Sunday, January 17, 2016

Pictures of Anya's visit

Since even most of you who know our crazy little family did not have the marvelous privilege of meeting our girl Anya while she was here, I decided to post a few (?!) pictures to help me deal with the unbearable missing her give you a little insight into who she is. 

This was on our drive home from the airport. At that point, she wouldn't speak above a whisper, and this was the most interaction we got--slight smiles. We had been warned she was shy...but this was REALLY shy. We were a little worried about trying to help this girl come out of her shell in our crazy household.

 However, the next day (after dragging our poor jet-lagged girl to church and then the playground with friends in the afternoon), she warmed up and began laughing and playing.

 I sneaked this shot of the girls holding hands at worship that evening.

The next day, there was a party for refugee children in our area, so I took our kids over to make friends. Anya warmed up and joined in the games with the others.

This is a quick one I caught of the kids flopped on our bed, watching something on the iPad.

Anya is a pro at playing the grade-school hand-slapping game!

She arrived on Friday afternoon, and by Tuesday, we were on the way to Arkansas to see family for Christmas. Already Anya was coming alive as herself.

The next day, Wednesday, it was Christmas with my family! (Since they are all in the medical field, we just pick a day that works for all the schedules.)

Our boys, always two peas in a pod, often stuck to playing with each other, leaving Anya and Anaya to enjoy creating the Sisterhood bond. I snapped this one on a walk in the woods (complete with Bug Barn and new two-way radios).

Anya got to pump an old-fashioned pump in my parents' yard and give Alan a drink.

She was a quick learner and joined eagerly in with the traditional Crosier family Mexican Train domino games!

That afternoon, I sneaked a picture of the first time Anya initiated bringing the phone to Alan to try communicating via Google Translate.

By about a week into her visit, she was charging around with the other three playing Tickle Monster with Daddy.

And Alan did not disappoint with his everlasting Daddy wonderfulness! (These were matching pillowcases I made for the girls.)

She was thrilled to play gymnast with Daddy.

Clearly, she's pretty talented at this!

We took her to visit my sister at work at Air Evac, and she and the other kids enjoyed exploring the helicopter used for emergency airlifts. First, we got to put in earplugs and watch the helicopter land--exciting for all of us! The people on the helicopter were worried when they saw the girls holding dolls. They thought someone had brought babies with no earplugs!

This was a big hit!

She also got to experiment with taking selfies.

You should have seen her face when she saw the Christmas lights decorating the square in Fayetteville, Arkansas!

Even getting groceries was a fun new experience for Anya.

Pizza with the family was another huge hit.

On our way back to Tennessee, we stopped at the Bass Pro store in Memphis. Alligators, fish, boats, a glass elevator, all new experiences. Amazing!

You can see Anya holding her new doll Evalina here. She was such a devoted mommy. I don't think she has ever had a doll before.

Back in Tennessee, we went to Rock City to see the Enchanted Garden of Lights. Thankfully, we picked a warm and dry evening!

We only had a day and a half back in Tennessee, though, before we headed up to Kentucky for a Conference: Generation. Youth. Christ. The hotel Christmas decorations were amazing to our girl.


In response to an eager chorus of "Please, Daddy?" from two adorable girls, we went out in to the freezing New Year's Eve weather to get, unbelievably, ice cream! (And yes, by now we were both "Mommy and Daddy" to her.)

To me, one of the highlights of Anya's visit was when she brought me this postcard from the It Is Written display at GYC. She wanted to understand the picture. I pointed to the center of the cloud and said, "Jesus." Her face lighted up with indescribable delight as it dawned on her that Jesus was coming in the clouds. She grabbed my phone and asked through Google Translate, "We not die?" I had to blink back tears as I explained to her that Jesus was coming in the clouds like this soon. She was thrilled and wanted to know next if Jesus could get her from Ukraine.

Our friends Uncle Chester and Auntie Jane took the girls with them on a flight in their airplane, which was a another great thrill. (So was tickle torturing Chester before Daddy got there to pick them up.)

Back at home, things settled into something of a normal routine after GYC, with Anaya going to school and Anya and me staying home with the boys. We did get some time with friends, and swim parties at the pool at Southern Adventist University were very popular!

The girls enjoyed playing horsie with the boys at Uncle Chester and Auntie Jane's house!

By now, our girls were settling in as sisters (complete with petty disagreements, but we won't mention those here).

Anya doesn't know how to play the piano yet, but she really wants to learn!

Anya loved dressing up Anaya's cat Zinnia, whose everlasting patience made this picture possible.

We had one last swim party the night before she left.

On the final Sabbath at our house, after a tear-jerking heart-to-heart with us via translation, Anya used sidewalk chalk to write a message to our family and our translators.

So, there's a taste of our journey. I hope you feel like you know our girl a little better now, and understand why we miss her so much!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

A few days ago I noticed there were chunks of gravel all over the garage roof. Confident they had not clambered up there by themselves, I called Seth over. "Look, Seth. There are rocks all over the roof. What do you think about that?"

There was a brief deer-in-the-headlights moment as he contemplated how to explain this phenomenon. "We were playing asteroids," he began, eyes wide. "We were just trying to get them to go all the way over!"

"I see. And is it ever going to happen again?"

The blue eyes twinkled in relief. "No, Mommy!" He scampered off.

Later, I brought Skyler in and confronted him with the same fascinating rooftop panorama. There was another moment of sacred silence. "Um...Sethie did it too!"

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

We love a girl

 Two months ago I posted the news that we were hosting an orphan from Ukraine over Christmas. I didn’t say much about the process by which we came to that decision (filled with trepidation, research, questions, and long discussions). Only the skeletal facts of what we were doing—bringing a little girl we had never met, and who didn’t speak English, to spend a few weeks with us.
Did I know the risks? Believe me, I thought I did. I had researched them. And while I was somewhat confident that she wouldn’t slit our throats in the night and burn the house down with us duct-taped to our beds, I armed myself with an array of problems to expect. There would probably be control issues. Boundary pushing. Hosted kids sometimes refuse to take showers—or deluge the bathroom when they do. They may refuse to eat what is prepared—or sneak out of bed to gorge on food at night. They may lie compulsively, steal, or bed-wet. They sometimes have problems sleeping, controlling anger, and integrating into the family in a thousand different ways. And there are always the looming possibilities of attachment disorder issues. “What if she strangles the cat? What if she won’t let the family sleep? What if she abuses the other kids?” I can’t say I didn’t worry about these things. I did. And I worried that we would feel like we had a stranger dropped into our midst for a torturous, uncomfortable three and a half weeks.
But in the end, none of those serious problems happened. Instead, we had another problem we didn’t expect.
I glimpsed the first signs of the problem as the jet lag wore off and she and our daughter began scampering around giggling together. Or maybe it was when she tipped those shining chocolate eyes up to meet mine, with just a touch of a smile and a nod, when I asked if she felt ok here. It could have been when I first heard her burst out laughing. Maybe it was when I asked her through Google Translate if she had a boyfriend and I first heard her voice louder than a whisper as she shouted in adolescent horror, “NO!” I definitely saw signs of something to be concerned about when she curled up next to my husband with his phone for the first time, voluntarily seeking to communicate through Google Translate. And I knew we were dealing with a serious problem when she first darted around the rack of clothing in the store, spied something she loved, and shouted impulsively, “Mom!”
The problem seemed small at first, but then it mushroomed quickly: we fell in love.
You see, we weren’t supposed to have this problem. We chose a host-only girl—one who was not even legally available for adoption. We were intentional about preventing this problem, you see. We knew we couldn’t invest for a lifetime with someone. Not now, anyway. We’re too busy. Our kids are too young. We're not a family that has money to do that kind of thing. If we wanted to adopt, why couldn't we do it from foster care? Or just accept that there are all these college students in our lives that need us to be temporary "Mom and Dad" to them anyway, already? We're overwhelmed with homeschooling, my schooling, and just trying to get the everlasting mountain of laundry folded and enough silverware in the drawer to eat meals regularly. We're up to our eyebrows already.
 More than that, we know the challenges of parenting young people who have been born to other families. My husband does it all the time--they line up outside his office door daily. And me, right now, I'm full-time parenting our three, but I'm still parenting dozens of others on the side--these teenagers I fell in love with as I read the soul-jerking essays they scribbled for English class and then read them slowly again, knowing more needed to happen than mere proofreading. I took their broken hearts home with me. Some of them are already into their thirties now, but still the calls and texts come. This parenting job thing, it never ends. And when it ends unexpectedly--when I get the message that I won't hear that voice on the other end of the line ever again--I know that pain too. It rips out my heart to ask myself again, "Did I do everything I could? Did she know she was loved, all the way to the end?" Do I want to sign up for more soul-jerking?
I've been the one on the other end of the phone (more than once) while one of my former students took the pregnancy test. I've also been the one receiving frantic texts when the girlfriend says she's pregnant, too. I've gotten the "I can't tell my mom, Mrs. Parker--what am I gonna do?" Do I want to sign up to potentially be the one whose doorstep the illegitimate child gets dropped off on?
I've been the one whose couch soaks up the tears after the breakup. So many breakups! I've wept with the reeling twenty-something because their best friend stabbed them in the heart. I've bitten my tongue and held back the "I told you so" when things turned out the way I said they would but hoped they wouldn't. I've spent hours listening to the choked sobs while my own eyes burn with tears as I helplessly suffer when someone I love is hurting so hard, and all I can do is pray with them and assure them the ache isn't going to be forever. Do I want to sign up for more pain?
See, it was different with them. I didn't mean to fall in love with them. It happened while I ran alongside them selling books door-to-door, cried and prayed with them in a dark car, then made them get out and keep going. It crept up on me when I read the journal pages they shyly spread in front of me. It spilled over when they tapped on my office door, eyes brimming with unshed tears. I already knew them, those sons and daughters of my heart, and I loved them because I knew them. Who couldn't love them? I'll love them till the day I die. But do I want to sign up to love one more, one I don't even really know yet?
 In the end, it's not a question I get to decide to answer. Sparkling coffee-brown eyes, a contagious laugh that dances in the air, a soft voice calling me Mommy, exuberant hugs, sobs at the thought of separation from us, have decided for me. I love one more, because I know her now.
Only the Lord knows what the future holds. At this point, Anya is still unavailable for adoption, legally. And if she were to become available, what then? I honestly don't know. It's fine to say, "You've fallen in love, just do this thing," but really, we've only spent three weeks with her. Her English is so severely limited that she can't tell us a thing about what's going on in her heart without translation. She's just barely figured out that Jesus is coming again. She still has no idea who David or Paul is. She might not even want to be adopted. And she would be our oldest, leading the way for the other three to potentially abandon all we teach them. The alcoholic background that shattered her childhood has certainly left deep wounds, probably ones she has never had a safe place to process. Little hints all over in her life--chewing with her mouth open, giggles at crude humor--quietly remind me that this is a child being raised by children. What issues will that leave? I honestly don't know.
What I do know is this: we love a girl. So we're going to invest in her. We plan to bring her over to spend ten weeks with us this summer. The soul-jerking, heart-breaking journey of choosing to love is always worth it. Not because it is guaranteed to pay off with satisfaction for us in the end--it absolutely isn't. But because Jesus did it for us. And if nothing good happens, except that we are changed into His's worth it. Because love is the law of the universe, and love wins.
"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." James 1:27