Saturday, March 26, 2011


A friend of mine who has an adopted daughter related a story to me recently. She was on vacation at a beach, and her daughter , Lizzie, who is from China, was playing with another little girl. They were making sand castles together when the little girl asked Lizzie where her family was. When she pointed out her family, her new friend asked why Lizzie doesn't look like them. Lizzie said proudly, "because I was born in China and my parents were born in America." The little girl responded, with complete innocence and sincerity, "then that means that you are an orphan?" Lizzie, who had never really heard that word before, was momentarily silent. Her mom overheard her say "do you mean was I born from another woman's tummy? I was.." And the conversation drifted, as 6-year old conversations tend to, towards other more pressing topics such as sand-castle assembly.

When my friend told me this story, I wondered to myself about the word "orphan." Why had Lizzie never heard it? Why had I, now that I thought about it, never used that word with my children, 2 of whom are adopted from China. They both were technically "orphans." Meaning, according to Websters, "a child without parents" or "one deprived of advantage or protection." But the word orphan seems to have negative connotations which are unspoken but very real: I think of the musical of my childhood, "Little Orphan Annie" -- a dirty, neglected child living in deplorable conditions (who, however, rises above it all due to her tenacity and optimism). It conjures up images of poverty, victimhood, neglect, abuse, perhaps undesirability. A more recent movie entitled "Orphan" even brings up some uglier cultural ideas about the word: parentless children who are somehow unlovable, depraved, even demonic and set to destroy 'natural' or biological families (its a horror flick, so I am not quite sure how seriously I take the message nor how closely I align myself with the views of many in the adoption community who called for a boycott of this film.) Some from this community also complained to an online thesaurus to remove the synonyms given to the word orphan, such as "waif" and "vagabond."

I think, for me at least, it is sometimes just too painful to think of my children as orphans. To think that they were 'abandoned' or, to use more p.c. terminology, that an "adoption plan" was made for them. To think about what is the very real truth: there was a time they lived in orphan care. That they had no parents. That their birth parents had to make the very painful decision (painful for both them and for my children) to let them go. That there was a time their needs -- emotionally, developmentally, and sometimes physically -- were not met. To remember that there was a time that they weren't sheltered by my love and care.

But they were orphans. And now -- praise God! - they are not. I have said before that adoption, even more poignantly that the arrivals of my birth-children, made me believe in God. I felt something much greater than me, much greater than my agency or China's CC@@, drawing us together. It was a "come to Jesus" moment. And perhaps, they were "saved" from a life of devoid of family care, but I was also equally "saved" -- their little souls brought me a peace I never knew existed. Oh how sentimental I am being, but really: my kids saved me. They gave me faith. They gave me God.

In some ways, I was the orphan. I was lost and now I am found.

I was deprived of advantage and protection. No longer.

And, at many times, I felt unlovable, unwanted, alone. Now I see how untrue that is.

Thanks, guys.

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." James 1:27 NIV

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Coming Out

What I am going to say causes people's eyes to bug out of their heads. It is something I never considered -- I didn't even know what it was -- until perhaps 2 years ago. It is something that equally thrills me and scares me; something that might actually turn our lives towards simplicity...or maybe it will just cause me to lose my mind. But I am coming clean today: I am a wanna-be-homeschooler.

I think my husband thinks I have watched one too many episodes of 19 kids and Counting. But, really, that is not it. The idea started mostly because I am very very interested in teaching my kids. I was a teacher, and I miss it. I love seeing that little lightbulb go on in kids' minds. I love seeing their enthusiasm as they learn new ideas. I love learning and re-learning along with them. I would think that perhaps that I needed to resume my career as a school teacher, but that is not the lifestyle I want. While I admire and sit in awe of working moms, I know it is not the path I choose. I want less rushing around, less time away from my kids and husband, more time to sit and stew in the eucharisto, the gifts and the gratitude of life.

I started reading about homeschooling as I read some adoption blogs. Blogs have really opened up the world for me; I have learned about other types of family life that were really unheard of before to this Jersey Girl. I never heard of people who had adopted many (and I mean many) children. Also, I had never really spent any time with a bona fide Christian family. My only Christian friend was someone I met in college and who, regretfully, I met with a mixture of curiosity and fear. I was raised Catholic, but that is not the type of Christian to which I am referring. I mean the type who use the word "Jesus" in everyday conversation. The type who capitalize the "h" in "him" and who go on mission trips. The types who really and truly try to create a better world, and, for them, it is all due to Jesus Christ. (Note that I am not saying Catholics do not do this -- just not the Catholics I met. They were all sneaking into the girls' room to smoke cigarettes...wait, did I just make that more offensive?)

Anyway, some of these strange families (some of these did not have 11 adopted children, and some were not avid Christians) I met online also homeschooled. I could not read enough about this. It totally fascinated me. Oh, the curriculum! Oh, the notebooks and worksheets! And, by far the biggest source of my excitement: oh, the literature! I wanted to teach my child to read. I wanted to read Alice's Adventures in Wonderland with them. I wanted to teach them Shakespeare.

And, as it turned out, I also wanted us to be the type of family, although not necessarily Christian or jumbo-sized, that homeschooling might be most apt to support.

to be continued...

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


I have always wanted a large family. And now that I have one (at least, in this part of the country, 4 kids is considered a lot), I get asked quite a bit about my reasons for wanting this. There are many reasons, but the one that is the most honest, the most central to me, is that I wanted a simple life. "Ha ha," you must be thinking, "You thought having 4 kids would lead to a simple life!" And I suppose I was not thinking of school schedules, afterschool activities, laundry, dinnertime, etc. I was thinking that I wanted family to be central to our life, rather than careers, and social life, school and activities. I grew up as one of 2 kids. And I had a wonderful childhood. But, I felt like, in many ways, we were 4 people who lived together but who had separate lives. We met once or twice a day for meals, but other than that we were chasing our dreams in different directions. As I grew to think about how I wanted to piece together my own family life, I imagined that having more children would force us to slow down, to plan less and to be home more. To prioritize home life. To be present to the daily beauty.

I am finding out that this ideal takes more than just adding more kids to your household.

I am starting this blog in the hope of recording my search for a simpler, yet more abundant life. I am looking for ways to spend more time at home, and less time in my minivan. I am looking for more family time, and less activity. I am hoping for rich and loving relationships within our family, rather than the quarreling and tension that comes from hurrying and stress. I am looking for God. I am hoping to make a U-turn back to my authentic self, away from striving and attempts at achievement. I am trusting in this wonderful process of Life to take me there. Giddyup.