Tuesday, June 10, 2014

When rescuing is not enough...

In my spare time (while driving, cooking and cleaning etc. etc. ) I have created t-shirt designs on paper that would be helpful to my family. (with the hope that my children will never have to wear them!)

My latest t-shirt says: 
Front: " Keep calm and don't rescue me. " 
Back: " I already belong to a family that loves me."  

A couple months ago, Sol, myself and our kids were hanging out at our local bookstore to escape from the 100 degree weather.  My 4 boys stepped to the side to check out the children's books while our girls decided to sit next to us in the cafe and have a little snack.  One of our daughters was humming a tune while our other daughter sat staring off into space.  Before we knew it,  a couple " concerned customers" decided to " check us out" and question (interrogate) us and our girls:
" What are your names? How old are you? Are they your daughters? Why is she staring at me like that? Why are they not reading? Where are they from???
Since when is it socially appropriate to walk up to a stranger and question them let alone talk to your children without your permission?  Why do people think that our business is theirs?  
About 15 minutes later , 2 police officers walked in and approached our girls (apparently they had been called by a "concerned customer") They spoke to our girls and then pulled Sol aside.  
After a few questions, Sol took the police to our other boys who were sitting between piles of books listening to their youngest brother read. 
The police took one look at our 4 boys and replied with a warm smile " You have more of them?? " 
" I can tell they are clean, well fed, loved and cared for - there is absolutely no need for us to be here." - their affirming voices echoed throughout the entire store.  
Thankfully, our 12 years of loyalty to this bookstore paid off and the store manager apologized repeatedly.  
But still... - they could have prevented this... 
My 9 year old biological son wouldn't let it go -  he couldn't understand why someone would call the police just because his sisters weren't reading books. 

As I've shared this story to several friends/peers - the common response is 
" Just shrug it off, Chris. -   you guys are great parents... that "concerned customer" had her own issues. " 
But what is most often forgotten is that we experience this on a frequent basis and it is deeply traumatizing to us.  It is unfortunate that some of my adopted children have learned the success of gaining this type of negative attention.  

Truthfully, it's painful and frustrating to watch.  It's absolutely not fair to our adopted children when strangers, peers, friends feed into their "orphan, rescue me" handicap. 
It paralyzes them. They suddenly forget who they belong to and become blinded by their past as their "orphan identity" begins to haunt them over and over again.  
They have been disillusioned by a "rescue minded" society.  
Unfortunately, every single time a stranger, police or "well intended" friend has stepped into "help" - our family suffers.  And it never seems to stop.  

Recently a close friend advised me to " call 911" if harassed by a "concerned stranger." 
Perhaps I should.... but what about friends, teachers that have tried to "rescue" our children and suddenly turn their back on us thinking "they know better."  
I think I can ask this question for ourselves as well as the adoptive families who walk the same road as us: " Why are my children everyone's business? "  
There may be a tone of frustration in that question - as there should be.  
But I sincerely want to know why.

Rescuing children was not our motivation to adopt. We never aspired to be heroes. 
 Healing, restoring and educating children from hard places to live well and 
be part of a loving family is what drove us to adopt.  

I'll admit...I stepped out of my comfort zone to voice out my frustration, but I know I'm not the only one that struggles like this.  I can genuinely speak for a handful of adoptive families that I know who would stand with me in our disappointment.  If only "concerned people" would leave us alone - perhaps it would help with our children's healing, security and attachment struggles. They would no longer be confused but instead consistently know who loves them and resist jumping into the next arms that "reach out to them. "

Most of the time I feel like I am drowning in other people's judgements and ignorant comments. I then cast judgements on myself until I realize that each day God will fix what I couldn't fix and heal what I couldn't mend.  I did the best I could do.

         People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.  
Forgive them anyway.
            If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, alterior motives. 
 Be kind anyway.
            If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.  Succeed anyway.
           If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.  
Be honest and sincere anyway.
           What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. 
 Create anyway.
            If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.  
Be happy anyway.
            The good you do today, will often be forgotten.  
Do good anyway.
         Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.  
Give your best anyway.
         In the final analysis, it is between you and God.  
It was never between you and them anyway.
- Mother Teresa 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Love Redefined

For those of you that know me well... I don't sugar coat my "amazing life" as an adoptive mom of 6. Perhaps if you have been following my blog, you might have figured that out.
My blog has been silent for the past few months because of an exceptionally challenging season. My heart has been stretched to extremely uncomfortable places, my faith has been tested and stripped to points where it seemed only fear and doubt where left to taunt me. Voices of condemnation and judgment have shattered my heart into pieces and diminished every reality I've known to be true.
I have never had to love a child that uses every possible means to reject it...until now.
Love is a scary thing for adoptive children. But loving a resistant, defiant and revengeful child is also a scary thing for an adoptive parent.   
Before my children came home, I thought I knew what LOVE was. 
Now, I don't. 
God is redefining my definition of love. It's not only the "compassionate, empathetic and sympathetic" love that my narrow mind thought would be enough for my children.  
It's so much more. I  still have yet to find out. 

Recently our family experienced yet another horrific and traumatic incident. 
Yes... another one.  
My 5 year old biological son asked me "Why? Why mommy would she do that?" 
"I don't know son...." My voice trembling with anger, frustration and extreme sadness.  
I don't know and yet I did. The more I love them, the more they want to resist. It's too scary. Perhaps unknowingly...they would rather destroy the ones that love them the most and run to strangers. 
So what can I do?
What should I do?

I have buried myself in tears and prayer, indulged myself with chocolate, spent hours at the gym attempting to work off my frustration and spent hours venting with close friends.... but at the end of the day, my circumstances haven't changed.

Adopting 4 older children at once is "not amazing or heroic."  It breaks you everyday and turns your world upside down. Every.Single.Day. 

Last week, I nearly broke down in front of my son's 6th grade teacher, RTI instructor, school principal and school psychologist as we attempted to form a game plan to help my son who is barely at a 1st/2nd grade level complete the 6th grade.  
" Do you have any prior history of your son?" Asked the school psychologist. 
" I have nothing.... But I do know that my son has experienced more trauma than any child his age should have had to. 
I replied.
"He seems extra sensitive." Commented one of the instructors. 
" Emotionally, he is barely 5 years old. We suspect that this was before or after a very traumatic incident for our son." I explained, holding my tears back.

Here I was....with a group of educators  fighting for my son's education. 
He would have never received this kind of care and love from his birth country. 
Perhaps one day he will look back and realize.... how much he is loved and even if he doesn't.... It's okay. We didn't help him because we felt sorry for him, we helped him because truthfully... all we want for our kids is to give them every opportunity in life to succeed. 

I often wonder how God will redefine love for each of my children. 

Maybe the only answer I need right now is that "I am loved, unconditionally loved by an amazing God who sees and accepts me in all my brokenness."  

It took Derick an entire year to even begin to take the risk of accepting our love and care
for him. Not only did we make Christmas a special celebration for him,
he also chose to make it special for himself and us. 


Friday, November 22, 2013

Season of Drought

With it being the season of thanksgiving... I truly wanted to write something upbeat, hopeful and filled with gratitude.  After all... I have a laundry list of all the things I'm thankful for.
Yet I also can't deny that this past month's worth of drama has pushed and stretched my heart to places I never knew existed.  

And then today pushed me over the edge...

I was on my way home when Sol called to share something that our eldest son had been hiding... 
There was dead silence over the phone.
Suddenly, I felt lost.  
Who was this child?  What happened to him?  I felt deceived into believing he was some thing that he wasn't.... Loyal, respectful and content with his new family and second chance at life. Where did I go wrong?  Did I fail him? How had I failed him?  
But.... It was his choice. Again? Why? Why did he.....? 

I drove in our driveway with my heart pounding with anger, bitterness and sadness.  Took some deep breaths and dragged my feet through the front door.  Sol's facial expression was enough for me to understand his heart was as broken as mine. 
We took a few minutes to calm down and sat down with our son. 
He stared at us blankly. I couldn't look at him. I was ashamed for him. Sol spared me the awkwardness by saying a quick word of prayer. 
I set my timer...for fear that I wouldn't stop talking.
We spoke with a loving, tender but firm tone.... yet our words bounced right off him. 
How I wished he could have seen the pain, the love and the hurt in our eyes and grasp it through our words.
But there was nothing.
Our 14 year old son had been trained all his life to believe a lie and live a lie.  He was never told and taught the truth.  He was never loved by a mom and a dad who devoted themselves to persistently guide him in the right direction and draw appropriate boundaries to provide him security and protection.

Our conversation ended....
No remorse. No tears. Just a blank stare.
My emotions stretched from one extreme to another...
I wanted to forgive him and move on quickly... forgetting all that had happened.... Just like I wanted to do all the other past times. 
But that would be another lie and I was too angry, sad and disheartened. He needed to understand there were consequences for his irresponsible choices.

All day...my heart has been in turmoil. 

Unfortunately all 4 of our children learned to hustle on the streets of Ghana. They were taught to beg and steal with an incredible charm that strangers cannot resist. Society taught them that lying was courageous and telling the truth was showing weakness.  The nudge of guilt from "making a bad choice" was stripped away from our kids at a very young age. 

Our hope is that we can somehow reteach our children proper values and build a character of integrity. Unfortunately with our eldest son, we only have 3.5 years left before his decisions in life become his full responsibility. 
Truthfully, I.Am.Weary.  
For the past couple of months, I have been in a season of drought.
My heart is parched.
I have barely an ounce of kindness and patience left to bear the face of one more lie or devious act.

Hope hasn't died and I know where my Source of Strength comes from... 
I keep convincing myself  "No Chris... you haven't failed."
Every morning, my kids wake up to me (the same petite Asian mama) with breakfast waiting for them, homework corrected, school lunches packed. Perhaps there were moments where they might have "wished" me away.... 
But for the past 15 months of their life.... this weary mama has consistently tried to love them and refuses to stop loving them.
Our kids make choices that are beyond our control. Sometimes I wish I just didn't know. But... I still have to be proud that our son finally told the truth. Again.

Thankfully with the beauty of a drought season comes rain. 
Although I wish I knew when my rainy season is.... I guess I'm okay with waiting and simply hanging in there. Perhaps, it will slow me down enough to regain perspective in order to keep persevering. 

" Successful mothers are not the ones who have never struggled. 
They are the ones who never give up, despite the struggles."  
-Sharon Jaynes

Friday, October 18, 2013

1 year mark - finding our place and keeping our head in the game

The word "soccer" is used in our home numerous times a day.  Our family lives and breathes soccer.  Within this past year, I have spent half of my life at the soccer field watching and cheering my boys at their games.  There is not one day/night of the week where a soccer ball is not moving around me. I am surrounded by soccer. 
I'll admit, it gets weary dragging the cooler full of lunches/snacks, water bottles, umbrellas, blankets and chairs from one game to another... but I do it because I want to be there for my kids.

Nothing drives me more crazy than when one of our boys loses his position or forgets to mark his opponent. All I can hear is my dear husband in sync with their coaches..." FIND YOUR POSITION!!!"

And that's when I cover my eyes because it literally terrifies me to watch my child's team get defeated because he or another player lost their position. 

Before a game, the coach assigns each player their position with the understanding that their players know what is expected of them.
Soccer is a team game and everyone should be expected to cover all parts of the field to prevent their opposing team from scoring a goal.

Nothing describes our family as well as the game of soccer.
In addition to the behavioral challenges and attachment struggles, this past year has been all about our children finding their place of belonging and adopting us as their parents.  We have been consistently reminding our children where they belong and who they belong to.  As a result of our children's disrespect and resistance to accept me as their mother, I often feel "disqualified" to be their mom.  Then again, attachment cannot happen until my children understand where they belong, who they are and who they belong to.
For the past 12 months, I have felt like a basket case of emotions.  Every morning I drag myself out of bed and cheer myself on... " You can do this Chris! Yes you can!" 
As much of a lunatic as I often feel I am, I am hopeful for the day that we will see healing progress.
Through all the thick layers of fog of confusion and pain, THERE ARE rare moments where we get to see signs of healing as our children begin to accept us.

There is a lot of grief in acceptance.  When we accept and adopt something new, we are forced to say "good-bye" to the past. 

Each one of our children walk a different journey.  As our children settle into our family, none of them will feel, communicate or display the same emotions. As one child begins attaching, another will detach. 

A couple weeks ago, after grueling conversations... our eldest son told us that he didn't want to be part of our family anymore. He wanted to "shop" for a new set of parents. After spending some intense vacation time with extended family, he suddenly got confused.  He detached himself from us and began to behave carelessly.  As in the game of soccer, our son lost his position. Without warning, he removed himself from the game. Every day, he needs his coach (dad) and referee (mom) to remind him where his position on the field is and that he has no choice but to play with this team that God has chosen for him. 
As a result, if has often felt like our kids are constantly scrambling to try and find their position with hopes of covering for our son's position. 

Unfortunately, our 3 year old daughter seems to lose her position quite frequently or perhaps she hasn't found it yet. Every time a stranger/friend gives her the slightest attention or acknowledges "her cuteness," it consequently leaves her feeling lost and results in defiance. Somehow it pushes her out of position and she forgets who/where she belongs to. It has frustrated me to the point where I have had to boldly ask others to "PLEASE refrain from giving her attention." 

Our 8 year old son who plays club soccer often struggles with keeping his head in the game, staying in his position and finding confidence in his skill and ability. 
This past year of adding 4 new siblings to our family completely shoved him out of birth order and placed him in a state of confusion. Watching his coach speak confidence and belief through my son has moved me to tears as I see my son gradually regaining strength and experience healing. His coach has become a safe person that consistently reminds him how to stay focused and keep his position.

I hope for the day where I can become that "safe voice" to my children.

Win or lose, we made it past the one year mark. 
None of us did it perfectly... but perhaps all the trials, resistance and battles improved our game and has made us to be a stronger team than last year. 
I can only hope and pray that my kids decide soon enough to stay in their position and keep their head in the game. 
  • "I am a member of a team, and I rely on the team, I defer to it and sacrifice for it, because the team, not the individual, is the ultimate champion."
    -- Mia Hamm

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Beauty for ashes


"To all who mourn in Israel,
    he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
festive praise instead of despair.
In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks
that the Lord has planted for his own glory."
-Isaiah 61:3(NLT)
April 21st, 1999 - Sol and I shared our visions, dreams and hopes to one day adopt.  Little did we know that clear across the Atlantic Ocean, our son, Stephen was about to be born.  A hardworking, young mother was ready to give birth to her firstborn while a young dating couple was sitting in a coffee shop colliding their dreams and visions together. 
14 years later....
this same son is sitting in our living room....

He suddenly shut down. The same talkative son that lives each second of his life with pure joy and gratitude was completely out of words.
" Son, are you okay? Is there anything you would like to share with us? "
Silence. No response.
After 3 hours, it finally came out.
"Tomorrow is May 2nd." he said.
We paused and suddenly I remembered... It was the anniversary of our children's birth mother's death. I nearly hurt myself from forgetting. How could I forget? 
Suddenly, the tears came.  Our son broke down and wept like a baby in my husband's arms.  It was the first time... the first time he had ever allowed himself to weep and mourn for her. 
As we grieved and cried with him, we were also proud of him.
Proud that he was embracing the pain.
Proud that he let his heart go there and felt comfortable to cry. 
Something happened in our living room that night.
Something so amazing and transformational.
We were able to walk down memory lane with his birth mother... laugh, cry and grieve.

And then it was time for my husband to speak hope back to our son...
"Stephen, God has given you a second chance. Your new mom will never replace the mother that birthed you into this world but she has CHOSEN to love you, walk with you and call you her son.... FOREVER. What a gift that God has given two special mothers in your life that have sacrificed and chosen to love you.  You have made them both proud. " - said my husband.  
Our son gave the sweetest smile.  He received it and embraced the both of us.
Beauty for ashes. 

The other day, Stephen came running into the kitchen to help me with the dishes and blessed me with the most beautiful words. " Mommy, you're the best mommy in the whole world! There's no other place I'd rather be but with you and daddy!" 
What a gift!   
I don't take it for granted.  God has gifted him with a heart of gratitude. 
This morning I woke up ready to go back to sleep and bury myself under my covers...  the past 45 days have been emotionally exhausting trying to connect with children that only want to detach and resist our every effort to love and nurture them.  Each down cycle has me wondering how I will ever find the strength to keep on keeping on... but then God speaks to me through a child quietly telling me:
       " mommy, I think you need a break."
       " mommy, what can I do to help you? "
       " mommy, why don't you go rest and I'll keep an eye on my brothers and sisters
         for you?"
       " mommy, you're the best mommy in the whole world!"
I walked out of my room this morning and was greeted by our 14 year old who quietly said:
 " Good morning mommy, how did you sleep last night? "
Suddenly, I didn't feel the urge to crawl back under my covers. His sweet greeting was enough to energize me for the day ahead filled with soccer tournaments and a birthday party. 
There's nothing else that I would rather be doing. 

As messy and dysfunctional as our family may seem sometimes...

I genuinely believe that God uses my kids to bless us in amazing and humbling ways.  He didn't have to grace us with such a sweet 14 year old son, but He did only because He knew that we would need the extra sanity to keep running this marathon of attachment and parenting.

Happy 14th Birthday Stephen!
I cannot wait to meet your beautiful mother that gave you life and brought you into this world.
You are truly a miracle from God.
 We will always be proud of you
and proud to call you our son. 



Thursday, April 11, 2013

Looking back... perspective

It's just been one of those weeks. A week where I was desperate for perspective.  I felt like I was drowning... drowning in a sea of tantrums.  Our kids seemed triggered by even the smallest things and yet very significant.  I would be happy if we had 3 meltdowns in one day instead of 8...one after another.   Well intentioned. loving, supportive friends just didn't seem to understand that feeding our children, hugging our children and showing them extra, unnecessary attention just throws them back a few steps... which means more attachment work for Sol and I.  It's discouraging as we watch our children regress when another friend/stranger tries to show them care.
They become confused, insecure and detached again...hence the tantrums.
 In their traumatized, hurting minds, anyone that feeds or hugs them is their caregiver. 
We can't expect our kids to understand.
In the midst of so many battles, it can be so frustrating that it's easy to forget....
forget why and how we got here...only 7 months ago.
I needed to be reminded again....
I read old blog posts, looked at pictures from our first trip to Ghana and then came across this video that I had put together while we were waiting for our children to come home.
I was reminded.
Reminded of how much I love my kids.
Reminded of this incredible gift that I've been given of being their mother... forever.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Our "STUCK" story

Sometimes a traumatic story has to sit for a while before it is shared and told.  Time dissolves some of the pain, anxiety and fears and healing is able to take place.  Soon enough, it becomes a distant memory.
Life has moved so quickly that Sol and I haven't had a moment to reflect or process through much of our journey but recently I was asked to share...so here it is.
Warning:  its rather long, so grab your favorite drink, get comfortable and watch God turn something so traumatic into something absolutely beautiful.

Some people said " we were at the wrong place at the wrong time.."
Others have said " it was a set up... for money.."
We say... " God knew ALL long what was going to happen... no, He didn't want us to suffer so much trauma... BUT He did allow us to see what it truly meant to "fight" for our children.
We now have a story to remind our children that they will always be "worth the fight ."

June 8th, 2012, Sol, myself and 2 of our boys (Ethan and Isaac) left our comfortable California home, flew over the Atlantic Ocean and headed to Kumasi, Ghana.  All four of us had high anticipation for what was ahead - meeting the 4 new additions to our family.  Upon our arrival, we were welcomed by our Power of Attorney and another adoptive family from our agency. Within less than 24 hours, we were driving on a rugged, red dirt road to our children's foster home. 
" I feel like this is a dream...I can't believe we are actually here! " said our nervous 8 year old son.  He too had journeyed with us through our mountains of paperwork, fingerprinting and home studies.  It was a shock for him on so many levels. 
Our initial meeting with our kids was beautiful. Their poor, confused souls were hidden beneath their sweet smiles and hugs. The instant connection with all 6 of our children was absolutely amazing. In that moment... I breathed my first sigh of relief. 
We were finally together. 

Our second day together in Kumasi

Our court date was set for June 14th at 8:00 a.m.  Our lawyer and important members from our children's extended family met us there to provide witness to the judge for our final adoption order.  At 8:01 a.m., we were given the message that the judge could not meet with us at our appointed time, our court date had been delayed 6 hours. 
Fortunately, we were prepared for this.  In countries, like Ghana - there is no rush... even if it's "important." 
Waiting for our 8:00 court hearing
Our 6 hours of waiting was spent taking our children, their extended family, our Power of Attorney to breakfast and touring through one of Kumasi's cultural museums.  As anxious as we all were, it was a bonding time for all of us. While Sol entertained all 6 children, I asked a lot of questions and took advantage of finding out as much history of our children as possible.  Up until then, we had absolutely no birth, childhood history.  Unfortunately, 6 hours came to soon and we entered into the courthouse. 
The courthouse was filled with people...people everywhere.
A man motioned to us and we were all taken to a small room at the back of the building. Inside the room was 1 desk, a couple chairs and a small worn out sofa. We sat together and waited...
A few words were exchanged between the judge and our lawyer. Within a few minutes... they both stood up, smiled and shook hands. Apparently, our adoption order was

From there, we parted ways with our children's extended family.  It was a bittersweet moment.  I'm pretty sure we were ALL confused with excitement and anticipation for the unknown " journey" ahead.  
Saturday, June 16th, all 8 of us traveled to Accra with our other adoptive friends and their newly adopted daughter.  It was a new experience for our Ghanaian children.  They had never flown on an airplane before.  " I'm ready to fly to America now! " exclaimed our 13 year old, Stephen. 

Our time in Accra was spent completing our children's medicals and getting our adoption order approved and sealed by the Supreme Court of Justice.
Wednesday, June 20th around 1:30 p.m., we entered the U.S. embassy in Accra and filed our children's I-600/Visas.  With our Power of Attorney, all 9 of us squeezed into a tiny room and handed our papers to the lady behind the window. We were warmly welcomed and she wasted no time filing our papers ...within 15 minutes we were DONE.  All of our paperwork was COMPLETE. 
As we walked out of the building, Sol calmly explained to our children that we would be leaving Ghana soon and the 4 of them would have to wait in Kumasi for at least 3 months while the U.S, embassy reviewed all of our paperwork and prepared their visas. "But as soon as your visas are printed... we will fly back to Ghana and bring you home to California." - Sol said reassuringly.  Stephen wrapped his arms around his new adoptive father and said " Daddy, I have waited 3 years for you, 3 months is nothing."

A huge cloud lifted off and we breathed another sigh of relief.  All necessary paperwork and appointments were complete.  There was nothing more to be done except to wait and enjoy our children.  We celebrated with our Power of Attorney for all of the work he had done for our family and praised God for His faithfulness and provision.

The next day, our Power of Attorney traveled back to Kumasi, our adoptive friends checked out of our hotel and departed back to America.  Sol and I had plans to spend 6 more days in Ghana with hopes of allowing our family to bond together. We were told that Accra was a safe city and we would have no problems getting around on our own.  We felt quite comfortable at the hotel we were staying at and had no doubt we were in good company. 

Friday morning, June 22nd we woke up excited for the day ahead. We had promised to take the kids swimming,  I had promised to take our 8 year old daughter shopping in the market for a new dress and Sol had promised to take the boys shopping for some soccer jerseys.  We were ALL thrilled to just enjoy a day in Accra without any adoption related appointments.  With a few hiccups of tantrums here and there, all 8 of us made it to breakfast and to the swimming pool. 

As we were walking downstairs towards the pool, our taxi driver caught my attention and asked me what time we would need him to take us to the market.  " Around 1:30..." I replied.

After a few hours at the pool, we headed upstairs to get ready for our afternoon outing. 
The song "Endless Summer" blasted from our room while the kids danced around so we could pack up our belongings for the day ahead.  There was nothing but laughter and joy radiating from our hotel room. 

1:45 p.m. - we piled into our taxi.  Our taxi driver, Obed warmly greeted us and made sure all 8 of us fit comfortably in his average size car.  As soon as he drove out of our hotel, Sol noticed 3 people dressed in civilian clothing flagging at our taxi driver.  " Maybe you should see what they need?" Sol told Obed.  Hesitantly, Obed pulled aside and got out of the car.  Within seconds, he was pinned to his car and the largest man out the 3 jumped behind the steering wheel,  "Everyone out!" Sol yelled frantically. We all followed his lead and all 7 of us literally fell out of the car.  "You're resisting an arrest!!" Yelled the woman who was dressed nothing like a police officer. 
" May I please see your badges?" - Sol replied.  One by one they each pulled out different sized pieces of paper that had their names and what Police department they were from. 
We had no option but to pile back in the taxi and follow the Police to their station. 
After about two and a half long hours of interrogation and reviewing our paperwork, we still had no idea why we were "being arrested." 
" Are all of these children yours?" asked one of the officers.
" Yes, sir." replied my husband.
" Even this one? " - the officer sarcastically asked as she pointed to our 2 year old who had fallen asleep on my back.
I smiled and nodded.  Fear had captured all of my words.
" It seems like even though you have all the necessary paperwork needed for your adoption of these four children, we will still have to take you to the CID (Criminal Investigation Department) Headquarters for further investigation by the Anti-Trafficking unit."  replied the officer.

Another officer chimed in, " It's 4:40 and the chief officer with the Anti- Trafficking unit will be leaving his office at 5:00. Due to traffic, it will be impossible to make it there in time with your taxi, instead we will have you ride in our Police Jeep.  There will be two men holding AK-47 rifles, please don't worry. they only want to "protect you. Once you arrive there, Mr. G will review your paperwork and you will be on your way to lunch within 5 minutes.  Everything will be just fine. Don't worry."

We piled our 6 terrified children in the Jeep, with the siren blasting we headed towards the CID Headquarters.  At this point, Sol and I tried to breathe a sigh of relief... since we had all of our paperwork in order, we hoped that soon enough we would be on our way to lunch...
With my cell phone hidden under my backpack, I secretly texted my friends back home and posted Facebook updates seeking urgent prayer. 
" Chris, call the U.S. embassy immediately." Sol whispered to me.
After several failed attempts of calling the U.S. embassy, we reached an operator who told us to call back later. 

Soon enough, we arrived at the CID Headquarters.
" Don't worry Mr. and Mrs. Moghadam, within just a few minutes you and your family will be off to lunch. Please follow me up the stairs to Mr. G's office." replied one of the officers.

Six flights of stairs with six hungry, thirsty and terrified children was no easy task. I continued to text my friends back at home and finally made contact with our Power of Attorney in Ghana. 

We reached the office and in walked Mr. G and his assistant.
With a couple handshakes and good-byes, our 2 Police officers that escorted us handed Mr. G our stack of paperwork and parted ways.  I felt a pit in my stomach.  For some reason, I knew we weren't in good hands.  I nearly ran out of the room after the Police officers to plead them to stay until we were released.  I couldn't.  What would they do?  Even though their demeanor had instantly changed from rude and mean to kind and gentle, who's to say they would be on our side?

" Please have a seat..." said Mr. G
Without a glance at our paperwork or even taking a statement, he began interrogating us. 
Sol and I were confused.
Would someone PLEASE give us an explanation??
" Our attorney and two other lawyers are on their way, can you please wait for them?" we asked.

3 more hours of interrogation.
Hungry. Thirsty. Exhausted.
We Were Scared. 

Mr. G did not believe anything we said and refused to look at our paperwork.
"Your passports are forged. How can these two (referring to Ethan and Isaac) be your biological children?  You must have trafficked them too."  He said with a smirk on his face.
Unfortunately, he only chose to think and believe the worst of us. 

Suddenly, 2 officers came into the room, ripped Sol's backpack from behind him and began searching through it.  Diapers, wipes, old crackers, cameras etc.  "Terrorist! He IS a Terrorist" - yelled Mr. G with another smirk.
Sol smiled and replied, " because my passport states that my birth country is Iran? I am only here to help, not hurt." 
"TAKE HIM!" - screamed Mr. G 
Two police officers and their AK-47 rifles grabbed my husband's belt and started pulling him towards the door.
"NOOOO!!!!"  Stephen and I screamed.
We grabbed Sol's arms and pulled him towards us.  With all the strength we had, they managed to let go of my husband and the three of us flew to the other end of the room.  I pinned my husband to the wall, Stephen stood in front of me and the rest of the kids lined up one by one in front of us to block their mom and dad from the officers. 

" Since your attorneys have not arrived yet, how do we know that you are not lying to us? I have called 6 more Police officers with AK-47 rifles if you do not come with us. Don't worry, I will take all six of your children to a safe place to sleep and make sure they have food to eat. " said Mr. G.

That was enough.  I was NOT going to let them take our children away. 
" Take only me!" Sol pleaded. " You can do whatever you want with me, but please leave my wife and my children alone." 

I reached for my cell phone... it had several texts and facebook messages.  The word was rapidly spreading.  Friends and family were reaching out to help us. 
I desperately called the U.S. embassy again and to my relief... someone picked up.
" I am fully aware of your case ma'am but unfortunately we cannot do anything until Monday. "
My heart sank.
" Monday?? It's Friday, we cannot wait until Monday! Ma'am we are sending out a distressed signal, they are threatening the lives of our 2 biological children who are minor U.S. citizens! Please, Please, PLEASE help us!"
She hung up the phone.

I could feel the weight of Sol's hand on my shoulder.
"Chris, we have 8 officers in the room. 6 of them are holding AK-47s.  We are literally at their mercy and cannot allow our children to see or experience anything more traumatic than this.  Please, Chris... we can do this.  God hasn't left us. "  Sol tried to comfort me.

I looked over at Isaac - " Can we just go home now, mommy? I'm hungry."
My sweet little boy had no idea what was awaiting him. 

" Can I please tell you a story? " pleaded Ethan as he walked over to one of the officers.
He began talking about his Ninjago lego sets back at home... - " Please, don't arrest my mommy and daddy! Please! Please! Please!" - he began sobbing. 

I couldn't take it any longer.
My strength was fading.
Our attorneys were stuck in traffic. They didn't make it.
I fell back on my husband and just followed his lead.

"Okay, sir.  We are ready to go." replied Sol.

Slowly, we all walked out of the room and headed down the six flights of stairs.
" Where are they taking us?" whispered Isaac
" Will we ever see you again?" Ethan said frantically
Our other four were completely silent.  They had no words or tears left to cry.

As we headed towards the jail cell, we could see over 200 shirtless men yelling and pointing at us behind the bars.  I hugged and kissed each one of my children. 
" Everything will be okay... God hasn't left us." - I told them attempting to hide my own tears. 

That was it.
All six of our children were removed from us.  Just like that.  Would I ever see them again? Ever?
They were hungry... where were these officers taking my children?

The door slammed.
Sol and I were forced in the jail cell. 
We emptied our pockets, our bags etc. 
Just then, my cell phone buzzed.  A text came in from my mom. 
" Uncle _____ is on his way."  Two dear family friends who were Ghanaian had been notified and were on their way to check on us. 
I looked at the clock...
" Please Lord... don't let us get locked in until our friends and our attorneys arrive."
The jailer and his friend started counting our money.
After the first attempt of miscounting, I started praying that they would miscount until our friends arrived.  If we handed over all of our money, cell phones and others belongings to the jailer, chances were we would never see it again.  Second attempt. Third attempt.  Fourth attempt....- to our advantage, no one in the jail cell knew had to count money.

In walked our friends.  We had never personally met them but because my mom had texted me, we knew it had to be them.
Hugs, smiles and laughter were exchanged between the four of us. 
" Please, let us take their belongings for them." replied our friend.
God answered.

Our dear friends brought us water and food.  Even in that moment of desperateness and hopelessness, God still met our needs. 

"Can my wife and I please stay together tonight?" Sol begged to the Jailer.
" I'm sorry sir, she has to go in the back room with the other women. You will see her tomorrow."

The iron door slammed and I walked into a windowless, mosquito infested room with 5 other women sleeping on a 1 inch thin mattress that was laid out on the dusty concrete floor. 
" Hi lady, this is your place. We made a bed for you." replied an inmate from Nigeria. 
" What is your story ma'am," asked another inmate. 

I will never forget that night. 
Through the small holes in our iron door, I managed to see Sol's feet.  That entire night, I kept my eyes on his feet and prayed for protection over all my six children.  That was all I could think about.  My kids.  " They can do whatever they want to me." I thought. 
"Jesus, just please don't let them harm my children." 

The next morning, I woke up to my husband's voice. 
" Sir, can you please tell me how long we will be here?"
Then I heard a voice yelling from behind the bars. " I am here for Sol and Christine Moghadam!"
It was our attorney. 

7 a.m. our iron door opened and I was welcome to join my husband.
As I looked out through the bars, I could see a few Americans, our Ghanaian friends and our attorneys waiting outside.   I breathed a sigh of relief.  We were not alone.  Our voice had been heard. 

An American lady peered between the bars and started yelling to get our attention.
"Christine! Sol!! - over here!"
" Sorry but you must pay 20 cedis to go talk to your friend." - the jailer stopped us.
" 20 cedis?" We were told to give up all of our money!"
Thankfully, our friend stepped in and squeezed 20 cedis through the bars.
" Please allow me to talk with my friends." she pleaded.

"Chris and Sol, I stayed up all night on the phone with the Embassy, your family and friends back at home. Your children are at Osu Children's Home/Orphanage. My job is to advocate for Ethan and Isaac...your biological children. I will fight until they are released into your care or at least into my care. What happened to you guys was a huge mistake." - she replied.
We smiled and thanked her. She was an angel and turned out to be one of our dearest friends.

8:30 a.m. came and our faithful Ghanaian friends stopped by to give us more water and some breakfast. Although our appetite was gone, we forced a few bites in and shared the rest with some of the inmates in our cell.

9:30 came and our attorney stopped by - " Don't worry, we will get you out by the end of today. You have been assigned a personal detective who is handling your case. At 12;00 p.m., you will be taken upstairs to give your statements."

Minutes seemed longer than hours. The clock didn't seem like it was moving. Sol and I sat on the dusty concrete floor of the 12 x 12 cell.. waiting with other inmates. Some inmates had been sitting there for 3 months and some for 8 years. I had never felt such compassion towards prisoners than that moment.  Suddenly my perspective changed... at least we had attorneys, strangers, friends advocating for us. What about them?
My thoughts were suddenly interrupted by Sol when he nudged me to pray... I was once again reminded of my kids. 
" I can't stay here one more minute... I just want to see the kids." I told Sol. We couldn't go anywhere. WE were "stuck." Our kids were "stuck."

12:00 p.m. came - A kind and gentle man named Isaac came and introduced himself as our assigned detective. He led us out of the jail cell and struck up a friendly conversation as we climbed 5 flights of stairs. I never felt so free walking out of the cell. " Please, God - I don't think I can go back in there...please don't make me!"

12:30 p.m. - our friends and attorneys joined us in the room to provide support and comfort while we gave our statements.
"It's 12:30 already..." said our American friend. " We don't have much time to get Ethan and Isaac released from the orphanage. If we don't move quickly, they will have to spend another night there.  Where is the U.S. Embassy?"
1:00 p.m. - 2 officers from the Embassy finally arrived. Sol and I breathed a sigh of relief. FINALLY!!  They interviewed us and told us they were working on our behalf to release Ethan and Isaac.

2:00 came and we were escorted back to the jail cell.
My heart sank...again.
What now?

3:30 -  Our Power of attorney approached the cell and motioned us to come closer to hear the good news.  " Chris and Sol!! your friends have offered to provide their houses as your bail bond until you return on Monday for a hearing. Chances are, you could be released by 6:30 p.m."

Once again, there was hope.

Seconds, minutes passed by. The clock seemed like it was broken. Time wasn't moving. There was nothing for Sol and I to do except pray, chat with each other and the other inmates. Space wasn't much. We could hardly spread our legs and stretch.

3:45, 4:00, 4:15....
Finally 6:00 came...
and then 6:30.


Sol and I looked at each other. There was a silent exchange of words between the both of us..." we knew we couldn't stay one more night."

7:00 came- our weary hearts were about to lose hope when suddenly a familiar face peered from between the bars and yelled out our name. All of the inmates started yelling out our name. " You will be going now, please don't ever forget our faces," replied one of the friendly inmates.
" May God bless you and your children!" yelled another.
" Here is some of the cedis you left with us," said the Jailer.
My husband handed the 28 cedis over to one of the inmates that had been kind to us.
Their faces will forever be engraved in our memory.  Who was going to come and bail them out?

Sol and I were finally escorted out of the cell and led outside. The crisp evening air never felt so good. WE were RELEASED... but what about our kids?
" An officer has gone to pick up Ethan and Isaac from Osu Children's Home. He will be arriving here with them in about 30 minutes. Your other four children will have to remain there until your entire case has been closed."
We were thrilled that 2 of our children would be reunited with us, but we still couldn't relax. Our other four where still "stuck."

There are no words to describe the amount of emotions that filled the room when Ethan and Isaac walked in. We grabbed our boys and held them tightly whispering into their ears. " Are you okay? How are the rest of your siblings? Are they okay?"
"Mommy and Daddy are here..." I whispered over and over again.

"Thank you" wasn't enough for our dear friends in Ghana as well as special friends and family from home that worked around the clock on our behalf.
Our friends checked us into a guesthouse that was tucked away where no one could find us. The owners of the guesthouse were well informed of our situation and promised to withhold information to any stranger that approached them.  We weren't fully released yet. Our passports were still being held at the CID headquarters until our four children were released.

Monday arrived. We headed towards the headquarters for our hearing, ready to have our passports released. It was a 6 hours process. (Some of the details of this process will remain untold...unfortunately, certain highly respected individuals were arrested for illegally involving themselves in our case without our permission). 
" Sir, we are having problems with our printer...your passports may not be ready until tomorrow." replied our officer.
Without any hesitation, Sol jumped right in to fix it. There was quite an applause and we were handed our passports.
"Unfortunately, your other four children will not be released until tomorrow." replied the officer. "But at least you have your biological children and your U.S. passports returned to you." chimed in another officer.
I smiled, " They are ALL my children, we will not rest until they are all released and safe with us."

That night, my cell phone was ringing off the hook. Facebook messages, text messages and phone calls from back home.  I opened up my blog and suddenly noticed the entire world had heard our story.  Hundreds, thousands of people had been praying We had never felt so loved and cared for. It was 3 a.m. that night when I finally fell asleep.

6:00 a.m. - my phone rang.  It was my mom.
" Chris, the media has gotten a hold of your story. Please shut your blog down and keep as quiet as possible." We need to get you out of Ghana ASAP. News is spreading. The wrong news. Your safety is being jeopardized."

9:30 a.m. - Sol, myself and the boys headed back to the CID headquarters to reunite with our children. As we entered the office, we were warmly greeted by the same officer that interrogated us the previous Friday night. The woman officer that beat our eldest son, approached us attempting to give us a hug.  Ethan and Isaac were just as confused as we were.

12:30 p.m. - we heard our children coming up the stairs. " Mommy!! Daddy!! Mommy!! Daddy!!"
Their voices echoed through the hallway as they came running down towards us. Arms opened wide, we embraced each other.

Reunited with our six children along with our attorney
and our assigned detective
Although the fight wasn't over, all six of our children were released.
We were finally back together.

"Chris and Sol, I think it's wise that you send your four children  back to Kumasi tomorrow night and the rest of you leave Accra immediately after.  The media in Ghana has gotten a hold of your story and we don't want you to be bombarded by them and the public." our Ghanaian friend said.
Although it tore my heart apart to think we'd have to say good-bye to our children so quickly, Sol and I knew this was the best decision we had to make for our family.

Friends escorted our children home and an officer from the U.S. Embassy arrived at the airport to be our personal escort. It was a bittersweet good-bye.
Although we were all released, our case was still left "open." The question returned...
" Would I ever see my children again?"

2 months later, our investigation was closed and the U.S. Embassy found favor on our case. Our children's visas were expedited and they arrived home safely on September 14th. 
As a family, we will never forget the journey we shared together in Accra. With God's strength and faithfulness, we fought hard to be a family.

We were each left with different scars. Some scars have taken longer than others to heal.
As hard as it is to parent children that come from such hard places, Sol and I ALWAYS tell our children, " It was worth the fight..."

Right now, somewhere in the world... there is a child sitting on a street corner, in an orphanage or even in the midst of garbage pile... wondering if he/she is worth being loved let alone "worth being fought for.."