Wednesday, February 27, 2013

An Official Citizen!


Hooray!

Cava's Certificate of Citizenship came in the mail yesterday afternoon! He is now an official citizen of the United States of America.

I must admit, when I took this document out of the envelope and saw it for the first time, I choked up (Surprise, surprise, right?).

It's so amazing how at this very time last year, we weren't even considering adoption and now we have a new son. Or how we didn't even know Cava and he didn't know us but now he is part of our family and we love him dearly. Simply because we took a step out in faith to go where God had called us, He blessed us with an 8 year old boy. Overwhelming is the only word for it. People are constantly telling us how "amazing" we are for adopting him, but the fact of the matter is, we aren't. God is! He not only adopted us into his family but He gave us Cava, too.

Cava was living in a small village that we had never even heard of a year ago. And yet, God guided us to that village and to a little boy who was desperately in need of a loving family. Until the moment we met, neither our family nor Cava had even known that the other existed. All it took was that one moment to have my wife tell me that we couldn't leave him behind and my son to tell me that Cava was his brother for me to say, "We are adopting this child." God had opened our hearts to this small boy. He continues to work on us and on Cava as we continue to grow closer as a family.

Cava called us "Mama" and "Papa" from that first full day together and he is slowly learning to understand what that fully means.

Getting this certificate of citizenship is just another piece in the puzzle of his truly being ours forever.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Here's To Science!



Future scientist Benjamin & Cava, who may or may not be his willing lab assistant, would like to thank Granddad Bob and Aunt Betty for their generosity in renewing our Schiele Membership. I know the two of them are going to have great times exploring one of our favorite places to visit in Gastonia. And, who knows, you may end up in one of their Nobel speeches!


Learning To Ride A Bike


Late Sunday afternoon, I decided to teach Cava how to ride a bike. While Danelle and I missed many of Cava's firsts growing up, this would not be one of them.

So I got Benjamin's old bicycle out of the garage, put the training wheels back on, and took Cava over to a nearby parking lot that was empty.

Before we could even start, Cava had to get himself prepared by doing push-ups. Have to work those muscles!


He struggled with the pedaling and for awhile I would push him along while he tried to get the hang of pushing the pedals forward to go and not hitting them back to stop. Despite having a difficult time, Cava was not one to quit - unless, of course, there was a plane flying overhead. Then he stopped, pointed to the sky, and declared, "самолет!"  ("Simalote!" or "Plane!").  It was a heavy traffic day for the flight pattern over this parking lot and still he got excited by each plane he saw.


Once the plane was gone from sight, Cava picked right up where he was before. It's funny, but just like Benjamin, Cava would climb down off the bike to brush away any stick or small pebble that was on the parking lot (as if that was what was keeping him from succeeding). Other times, he would get off the bike and check the brakes, the tires, or even the seat (I was constantly either lowering it or raising it to Cava's specifications). Yet no matter how hard he found this task, Cava would not give up. 

Danelle also worked with him on his technique - at first.


Then he would wave her off and tell her, "No. Mama. No." He wanted to do this by himself.


We must have been out there for well over an hour before Cava pedaled. Not far, but he did it. And he was so proud of himself. Danelle and I were proud of him too, so we gave him high fives and told him what a great job he'd done. Another thing we did was to ask him, "Don't you think you've done a great job?" This is something his therapist suggested we do to help bolster Cava's low self-esteem.


I'm sure there will be many, many more bicycling days to come!










Sunday, February 24, 2013

Hair Cuts & Buzz Cuts

Earlier last week, when other kids in his class were cutting out their letters, Cava decided he wanted to cut something else - his hair! Ahhh, the joys of parenting! Normally, he loves to have me take his photograph, but not that day. He kept hiding his face behind his hands and the only shot I got of him was one in which he was far from happy to be in front of the lens.


Today, Danelle took him to Great Clips and he got his first ever buzz-cut. Gone was the jagged bangs and returned was his big grin.






Saturday, February 23, 2013

Corners, Charts, & Cava


As I've written in my blog before, the boarding school Cava came from was very regimented and he, like all the other kids there, knew their daily routine well. Since he's arrived in the United States and has been here for a month now, we are implementing ways of helping him adjust by limit setting, time setting, and a rewards chart. The rewards chart is for his behavior and we are modeling it after the one his teachers use at school so that he will have consistency. We have also talked to his therapist about what we should have as our expectations. Originally, we were going to have things on there like getting ready for school, eating his dinner, as well as his behavior. After talking with his therapist, she told us this would be too overwhelming for Cava and for us to focus on dealing with the behavioral issues first (kicking, biting, hitting, scratching, and spitting).

We are breaking the chart into periods:
- Morning
- School
- Afternoon
- Evening

For each period that he behaves well, he will get a sticker. If he doesn't, then there is an immediate consequence for his actions.

With each sticker, he can then earn tokens and use those tokens to buy prizes (such as Dollar Store prizes like puzzles).

Something else we tried and found success with late last week was a time-out corner. I picked a boring corner that had nothing to look at or anything he could pull down. After kicking Danelle, I put Cava in the corner and then stood behind him so he couldn't flee. Like a caged animal, he began to thrash about, tried to scratch me, and he spit on the wall. I told him that he would be in this corner until he calmed down and told Mama and Papa he was sorry. Sorry is a word he understands but he refused and fought to get away, but he couldn't because I was simply standing there behind him. It took around 20-25 minutes for him to finally calm down. Once he had, he told us, "Sorry, Papa. Sorry, Mama." And he was. His behavior completely changed not only that night, but we haven't had any incidents yet of kicking, hitting, biting, or scratching.

All of this is an attempt to bring stability to our family and to provide Cava an environment that he feels safe and secure in. After we tackle the behavioral issues, then we will start adding things on to the chart like getting ready for school, doing homework, eating dinner and eating at the table (Cava likes to get up from the table, do other things, and wander in and out of the kitchen so that he can take bites of his food at intervals).

Another incentive for Cava is that we have had it explained to him that if he can be gentle with our dog Chloe that we will get a dog for him. Thanks to those who've offered their pet suggestions, but, the fact of the matter is, the only thing Cava wants is a dog. He has already offered me possible names for his dog: monkey, gorilla, and Chloe. I suggested to him that if the dog is a girl, we name her "Masha" and if the dog is a boy, we name him "Mishka." Cava was thrilled at that idea. And he has been learning that if he is gentle with Chloe, she will come to him when he calls. He giggles and loves it when she licks him. Cava even tells her, "Spaseeba, Chloe. Spaseeba." (Thank you, Chloe. Thank you).

This will continue to take a great deal of prayer and patience on our parts, but we know that, in the long run, it will be worth it.






Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Peace


"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."


- John 14:27 KJV

Yesterday was one of the worst days I have had with Cava. From the moment I picked him up from school, he was aggressive and angry. By the time we got to Benjamin's school to wait in the pick-up line for him, Cava unbuckled, got out of his car seat and, since the door next to him is safety locked, he scooted over to the other side and out the door. I had to chase him through the parking lot and get him back into the car (and setting the other back door to safety lock as well). Once we were home, he began his tirades and tantrums. Normally, I just ignore him and, not getting the attention he wants, he stops. But not yesterday. Oh no, he was full force. 

Our friend Yulia and her mother Valentina came over last night to talk with Cava. For the first time, they saw his stubborn defiance, as well as his refusal to apologize for what he'd done towards me. When they asked him why he wouldn't tell me he was sorry, he replied, "Because I'm not remorseful about what I did." Wow! Not what you want to hear as a parent. 

Cava also told her that he didn't have to listen to his Mama and Papa because they spoke English and he spoke Ukrainian. Language is one of the major problems right now in our struggle to help Cava adjust to not being in a new family, a new school, and a new life for him: all of which must be unbearably overwhelming. He told Yulia that he would be leaving for Ukraine soon with his puzzles. Hearing that, I realized that all of this must be so stressful for this little eight year old boy that a life, many would call a dream life for a child who's grown up in orphanages, is really a nightmare to him. Knowing that, it breaks my heart for him even as I grow frustrated with how to deal with him and discipline him.

So, I've been doing a lot of praying and I had wanted to study verses of scripture this week that pertained to "peace," which is something that not only our household could really use but something Cava so desperately needs to have in his life. Picking him up sometimes, I can feel how rapid his heartbeat is, like a scared rabbit. Yet every time I have tried to read my Bible on this topic, something has happened to keep me from delving into the Word. 

The only verse I have gotten and have meditated on is Psalm 34:146, "Seek peace and pursue it."

Maybe that's the only one God wants me to meditate on.

What struck me about that verse was that it was active and not passive. There are two active verbs: seek and pursue. Both require me to search or hunt for peace. God is telling me that peace is something I am going to have to work and strive for. 

It's not easy to be at peace when you have a child who is terrified, angry, and aggressive. It's hard to be at peace when you are bent down, looking in his face to try and communicate your love to him, and he spits in your face with a smile. Yet it actions like that one that make me more resolved to help this child find peace because it is obvious he has never known any. 

Someone I know recently asked me how it was going with Cava. When I told him about how bumpy the early stages of this adjustment period have been, he asked, "If you knew then what you know now, would you have done things differently?" 

What I understood he was asking me was, "Would you have adopted Cava?" 

The fact is, I can't think that way. It would be very easy for me to get caught up in that kind of questioning; after all, I'd wanted to adopt a girl who, in my mind, was a cross between Anne of Green Gables and Jo March and who would be bookish, a dreamer, and a devoted daddy's girl. But we prayed that God would give us the child that our family needed and who needed our family. He gave us Cava. There are times when Cava's at his worst that I have to make sure that I remember this because it is only by remembering that all of this is part of God's will that I will experience any peace. 

I do believe that the language difference is a big part of the problem. Yesterday, when I was trying to talk to Cava, he began to go, "Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah," and then gave me the raspberry. I could have gotten upset with him but I didn't because I knew that this was how he heard us talking to him. How terrible must that be for someone so young? Danelle and I are trying to pick up more words and phrases in Ukrainian or Russian to use with Cava to help us understand him; just as he is trying to learn English. This morning, on the drive to school, he began to attempt reading different signs and was very excited to say, "CVS." He's also very proud to read to us Go, Dog. Go!

We are trying and working hard in our strive to help Cava feel at peace and that he is home, so that he doesn't want to go back to the boarding school or Ukraine. Danelle and I thank God daily for having a true godsend like Yulia, who has been so generous with her time. It is her caring that will help us help Cava become a part of our family. She ended her time with Cava last night by praying with him. Previously, when we have prayed with him, he prays what sounds like a little song such as "Now I Lay Me" or "God Is Great" sounds. When he prayed with Yulia, he prayed a different prayer. While I didn't know the words, I knew that this was a prayer he was praying and not one he'd learned. After Cava had gone to bed, we asked Yulia what it was he prayed. She told us that he prayed about how he loved God. That will be what will give him peace, in the end. God and God alone can change his scared, rabbit's heart to one that is at peace.

Thanks to all of you, such as the Bradshaws and the Kellys, who have encouraged us and prayed with us.

A very special thanks to Yulia for your generosity and kind spirit. We consider ourselves richly blessed to have you as a friend.


Monday, February 18, 2013

Perusing Pets


On Saturday, we had the therapist speak to Cava about our dog Chloe because we're concerned about how rough is with her. She started the conversation by asking Cava, "Do you have a dog at home?"

"Da. Chloe."

"Do you love Chloe?"

"Nyet."

"Why don't you love Chloe?"

"Chloe is Benjamin's dog."

It came out that Cava is extremely jealous of Benjamin's relationship with Chloe. Even if we could explain to him that Benjamin has had Chloe to himself since we bought her six years ago, Cava wouldn't understand. The therapist suggested we buy a small pet that could be Cava's. She recommended a teddy bear hamster.



After church yesterday, we had lunch and then went to our local PetSmart to do some pet browsing and see which pets Cava most responded to.

The first thing he dashed over to was the fish tanks. He was more interested in trying to reach in the tanks to put his hand in the water than he was actually looking at the fish inside.


From there, we moved on to the guinea pigs, hamsters, rodents and the chinchillas. 


He was most taken by the $159.00 chinchilla.

So we moved him on to the birds, although I'm not sure why since we have no desire to own a bird.


After that, it was the cat cages and the dogs that were available for adoption from the local shelter.


Out of all the things he saw, the one he was most interested in and wanted us to buy for him was - a squeak toy monkey meant for dogs to play with! Not wanting to buy my son a dog toy, Danelle distracted him briefly while I put the dog toy back. Then we took him to one of our favorite spots: Krispy Kreme. There he had his first chocolate with sprinkles doughnut (just like his older brother). To this doughnut, Cava gave a big thumb's up and a, "Yum."

He also got to wear his first Krispy Kreme hat. Don't know if it was the hat but we had to stop him from going behind the counter to where they make the doughnuts.


Danelle and I were still unsure of what kind of a pet we are willing to get Cava, so we decided it best to stop by ToysRUs and get him something he did want:


A stuffed monkey!

While he was disappointed that this one didn't squeak like the one at PetSmart, he did name it "Monkey" after Curious George, who he calls "Monkey."

It's funny, as much as Cava hates wearing a seat-belt, we couldn't start the car until he had also buckled "Monkey" in. 

If you have a suggestion for a good first pet for Cava, please let us know.






Sunday, February 17, 2013

Snapshots Of A Snowy Day

True, this snow doesn't come close to that we experienced in Ukraine but that didn't stop the boys from having some fun in it this morning before we went to church.


Cava was more than happy to pose for me, while Benjamin's response was, "Really? You have to take more  pictures?"

"Yes," I replied, "We're making memories and one day you'll appreciate all my photos." (I sound like my mother).

This snowy morning started out peaceful enough with the boys inspecting my frozen goldfish pond (previously a Koi pond, but I got tired of feeding the raccoons with them and so I replaced the $10 a piece Koi with 10 cents a piece goldfish).


This momentary peace was broken by Cava, who decided to throw a fistful of snow at his older brother. With that, the gloves were off (metaphorically speaking) and they were chasing each other around our backyard throwing snow at each other either by fist:


Or badminton racket:


Or by shaking the snow off the tree limbs:


Until they get tired of the chase and decided to play on the swing-set. Not even snow can keep this boy from flipping:


Or swinging:


Benjamin was just glad he got to play outside with his brother in Cava's first "American snow."









Saturday, February 16, 2013

Snowy Day Birthday


Where we live, we tend to get very little snow during winter. Maybe once a year. Despite having lived 8 years in Ukraine where he has seen some real snow, Cava got very excited when he looked out the window and saw it snowing. "Сніг! Сніг!" he kept repeating. ("Snow! Snow!"). He and Benjamin were tumbling over themselves to get their coats, hats, and gloves on and run outside. Once out there, both, like the Peanuts gang, tried to catch snowflakes on their tongues.

When I came out with my camera, Cava kept telling me "видеть,Papa! видеть!" (Which translates to "Witness!" or "Behold!" as if he were an Old Testament prophet). As I've written previously, I love this enthusiasm in him. He can get this way about what most of us take for granted or find mundane, such as he still gets excited about picking out his pajamas each night (Hulk? Spiderman? Or Spongebob?).


In the midst of their running around in the lightly falling snow (which looks more like rain in this photo for some reason), they stopped to share a brief moment of brotherly affection. Once Cava had left to go to his friend from school, Isabella's birthday party, Benjamin was through with the love and was ready for a snowball fight with me.


That was actually one of the smaller snow balls that we threw once I put my camera back in the house. Benjamin and I had a blast even as we became soaking wet and cold. Not letting that stop us, we took the time to create this tiny snow couple and their story.  Edgar and Irene Snow have been married 30 hours (They measure their marriage in terms of hours not years) and she loves him, despite his thinning hair and expanding belly, and he loves her, despite her extravagant taste in hats. It's a love that will last since they both vowed, "Til sun doth we melt."


Once we finally did come inside, I fixed us both hot chocolate with tiny marshmallows. As I was preparing the hot chocolate, I paused to snap this photo of our backyard. 


Drinking our hot chocolate, Benjamin and I talked about how we were both disappointed that Cava couldn't have been there to play with us in his "first American snow," as Benjamin referred to it. Yes, we missed him but we doubt he missed us as he was all too thrilled to be going to his first every birthday party. Ever since he got the invitation to go to Isabella's birthday party earlier in the week he has been counting down the days until today and then it changed to hours. This was the first one he's ever been to and Danelle had the therapist explain to him this morning what would transpire and how he was to behave at just such a soiree.  

Of course Benjamin and I were excited when Danelle and Cava returned with all of the goodies that Cava won from his first ever pinata!  Tops, a car, lollipop, pencil, finger puppet, erasers, and 3 different lip glosses (grape, pineapple, and strawberry).  They ate lots of pizza, Cava took the pineapple off his slices and ate them separately. This was followed by cake. Cava never says "no" to cake or the ice cream, for that matter.


Of course, he worked it all off when he played Twister:


Or dancing "Gangam Style":


Cava had no problem breaking out his moves. As I've said before, that boy loves to dance!

He had a great time at his first birthday party and we can't wait until his comes around in November. Then we'll burst out in song to LMFAO's "Party Rockers" with our own variation: "Party Cava's in the house tonight / Every body just have a good time!"









Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentines For Cava


Yesterday, Cava was thrilled to get to give his first Valentines to the kids in his class. We got the list out, sat down at the kitchen table, and went one by one down the list of boys and girls. I had gotten him some Cars Valentines that also have tattoos to put with them, so Cava sorted the Valentines according to each kid and then chose which child got which tattoo (I figured out who were the girls he liked by which ones got a Lightning McQueen tattoo). I was proud of him because he hand wrote each name on the cards. It was cute to see him get excited when we got to each kid's name and he would point, say their name aloud, and then write it down on the Valentine.

This morning, he was very excited about going to school so he could celebrate Valentines Day and he had to check, re-check and re-check again to ensure that the Valentines were still in his backpack.

Earlier in the week, I had gotten Cava's Valentine presents from us: a Finding Nemo puzzle because he really needs some new ones (although he was very, very happy that Lauren "Mayor McAwesome," who works with his Mama sent him two Spiderman puzzles. Talk about hitting a bullseye!) and something new for him - Play-Doh! I was extremely curious to see what he will make with it. There are certain smells that I love: freshly baked bread, a springtime rain, a newly sharpened pencil, and Play-Doh when you first open the can. It is definitely one of the smells of childhood.

As soon as he got in the car when I picked him up from school, Cava was all animated and vibrantly vocal about his day. Despite not understanding the words, I got the meanings of his enthusiasm and delight with this new holiday. And then he began to sing very loudly with his arms outstretched, "I love you PAPA! I love  you MAMA! I love you Benjamin! I love you CHOCOLATE!" (Hey, I wouldn't dispute him on any of those declarations myself).

Once we got to Benjamin's school, Cava was out of his booster seat, climbed into the front passenger's seat, got on the floor and dumped out the bags containing his Valentines goodies.


Each item that he picked up he had to show me, telling me each time "See, Papa." Our friend Yulia told us that the word Cava uses for "see" is the one somebody would use to point out a miracle. So each new thing for Cava is like a miracle and it fills him with joy. That is definitely a trait I need to pick up from him. Perhaps he, like Rabbi Abraham Heschel will say, "Never once in my life did I ask God for success or wisdom or power or fame. I asked for wonder, and He gave it to me. Wonder rather than doubt is the root of all knowledge."


Of course he was the most excited about getting a Ring Pop and he had me open that immediately.


All of this sense of joyous wonder was repeated when Benjamin got in the car and Cava had to show him everything. Benjamin's response was, "I wish I got Valentines Day at school."

When we got home, I gave Cava his Valentines presents from Mama and Papa. Just seeing the Spongebob bag, he began to shout, "Spaseeba Papa! Spaseeba!" Tossing out the paper, he was delighted to find Play-Doh and a puzzle. First, he had me open the Play-Doh for him and, like every child, he took a deep whiff.


Told you, one of the many wonderful scents of childhood!

He played with the Play-Doh a little but didn't quite get the point of it just yet (We'll work on that one). And so his attention turned to his new puzzle.


Before I knew it, Cava was calling for me to come and "see." He is so proud of his accomplishments each time he finishes a puzzle. I love seeing that smile.


Along with those small presents, I gave Cava this Masha on-line Valentine and it made him smile even bigger. It spoke directly to how I feel about him:


I am so thankful to God that our family did. 

Love Is . . .


Sometimes verses from the Bible are so overly familiar that their words are often taken for granted. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 is one of those, especially at Valentines Day. Yet as I was rereading those verses, I couldn't help but see them anew with having an adopted child with adjustment issues.

"Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil, does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."

"Love suffers long and is kind" People quote this verse without really taking into account what it means. I know it can be extremely difficult to love someone as they fight you, quite literally, and are rejecting your love even as you're offering it. As we are midway in our fourth week having Cava with us, he is still coming to terms with the fact that we will continue to love him even when he tells us he doesn't love us. During our first session with the therapist last Saturday, I told her about how when Cava told me, "No love you!" and I replied, "That's fine. I still love you," how shocked Cava was. The therapist, who's Russian, replied, "That's because where we are from, if a child behaves improperly, particularly if they show strong negative emotion, they are punished for it by being withheld affection. Cava is unused to someone responding as you did."

To be "long suffering" is to be "enduring patiently wrongs or difficulties." The wrongs that our family endures are those Cava has gone through long before we met him. He spent 8 years in the orphanage system (first the baby house then the orphanage and, lastly, the boarding school). Cava has no memories of his mother and never met his father. He has been through numerous caregivers. So he has no sense of stability, family, or a love that helps nurture him and help him to make sense of a world that is frightening to him. Because of this, he has a hard time understanding what it means to be loved and be in a family. Therefore, he is shocked when we are kind and loving to him when he gets angry. Still, we continue to respond to him in this manner and he is beginning to change. An example is when he and I were playing and he accidentally kicked me. His response was a swift, "Sorry Papa." I smiled and told him, "That's okay. It was an accident. But thank you for apologizing. I love you, Cava." "I love you, Papa," he smiled.

One thing we learned from the therapist is that Cava needs to be able to express his anger but that we need to set limitations so that he can learn to control himself, which is something he's never learned. So when he looks as if he's about to hit, we tell him, "People are not for hitting, but you can hit this pillow." I did this when he started hitting our walls and I picked up his Lightning McQueen pillow and said, "Cava, we don't hit walls, but you can hit your pillow." He looked at his pillow and then at me as if to say, "Are you crazy? I'm not hitting my Lightning McQueen pillow!" But he stopped.

When the therapist asked Cava if he bit Danelle and scratched me, Cava denied that he did. She repeated her question but only after prefacing it with, "Cava, you won't get in trouble with me," did he admit that he had. She asked him why he did these things and he replied, with his face down, that he didn't mean to. Now the therapist explained to us that the word Cava used meant that he did do the actions but that his intent was not one of hatred towards us. He was simply frustrated and angry and lashed out. So we are working on setting limits with Cava and teaching him other avenues to vent himself. But this will take time and require a great deal of patience.

As I've written numerous times before, I'm a dictionary nerd who loves to look up the meaning of words. So it should come as no surprise that I looked up patience in the dictionary to see what ol' Webster had to say. It read: the quality of being patient, as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like.

How many of us can lay claim to truly being patient? Especially with our children. It seems like it's the hardest with family.

Why?

Often times because they are the ones who know exactly the right buttons to push in us.

Yet in many translations of the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13:4 starts, "Love is patient." Right off the bat, we are hit square in the eyes with what is oftentimes the hardest thing for us to be.

In learning to be more patient with Cava, I am also learning to do the same with my wife and with Benjamin. Like Cava, I am going through the process of adjusting myself to him being a part of our family. This means that I can't just react but I have to step back, pray, and then deal with him. Even when Cava does not act like the child I want him to act like, I still pray that God can help me be the parent that Cava needs me to be.

Now our oldest son, Benjamin, has always been a loving and affectionate child. He has no problem holding our hands or giving us hugs and kisses in public. When Cava came home as his brother, Benjamin immediately wanted to show the same love to Cava that he does to us. The difference is, Cava rebuffs him. It's hard for Benjamin and no matter how we explain to him that Cava has grown up in an orphanage where he has always had to vie for attention and, because of this, views Benjamin as competition. Cava is used to having to perform or fight to get a caregiver, who has to take care of numerous children, to notice him. Like us, Benjamin is having to show Cava love even when Cava doesn't always want to return it. Slowly, Cava will see that our love is constant and steady and that we will not leave or abandon him.

Before we adopted Cava, we would pray that God would give us the right child for our family. When it comes to adoption, it's not about finding the "perfect" child for there are none. It's about finding the child God has chosen for you. For those adopting or considering adoption, you have to ask yourself:
1. Are you willing to accept a child who may or may not accept you immediately?
2. Can you love a child that may take years to understand and return that love?
3. Are you willing to have things broken (both objects around the house and, at times, your heart)?

There were things in Cava's medical records that were either withheld from us or we were not made aware of until after we adopted him. Would knowing that information have changed our minds about adopting him? Both of us believe that God picked Cava for our family and that he is ours.

If there's one thing these verses teach us it's that love is not easy nor simple. Love requires brokenness and sacrifice. These verses from 1 Corinthians aren't about our love but about God's love towards us that we are to strive to emulate in our own lives towards others.

Now, as any parent can tell you, your kids will keep you humble. One day, before we adopted Cava, Benjamin was telling me all about how he was going to parent his kids when he grew up. When I asked him, "What do you know about parenting?" he replied, "I learned from the best." Before I could get all puffed up and say, "Thanks, buddy," he added, "I've watched 'The Andy Griffith Show.' He was really great with Opie."

Just as our kids aren't always the kids we want them to be, we also have to face the fact that we aren't always the parents they need us to be. Many a time I've had to humble myself and tell both Benjamin and Cava that I was sorry and to ask their forgiveness for something I did wrong. Now Benjamin is used to this, having lived with me for 12 years, but for Cava, this is something completely alien to him: adults telling him they were sorry. The first time I did it, he just kind of looked at me, baffled. But it's important for him to understand that his Mama and Papa get things wrong sometimes and need to tell him that they're sorry. Lead by example.

God went to great lengths to come find me and to bring me into His family. He did not count the cost. How can I not be willing to do the same? Adoption is just one small way of my sharing the generosity of His love to another who so desperately needs it.

None of this is an easy kind of love. It is a deliberate love that chooses to love someone not based on their worthiness but simply on our wanting to love them. This is how I love Cava and Benjamin. I love them because they are mine. With both, I love them not for the expectations (such as career choices) I have for their lives (although I do pray that God guides them in their choices) but for all the possibilities that lie within them. It is a love that builds up and encourages them.

Our love for our children, no matter how strong, is an imperfect love. While Danelle's and my love can help Cava, only God's love can truly change Cava. While we strive to mirror God's love to both of our sons, the best thing we can do is point them to Christ. Unlike our love, God's love is eternal and is unconditional. It is His love that the beginning of verse 8 in 1 Corinthians 13:8 is referring to when it states that, "Love never fails." And that, more than anything, is what not only Cava but all of us need.







Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Cava Meets A Dinosaur


Ever since he was little, one of Benjamin's favorite places to go has always been the Schiele Museum. He has grown up with a real love for science. Up until we adopted Cava, we have had a membership and could take Benjamin whenever he wanted to go. Since the adoption, we are tight on money so we didn't renew it (very much to Benjamin's disappointment).

Once we heard today was a "Free Tuesday," we (Benjamin especially) jumped at the chance to take Cava. Something Benjamin is dying to teach Cava about is science and he was thrilled that he would get to show off one of his favorite places to his little brother. Before we left, I took Benjamin aside and said, "You do realize that Cava's not going to be still long enough for you to teach him, right?" To which, he responded incredulously, "Really? You think I don't know that by now?" (Gotta' love your nearly-teenage kids).

On the ride to the museum, Benjamin asked, "What do you think his favorite thing is going to be? I'll bet it will be the dinosaurs, especially the T-Rex. Or the insects. He'll probably see the spiders and say, "Spiderman!"

We met Danelle there and the first thing Cava noticed when we went inside wasn't the large T-Rex skeleton that greeted visitors but a snack table. Both he and Benjamin got a small cup of raisins, pretzels, and dried banana chips before I could convince either to pose in front of Rex.


Cava was excited about the T-Rex only because he'd done a puzzle of a T-Rex earlier in the day and he kept saying, "Puzzle! Puzzle!"

From there, we went at a break-neck pace throughout the museum itself with Cava excitedly shouting and pointing, "Mama! Papa! дивляться! (See!)" He did this for every thing and it was fun to see just how enthusiastic he was despite spending only a matter of seconds in front of each display.


It turns out Cava's favorites were the "Mishkas!" and he had to pose in front of each one.




"OOOOOO," he would declare with wide-eyed wonder each time he entered a new room and saw both taxidermied animals and lives ones. Or when he saw the dinosaurs. Since Danelle, Benjamin and I have visited the Schiele numerous times over the years, it was fun to see it again through new eyes and a real sense of joy.





Thankfully, the one thing Cava didn't notice - the gift shop! That kept the "Free" night at the Schiele free.