“Cold Feet”

After adopting 13 children you would think I have it all down to a science! But I don’t… Once again I have suffered from the feelings of “cold feet”…

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Am I sure that it will work out adding to this large crew that somehow seems to work well together? Was it just me that thought this child was adorable or is it God telling me she is our daughter? What about the vehicle situation–there’s no more room in our van? Really God, another bunk bed? And what about the love/hate thing I have for traveling to China? I love meeting our new child but I’m not the best mom when I am there because I am dealing with all of my feelings. I get claustrophobic in the plane and a constant nervous stomach. If hubby goes we are without him for two to three weeks. Are we too old for this? And what if…

The doubts the questions come into my mind one after another. It doesn’t matter if it was our first adoption or our last. It’s happened every single time we adopt.

It’s not God that is putting these questions and doubts in to my mind it is the opposition taking advantage of my wavering faith and my weaknesses. He is stealing the joy, and robbing me of an opportunity to put my TRUST IN GOD. The opposition would like nothing better than for us to back away in fear and to stop doing as God desires us to do. Whether it’s missionary work in the USA or overseas, whether it’s fostering, adopting, or service to our Lord, in anyway the opposition wants us to fail… and he will stop short of nothing to cause us to fail or turn around in fear. BUT our GOD is bigger than all of this. He is our armor, our strength and HE fights off the opposition. Prayer and faith are our weapons.

Thankfully my cold feet don’t last very long. Thankfully (each time) God steps in and puts me back together and sends me on the path that he has planned for us.

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When I feel this way I get rather quiet and prayerful. I put out an APB for the Lord and I don’t stop praying until I feel His presence, His comfort, HIS peace. Of course He never left me. He doesn’t ever leave us but somehow I had blocked HIM out and allowed the opposition to sneak in…

My cold feet were quickly a thing of the past and my heart overflowed with gratitude for Lord.

I wanted to share with you that questioning what you are doing is normal. Most likely others around you are not adopting so you are going in a different direction than maybe some of your friends. You are stepping out in faith for a child. You are stepping out to serve the Lord and to be His hands and feet. There are many unknowns but if you focus on what you do know you will find abundant blessings! You know that God will never leave you. You know that even though you fear you can’t do it, He can! You know that God’s hands are all over adoption- it is HIS desire that we care for the orphans and widows.

Even when our adoption journey has been hard the best still flow.

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What I have found in our adoption journeys is that GOD handles the details. The van will somehow work out or we will take 2 vehicles. The bunk bed will fit into the room–it will be crowded but that’s okay. Most likely we won’t even notice that we have an extra child at the table, it will instantly feel “normal” to us.

But to the child it will be life changing. A sparkle will come to our new daughter’s eyes. Her smile will radiate joy and her health will be restored. She will laugh and giggle as she plays with her many siblings. She will learn about Jesus and what a life with FAITH is like! And the icing on the cake is that she will run to her Mommy and her Daddy for a hug and kiss…

As we serve God we wonder how on earth could we be so blessed…

THANK YOU LORD!



changing the world

I’ve often sat in front of a blank computer screen and wondered what in the world to write. What do I have to say to you? Each and every one of you readers: pre-adoptive parents who are wading through the trenches of paperwork and up to their necks in notarizations and acronyms; traveling families who are getting a very, very good idea at what trauma looks like in the scared eyes of a child… or in the way-too-open arms of a toddler who runs up to every single stranger; post-adoptive parents who are cocooning because they’re supposed to but other than that everything that is going on in their household is NOT by the book… and then the even-farther-out-post-adoption families who wondered what in the world they did wrong because it was just supposed to be a simple case of attachment, bonding, love and happiness.

Ya’ll are successful. Just let me say it… sit down. Lean back. Realize it. No matter how you feel at this moment… you are a hero. I know that you hate to hear this word associated with your name. Hero. It’s grandiose, rather pompous… and you’re just living life, doing what you feel like you were called to do, and it’s hard. But hard is a part of life; hard isn’t wrong. It’s just hard.

The definition of “hero” is: A person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life.

…especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life.

There may be adoptive mamas and babas out there who consider themselves heros, rescuers… saviors. But I’m pretty sure that those mamas and babas reading this right now are the ones who cringe whenever someone pats them on the back for adopting. You’re right, it’s not all about you… but you probably need some encouragement nonetheless.

I have three sisters, adopted from China in 2003, 2005 and 2012. The first two were non-special needs adoption. I remember when I traveled with my parents to bring the oldest home, and we were all shocked that in our travel group of about a dozen families one was bringing home a boy and one, a 2 year-old. It seemed so strange. We didn’t get it. There are boys and older kids waiting? Now, a dozen years later, things have changed drastically.

Why? Because China saw that families were interested in adopting little baby girls and so they did their paperwork.

Did you know that it takes a lot of work on the part of orphanages to do a child’s paperwork for adoption? In some of the larger orphanages it’s a very streamlined process, when all of the experienced folks are working. But, as is often the case, people get promoted or laid off and so the folks that know how to stamp approvals aren’t in the office and the new staff aren’t so sure about this whole “international adoption” thing and papers pile up on someone’s desk while babies become delayed toddlers and delayed toddlers become really delayed big toddlers. And in other orphanages the process goes along at a shuffle because nobody knows which paper needs to be notarized by the government and which needs to be signed by the boss and which blood test needs to be done and… you get the point.

But when families in America started showing that they were willing to bring baby girls into their families, orphanages jumped and moved and now we have middle-schoolers who read mysteries and brush back long, thick black hair.

About four years later the baby girls in China seemed to start “running out.” This was probably accurate for the larger orphanages who figured out the system, but not at all for the smaller, poorer ones who still didn’t even know that adoption would ever be a possibility for their babies. But, in an act of faith, the orphanage staff began doing paperwork for children with minor special needs.

And those children began being adopted. Sit back and try to imagine what must have gone on that day in a random orphanage when the staff found out that the first special needs child they had ever prepared for adoption was matched. I bet that their mouths fell open and their minds started cranking as they thought of the little ones just down the hall who might just have hope.

Horizons opened. Children found families. Lives were changed.

What about the day when a sick child, one without a “repairable” special need… with something like a palliative heart condition, anal atresia, or even hearing loss, joined their forever family? The orphanages “in the know” about how the whole adoption process on their end worked must have gotten busy, inspired… excited.

I think that it has only been in the last few years that children with special needs such as Down syndrome and cerebral palsy have found homes. Do you know how huge this is?

It just takes one… I remember sitting on the mat in the toddler room of a smaller orphanage who has very little experience in adoption, telling the manager about a family I knew. “They have many children adopted from China… one has cerebral palsy.” I told her. Her eyes got big. We both looked over at the happy, smiling eyes of Xing, a lovely 8 year-old who can’t walk because of her tight muscles but who can communicate and tells the nannies, “I want more milk!” or “I want to go too.” when they forget about her in the business of tending to others.

Today, because of the testimony of others, Xing’s paperwork is being begun for international adoption.

We were sitting at a big, important lunch around the director’s table and the vice directors and managers were talking about the children who had arrived in the orphanage over the past year. “One day, because of international adoption, ” one of the ladies commented, “the only children living here will have cerebral palsy.” During the next month I did some research and found out that little girls with CP can find families… I told that to the orphanage, and they started listing off names of children whom they would have to begin paperwork for. Nothing has started yet, but these little girls are planned for “the next batch.”

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And when one orphanage we work with saw that, through advocacy, two of their beautiful girls with Down syndrome had been adopted, they decided to begin the paperwork for all of their children with Down syndrome. And they want me to help advocate for each of them when the paperwork is completed.

I have so many more stories about how the testimonies of families opening their hearts to a child and a special need has helped to change the culture in orphanages.

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So you are successful, not just because you’re doing the nitty-gritty of child-rearing (although all parents are pretty awesome for doing just that!) but because you have changed the world.

You don’t have to save all of the children… you haven’t because you can’t. But you can love dangerously; sacrificing even your own lives, and by your love – proving that life is worth it, that children are gifts and that each breath is sacred and something worth fighting for – you are changing the world.



This too shall pass

We have been so blessed with a latent case of “the terrible twos”. We have survived post adoption adjustments, attachment business, health-related-drama, and we have settled uncomfortably into some terrible-two kind of living. Lord have mercy. And when I say terrible – I mean terrible, horrible, nogood, very bad. I’m talking screaming, throw down tantrums, and the beloved: “but-I-was-an-orphan-once” cry that produces such a volume of tears, that it’s hard to believe she isn’t dehydrated after a meltdown.

Am I speaking to anyone?

I posted on facebook one day in an attempt to toe the very fine line between being real about my child and public venting about my child and said: “I am at my actual wit’s end with my tantrum throwing, alligator tear producing, albeit adorable, tiny, Chinese, miracle, superstar. #keepingitreal”

The comments and private messages I received following that post has birthed this post. Apparently I have found camaraderie among other parents who have walked a mile in my flip-flops. Thank you commenters.

Can we all just be real for a moment? The toddler years are not for the weak of spirit, and yet it has been a season when I am weak of spirit. Health challenges with Grace and my mom, funerals, two teenagers with stuff and plans and mission trips and drivers ed – and all the things of normal every day life… add in a few well placed tantrums and I just.cant.even. I had 21 comments from that post, and just under 40 “likes” because I’m not the only one who gets it, and maybe I’m not the first mom who was at her “actual wits end” with her miraculous bundle of joy.

Our first two children were born when I was 23 and 24. They are 18 months and 28 days apart and while my first born is type A, driven, organized, and independent – my second born is ever-so-relaxed about life and is as easy going as they come. However, in those early infant and toddler years they always had each other to play with and be with. My second-born was almost the size of a small toddler at birth, for crying out loud, and since they always got along as toddlers I actually don’t remember any tantrums. I don’t remember feeling the urge to leave the house when my husband came home after work. I remember giggles and toys and veggie tales and fruit snacks. Perhaps there were tantrums and hard days/weeks/months but at 24 years old I had enough youth left in me to tune it out or count my blessings or exercise away the stress.

I am no longer 24. Not by a long shot.

It’s tricky when you choose to adopt a child because you simply decide to, because it’s your only choice to parent, or because you feel like God is actually asking you to grow your family in this amazing way. It feels sometimes as if I have therefore surrendered my right to even appear to be complaining about my adorable little blessing. I’ve spoken with other adoptive moms who have shared through tears that people actually dare to say to them “Well you asked for this…” when sharing trials they are enduring such as, extended hospital stays or sleepless nights or way out of the box parenting.

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So I’m just going to say it, because somebody has to. Somebody has to tell the truth and admit it’s hard. Somebody has to be a voice who speaks the truth in love but also in honesty because another mom or dad might really need to hear that they aren’t the only one who is holding on to their very last shred of sanity on some days because truly another tantrum might just very well be the thing that causes them to see Jesus face to face.

I madly, truly, deeply, fiercely, and honestly love each of our children. Call me crazy, but sometimes I look at Grace and forget we don’t share DNA. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I missed out on 19 months of holding her and comforting her and snuggling her because she is so very much a part of our family, it is as if she has been with us since birth. She is as mine as she can be. She has almond shaped eyes, but she makes faces that I make. She has olive skin but she says things back to me the way I say them to her. We are a match made in heaven, of that I am sure. 100%.

When our fantastic caseworker was counseling us prior to our trip to China she recommended that we make sure and schedule “respite care”. What a ridiculous concept. Respite care. Are you kidding me? For months I stalked my daughter on her foster home facebook page, I prayed and wept over her very life while it hung in the balance. I counted the days, I read the books, I did all the things to be as ready for her as I could possibly be. It was ludicrous to think I would ever need a break once I was finally with her and she was legally mine forever.

Parents, soon to be parents of adopted or biological children, hear me when I say this: Do the respite care. Do it often. Recharge. It’s not only good for you it’s good for your children because they need your patience when they are in the most terrible of twos or threes of fours or fourteens. There should be no guilt in needing a break and honestly if you don’t let someone who loves you know you need it and admit that you’re treading water in the sea of life – they might never offer and you may break before you get a break. Pride is a terrible thing to get in the way of your sanity. Truly.

We who have adopted have been educated – possibly more so than those who are parents only through birth – about how to best parent these little ones. Our children were possibly under great stress while in their first-mother’s body. Study after study shows that stress in pregnancy adversely affects the developing brain of a baby in utero. Then we move on to the stress of birth and subsequent abandonment – even when the abandonment is for all the loving reasons as I believe it was for Grace. Being separated from the only home and only familiar sounds and smells you know is trauma. It affects the developing baby’s brain in those first days and weeks and months to not have a consistent caregiver, a mother, a father. It shapes how they respond emotionally – sometimes forever. It triggers exaggerated fight or flight responses. How could it not? Finally if they are one of the fortunate, they are adopted. From their perspective, they are taken against their will from the only home they know and the environment that is their comfort zone, even if it’s the farthest thing from comfortable. Then within days, they are placed with strangers who take them to a country where few look like them, few sound or speak the way they’re used to, and nothing tastes or smells like “home”. This too, even though it is the goal for every orphan and adoption agency – is traumatic. It shapes how they respond and it drives their behaviors.

So as an educated adoptive mother, and a veteran parent of almost sixteen years I have to look at the masterpiece as a whole and not just a small part. As a veteran parent I know that what I have shared with younger moms in the throws of difficult seasons of life is true: “It’s only a season, this too shall pass.” Just as winter seems to last forever, as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow – spring follows winter. It seems like just yesterday my oldest was determined to learn to write her name at only two years old. Now she’s driving me places while I clinch my fists and pray quietly in the passenger seat. This too shall pass with Grace as well. I’m older but I am wiser. I parent her differently because I have to and because I believe that there is a re-shaping of how she responds to certain situations that is necessary, whereas with our two older children I could just shape them from scratch. Some days the shaping is more like chiseling, painstakingly hard chiseling.

The children who survive those early seasons of trauma, children who “come from hard places” posses a fighting spirit unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, and Grace is no different. She is a warrior, and an overcomer. She adapted well to her heart defect for as long as she could and against all odds is on par intellectually with other children her age. When she laughs she lights up a room, when she cries she cries bucket loads of tears, when she grieves she grieves deeply and when she loves she loves fiercely, and if I am to bask in the fierceness of her love I better ought to be able to weather the wailing of a tantrum and have enough tissue to soak up the tears.

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You who are in the thick of the battle with me, I pray this brings relief to your day or at the very least a chuckle. There is safety and sanity in numbers. I have to remind myself often that someday (hopefully in the not too distant future) I will say: “Aww I just would love to go back to when she was two” because I will have only remembered the harmony and the giggles and the tea parties. However the tantrums from this tiny, miraculous, super star survivor are epic and legendary. It is unlikely they will be forgotten, but they will be survived.

Battle on friends – children are so worth it.



To the Traumatized Family

A few days ago, I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed and saw a comment on a link for a ministry to traumatized children that broke my heart. An adoptive parent was asking where the ministry was for families who have been traumatized by bringing a traumatized child into their home. This is something I once thought was very rare in adoption, but not anymore. When my own family joined the ranks, I was overwhelmed to discover how many families there are just like ours. Fighting in the trenches. Hurting because of the hurt their adopted child brought into their home. And we do so desperately need to be ministered to.

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It is a grief and heartache like no other to joyfully look forward to adopting a child, with visions of a bright future for them, only to get them home and to see the exact opposite unfold. To watch dreams of hope and healing for one traded for the reality of heartbreak and hurt for all. Those who have not experienced it cannot understand it. And because it is so hard to understand, many families who are going through it remain silent. Alone in their pain, with a fear of being judged. It is to these families that I write today. In my moments of crying out to God…in agony, frustration, anger, and hopelessness… on behalf of my traumatized family he has been faithful to minister to me with his word. And I want to pass on a bit of that ministry to my hurting counterparts.

1. You are precious to God. I remember so clearly the calling to adopt. Knowing that God had entrusted me to steward this life was so humbling, yet such an honor. My desire was to please him and steward this child well. I can also clearly recall the day I began to feel like an adoption failure. I was disgraced. Like Adam and Eve in the Garden, I tried to hide from God in my shame. But just like them, he found me. I never really understood the love of my heavenly Father until I was broken…by my accounts…beyond repair and he whispered to my heart:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
–Romans 8:35, 37-39

Nothing. Nothing. NOTHING. will ever separate us from the love of Christ. Our worth in his eyes is not dependent upon our success. Our worth was determined at the cross, when the greatest act of love in history was displayed and a perfect savior gave his life up for ours. John 19:30 records that Jesus’s final words on the cross were “It is finished.” and my beloveds, it was. There is nothing we can do to make God love us more…or LESS…than the day his son uttered one final breath and gave up his spirit. We are precious to him because of the cross. And because of the cross, we can draw near to his throne of grace with confidence to find mercy and help in our time of need (Heb 4:16). Anything that keeps us from running to the arms of God when we are hurting is a TOOL OF SATAN to keep from having the abundance that Jesus came to give us (John 10:10). We have NOT been rejected by God because our adoptions are not fairytales. He literally thinks we are to die for and wants us to bring our pain to him.

2. Make sure you’re fighting the right enemy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard an adoptive parent say “this is killing us” or “this is destroying us” in reference to their battle in the adoption trenches. I’ve said it plenty of times myself. A traumatized family is certainly under fire and in a battle for survival. However our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Eph 6:12). The actions of the traumatized child in your home may be what are constantly driving you to your breaking point, but your battle is not against that child. That child did not enter your home with the intent to kill or destroy you and your family. However we do have an enemy that comes to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). That is the enemy for us to fight. I’m not saying that adoptive parents shouldn’t safeguard their home and put boundaries in place to protect their family. God has not called us to be foolish. But when our family has the flaming arrows of the evil one raining down on us, we need to put on the armor of God (Eph 6) and fight the true enemy. It is much more natural for our sin natures to battle in the flesh than it is to battle in the spirit, but this is a spiritual battle.

3. Remember the Sabbath. Or in other words, take the time to rest. The second chapter of Genesis contains God’s establishment of rest. The third chapter of Genesis contains the fall of man. Our need to take a break is not a result of our sinful state; it is a part of the created order. We as humans were not built to run non-stop. All of us need to make divinely appointed rest a priority in our lives in order to function at the capacity in which God intended, but this especially applies to families who are experiencing trauma. We cannot keep trudging on and pushing through. Respite in some form or another is necessary. It can take many forms, but you need to find one that works for your family and implement it. Date nights, romantic getaways, parent/child outings that nurture the other hurting kids in your home, camps, sleepovers with trusted friends…there are a myriad of options. They may require that you humble yourself and ask for help from others, but your family needs you to.

This list is by no means exhaustive. I have learned too many lessons through my wrestlings with God to share them all here. But the three truths above are the ones I would have to say have made the biggest difference for me. It is my sincerest hope that God uses them to make a difference in your life as well. Please know that I’m praying for each of your hurting families…from here in the trenches.

 

 

how we deal

I’m not gonna lie. My world has been spinning for a few months. And I try my best during the last week of each month to settle on a topic to write about here at NHBO. But y’all. It’s just been hard lately! I walk through a scenario with our boys and I think “BAM! I should totally do a post about this!” But in the midst of those days, I’m not able to sit and flesh it all out in words on the computer. You know what happens then, right? You betcha. Crazy Kam can’t remember a thing about what she was going to say to you all. It just leaves me.

So here I am. And really, I’ve got nothing to write about as far as parenting a SN and/or adopted child goes. Nothing. Oh, I could tell you that our sweet Gabey who was born with multiple urological defects has actually decided to align with Jesus and answer my prayers for successful potty training this week! Hallelujah! Or I could mention how I’m literally afraid of beginning second grade next week with our Joel who struggles so much with language delays and reading.

But you don’t really need any of that, do you?

I didn’t think so.

However, we did have a couple of odd things happen in our house last week that got me to thinking.

Our Sydney Baby {bio, 11 years old} was so sick with yucky stomach stuff for several days recently. And from the dining room, I heard a shatter and then a crash. I was only 20 feet from her. Sweet girl. She was walking down the steps and carrying a glass of ginger ale when the glass just shattered in her hand. She didn’t fall or stumble or hit anything. It just shattered. And our glasses have heavy bottoms with tapered, thin tops. So that big bottom began to fall as it broke and gashed her thigh. A nasty, huge, wide and long gash. Of course after it cut her, it all hit the hardwood floors and made the most horrific sound.

I jumped up to her and sweet baby was already standing frozen in a pool of blood that was rushing from her thigh and her hand where the glass broke as she held it. Broken bits, big and small were everywhere. Every. Where. She was not only surrounded by them at the bottom of our stairs but her shirt, her hands, her legs and even her hair were covered in tiny shards of glass.

And she didn’t move a muscle. No tears. No attempt to explain. She just became like a statue. But her gaze…her eyes fixed on me as if to say, “Help me. I can’t move. I can’t speak. I just need you to pick me up and move me from where I am.”

And that’s just what I did.

Then the very next day, we had some yummy cashew chicken for dinner {with fried rice, don’t ya know!} and after we walked away from the table, I went to our bedroom. A few minutes later, hubs comes in and says, “Hey, can you come talk to Joel? Something’s wrong with him and he won’t tell me.”

I go to my 7 year old on the sofa and silent tears are falling from his eyes. He doesn’t look sad. He’s scared. But he’s breathing and he answers me and we walk to the kitchen together.

“Buddy, what’s wrong? Are you okay, baby?”

“Mama, my throat hurts. It hurts so bad.”…tears falling faster now.

I go to look in his mouth. Nothing. I ask if he scratched his throat when he swallowed. Nope. I ask him to drink his water. He does. Still crying and tells me that he’s tried drinking all of his water since we stopped eating but it’s not helping. I ask for him to point to where it hurts. It’s low…far from his actual throat but seems to be in his neck.

He’s near hysterical now. But moving air and talking and breathing fine. I realize it must be chicken or a cashew that hasn’t gone down. I know he’s not choking but it’s scaring him to death to feel it. He’s not about to lose consciousness or anything. It’s just really uncomfortable for him. So I give him a cracker since it’s so low and another drink of water.

A beautiful, eyes lit up like the sun, smile comes across his face.

And then more tears and a hug and a big, “thank you, mama.”

Sweet boy. He evidently kept trying to fix it on his own. He kept drinking that water and nothing changed. He didn’t want to tell his dad because it scared him so much to think he was choking. He didn’t want to admit it because to admit it would mean it was real.

So here’s what I know…

Every one of us is different. All of us handle hardship or fear or stress or pain in a million different ways. Some of us freeze like Syd and just wait to be picked up and planted somewhere safer. Some of us try like Joel to handle it all ourselves because admitting it would be too hard or scary.

But what we all have in common is that we can’t do it alone. At the very least, we shouldn’t have to attempt it all alone. And I could be wrong, but I’m guessing that some of you are waiting for a referral or for your child to come home and you’re frozen or your child has come home and days are long and hard and you keep asking yourself “what have we done?” You need somebody to pick you up and plant you somewhere safer. Or you need someone to look over and notice that you are in trouble and that you aren’t sure how to fix it yourself.

Adoption is never easy. And life is never meant to be lived alone. We need each other. We desperately need each other.

So however you are wired, however you deal with the stress and the “hard”…don’t go it alone. Let us know you need something. And for those of us in a pretty good place right now, let’s keep our eyes open for those who aren’t. Let’s be the one to pick them up to safety or to give them a cracker! We’re all in this together, right? :)

Much love and many prayers for you all.
XOXO



Unfiltered

I am a glass half full kind of person and most definitely, a glass half full kind of mother. Hope springs eternal in my heart and my life plays out accordingly. But, this week, I stopped and gave myself permission to reflect a little on the past months with Grace – just three months shy of her two-year mark with us. Amazing.

So, these are a few of my favorite things and the glass is half full, but the water isn’t filtered. It is just fine to drink and it certainly won’t hurt you – probably makes you better somehow without all of the protective parameters around it. Half full and unfiltered – here we go. Oh, and she and I will laugh about this some day in the future because I realize we are raising her to be a woman who laughs. She laughs large. We still chuckle pretty hard now and then at some of the antics her older sister pulled in her own toddler years. Her sister is both astounded and proud of her stories. Stories that wrecked me in the moments but now are comical. The two of those sisters will giggle together some day at how they are responsible for mom’s habit of putting the cereal in the fridge and the milk in the pantry. “Mom’s losing it. Yeah…we did that.”

1. Holding hands while crossing the street

It dawned on me this week as Grace grabbed my hand and placed her little one in mine as we exited the van to the store, that she did so willingly and with ease for the first time since we brought her home. Over a year and a half of this little person sprinting across parking lots, streets, shopping malls and my favorite, the weekly grocery store excursions. Wrestling her hand out of mine and you would think I asked her to hold my hand into a snake pit with the fit that ensues. She is fiercely independent and stubborn. Medically she has a long road and it will serve her well. She is also a runner. This does not serve me well. I have seen all three of my biological children try to catch her in her dash (they are faster than me) and fail. I’m laughing about it even now as I write it. I gave myself permission this week when she willingly and even sweetly held my hand – to grieve how long it took to get there and at the same time, to celebrate that we got there finally. To acknowledge that I was indeed tired and that it was ok to feel spent by the passing of time for something so simple. The time it took to get there wasn’t wasted or a stream of failures at all. She and I both were allowed to feel however we needed to feel in the accomplishment of the moment. She was blissfully happy strolling and I swallowed a range of emotions from relief, to grief, to joy, to bitterness, to a sensitivity in the way her little hand willingly rested in mine without a fight. My guard dropped, my shoulders relaxed and I was both dazed and peaceful, but it took a couple of days for me to be “OK” with the flood of feelings. I hope this gives you a chance to feel OK about however your flood feels too.

2. “You picked me.”

Grace recently walked into the kitchen with a look of curiosity and intent as I cleaned the kitchen after dinner. She had in her hand a button that we had made for all of our “tribe” who ran on her behalf in the Chosen Marathon for Adoption. I am not an athlete and I am certainly not a racer (that running thing again) but this race is simply beautiful. If you want to adopt but know you need help with the financial aspect, this generous race is the helper. If you want to support those adopting, this is your extended family waiting for you to join with them.

On this button that we all wore on that race day, sits a photo of her little face – pre surgeries and all, and the slogan “Race for Grace.” She brought it to me exclaiming, “I’m little.” (Another one of my favorite things – each day she decides if she is little or big depending on the activity). She then began asking in her jumbled speech about the button and I explained why we had it made and that so many people who love her wore it and that we came to get her right after we ran the race and that we picked her and couldn’t wait to hold her. She narrowed in on the part about being chosen and yelled loudly (think winning the showcase on The Price is Right) “YOU PICKED ME!” I was surprised by her response but met her in her joy in the same tone and volume (I just won the showcase too) and said, “YES, WE PICKED YOU!” And our voices continued this celebration in the kitchen, growing higher in excited pitch and understanding. It was the first glimpse of the knowledge of being picked, chosen, special and loved. We celebrated. There was dancing and hugging. Maybe some ice cream too.

3. Out of Nowhere

I was having one of those weeks when I felt like a terrible mother and felt the lack of anything good to give. This is not a normal place for me to land but I crash-landed there for a couple of days. There was not an overflow but a creeping deficit. I have decided that all honest mothers arrive at that place at some point and we are better off grabbing our safe people and putting it in the light so it quits creeping. I tend to think that the more people we are honest with in our struggle, the more freedom to be had. So, I’m blogging it. Crash-landed. Big freedom on the way. “Out of nowhere” loud fits of rage from Grace on everything from a pair of shoes to a magic marker. Over and over again. For several days. I found my normally big heart of emotion going a little numb and I didn’t like it. I felt for sure I was somehow missing it and messing it up for our sweet daughter. “Out of nowhere” two friends show up, one right in the middle of one such fit, and I begin to put on the table my fears and insecurities. One mom asks, “How do you know it is adoption related?” (“Because I just KNOW, I’m GOOD at knowing and I’m GOOD at this” – said with some prideful ignorance in my mind!) I begin to list all of my reasons and she says, “My child (not adopted) does that every day right now. It makes me so tired.” I wanted to hug her and didn’t even regard her own feelings of inadequacy – I was just happy to have someone in the “I am just about tapped out” camp with me. The truth is, there are parts that are without question adoption related. And some parts that just are not. Two days later, another mom friend kindly expresses, “I just don’t think you’ve ever had a child who throws fits.” Apparently not! I thought I had but now know I was playing on the B team with those fits. They were minor league and I’ve been called up to the majors. All kidding aside, it was a comfort that we could all be on the same team and not in mom competition – we could relate and encourage and reason out some ideas and game plans for future success. And we could laugh. “Out of nowhere” at the end of an exhausting week – I am laughing. And “out of nowhere” at a snow cone stand, Grace leans close to my face, kisses me smack on the lips and says, “I love you mommy.” The major leagues have some major unsolicited advantages.

4. Packing

Grace insists on bringing a backpack or bag everywhere we go. My older children like to take things along for the ride too but in small numbers. They pack for a couple of hours and she packs for a foreign stint in The Peace Corp.

5. Grown Ups Come Back

The “Grown Ups Come Back” theme song from the PBS children’s show Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is sung literally every time me or my husband walk outside. Even to get the mail. The singing and truth behind the song have quieted many a fit. It has been so successful that my other children have tried to compose their own songs to “help” their sister. Titles like “Please Don’t Take My Peaches,” “Loud Screaming Makes Me Not Want to Help You” and “Mom Can Cut Your Sandwich” all have not been as successful. My older children have also become music critics, commenting to one another, “That’s not a good song at all.” Still my favorites, all four of them. Unfiltered.

2014-07-03 19.34.23

 

 

a mom’s struggle with attaching

I was given a deadline for this post of the end of July – mostly because I asked for one.  That was a month ago.  As I write this I am now only one week out from the deadline, and I’m just now sitting down to put my thoughts on paper.  Although I am a natural procrastinator, this post goes beyond that for me.  It’s hard.  It’s hard for me to think about it, talk about it, and become vulnerable enough to share it with “strangers.”  So let’s just call each other friends and that might help… ok maybe not, but at least I will have a lot more friends!    

I’ve struggled, wondering if talking about this out loud would *hurt* my son if he reads this someday.  I ultimately came to the conclusion, after talking with some wise friends, that as long as I have an open dialogue with my son about this story of redemption, it won’t be anything new for him to read one day.  He may or may not ever learn to read or even be able to understand the concepts that I will discuss, but if and when he does, it won’t be a surprise to him!  The benefits to other moms that feel alone in this struggle far outweigh my fears and pride of keeping silent.

Let me start with a little background information about myself as well as my family’s adoption journey.

Our family wasn’t looking to add more members to it.  We thought we were finished growing our family after the birth of our 3rd biological child.  I had had some very risky health issues during my last pregnancy and my doctor advised against having any more children.  We were content that God was closing the door for us on more children.  Over the next several years God put into our lives many friends and acquaintances who had adopted or fostered just because they were “called” to it.  God started working on my heart about adoption, but I kept it to myself for a while.  Unbeknownst to me, He was also working in the hearts of my husband and children as well.  One day my husband said out of the blue, “Babe, I think we should consider adoption!”  You can imagine his surprise {and I will never forget the look on his face} when I said without batting an eye, “Yes, I do too!”  Two days later as we were leaving church our oldest saw a family that had adopted two beautiful children from Africa walking out.  She said, “Mom and Dad, I think we should adopt like them.  We have so much God has given us and orphans don’t have anything!”  My heart nearly melted right there and I knew at that moment this was a God thing working in all of us separately.  We were sure it was Him!  {This is goose bumps kind of stuff, girls!!}

We began our adoption journey in Thailand 4 1/2 years ago.  Our intention from the very beginning was to adopt a special needs girl. Shortly after we started the process Thailand changed its referral system.  It was one of those “It will be so much better and faster with the new system” changes and then the whole program came to a screeching halt.  Well, after 2 1/2 years of just waiting with no movement, we decided through much prayer and many tears {and it was such a hard decision} that we would switch programs to China.  We felt peace about switching and beginning a journey that would take us to our little China princess.  But God again had other plans, and He was really stretching us and putting us through His refining fire. 

After a few months in the China program a little 4-year-old boy popped up on a list that our agency had compiled through the Journey of Hope program.  My husband had an instant connection to him, and although I thought he was cute, he was a HE  – not a SHE!  After talking to our agency about the possibility of adopting a boy AND a girl at the same time, we agreed to proceed with adopting our sweet Hudson.  We were told he had a mild form of cerebral palsy.  We were also told that he was a very smart, curious, and helpful boy.  Over the next year I grew to love this boy more than my heart could take.  I couldn’t wait for the day to get my boy from China and bring him home.  The whole time we continued to work toward a possible referral for a little girl.  However, during the time of processing the paperwork God saw fit not to give us that second referral.  This was hard for me.  After all, I had been praying for this girl for over 3 years at this point.

Two months before we traveled to China we signed up to be short-term foster parents through an agency called Safe Families For Children.  We got a placement right away, and we were told that our involvement would last only for a weekend.  That weekend turned into 6 amazing, fun weeks caring for an 11-month-old baby boy that we fell in love with.    Anyone that knows me knows how much I LOVE babies.  I might have an unhealthy addiction to them! LOL.  Because of that having this little guy in our home was a balm to my impatient soul while waiting to go to China!  After the 5th week of caring for him we learned that his mom had not been checking in with the agency as required.  He was going to be considered abandoned.  The agency told us that we could go to court and petition to get legal custody of him.  The day before court his mom showed up, and we were given only 3 hours to take him back to her.   Oh my heart broke.  This was hard for me.

There was only 2 weeks before leaving for China at this point.  I had no time to grieve and I had a family of 5 to pack for.  Soon we were off to China and picking up our son.  My heart was about burst when we walked through those doors at the Child Welfare Institute, and he ran toward us.  As that first day went on I was a little taken back by the fact that this smart boy seemed to have a lot of strange mannerisms.   He also didn’t seem to be acting like a typical 5 year old would act, but rather a 2 year old.  The more the week in China went on, the more I felt myself distancing from him.  I didn’t know this child.  This child wasn’t the one I had read about or seen in videos and pictures.  He was very different.  This was hard for me.  And even though I would have never said it out loud, inside I was thinking this is the child that kept me from my baby girl.  {OK this is one of those cringe while I am typing moments.}  I have to add for my son’s sake, that none of those feelings were actually because of him.  They were all me and issues I was having.  You see, even though I didn’t realize it, I was grieving inside.  I was grieving the loss of the baby girl I longed for, grieving the loss of my foster son, and grieving the loss of the smart little boy I thought we were going to get.  While “grieving the loss of the boy we thought we were getting” sounds trivial, it is common.  I knew without a shadow of a doubt that this beautiful boy was mine.  I knew that God designed him to be knit into our family’s tapestry before time began.  So why did I feel this way?  Why couldn’t I get past this?  Why did I seem to keep withdrawing?  Why was I simply going through the motions of parenting him instead of having the feelings I should be having as his mom?

How could I have loved a foster baby soo much in 6 weeks and I don’t have those feelings for my own son?  Will they ever come?  What is my problem?  I LOVE children, why is this happening?  These questions {and many more} rattled in my head for months.  I couldn’t talk to ANYONE about them.   Besides, look at all these adoptive friends of mine on Facebook that have picture-perfect attachment. {or so it seemed!}  How could I talk to them…..they’d totally judge me.  Such shame, guilt and loneliness surrounded me.  Those were exactly the things Satan wants you to say to yourself and how he wants you to feel……isolated, alone, and full of shame.

My husband was a rock star in China.  He knew I was having a hard time, but didn’t say a word.  He took over the reigns of caring for our son while we were there.  I am so thankful that God gave me such an amazing husband and father to our children!

After months of beating myself up, and nothing changing in my relationship to my son, I mentioned how I was feeling to 3 close adoptive mama friends.  I was SHOCKED to learn that 2 of them had been struggling with the same thing!  What?!  I’m not a terrible person all alone in this?  You mean this is normal?  It was like a heavy weight had been lifted off my chest.  I felt hope for the first time in months.  Just knowing I had other mama’s that understood and were praying for me was an amazing feeling.

At month 7 of my son’s being home, I had the opportunity to attend the most AMAZING adoptive mama conference, Created for Care.  If you haven’t been…..You Need To Go!!!  It changed me.  God changed me there.  I learned that most of my attachment struggle was not about my son’s special needs, but about my expectations.  I had expectations for how I was going to respond to him when he joined our family – not met.  I had expectations about how he was going to be – not met.  I had expectations for his future and my future – not met.  The list goes on and on of my expectations vs. the reality of the situation. 

And like every godly woman would do when expectations weren’t met {insert sarcasm} I pulled away more and more.  This wasn’t because of my son.  He is perfectly created how God meant him to be.  This was because of me, and my failure to see him as the perfect son that God created for my family.  A son that will point me to Christ more fully each day of my life. Some days I feel like it’s too much for me to handle.  And to be frank, it IS.  God gives us more that we can handle so we are forced to turn to Him and let Him carry us through.  I am just stubborn enough that I require a lot more of these situations than the average Christian, it seems!  But I am thankful for it.

family

So while I came into this adoption fully prepared to deal with a child that struggled with attaching to me, instead I was the one that struggled with attachment.   Thankfully God has been {and is still is} molding me to be more like Him, and in the process is teaching me how to love a child adopted into my family as my own.  It’s such a beautiful picture of what God does perfectly in adopting us into His family, and loving us as His own children.   I am reminded of this nightly when I hold my sweet boy, look into his eyes, rock and sing to him before I put him to bed.   I thank God for these sweet glimpses of who He is and what He’s done.

I won’t lie and say there aren’t still days that I struggle, but I will say that after a year being home, those days are less and less, by the grace of God!

I hope and pray that this post is an encouragement to any mamas that feel alone in the attachment process and wonder if it ever gets better.   Don’t have any expectations about a timeframe, but it will get better.  It’s a lot of work and prayer but it will get better!

{HUGS}
Stephanie Lacock

Eye contact {tips for your toolbox}

We received a surprise gift the day we received our daughter 4 years ago.

Dimples.

Lydia-dimples-in-Guangzhou1

Not just any dimples, the most adorable little dimples. The kind that show up even before the smile breaks, giving away that she’s about to lose the staring contest. I love them.

While we got to see them that first day and most everyday since, we didn’t always get to see them for more than a quick glimpse. The hundreds of pictures I took of her in our first months home are a bit deceiving. They capture one split second of a moment; they do not reveal how her gaze directly at me may have only lasted for that split second of a moment. I longed for that closeness of gazing into each other’s eyes as I did while I nursed our other three. But, her loss of that closeness for the first year of her life made her fight it with me. She fought the closeness by looking away a second into the gaze and physically turning her head or whole body away. Her seeming rejection—through eye contact and in other ways—made my attachment process harder which made her attachment process harder which made my attachment process harder…and on and on…you get the idea.

Four years into this adoptive parenting thing and a few years into connecting well, I now know things I wish I had known in those first days to encourage eye contact and move us both towards a better connection. Here are a few…

  • Make it easier – It is a whole lot easier for a little person to look at a big person if the big person isn’t so big. I realize that to get better eye contact, I need to come to her, lower myself to her height while not making her feel like I’m all up in her grill.
  • Simply touch my nose – the simple movement of me moving my hand towards my face drew her attention and made her look in the right direction without the intimidation of looking up into my eyes on her own. As she looked away while we were interacting, repeating it again brought her back to my face again.
  • Use verbal cues – I’m a fan of simple scripts. Saying something every time I need to like, “Lemme see those brown eyes” served as a verbal cue for her that she could expect and depend on and kept me on track when I could have felt more frustrated and spiraled elsewhere.
  • Ask a seemingly silly question – I confess that the suggestion of spontaneously asking “What color are your eyes?” seemed odd to me when I first learned about that tool. But, you know what? It totally works. She looks at me; I admire her eyes for a few seconds and then continue speaking while I’ve got her right there with me.
  • Guide the glance – without touching her face but using the same motion as if I were, I can direct my daughter gently into eye contact by cupping my hand near her cheek a couple inches from her face. The gentleness of this tool helps us both.
  • Be a cheerleader – positive reinforcement goes a long way. When she would look right at me and we’d lock eyes for longer than was natural for her, I cheered her on: “Oh, I like that. Good job looking right into my eyes.”

They’re tools for the toolbox, tools that were my go-tos in some seasons in particular over the last four years. But, there’s nothing magical about them; they don’t “fix things” on their own; there’s no if-then guarantee about them–and I so want if-then guarantees.

Lydia-dimples-with-AnnaKiele1

But, there was something to the intentionality of using them, the pursuit itself of tools to use and then celebrating little successes that moved us forward.

And, the hope and joy in that forward momentum has been nothing short of life changing for all of us.



A Summer’s Day

Childhood in summer. Unique for each kid, but much the same. It’s giggles, all day PJs, Crocs and popsicles. Children meeting, then heading out into the sunshine hand in hand as easy friends. The sun offers a special freedom.

One of our recent summer days had notable stats: 1 water park, 4 mommas, 18 kids, 7 children adopted from China, a long list of medical needs represented, 12 snack breaks, and 6 hours drenched in June sunshine.

4 of these kids, home less than a year from China, had medical needs that might have kept them home that day.

One sat in her stroller with a cast from her waist down to her toes helping heal her hip dysplasia, her momma visiting in between cardiology and orthopedic specialist appointments. She shared Teddy Grahams with friends who peered into her stroller and sometimes splashed her fingers in the water. Sunshine on her skin, she was a child in summer.

Another laughed and played with waterproof cochlear implants attached to each ear. Her wide smile told us that the thousands of dollars of life altering equipment just beginning to help her hear and understand sounds were not on her mind that day. The melody of water splashing and kids squealing as they swooshed down slides were sweet new sounds. She was a child in summer.

Another little person is prone to kidney infection, and her exposed bladder kept her from walking beyond knee deep in the water. Un-phased by her limitations, she spent the day sloshing in a bubbling fountain. Drippy ice cream in hand, she was a child in summer.

Finally, the oldest, a young teen with spina bifida, was rolled into the park in her wheelchair by her mother. Despite her challenges, a plastic wheelchair and a life vest enabled her to spend the day plunged happily in the pool. Feeling cool water on her legs, she was a teenager in summer.

Their stories bring easy tears, with limits and challenges shaping their pasts. Their orphanage years not just institutional and without parents, but surgery filled and soundless. Their battles far from over, the reasons to keep them away from a water park were many. On the other hand, the reasons TO linger were many as well. God performed countless miracles to change the course of their lives. And seeing them all together reminded us that we were in the presence of His sacred work, His love stories splashing around in swimsuits.

I used to see kids like ours and feel sorry for them. Though I still ache for pain endured and struggles to come, now I see the simple happiness’s of childhood radiating from them. They teach me again how to rejoice and be glad in a summer day. These resilient fighters have fought for joy soaked days. With the care of medical specialists, and the love of families, they’re free to uncover new worlds of wonders.

And what would God have us do with these redeemed lives? Splash in His water and soak in His sun, their joy shining stories of His lavish love for all who took moments to watch our noticeable group.

rebecca

Part of turning corners with a special needs child is ME getting over ME. My daughter’s limitations once consumed me. I didn’t see her as just a child, with childhood days precious sand slipping through our fingers. But then I woke up to the wonder of her, and began to finally SEE her as fearfully and wonderfully made, outside and in between all things medical. Awed by her strength, and falling more in love with her laugh, I don’t want to stand in her way. I don’t want to spend so much time anxious about the next doctor’s appointment that I miss our appointment-less today. She can’t be submerged in a pool, but she can splash in puddles.

We as four mommas of medical needs kids have stepped well past our limits. We are relying on good health insurance, medical expertise, therapists and our limitless Lord. We must be wise in our care for them, but also must let the childhood that they fight so hard for, be theirs. Some days they need to float down lazy rivers and sit on beach towels snacking on chips and salsa, unburdened with knowledge of procedures to come. I don’t want to see our precious ones and see limits, missing out on fun, personality filled kids. I want to know that dance music makes them wiggle and that they prefer no pepperoni on their pizza.

Unaffected by each other’s wheelchair, cast, cochlear implants or limitations, on that day, they were just friends in summer with water to splash in. Unaware of the beautiful miracles they are, they just giggled and licked ice cream from a stick like it was their job. And we, the four mommas with lots in common, smiled and did some splashing of our own.

This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24



what we’re reading links: 7.22.2014

From the last few weeks, some good stuff we’ve read that relates to adoption and/or parenting a special needs child.

As always, if you’ve read or written something you think would be a good addition to a future What We’re Reading post, we’d love to hear about it.

To share a blog post or news article go here.
To share your blog with our readers, as a soon-to-be traveling to China family go here.

blogs

Rachel Engel shares What Facebook Means to Special Needs Families on her blog Tales From the Plastic Crib. And she is oh-so-right.

In China adopting her son, Liberty laments her son’s poor condition in Orphanages are No Place for Children. Then, after having a chance to visit her son’s orphanage, she shares her new perspective in They Saved His Life.

At The Diary of a Not-So-Angry Asian Adoptee, Christina shares An Adoptee’s Perspective: 15 Things Transracially Adoptive Parents Need to Know.

Jaclyn of Kinda Crunchy explains their journey from dreaming of adopting a daughter to joyfully planning to adopt a son in Delicate Decisions: Adopting a Chinese Boy.

Listen to the parent interview in Grace as Allen and Teri Reaume of Michigan adopt their daughter, who has vision impairment.

Amy of Two Vandalgrads and Three “Gs” shares her heart in The Unspoken “But…” after 49 days parenting her newly adopted daughter.

Stephanie Giese of Binkies and Briefcases tells others on the Huffington Post blog why she knows that sensory processing disorder is real.

At We Are Grafted In, big sister Meredith Toering writes about how her younger sisters constantly ask her to “Tell Me My Story Again.”

inthenews

Half the Sky launches Nanny Connect, a program that “allows adoptive families to submit updates and photos about their children to caregivers at the 53 institutions where we have established our programs…”

The Huffington Post reports that Crohn’s Disease Model Bethany Townsend Reveals Colostomy Bag (PICTURES).

Another article from The Huffington Post features the family of a little girl born without a nose – arhinia – who want to encourage others not to to give up on children with rare conditions.

Mallika Rao of The Huffington Post tells others You May Not Know About the First Chinese-Americans, But You Should.

Distractify offers up 40 Genius Travel Tips That Will Change Your Life Forever.

We’ve seen two recent news articles about China’s population control policies, including Second-Child Policy Having Limited Effect in China Daily and Trusting God for a Second Child in China in World Magazine.

Kat Chow, a member of the Code Switch Team at npr, details how “Ching Chong” Became the Go-To Slur for Mocking East Asians.

This week Love Without Boundaries announced its new Cleft Initiative. So excited about this!

Read something inspiring lately? Informative? Encouraging? Share the link HERE.

liberty

Liberty and her new son Luke

families

 
 

In China now to bring home their child…

Enlarge Thy Tent
Strengthen My Hands
Blessed Beyond Measure
Sprout Spot
Filled With Joy Family

Just Home from China…

One More Piece
Lybbi Shu Fang
Full Hands Fuller Heart Family
The Trusty Family
Everything Beautiful
Adding One Morh
Impossible, Difficult, Done
Our Jones Clan

Getting close to travel for your little one in China? Share the link HERE.