Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Restaurants and Children: Observations, Tips and Warnings (Part 1)

Carrie and I used to be frequent restaurant visitors.  But due to budget cuts and the abundance of children in our party that has changed a great deal.  However, on those occasions that we do eat out here are some observations, tips, and warnings from my dining with children experiences.
  1. Never ask your child where they want to eat.  It will never be where you want to eat.
  2. During the drive to the restaurant your children will complain that they are starving and that it is taking too long to get there. 
  3. If that restaurant happens to have a play area, those same children will eat one Chicken McNugget and three french fries and then loudly exclaim that they are no longer hungry.
  4. Did you know that children have compartmentalized stomachs, and that their green bean compartment is much smaller than their ice cream compartment?
  5. If I had a child's system of priorities when it comes to play vs. eat I would not be going to Quick Weight Loss.
  6. Regardless of how cute you think your child is when she is walking around taking the silverware off of other people's tables, the other patrons will not share your sentiment.  In fact, no matter how cute you think your children's antics are, no one anywhere will think so.
  7. If the restaurant that you have chosen doesn't have a playground there will always be a patron at another table nearby who will spot your family of six and immediately frown.
  8. Dear restaurant owner--what good is a playground if my children can see it as they walk in but I can't see it from my table. 
  9. Do not allow JoJo your child to dance on a nearby table.  Society frowns on such behavior.  Well, most of it anyway.
  10. Dear wait staff--unless you want to clean up crumbled and ground up wax off of the floor, please don't provide my 16 month old with crayons.
  11. Silverware should not equal drumsticks. See #6 above.
  12. Before children I was a good tipper.  With four children, I am now a GREAT tipper.
  13. Why do restaurants insist on keeping high chairs with broken restraining safety straps?  I will just have to leave after only ten minutes into my meal when JoJo insists that he MUST stand up. And really, those safety straps have a broken clip more than 50% of the time.  Really high chair manufacturer? You can't come up with a sturdier safety clip for your high chair safety straps?  If I was health inspector king I would close down any restaurant that has broken safety straps on their high chairs until they replace or repair any and or all broken straps.  Oh, now I get it. You're trying to get rid of us sooner.
  14. There are no high chairs in China. Nor are there any in the Chinese restaurants in Chinatown Houston, so we don't eat there anymore.  I am deeply saddened by this.
  15. If you really want to know how clean a restaurant is, check the high chairs, even if you don't have children.
  16. Who is the idiot who invented high chairs on rollers. I know it seems like a good idea because you don't have to pick the high chair up and carry it to the table but once a child is in it it becomes a giant baby bumper car. 
  17. Do not let your 16 month old boys out of their high chairs. The young couple sitting nearby will not appreciate it when Manny your son plays bumper car with the gentleman's chair.
  18. About #17above.......sorry sir. Of course, in a couple of years you will have a strange feeling of deja vous when your kids are doing it, too.
  19. Clearly I need to see a therapist regarding my obsession with high chairs.
In the end, it is rarely worth it to eat out, especially since unless we are eating at the golden arches or the place with the spotted cows it will cost in excess of $30 to eat.  I will really miss you Chipotle, Chuy's and ChinaTown Houston!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Sleep and Other Elusive Dreams

Prior to bringing Grace home from China, Carrie did lots of parenting research.  She read books and articles about raising adoptive children, attachment disorders and discipline to name a few.  So when we brought Grace home we decided (based on research) to put Grace's crib in our room.  After all, she had spent the first eight months of her life in a crib in a room full of more cribs.  Actually we would have had her sleep between us had Carrie not been afraid that we would crush her.  I guess Carrie did read a book on co-sleeping because suddenly Grace WAS sleeping between us.  So much for spooning.
Nearly four years later Grace is still in our bed, but I am not.  How in the world did that happen?  Well, let me tell you.  We have tried several times to move Grace into her own room but, she has an extreme fear of the dark and an extreme fear of being alone. We made her a fairytale bed with a mosquito net (that we didn't take to DRC).  We hung pretty Christmas lights in her room so that it wouldn't be too dark in there.  We had Haven spend a few nights in Grace's room and told them they were mini slumber parties, only to wake up in the middle of the night as Grace was sliding into our bed.  We even told her that we would move her pet Tish the Fish into the bedroom with her.  Nothing has worked.    Through it all Haven has been the trooper, sleeping wherever and with whoever  he needs to.

Haven has always been a terriffic sleeper.  From day one he has slept through the night. So when we brought the littles home we figured they would follow suit.  We were 50% right.  JoJo has followed in Haven's foot steps and has been a terriffic sleeper from the get go.  Manny on the other hand has tested my strength, patience and love.

Oh Manny, Manny, Manny.  We have tried everything with Manny, short of alcoholic bevereges.  That boy would not sleep, and if you were lucky to get him to sleep, you had better not so much as drop a pin on the carpet or he will wake up.  Manny can scream, and I'm talking about the type of scream that would cause you to take your lower lip and wrap it around your head if that would drown out the sound.  And persistent, that boy's voice was built for marathons not sprints.   We have tried many techniques to try to get him to sleep, including rocking him until the rocking chair broke, literally.  When we decided that I would stay at home with the kids, I decided that it was only fair that I would be the one who would get up with the kids.  But that was before Manny. 

Once we finally get Manny to sleep the battle is only half way over, because that boy will not stay asleep and when he wakes up you had better have another bottle of milk for him or you will pay.  For the first six months that we were home, Manny averaged three wakeups per night.  I literally had not slept for more than three hours straight in six months.  That is when we made the big move to our current sleeping arrangement.  Carrie and Grace in the master bedroom on MY king size bed.  The sleepers, Haven and JoJo, sleeping peacefully in the boy's room and I sleep on Grace's teeny tiny bed with Manny in a pack and play next to me. 

This is madness.................. and we want two more?
Bring it on!

P.S. Manny has slept throught the night two nights in a row.  I even got to sleep in my own bed...........with Grace's feet digging into my back.

Oh, memories. 

I wonder which will happen first, Carrie and I spooning, or Grace's Master's degree.  Either way I'm sure her thesis will be titled "The Lasting Negative Effects of Co-sleeping "


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

An Open Letter to My Friend Margaret

You have foolishly agreed to watch my children while Carrie and I go get finger printed.
First, I must say "bwahahahaha"!  Second, I feel that I must leave you some information so that you won't freak out.

First, about the house:

1. I have been really too busy to mow the lawn so the grass is a little long right now, and I know, I know, the gutters need to be cleaned out.   But please come on in, people really do live inside.

2. Yes, the white smeary stuff on the windows is milk.  Manny and JoJo just love to finger paint.

3. Yes, that is a kitchen in there.......somewhere underneath all that.........stuff.  Feel free to cook something......if you dare!

4.  No, I didn't repair a motorcycle in the living room and no, the cast of Animal House did not have a food fight in there either.  The explanation is, well, I have four children named Grace, Haven, Manny and JoJo.

5.  That smell you say?  Well that is the smell of old dried milk, urine, a diaper or old milk bottle that has yet to be discovered (possibly under the couch), and possibly that missing cheese sandwich.

6.  Well yes, we do prefer to have the cushions on the couch but the children do not, so why bother to try when you are outnumbered four to one.  We just enjoy having cushions on the couch AFTER the kids go to sleep.

7.  Yes, we do have a vacuum cleaner, but using it is much like shovelling the driveway in the middle of a blizzard.  It's better to wait for the storm to go away before getting started.  I just like to think of it as an 18 year blizzard.

8.  Nope, not a science project in the backyard.  The kids like to play restaurant.

     P.S. I wouldn't eat there, they specialize in mud soup.

9.  That is a CLEAN pile of laundry, despite that fact that my snotty and poopy kids are crawling all over it.  If I had time to fold and put it away I would have, so please don't judge.

Now, about the kids:

1. Never feed a gremlin after midnight and never let Manny or JoJo in the will be sorry!

2.  One of the three boys will get stuck somewhere or in something.....just thought you should know.

3.  Grace will make Haven cry by doing little more that looking at's OK.

4.  Manny will cry and you will want to poke your eardrums out with a skewer.  They are located in the drawer left of the sink.

5.  Do you play guitar?  The boys have formed a heavy metal band.  Unfortunately, they are all drummers.

6.  If you fail to put the boys down for a nap it's your own fault.  I warned you.

And finally, don't look at the clock while you are here..........time will go by faster.




An Open Letter To My Sister

In a moment of weakness, you agreed to be the legal guardian to my children should something happen to both me and Carrie.  Pray dear sister, pray, because I know that you are afraid of germs and that you have a weak stomach.  I think it is only fair to pass along a little information that I hope will prepare you for parenting my brood should the unthinkable happen.  You need to be prepared my sister, you need to know, so that you will not be surprised and overwhelmed.

First and foremost I suggest a rigorous course of systematic desensitization so that you will not lose your lunch when you witness or have to do the following:

1. Manny and JoJo are not yet potty trained.  Don't worry, they only poop in their diapers twice each day. They go through about twelve (combined) diapers total each day.  Don't worry, if they are on the same pace that Haven was on, they will be potty trained in about two years.  At that rate you will only have to change about 8500 diapers. 
2. Haven is finally potty trained, however, he has not learned yet how to complete the post poop paperwork.  Alas it is inevitable that you will get some unwanted um lets say stuff on your fingers.  Also, please be prepared for some particularly messy paperwork when he has diarrhea. 
3.  Grace is potty trained and able to do her own paperwork however she is afraid of the dark so you will have to stop what you are doing to turn the light on for her.
4.  It is only fair to warn you that if you leave JoJo naked for more than a nanosecond, he will pee and poop on your floor.  The good thing is Manny waits until he is taking a bath to poop, so count on running his bath twice.  If he does poop in the tub, please clean it immediately before he and JoJo play with it.
5.  Please be aware that when changing JoJo's diaper that you need to keep his hands away from any poop.  It tends to get under his fingernails and it's really hard to get the smell out.

OK that's toileting. How is your stomach?

My children are good for about one cold per child per month.  Here is some advice.
1. If the snot is clear that is OK.  If it is green, don't use a white object to clean it, it will just turn that object green as well.
2.  Don't bother to wash your hands, you are going to get their cold anyway.
3.  If their snot is clear, don't  wear dark clothing, you will look like you fell asleep in a snail aquarium.
4.  If their snot is green don't wear anything white (see no.1 above).

1. If you know that one of the babies is sick and might puke, please don't feed them milk.  Milk reacts with stomach acid to produce a very stinky version of cottage cheese.  You too will puke.
2.  Spaghetti sauce puke is very hard to get out of the carpet.
3.  Do not make Grace eat anything that makes her gag when she looks at it.  She is not kidding.
4.  If one of the children has both diarrhea and is puking, it is better to put their butt over the toilet not their face.

These are just a few of the real crises that you will face should you decide to go through with guardianship of our children.  Should you be having second thoughts dear sister, please call and I will give you the number of one of Carrie's sisters.

Good luck and God Speed


Monday, October 31, 2011

If You Are what You Eat Then I'm A Fishken

I have been going to Quick weight Loss for 10 weeks now, and I have lost 38 lbs.  I feel great and I have started jogging and walking (OK mostly walking).  The only thing is I am totally burned out on chicken and fish.  Under dietary guidlines I can have grilled, boneless chicken breast.  I can't have sauce on it such as BBQ or Teriyaki, nor can I have any spice rubs that contain salt or sugar.  So for the most part I have grilled chicken breast (or fish) with Mrs. Dash. or garlic and pepper.  Quite frankly, I think I am about to sprout feathers.  My goal is to get down to 150 lbs. by Christmas which is exactly eight weeks from today.  I have been thinking alot about food and though I will spend the following year going to QWL to manage and stabalize my weight, I will be allowed to eat pretty much anything I want.....just not so much of it.  Right now though if you are what you eat, I am totally a Fishken, which made me wonder what the rest of the family are if they are what they eat.
Carrie-eats lots of popcorn and cheese which I guess makes her a Cheesepop.
Grace- loves Nutella as well as Ramen noodles, so I guess she's a Noodlenut.
Haven- goes crazy for yogurt drinks and baked potatoes, so he must be a Yogurtato.
JoJo - scarfs down bananas and grapes so I suppose he is a Grapana
Manny- hmm, Manny likes everything so I guess he is a kitchen sink.
So there you have it.  The Wood Family, also known as the Fishkencheesepopnoodlenutyogurtatograpanakitchensinks.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I Know a Man

I know a man who represents the Kingdom of Heaven.
I can't tell you his name, or where he lives or even what he does for a living.  It's too dangerous.
I have met this man personally and my family has been blessed by his actions.
Here is what I can tell you about him:
He works three jobs, well in excess of 80 hrs. per week.
He lives on a dirt road and raw sewage runs along side of it.
His house is made of cement and cinder block and the roof is made of sheet metal.
His windows do not have glass or until recently even screen, and there is no indoor bathroom.
He doesn't have a refrigerator or microwave. Such things would be useless since there are only a few hours of electricity per week.
He doesn't own a car, he rides in crowded cabs and buses everywhere he goes.
He has nine children, six of whom still live in his house, and did I mention that he shares his house with another family?
Despite all of this he has cared for more than 20 foster children.
For the past two years he has provided a home for at least 5 foster kids at any given time.
For a while last spring he had nine foster children in his house.
He has spent countless hours on hot crowded buses and cabs without air conditioning, breathing astoundingly polluted air in the process of walking nearly 100 families through the adoption process.
He has escorted, translated, interpreted for and protected scores of families as they visited his country.
He has delivered several tons of aid to more than ten orphanages in his country.
He, along with his wife, has nursed several children back to health from the brink of death.
He and his family have suffered from diseases that were transmitted from the children that he has cared for.
He has spent countless hours waiting outside of offices and waiting rooms on behalf of people he has never met.
He has worked through the night many times and no one really knows the last time he took a day off.

Despite all of the discomfort that this man experiences in life, he is willing to continually sacrifice his time, energy and resources on behalf of orphans and strangers.  Unless you have met this man personally, unless you have been to his country, been to his house and met his family, you can not appreciate his personal sacrifice.  Why would he do this, why would he make such sacrifices when nobody would blame him to seek comfort and diversion (beer consumption in his country is extreme).  Why? Because this man is a follower of Christ.  He truly understands what it means to emulate Christ. He LIVES the sermon on the mount. The reality is he is surrounded by poverty, violence, corruption and evil.  Despite this he works fervently to push forward another reality, the reality of the Kingdom of Heaven. 

This man is my hero.  This man saved Haven's life. 
For that I will be forever grateful.

Thank You and your family

Amen and Amen


Friday, October 7, 2011

Bits and Pieces

So yesterday marked week 8 of my attempt to lose weight through Quick Weight Loss Center.  I have lost 31 lbs.  I am doing this because I know that at age 48, I need to get serious about taking care of myself if I'm going to be around to raise my children.  This morning I was reminded of just how old I'm getting when I hurt my back.  Would you like to guess how?  Below are several choices.  Try to guess how I got hurt.
A. Picking up lots and lots of toys off of the floor.
B. Taking out the Trash
C. Stooping over to clean up Skipper Puke
D. Picking up one of my four children.
E. Sneezing

Words of Wisdom by Grace Wood:
Ducks do not eat clouds.  They eat bread.
Ants do not drink milk.  It is too yucky

Right now as I write this, Manny is wearing one of Carrie's underwear around his neck like a cloth necklace.

I Hate the Doorbell
As I stated earlier, I am a little over weight and therefore always hot.  When I am home I generally wear a pair of shorts and nothing else.  The youngest two usually are in a pair of diapers and nothing else, and Grace though very skinny is also very hot natured so she usually wears only underwear around the house.  See a trend here?  Haven, because he is potty training usually wears a shirt and nothing else (a black sheep in every family I guess).  Generally I don't mind that we are not wearing alot of clothing since I am also the one who does the laundry.  That is until the doorbell rings.  Then all hell breaks loose.  The dog starts barking.  The littles start running in circles yelling dada bobobo.  Grace and Haven run to the door but can't unlock the deadbolt, so they are screaming at me as if I didn't know what just happened, and I go running for the closet for a shirt.  Now of course I am tempted to not answer it but the circus inside is a dead giveaway that somebody is home.  So after at least a minute I open the door to find that no one is standing there.  Just a package from the Package Fairy.  I hate the Package Fairy.....unless she is here to deliver something to me!

Keeping the floor picked up is like using a pushbroom to keep back the ocean tide.
JoJo only likes to poop in diapers that he has been wearing for five minutes or less.
Manny, drinks milk like he is training for the beer chugging contest at the fraternity house.
Manny and JoJo can tell when I am getting a jug of milk out of the fridge (as opposed to something else).
What is it about toilet water that Manny finds to fascinating?  Today he was dipping Grace's comb in it.
We have what seems like a hundred movies on DVD for the kids, yet Grace and Haven can't seem to find ONE that they both want to watch.

I hurt my back sneezing.

Have a wonderful weekend and God bless.

Monday, October 3, 2011

It Takes a Community of Faith

We all know the saying "It takes a village to raise a child".  Well I would like to propose a new one, "It takes a community of faith to bring home an orphan".   In our case it is taking THREE communities of faith to bring home the twin girls that we are adopting.  Three communities but one faith, faith in Christ, faith that we are living a life pleasing to the one who gave us life eternal.  More about these communities in a minute, but first an explanation as to why we need the help in the first place.

Raising children is expensive for sure.  The exact amount can vary quite a bit based on calculations that may or may not differentiate between what kids need and what kids want (I will discuss this topic in a future blog post).  So yes, raising children costs some money but adopting a child costs A LOT of money and pretty much all at once.  With what we have spent on the first three adoptions, we could have paid off our house, or bought three nice cars (with cash). The range varies quite a bit but I would say that the average adoption runs around $25,000.  It will take a little bit less than that to bring each of our girls home because they are twins and because the country from which we are adopting is not one of the more expensive ones from which we could have adopted.  With the first three adoptions we were able to spend money that we had saved, however, our savings account is pretty much empty, so in order to complete this adoption we have had to become resourceful.

We are having garage sales, and auctions. We are selling T-shirts, jewelry and blankets on line.  Basically we are doing anything (legal) that we can imagine to raise the money for the adoption.  Quite frankly, if you have an idea for raising money, please let us know, we are open to all (again legal) ideas.  With all of this we still would be struggling to complete this adoption without these three communities of faith:

The L-Group (bible study group) - Carrie and I have had the God given privilege of knowing the Ls for over 10 years.  The Ls and the rest of the members of this group have been so supportive to us the past three years. They have provided a place for us to have a garage sale to raise money for the two Little's that came home in April and now they have volunteered to do it again.  Other members in this small group have provided items to sell as well.  One member of this small group even created a part time position working for him in order to help us with our finances. I would like to think that I earned the money that he paid me but that would be highly unlikely.  These families have been such an unbelievable blessing to us.  They may not have been called to adopt, but they sure have answered the call to support those who were. This is the way the citizens of the Kingdom of God work together to bring the Kingdom a little closer.

Trinity Vinyard Church- We only joined this church a year ago. We love this community, and in part because adoption plays such an important role in their lives.  When this community found out that we were adopting, all sorts of people asked us how they could help.  They have rallied around us and have shown us such love.  I have never before seen such a church who truly love Christ and want to bring his Kingdom to the here and now.

Our Family in Africa- visit OFA's website at  We came into contact with this group when Carrie was looking for adoption agencies for our second adoption, which ended up being Haven. It turns out that OFA is not an adoption agency at all, but rather a group of awesome volunteers who work together to improve the lives of hundreds of orphaned children and along the way help a few to find their forever families.  The one thing that all of these families have in common is that they have all adopted children from Africa.  These wonderful folks volunteer by helping raise money, provide information and write newsletters, travel to Africa to deliver aid and of course help other families adopt children from Africa.  We travelled with several of these families and we became such great friends as we congregated in the "Room of the Scabies Rug" and loved and laughed as we waited for two governments to allow us to bring our children home.  What I love about this group above all else is the way they have all rallied around each other when a family is in need.  So many people have offered to help us raise money for this adoption that I can't possibly attempt to list them for fear that I would forget someone.

Two years ago, I heard a sermon in which the pastor suggested that we ask God to reveal his glory to us. I prayed that prayer.  I asked God to please reveal His glory to me, and you know what, He did it.  I have seen His Kingdom in these people.  I have seen a sample of how His Kingdom is infiltrating this world and I can't wait until the day that His Kingdom finally and forever bursts forth into the present.

Amen and Amen


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Why All This Talk About Responsibility!

Well, as many of you probably know by now, Carrie and I have decided to adopt twin girls from a third world country in sub saharan Africa.  With that in mind I guess I should wrap up this whole obsession with responsibility.

Being responsible requires someone to whom you are responsible and someone for whom you are responsible.  In most cases in today's world, the to usually refers to society and the for generally refers to self.

As I explained in an earlier post, I spent the first 25 years of my existence being responsible to and for no one.

The next 16 years I finally got a clue to society's expectations and became responsible to myself and somewhat responsible for my wife.  It was during that time that I became a follower of Christ and it was also during that time that I became aware of a gentle urgency to discover God's purpose for me.

On December 23, 2007, an anonymous Chinese orphanage worker handed me that purpose, my daughter Grace.  From that moment on I had a new and very important reason to be responsible for someone other than myself.

Less than two years later I went to the Democratic Republic of Congo to adopt my son Haven.  It was while I was there that God more fully revealed to me one of the more important things to Him.  Orphans. 

We have all seen the 30 minute pleas on television for orphans in Africa or in Asia.  They tug on our hearts and sometimes we even consider pledging a certain amount each month.  Carrie and I did that, we decided to sponsor a little girl in Colombia about eight years ago, and in fact we still continue that sponsorship.  TV can never do justice to actually going to a place where there is little of anything including hope.  The sights and smells, the eyes of the people, say so much more in person.  Aside from the moment I became a follower of Christ, my visit to D.R. Congo was the most profoundly important moment in my life.  It took me months and months to process what I experienced, especially my emotions, but when I came out the other side I had a clear understanding of my place in the Kingdom.  By the way, I could do an entire blog about the Kingdom and what it is, and since I don't want to go too far off on a tangent I will just say this:  the Kingdom of God is alive and well in this world. 

OK, so back to responsibility.  Lets wrap this up and move on.  Several months after returning from D.R.Congo I began to realize that I had missed the most important point to understanding responsibility.  I, or should I say we, must be responsible to God first.  God has a heart for His children, ALL of them, even those who don't have parents.  He is the Father to all of us, and as Christians we are His hands and His feet and that includes being surrogate parents to His children whether we gave birth to them or not.

After Haven, Carrie and I adopted Manny and JoJo.  Yep, that's right we have four awasome little people living underfoot.  And so here we come to one of those moments of conflict that most Christians come to when they have non-believing family and friends....drum roll please.....that's right....responsibility.  If you are a true follower of Christ and you are living for Him, and you are responsible to Him first, you will come into conflict with the World.  The world simply couldn't understand why we would risk our retirement and Grace's college fund in order to bring two more children into our home.  Well, the answer is R-E-S-P-O-N-S-I-B-I-L-I-T-Y.  We are answering God's call on our lives.  I'm not saying that He calls ALL of us to adopt six children, but I am certain of it, he called Carrie and Brian Wood to it. 

People wonder, I'm sure, whether or not we are crazy or worse yet, collectors.  They often ask "are you done?"  or "how many children are you going to adopt?"  or "how will you know when to stop adopting?"  Our answer to all of these questions is "as long as we have room in our hearts to love another child and resources to feed, clothe and educate them, we will continue to adopt".  So you might ask, bottom line, does that mean we will stop at six or will we keep going?  The answer is I don't know.  What I do know, despite what others might think is we are responsible, it is the Who we are responsible to that so many people don't understand.

Below is a video by Eric Ludy that explains what I am trying to say.  It moved my heart and I hope it moves your heart too.  Take it away Eric

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Irresponsibility Suits Me (part 4)

Almost seven years ago I celebrated my 40th birthday.  At the time my wife Carrie and I had been married for 15 yrs. and we worked together as high school theater teachers  We drove to school together, we shared an office, we even co-taught some classes.  A perfect job if your spouse is also your best friend. On weekends and summers we went antiquing together, ate out together, went to lots of movies and plays.  We pretty much did everything together.  We travelled, shopped for wine, yadda yadda, you get the gist.  We were DINKs (dual income no kids) and we were very happy with our lifestyle.   We bought a house in suburbia, and then added a pool and patio.  I got my pilot's license and Carrie contemplated a return to school to get her MA in Theater, which was going to require that we spend three summers in Chicago.  Tough decision I know.  At the time our "children" were three poodles, Zeke, Jezebel and Tabitha.  So yeah, we were living an American Dream sort of life, and we were happy.
It was 2005, the day after school let out for the summer and I was about to brew a batch of Pale Ale in the garage when the call came.  Carrie's grandmother had died.  I put away my equipment and ingredients and we made preparations to drive to CA. 
Long drives can be a dangerous thing, especially when it's just you and your mate of 15 yrs.  Thousands of miles of conversations about this and that and........"hey what do you think about adopting a girl from China?".............."Uh What?" and suddenly there we  were on a lonely stretch of road contemplating the unimaginable.
At the time, I was going through a period of "who am I, and what is my purpose here" introspection.  Though I was happy, I couldn't help but wonder if I was living God's plan for my life.  Yes I enjoyed my job teaching Theater, but I didn't have the same passion for it that my wife did.  What I really liked about teaching were the long vacations and trips back and forth to Wyoming and California, and there we were on a lonely stretch of I-40 somewhere in Arizona or New Mexico having the discussion that would ultimately turn our lives, our passions and our priorities completely upside down.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Irresponsibility Suits Me (part 3)

I don't really know if everyone gets to a point in their life where they begin to wonder if they are doing life right, but it happened to me as I sat alone in a farmhouse.  Carrie and I had just moved close to her job as a teacher in Littlefield, TX.  We rented a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere.  Our closest neighbor was half a mile down a dirt road.  Our second closest neighbor was over a mile away.  I had attempted to find a job in Littlefield with no luck.  Questions began to creep into my mind and then they began to become the central focus of my attention.  What is the meaning of life,?  Why am I here?  What is my purpose?  And, so there I was sitting in the farmhouse wondering how long this particular chapter would last.  The answer was nine months.  That's how long it took for me to find a job in Lubbock, TX.

Working in Lubbock was exciting.  This bustling city of 200,000 people was six times larger than any place I had lived since the age of five. We moved to a house  (OK shack) on a lake just outside of town.  We spent lots of time money (and beer) really fixing the place up, and if I might say so myself it turned out to be a really nice place to relax.  I opened a homebrew supply shop and met lots of friends who loved to brew and drink beer like me.  For the next three years life was good again (by worldly definitions).  Carrie was making a good living.  Our house on the lake was paid for and we had little debt.  I was hanging out with my friends getting paid to drink beer and pretty soon those troubling questions went away.  I owned and operated Lubbock Homebere Supply for three years, and for most of that time I really had fun.

You can only push back so much against those nagging meaning of life questions.  It was like something or someone was gently asking me if I was satisfied with what my life represented.  The answer kept coming back.  There has to be more to life than seeking continuous hedonistic enjoyment.
Perhaps I think too much, or perhaps I am just like everyone else, perhaps someone has placed a void or vacuum in our heart that can only be filled with the divine.  I'm not saying that everyone must eventually fill this hole, but I am saying that it must be filled in order for one to feel whole.  So after many years of putting it off, I finally decided to ask Christ to come fill my hole, and He did. 

I didn't become a completely different person overnight however the process had begun.  I can trace it back to a bright sunny morning in April of 1996.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Irresponsibility Suits Me (part 2)

Responsibility requires a cause and it requires sacrifice.  When you are living to please yourself there is no need for responsibility.  However, when someone else comes into your life and you suddenly discover that you are in love.........well that screws everything up.  That is exactly what happened in April of 1987.  Staying true to myself, I was playing hookie from my job, which was easy to do because I totally hated it.  I didn't go to work because it was Greek Week and I wanted to go to a party.  Had I been a particularly responsible individual I would have graduated the previous spring.  If I had been even a little responsible, I would have been at work.  Instead I was at a party meeting the person who would later become my wife.  This goes to show that sometimes irresponsibility pays off.

I fell in love with Carrie almost at first sight.  Not really having any experience caring for anyone else besides myself, I continued to live life pretty much the same as I always had.  However, it did not take me long to realize that for the first time in my life I had acquired a cause .  That cause was to  (1) get Carrie to love me back and (2) keep her around as long as possible.  In order to accomplish that, I had to make (gasp) sacrifices.  Anyone who has been in love knows what I'm talking about.

Within two years Carrie and I were married.  The following year I finally graduated with a degree in Psychology.  I got a job with an adult vocational rehabilitation company.  Within two years I had 14 people working for me.  Suddenly, I was responsible (what happened).  I got a credit card, Carrie and I bought our first car, and a house.  Oh, my gosh what happened!  We were real adults!  No way! 

I had spent the 1980s irresponsible and aimless and though fun, towards the end it left me feeling empty.  That space was partially filled when I fell in love with my wife. Carrie and I really enjoyed our life together, just the two of us.

During the 1990s I slowly began to understand what society considered to be a responsible lifestyle.  It goes something like this:
get an education
get married
find a good job
make a lot of money
pay your taxes
buy a house, a car, a boat, a membership to something, and anything else that you can afford
vote (preferably Republican)
start a family
raise them responsibly
go to church so that your kids will learn how to be good people
send them to college
save for retirement
purchase a good life insurance policy
buy a house on the lake to go with the boat
golf and fish
be a grandfather
and then finally, die, making sure to leave a significant amount of money for your wife, kids and grandkids.

And there you have it, the American dream and the most responsible lifestyle imaginable.

I'm not saying that Carrie and I were on the fast track to responsibility (aka. the American Dream) detailed above, but we had plenty of time and money to do all of the things we enjoyed, and we were moving down that list.....sort of.  Yet I began to sense there was something missing and it was during this period of time that I began to wonder if the chase for the American Dream was all there was to life.  Was there more to life than achieving perfect responsibility? 

Yep, there was something.  I sensed it, another relationship perhaps?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Irresponsibility Suits Me (part 1)

I was raised in a Methodist family where church attendance was compulsary.  My parents wanted me to be the best person that I could be and  I suppose in their minds regular church attendance would facilitate their agenda.  I hated church, especially in high school.  Getting up for church was not my idea of a good start to the day.  Getting doused with ice water was an even worse proposition, and once my mother proved that she was willing to use such a tactic to get my carcass out of bed I began to see the light.  Forcing a high school kid to go to church with a glass of frozen water is no way to facilitate a relationship with the Holy. 
I moved off to college when I was 17.  I wouldn't walk into a church for eight years.  During that time my theological education was mostly influenced my experiences at the Sigma Nu house.  I was an enthusiastic member of the fraternity and never missed a Friday or Saturday revival meeting.  There, my brothers and I spent countless hours discussing and solving the problems of the world. Our inspiration of course was provided by the likes of such visionaries as Adolph Coors, Frederic Miller and Augustus Busch.  Very rarely did our intellectual discussions ever stray into sectarian ground.  Communion of grape juice and oyster crackers was replaced by Miller High Life and Allsups burritos.  On Sundays I opted for the comforts of the Church of the Latter Day Mattress.  During my first 5 years in college (I was there for a total of 8) I never let other resposibilities such as going to class, or part time jobs interfere with my hedonistic lifestyle.  As a result my grades suffered and I rarely had  money to put into the Hat of Offering as it was passed around the house.  My life may have had no meaning or direction but I was having too much fun to notice, much less care.  The point about all of this is to show that I was a very self centered individual and that I lived for the moment.  In short, I was irresponsible. 

That word, responsible, has been an unspoken theme throughout my life.  My father, an airforce pilot, certainly bought into the military structure that was his life.  Both of my parents were concerned about my lack of motivation  My mother began pressuring me to get a part time job several months before I even reached the legal age for employment.  They were constantly sharing their concern with  me about my poor grades and there was no debate as to whether I was going to go to college.  Simply put, my parents were insistant that I achieve all of those things that society uses to measure success.  They wanted me to grow up and be a responsible adult, at which time they could say to themselves "Our work here is complete, we have raised a responsible son".  Who could blame them, isn't that what all parents want?  The problem is what exactly does the word responsible mean?  By who's standard are we measured?  How do we decide whether or not we are acting in a responsible manner?  Well it didn't really matter at this point in my life because I would have been labeled irresponsible according to pretty much anyone's standards.  However, the meaning and standard of the word responsibility would remain a theme up to this day.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Why this Blog

About twenty years ago I spent six weeks as a car salesman.  I had just abandoned the masters degree in counselling that I was working on and really needed a job.  I convinced the dealer that I could sell cars, so he hired me.  Clearly, I was mistaken.  I didn't realize it at the time but I wasn't succsesful nor would I ever be due to the fact that I didn't believe in the product or the process.  Instead, I just quit and decided that I wasn't a salesman.  Twenty years later I have come to realize that I do have a product that I believe in so very much that I want to share it and for free.  The product is Fatherhood. and not just fatherhood but Adoptive Fatherhood.  With that in mind the goal of this blog is twofold, first to inform and secondly to persuade. 

There are hundreds of websites that you can go to for information about adoption, and I will certainly provide links to several of those sites over the weeks and months to follow.  Some of those sites will tell you about the 65 million and counting orphans living (sometimes dying) around the world.  You can learn about the events that cause so much suffering in these children, such as wars, disease, famine etc.  You can learn about domestic adoption, foreign adoption, foster care, and adoption agencies etc.  However, with this blog my goal is to create a window into which you can view my experience as the father of four (and counting) adoptive children.  I'm not doing this because I think we are the most interesting or entertaining family, but rather I want to share with you the joy that is Adoptive Fatherhood.

I'm going to be up front with you the reader and say that once I have informed you about adoptive parenting I hope to convince you to get more involved in the lives of orphaned children.  I hope that you will be moved to support an orphanage or a ministry that works with orphans.  Perhaps you know or will meet a family who can use your moral or financial support as they raise their adoptive children.  But my biggest hope for this blog is that at least one family will read it and take the plunge into adoption.  My wife and I have taken the road less travelled and we have been blessed beyond our wildest dreams.  I think that's what happens when you trust in Christ and step out of the boat.