The noise level is high and the laughter is constant as is the teasing, playful punching, squeezes, and bear hugs while everyone jostles for a spot. The stack of paper plates is at least 100 deep but that is the last part of the table worth noticing. (By “table” I mean multiple folding tables holding an assorted variety of foods.) In place of fancy place settings is a stack of plastic spoons and knives. You might identify some dishes as familiar American Thanksgiving food. The turkey is carved, the cranberry sauce nearby. Clearly one lucky aunt was in charge only of potatoes for the day, judging by the numerous bowls of mashed potatoes and gravy.
Most of the relatives circling up aren’t anticipating the turkey nearly as much as they anticipate the Korean bulgogi, which has been expertly marinated and cooked by my Uncle Dan. Before the afternoon is through a family member will dare a guest to take a heaping scoop of kimchi without mentioning how spicy it may or may not be. A tall blonde teen with wavy hair will bravely heap it high, willing to upset his tummy to impress his shorter Asian cousin. The banter over the food has begun before a spoon has been lifted.
The Korean crabmeat salad is next to the pea salad you can find at every Dutch potluck and I’ll take both, saving room for when the Dutch cheeses and crackers make their appearance later in the evening.
Before anyone gets to pile a plate, my Pake (“Grandfather” in Friesian, a Dutch dialect) gives a whistle to catch the attention of the rowdy group in front of him. The patriarch knows to give a stern look at the group of young and teenage men who are sweaty and loud from the highly competitive annual football game in the yard. Pake loves the laughter and teasing as much as the rest, but he is sober and severe in the matter of prayer and has rightly trained us to slow for moments of reverence.
“Before we fill up on the feast in front of us,” he begins in his familiar Dutch brogue, which I equate with intelligence and authority, “We will each share what we are thankful for this year and then I will give thanks.”
The young ones sigh. Pake should have considered how long this would take when he decided to have eight talkative children who then gave him forty-five talkative grandchildren. The food is destined to be served cold.
Haley Kate recently started throwing her arms around my neck, burrowing into me, and saying, "Ahh... my own Mom." Sometimes she says it possessively and sometimes she says it with the "ahh" voice that comes from feeling at home and cozy.
Today it was while I was trying to talk to her seriously. She reached out, grabbed the sides of my face and said, "You my own Mom" and kissed me in the affectionate way toddlers do, when they come at you and you aren't sure if they're going to kiss your lips or bloody your nose.
The other kids remind her, "She's MY own Mom, too." Haley looks at them like she's considering, but not certain she's willing to share.
This week marks one year of being Haley Kate's "own Mom". I will never accurately articulate the privilege it is. It sobers me, challenges me, humbles me, and her little feisty face continually reminds me of God's extravagant, undeserved gifts.
Haley is opinionated and fun-loving in the free spirited way that causes her to throw back her head when she laughs. She has no problem keeping up with her older siblings and if everyone else is sharing about their day at the dinner table, she often pounds her fists on the table and insists, "I'm talkin'! I'm talkin' FIRST!" Ahem...clearly she's a Taylor in every sense.
She's a daddy's girl. She's the type of Daddy's girl that waits for him to come home at the end of the driveway, singing songs she makes up about "Daddy come home" at top volume. She's the smart Daddy's girl who quickly cries, "I want Daddy!" when she knows she's in trouble.
From the moment I heard about Haley as a foster child with an unknown future, she completely had my heart. I never held back. Yet, this year of having her for keeps has given my heart rest I didn't know it needed. When those big hazel eyes meet mine, "You're my own Mom", I grin. "Yes! Forever! Forever I get to be your Mom."
“By you I have been upheld since birth; you are He who took me out of my mother’s womb. My praise shall be continually of you.” Psalm 71:6.
I was switching laundry and getting ready for a birthday date with my dad. I noticed yet another email requesting a foster parent take a two year old girl. As a licensed foster parent I get numerous emails about children in our county every day. I often pray for the children as I scan through (and often pray for God to raise up more brave souls willing to do foster care). We aren't doing long-term placements right now but I joked when I saw the first email, "Want two year old twins?" knowing the little girl was close in age to Haley.
The second email came and I hit "delete".
As I was switching laundry a new request, "We found a possible placement but they can't take her until next week. Please someone- for the weekend? She's new to foster care."
For the weekend? Maybe after my birthday date with my dad? I mulled it over. Certainly we could do a weekend. If no one answers within the hour that little one with her meager belongings will be sitting in an office in the DSHS building waiting for someone to offer a bed... waiting for someone to be willing while I have everything a two year old needs right here.
I said yes, for the weekend. I dug in my heels a little when I discovered I'd have to miss my movie with dad until my straightforward daughter asked, "Mom? What's more important- a little girl who needs a home or your movie?"
"Thanks for the 'suck it up princess' talk, Darla. I'll go pick her up."
Her name isn't Deeny, but that's what Haley insisted on calling her and for whatever reason it stuck. I thought the last thing this little one needed with everything 'new' in her life was a new name to answer to but she insisted she liked it, so Deeny it was.
When I went to pick Deeny up I met Foster Mom #1. Foster Mom #1 is a gracious woman with grown children who keeps four beds available for foster children, two specifically for emergencies. Deeny had been an emergency call out of a messy situation. She couldn't keep Deeny but was the willing mom who cleaned her up, washed her belongings, took her to buy panties, shorts, and shoes that fit.
As Deeny walked in all it took was dropping to her level and a, "Hi sweetheart" to have her run up and wrap herself around me. Those of you thinking, "Wow! She must have been drawn to you!"- No. I'm not that likable. An almost three year old willing to jump into any arms and go with any stranger has more likely missed an opportunity to attach healthily to the right people.
Just like that I was Foster Mom #2. One bag of belongings, a folder of paperwork, an affectionate toddler, and we were on our way.
6/13/2013 1 Comment
One of the surprises as I've been writing about adoption in my family and throughout our extended family is how family members' perspectives and experiences are impacting me. My cousin Sommer told me she was praying God would start showing me threads that weave through all the stories and while I'm still struggling to have overall vision, I've decided even for my own experience I'm thankful to be the listener to stories, to Truth revealed, to the hurts, healing, and miracles within my family. I believe God will answer Sommer's prayer and in the meantime I'm looking at many little pieces.
My cousin Tyler and his wife Ruth adopted two boys from Eastern Europe just over one year ago. Then within two months Tyler and Ruth's first biological son was born. Over the summer they went from zero to three boys, two of whom were learning English and adjusting to a new culture. The learning curve into parenting feels steep regardless of how you happen into it. Compile sleepless newborn nights with attaching to elementary age boys who have already lived through more circumstances than most adults have, teaching English, and getting their heads around the fact that this is now a full blown family, and you'll be as impressed as I am that they are still standing... and even occasionally smiling.
Tyler and I started talking adoption. Then we started talking about kids, parenting, and how God is using parenting to transform us. I'm sharing excerpts of what Tyler shared because it hit home, then bounced around, then simmered in my mind. Naturally, after that much thought it tumbled out into this blog. I couldn't hog all of his thoughts to myself. You all deserve to have it simmer in your minds, too:
I was loading produce onto the conveyer belt when the checker asked, "How is your day going?"
"Good. Finished a Wal-Mart trip and other errands. This is our last stop and we're all in one piece."
Everett, who was eye level to the conveyer belt, looked up at the checker and informed her, "We had to get stuff to make our house safe 'cuz we're going to adopt more kids. Only we aren't keeping these ones. We're sending them back to their moms."
I barely held back my laughter as I explained, "I'm updating my foster care license. We have no plans for adding more kids. We're just available for emergencies or to help other foster parents...."
I trailed off realizing that maybe Everett's over-sharing with strangers habit may have been acquired from me.
This spring I took a class for six hours every Friday for six weeks to update my foster license. It crossed my mind to let the license expire. Our adoption is complete, we have no plans to add to our family, and I am very much enjoying (for the first time in eight years) being a diaper free family. When Sean is gone for a few consecutive nights or planning his next adventure, when I look at our lifestyle and full time ministry demands, when I think about the roller coaster the last few years have been, when I'm scrubbing crayon off the wall or listening to four little competing voices escalate in the car I can very clearly tell you, "I love my four kids. I am great with four kids. There's still a chance I'll need to be locked in a padded room with my current life so I'm certainly not going to increase those chances by adding to it."
There are hundreds of small things to celebrate under the umbrella of official adoption and in this moment it’s that I no longer have to refer to our youngest as “Little Girly” publicly but can use her full new name, Haley Kate Taylor.
Celebrations have been in full swing this week. Yesterday afternoon as I was preparing for Haley’s adoption party, I heard a knock on our front door. I swung it open and had a “pause… wait for it…” moment as I realized my dear friend Jill and her daughter from southwest WA were grinning at me with an armful of flowers. After my “what-the-heck-is-going-on” pause followed by many tears, they were swept up in the celebration whirlwind with the rest of us.
Well...hello swine flu and thanks for stopping by the week S. is out of town. All year I've rolled my eyes at the sensational news coverage H1N1 has received. I guess I technically can't say it's H1N1 that has invaded because I haven't had any of the kids tested...but I can say that even with Tylenol we've fought to keep temperatures below 102. Achy little bodies have been strewn on every couch, headaches and terrible coughs have kept Darla and Hudson up in the night. S. was teaching at a Luis Palau conference in Portland this week and I was determined to have a fun week with the kids to make the time go fast. 2 hours after S. left I looked at Hudson and wondered at his glassy eyes. 3 hours after S. left I pulled out the kleenex for his nose. 3.5 hours after he left I cuddled a burning hot little boy and sent them all to bed.
After two miserable, cooped up days I packed all the kids to spend a night at my sister's house. Everyone there already had the flu and were on the mend. We never miss the Country Music Awards so we gave a round of Tylenol to the troops, put them to bed by 7:30 and had a popcorn party in spite of the misery.
While I was there, Jasmine received a book from our adoption agency showing pictures of many children in their Ethiopian orphanage. Lance & Jazz have sent their dossier to Ethiopia and now will spend the next months waiting to be matched with a child. We are further behind in the process, also waiting...for funds. We heard from our agency that there have been quite a few new children at the orphanage, specifically little toddlers. Jazz and I lamented together: her because now a long stretch of time stands between her and a new baby. Me because money seems to be such an obstacle. We brainstormed a few new ideas for fund raising but overall I was weighed with discouragement.
On the way home with 3 bleary eyed, scratchy voiced children I kept surrendering it to the Lord, asking Him to lead and show us if we are supposed to be working hard to fund raise, if we are supposed to wait in faith, or if we're not seeing something that He's putting in front of us.
When S. got home from his conference he excitedly shared about having dinner with a good friend who always refreshes and challenges us. S. then handed me a card from our friend and his wife...with an enclosed check for $500 towards our adoption. I'm teary, humbled, excited, with renewed faith and motivation today. I'm watching people come forward to be involved in this journey: some with prayers, some with emotional support and their own adoption stories, and some with means to do it. Praise the Lord for His well-timed faithfulness.
***we're discussing doing a dessert auction in January for the next fund raising idea... just to put the bug in your ear :).
Just throwing myself out there a bit...