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Drumroll Please….

The fateful day was this Tuesday, December 30.  So, here’s the before:

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When it wasn’t pulled back it reached about the bottom of my shoulder blades.

According to my wife, I looked like Brendan Fraser halfway through.  I’m not sure about that though…

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And, after it is all done…

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The first thing I noticed was I can’t get away with going out on cold days on a hat now.  That became painfully obvious to me stepping out of the salon into low 20 degree windy weather after it was done.  Brrr.

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We are late closing this out.  The whole family got sick, and it took us a little bit to catch up.  But, the final results are in, and… Ray loses.

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So, final details of the plan to chop it all off are in the works, but I’m thinking about doing it December 31, and starting the new year with a new look.

On another note, Alex mentioned to me that none of the kids have ever known me with short hair.  Ian was a newborn when I started growing it out, and he has no memory of me with short hair.  Here are Ian and I as I was starting to grow it out:

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Thank you everyone who participated.  I’ve got to say it went better than expected, except for the me losing part.

Challenge update!

Wow. Things have changed since the last update.  Quite a turn around.

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Thank you all for your donations.  Keep it up.  I’m really looking forward to seeing Amber’s hair all done up.

The month of November is half done and it is time for an update on the challenge we started at the beginning of the month. Things are awfully lopsided right now, as $349.50 worth has been put into the bucket to make me cut my hair, while nothing has been put into Amber’s.

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Come on people.  There have to be at least a couple of you that want to see her break out of her shell a bit and sport a crazy hairdo like this:

Let’s make it a contest.

Let the games begin!

Friends and family,

As you may or may not have heard by now, we’re working on adopting another little girl we met during our trip to Ukraine in 2011.  We have steadily been working through the paperwork, doctor’s appointments, background checks, etc., and we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  At this point it appears we will likely travel to Ukraine sometime early in the new year.065

And, on that note it is time for us to start fundraising.  Amber had a sneaky plan to get me to cut my hair as a fundraiser.  I thought we should raise the stakes and make it a contest.  So, I polled Amber’s Facebook friends for a challenge for her.  After a couple of weeks of a polar bear plunge leading the poll, it has just recently been edged out by her cutting her hair and dyeing it spectacularly, like this.

So, for the month of November we’re going to pit those two challenges against each other.  Help us raise money to adopt Tatiana and choose a challenge to put your support behind.  If Ray’s bucket contains more at the end of the month, he’ll cut his hair.  If Amber’s bucket contains more, then she’ll cut and dye her hair.

To vote for Ray cutting his hair put “Ray” in the “Add special instructions to recipient” box in the Paypal form.  To vote for Amber cutting and dyeing her hair put “Amber” in the “Add special instructions to recipient” box in the Paypal form.

Help bring Tatiana home, and vote with your donation on which of us you’d like to see do the challenge.  Let the games begin!

Ray

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Something New

I haven’t posted on this blog in awhile. In fact, the last time I posted was almost exactly two years ago. It was posted days before we packed up everything we owned and moved our family across the country. We have been spending the last two years settling in, and finding our new footing here on our small bit of land. We have been making new friends and reuniting with old ones. We have been working on our homeschooling, our garden, our chickens, and a couple of bees hives. We have been making memories and learning how to trade our suburban life for a more rural one. More recently, we’ve been working on another life change….

Back Yard

When I wrote that last post, I was looking forward to our big life change, and looking back to the place we had left behind, when we brought the twins home. I wrote the post about what life is like in the orphanage, and what the words ‘mama’ and ‘papa’ mean to the kids living there. What I didn’t write was that after awhile, the children stopped yelling. They knew we were there for someone else, and one after another, they stopped yelling. Except for one little girl.

Her picture is on that last blog post I posted. She is the little girl in pink, and I have my arm around her. In a crowd of children who grabbed my heart forever, she held a special place. She never stopped asking if we were her mama and papa. Every day when we came to pick up the twins she would ask if we were there for her, too. Every day I watched her eyes as she asked if she could come, too, and every day I watched her eyes when they told her no. All of the other children gave up, and she never did.

The groupa

She was listed on Reece’s Rainbow, so I knew she had a chance. We came home hoping to help find a family for her. While our family shifted to include three year old twins, we watched to see who would choose to bring her home. As we shifted to relearn life here, across the country from where we started – we did our best to speak for her. Slowly, we realized it was time for another shift – and we are working to bring her home.

So far the process has been much harder than the first time around. I haven’t known how to post about her, because every step of the way has been slow and uncertain. The politics in her country have also shifted, since we were there last. I haven’t wanted to announce anything until I knew for sure how this would all fit together.

Tatiana

But, being that this is an international adoption, there is never going to be absolute certainty about what the process will look like or how long it will take. I know this from last time, and I am relearning this time. We are committed to take the next step in front of us, and despite my desire to have it all mapped out and planned, I know that’s all we can really do. We deeply appreciate the love and support we have received so far, and we are grateful for all of you who have loved her along with us over the years.

Coming home from Eastern Europe, I was planning to blog more about the orphanage itself, and the other kids we were leaving behind. The transition home was rough, but that isn’t the biggest reason I haven’t written about what I saw there. The biggest reason is that every time I go to write, I look back through my pictures. As soon as I start looking at the place that my children spent the first three years of their lives, and the children they spent those years with, any words I have disappear.

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The truth is, my twins were in a good orphanage. They had better food than many, they were given donations of some toys, the staff that we interacted with were doing the best that they could. I don’t fault their caregivers at all, and I am grateful for the time they put into my children’s lives.

However… even a ‘good’ orphanage is not a family. They have extremely limited resources and ability to spend one on one time with the kids.  I have struggled with this post over and over this past year, because I do not know how to begin to describe the degree of impact the orphanage had on my babies.

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They came home not understanding so many things. But the biggest thing – the bottom line thing – is that they had no concept of mamas and papas. They did not have any context for the idea of someone constant in their lives. Someone who cares for them because they are perfect, and beautiful, and worthy to be loved. Someone who holds them because they want to. Someone who will keep them safe. Everything else falls from that.

In the groupa, caregivers rotate every day, and they work different shifts and with different combinations of adults. They are in charge of feeding the kids, keeping them relatively safe, and making sure they sleep. Most of them are kind people, but it is a job. The kind of job that wears on your soul every day. Even the ones that care, and even the ones that try, are there because they are being paid to be there. They are working in an exhausting, thankless job taking care of children that their society would prefer to pretend didn’t exist. They go from there to their real homes, their real lives, and their real families.

The setup of the orphanage is that they can’t hold children, they can’t carry them, they can’t attend to their worries and fears and hurts. There are too many children, not enough of them, and if you were snuggle one child, you’d have to snuggle them all. There is chaos if one child gets attention, so no one does.

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When we first walked in to the orphanage, all of the children started yelling, “Mama! Papa!’ at us. They all know the words, they all desperately want a mama and papa of their own, but no one knows what it really is. They see mamas and papas come through the gates for a couple of hours during the official visiting times. Some of them are the biological parents of children living there, some are parents there to adopt, and occasionally another relative or someone from a local church comes. They are there to see a specific child, and that child is taken out of the group. For a couple of hours that day, someone is watching *them*. Someone is there to see *them*. They don’t have to bite and push to get close to the Mama… the Mama has arms free for them. If they are lucky, the Mama brings a snack or a new toy. For a couple of hours, they have something to hold that is theirs. As soon as they go back to the group, it will be taken by another child – not out of spite, but because that child is also desperate for anything to love. They are all desperate.

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And then the Mama leaves. Sometimes that Mama comes back, and there are a couple of hours of freedom again. Every once in awhile, the groupa watches a Mama and a Papa walk out the gates with one of their own, the one that was chosen, the one that the Mama cared enough to see… and that one never comes back.

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When you live in the groupa, Mamas and Papas are strangers that come and go. Can you imagine living a life like that? When you most basic, intimate relationship is a shadowy mystery that is always there for no reason that you understand, never for long, and never for you. Just a word that you yell at everyone you see, running and grabbing to try to reach them in time, to make them see you – and then being shoved away. Mamas and Papas are confusion and pain and rejection for every child there.

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