Monday, May 20, 2013

Praise, Perspective & Privilege

     I recently purchased this necklace from a family who is raising money to bring their little girl home.  You request a map of an area you adopted from (or that is special in some other way) and then add various charms, and they make the necklace with the profits going towards their adoption.  I love all of the ways people have found to raise money, and wish I was as creative as this family!  My necklace has a map with Krasnodar, the region we adopted from, a cross, Matryoshka doll, and a custom made charm with the Krasnodar Coat of Arms.  I love it.....and it's surprisingly become quite the conversation starter.

               It seems that every time I wear it someone is complimenting it and then asking what the charms are.  My response is usually met with obvious surprise, followed by a trail of questions.  I've found this watch people's reactions and to hear their questions and curiosity.  I love being able to shed light on adoption, particularly international, and always hope it gets people thinking.  There's only one part that makes me uncomfortable.  The latest reaction we received when sharing a bit of our story, was that the individual had "thought we were just a regular couple."  Ha!  We are just a regular couple....just two "normal" people like anyone else.  At our appointment today a woman commented on how admirable it is that we adopted......don't get me wrong, I completely understand that they are complimenting us, but it is just so uncomfortable!  I sort of cringe inside when I hear things like this.....and I think of all of my hesitation, how often God had to puuussshhh me, all of my doubts and fears, and on and on and on......and then I look at this precious boy and, the only thing admirable is that God graciously allowed us, ordinary people, to experience this incredible journey and call Levi our son.  We are the ones who have been blessed!


          While the necklace brings one set of reactions, Levi's even more obvious casts brought an entirely different response.  As the weather has become warmer, I became excited to be able to dress Levi in shorts.  It was quite the challenge to get his pants over both casts, and the shorts were much quicker and prompted a happier reaction from the little guy who hates to be dressed and changed!  What I hadn't considered was the attention that these exposed casts would receive!  Truly it doesn't matter and this is not to complain or throw a pity party.  But I was really surprised by the reactions I received!  Peoples eyes would instinctively travel from Levi's face down to his casts and their expressions would change.  It is a curious thing to see a little toddler with two huge casts and his feet turned out in such an extreme manner.  I get that!  I didn't mind when people asked what happened.....they're curious, no problem.  What I found unsettling where the glares, the whispering and the oh poor baby that seemed to imply I was clearly a terrible mother for whatever I allowed or caused to happen to my son.  Of course I'm sure this wasn't always the case, and I can't really assume what people are thinking.  But it made me step back and often do I assume the worst, or judge someone based on outward appearances or circumstances, when there is likely so much more to the story!  We went to the zoo last week and it was hot!  Many of the moms were sitting at the playground area while their kids played in the water.  I took Levi to the far end where things were dry and set him down.  I could feel the dozen or so pairs of eyes watching him and looking at me.  But at that moment all I felt was...proud.  I watched my little guy crawl lightening fast over to a stage like area.  He climbed up with ease, turned, sat down and started banging pots and pans together (why there are pots and pans at the zoo, don't ask me, but he loved it!).  He was so proud of himself, enjoying this experience to the fullest, and I was so proud of him! I hope they were inspired....I hope they saw the resiliency of this child's spirit.......not the two legs covered in casts, legs bent and feet turned out.....not pity for him, or judgement towards me.......Can I be honest? I wonder what I would have saw.

       "A child born to another woman calls me mommy.  The magnitude of that tragedy
                               and the depth of that privilege are not lost on me."
                                                     - Jody Landers

         We also get asked when we'll tell Levi, or how we'll tell him about his adoption.  Sure I share openly now when people comment on the necklace or when it comes up, but there will come a day in the near future where it will be up to him to share.....or not.  But one thing is for sure, he'll always know the truth.  I know there will come a day when the real questions start and when deeper conversations will be necessary, but for now?  He's just a toddler : )  He'll know the word adopted before he really knows what it means.  This is his story.....his life didn't begin on January 21st when we walked out the doors of the baby home.  We've pieced together as much as we possibly could and created a lifebook that shares about his life before coming home, and we've already shared it with him.  He really just wanted to crinkle the pages and rip the paper, but eventually he'll want to look.  And when he asks, we'll answer as best, and as age appropriately, as we can.  Sometimes, especially when rocking Levi to sleep, I just sit in wonder.....amazed that he is here, that he is our son, and how privileged we are to raise him and love him.  It's really quite easy to "forget" all that has happened to bring us all to this place as a family of four....because he's just our son and we are just living life.   But for him, there's so much loss that has brought him to this place.....and for his birth mother, whatever her story may be.....such loss.  I pray that she has found peace, and I pray I will never take for granted the privilege I have of being this precious boy's mommy.

As an update to all that I wrote yesterday....Levi has officially taught me to never again claim something is impossible, especially for him.  One look at the dobbs bar and I just knew he wouldn't be able to stand or walk with it...obviously. The doctor, when I asked if there were any restrictions, reiterated my thoughts in saying that he obviously can't stand with the shoes/bar but when they're off (for the one hour a day) he is free to do whatever he wants.  Well, Levi woke from his nap this afternoon and when I walked into his room.......he was standing in his crib.  He is seriously the most determined, strong willed, problem solver I've ever known.  He proceeded to prove me wrong over and over all evening....and on this rare occasion, I'm more than happy to be wrong!  And then, I realize that I shouldn't have been so surprised......after all........

He was walking with one untreated foot and his newly free right leg back in Russia when his first cast came off......

And again when he had his first of many casts put on when he came home.....

And yet again when he had both leg bent and feet turned out in two casts.....

Why would this bar stop him? Especially when there are balloons to get!

Final Farewell


            Today we said a final farewell to the last of Levi's casts.  After nearly three months he was able to enjoy about 30 minutes of freedom.  He kicked his legs around, rubbed them together and seemed hesitantly excited.  Typically they're off for 5 minutes before a new one is placed on, so I wonder what he thought when we walked out without one.  Soon enough he was being fitted for his new shoes and needless to say, he was less than thrilled.  He whimpered and I could just imagine what a let down this had become for him.
            Back in the elevator on our way to have the shoes checked, a doctor commented on his Dobbs bar, and asked how he was doing with it.  Turns out he's also a doctor in the practice we go to and walked back with us, reminding me that it's temporary, will help him to be walking soon and that he'd never remember it.  It really is just a season, and if the next few months go by even a fraction as fast as the past few have, he will be up and freely walking in no time!  (These will stay on 23 hours a day for 3 months).

           Despite his frustration  Levi really was such a trooper.  He expressed his unhappiness by refusing to say hi or bye to anyone.....he was basically sulking (so cute though!).  The first thing we did when we arrived home was give him a real bath!  This cheered him up temporarily and he was thrilled to be back in the water and have a few more minutes of freedom.  I have a feeling this will be the highlight of his next few days.  Thankfully he's napping peacefully now so at least the shoes/bar aren't inhibiting his ability to sleep comfortably!  I'm sure the next few days and weeks will bring some challenges, but he is quite the resilient little boy and we are one step closer to him being mobile!



Friday, May 3, 2013

The Sparrow Fund - Building the Nest 2013

        When I started this blog, I really intended it for our small family of four.  Seeing as I forget just about everything, and feel that many of my memories are more vague than they should be at my age, I thought this would be the perfect way for me to keep the entire journey detailed in one place.  I also had been told you could have blogs turned into a book, so I figured it'd be something that Levi could have in the future if he so desired.  As time went on, it became helpful to share the happenings of our journey with friends and family all over the country who we aren't able to connect with as often as we'd like.  Here and there I'd see someone at a function, or just in a store who would comment that they were following our blog.....really?  I've always loved to write, but obsess over things being too perfect and was never a fan of other human beings actually reading what I wrote.  So I decided from day one that I would just write what was on my heart and mind and leave it at that (hence the many grammatical errors and sometimes repetitive-ness, yes and made up words).  I am grateful for the many that have come along for this journey, in so many ways, but also through reading this blog.  I know it has nothing to do with us, and has everything to do with God wanting his glory to be shown through HIS work, but I'm grateful for all who have followed nonetheless.  This has opened so many doors and so many of you have reached out to us and supported us beyond what we ever imagined, as a result.

        All that to say, I don't intend to use this as a platform for sharing every adoption agency, organization and group's efforts and seeking your help and support.  There are so many great ways to advocate for orphans and it is a personal decision.  I am sharing the following on my blog, as an exception, because it is close to our hearts.  The Sparrow Fund is a wonderful organization that a couple started to help adoptive families.  A brief description of their story is below, and we are so thankful for them!  We applied for a Sparrow Fund grant early on in our journey, which would cover the costs of working with a doctor specializing in international adoption.  This is highly recommended, and a huge help in understanding the Russian medical descriptions as they are often very different and sometimes misleading.  We were so grateful  to be recipients of this grant.  Furthermore, when news of the ban hit, this couple took the time to reach out to us and see how we were being impacted.  They are truly a blessing to so many families and we are happy to share a little of their story and how you can be a part of what they do!  So, apparently I'm incredibly long-winded this evening.....on to "Building The Nest 2013"......

Have you ever considered adopting? Simply looking at the stats, about a third of you have. About 30% of Americans have seriously considered adopting. Yet, only 2% have actually adopted. That means that of those who say they've seriously considered adopting, 14 out of 15 don’t ever do it.

Why not? Well, it’s daunting—the financial cost, the impact this child will have on your family, the unknowns…so many unknowns. It’s no easy thing. We get that, because it was daunting for us.

As we walked that road ourselves and alongside other families like ours, we saw a need. That 2% of families who were taking that leap of faith to bring a child into their family through adoption—they needed more support. So, we took the leap of faith ourselves to do whatever we could to do just that.

Two years ago, The Sparrow Fund was started to give grants to families specifically for the purpose of family support through programs around the country that provide preadoption support and counsel, on-call support for families while they travel across the world to meet their children and bring them home, and support once they are home to help both the parents, new son or daughter, and family as a whole become a family.

Recognizing more need, we added programs to encourage and support families from those waiting to meet their children to those who have been home for years. We’ve helped families learn about the unique needs of children who have been adopted in the classroom and how to use correction as a vehicle of connection with their children in a way that is sensitive to them and their histories. And, we offered a weekend retreat for couples to be reminded of their calling as parents and refreshed to continue serving their children.

We’re not interested in growing the number of families adopting; that’s not our focus. Rather, our focus is on pouring into that 2% who are adopting; we want to love and serve them and do whatever we can to make the daunting a little less daunting. And, maybe, just maybe, as the daunting becomes less daunting and the support available becomes more readily available, we’ll see more of those families who have seriously considered adopting say, “maybe we can do this after all.”

There’s something special happening this month. A whole bunch of folks are now coming alongside of us, saying, “Yes, we support adoptive families and the work of The Sparrow Fund to pour into them. And, we want to help.” This May, in our third annual fundraiser, about 50 businesses have made a commitment to help us build the nest so that we can help others as they build their nests. In addition to event sponsors, these business partners have made the commitment to give 10% of their total sales during the month of May to The Sparrow Fund so that we can do what we do.

That’s where you come in. We need you to click here to see all the businesses and then we need you to shop purposefully. There’s really no better way to shop. Share the link with your friends. Let people know about this easy and fun way to help! Together, we can make that 10% something crazy big.

Forever changed by our experience of being adopted and adopting, Kelly Raudenbush is a stay-at-home mom/manager to 4 children and a professional juggler, juggling her calling as wife and mother with her secondary callings (editing and serving adoptive families through The Sparrow Fund). You can learn more about their adoption story, how they've been changed, and what life for them looks like on their personal blog (where she's going to have some super sweet giveaways this month, by the way).