Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Filling Out Adoption Forms

Last night my wife and I filled out some of the many forms necessary for our adoption from Haiti.  Along with all the family background data, the Christian group we are working with asked to questions we could answer with a paragraph or more.  The questions and the answers follow:

My relationship with God

All of us live every day by faith--we know nothing of the future but can only live in the present moment by the Grace of Our Lord.  In a faith relationship, exact history is difficult to pin down, but I believe my relationship with God began when I was four years old.  I watched "Davey and Goliath" puppets on TV.  It was 1957.  I was Jewish, but my parents did not attend synagogue or talk about God.  Davey and Goliath introduced me to the life of faith.

I was Bar Mitzvah at 13, but did not think very much about God again until I was 20 years old.  Then, in 1972 I joined the Air Force. By 1973 I was on a live-fire missile testing team.  I got a Christian roommate.  He took me to his Church.  I thought his Church inhabited by lunatics (it was Pentacostal) but he was a great guy.  

On November 9, 1973, I was blinded and had many other injuries in a missile explosion.  I did not make a confession of faith until the following February, but while blind, I could see that God was real.

Since then, I have by much Grace and effort been following the Lord Jesus.  Suffering has brought me closer to the Lord over the years.  I have been blessed with amazing brothers and sisters of faith and continue to be blessed by the Lord's presence and people every day of my life.

Why I am Adopting

The two words that best describe why I am adopting are Ability and Obedience.  

Ability:  I have had the delight of raising three brave, strong--sometimes overconfident--daughters.  I believe I can do the same with boys.  I am currently serving as a sergeant in the Army National Guard.  I have spent almost 15 years in the military, much of it as a tank commander.  The Lord has given me excellent training to be a father of boys who need homes.  I plan to do the best I can at this calling.

Obedience:  In the Church today, many people talk about taking the Bible literally by which they mean something far away from them--like Genesis or Revelation, not the tough stuff like giving away possessions.  Our Lord promises we will suffer if we obey Him.  To my wife and I, no command in Scripture is more clear and compelling than the command (both Old and New Testaments) to care for widows and orphans.  

For me, I can care for orphans and be sure I am obeying the Lord.  He cares particularly for widows and orphans in their need.  And as to suffering for the Faith, if adopting and caring for three teenage boys does not cause me suffering, then I will just have to adopt more.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Bring Your Own Spectators

This morning I ran a half marathon in East Hampton New York.  I have never been to Hamptons before.  The marathon course was so far east that we ran along the eastern tip of the island near the end.

Our hotel was a 90-minute drive from the hotel, so I got the boys up at 530am to eat at 6am.  The hotel had a free buffet.  And the buffet was much better than I expected.  I thought I would just eat a bagel or two, but the coffee was good, the eggs were good and so was the bacon.  The boys ate three sausage patties each, eggs and about 10 strips of bacon.

I should not have eaten the bacon.  I felt fine at the beginning of the run, but at mile four I felt pressure.  At mile eight I sprinted to a Port-a-Potty and lost six minutes.

After the stop, my pace dropped from 10:30 to 9:30 per mile.  I caught up to and then ran ahead of my running partner--she was slowing and said go ahead.  My sons were waiting 100 yards from the finish.  I finished then went back to them and the three of us ran back to Kristine.  We all ran toward the finish together.  I hung back so I would not go through the finish cameras twice.

Jacari waved to the crowd like her ran 13 miles instead of a half mile.  He is a ham!

We ate some post race food:  bananas, hummus, blue corn chips, sport drinks, and drove back toward the hotel and showers.  The traffic was so slow a mile from the race that I got out and walked a mile beside the road.  I had to wait just before a traffic light for Kristine and the boys to catch up to me.  After the shower stop, the Kristine took us to Queens.  We got on the Long Island Railroad, went to Penn Station and ate pizza before traveling on NJ Transit to Trenton.  then we drove to Lancaster.

A long day but the boys were very happy.  Since they eat well most of the time, a 24-hour holiday of TV and junk food is a real treat.

Friday, September 23, 2011

McDonalds! ???

Kids make up words.  Sometimes they stick, some burn away like dew off morning grass.  Both Nigel and Jacari decided to use their own word to mean "Awesome!"  Their tutor/honorary sister Kiersten uses "Awesome!" and "Rad!" to indicate something is better than good.  Last week Nigel decided to use the word "Pesto!" instead of copying "Awesome!"  Jacari uses "McDonalds!"  

So when someone coins a new word, the first test is will they use it in public.  Ridicule limits additions to language.  

Today, the boys and I went to New York so I could run a half-marathon on Saturday morning.  We drove to Trenton, took NJ Transit to Penn Station New York and met my running partner Kristine Chin.  We ate in Penn Station at a place that combines KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and Tim Hortons.  I got the boys personal pizzas, then hot wings and chicken fingers.  Kristine and I ate sushi.  She could not believe how much the boys could eat!!  They were so happy putting hot sauce on the chicken.  When the chicken and pizza were done, Jacari said, "Can I have a taco?" 

I said, "Sure."  

He said, "McDonalds!!"

"No Jacari, Taco Bell." 

Nigel said, "He means Awesome."

"Yeah McDonalds," Jacari said flashing a huge grin.

Nigel returned to his chicken which he said was "Awesome!"  Not "Pesto!"

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Jacari's Adoption

Nigel (left) and Jacari

The last two weeks in June of 2009 time flew past faster than a bat in a swarm of mosquitoes!  Those two weeks were my 15-day mid-tour leave from Iraq.  One afternoon of that highspeed week, my wife Annalisa and I went to an adoption "meet and greet" event at the host resort.  Prospective adoptive parents met children who were eligible for adoption and descriptions of kids not at the event.

We had pretty much decided to adopt when I returned from Iraq, but this meeting helped to put some reality in our plans.  We heard about Jacari in the fall.  Annalisa set up a class I could take just two days after I was released from Fort Dix after deployment.  I was discharged on Thursday, January 23, 2010, and went to an all-day adoption seminar on Saturday, January 25.

We met Jacari at his foster mom's house three weeks later.  He and Nigel got along great so we arranged for Jacari to spend weekends with us and the school week with his foster family until the school year ended.  Since June of 2010 Jacari has lived with us full time.

In a luck coincidence, Jacari's foster family lives just six miles from Fort Indiantown Gap, where I go to Army weekends.  On those once-a-month weekends, I drop Jacari off at his foster moms house and pickup him up on the way home Sunday evening.

We adopted Jacari in April.  This Sunday, he will turn 13 and make us a family with teenagers again.  Right now the boys are 11 and 12 and the girls are 20, 21, and 22.  No teenagers for three more days.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sabbath Thoughts

My wife actually honors the Sabbath.  From sundown Saturday to Sundown Sunday she shuts off the computer and does no work outside the house.  An Orthodox Jew might have a problem with the gardening, canning and other work she does, but she is more observant of the Sabbath than I am.  I go to Church Sunday morning.  I work out on Sunday afternoon.  But I look at email in between.

So since I am on line on the Sabbath anyway, I will try to keep my Sunday posts about faith as it relates to adoption.

There are as many reasons to adopt as there are people who adopt.  My reason for adopting began with faith.  I am a Believer, orthodox (with a small "o") which means I can describe my faith with the Nicene and Apostles' Creeds.

At this point if faith is not part of your interest in adoption, you should skip to tomorrow's post.  For those of us who believe God is Lord of the Universe and us, we do our often stuttering best to do His will.  And in that, some of us go crazy.

The main reason I am adopting kids, especially boys, is because I think I can do a good job being a father to them.  Granted, the bar is not high.  Boys who are available for adoption mostly have not had fathers in their lives, so I am an improvement simply by being here.  As a matter of faith, I can feel very confident that in this one thing I am obeying the Lord.  If there is any command in Scripture that is clear it is the command to care for widows and orphans.  Old Testament, New Testament completely agree we are to care for widows and orphans.  And there are plenty of widows and orphans around, since it is much more popular to take Genesis and Revelation literally than the book of James or the Sermon on the Mount.

From a faith perspective, I think it is safest to take the Bible literally when there is a real cost.  Visit prisoners, care for the sick, give your money and possessions away--these are not the popular parts of the Bible to take literally.  I haven't done any of those yet.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Army Picnic--Foster Mom Visit

Today I got Nigel and Jacari up at 530am for a long, complicated, fun day.  Each month when I have a drill weekend with the Army National Guard, Jacari spends the weekend with Melissa--his foster mom of three years before we adopted him.  Melissa is an adoptive mom of a boy with Downs Syndrome and foster mom of a teenage girl.

For Jacari this weekend often means some kind of special trip or treat--Melissa gets tickets for Hershey Park and other amusement centers through her network of foster moms.  I dropped the boys at Melissa's house at 7am and drove 6 miles to Fort Indiantown Gap.  The first order of business for this weekend was the annual Fitness Test.  I was really looking forward to this.  I have scored close to perfect on the last five fitness tests--between 288 and 297 on a 300 scale--but never made the maximum score.  Today I hit 300!

After the fitness test, I took pictures of a Blackhawk and a Chinook helicopter landing in a field to bring officer candidates on board.  Then I went back to Melissa's and picked up the boys for the annual unit picnic.  Nigel, Jacari and I ate hamburgers, hot dogs and cookies.  After the food, I took the boys through the hangar where helicopters are are repaired.  Then they went back to Melissa's and I returned for some late afternoon work.

At 730pm I picked up Nigel and drove home.  Jacari stayed at Melissa's till I picked him up the following evening.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Discipline 1

Today my wife and I were both out of town.  I got a call from the young woman watching the boys that Jacari had refused to help make dinner and gone off to the park after being told No several times.  The woman who tutors our kids and sometimes watches them is very nice but had had enough and called me.  At the time I was on the train home and about 45 minutes away.

She put Jacari on the phone.  We have a full length mirror in the living room.  I told Jacari to go and sit infront fo that mirror till I got home.  He could lok at a boy who was in a lot of trouble.  When I got home Jacari was sitting on the floor.  I told him to get up and sit down several times--just to be sure he understood instructions and, more importantly, who was giving the instructions.

Next he did 25 pushups and remained in the pushup position while I walked in a circle around him and explained how he would obey those in charge of him in the future.  I also asked him how much fun his trip to the park seemed right now.

After this he took a shower and got ready for bed.  When kids willfully disobey they need to be corrected--and corrected enough that they have real consequences to stop them the next time.  Parents who "explain" the rules to a defiant child are sending a snowball of trouble down a big hill.  It will be an avalanche someday.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Adoption and Work

My wife works 2 blocks from the campus where she teaches.  She walks another two block on campus to get to her office.  She has a commute anyone could love--ten minutes each way, no car, bus, or train.  

I am 72 miles from my office--two hours each way four days each week.  It used to be two days each week, but my boss and my job changed while I was in Iraq.  I love my job and even if didn't, I would not want to turn my back on a good job in a bad economy.  

But if we do adopt two more boys in the next six months, we will have four teenage sons this time next year.  If that happens, the 85/15 split my wife and I have on who is responsible for child care could get even worse.  I will have to figure a way to work less.  

Just thinking out loud now, but the decision will be facing us if the adoptions go through.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Not Too Old to Adopt

Wenky will be our first international adoption.  The rules are different in every country.  For instance, some countries have minimum and maximum ages for adoptive parents.  We certainly meet the minimum ages, but we did wonder if I was over the maximum.  It turns out I am still OK to adopt, even at 58.

When I got my annual physical last Friday, my doctor said he knew a couple that were not married, but decided to adopt together.  They were adopting from Ukraine and the father was over the age limit.  But they allowed single mothers to adopt.  They were planning to be married, but put off the ceremony until the adoption was final.

Monday, September 12, 2011

First Visit with Emarion

Our social worker is working to set up a visit with Emarion.  We will visit him at his foster home.  The tentative date is October first.  My wife and I are running a half marathon that morning, so driving three hours after running 13.1 miles should make for an interesting day!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Going Home on 9/11

The Richmond trip made the 10th Anniversary of 9/11 into a family weekend.  We spent Saturday night with my oldest daughter at the race and saw her apartment afterwards.  Sunday morning we walked around Cary Street with my youngest daughter, who is a student at the University of Richmond.

We were going to go to Brunch with Lisa, but she mostly a vegetarian--a social carnivore as one of her friends says.  Since the boys and I were staying at a Holiday Inn Express, I got them up to eat the free buffet before we met Lisa.  They got to add ham, eggs and sausage to the previous night's NASCAR buffet.  I saved about $50 taking them to a place their sister would like.

So we had coffee and walked.

When the boys and I got home it was time to run.  I run the boys at least twice a week.  More if my work schedule allows.  Jacari is a fast and talented runner.  Nigel suffers with every step.  We ran a 3-mile circuit.  Nigel ran two and waited for us at a bend in the loop.  Jacari ran three.  Near the end Jacari announced that when we went to the gym he was going to run more.  Jacari likes to show off and will say he is going to do things, then not do them.  He gets good feedback for this, especially from teachers, social workers, etc.

But boys need to become men.  I told him not to say that kind thing to me.  If he wants to show me he is tough.  Show me.  Then tell me what you did.

I ran another three miles, then we went to the gym.  Jacari started playing basketball, then ran two more miles in the indoor track.  I stopped him at lap two and five of twelve to do 10 then 25 pushups and he kept going.  (The pushups were for talking back to their tutor on Friday.  More on discipline in a future post.)

After running Jacari joined Nigel on the gym floor playing basketball with three college students.  Nigel hit three three-point shots and was elated.

We all ate well at dinner.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Richmond International Raceway

The boys and I had a great time at the Richmond NASCAR race.  We got to sit with veterans and their families and watch one of the best races of the season.  The Richmond event is the final race of the NASCAR regular season before the ten-race championship begins.  Most of the 11 of the 12 drivers were sure they were in the championship when the green flag fell, but one was not--Dale Earnhardt Jr. who drives Army National Guard car.  He had to finish 20th or better to make the championship.  Not a big challenge--except he got caught up in a big wreck less than 20 laps into the race.  Then another one.

The nose of Earnhardt's car was crumpled.  He was last car running in the field.


We cheered Earnhardt for the remainder of the race.  He was a lap down and got his lap back.  He would slip back below 20th place because his crumpled front end hurt the handling of his car.  But enough cars wrecked in front of him that he finished 16th by the end of the night and made the championship.

Nigel and I have been watching car racing since he was very young.  Jacari is only mildly interested, but tonight's event made him a fan.  Now the three of us can follow the ten-race championship together.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Our Family

My wife and I have a yours-mine-ours family.  She has a daughter, Iolanthe, from her previous marriage.  I have two daughters, Lauren and Lisa, who are both in college.  We adopted Nigel in 2000, three years after we were married, when he was 6 weeks old (the adoption was final just after his first birthday).  We adopted Jacari this past April.  He started living with us in June of 2010.

Iolanthe just graduated from Bryn Mawr College and is living in Virginia with her Dad.  Lauren is in a Master of Social Work program at Virginia Commonwealth University.  Lisa is in her junior year at the University of Richmond.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

NASCAR. . .With a Lot of Help from My Daughter

On Saturday night, if I do not get called up for National Guard duty because of the floods in Pennsylvania, my boys and I will be going to the NASCAR race at Richmond International Raceway.  My oldest daughter is in graduate school in Richmond and scored tickets for us for the NASCAR feature event.

The boys watch races because I watch them on TV, but the spectacle of a live event is something completely different.  I have to work in Philadelphia Friday night and I am racing in Milton PA on Saturday morning, but I did want to miss this chance for a big memorable event with both the boys and their sister.  Of my three daughters, Lauren is by far the biggest motor head.  When she was growing up she had boy rock stars and kittens on her wall, but she also had her wall and ceiling covered with pictures she cut from Autoweek magazine.

She put the Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Maserati pictures right above her head so she could wake up and think about driving.  That's the sister you want at a NASCAR race.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Nigel and Jacari

We currently have two adopted sons and are in the process of adopting one or possibly two more boys.  More on that in the next few days.

We adopted our son Nigel at six weeks old back in 2000.  At the time we had asked for a two-to-four-year-old boy, possibly a boy and girl sibling pair.  At the time our three daughters were nine, ten, and eleven.

Our intention in adopting was to provide a home for a child who needed one.  We decided to go with the State Wide Adoption Network (SWAN) and adopt a child from Pennsylvania.  I wanted our first adopted child to be as young as possible, my wife was not as concerned about age.  But we both figured two was as young as we could hope for.

We completed the adoption classes in the Spring of 2000 and expected to begin the adoption process soon after.  We waited.  We got pictures of kids ready for adoption, but the boys were eight, ten, even older.  Not happening.  Then just before Christmas we got a call about Nigel.  A teenage girl walked into  a crisis pregnancy center in Pittsburgh and decided to put her so up for adoption.  We got the call the Thursday before Christmas saying we could pick up Nigel on Monday.

Then they told us Nigel had a stroke when he was born.  I started talking like Porky Pig.  Annalisa saw no problem.  We had plans to take the girls on a Christmas vacation, but we drove to Pittsburgh when we got back and brought Nigel home.

Nigel's name is the only request we had from his birth Mom.  She wanted his name to be Nigel.  I was elated.  I am a Formula 1 car racing fan and my favorite drive is Nigel Mansell--1992 World Champion.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Meeting Our Next Son

Today we drove to State College in three hours of rain to meet with the social workers of a boy we may be adopting.  His name is Emarion.  He is 12 and is currently with a foster family north of State College.  We did not expect to meet Emarion today, but the visit was scheduled in a Barnes and Noble and for reasons too complicated to explain, one social work took Emarion around the store to look at books while the other one met with us.

We got to see Emarion interact with the social worker.  He seems like a great kid.  He smiles a lot and talks a lot--good signs when kids are from difficult backgrounds.   We asked questions and talked with the social worker A for about 45 minutes, then she went with Emarion and we talked with social worker B.  A and B were comfortable with us, so she allowed us to meet Emarion, simply as adoptive parents. We showed him pictures of our boys, then of our whole family.

He was shy.  He had asked for a toy helicopter as his reward from A and B.  I could tell him I fly in Blackhawks and Chinooks which really got his attention.  He was wearing a "Tap Out" shirt, so I could tell him about "tapping out" in combatives training when I was in a match with a 22-year-old who is into martial arts.

So we have something in common right away.

While we were waiting we got an email from the people who are connecting us with a 12-year-old boy from Haiti.  His name is Wenky Pierre.  If all goes well we may adopt him also.

More later.