Thankfulness

I Thessalonians 5:18 is a well-known verse: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you…”

This verse arrives in the chapter right after we are instructed to rejoice always, and pray without ceasing. All of which God must have known we humans would struggle with, and struggle with aplenty, especially in this fallen, sin-riddled world.

It seems then, that during a season of Thanksgiving, I should not be surprised when my ability to give thanks is tested. Such was the case this year, though nothing we struggled with was nearly as challenging as some of the very, very hard circumstances many in this world are faced with each day. This blog entry will feel a bit long and tedious and I don’t expect many to read it all the way through, but I want to get it down in writing for my own remembrance. Because we truly have so very much to give thanks for this year.

The Monday night before Thanksgiving, our oldest child began experiencing very sharp chest pain which continued through the night. Any sharp intake of breath also caused pain, and she was unable to lie down, and could only get relief while sitting propped up with pillows. We got her comfortable in the recliner in the living room and there she spent a fitful night. These were scary hours for her, and for us, and a morning call to the pediatrician didn’t offer any answers except the directive to go straight to the ER and get a chest x-ray. Jay accompanied Abigail so that I could stay home with the rest of our children, and hours later we learned that our daughter had a nasty case of bacterial pneumonia which had resulted in fluid accumulating in her left lung, thereby causing the excruciating pain. We were shocked at the diagnosis, but actually quite relieved it was “only” pneumonia, given some of the other possibilities chest pain presents. But we called my family immediately to tell them we could no longer spend Thanksgiving weekend with them as planned, and this was terribly disappointing for all of us, because we all get together once a year at best due to one of my siblings living in the Northeast now. My mother had planned a professionally-photographed family portrait for Friday morning since there were two new babies in the family since we had last taken a picture together, and I hated to be the one to ruin her wonderful photograph, but of course it couldn’t be helped.

And yet, here was an opportunity to give thanks: for incredible medical care not five miles from our home, for relief from pain for my precious daughter, for antibiotics to combat the infection in her lungs, for the ability to bring her home and put her to bed in a warm, comfortable place where she could rest and recuperate. For all the family and friends who prayed for us during that day while we waited for news, and loved us enough to keep calling/texting/emailing for updates.

While Jay was with Abigail at the ER, I had to accompany our second oldest to the surgeon’s office to have some pins removed from his arm that had been placed there during surgery several weeks before. The pin removal was done with no anesthesia, and our boy, who has some sensory issues combined with quite a bit of anxiety was rather undone by the procedure. It was not only painful, but a highly stressful ordeal for him, and all this was going on while we continued to wait for results on Abigail’s situation. To say I felt a bit of stress myself puts it mildly. If they’d offered me a margarita to suck down before they began the procedure, I’d have gladly accepted, and shared half with Jonathan.

But here was another opportunity to give thanks: that despite his very real struggles, Jonathan made it through the procedure without fully “losing it”, and had that little victory to be proud of.  That after a bad break, and surgery, that his arm was nicely healed, and that we enjoyed care from one of the best orthopedic surgeons in Dallas who tended to his injury. That I had not one but at least five offers of childcare for my younger two while I took him for his pin removal, again for family, friends, and neighbors who care for us so well.

Thanksgiving Day we spent at home; due to the somewhat last minute nature of our holiday plans, we opted not to cook a turkey feast, but Jay kindly offered to try his hand at a prime rib roast, which it turns out he will now be asked to prepare for each and every family holiday because it was so. incredibly. delicious!! While the lovely roast was cooking, and we were cleaning up the kitchen from some of the meal preparations, we noticed the sink starting to back up, not just in the kitchen, but the laundry room as well…and yes, of course, we ended up with a plumbing backup on Thanksgiving Day, when it turns out, no plumbers will call you back even if you offer to pay them a premium to do so. After a couple of hours of effort to dislodge the leak himself to no avail, Jay spent the last hours of the evening on his hands and knees doing dishes in the stand-up shower near the kitchen. Sigh…

So…thankfulness here?? Well…honestly I wasn’t feeling all that thankful. I was actually leaning more toward fretful, because after delaying their visit to us due to the pneumonia, my sister and her family were due to arrive on Friday, and here we were without ability to clean dishes or laundry, and the mess was right in the area of the house where they would have to stay. But I was reminded that I take for granted our constant access to clean, running, hot and cold water, and the reality that we have machines that will wash our dishes while we sleep, and clean our clothes while we take a trip to the grocery store. Amazing. How thankful we should always be for these admitted luxuries.

We figured after the plumbing backup was cleared on Friday morning that the worst of this weekend was behind us, and we could concentrate on preparing to welcome our beloved houseguests who were soon to arrive from Austin. But before they could get here we were greeted by houseguests of another kind, and I don’t mean the human kind. During a trip to the garage to grab something out of the fridge in there, I heard the tiniest movement near the wall, and reported my suspicions to the man of the house, who quickly confirmed that yes, there was a critter hiding out behind the refrigerator, likely having come in from out of the cold to take refuge under the warmth of the nice garage appliance. Sigh. Over the next 48 hours, the man of the house and his eldest son trapped 9 of these critters and as I write this, they are still waging war on the uninvited houseguests, much to the dismay of yours truly. I hate critters. Despise them. Get all yucky feeling just imagining them…so let’s just say that knowing they are trying to take advantage of and stake claim to my warm garage is quite upsetting to me. And what’s even worse: I have had the unfortunate experience of being in the garage while a trap goes off loudly, mere feet from where I am standing, accompanied by awful squeaking sounds…and well, this was almost more than I could handle.

I’m still working on giving thanks in this circumstance; the best I can come up with is this: if I have to have critters in my garage, I am so glad I have a brave husband and son who are willing to handle the nasty task of disposing of them. And at least for now, I am very, very thankful that the vermin are out there and not in here…and I pray it stays that way.

I told a friend at church yesterday that I’m waiting for things to settle down to normal around here…that I’m really and truly ready for normal, whatever in the world that looks like. Admittedly, I’d love to experience “normal” before we get that call for a referral for a precious little girlie in Ethiopia who we are dying to meet. I’d like to be able to fantasize about bringing our girl home to a more “normal” household and family. Wouldn’t that be best for her, anyway? Doesn’t God think maybe she could use some “normal” after all she will have been through in her short life? And it is with this thought that it hits me that no, I don’t think I need to be looking around the corner for “normal”…because didn’t that verse back in Thessalonians talk about rejoicing always and giving thanks in every circumstance (even, and especially when life isn’t “normal”?).  Because how much more incredible is it that God sees fit to use me, to use us, our family, in all our imperfection and with all our various “issues”, to accomplish his will in this world?!

I don’t really know if I will be any better at giving thanks in all circumstances from here on out. However, I’m quite sure our family will never forget this rather odd Thanksgiving week where we were faced with a little collection of opportunities in which we could choose to rejoice and give thanks, or throw up our hands and pout about life. May God give us all the grace and ability to see his hand at work in each of our lives, so that we can give thanks in both the good and the bad that comes our way. And now it is only fitting that I tell you, dear Reader, that if you have managed to hang with me all the way to the end of this long entry, that I am very thankful for you and your patience!!

24 months!

Today marks 24 months on the wait list.

Or, if you prefer smaller numbers, 2 years on the wait list.

Which is another way of saying today marks two years since we became what is known as “dossier ready” in the adoption world, ie: our dossier was complete and logged in with the powers that be in Ethiopia. Since that time we have been legally eligible to receive a referral for a little girl who will, Lord willing, some day join our family. We began our process closer to three years ago, but have chosen to keep track of the official dossier-ready date since that is more common among our friends and acquaintances who are in the middle of or have completed the adoption process.

Tonight Abigail and I had the radio on while we drove home. I wasn’t listening all that closely but my ears perked up when the strains of a familiar Christmas tune began. How could that be? It’s only November 16th, and Thanksgiving is almost a full week away. Shocked that this radio station should commit the egregious sin of playing Christmas music before Thanksgiving week has even begun, I tried to change the channel, but Abigail insisted that she loves Christmas music and couldn’t I please just keep it on for her sake? I grumbled and muttered something about people who insist upon running all the holidays together, blah blah blah but eventually I joined my daughter in belting out a few Christmas tunes and we had a jolly time singing together.

And then it happened. After “Do You Hear What I Hear” finished playing, the station that doesn’t know you’re not supposed to play Christmas music till it’s Christmastime played the song that was performed back in 1984 by a collaboration of British artists known as “BandAid” (including Bono, David Bowie, and Sting plus many others) for the purpose of helping to raise awareness of the terrible famine that was impacting Ethiopia at the time. The performance brought in millions of dollars of aid and the song has become so popular that you’ll hear it over and over again on your local radio stations around the Christmas holiday. And, as I learned today, even well before the holiday. So be it.

The song is called “Do They Know It’s Christmastime” and ok, sure, it’s not the most amazing prose ever crafted, but it was written with Ethiopia’s children in mind so it hit home pretty hard on this, our two year anniversary of officially waiting for Little Sister. And I realized that wherever she is right now, and whatever loss or tragedy she has suffered in her short life so far, she doesn’t yet know she is loved and wanted and yearned for by a family around the globe who wonders how many more months it will be till we see her little face and know who she is. And even if we get a referral tomorrow (which we won’t because I’m pretty sure Gladney doesn’t give referrals out on the weekends) there is no way she’d be home in time this year to spend Christmas with us, here in our home, as part of our family. All of this came in a rush at me while Bono sang his heart out about Ethiopia and I began sobbing and crying for this little girl whom we have spent years journeying to, but whom we have not yet reached.

And now, if I were a great writer, I would pen a paragraph here which ties all this up into some tidy and finished package, bringing in the unmistakable comparison about how we weren’t even aware of God’s love and care for us, or our need for His grace and love, and yet He pursued us passionately and at great cost to Himself. With an undying, unfailing, never giving up, never stopping love. But I don’t feel any compulsion to present you with a neat package or a beautifully crafted ending. Because adoption is not neat or tidy and because we don’t yet know how this story turns out.

And so for now, we continue to wait. And to pray. To love this little girl we haven’t yet met or even seen a picture of. And to trust God for what lies ahead for her and for our family, for tomorrow, and the next day, and the next.

A little surgery

Last week, Jay was kind enough to take the children to their piano lesson for me, since I was at a dr’s appointment. While I was still waiting for things to wrap up with the appointment, an employee from the front desk area popped in to tell me that my husband had been trying to contact me for some time, but wasn’t getting any answer on my cell phone…and oh by the way, he was taking our son to the emergency room. And then there was something about an injured arm…that was all. Which was not nearly enough information for this Momma.

A trip to the ER is never good, but it seems even worse when you are the parent who doesn’t know what is going on, and with which one of your children? After a bit of panic over what might be happening, my first thought was, “I have three sons-which one’s turn is it for an ER trip?”. After all, two of the sons were supposed to be at their piano lesson by now. How many people have been seriously injured at a piano lesson?

Well, suffice to say we have a new rule at our house: no playing in the tree outside Mr. Q’s house before piano lessons begin. It turns out they’d arrived early for their lessons and while they waited for it to be time to go in, Jonathan was swinging in the tree like a monkey. All was well until he attempted what would have been a very impressive dismount, had it not been for the fact that he slipped, and plummeted to the ground. Where he then began screaming in pain and clutching his arm. Jay told me later that it was fairly obvious the arm was broken…that near the wrist, the point of most pain, he could see that the bone angled oddly.

I met them at the emergency room, where our boy who is normally tough as nails, was clearly in a lot of pain, and none too happy about it.

Little brother provided encouragement in the form of helping his brother watch movies on Daddy’s Ipad while they waited for the x-rays to come back.

The verdict was indeed a break, all the way through the radius. Jonathan received a splint from a very nice EMT, and we were told to follow up with an orthopedist later in the week.

Turns out there are lots of orthopedists in the Dallas area, but among our friends, there was one doctor whose expertise with pediatrics stood out, and we visited with him late in the week. We entered his office in rather high spirits: Jonathan and I both thought we were going to walk out of there in a couple hours with a cool camouflage, maybe even waterproof cast.  Instead we received the rather disheartening news that due to the angle of the two pieces of broken bone, Jonathan was going to need to return the following week for surgery in order to properly set the break before they would even consider applying a cast.

To say that this announcement was not happily received is perhaps a bit of an understatement.

And so, tomorrow, our boy will undergo surgery. He is apprehensive about the procedure, and would really like to fast forward to the recovery part of all this so that he can concentrate on figuring out how many signatures he can possibly fit on an arm cast. And me? Well, after the call from the friendly employee who works in the financial portion of the orthopedist’s office, I’m reeling at how expensive it can be to play in trees. And counseling my children that perhaps they ought to strongly consider a career in medicine!

23 Months Waiting

Today marks 23 months since we first got on the wait list with Gladney.

The wait has been hard, hard, hard these past few months…but we are encouraged to see families continue to receive referrals, slow though they are. We know that things are slow because our agency is working harder and longer than ever before to ensure that children’s documents are put together properly, and that these little ones’ cases and histories are investigated thoroughly and honestly before families are presented with referrals. This is comforting…especially given recent allegations of fraud and corruption in the adoption world. Hang in there, sweet baby girl…we hope it won’t be too much longer!!

Blog?

For 5 months I’ve been MIA on this blog. I’ve considered shutting it down, but I just can’t bring myself to do that. Yet it also would seem I can’t bring myself to sit down and actually write anything, whether of substance…or not! This weekend, I am sick: fever, coughing, and generally just feeling crummy. Given how I feel, the idea of housework is unthinkable. I’d curl up with a good book, but my head hurts too much to read.  Even food holds little appeal. So, I thought I’d try a little blogging…here’s a bit of what’s happening here at House of Horne.

We’ve been remodeling our kitchen…whew, what an experience this has been. Maybe some day I’ll write about it. Maybe someday…it will even be done. Very thankful we’ve been able to do this…but there have definitely been days that didn’t merit any Saturday night fever poses.

We are well into our second consecutive (4th overall) year of homeschooling, and I can honestly say that we are loving it. It’s not without its challenges — I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that it is sometimes very hard, but the kids are thriving and I am appreciating this time with them more than I ever have.

My baby just turned 7. Oh my heart. What a joy he continues to be…but can anyone tell me: how do the years fly by so fast?

That adoption we used to blog about?  Yeah, it’s still very much in the works…I find that many people don’t even ask us about it anymore b/c they assume perhaps we gave up or abandoned the process or something. That’s ok, I understand….and I know folks mean well. The process has certainly stretched out way beyond any timeline I ever imagined when we began this journey. I suppose we Hornes continue to learn that we don’t get to choose how life happens…and I have enough (nowhere near as much as I’d like, but just barely enough) faith to believe that things would not be better were I in charge. No. way. I hope maybe in the not too distant future that we’ll have news to share on this front.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a tv date with this beautiful girl — just the girl, not the horse —

to watch some Wives and Daughters. Hat tip to Aunt Jennifer for the suggestion!! :-)

A Year and a Half

Yesterday marked 18 months on the waitlist for us….

Referrals have slowed to an average of about 2 per month these days. Those of you asking how much longer…well, we are around #36 on the wait list, give or take.

Not a whole lot more to say.

Taking a break from our normal routine…To visit the newest member of the family!

Last week, Abigail and I had the joy and privilege of flying to Connecticut to spend five days with my sister, Sandra’s family. Many thanks to my wonderful BIL, Keith for masterminding this trip, and helping make it happen!!

Sandra and Keith welcomed Baby Lilian Clare in late March, and I am so very grateful that I got to meet her this soon!!

We don’t see nearly as much of the Nedells as we did when they lived here in Dallas, so it was a huge treat to soak up a few days in their beautiful new home with them.

Most of the pictures included here are pirated from my sister since I didn’t bother dragging our new camera on the trip. Probably just as well: getting through airport security with the few things we did bring felt pretty intimidating after having not flown for more than four years!

I was blown away by how lovely everything is in the Northeast. Yes, I was born and grew up there, but I forget the tallness of the trees, the lushness of the surrounding hills, and the cool crisp air that just smells “right” to me.  Don’t get me wrong; I love our life in Texas, but the local topography just cannot compare to the beauty of New England, at least in my book.

Even more wonderful than the gorgeous scenery was the relaxed time we got to spend with two year-old Jacob and his new baby sister, Lilian, or “Yiyee” as Jacob refers to her.

She is the prettiest little baby, and rewarded our efforts to charm her with smiles and coos aplenty! How fun to snuggle a tiny baby again! Abigail, for her part, was also smitten with her newest baby cousin, and announced that we absolutely need another baby in the family, STAT!

Jacob was tons of fun, gave us awesome new nicknames (you hereby have permission to refer to me as “Auntie Cheetah”, thank you very much!), volunteered to make us smoothies a gazillion times a day, and was a complete joy to be around.

Sandra and Keith were wonderful hosts: despite the busyness of a new baby in the family and a full workweek for Keith, we were treated to several outings, enjoyed delicious food, and great company! Here are Abigail and Jacob at Flamig Farm, feeding Indiana, the goat.

Thanks, Guys, for a truly wonderful visit.

My absence from home would not have been possible without the amazing efforts of my sweet Hubby and my dear MIL. Thanks to Jay and Grammy Ruth for holding down the fort in my absence, and even managing to accomplish some schoolwork with our three rambunctious boys!! I’m so grateful to both of you for your hard work while I was away.

I leave you with a short video clip of Baby Lilian showing off her cuteness. Please excuse the silly woman in the background who is trying to speak “baby talk” while filming. :-) (Note: you must click on the link below to see Lilian’s video.)

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17 Months on the Wait List

Wow.

I never, ever thought I’d be writing a post with this title.

Today marks exactly 17 months that we have been on the Gladney list of families who await a referral for the child/children we will be matched to for adoption.

Given the date, it seems rather fitting that just this morning, a social worker from Gladney visited us in our home to perform the required update to our Home Study. Each 18 months the home study must be briefly updated to reflect any changes in the family/home. (Our changes by the way were rather boring overall: in the 18 months since our last home study, we have added two little rabbits to the household, and Jay and I have each turned 40.) I HOPE that our adoption process will not stretch out so much longer that we will need to have yet another update before our daughter is home, unless we, for some reason end up moving houses. But…I just don’t know.

When we began this process just a little over 2 years ago, the average wait time after all your paperwork was complete to referral was 9 months. The process has lengthened considerably now and there really is no “predictable” average wait time anymore. The best guess as to how much longer we will wait for our referral is, conservatively, a year from now. Even my 6 year-old can do the math on how many months of waiting that will be, but it is too sad to me to type that number out here. Perhaps (I HOPE!) it will be sooner than that, but realistically speaking, that’s what it looks like today.

Increased wait times are mostly due to increased scrutiny in Ethiopia into the adoption process. Much more information and paperwork are being required by the Ethiopian government to go along with each adoption case, particularly relating to investigation into each child’s background prior to them being cleared for adoption. All of this takes more time and manpower, and as a result, far fewer referrals can be given out each month.

After our referral, we wait for a court date, which is scheduled at about 3 months after referral. We make a first trip to Ethiopia for that court date, and that is when we will finally get to meet our daughter (we can’t wait!!). However, we are not cleared to bring her home till after waiting another couple of months for an Embassy date — basically, for her visa to be ready. Right now, the estimated time from referral till a family brings their new son or daughter home is about six months. It could be less, but it could be more.

If all this sounds incredibly long, well, that’s because it is incredibly long!! And yes, it is hard, hard, hard. But as hard as this wait is for us here, I know for certain that the increased wait times are much harder on the children and their caregivers in Ethiopia. And the sad fact is that the longer the wait times are overall, the fewer children who are in need of families will ultimately come home and be welcomed into a family, their family. That makes my heart hurt incredibly.

I have been horrible about updating this blog. Truly, life is full, things are busy, and the fact is that most of us find it simpler to type out a quick little status update on Facebook than to sit down and write a blog post that hardly anyone is going to read anyway. I hope to blog more in the future, if only because in the past, I have so appreciated the account here of our family’s growth and change. Perhaps in the coming months, I will have the joy of blogging about our newest family member, a little girl whom we do not yet know, but who is very real to each of us as we think of her and pray for her daily. She has a place in each of our hearts, and we feel so privileged to wait for her.

May God be with all of those who wait, the children and the families. May He comfort those who mourn, be close to those who are brokenhearted, and place the lonely in families.

Porkie Roast

I want to share a recipe given to me by a dear, old friend who is not really old at all, but with whom I share an “old” friendship, at least in my view of things. In fact, I guess I have known Steph for just about 20 years now. Whew!

Stephanie shared this pork roast recipe with me long ago, and I have played with it and added a couple things along the way. It’s easy, it’s fairly inexpensive, and you can either eat it at home with family for Monday night supper like we did tonight, or cook it for company if you want to!

Take a center cut pork loin roast of any size. This is a fairly lean but also pretty inexpensive portion of the piggie.

You will need:

* several tablespoons of a nice spicy mustard
* copious amounts of minced garlic
* fresh rosemary
* 4-5 slices of bacon (I like the center cut variety)

Rinse your roast and pat dry. Douse your roast with the mustard. Slather the spicy stuff all over — don’t worry that you are using too much.

Next, chop/mince/dice or do whatever you like to do to garlic — and spread that atop the mustarded loin.

Remove the rosemary “leaves” from their stems, cut finer if you prefer, and sprinkle the rosemary over the garlic.

I forgot to take a picture of this next part, and I’m sorry for that. Keep in mind there are often at least two or three short people trying to ask me important questions/share vital information while I attempt to get supper in the oven. Usually there are dogs sniffing around also, greatly interested in the goings-on at counter level in the kitchen. If things are especially interesting, the resident rabbit will also have been brought into the room at this time to offer tips and advice on preparing the evening’s meal. Evidently, I am easily distracted.

At any rate, you’ll have to use your imagination for this step: just lay a few slices of the bacon along the top side of the roast, ends touching or barely overlapping. I usually use about four for a 3 to 4 pound roast.

I like to cook this recipe on a little roasting rack in the pan so the juices gather easily underneath and enhance the flavor of the dish, but it’s not necessary. Pop the porkie in the oven and roast at about 400 degrees until the roast is cooked to about 155-160 degrees in the middle.

Now here is the important part: do NOT attempt to cook this roast if your meat thermometer is broken. I may have learned this the hard way today. Let’s just say that when your meat thermometer says 180 degrees and the inside of your roast is so undercooked that it’s still oinking, well, you may be fairly certain that aforementioned thermometer is no longer of any use. You will, at this point, in an effort to avoid giving your loved ones food poisoning, overcook the lovely roast so that it more closely resembles shoe leather than nice, tender gently-cooked pork loin. (Sigh.)

Even overcooked, this dish is still pretty good, but please take my word for it, and use a thermometer that works! When your meat is done, slice it thinly, and be sure to cut up plenty of the bacon to enjoy with the roast. Spoon the wonderfully rich roasting juices from the bottom of the pan over the meat to serve it, and your family will devour this meal, lick their fingers, and declare you the bestest cook ever!!

If you get tired of eating the leftovers, the sliced meat transitions beautifully into barbequed pork you can serve as sandwiches a couple nights later!