? Does her tummy feel hungry in between meal times? What makes her giggle? What makes her do that deep belly laugh that every parent loves? Is she timid or daring? Does she fall asleep easily? Does she wake in the night? If so, does anyone comfort her? What does she smell like right after a bath? Does she play well with other children? What makes her anxious? What is her favorite toy? What is she doing right this minute? When she is fussy, what calms her? Does she have a favorite little friend? Is she one of the “favorites” in her room in the orphanage (let’s be honest even in the BEST orphanages and care centers…there are always favorites). Does someone cherish her? Does she see her preciousness reflected in anyone’s eyes? What does she like to eat? What does her poop smell like (yep you even wonder those things….gross right???). What does her little body feel like to hold….is she limp, is she stiff, does she mold to the person holding her? The questions are endless. Totally endless.

There is a pervasive overwhelming reality that someone is always missing. Someone is not in your car, at your table, sleeping snuggly under your roof. Your bedtime kisses were one short. Someone was not at the Thanksgiving table. Someone will not be there Christmas morning or New Years eve, or Easter, or tonight, or tomorrow.

Being separated from one of your children is like nothing I can explain. I have walked a lot of roads as a mom. This one is excruciating. It is like a gigantic magnifying glass pointing out that you have not ever had one ounce of control over their life and you have to reach into this deep place of trust and cling to it with your life. You have to trust that HE has them. That HE always has and HE always will. That He created their life without you. That He has sustained their life without you. That He has provided care and protection (you pray) without you. And the fact that you GET to be a part of her story at all is a gift. Not a right. Not a given. A gift. Talk about humbling.

Maybe, it is somewhat similar to what parents might feel when they send their first child off to college? They have to come to terms with what has actually always been the fact ~ they really have no control. They have to release them. Prior to them leaving home maybe mom and dad could cling to the illusion of control. But not know. They know they can not avoid the truth.

When you are an adoptive parent, pursing a specific waiting child, you come FACE to FACE with your utter lack of control E.V.E.R.Y. moment of everyday. And you know it from day one of being their mom or dad. You are not with them. There is NOTHING you can do to comfort, protect, nurture, or provide for them. NOTHING.

For this control loving freak it is incredibly painful.

I realized today, that sometime over the last week, I moved out of the weepy stage I was in for months and months over Mae, to what I call my “grumpy momma” stage. I am just flat out grumpy. It is not good. I get this way when I am not in control of a situation. Some people cry, some people shut down, I get grumpy. I am not sleeping well. I feel “off”. Part of me is missing. There is no other way to say it.

And in this case the waiting has really just started. We are just getting started on the months of waiting ahead. I am praying for the grace I need to push through this stage into a place of surrender and patience. Patience for me is an outflow of my level of quiet surrender and trust. When I am resting in TRUST I am patient. When I am not, well I am not. I am praying by His grace I can move to a place where I can find some peace in the midst of the separation.

Today I just want to squeeze her and kiss those chunky cheeks (which even if I could, I wouldn’t b/c I am a STRANGER to her and it would totally freak her out…..but that is a blog for another day).

So I cling to Him. I cling to trust. I cling to His unrelenting love for me, for her, and for our whole family. I know He knows. So I wait in hope….and pray for the sake of my hubby and other kids this grumpy momma stage is short lived.

T

Adoption, Parenting

Video of Dax Hearing the News

Now that we have gone public with her name, I can share the video of Dax hearing that he was going to be a big brother. ADORABLE !

The other kids already new at this point, as you will notice two very happy crazy sisters behind him.

I am so bummed that my phone glitched and cut off the adorable ending. Once the fear of stinky poops and slobbery toys had been laid to rest, he went on and on and on about all he was going to teach her.

Dax Hearing the News

And yes he is still saying he wants a brother too.

Blessings,

Tona

Adoption, Parenting

Happy Homecoming Day Mallie

Our sweet Mallie has been home for S.E.V.E.N. years. What a delight and joy she is. What a blessing to our family.

We even broke “the rules” and adopted out of birth order!!! Boy am I glad we did.

Love you Sweet Ling Ling Mallie!!!

Here is here referral picture. I should have known at the at moment she would LOVE food =)

64653_4556738070562_1270563194_n

Look at the lovely young lady she is now:

BY1Qes3IEAAV5dP.jpg-large

Happy Homecoming Day Cutie Pie!!!

WE LOVE YOU like crazy cakes!

Homeschooling, Parenting

Our Picks of the Week….

I am a resource junkie. I love finding good quality books, guides, apps, etc for our family.

I thought I would share a few things we are enjoying around here this week…

Camden’s pick of the week:

Books on audio. This week we are studying Europe so we are listening to this great account of Corrie Ten Boom. It is nice to press play and let the narrator do the talking.

Mia’s pick:

She wanted a magazine subscription for Christmas. She asked for a “girls only” “preteen” type magazine. I could not find one that I really liked. I wanted some quality content and fun articles too.  So we gave her “Between” by Vicki Courtney, It is has satisfied her desire for a magazine and my desire for good content. There are a few others in this series that we will happily buy her. (Just FYI – there are some “coming of age” topics covered so use discretion with your daughter and what you have talked about with her)

Mallie’s pick:

The book called “Ten Girls Who Changed The World”. I am so happy she loves this book!! As I tucked her in bed tonight she said “Mom, I want to be the eleventh girl to change the world”…you GO my little spunky monkey….I KNOW you can do it!!!!

Dax’s pick:

My parent’s bought the kids a Wii U for Christmas. Dax is in HEAVEN!! And I must say I am too b/c they also bought them the game Sribblenauts. Some of you may already know about this game, but this is my first time to hear about it. I think there is an app too??

So why am I so excited??? B/c the player has to SPELL words to make things appear….like they can type in c.a.r. and a little car appears in their Scirbblenauts world. After spending hours and days spelling every kind of vehicle under the sun for him and getting a wee bit frustrated and quite tired of spelling words out loud (I know it should be my dream….teaching my child to spell….but honestly it was wearing me out) then…magic happened…drum roll please…..he said yesterday he “would really like to work hard in school so he can learn to spell” !!!!!!! Blow me over…..PRAISE the Lord….a desire to work hard and learn!!!!! If “Scribblenauts” can inspire my Daxie to read and spell then it has my vote times a million!

My pick of the week:

I blew the piles of dust of an old Bible resource that we have had for 14yrs and never used. I found it when doing my annual January house purge.  It is Walk Thru the Bible’s Keyword Learning System. Basically, it is a funny riddle like coloring page for each book of the Bible that helps you remember the book’s name and theme. The kids L.O.V.E. it!!! The pictures are silly enough to make them laugh but clear enough they can figure out what they stand for. We started in the New Testament Monday and every day they ask if we can do more pages. In 3 days they can tell me the themes of Matthew through Romans. Sound like a winner to me. Thankful I broke ALL purging rules and kept it that long.

I would ask Mo his pick of the week, but he is the smart one in our marriage. He is asleep.

Hope one or more of these blesses or inspires you and/or your family!

Tona

Abiding in Him, Adoption, Homeschooling, Parenting

Highs/Lows & HOPE

We have a game called “High/Low” that we play around the dinner table. Each person takes a turn telling a high point and a low point of their day. So I am going to “play” that game here tonight. But beware as usual I will have more than one high and low. After all I am a menopausal woman who’s feelings and moods change as much as my tween daughter’s do!

After my last post I was determined to snap out of my “fog”~ I was going to look for the HOPE and see the redemption in situations….AND …….I was going to do it WITHOUT the help of a Sonic Route 44 Diet Dr Pepper with vanilla, extra vanilla and very easy ice. I was going to snap out of it all on my very own =).

High #1 – Last night my hubby went to the airport to see 14 precious children coming to Memphis from Honduras to be hosted over Christmas break. They are children who live in a home run by a ministry called Point of Impact. Each one of them is being hosted by families who have gone to Honduras on mission trips and have fallen in love with these precious kiddos. The children are all technically “orphans” but are not adoptable. They are being cared for through the ministry and locals. The host families have opened their hearts and homes to love with reckless abandon!! There will be lots of tears shed when the kids leave to return home. They are going to be loved WELL over the next 3 weeks!

Here is a video of them getting off the airplane to meet their host families last night! PRECIOUS…. HOPE!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bjQXxg1Bwx8&feature=youtu.be

High #2 – Our dear friends The Jacksons who I blogged about several posts back are in China getting their girls this week. They are such an inspiration to me. They have three grown bio kids….. and grand-babies…..and they have a 3yr old hunk of a chunk Zeke that was adopted domestically…… and they are in China bringing home their two precious “special” princesses!! They posted a video today that shows the girls “jabbering away” at each other in the hotel bed…. and I a have not been able to STOP smiling!!! The girls have been in cribs beside each other in the orphanage. They are heart sisters and God in HIS grace and goodness saw fit to call ONE family to BOTH of them and they are forever sisters. HOPE!! (I can’t upload the video on here b/c it is posted on their FB page and not their blog…so if we are FB friends you have to go watch it! I shared it on my page!)

High #3 – This year I am teaching the kids about different countries and cultures and as we cover an area we read a story of a missionary that have served there. Today we finished the story of Nate Saint. I have heard his story a million times, I have watched the movie on his life, I have even met his son and heard him share…but today as I finished the book I could not stop weeping. He LITERALLY laid down his life for others. He and several other men died…leaving widows and children behind. And God used their death to open up a door for  truth, forgiveness, and HOPE to enter into the lives of a tribe that had never heard. WOW. TOTALLY inspired.

High #4 – After going with their daddy to the airport last night to see The Point of Impact kids and finishing Nate Saint today, my girls CAN NOT stop talking about going on a mission trip…begging to go. They are “GETTING IT”…they are “OWNING IT”…they are “TASTING IT”…HOPE!

Low #1- #3 – I called CCAI to check on the “Terrific Trio” today and THERE ARE NO families taking the steps to adopt them. NONE. Many have emailed and asked about them. Many have researched their needs….but NONE have taken the first step. So I am sad. I am grieving. I am believing. I am HOPING against ALL HOPE (Romans 4:18) that they will be claimed as sons and daughters! Each one of them was born with Biliary Atresia and each one has had the Kasai procedure done and they are stable at the moment. There is a possibility they might need liver transplants in the future. (Just FYI – this is NOT the disease Dax was born with that caused him to need a liver transplant…he had other liver issues…but he actually had the Kasai procedure done to his transplanted liver over 4 years ago)

I want to introduce them to you…

First YOSSELL-

Image

http://www.hopefosterhome.com/news/2012/news_12_08.htm

Isn’t she just a TOTAL DOLL BABY??????? I want to kiss those sweet chunky cheeks and see those big brown eyes smile!!!!!

Then Quentin-

Image

This is a picture taken after his kasai and he looks SOOO good!!!!!!!!!!!

http://blog.showhope.org/2012/11/07/care-centers-spotlight-quentin/

He is also mentioned on the same page as Yosell’s link with a picture pre kasai.

Last but not least is Yanka-

Image

http://www.hopefosterhome.com/news/2012/news_12_11.htm

EAT EM UP sweet baby girl!!!!!!! She is currently fighting of a liver infection….please pray for God’s healing hand on her liver.

All three worth HOPING for. So I will continue to wait on the Lord and see what HE alone is doing.

Clinging to HOPE in HIM,

Tona

Abiding in Him, Adoption, Homeschooling, Parenting, Ramblings

Been a little while….what is on my mind……

It has been a few weeks since my last post. Life is full and I have been T.I.R.E.D…. both physically and emotionally…I have a lot on my mind and sometimes the words escape me…..But I decided instead of going radio silent during the crazy times I would go head and lay it out there for the blog world to see a glimpse…

1. I have been thinking a lot about our culture…American, Christian, Southern, Church, Southern American Church….

~~~~~maybe it is left over shrapnel from the election and the division among my friends, maybe it is the fact the we just celebrated the 9th anniversary of our church which is a gospel centered racial diverse church that celebrates and embraces cultural differences right in the middle of one of the most racial strained cities in the USA…Memphis… the city known for murdering MLK….

~~~~~~maybe it is the fact that many “Christians” this time of year seem more worried about their parties and Christmas cards than making sure their neighbors and the fatherless children of their city have food on the table and the love of Christ in their hearts. I try not to get bitter and judgmental. I try to see all the church IS doing. All the ways we are fighting for the injustice and serving the oppressed. But I still see so far we have to go. Is there a place for a strong women with leadership gifts in the church? Is there are place for the marginalized HUMAN BEING that identifies as GLBT in the church? Is there a place for the young girl eat up with regret over past choices or the young man or women struggling with addiction. I just don’t know. Some churches…. yes…but I fear most churches….no. Are we really being the hands and feet of Jesus?  “Little children, let us not love in word or speech, but in deed and in truth.” 1 John 3.18

I think the WORLD needs us to have a lot less church services, meetings, classes, and buildings….and a lot more dinners, open homes, life on life, and relationships……LESS DOING and MORE BEING.

2. I have my heart T.I.E.D. to 3 precious waiting babies in China that are all very sick with liver disease. They are on their way to being paper ready for someone to say “YES” to them. They are almost ready to be chosen….but who will? My hubby and I have prayed over them faithfully since we learned about them (I call them the terrific trio)…and we are pretty certain God is not calling it to be us…but WHO LORD? Who will you send? Who will you call? I know you do not need us. You own the cattle on every hill….you can RAISE UP YOUR PEOPLE who HEAR YOUR VOICE to say YES!!!!!! So I wait and pray and get NO sleep….and I think what if we had been too scared or comfortable to say YES to the four blessings I just tucked into bed??? Please don’t get me wrong….EVERY time God began to knit our hearts to another one of our children….we are TERRIFIED…..mostly of the unknown….but HE IS FAITHFUL …..he has sustained us through EVERY day of the last 12 years of parenting our blessings…and I am confident HE will continue to do so.

So I lay awake and pray and wonder who will be the ones that get to steward the blessings of the “Terrific Trio”?? Or will HE call one or more of them home to Him before they know the Love of a FOREVER family? He might…and maybe that is a tender mercy. They are sick….they will probably need liver transplants which they can not get in China….I know that road… it is hard and long. So I find myself asking myself and God tough questions……like… maybe it would be best if God just took them now???  Should these sick babies be adopted into the USA and then go through the physical pain of a transplant? Maybe God will choose to take them to glory instead? Maybe that would be better….I know hard thoughts right?…..BUT then my sweet DAX will walk into the room….so FULL OF LIFE…LIVING….HOPING….DREAMING….and I remember….yes, GLORY is what we ALL long for….when there will be NO more suffering, no more pain, no more illness….but LIVING is what He created us to do before eternity. God made us to LIVE~~~~ EVERY LIFE is worth it. EVERY ONE!!!

The Terrific Trio deserve someone to do all the paper work, raise all the money, travel around the world, bring them home, take them to doctors visits, stay up all night and rub their itchy backs from jaundice and yellowing skin, they deserve insurance companies to spend millions of $$ on their medical bills, they deserve a family who has found themselves experiencing a great loss to choose to donate their loved ones organs so they can have a chance to live….JUST LIKE MY DAXIDO……b/c they were made IN THE IMAGE OF A MIGHTY GOD ……and b/c every life matters….every single one!!!!!!!!

3. I have been grieving over the last 6 months. It comes in waves for me as a mom, but it never goes totally away.

What am I grieving?……..that most likely, based on the medical special needs of several of my kids, they will not “live the American dream”…..you know the dream most of us started playing into subconsciously the day we were born an American =). I have some unique and special kids. Kids made in the image of a creative God, living in a fallen and broken world, subjected to the pressure of Southern American Culture. And I FIGHT IT ALL the time.  Things many parents take for granted…I don’t. Like your son playing soccer or t ball. The dreams you play out of your children’s futures, them graduating high school and going off to college, or them getting married and starting their own families.  These are not dreams I can assume will come true for all my kids.

We are having to walk to the beat of a different drum over here at my house. Most days I embrace it with much joy and hope, but some days I grieve it. I am feeling it more intently as the two oldest kids are approaching their teen years which are marked by body changes, image issues, and for my oldest a new round of health problems.

I am constantly having to make sure my eyes are fixed on eternity. This is not our final home. As a Christian I do not have to “play by the rules” of the cultural expectations of this world. I do not have to value what the world values. I hold fast to what HE values and the promises He lays out in His word. Those are the things I want to run after. Those are the things I want to point my children’s heart towards and put my hope in.

I am certain there will be more grief ahead for my momma’s heart…but I am thankful I have a Jesus that weeps with my deep sadness. As Charles Spurgeon put it-  “A Jesus who never wept could never wipe away my tears.”

I have a million other thoughts but for now my bed is calling my name…. (and please excuse typos….it is 1 AM and I will not be proofing this before I hit “publish”)

Until next time,

Tona

Abiding in Him, Adoption, Parenting, Uncategorized

Guest Blogging and Entering In

I had the opportunity to be a guest blogger today for a new and sweet friend Carissa Woodwyk’s.  As a counselor, wife, momma, author, speaker, and adult adoptee with a deep love for Jesus and those around her, she has a strong voice that speaks on issues of the heart and identity.

You can read my blog entry here – http://carissawoodwyk.wordpress.com/2012/11/19/entering-in/

You can also check out the book Carissa co-authored here – http://www.amazon.com/Before-You-Were-Mine-Discovering/dp/031033103X/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1353370668&sr=8-2&keywords=before+you+were+mine

You will want to follow her…..I promise you will be blessed!

Blessings

Tona

Adoption, Parenting, Resources and Support

Keys to an Effective Time-In~~Tuesday’s Tips

Time-In is one of the best strategies we use with our kids! All those I know, who initially started using this strategy to connect with their adoptive or foster kids, have chosen to implement it with their bio kids as well. It is a great way to help your child process their feelings, calm down, connect with them, and correct their behavior.

This new ETC article helps explain it in great detail –

http://empoweredtoconnect.org/keys-to-an-effective-time-in/

Here is a link to a blog post I did a few months ago on the bin we keep beside our chair.

https://tonaottinger.wordpress.com/2012/08/28/time-in-and-our-time-in-bin/

Blessings

Tona

Homeschooling, Parenting

Audiobook Ideas for Your Family

Audio stories are a huge part of the fabric of our family. Honestly, I am not sure what our days would be like without them. We listen to stories in the car, at bedtime, during chores, during quiet play time, and during school.

How and why do we use them??

-At night they help the kids calm and fall asleep

-In the car – they keep them from fussing about what music to pick =)

-For school – they allow me to expose the kids to GREAT fiction and content w/out me being tied to reading all the books aloud. We can listen while I do house work or prep school work.

-For Struggling learners/readers – their reading level does not determine the quality of material they can be exposed to

-It teaches great listening and imagination skills

-You can listen to stories at night as a family while playing games, building legos, or doing crafts.

Here are some of our favorites:

-Adventures in Odyssey stories can be purchased on CD or you can listen online at www.whitsend.org

-Story of the World – here is a link to the combo pack, but you can buy them individually   http://www.welltrainedmind.com/store/story-of-the-world-audio-book-combo-pack.html 

– Mystery of History – http://www.themysteryofhistory.info/audiobooks.shtml

These are both history curriculums but I purchase the audio components and let the kids listen at their leisure.  I do not always attempt to make it fit into the history time period we are studying at the time. In other words I don’t schedule out when they listen. I have several non home school friends who got these for their history loving kids to listen to at bed and in the car. GREAT investment.

http://www.ywampublishing.com/c-101-audiobooks.aspx  These are great missionary stories. A big hit at my house.

http://www.jonathanpark.com/ Creation based science adventures about a boy and his dad who is a creation scientist. My boys love them.

-The Lamplighter books are lovely stories and a few are on audio. – http://www.amazon.com/Charlies-Choice-Lamplighter-Theatre-Dramatic/dp/B0030EVZQQ/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1349812324&sr=1-4&keywords=lamplighter+theatre+audio+cd

-Audiobook Bibles:

Jesus Storybook Bible-  http://www.amazon.com/The-Jesus-Storybook-Bible-Whispers/dp/B002R85KEE/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1349812129&sr=8-2&keywords=the+storybook+bible+audio

The Action Bible-  http://www.amazon.com/Action-Bible-Sergio-Cariello/dp/1598597922/ref=sr_1_2_title_1_aud?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1349812212&sr=1-2&keywords=adventure+bible+audio

-Most local libraries have audiobooks for kids. We check them out all the time. The kids enjoy all sorts…from silly nonsense to classics –  American Girl Doll stories, Magic Tree House, Boxcar Children, Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit, Judy Moody, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, etc

http://www.audible.com/ Is an online audiobook membership based site for downloading books

http://librivox.org/Provides free online audiobooks that are public domain

Happy listening!!

Tona