Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Karen & I are so excited about our new release, Did You Ever Wonder Where the Swaddling Clothes Came From?:  The Habakkuk Story.  This delightful story began 25 years ago when I was trying to comfort an 18 month old colicky daughter and innocently asked, "Do you know where the swaddling clothes came from in the manger"?  To my amazement she stopped crying and waited in anticipation of a story.  On the spur of the moment the story of Habakkuk, an undersized sheep dog with a big heart and special purpose in life, was born.  It was a hit with all our children as well as dozens of other children in preschools throughout our community.
Several years ago Karen persuaded me to put our popular story in writing.  Through her beautiful artistic illustrations, she has masterfully made the story come alive as she has captured the characters of the story.  There's the playful essence of Habakkuk, the dastardly Willie the Wolf, the pompous and rotund Shelly the sheep, the enigmatic Ms. Feedell Kloddeshopper, and of course, Mary and Joseph.

The Habakkuk Story will warm your hearts and capture the imaginations of your children as they discover 7 important life lessons or principles.  We've embedded the principles in the story and will be revealing them after the holiday season.

In addition, Karen has added special little creatures in many of her illustrations that will hold your child's attention and peak their interest in the story.  These little creatures are placed in the pictures quite by design in order to enhance your child's ability to scan his/her visual field.  This ability is highly correlated with positive, creative problem solving and social skills.  You and your child will have fun trying to find the ants marching, crawling spiders and butterflies fluttering!

To preorder your copy, Go to www.Simplesolutions4.com and be one of the first to own this timeless treasure. Orders are expected to ship 12/21/12.
Karen & I sincerely wish all of you the most peaceful of holidays and blessings to you and your families.

M. Russell Thomas, PhD

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Note of Thankfulness

On July 23rd of this year, we wrote about our oldest son Jason and his wife, Becca (True Beauty and Real Super Heroes!).  Specifically, we wrote about the couple’s approach to dealing with a diagnosis of breast cancer.  We wrote about their strength and refusal to be victimized by the dreaded words, “the lump is malignant”.  Jason and Becca taught us something about a deep, abiding sense of well-being at a time when many would simply cave under the temptation to accept self-pity.  If they weren’t already, they became our heroes.

Now, six months later we would like to update our readers on Becca’s health.  A couple of months ago the doctor uttered the words, “all the cancer cells are in remission”!  In the spirit of the 1 leper who returned to say thanks (see Luke 17:7…and one of them [leper], when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks.)we stop, return to the Healer, and shout outHallelujah!  Thank You, Jesus!” 

Until we talk again…

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Family Moments...They're Getting More Popular

As we look back over the past 21 months and our experience with adoption, it often feels like we've been overly critical, disillusioned and perhaps even disappointed with our decision or even worse, our children.  Well today we'd like to set the record straight.

While it is true that we do not believe that anything could have prepared us adequately for the adoption of these children and the impact that they would have on our home and lives, we also recognize that this has been a blessing beyond description.  Sure, we've endured some difficult times and had moments that made us wonder if we were inhaling some strange gas through the air vents of our house!  We've wondered what in the world our children were thinking when they turned somersaults in mud puddles or cracked farm fresh eggs on their forehead or touched the electric fence surrounding the pasture just to see if really was on!  We've had our moments of wondering if we were parents or group home managers and if we were becoming totally different human beings than we'd been all our lives.  But one thing has been driving us: 

God called us to adopt these children and without us they would be lost in a system that would never make decisions solely in their best interest, tuck them in bed each & every night and make sure that they understood their intrinsic, God-given value in this world and that without them we would live the rest of our lives with a sense of emptiness and a feeling that we somehow missed something special that we were suppose to experience.  

So we've talked much in our past blogs about the bad and the ugly of dealing with a system that tries its best to meet the needs of children such as ours but miserably fails as parents.  We've talked about our feelings of being in this alone and wondering if they would ever be able to love us back and we've talked about all the challenges involved in trying to assimilate a sibling group into our family.  But now its time to talk about the good!  Its time to talk about Family Moments.  You know, those moments that you experience as a family that are uniquely different than any other moment you will experience outside of your home.  Those moments that indicate you belong to something permanent and that informs you that you will never be alone as you walk through this life.  These are the moments that later anchor our souls and allow us the necessary resiliency to function and thrive in a world that's lost its collective mind and heart.

So here's to those moments, which by the way are becoming more frequent.  Some of them are serious and some are humorous.  They are defined by Jonah, the 4 year old, climbing up into a dinner chair and "washing dishes" while Karen & I make dinner only because he wants to be in the same room as Mom and Dad.  Then there is the recent breakdown by Judah, our 6 year old, who subsequently crawled up into Karen's lap for comfort when he usually works real hard to hide his disappointments, vulnerabilities, and avoid affection at all costs.  And then there's the faint voice that came this morning from the front our house.  It was Jaden, the 5 year old, whose quivering voice could be heard declaring that "Oh, no!  I'm  going to be stuck in these bushes for the rest of my life!" and then pleading desperately for help!  

And then there is the time when the 2 youngest were actually playing together in the play room and the night that they all went to sleep without any significant parental interventions...it was short-lived but a breakthrough moment, nonetheless!  We all gathered around the dining room table recently to share a meal that was eaten in relative peace while on another occasion all the boys were playing on our playground together without incident.

Yes, we continue to bump into stubborn wills and collide with dysfunctional behaviors, but overall, we are beginning to notice moments of family and flashes of parent-child ways of relating that seem to be coming our way more frequently.  We raise our hands to the air and say, "Thank you Jesus!" while thinking deep down inside that "This is what we signed up for!"

Until we write again...a longing fulfilled is a tree of life (Proverbs 13:12). 

Monday, July 23, 2012

True Beauty and Real Super Heroes!

This is blog about some very special people...our handsome oldest son, Jason; our beautiful daughter in law, Becca and our adorable first grandbaby, Kimber.  As you can see in the pic below, they are a lovely family.  With natural beauty.  So full of life and love.  What you can't see in the picture is just how deep that strength and beauty goes.  We're writing about them today to pay tribute to that strength and beauty that has never before been so radiant, so apparent and so very much on display in their lives as it is right now.  Let us share with you a piece of their story.  Please excuse us if we come across a bit braggadocios in the process...we are guilty as charged and we readily admit our pride and our respect for these two beautiful people and our wonderful granddaughter.

Their story began way back in their freshman year of college.  They weave their way through their respective Bachelor's degrees, decide they want to spend their lives together, hitch their wagons in April of 2005 after completing their college degrees. Jason works as a police officer, while Becca is our family computer whiz taking her talents to work each day and making the world a better place for all of us to log on.

Fast forward the clock 6 years since the wedding.  Jason & Becca decide its time to expand their family.  In September of 2011 they welcome into the world the beautiful, talented, intelligent, full of life & personality, Kimber Rose (ok, ok, remember we're the grand parents here!).  To say that she was an instant hit is an understatement.  She brought joy and pride to her parents, while grandparents have been pretty near out-of-control ecstatic with the addition of little Kimber to our lives.

In May of 2012, after having some concern about a lump discovered, Becca goes to the doctor to have it checked out.  In a whirlwind of appointments, tests, examinations and questions, and after only a few days, she is told that the lump discovered in her breast is malignant and that she now has a new enemy named invasive ductal carcinoma.  The diagnosis alone is intimidating for most people.  But Jason and Becca chose to believe for the best, embrace life and one another, and begin the fight...together.  It is predictable that at such a time as this most will have a plethora of thoughts in the privacy of their prayer closets and alone that begin with a simple "why?".  Most would assume the worst.  But we never once heard a negative word out of either one of their mouths.  Jason was strong and focused while taking on the logistics of situation, e.g., scheduling appointments, baby sitters, re-figuring finances, filling out a mountain of forms, etc.  Becca on the other hand, might have wrestled with the more ephemeral, spiritual questions that tend to arise at moments like this, but we never knew it.  She was focused on the task at hand, i.e., winning the war in which she had been cast without her permission.

So the doctors armed Becca with chemo and radiation as her weapons of warfare.  Complete with prognostications and pamphlets explaining the side effects and adverse reactions, off to war the two of them went.  Jason to the desk to fill out the insurance papers, and along side Becca while she took her place in a recliner chair positioned beside an IV drip.  Initial results have been extremely encouraging and both have engaged the battle as courageous soldiers.

On other fronts, friends and family have also taken up arms.  We are all aware that there is another weapon of warfare that the physicians could not provide...prayer!  While we could not fight the battles within the doctor's office or the drip of an IV, both Becca's family and ours understand that there is a war in the spirit realm that now includes us as well.  Now all the theology classes don't mean a thing.  All the sermons preached and statements of belief suddenly are real.  This isn't some preacher on TV making promises, this is real life.  Was Jesus' blood shed for salvation only?  What did Peter mean when he said, "by His stripes you were healed"?  All of us made a decision that Becca's diagnosis must bow and Jesus' sacrificial beatings, death and resurrection provided all the firepower Becca and Jason need for life!

Now to the best part of the story to date.  Jason, Becca and baby Kimber came to visit us this past weekend.  It was the first time we have seen them since she has been undergoing chemo.  It is the first time we have seen Becca since she has lost her hair.  We were not quite sure what to expect.  Would she be sensitive about her hair loss?  Would our boys say something embarrassing and inappropriate that would trigger emotional buttons?  How are Becca and Jason really handling all of this challenge and how can we provide some solace and encouragement for their world that has obviously been rocked over the past few months?  What we found was astonishing to us and our questions were quickly answered as the 2 entered the house.

Jason and Becca, with Kimber in arms, entered our home with a radiant glow about them.  Becca was not wearing a hat or scarf or any type of apparel that may somehow hide her battle wounds.  No, quite the opposite!  She entered the house and began talking to us immediately as a confident, poised, and secure young woman.  Throughout the weekend she spoke openly and frankly about her life and challenges.  No hesitations, no self-pity and no pessimism.  There was a notable presence of inner strength that dismisses "the normal" in favor of grace and the security of love.  I'd even say that she had a glow about her that seemed to radiate in much the same way that a woman does during the second and third trimester of pregnancy.  Instead of giving into what the world would say she should hide, Becca has embraced her own thought process.  It is a thought process that is defined by positive self-esteem, a beauty that goes well beyond how long her hair may be, and a security in one's self, spouse and God that goes way deeper than most of us will ever experience.  Rarely have we seen such a display of security and peace with one's self.  In a world defined by its 97 pound supermodels with painted makeup faces and self-esteem directly linked to their near-anorexic appearance and airbrushed hair, it was down right inspiring and refreshing to witness Becca's strength, confidence and true beauty.

Jason, on the other hand, could have been subject to the "there's-nothing-I-can-do" pity party.  No one would question that. Only thing is, he has decided not to attend!  He, no doubt, has had his moments of speculation.  Such moments make or break a person.  Jason, like Becca, has found an inner strength.  Part of it may be his strong, unshakable faith.  Part of it maybe the strength that spouses find when they realize that one can put 1000 to flight, while two can put 10,000 to flight (Deut. 32:30).  Part may be that he understands the love and strength of family.  Whatever it may be, Jason has embraced the challenge, stands strong with Becca and maintains the positive faith necessary to navigate choppy waters.

We just wanted to say how very proud we are of them.  Not everyone could travel the path as they are.  There is no sense of heaviness, only cheerfulness, optimism and life.   We sit here this morning after they left last evening, with a sense of peace, renewed optimism, faith and love that only God can provide.  But lets not forget that while He provides, God delivers the goods through people like Jason and Becca.  We are thankful for all that God is doing in their lives, as well as, ours.  We cannot wait until we hear the words, "You're cancer free!"  We know that Jesus has provided for that.  We were privileged to spend time with these 2 unique people whose inner strength and beauty transcends all worldly expectations and an energy that we found to be completely contagious!  Until we talk again, we'll just be busting at the seems!...

Friday, June 8, 2012

Team Thomas!

Last evening Jeffrey (our 12 year old son) was just wanting dad to do something with him.  "So will it be basketball or archery, Dad?" he asked with a forced-choice quiz that let me know he was not going to be denied a little father-son time.  Of course I'm going to choose the basketball (although later we actually did shoot the bow and arrow).  So here we are playing a little one-on-one complete with dad's play-by-play commentary highlighting our every move.  Before we know it, the other 3 boys are interested in what we are doing and want to join in.  While to some degree it was stealing the moment, it also seemed to be a moment to teach a little something about teamwork, playing together, having fun as a family unit...you know, a bonding moment to some degree.

For the next 20-30 mins all 5 of us frolicked around with a basketball, occasionally even hoisting the ball towards the basket.  The other 95% of the time boys were tackling each other, tucking the ball under their arms and running away at top speed, and just laughing and having fun.  A real moment! And for that moment we felt like a family.  We don't get a lot of those yet, but yesterday was one of them.  Boys just laughing, rough-housing a bit, competing and enjoying life.  If only for a few minutes, the frustrations, neglects, speculations of diagnosis, and all the weirdness were suspended.  It was just sons playing with dad, safe in the security of a loving environment and secure in the confines of family.  Mom provided the cheering section as each boy had his "One Shining Moment".  Hugs were all over the court as mom also provided the media frenzy, snapping pictures.  It was as close to normal as it gets!  And it felt good!

It was somewhat uncanny, perhaps even prophetic that we had this family moment on the basketball court.  Just days before, I mentioned to Karen that it sometimes feels like God has given us a little basketball team of our own.  Kinda like there's going to be this basketball tournament coming up, I've been selected to coach a group of boys in that tournament and its my job to get them ready to play as both individuals and a team.  But here's the catch:  They are cute, energetic and intelligence, but they have absolutely no skills in which to compete in the game of basketball!"  And what's worse, they have little motivation to learn how to play basketball, no desire to operate as a team and are even resistance toward the whole process!

How does a coach take a team like that and win the tournament?  Just get back to the basics.  The fundamentals.  Teach!  Teach!  Teach!  And when we've taught everything we can, teach again!  

...and today's practice objective:  just see if we can have a little fun together!

...and it worked!  

Until we talk again...

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Feral cats, Feral kids...

Country life is great.  We moved to the country over 7 years ago and have never regretted having a few acres on which to spread out and play Junior Farmer.  We have enjoyed a variety of livestock at one time or another including horses, cows, pigs, goats, chickens, and rabbits.  However, there are a few things that we have, how do you say, learned to live with.  

One such thing is our cats.  We enjoy having a few cats around to hold down the mouse population and overall we have had very few problems with mice in our home/barn.  As far as the cats, we've had them all.  Little ones, big ones, calico, tabbies, black ones, grey ones, black & grey ones, orange, white, part orange-part white-part black, short haired, long haired...you name the cat and we've probably had one that took up residence on our property at one time or another.  Some of them we agreed to while others sniffed us out and decided we were suckers to provide them their next meal!

Each morning the routine is similar.  We set a dish of cat food out on the back porch and have as many as 8 cats to dine with us at one time.  Funny thing about cats though is their finicky, skittish behavior around humans which is a direct result of their socialization when they were young.  Apparently kittens must be held, cuddled and otherwise pampered at a unique period of their life, somewhere between when they first open their eyes and about 8 weeks.  Miss that window of opportunity to make friends with your cat and the result is a feralcat.   In other words, a feral cat is one that avoids loving camaraderie, lives life unto himself, and behaves as if trust is the last thing he is willing to do.  Feral cats go beyond independent.  They are unable to form and significantly attach to their caretakers (i.e., those who feed them) and generally exist in their own little worlds simply surviving while avoiding any potentially affectionate relationships.  Feral cats can be easily identified when humans are present.  They are the ones that stand 15 feet back, while the other, more socialized, connected cats feast away at the food and intermittently rub up against human legs, purring and generally demonstrating all the feline attitude that they are famous for and makes them attractive as pets.  Feral cats will have none of that nonsense.  They act as if they would rather be put in a room full of pit bulls than to have one seconds worth of affectionate interaction with a human being!

This truth was demonstrated in a very real way recently when Bella, one of cats that we got at about 4 weeks of age and whom is adored by Karen and Jeffrey because of her long hair, delivered 3 kittens.  The kittens were promptly snatched up and placed along with their mother in a safe location within our house.  You would have thought Bella had died and gone to Kitty Heaven!  She purred so loud that I thought a motor was errantly left running under our house!  She confidently went outside to do her business and left us with her babies.  Her entire demeanor was that of trust, affection and connection to us.  This is compared to one of the feral cats who roams our back yard, has delivered multiple litters of kittens and never, ever, ever has allowed us near her or her offspring.  While once named, this cat is now known simply as "The Wild Momma Cat"!

Through the years Wild Momma Cat has soften her ferality (if that's a word!). We have spent much time wooing, talking sweetly, offering her sweet assurances, and our patience.  We continue to feed her and make sure that she has her own special place on our farm.  After several years, Wild Momma Cat has gotten to where she can tolerate being on the back porch at the same time with us and will even eat when we are within 6 feet of her.  Not exactly Bella, but for her, progress nonetheless.

Recently, while considering the behavior of our feline population, we noted the similarities between them and our experience as adoptive parents.  Children too, have a window of opportunity to win their hearts and affections.  Miss it and the consequences are dire.  It may take years to find their trust, love and ability to connect again.  They act much like our feral Wild Momma Cat who is quite willing to eat our food and enjoy the shelter of our house, but never really experience the joy of connection that is felt in a loving, no-strings-attached embrace or the sharing a toy or falling asleep knowing that you are loved in this world and not alone.  Instead, feral kids seem to be locked into a state of hypervigilant anxiety, question the angle in any given situation, live life in a self-protective narcissism that precludes satisfying, meaningful attachment to others, rarely feeling the security of falling asleep encompassed by a caring family, while at the same time willing to eat the food and have a roof over their little heads.  

Much more so as we have done with Wild Momma Cat, we spend our days trying to woo, talk reassuringly, and taking our best shot a patience with our children.  Its obvious the window of socialization has passed and we are left with the consequences.  We ask God to repair their broken hearts while we provide food, clothing and shelter.  Like Wild Momma Cat, the kids show signs.  An occasional "thank you" or seeing them play together successfully or doing the right thing when we're not around to see it keep us going.  But taking a child who has so insulated himself against connecting with any other human being...well, it just takes time.  For now, I guess we'll be happy when they just 'eat on the back porch with us'!

Until we talk again...   

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Love Fest

We don’t know if everybody has had the same experience of adoption as us or not.  We cant speak for infant adoptions or even international adoptions. We do know what it is like to have birth children and we now know what it is like to adopt older children from foster care. We started writing this blog to simply share with others our experience.  For better or worse, we simply seek to be transparent with our experience with our new children.  I assure you that we entered into this venture with pure hearts.  We had no other motive for adoption other than to provide some children with a loving home and follow the leading of our Lord. 

That being said, we have been surprised and I think its even accurate to say, hurt, along this journey.  When you willingly enter into this thing called parenthood, whether by your own womb or someone else’s, you do so with certain expectations.  Speaking for ourselves, ours was the expectation of a family LoveFest.  We envisioned children happily playing in our yard, mingling with our other children, and feeling the love and security that has been the cornerstone of our home from the beginning.  We expected our new children to somehow magically forget every negative experience of their lives, unlearn every survival behavior necessary to live in their former environments and instantly embrace the love of a caring, committed family.  That is to say, a family that cares about each other, shows common respect for each of its members, and makes sure that each member is given the best possible environment in which to develop his or her God-given skills and purpose in life.  The love always flowed to and from each of our children and us as parents.

It is safe to say that our little LoveFest bubble has been burst.  The point was brought home again when we received the sweetest video from our oldest son featuring our newest pride and joy of the family, baby Kimber.  She is our first grandchild and is now 7 months old.  In the video, she and dad were cuddling, cooing and carrying on like a couple of kittens with a ball of yarn.  In the background was Kimber’s mother saying things like, “say, ‘I love you, da-da!’”  And sure enough, little Kimber would mimic mommy’s voice and all were absolutely thrilled with her confession!  It was a beautiful thing to watch the whole process of little Kimber obviously enjoying every minute of dad’s cuddling and undivided attention.  It taught her two things:  that mom & dad are two loving creatures in her life and that the good, warm fuzzy feelings she had inside were now labeled as “love”.  The bond between Kimber and her parents is well established even now and this child is already growing deep roots of love, respect and connection that will serve her well throughout life.  This, however, is not the part that burst our bubble.

What exactly happens when a child doesn’t get such attention and affirmation from his or her parents?  After all, isn’t this just the endless babblings of over joyed parents having silly little moments with their child that, while cute, doesn’t really have the same effect on anyone else in this world (outside of grandparents that is!) like it does our son and his wife?  But wait a minute.  Let us not be so naïve as to underestimate moments like these.  As we were enjoying the moment on video, Karen suddenly toggled to the relationship we have with our new children and had the thought:  “I don’t think they love us yet.  I think they are happy to live here and that they like the things we do with them.  I think they don’t want to leave but I don’t think they really love us”

She went on to say, “You know how when you have a baby and the baby just loves you so much and you know that they depend on you for everything and you are the world to them?  It isnt like that when you adopt older children.  It is as if they have already decided that they are their own (and maybe only) hope and answer”.  I wished I didn’t, but I knew exactly what she was saying.  When you adopt (at least non-infant adoption) the initial task is simply to try to form bonds.  Every ounce of your energy and being goes into trying to form this loving, trusting relationship that so deeply communicates that “hey, you’re home now.  You’ve got nothing to worry about.  You are safe and you are taken care of”.  But how do you do that with a little creature that is stuck in survival mode?   How do you bond with a child to whom you are simply another player in their life whom they must learn to manipulate in order to survive in their little worlds?  Love, attachment, permanency, family and just plain basic respect are just occasional parts that one plays on life's grand stage in order to get what you want at any given moment; the better you can play the part in the theatre, the more likely you will get another toy.  Never get too close because after all, the social worker comes tomorrow and you won't be here anymore! 

As parents, you live for those moments when your baby just looks you in the eyes with adoration and a pure, simple love that knows nothing but to trust you.  With the baby you birthed there is never any question about love and trust.  It is somehow reciprocal and you feel it.  With your adopted children, if there is any love or trust present, you must provide it all alone.  It is a constant feeling that you are the only one that showed up for this love fest.  You are the only one invested in this relationship.  And when you feel like giving up or just riding this thing out until they hit 18 you get this nudge in your spirit that says, "now you know how I felt!" and you remember somewhere in the back of your mind that Bible verse that says something like "and while we were yet sinners, Jesus loved us".  At that moment, you get it!  You are reminded that you were once in a relationship where you didn't love, didn't trust and didn't reciprocate.  The only one that showed up for the LoveFest was Jesus.  Prayers were simply attempts to get what you wanted and not prayers that entertained the very heartbeat of God and His wishes.  Forget enjoying a relationship with the King of the Universe.  All operations were based on “what have you done for me lately!” 

In spite of the yucky feelings that come from feeling completely used, manipulated, and somewhat embarrassed as you stand there all alone with your love, we will start again tomorrow and the next day and the day after that, and on and on, and try all over again to get them to participate in our family’s LoveFest.  Just like God with us, we aren’t in this to teach them all the right lines …we are after their hearts.  Even though we know that at this time in their little lives, they are incapable of returning love as we would so yearn for them to do...or as our birth children were able to do, we will do our best to show them a love that we have been shown by our Heavenly Father...for love is patient, it is kind; it does not envy, doesn’t boast, and doesn’t act rudely.  It doesn’t seek its own way, is not easily provoked and does not rejoice in somebody else’s wrongdoings or mistakes.  It rejoices only in the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never, ever, ever, ever, evvvverrrr fails!  (our version of I Corinthians 13 and a line from the movie “Martian Child”!).

Until we talk again… 

The Unruly Member Strikes Again!

Since adding the children to our family in 2010 we have been constantly reminded of the parallel processes (see Russell’s article on Parallel Processes at www.simplesolutions4.com) in adoption.  That is, many of God’s truths have been revealed to us through the daily issues and struggles we have encountered while parenting our children. Parenting children that we did not birth reflect spiritual truths involved in the spiritual adoption God undertook in order to have us in His family.  While children will be children, we constantly are reminded of what God did for us in order to make us part of His family.  At times, it has appeared to be a constant stream of the revelation of God’s love and His desire for all of us human beings.

One of those revelations occurred recently.  It is safe to say that one of the most prominent battle groups with our children has been focused on food.  We recognize that kids by nature can be somewhat fickle at the dinner table but our new children have taken fickle to a new level of insanity!  What they ate yesterday is arsenic today!  And I’m not just talking “hold-your-nose-and-stuff-it-in” protests…I’m talking “dig-in-your-heels-and-I-dare-you-to-make-me” wars!  Given that several of the children came to us with diagnosis of malnurishment and associated health issues, we have been extremely concerned with their eating habits.
On the flip side of protesting food that is good and healthy is the absolute obsession and manner in which they devour sweets and junk food.  To give them a piece of cake or heaven forbid, candy, is like throwing a slab of meat into a pool of hungry sharks.  Seriously!  We are talking feeding frenzy times 10!  It’s not just eating fast, it was as if they have never eaten before, will never eat again and become completely tuned out to everything else going on around them.  Their tongues and taste buds seem to control everything even at the expense of health and well-being, not to mention the relationships with those around them.  And what is more disconcerting is that we have tried just about every form of consequence, reward and reinforcement known to mankind to shape this behavior into something close to normal.  While we have made some progress, it is still amazing to us how that one little body part called the tongue, with all its little buddies known as taste buds, rules the entire culinary show…even if it means something negative and undesirable as a result.

Recently Karen was thinking about this whole food thing, and realized that perhaps we were given a warning about this phenomenon.  After all, didn’t James tell us that the tongue was an “unruly member, full of poison” and could easily have its way to the destruction and detriment of the rest of the body?  Yes, we usually interpret this scripture in the context of “be careful little mouth what you say” and that would absolutely be an accurate lesson of this scripture.  But as we well know, whatever we see in the natural has a spiritual parallel and vice versa. 

When it comes to food, the tongue is still the guy who wants to be out of control at the expense of the rest of the body.  “Give me cake!  Give me Dr. Pepper!  Give me sugar!  Give me all the stuff that brings me pleasure even if it means I become malnourished or have triple bypass surgery at 35 years old!”  Not only does the tongue spout out words that control our life and destiny, but it seems that it demands its own satisfaction at the dinner table as well.  The tongue not only becomes the rudder of the ship in the context of our words, but it is also that part that defiles our body…literally! 

Not only demanding sweets and junk food but also demanding unlimited supplies of it. Our body becomes full long before our tongue is tired of tasting. Our bodies need nourishment from healthy foods and nutrients, while our tongue only longs for taste fulfillment. Our muscles need amino acids, our bones need calcium, our brains need omega 3s and yet the tongue is ruling what each body part gets. And when we are full and need to stop eating, the tongue still demands one more taste.

James said that like the bit in the mouth of a horse that directs its path, we must place a “bit” in our mouths to guard our words.  It may be that we need to wear that “bit” at the dinner table too!

Until we talk again…

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


We have fought many battles over the course of our adoption of our sibling group.  The pressure has been great and the stress overwhelming at times.  Some of it we have written about and some we have not.  There is so much that our children have endured and the result of their struggles often presents as a quite self-centered and egocentric existence in this world.  Sometimes even narcissistic in nature.  But we have come to understand their little struggles over the past year in a different way.  As a rule, life always seems to offer judgment as the first response when others aren't what we think they should be.  It is only when we bring the judgmental thinking to the obedience of Christ (see Phillippians 2) that we understand there is more to behavior than meets the eye.

Some of the lessons that Karen & I have learned over the past year begins with the basic tenet that to find a way to laugh is probably your best option in terms of guarding your heart and soul against callous, harsh and judgmental build-up that absolutely clogs up the joy, peace and love pipes in your soul.  So, in the spirit of "laughter really is the best medicine" we share with you our laugh of the day.

Our recently turned 5-year-old-but-I-know-everything-well-beyond-my-years son, who is known for his egocentric manner of being in this world came flying out of his room fully equipped in superhero garments, i.e., cape, t-shirt with the "S" on the front, and mask, yelling "Ego-Man, Ego-Man!"  While I [Russell] thought the identity sure fit, I queried him in order to understand this "Ego Man" superhero.  Again, the little fellow , put his hands on hips, 
stuck his chest out proudly and shouted "Ego Man!  Ego Man!"  I just shook my head, bowed and prayed that somehow God in His infinite power would deliver him from such an identity!  So I gathered myself to ask one final time, "Ego Man?" to which he became indignant with me.  "No!  No!" "Ego Man!", as he held out his shirt.  I now noticed that it was not an "S" on the t-shirt, but rather an eagle!  ...he was "Eagle Man!" and he could fly like a bird! 

I again lowered my head and this time thanked God for answered prayer

Until we talk again, weird is the new norm!

Russell & Karen Thomas

Weird Is The New Norm

As months have now given way to over a year with our new children, we have come to understand that things are different than we expected and parenting these children is much different than our natural children. While there has been all the "big stuff" that we've worked on, i.e., things that are just common sense right that you would think every human being understands, there are also these other things that we have just come to understand as weird. Things that just come from a different place within....things that are just weird! These "weird" moments seem to come from a thinking process unlike other earthlings and represent the difficulty of Martian Children trying to adapt to their new environments. Now don't get us wrong. Weird is not implying "badness". It is simply calling out and labeling the out-of-the-ordinary, didn't-see-that-coming, behavior that is driven by a thinking process unfamiliar to us. We have actually gotten to the place where much of it generates humor in our hearts and home in a way that enhances the whole bonding thing. Let me try to explain.

 Early in our adoption, the little guy, just over 2 years old at the time, was found one cold, winter morning around 6:00 am on the back porch, barefoot and in PJs, feeding the cats...weird! What 2 year old gets up at 6 o'clock (or adult for that matter) and feeds the cats?! It was one of those, "ain't he just the cutiest thing!" moments that later sunk in as, "wow, that was different!". No, that's just weird!

 Another time, the middle boy, age 4 at the time, was found mid-morning playing in his room naked as a jay bird! While admittedly modesty is not the most striking characteristic of a 4 year old male child, most reserve such exhibitions of their birthday suites to streaking thru the house after bath time. Its a little more unusual to simply create their own little naked world while sitting around on the floor playing with their legos. And to further illustrate our point, when asked why he had not dressed the little fellow's response was "Oh! I forgot!" It was 10:30 in the morning, everyone has eaten breakfast, watched a Veggie Tales episode, gotten dressed and are playing like they are supposed to do except for this little fellow who forgot to put his clothes on and turned his play room into a nudist colony!

 And the eldest boy, well, he has redefined the standard for weird. One time I (Russell) played a bedtime game with him where I pretended to crack a fake egg on his forehead and then ran my fingers down his face lightly as if the egg was slimming down his face. Several days later, the entire family ventured to the barn and gathered eggs. On the walk back from the barn, for some unknown reason, the little fellow decided he would repeat my game from the night before. The only thing was that he used a real egg that we just retrieved from the barn! Whap! Egg on forehead...egg broken...egg running down face! His response? He laughed and thought it was a wonderful game! We, on the other hand, laughed on the outside but on the inside we're thinking "What?!!! This is weird!"

 We've spent the past 15 months trying to help our little Martian Children learn the rules here on earth. We've fretted, fasted, prayed and pouted wondering if we would be able to help them understand the concept of "normal". We have decided that it is us, the parents, who will make the changes. Instead of being in a rush to fix all of this stuff, we've decided its in our best interest and the kids to exercise a little acceptance and start with weird being our new norm!

 ...until we write again, have a weirdly blessed day!

 derived from an excerpt of Dr. Russell & Karen Thomas' new book, Raising Martian Children.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

What to do when company comes.......

Its been almost a month since our last post and much has happened in our family.  The new year has brought a fresh perspective on life and raising our kids.  While much of our blogging has been therapeutic for us, i.e., you got to do something with all this weirdness!, it has also tended to focus on our struggles.  Today, though, we want to blog about the lighter side.  Perhaps it is indicative of progress that we are beginning to get in touch with the humor again or perhaps it is a form of denial, where we are simply ignoring things to have a moment of laughter...after all, it is good for what ails you!

Recently, Karen caught a segment of conversation between Jeffrey, age 12, and the 3 younger boys.  In the conversation, Jeffrey was providing some sage advice regarding family etiquette, based on his years of experience.

"Look guys, you should never show off when company comes. Don't go getting all your toys and showing them off. Always let the company start the conversation........" 

At this point, Jeffrey has something of an ADHD moment and  begins to digress into conversation regarding some unspoken company behaviors that have obviously bothered the poor child for quite some time.

"Of course, When they start the conversation, it always starts the same way......they always ask you what grade you're in!  Why do they do that?  Why is the first question out of their mouth always 'what grade are you in?'!  Are you kidding me?  Is that the best ice breaker you can come up with?! Seriously! Like a kid wants to talk about school?!" 

By now, Jeffrey has obviously left his role as big brother and role model.  He is now in full give-me-a-break mode, hoping that somehow he can alter centuries-long tradition that has guided the socialization of the young in North American families for time ad infinitum!

"Why do they never say something like, 'is that a new Kinnect?!' or 'what games go with your Wii?!'  Jeffrey continues with a new found mixture of pleading, drama, and focus usually reserved for closing arguments in a court of law.  "But noooo!  They've got to always start out with, 'what grade are you in?!'"
By this time Karen is laughing and wondering where all this is coming from and the 3 younger boys have joined Jeffrey's brief tirade with lots of energy but not the foggiest idea what they are protesting!
One could say that Oppositional-defiant behavior has many expressions and is certainly alive and kicking in the Thomas household.  But then I guess trying to form a family unit from scratch and the stresses that go along with the task has all kinds of way of oozing out of a human being.  In the case of one 12 year old, it must have seemed easier to take a shot at tradition than to try to teach it! 

As we say here in the south, Bless his heart!  Until we talk again...