We returned to the United States on July 11th, 2015. So we’ve been home now about 18 months. People are always asking us how we are doing. I never quite know how to answer that question. We are doing well, but everything has changed. The transformation in all of us has been rather profound. I don’t think we expected that. I’ve written previously about this and some of the soul searching and deep work we had to do through this process. Had we not allowed God to work in us, I’m not sure we would have survived. Just to give you a snapshot, here are some changes and current states of our family and kids.
- The Polish Language is a thing of the past. Pretty much by Christmas of 2015, our oldest adopted daughter was speaking fluent English. But over the past year, it’s
been amazing as all four of the kids have essentially forgotten how to speak Polish. They are all reading English and expanding their English vocabulary, but Polish as a language is a thing of their past. Our son still has quite an accent, but you’d never know the girls weren’t born here if it wasn’t for sentence structure. English and Polish are so different in that regard. We did purchase Rosetta Stone Polish so hopefully they can retain at least some of their native tongue, and our oldest has worked on some of it. As the children get older we hope to help them regain Polish and maybe even speak it ourselves!
- We continue to try and keep the culture of Poland alive here and there. Last summer in 4-H our daughter made Polish cookies for her baking product with some delicious jam I brought back from Krakow. She got a 1st place! Man were those Kolacky’s good! We made Uszka or Christmas Dumpling Soup for Christmas. Only our oldest adopted liked it, but we gave it the old college try. We’ve also tried to bring in other foods, making homemade pierogi and eating copious amounts of kielbasa! I can’t say we fully observe all the Polish holidays but we try to talk about or mention the big ones. We keep up on what’s happening in Poland and let our children know about national news where it’s understandable and relevant. The little girls really don’t even know they’re not Polish, so it’s kind of a moot point with them!
- Our adopted son and bio son of nearly the same age continue to best of buddies. They are inseparable, even when getting into trouble! Neither of them remember much life before the other one, and they are happy as clams about this. Often they’ll spend all day in their room building lego creations together and bossing each other around. They never ask for anything just for themselves but always include the other or even, as our son puts it, “us boys.” All four boys are still in the same room, which is proving difficult and challenging. We are in the process of remodeling the basement to include a family room (so they can wrestle without shaking the entire house) and a bedroom for our older two bio boys, plus a full bath. When this is finished by the spring, we should have some over-crowding relieve….and hopefully the room will be less smelly!!!
- There continues to be some sister development between our two oldest girls. Our
oldest bio now has a sister three years younger but kind of in that annoying, tween, follow-you-around, do-what-you-do, phase of life. The younger truly believes the older hung the moon and wants to be like her in ever way. The elder is annoyed by this and is kind of an introverted extrovert who needs “alone” time to think, write, and read. The younger never wants to be alone. Ever. There has been some tension from this; some guilt; some pain. All in all, though, most often, there is a wonderful sister-bond developing which will grow stronger over time. I’m not sure the two of them always see it, but mom and dad sure do.
Three of the four littles are in first grade and doing splendidly, particularly our youngest biological son and our middle adopted daughter (sheesh, we have so many, describing them without using names is quite difficult!!!). Our adopted son is slow and hasn’t developed much of his thinking ability, BUT we have seen vast improvement since the first week of school. He just requires a little more patience and attention. But he’s making it!!! They all are!!! And that’s the best part!!
- We have had, by far, the most difficulty with our youngest adopted daughter. She is five biologically, but three cognitively, and probably two emotionally. To say it’s been challenging walking with her would be a VAST understatement. She has brought out both the best and the worst in us – exposing compassion we didn’t know we had and sometimes negative feelings as well. It’s been a process to try and figure out what to do with all of that. The progress she’s made in the last six months has been remarkable. She is bonding, growing, telling the truth (PRAISE THE LORD!), and finding her place. She sings again, and laughs, and isn’t afraid of everything. She’s feeling secure, and loves her mommy! She is unbelievably stubborn, bull headed, and strong willed, and she doesn’t understand expressing love through touch, but she’s learning….and we’re learning how to help her navigate her strong will into good decisions and actions. We still have a ways to go, but man, we sure are thankful for where we are!!
- We have finally retired the GMC Yukon we have traveled around in for the past 18 months. We put an extra seat in the cargo area which made it able to haul all 10 of us….but we lost our cargo area!! So back in December we were able to purchase a Ford Transit. It seats 10 but in a much more comfortable way, and we have cargo space!! We can actually do grocery shopping together again. It’s expensive. It’s a big financial sacrifice, but it’s what we need. I think God has used this to birth something in us…..if we ever start an adoptive family foundation, like we’ve talked about, I want it to be something that comes along side families after all the emotion and excitement has worn off. When they’ve been home for six months and need to get a new vehicle, or bunk beds, or something else the family didn’t know they would need. I’d love to be able to give away a few mini-vans or Transits each year to families who really need them. We put all our dollars and energy into just getting the kids home, we don’t often think long term about logistical things. A foundation which would take this burden off of some families would be really awesome!
- The Cubbies won the World Series!!!!!
- How are we?? Mom and Dad?? We’ll, I’ve (dad) changed jobs and now work for our Church Fellowship’s district office. This changes a lot of our rhythms and norms, yet again. So far we have all handled that much better than 18 months ago. The change has been good in lots of ways for us. The pressure which comes with pastoring weighed heavy on Amy and me. Combined this with the issues we needed to address at home and something had to give. Thankfully God knew and He graciously allowed us to move into a job I’ve dreamed about for a long time. I love my wife more today than I ever have. Divorce rates are pretty high among adoptive families. I understand why this would be the case. It’s tough and strains every part of your relationship. But I believe we are weathering the storms and holding on to each other. Could we do better? Sure. Do we have much more to learn? YES! But God is faithful and we are loving watching His plan unfold before our very eyes!!
Finally, I want to ask you to pray for Poland. I don’t pretend to understand all the ins and outs of what is going on in that nation, but for some reason, the ministry overseeing adoptions and families have put a stop to all international adoptions at this point. This probably has some to do with the agency in Ohio cited by the State Department for fraud and other things. The Ministry is also pointing to a 2014 adoption case which went badly. But overarching, I think, is a spirit of nationalism….meaning they just don’t like Polish children being adopted into foreign families. The problem is the facts do not support their reasoning. ALL children adopted internationally in Poland spend a significant amount of time available for adoption in country before they’re released for international families. So the children finding foreign families were not able to find Polish families who were able or wanted to adopt them. Many are special needs or large sibling groups – which most Polish families cannot undertake. So now, unless something changes, many of these children will never have families. What’s worse is any family or child currently in process has to essentially start over. The children previously qualified for international adoption must be re-qualified, and the likelihood is, most won’t be. Poland may also be looking to make the process for whatever international adoptions they may still allow, an already difficult, long, and arduous journey, much more difficult, long, and arduous. This will essentially eliminate Poland from family’s consideration when looking to adopt.
They need our prayers. Those precious orphans who need a mom and dad need our prayers. The families who’ve just lost a child need our prayers. Pray for the ministry to come to their senses and not do this knee-jerk, ill-conceived thing. Develop a better system. Change some of the processes. But don’t cut it off. This would be tragic.
Thanks for praying for us, if you have. Now we’d appreciate your prayers for a country we love so very much.