Monday, November 17, 2014

Celia... One Year Later

Today marks one full year since the day we first met Celia in a courthouse in Ohio.  She was so sweet and quiet, in fact she didn't speak at all for about 2 hours.  Part of this I'm sure was a combination of shock, and awe, nerves, confusion and wonderment, but we had also been told by her first family that she was a very quiet child.  We didn't hear a word out of her until after we left the parking lot of the courthouse and asked her if she wanted to go to McDonald's for lunch.

 What we found out later was that she had not been prepped AT ALL for what was about to happen to her.  I had sent pictures of our house, cats, the twins and us for her to see, none of which had been shown to her.  All she was told was that she was going to go live with another family.  That's it.  We also realized that in her first family the rules must have been pretty stringent (military family) because she associated being a "good girl" with being quiet.  All the time.

 Oh what a difference a year has made.  Quiet would be the last word in the galaxy one would use to describe this child.  She learned pretty quickly that in our family we do loud, we do mistakes, we do emotional, and all of it is ok.  Do I miss that sweet, quiet little lady at times...YOU BET...but I know now that she wasn't allowed to be her true self in her previous placement.  I feel good about the fact that she has bloomed with us.

In the beginning the twins adored their little sister and wanted to help her with everything.  They doted on her and were so sweet.  Yeah that's LONG gone!  As it should be I suppose.  They are real siblings now, they fight and argue over everything and the older two take any opportunity to boss little one around.  Although I have an older half-sister, we did not have the pleasure of growing up together, so the drama of sisterly interactions is all new to me.  With my little brother it was totally different, always physical, rough and tumble, no drama.  With sisters, from the intel I've gathered, it's all of the above PLUS a huge dose of manipulation and drama.  Deep breaths.

I can see both sides of their stories.  Little sisters are annoying.  In fact, I told Caroline she could keep a journal of times that she wants to punch Celia in the face (along with how many punches each infraction is worth of course) and once Celia turns 18 she can go for it.  I don't feel at all guilty about this seeing as Caroline can't keep track of anything for longer than 23 minutes so the odds that she's maintain and know the whereabouts of such a journal are astronomical.  Listen folks, don't judge, if we didn't laugh over here, we'd be crying...a lot.

So, yes, Celia has bloomed into what I can only surmise to be a more true version of herself.  That being said, it's NOT all butterflies and rainbows over here.  She is still hurting.  She is angry, and I can't blame her.  Although she just turned 5 years old, emotionally she is functioning more on the level of a 2 year old.  I think this is because she wasn't allowed or able to process the raw emotions that come with being adopted in the first place, as well as just being a pain the a$$ toddler in her previous family.  Now add onto all of that a tremendous, rational, fear of abandonment, and you've got a very emotional little girl.

Her attachment to me began immediately upon meeting her in the courthouse.  She came and sat in my lap right away when I motioned to her to see if she'd want to.  We sat for a while while I showed her all of the pictures I had hoped he had already seen of her new sisters, home and cats.  It seemed to me that she had been craving a motherly connection for years and since her first adoptive mom wasn't able to bond with her, she just had not had that in her life for the past 3 years.

Her attachment to Mike is still a work in progress.  You see, she adored her first adoptive father and he adored her.  He was devastated in the courtroom, while mom had no affect, zero, it was eerie.  I promise to write more about her disruption story soon which will give you a little better picture of the background here.  Because she felt so connected with this former father, you can tell she struggles with the question "if I let this new dad into my heart, am I betraying the old one?".  Of course most of her anger and feelings of betraying are directed at this old dad as well, who isn't around to take it, so Mike, the poor unfortunate soul, becomes the target of all of it.   She's come a long way in a year though and heart healing takes time.

I'm going to keep it very real here folks.  There have been many a day that the twins have finally started grasping the concept of sleeping in and Celia's up at the crack of dawn and I ask myself "Why did we do this?  Things with the twins were JUST started to get a bit easier!  Why'd we have to rock the boat?!"  Also, although I'm only 33 years old, my soul is much older.  I wasn't cut out to do this toddler thing.  Ain't nobody got time for that.  I prefer to be around those who are able to think rationally.

Of course I wouldn't change it for the world.  God has taken us on such a crazy roller coaster the past year.  It has taught us so much about listening to Him and His will and plans for our lives, even when it doesn't seem to make any sense to anyone else.  I can see this little girl's heart healing right before my eyes and it's all God's doing.  Beauty from ashes.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Ignorance...At the Pediatrician's Office?!

Let me start by saying that moving across state lines with children who are on ADHD medication is a nightmare.  You have to have a paper script to take to the pharmacy because they are all controlled substances, so that also means you can't take a paper script from your Ohio doctor to a pharmacy in PA to get it filled.  UGH.  So, that being said, we had been anticipating this appointment today with our new pediatrician so we could finally establish a doctor who could give us the prescriptions my girls need.

I also want to point out that I have A LOT of experience with doctors and I know that a lot of the best doctors have a pretty crappy bed side manner.  I've come to accept that, however, I would think pediatricians would be the exception to the rule.  The doctor we saw today got an earful from Caroline so I don't think she'll ever make this same mistake again.  

She was entering in all of the information about Caroline and her health history.  She says "I know since she was adopted we will not have any family health history, but I want to get the names of all of the members of your family into the computer."  I gave her my name and Mike's name.  She then asked if Caroline had any siblings.  I responded, "She has a bio twin named Charlotte, and.." she interrupts me and says "Oh, ok so she counts as a real one."


To which Caroline responded, "What?  So what does that make my other sister?  Is she imaginary?  Is she fake?  No.  She's my REAL sister too!"

PROUD MAMA MOMENT.  It was the best response ever, because there's no way an adult could have gotten away with that sassy response, but oh from the mouths of babes!

"Of course she's real, you know what I mean, you just don't share genes." was her response.

I awaited Caroline's response, thinking for sure she'd argue that of course, none of them share "jeans" because they all wear different sizes, but, alas, she was able to contain herself for once.

I used this as an opportunity for grace, but I was pretty shocked that a pediatrician didn't know better and wasn't educated on the proper terminology.  I find it hard to believe that my family is the first adoptive family that has come through that office.  It's one thing to say that in front of the adult, but it was not ok to say that in front of my child.  Luckily we had JUST had a conversation about this because of an interaction Caroline had with a boy from our neighborhood last week (You can read that funny story here) so she had the perfect tools to respond appropriately.  I hope Caroline's candid response made this doctor realize that she needs to choose her words more carefully next time.

The Bratts are in town now, rural southeastern PA, and we're going to make a serious impression!
Monday, September 1, 2014


Ever since our twins joined our family back in 2010 we had lived in Medina, OH.  Mike and I both grew up in this small Cleveland suburb, so we knew a lot of people around town.  Anyone I didn't know personally was accosted with adorable photographs if they went shopping at the local greenhouse and farm where my mother worked.  Sometimes people would come up to us on the street and say, "Hey, aren't you Charlotte & Caroline?" even though I had never seen said person before in my life.  That could've been the result of the girls going to every VBS in town for two summers straight.  Don't judge, using Jesus as free respite isn't again the rules, we talked, He's cool with it.

This being said, the girls were never really approached with very many questions about their adoption.  Add in the fact that they were still young enough that kids didn't notice racial differences and that every November (Adoption Awareness Month) I have gone into their classrooms to share a book about adoption and answer all of the children's questions about it, there hadn't been much opportunity or need for them to stand on their own two feet and answer the tough questions alone.

Then we moved.  We moved to PA, outside of Philadelphia, to a town and a school even whiter and more rural than the one we came from.  The questions began before school even started.  This is the conversation I walked outside to in my backyard:

"A SHELTER????  You mean an orphanage?  Yes, I used to live in an orphanage in Africa, NOT in a shelter.  What do you think I am?  A cat?  MEOW!!!"  I stood back trying not to wet my pants.  I wanted to see where this was going to go next.  

The boy and Caroline both laughed.  Then he said "So your real mom just left you there?"  Caroline responded with an annoyed tone, clearly wanting to get back to the game they were just in the middle of, "Yeah, sure.  Let's play."

I swooped and and made some politically correct statement that their birth mother was too poor to take care of them so she made the loving choice to allow another family to take care of them.  Then I came inside.  I thought about what I needed to say as a follow up to this interaction.

Once she came inside for the night I told her how proud I was of her.  I liked how she made it silly so that he didn't feel dumb.  It is likely that she is the first adopted child he has ever met and he was using the vocabulary that he was familiar with when it comes to adoption, albeit pet adoption.  She has such great comedic timing that I knew the humorous approach would be her strength.  I then gave her suggestions about how to better answer his question about her "real mom".  "Is my mom imaginary?  I'm pretty sure she's real.  I think you mean by birth mom."  These were my suggestions on how to handle it in a humorous way while still educating him on the correct vocabulary.  

We then talked about how much of her story she wants to share.  I reminded her that her story is private and it is nobody's business how she came to be adopted.  She can share what she feels comfortable with, and we went through a few different levels of sharing information.  I want to empower my girls.  I don't want there to be any shame with their stories, and one day I'd love for them to be able to use their story to share God with others by telling them how He has worked in their lives.  Baby steps.

In the meantime we will continue to keep an open dialogue about how to handle the tough questions. And don't worry, if the stories are funny, you'll be sure to hear all about it!
Thursday, August 14, 2014

Breaking Out of Our Bubble

We live cooshy lives here in America.  The reality of this has slapped me in the face this past week and it made me very uncomfortable.

The past few days social media has been flooded with articles, images and posts about the suicide of our beloved actor Robin Williams.  We all loved him, we all grew up with him and of course we are all saddened by his death.  I will be the first in line to advocate for those with mental health issues.  My children are plagued with these issues and will likely be for the rest of their lives.  I am a card carrying member of NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Health) and have even attended the training to become and instructor for their classes to educate parents of children with mental health challenges.

HOWEVER, it disturbs me how caught up our nation has become with this death this week, especially given the other events that are going on around the world. 

There are CHILDREN BEING BEHEADED in Iraq by terrorists.  

Children are dying in orphanages all over the world, some who have families ready to adopt them and bring them home, but are unable to because of governmental red tape.

Thousands are suffering and dying in Western Africa from the Ebola epidemic.  

Countries are at war with one another, and as is with war, innocent civilians are dying in the crossfire.  

Hundreds of Nigerian girls have been missing for months now who were kidnapped from their school by terrorists, and are certainly facing unimaginable atrocities.  

I know, it is easier to just bury our heads in the sand and push these horrific happenings out of our minds.  How in the world could we sleep at night if we didn't?  We all just go on with our privileged lives as if all is well.  Can you imagine what the victims of the above mentioned cruelties would think if they saw how much of our media in the US has been devoted to the death of a famous movie star?  Talk about first world problems!  

I know it's so incredibly overwhelming to think about these horrific things, I mean what can we even do about it anyways?  We can pray.  We can get down on our knees and intentionally pray for these people all over the world who are suffering at the hands of evil and illness.  Ask God what He wants YOU to do.  It may mean donating monetarily to an organization that is working directly with those affected, it may mean organizing a fundraiser, you may feel led to write/call/email your government representative to express your passion and concern over these issues or you may feel called to take more specific actions.  We need to "check ourselves before we wreck ourselves", meaning we need to maintain perspective.  We can't keep living in our American bubble.  All of these things going on in "someone else's backyard" will eventually directly affect all of us.  It's important.  All of God's people are important, not just the famous ones.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Loss of an Unlikely Best Friend

Two days ago our neighbor died suddenly of a heart attack.  He was 67.  He was also one of my children's very best friends.  They would rather go to his house to hang out than to try and play with any of the neighborhood kids.

I have known Jim since I was 6 years old and lived in this house with my grandparents.  His kids were a little older than I was, but their family has always been in my life since then.  As it turns out, my husband has always known their family as well since they were very involved in Boy Scouts.  It has been such a privilege for my kids to get to know them as well.

Looking at Jim you wouldn't guess that small children would want to hang out with him.  He was gruff, always had a cigarette in his mouth, his hands were always worn and filthy from the project he was working on at the time and he was physically a large man.  My kids ADORED him.  Anytime they'd go over to his house on their bikes they would have a million questions about what he was working on.  He always answered their questions, sometimes teaching them how to do it themselves. If the girls needed anything on their bike fixed, they wouldn't even bother telling Mike or I about it, they would just go straight over to Jim's house for him to fix it.  Bikes were one of his many areas of expertise.  My kids went so far as to knock on their door to see if Jim was home if he wasn't outside.  I had to explain to them that they needed to give Jim and Joyce their space and that they could only "play" with them if they were already outside.  Jim has a pool and he and Joyce are always inviting the girls over to swim anytime they want to.

When the twins first came to our family, and had limited English, the neighbor's names were in the first 100 words the girls obtained.  The best part was that they combined their names and called them JimsJoyce.  It was so sweet and now upon reflection, quite appropriate.  What a blessing to have such a beautiful example of a loving couple who, after 44 years of marriage, were still best friends and loved being together.  Jim was also a beautiful lesson for my girls that you cannot judge someone based on what they look like.

As I said before, Jim passed away 2 days ago.  When I told the girls the news, I could tell that they couldn't really process it.  They seemed to kind of sluff it off.  Their reaction was a bit concerning to me.  I knew how much they cared about him.  Charlotte and I went to visit his wife today and for Charlotte, seeing how her heart was so broken really made it more real.  Caroline couldn't bring herself to even go over.

At bedtime tonight the twins took turns coming downstairs telling me they couldn't sleep.  I got annoyed.  I just wanted to sit and spend some time with Mike.  I went upstairs to tuck them each back in and Caroline came clean.  She couldn't sleep because she was sad about Jim and it was reminding her of when Brutus died.  She broke down.  I held her as she cried.  I reminded her of how much Jim loved Brutus, a fact I had forgotten until tonight.  When Brutus was a kitten, Jim would come over just to see him and it was quite a site to see such a big, tough guy holding such a tiny little kitten.  I remember how heartbroken he was when he found out about what happened to Brutus.  I'm sure he is snuggling with that ornery little kitten up in heaven!  I then came downstairs to dig through the dozens of boxes packed for our impending move trying to find the stuffed moose we named Brutus so Caroline could snuggle with him.  Of course Brutus the Moose was in one of the very first boxes we packed and was therefore on the BOTTOM of the pile!  It took me 30 minutes and I was sweating by the time I dug that thing out, but if than dang moose was going to help her sleep, then you better believe I was going to find it.  That's true love people!!

I then went into Charlotte's room to re-tuck her into bed.  By this time it's 10:30pm...they went to bed at 8:45pm.  I asked her if she was ok and she told me she was sad about Jim.  I held her as we both cried for the next 15 minutes.  She misses him.  After we cried I reminded her of his love for Brutus and we were able to smile remembering how funny it looked when he held that tiny kitten and how he would bring Brutus back home after the many times he would make a daring escape out of any open door so he could have an adventure.

None of us want our children to experience pain of any kind, but in real life any relationship has its risks of resulting in pain.  I wouldn't change their relationship with Jim just to spare them of this pain.  Their relationship with this man was such a blessing.  They learned so many life lessons knowing and loving him.  Having a relationship with God helps makes these times more bearable because we know we will all see Jim again one day in heaven.  I know he will be up there watching over my girls in the same way he'll be watching over his own grandchildren.
Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Adoption-Our Plan A

I once had a fellow adoptive parent make an off hand comment to me that went something along these lines: "We all know that adoption wasn't our first choice."  Ouch.

I thank God quite frequently that Mike and I are in the minority of adoptive parents who have not experienced the loss of infertility.  In fact, I have yet to meet another family who was able to dodge this painful experience.  That's right folks, we never tried to get pregnant.  GASP!

This decision began before we even were married.  Ever since I was 12, when I found out that my 2 aunts (technically my 2nd cousins) were adopted back in the 60s, I remember thinking how interesting that was.  Of course at the age of 12, I was unable to understand the many layers of emotion involved with all parties of adoption, I just thought it was "cool".  So before we were married I told Mike that I had a strong interest in adopting at some point.  We figured that maybe we would have a biological child as well as adopt, however I NEVER felt the desire to ever be pregnant. Like never.  I don't know if it was because of all of my previous health issues, or because I knew the health risk to myself and a baby if I were to be pregnant, but God took any natural desire to procreate right out of me!  I felt like such a weirdo though because I knew in my heart that God's purpose for me on Earth was to be a mom and yet I had no desire to birth one!

In 2009, Mike's dad was diagnosed with Huntington's Disease.  We were told that Mike had a 50% chance of carrying the gene and therefore if we did have biological children, there would be a 50% chance of passing it on to them.  Along with this, Mike's mom and I both have Crohn's Disease.  Since that is on both sides there was also a 30% chance that we would pass that onto our child as well.  This was enough of a sign from God that He did not have biological kids in our plan and we were more than fine with that.  I was honestly relieved.  Now we could begin the journey of growing our family!

I have so many friends whose lives have taken different routes to get to their adoptions, there isn't one cookie cutter story.  Adoptive families all form so very differently.  Yes, some do deal with infertility, some have a mix of bio kids and adopted kids, some do a kinship adoption along with so many other examples.  Please keep this in mind and do me a favor:

DO NOT say to an adoptive mom "Oh, now you will probably get pregnant!".  I had so many well meaning people say this to me and my response was, "Ha!  I sure hope not!"  Yes, this happens to some couples, yes this may be the hopes of some womens' hearts, but do not assume that is the case!

DO NOT assume that adoption was a family's "second choice" or "Plan B".  For some couples this may be the case, but even if it is, that is none of your business.  Please just share in their joy and love on them.

DO NOT get the impression that any adoptive parent is adopting in order to "rescue" or "save" a child.  None of us are trying to save anyone.  We simply want children and this happens to be the path God has chosen for us.  We aren't any better than anyone else, nor do we ever feel like we are.  We are just barely hanging on, just like every other parent!

Don't make assumptions, it's a good general rule of thumb in life really!  It is always safe to say to ANY family, "Wow, God has really blessed you!".  Period.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Eight--the Elusive Milestone Achieved!

We adopted our twins when they were 4 years old.  We were the fourth caregivers they had had in their short lives.  They had been through abuse, neglect, abandonment, hunger, violence and fear that I can't even imagine...I don't even want to.  They were, understandably, a mess.  A HOT MESS.  Those who knew us best back then know that we rarely left the house for that first year.  We were in full on crisis mode all the time.

Every book we read, and every professional we talked to, told us that it would take at least 4 years until we could expect them to have the same issues that their peers have, age appropriate issues.  It would take them as many years as they lived away from us to learn to trust us and to feel secure.  Back then this news left us feeling so overwhelmed.  Another 4 years of THIS.  How in the world would we survive?  How would they survive?  I had a lot of conversations with God about how I think he had made a mistake.  I couldn't DO this.  It was TOO HARD!  There wasn't really a light at the end of the tunnel.

If you have parented a typical four year old, you may be thinking "What are you complaining about?  You don't even have to deal with the terrible twos, or the toddler years!".  Well, guess what?  Our children didn't have the opportunity to be mischievous toddlers.  At that age they were in survival mode.  They didn't have toys, or people to throw tantrums to.  They had no one.  So that meant that, even though they were 4 chronologically, they very distinctively went through the terrible twos/threes during the first 6 months of being with us.  Imagine your toddler, throwing fits, trying to be independent, but having NO WAY to communicate with them.  Yeah, that's where we were!

Don't get me wrong, it wasn't all bad.  Despite the language barrier, we had dance parties, we played with each others hair, even Mike's, and we blew bubbles.  These things need no language.  They also picked up English at a warp speed.

But even an English speaking four year old doesn't have the words to express the anger, rage, sadness, grief and fear that these girls were experiencing.  This led to meltdowns that would last an hour sometimes.  Many times they would need to be restrained in order to keep them, and the rest of us, safe.  I never knew a preschooler could be so strong or so angry.  It was scary.

We decided to use this restraint time as an opportunity for bonding.  We were so physically close to them while we were holding them that we used this time to sing to them, express to them that everything was going to be ok, and to reassure them that NO MATTER WHAT they did, we were not going to get rid of them.  It's not that they thought we might give them away, they were certain of it, and they were determined that they were going to be the ones in charge of that.  They were going to be bad enough that we would quit on them.  They picked the wrong family.  We don't quit, we're too stubborn for that.

Another misconception is that if you adopt a four year old, or any older child, you get out of all of those sleepless nights.  WRONG!  Children from hard places tend to have serious issues with sleeping/dark.  One of our girls was terrified of the dark, while the other would have scary night terrors that would wake me from a dead sleep.

We were exhausted and the thought of keeping this up for the next FOUR YEARS was inconceivable!  Luckily for us, God threw us a bone and we were at a point of near normalcy about two and a half years in!  Near normalcy is all we are going to achieve as there are so many lasting effects of the crap they've been through, and well, our family is nowhere near what anyone would consider normal anyhow :)

So we made it, they are eight!  They are alive and we are alive!  Not only that but we were crazy brave enough to try this again.  God has used the last 4 years to draw both Mike and me so much closer to Him.  We saw how much we needed Him.  He revealed His plans for us so clearly that they could not be denied, and we learned to trust and follow Him.  It has been an amazingly wild ride and I can't wait to see where we are in another four years!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Holland vs. Italy: the tale of parenting a special needs child


Emily Perl Kingsley

"I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability - to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel.

It's like this......When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.
 After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."
"Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."
But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.
The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.
So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.
It's just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around.... and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.
But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."
And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away... because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.
But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Holland."

Mike and I went to the first night of a six week seminar for parents who have children with emotional, behavioral and/or mental illness issues.  It is put on by NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness).  This story was the first thing that was shared.  It struck me in a way I didn't expect.

While listening to this, I heard it from the perspective of the first adoptive parents of children who have gone through a disruption.  They had an idea of what international adoption would look like, feel like and be like.  As it turned out, the true story is that it isn't all a "dream come true".  It's hard.  Parenting a child from a hard place is very hard.  It's exhausting with little to no pay off on your end as the parent.  I'm lucky that my children all have very minor attachment issues and are able to form a loving relationship with me, but a lot of adoptive parents are not so lucky.

The two disruption situations we have been through were vastly different.  The one commonality is that both families also had biological children in the home.  This is not something that I can relate to, since we chose not to have any bio kids in our family, but I have often wondered if adoptive parents who already have bio kids when they adopt expect the feelings they have for their bio kids to be exactly the same for their adopted child.  Maybe that's their Italy.  I'm not saying that that scenario isn't possible, but it has to be different.

A bio kid comes out of the womb knowing no one but you.  They need you, they learn unconditional love from you.  They are protected by you.  When you adopt a child, especially when it's not a newborn, you receive that child along with all of their trauma.  You have to do the work to bond to that child.  It is not automatic.  It's not easy.  You have to learn to love one another.  Our children spend a lot of intentional time on our laps, we fed them at the dinner table when they were 4 & 5 years old.  We look for any kind of interaction we can in order to mimic the kind of bonding that a newborn and a mother would share.

It takes a very long time, it doesn't always work and it can be heartbreaking.  If you have bio kids as well I can understand how this would put so much stress on your relationships with each of them as well as stress on the family as a whole.  This is why I can empathize with families who choose to disrupt.  Even though I do not understand it in most instances, I always try not to judge them.  That has to be one of the hardest decisions of someone's life.  I have to assume that they would only go forward with the disruption if they believed in their heart that it was in the best interest of the child.  This is where my faith in God comes in.  God has plans for all of our lives, and sometimes those plans are messy, but if we trust Him and listen to Him the end result will be a blessing that we could have ever imagined.

Maybe most people like Italy.  It's pretty there, the food is decadent, it's gorgeous and the weather is great.  I happen to love Holland.  I have always lived a bit off of the beaten path and had to be the one swimming upstream, against the current.  Most people can have Italy.  I'll hang out in Holland, where it may be messy, but it's a beautiful mess.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Jazzercize...not for the faint of heart

I went to Jazzercize tonight for the very first time.  Here are my observations.

First of all, my mom went to Jazzercize, like 20 years ago.  I remember being in the childcare with my buddy Elizabeth.  Am I old enough to go to Jazzercize?  That's for moms, right?  I mean, I know I'm technically a mom, but I'm not a MOM!  I know that I am 32 years old physically, but I still consider my mental age to be that of a 16 year old, and I think I always will.  Also, I danced my entire life, there is no way this is going to be challenging enough for me.
This was my expectation of Jazzercise

Roxanne kicked my butt tonight.  Roxanne, who was at least 10 years older than me, kicked my butt.  During the first song, I got cocky.  "I knew it", I thought, "this is too easy."  "A lot of these women are older than me, and there's no way that if they can do this that it will challenge me."  Well, those ladies showed me.  By the end of the 2nd song I needed a drink and was starting to sweat.  By the end of the 3rd song I was short of breath and finding it hard to do it all full out.

I'll tell you who wasn't having a hard time...those older ladies in front of me!!  Damn!  They hardly ever even stopped for a drink, and here I am trying to make it through an entire song before I run to get a drink and steal away a 5 second break, while pretending that I don't need a break.  I'm young, I shouldn't need a break!

Then we started using weights.  I chose my weights at the beginning of the session and I chose 5lb weights.  I knew within the first 5 seconds that 5lbs was too much, but it wasn't too much for those little ladies in front of me.  So, you better believe that I toughed it out.  I may not be able to even grasp a pencil tomorrow, but I toughed it out.

I found myself checking the clock to see how much longer this would go on, how much longer would I have to pretend that I was young and in shape.  I couldn't keep the ruse up much longer.  I wanted to punch Roxanne.  She was making it look so easy, hardly even sweating, and having fun!

So folks, when I am in bed all day tomorrow because I can't walk, just remember that Jazzercize is no joke.  It's a hard work out, a fun work out, but it's hard!  I want to give mad props to all of the wonderful women in my life who swear by it and I want to apologize for my preconceived notions.

I will go back, just as soon as I can walk.

Praising God for a Splinter and Busted Knee

We have had 2 experiences in the last 2 weeks that have been true blessings in disguise.  

I’m sure you would be rejoicing and praising God for a trip to the ER and a splinter lodged in your child’s leg…right?  Stay with me here.

Only about a month after being home with us, Celia was at my mother in law’s house with us and thought it looked like fun to wrap her legs around Grammy’s wood banister and swing around.  This stunt resulted in a big splinter in her thigh.  The main problem with this was that she DID NOT trust us enough to let us remove it.  I was told that if we let her soak in a hot tub, put baking soda on it, (along with many other tips) it would work itself out.  I couldn’t afford to traumatize her in this crucial stage of our bonding, so against my better judgment, I left it in.

You have probably caught on by now that our lives are crazy.  Two weeks passed and I had forgotten about that splinter, she only brought it up after those 2 weeks had passed.  Now it hurt and the skin had healed over top of it.  CRAP!  I went online and searched for a solution that wouldn’t involve breaking the skin, but it wasn’t happening. 

 I had to weigh my options.  The only time we had taken her to the doctor she was terrified.  It was clear that a visit to the doctor’s office was some kind of a trigger for her, so that was out.  I couldn’t risk her fears of the doctor’s office being verified.  I put on my big girl panties, sat her on the kitchen table, put some orajel on the spot and went to work.  Mike sat next to her on one side with her sisters both on the other side.  Not once did we have to hold her down, she trusted me!  I kept taking breaks and kissing her and trying to calm her fears and tears with my words.  I finally made progress and pulled out the biggest splinter I had ever seen in my life!  
We all celebrated by eating ice cream (cause let’s be honest, ice cream makes everything better).  I was on a high that she LET me do that!  She didn’t even squirm.  When she said stop, I stopped.  When she was scared she held Mike’s hand.  Her sisters used words of encouragement and rubbed her back.  We not only got that huge splinter out, but we bonded through it!  It was beautiful!

Fast forward 2 weeks.  Apparently Caroline decided that it was time for her to get some one on one time (just kidding) so she bit it while playing tag and jacked up her knee pretty good.  I am one of those “just brush it off” kind of moms, but even I had to admit that it was bad.  So we packed up the healthy, grain free dinner that was nearly finished being prepared, went through the drive through at McDonald’s and headed to the ER.

The other 2 went to their Grammy’s house, so it was just Caroline and me, and I must admit, we had fun.  Yes, you heard that right, we had fun at the ER.  She enjoyed being in a wheelchair.  She got to watch Sam & Kat on Nickelodeon, which she isn’t allowed to watch at home on account of it being the most annoying show on television.  Plus we both agreed that she probably had the cutest doctor in the hospital.  

All was good though, the x-ray showed no break.  It was just a bad bruise.  This was only 2 days ago now and since then she has had a couple of episodes where she was in quite a bit of pain.  I’m still not sure if she’s in that much pain or if she has realized that she can get my full and undivided attention, but I have to assume the former.  She is learning that she is my priority, that if something is wrong with her I will drop everything to take care of her.  It has been a wonderful bonding experience for both of us.

When you have children from hard places, children who have been through a kind of hell that you or I could never imagine, the most important, and difficult, value to obtain is trust.  It takes years to undo the harm that other people have done to their young psyches.  It is for this reason I am grateful that God provides us opportunities like these to earn our children’s trust.  If you are an adoptive mama, look for opportunities to use unfortunate or unpleasant situations as a chance to bond.  Silver lining.
Wednesday, January 22, 2014

There Must be a Miscommunication...

I have seen a lot of posts on Facebook lately about that fateful expression “God won’t give you more than you can handle.”  I hate that phrase.  I hate it with all that’s in my soul.  

I believed it for years.  I was diagnosed with a chronic, painful medical condition at age 19.  I spent years convincing myself that God must really have some serious faith in how much I could handle and I used that phrase to empower myself.  

Then, I got married…young.  “Marriage is hard!” people tried to tell me.  I remember thinking to myself “Well YOUR husband must just be a jerk.  My husband is perfect!”  Guess what?!!  MARRIAGE IS HARD!  We were both going through graduate school, living paycheck to paycheck trying to work and go to school full time.  This is when I began to suspect that, if God really does only give you what you can handle, then there must be a miscommunication somewhere.  He must have me confused with someone else.
The next phase of my life is when I became convinced that not only WILL God give you more than  you can handle, and he will give you sooooo much more that it forces you to rely on Him, (or start drinking heavily!).   We started out on the journey of adoption.  At first it was all rainbows and butterflies.  Sure, the paperwork was endless, people didn’t quite understand why we were taking this path, we didn’t quite receive the overwhelming joyful reaction we had hoped for from those closest to us and there were tears.  All in all though, it was good. Stressful, but good.

Once we got the call about the twins though, the bottom dropped out.  We took over the disrupted adoption of twin 4 year olds who didn’t speak any English, were in diapers, had only been in the country for 6 weeks and didn’t know us from Adam.  They were terrified, traumatized, and behaved like wild animals…no exaggeration.  

The first night, once they finally went to sleep, I remember turning to Mike and asking him “Can we really do this?  What have we gotten ourselves into?”  I am sure a lot of first time parents can relate to that feeling, especially those of multiples.  

That first year consisted of hardly leaving the house.  There were tantrums and rages that lasted hours.  We became very familiar with the art of physical restraint, in fact that became our method of bonding because it was happening every day.  The worst part about it was that we couldn’t really get to the core of why they were so angry, because of the language barrier.

If you know our adoption story, then you understand how we knew that God had these children planned for us.  The confusing part was HOW IN THE WORLD DID HE THINK WE COULD DO THIS??  Yes, I have my degrees in early childhood education and developmental psychology, but no class can prepare you for this.  This was beyond.  Every book we read (and we read a lot of them) said we were doing everything right.  You may think this would be comforting for us, but instead it was infuriating.  If we were doing everything right, then why were they acting like this?

The independent, control freak in me waived the white flag.  I had to surrender.  I had to admit I couldn’t do this alone.  If God gave me these girls, then He was going to have to help me through this, but that meant me letting Him.  That meant me leaning on Him, praying, reading His word and living it through my life.  I had to stop caring or listening to what everyone else was telling me to do and listen to Him.  

Guess what?  It worked! :)  Slowly, my anxiety waned, the girls began trusting us, and our marriage was actually strengthened through this very tough time.  I began to see God working in our lives in incredible ways.  I learned to trust Him and His timing in my life.  It took time, and it’s still a work in progress.
If you are in a place in your life where you don’t understand why, why would God do this to you?  Know this: He will use this to draw you closer to Him, you just have to let Him.  Throw up your hands, throw in the white flag and surrender.  You can’t do it alone.


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