Monday, August 22, 2016

HOPE is a 4-letter word, and the truth about "rescue" and life after...

i'm going to try to protect my kids story as much as possible, but also be open about the misconception that their "rescue" and "real life" begins after family day (some refer to it as gothcha day....quiet honestly, i hate the cutesy words that describe an event related to the magnitude of trauma these kids have experienced.)

***not all descriptions in here are regarding the Ls lives before coming home, but they most certainly describe common experiences among orphaned children...***

their lives have been wrought from in utero neglect, abandonment, after-birth neglect, physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and so on; they also have been wrought through manipulation of caregivers, nannies, foster parents, manipulation by other children in the orphanages, and their learned  survival mechanisms of manipulation.

"family day" ...."gotcha day" is not a cute experience.
strangers who becomes "mom" and "dad" scooping them up, taking their hand, and riding back to a hotel room does NOTHING to erase the years of abuse.  it does nothing to erase the years of a malformed self-image--an identity that tells them they are a three-headed monster, it does nothing to magically instill a sense of trust, security, and family in them. most kids are working in a primitive survival mode brain at this time. honestly, this is why many parents see behavior from their children that mimic growling, spitting, crawling across the floor (talking 8 yrs + kids here...), they pull out their hair, your hair, they claw at their skin and your skin. they grab handfuls of food, any food--all food they see and shove it in their mouth like chipmunks. introduction to new situations paralyzes them...literally, they can diassoctiate, part of the "fight, flight, or freeze" responses. i've seen older children bodies go stiff as a board, and carried back like a 2x4.  their brains are not rewired at the moment a white american smiles at them and says "i'm mommy!".

hope is a 4 letter word, along with the others we try to avoid saying.
it brings the same shame, anger, fear, resentment, rage, frustration, helplessness, and so on that the other 4 letter words bring--or were inspired by those events to be said.

to tie adoption up with a bow and a pat on the back screams that scalding hot baths, taunts of "you no wanted!", punishments of no food, punishments of food shoved down their throats to the point of choking, fists landing across the face, broken bones hidden, scars from inflicted burns can all be forgotten and just "gotten over" by a new address and name.

i need you all, who are not adoptive families, to really really really understand what is needed. we don't need or want to hear how great we are. we aren't.
we get frustrated, we get overwhelmed, and then feel awful because we know our child's history. we don't need you to recommend we read books like "the strong willed child".  our child is not strong willed. their wills were broken. they have no will. they are in survival mode. 
we don't need to hear "it's okay, all kids do that". no. no. no. no. no. no. guess what--NO!!!! freaking NO!
saying "don't worry about it because all kids do it" is the same as saying that a victim of abuse is just being promiscuous because she enjoys being a "slut" and looking past the fact that being raped as a 6,7,8,9,10,11, and 12 year old taught her that was her value, and that is how she will survive.

we need you to take our hand and say "i'm here, let me listen. vent to me. how can i support you?"
give us a kleenex when we look tired, because tears are not far behind.
do not remind us of our children's past. we are aware of it. being reminded of their past when we are already struggling just reaffirms to us that we are failing them.
simply say "i'm so sorry. i'm so sorry."

don't say our adoption inspired you to do mission trips. and then simply come back and post pictures smiling with impoverished children. ask us how you can make a difference. poverty tourism isn't it.

don't tell us about "that documentary" you saw.
don't tell us about that 2nd cousin you have who had a friend that adopted some kids from somewhere in asia, and they are doing great now.

basically just listen. just be there. be here.  love us. love our family. just listen.

Friday, August 19, 2016

why i will gladly buy 70 glue sticks and 200 pencils...

this isn't adoption related, per se, but it does attest to the preciousness of each child, despite their circumstance, geography, home-life, and ability to give back (or their parent's ability to give back). 

there are a lot of complaints, blogs, facebook posts, and articles written about the absurdity of classroom supply list: parents bemoaning the list of 70 glue sticks, the infinity amount of pencils, enough kleenex boxes to wipe every elephant in india's nose, and enough hand sanitizer to disinfect chernobyl. 

i don't have issue with it. i will gladly buy those with a smile on my face and tell my children what a wonderful thing it is to be able to provide extra for their classroom. (and no we don't easily have the extra money, we will make sacrifices to do it). 

i will tell them how hard their teachers work, how they are not paid as they deserve, and how the simple act of buying kleenexes relieves a need for their classroom. 

i will tell them what an honor it is to be able to buy extra pencils for the friend in their class who doesn't have any.
***side note: i wonder how many people who have shared this little poem above also complain about having to buy extra pencils. 

i've seen complaints: "there are churches that provide backpacks full of supplies, why don't they just go there? too lazy? not my fault". 
-but, here's the thing. that attitude punishes no one except the child--the student in need. maybe the struggling mother feels like she doesn't deserve a backpack for her child from a church. maybe she's angry with the church (rightfully so with some of these "i'm not buying that" attitudes") and would rather hope she finds the money eventually, maybe they really just don't care--BUT that doesn't mean the child doesn't care. they have no choice in the matter. that doesn't mean the teachers don't stress over their students who never have a pencil, paper, or glue sticks. 

why do we sing our teacher's praises but let our pride consume us and deter us from buying simple extra things like pencils, paper, and glue sticks; knowing full well if we don't, the responsibility will come back on the teacher. 

with a smile on my face and joy beating from my heart, i will buy all the pencils, glue sticks, and kleenex boxes (and forego starbucks for two days) and tell my children, who are students too, what a joy it is to be able to give these extras to their teacher. i will tell them what value each child in their classroom has, what value THEY have, and how sometimes a simple act of buying an extra box of pencils can attest and reaffirm another's value. 

i will tell my children that these bags we carry out that are 10x what i needed as a student represent something bigger--it represents us carrying each other's burdens, it represents us doing a little thing to make a big proclamation to another child, another teacher that WE CARE. 

it's not about if "we should have to", it's about if we see the value--the value in those children, those students whose parents can't or won't, those teachers to come alongside and lift the burden. 

in life, it's not about us. it's not supposed to be. <3

Friday, August 12, 2016

stuck in the middle

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?
 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness[a] will go before you,
    and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard." --isaiah 58: 6-8

there's a lot of blogs out there: blogs which are brutally honest about motherhood, blogs which are brutally honest about the conditions of orphanages in other countries, blogs which are (humorously) brutally honest about family life. each person who chooses to open their lives, and/or their family's lives has a choice to's why we made ours to share the way we do:

when you have older children who came from "hard places"  (video at bottom of page) it's especially important to remain cognizant of their right to privacy, their right to "their own story", their right to choose how to reveal themselves--to whom and to what extent, and therefore filter what you write about as their parent.  i do share, and if it's especially difficult subject/topic, i try to keep the identity of which child private, and/or address it from my and the hubs' point of view--how we are battling through it AS a family.

these children--OUR children have so little privacy, and no control over their lives before they arrived in our homes, we must give them back the control which was taken from them. we must help them find dignity restored, and that looks like filtering what is shared about them. especially in the case where their classmates and their classmates parents can begin to read these stories. none of us would feel comfortable walking into our place of employment and having everyone in the building knowing the details of our deepest struggles--the same honor and respect need be applied to our children.

on the other hand, we must advocate. we must do all we can to share the needs of the children left behind. the children who still wait. we must make sure it is abundantly clear those places are NO place for them to remain a day longer. that often means painting a vivid picture of reality.

this reality is:
ramshackle buildings, broken bones which go unreported, drunk caregivers, drunk caregivers with heavy fists, lies which are spewed from the mouths of those entrusted to care for these precious lives (lies which tell them they were abandoned because they have no worth, lies which tell them even if they do come home to a forever family in america it is not permanent, and they must continue to earn it), beatings delivered because they didn't finish their meals, beatings delivered because they didn't finish their meal fast enough; realities that in some orphanages 12 year olds look like 2 year olds because of pure neglect. starvation deaths abound. sexual assaults are the norm. they learn survival skills--survival skills which are self injurious behaviors (for stimulation), survival skills of seduction, survival skills of "doing anything to please", survival skills of rage or be raged at, and so on. this is reality in ALL countries involved in international adoption.  as an advocate, it is horrid to watch a child over the years wither away from neglect when you KNOW they would THRIVE in a loving home with a loving mommy and daddy.

we, as parents and advocates, become "stuck in the middle" because we desperately want to see children come into families, restoration occur, healing make new, God unite, bus we also want to respect our children's stories, their privacy, their honor, their first opportunity to keep private what they want private.

there is a reece's rainbow box on the side of the page (not the donation box for our sweetie at the top, but further down), and i implore you, visit the site, look at the children, pray over them, choose one and advocate--share, share, share their "page". their mama is out there. it may be a "friend of a friend of a friend of a friend" of someone who shares your post, but they are out there! God's promise is to set the lonely in families. God is always true, Romans 3:4 assures us though we fail, His faithfulness remans, even if we are made liars, God is true.

so while we are working to bring our sweet sparrow home, i will also be committed to finding a family for: "Wendell" (his advocacy name). he is in the same country as sparrow, and i would love to answer any questions you have about adopting from there! don't let special needs scare you--you can do it! you can! vision-smision! look at his light! his spirit!

photo shoot while we wait at his doctor's office! (lots of ways to entertain ourselves)

we are all pretty stoked for school to start back! (first day of school starbucks cocoa in hand for the kiddos!)

introduction to brownie batter goodness! 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

the story: and sweetie makes 3

the hubs and i had both said "we're done" adopting. we clawed our way to this point:
fighting battles with the kiddos--battles they were and are way too young to be expected to fight themselves. we shed many tears of desperation and we shed tears of joy, we pounded our fist in anger at what their souls endured before coming home and we pounded our fist in triumph as they emerged through valleys and forrest to find healing.

we threw around the idea of a biological, and i was already eyeing cute tula carrier, cloth diapers, reading up on vaccine schedules, not circumcising, and nursing. the Ls asked us quiet often if we were going to have a "belly baby".  we told our parents that we were starting to try for a biological, and a few friends. i even bought one of those handy-dandy ovulation test kits.
(side note: fertility has never been an issue for us, we just both knew we wanted to adopt to build our family; we talked about adopting on our first date even!)

we are planners, and were planning our lives: us, the 2 Ls, and any biological that may come along. it involved the hubs retiring at a certain age and us exploring after that; exploring is one of our favorite things to do together (besides eat, yummm).

then, i (mama) saw a picture--a picture of a girl who i knew God wanted to make my daughter. a girl i knew was going to be lucy's sister; i knew they would be painting their nails together, making bracelets together, and sharing their love of art together. a sweet girl i knew would be the perfect spunky-yet-laid-back sister for luke.

it seemed so very loud and obvious to me. but not to the hubs.

he was dead-set against it. "NO."
and he wasn't budging.

i grieved, hard.
i mourned for days.
someone was not hearing form God accurately, but we were both convinced our instincts were right on.

i was texting a fellow mom friend who also built her family bigger through adoption about her experience. for her family's most recent adoption, her husband was also initially not on board, and while she was offering encouragement, my husband began asking me about sweetie's diagnoses: "what does XXX mean?" "what is YYY?".
was he really considering this now?!!!

i had already requested her file "just in case", and was moved to tears when i saw we shared the same birthday.

since i am a stay at home mom now, and our income is less than it was when we brought the Ls home last year, we really had to make sure this was "doable" for us.
the hubs had said "its all going to have to line up perfectly for it to work out". and, wow, did it!

she is in the city/province in her country that means we will have no in-country travel, she had an older child grant available through the most amazing reece's rainbow...she even had an agency grant as well! God had already began laying the ground work!

y'all, God lined up so much of this, so perfectly, for us to play a role in this redemption.
the Ls are so very excited, they pray for her every night and ask when we are bringing her home (several times a day :)).

we're all learning sign language to prepare for her coming home, and one of the biggest heart blessings is seeing the Ls so excited to do this for her, to learn sign language so they can communicate with her. talk about a weeping-with-joy-mama-heart!

we'll be able to share her precious picture soon, and set up a fundraiser account soon, as we need to raise 10K to be able to have all needs and fees met, but God provided so beautifully last time, we are actually excited to have the Ls home and see Him provide to bring their sister home.

we've been crafting and finding items to ebay, and oh, the joy on their precious faces when i tell them we made money toward bringing their sister home!

we can't wait to share this journey with you all, and the sweet pictures we have of her!

in the meantime, i've set up a t-shirt fundraiser--nothing to do with adoption or love (unless you count the love of tacos!)  here (because it seems like an appropriate shirt for this time of year too :))
tacos for president t-shirt fundraser! 

and here's a few pictures of the kiddos and me showing how photogenic we are :)

and this one, because she's always the cutest! <3


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

why it matters

the other week ryan had to leave town for a work trip, so it was just me and the kiddos for several days.

the first night ryan was gone i was awoken by the screams and cries of one of the Ls (leaving out the identify of which one, because of their privacy).  i ran down the hall and found my child standing in their doorway with their full body shaking, and their face red and saturated in tears. after several minutes of comforting and reassurance, they revealed what had struck this kind of fear in them:
they had awoken from a scary dream and saw a dark presence in their room, it then shot up to their ceiling where it perched and watched them. 
(fast forward, we did later pray over the room (again) and anoint the threshold with oil (again)).

a few nights later, i was awoken by their screams again, and ran down the hall to find them wrapped up in their comforter, body convulsing in fear and still asleep. i climbed into their bed and pulled them up to me and held them against me speaking over them: "this is a safe room, this is a safe house, you are safe, i am a safe mommy" i repeated this at least 15 times until they woke up. i continued to repeat that mantra as they shook off the nightmare and became coherent. they revealed they had dreamed stranger danger came into our house and daddy tried to stop them, but stranger danger shot and killed daddy.

a few nights later even still, i was awoken by the same terrified and desperate screams. i ran down the hall and lept into their room and again scooped them into my arms and repeated our mantra, "this is a safe room, this is a safe house, you are safe, i am a safe mommy". the nightmare this time, they were shot and killed by stranger danger.

and, a few nights ago: screams, frantic pleadings; ryan and i lept into their room again. the nightmare this time: i was shot and killed by a friend.

after anointing the room (again), and praying over it (again), we made a few "Jesus music" CDs for them to play continuously in the room and fall asleep to. they wants to hear songs that worship God as they sleeps, so that it will hopefully overpower the dark memories that creep from their subconscious, and conscious self, and infiltrate their dreams.
their favorite song is "beautiful things" by gungor

after our beloved chid settled from their nightmares, they apologized over and over: they apologized to US for THEM having a nightmare. :(
they apologized that we "had to wake up and come in there". the next morning they looked at us wearily and asked "are you tired?"
apologizing to the parent for having a nightmare should be the LAST thing a child does. the last thing a child should do the morning after horrendous nightmares is ask the parent if they are okay.

but this is what happens when a child is "made sure to know" their entire lives they are not valued or truly loved. this is what happens when bonding and attachment hasn't happened until they are adolescents. this is what happens when children are treated as if they have to "earn" breakfast, lunch, dinner, as if snacks are treats, as if they have to earn a hug, as if they have to earn a parent's love, and as if they have to earn a parent's caring nature.

our family saw it's one year anniversary recently, and each precious child continues to encounter the healing they deserve, each child continues to find their voice, each child continues to find their freedom, and each child continues to find that they are-a child.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

14. it's awfully young to...

forever lose the chance to have a loving family.

14. that's the age when a CHILD goes from waiting and hoping to be "chosen" to waiting to be told they have to leave their orphanage/foster home and find their own way.

it's an incredibly young and fragile age still to come to that destiny.
i don't want to be doom and gloom, but the prospects for these children is not good if they age out. they often "survive" by stealing, dealing drugs, and you can take a sordid and educated guess how the girls survive :(  it's something nobody wants to talk about or read, but it's the truth.

there is a young boy who will turn 14 in 5 short months, and the family that desperately wants him as their son is RACING to him.  in the beginning the officials did not even prepare his file to make him eligible for adoption, they believed nobody would chose a son like him-but they were wrong.  his file has been readied and a family is raising funds to cover the cost of all things involved in adoption: a home study, agency fees, travel fees, etc. i've run down the expenses in our adoption while we were fundraising, so you can peruse back through them if you are interested in why adoptions are so expensive.

there will be an auction beginning in the next few days to help the family raise these funds, they've set up a Facebook page to share about the plight of the aging out orphan in China and their journey to their son.

life in china is not as here for the unfortunate and those without families: there is no government health coverage like MediCare or state sponsored insurance, no free-community clinics, there are no Pell Grants for higher education, there are no food subsidy programs, there are not homeless missions in cities. life after aging out of the orphanage is dismal, scary, and uncertain. but you can be part of hope, and part of a chance at new life for this one sweet soul.

follow along with their journey and when the auction begins, grab yourself something and help bring him home!

here is the YouCaring page set up if you'd like to contribute to bringing this sweet boy home: 

and here's the Facebook page to follow for updates and check up their upcoming auction

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

the silent months

there have been fairly signifcant gaps in these past updates--you'll notice posts have been few and far between since coming home.
at first it was because life was crazy, busy, hectic, and a whirlwind: between becoming a family of 4 with an adolescent and preteen, packing up a house and moving within days of arriving home, setting up in a new house in a new city, in a new state, and bonding as a new family all within 2 weeks!

and then the updates became more scarce because life got HARD.

when you adopt, especially the older child, you aren't just becoming a parent and you aren't just adding a daughter/son (or both!) into your family, no. you are picking up the cross of trauma, pain, loss, hurt, anger and sadness children far too young have been appointed to carry, and carrying it WITH them, and sometimes FOR them until they can develop the necessary tools to work through their grief, which could be years, or even decades.

 you are saying:
"i will give up my 'norman rockwell' visions of family dinners, picturesque christmas mornings and evenings, board games at the kitchen table", and saying: "i will accept that the rest of our lives may very well be lived in the trenches"  "i will continue to pour into a vessel that has holes poked all in the bottom" and instead switch your thinking to: even though this seems like a special event, a happy occasion, or a fun family idea, it will most likely trigger feelings of grief and loss in our children and cause pain and result in a melt-down.
you sacrifice happy-family traditions you've been planning and dreaming of, and instead plan ahead to do battle with your child as memories and trauma are purged to the surface.

going into adoption, you prepare yourself for "worst case scenario" and you do far more than "due diligence" when researching everything your new child's referral speaks of.  you feel like you are a long-lost best friend of Karyn Purvis, and in the heat of melt-downs you think "what would Mark V.  do" (can i get "a'men" from my fellow 'Parenting with Connection' folks!), Amazon recommendations start to look that of a fully-stocked child therapists office, and you are convinced in 3 years time you would have damn well earned an honorary Ph.D in child psychology degree from some prestigious university.

we thought we were prepared, we thought our children had been in a great place. we prayed and thanked God for his providence of where they were all these years before we came for them. after all it was a "christian" based, american foundation backed, foster village.

we were wrong.

while we were thanking God, we should have been pleading for him to exercise come sort of vengeance, turn these adults into pillars of salt, have rabid dogs consume them. i can't even describe the amount of pure anger and wrath i feel toward the individuals entrusted to care for our children, and instead inflicted trauma beyond imagination upon them. i feel sick at the thought that i left as a gift for these people a locket with the L's picture in it.

we fight battles WITH our children several days a week.

no, i'm not as honorable as this sounds. i'm not a mother teresa or mother goose even for that matter. it's hard. it's hard on me (and them of course). hence the silence. i've been silently mourning. mourning their past. mourning their grief. mourning the death of the patient, slow-to-frustrate, and happy-go-lucky momma i THOUGHT i'd be.

a good read, as to why you should NOT say "all kids to that" to adoptive parents of children with trauma backgrounds. 

being on the verge of tears has become a nightly occurrence after we finally close our door to go to bed. one of my mantras HAD been "it's not about me", until i was presented with a lifestyle that FORCED me to walk it out 24/7, and i realized just how much i do think it's about me. i realized my sacrificial love isn't as full of complete Agape as i thought it was. i'm reminded of my flesh and still broken human nature.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ --Philippians 1:6

people smile and compliment families like ours; and we smile and pretend they are right. we pretend it's glorious, we pretend we are patient and knowledgable, and we pretend our lives our full of laughter and joy. because we have to protect our children, and we have to protect their story, and we have to protect their lives now and their lives in the past for their lives in the future. so we smile and we nod and we say the response everyone expects "oh, it's been all so wonderful, we couldn't ask for any better of a beginning!" you become an expert at fooling people. so much so that profilers with the FBI couldn't pick the pain out of your soul.
we do this because we have to be wise. we have to be wise about who we share the most intimate knowledge of our children and our own family with. it's not appropriate to openly share the darkest and most painful memories of your children's past with strangers, well-wishers, and anyone that can read a fb status update, or even blog post.
the details remain the children's and the family's, which also means the pain remains the family's.

despite all the pain, this truth remains:
God sees the pain in our souls though.
God sees the pain in our son and daughter's soul, and He is faithful.

we read post like this and weep. utterly weep into a sobbing mess on the floor because the only people who "get it" are people who we will mostly likely never meet, never hug, never share coffee with as we spill our hearts. 

And we all, with unveiled faces, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transferred into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. --2 Corinthians 3:18