Thursday, January 30, 2014

Better Days Ahead

No we have not dropped off the face of the planet, just going through life is all and haven't had time (or energy) to sit down and write.
Currently, I am sitting on the bench at the end of my bed while my daughter is jumping on packing bubbles that came in a package today. Her laughter is hilarious and her smile is the darn cutest you've ever seen. My son is running around with some neighborhood kids, jumping on the trampoline, and playing in the dirt. He loves to be active and he loves to be with people. We have been seeing some better days this week (week 6 OMG!) which is honestly a big sigh of relief. While the weekends seem to be variable with each child having 2-3 fits, the week days seem to be leveling out. Of course these fits and the days depend on typical child behavior and responses to things (hungry, tired, bored, etc) but we are learning more and more about how to avoid some fits and how to break them faster from their anger. I wish I could say there have been no problems at school, but Waylon seems to find one instance each week to blow it. Elva is of course an angel in school bc she likes her teacher and she gets to be creative (which drives her passion) so we don't have any issues with her in her schooling. Waylon is the "victim" of his mouth alot and as smart as he is, he still struggles with showing respect to his teachers and not trying to pick on any kids.

They are getting there. As slow as a snail (and not Turbo bc hes fast, haha my kids love that movie), and as fast as the leaves change color each season, they are getting there. I can see Waylon trying to control himself when he gets upset and for all its worth he is able to calm down way faster than Elva. His behavior is changing in some ways that are not so good, but at least he is showing that he is trying to use the right coping mechanisms (go to his room and chill without yelling, throwing things, slamming doors, or mouthing off). Elva just can't seem to shake herself to reality when she gets mad. I mean the slightest thing (mostly when her brother makes her mad) just gets her in such a frizzle that she would probably stay mad at the world forever unless we "break" her of her stupor. Her fits seem to get longer and her screams louder, but I can again tell that she slowly learning how things go and how she doesn't want the consequences that come following her fits. While both of them have yelled that they hate it here and they hate us while they are mad, they are both quicker to take it back as soon as they come off their emotional high. Our goal each fit is to instruct in healthier ways to release their feelings and to reassure them that we love them, no matter what they say or do.

The best moments have been just having normalcy moments. Elva's hilarious child like vocabulary (she puts extra syllables of things) and how she says "thing majiger" for everything. Waylon's wild imagination and silly laughter. Giggling together at the dinner table (most of the time), listening to them try to learn the words to the songs on the Christian radio, quietly snickering while they say the most bizarre but cute prayers, giving nose kisses, teaching them Bible verses and rejoicing when they get them right, trying to figure out their reasoning for things and then they get confused themselves and we just laugh out loud, reading our devotional book and hearing them maybe, just maybe figuring out this love of Christ, and watching movies with them snuggled up against us... and then squirming and moving to this couch and getting a drink and getting a pillow and getting a blanket and getting bored and wanting this and wanting that and always always moving! Oh yes, those moments are wonderful and I hope will just continue to increase in number. The best best moments are getting to hear them say I love you and when they just want you to be near enough to hug them or hold them. Oh I forgot tickling... hahaha yes tickling is always a good moment! Waylon has one spot (on his sides) where he is ticklish and Elva starts to laugh when you get close to her and just say the word tickle. The kids have been participating in kids Bible quizzing at our church. They had a competition kind of thing on Saturday and believe it or not they each got 4th place in their age divisions... we were quite proud and impressed! Something is getting through to them! (and its all God really)

I wish some days I didn't wake up and have a hard time telling myself to love them, but I really wouldn't be human at this point if this wasnt a hard transition. Its still in an unnatural state for us to *poof* be parents and by all means why would I even begin to expect that I have it all together. An untraumatized child is able to get over an upset in 2-3 minutes give or take less or more... mine takes 15-30 minutes give or take. My child is unable to chemically process why they get upset and mad and how to calm down... whereas any other child might have regret or feel sorry for the wrong they had done. A natural child knows they can trust their parents and will confide in them when hurting... mine have been let down so many times that trust is scary and foreign to them and why would they come running to someone for help when they still have to make the choice everyday as well to love us back. A mom of biological kids has years and years to develop a special bond with their child, we are making up for lost years and damaged years. Its ok for me to not feel connected to them some days and its ok for me to not know how I'm going to handle one more fit or upset in the day. Its ok that I shed a few tears for my sanity. Bc through it all, its not really me. My God knows the desires of my heart and He knows the hurts and pains and He knows whats best for these two blessings. Its not me, I'm too weak. Its God, He is my strength. And only a God so loving and magnificant could put this family together the way He did. So if we have a hard day, its all part of God's process and He is the one standing beside them, whispering to them, whispering and leading us.

I wouldn't trade this journey for anything... I would love more happy days in the future, but even if there are only hard days we will survive bc of God's grace and mercy. I can't truly express how freeing and beautiful it is when I fall to my knees before Christ and confess every fear and thankful joy and hurt. And how His sweet strong arms just pick me up, set me on my feet, and carry me to another day. Its so beautiful to fall apart with Christ. I want to be broken and put back together everyday by Him if thats what it takes for me to be the mom and the christian He has called me to be. Better days are still ahead. Its just taking things one day at a time. And that is ok.

How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you.    Psalm 31:19

Saturday, January 18, 2014

What Makes It All Worth It

As we head into week 4 of parenthood all I can say is alot has changed. Some for the better and definitely some for the not so better.

If you are a parent and you read this please do not be offended or laugh too hard or jump to conclusions... this again is my experience spilling out for the hopes that somewhere someone may be touched or encouraged by these words... I am in no way an expert (haha that is even funny to think) and I do not want to overlook parenthood in general that it is hard and an ever changing blessing... this is just our experience. OK that being said I'll continue...

The first two weeks of having our children were a sweet little blur... the "honeymoon" period as some have put it... we had lots of time with the kids to just bond with them since neither Rob or I went into work, so we rode bikes, went to the park (even in the 30 degree weather all bundled up), went fishing at the park by our house, went to the movies, played games, had Christmas (eek), and cleaned up Christmas and then had New Years and wow it was just alot of fun each day. I think we did our best to provide different activities for the kids to help them feel more at home and to set down some rules. Oh rules... I think every kid comes with a gene that says "ignore rules set by your parents" just for the fun of it! Anyways, we were living a blissful time with little argument and disagreement from the kids. I honestly was surprised by their responses to our overwhelming introductions to family and friends as well as their ability to acclimate to our home environment.

And then we spent the later part of the 2nd week preparing for school to start and trying to set schedules as best we could. Then on Monday the 6th, Rob and I took them into their first day of school... and our first day of school also. It was weird getting them up, feeding them breakfast (cereal for Elva and Poptarts for Waylon literally everyday), helping them pick their outfits and doing Elva's hair and putting the backpacks together (which were quite empty bc we didn't know what they needed) and making their lunches and then grabbing the mountain of paperwork that needed to go to the school and heading out the door! We arrived just before 7:30 (as I was told bc of the paperwork) and we headed to the office...which I had only been in their school once and that was to drop off their original enrollment forms the day we got the kids... so I knew basically where the office was and that was it. We were greeted with smiling faces and it was funny how when we were asked questions about the kids or who we were that the kids would answer "we are adopted!" As if everyone needed to know that, but at least they are proud of it right? So we were escorted to their new teachers (who are awesome!), were able to introduce ourselves and explain a little about each child to their teacher and then we hugged them and walked out. No I didn't cry... I was too excited and nervous and happy that we were finally at the point in our lives where we could say "we just dropped off our kids at school!"

School really is going great for the kids, they each have some friends and are getting good reports everyday by their teachers... or at least we have heard no bad news so thats good right?! Well since school was the beginning of week 3 I guess the kids decided that the "honeymoon" was over and that they had some boundaries they wanted to push. [Remember parents I asked you not to laugh too much... most people have years to ease into this part of their lives, we were thrust down the rebellion hole from the get go and its been quire a struggle] So while they behaved during the day, would come home and do their homework mostly without a fuss... it seemed the evenings began to turn sour. I firmly believe in demons and angels and although I can't say for sure, I'm most certain a heavy negative spirit rested in our house beginning on Tuesday. Our sweet Elva, who was always quick to apologize and do what she needed to do and was so helpful... became full of rage, anger, and so many emotions that it scared me at first. She was quick to become upset and defy whatever command we had just given. The time out couch was unfortunately her friend quite often and we saw some pretty scary emotions leak from her tiny body. I understand kids can be mad and will lose their tempers at some point in time, but this was beyond being prepared for. Waylon was pretty good at calming himself down and staying away from time out except for a few times when he really just let us have it. And I mean let us have it... the worst possible thing your child could ever say to you has been said to us multiple times in their deepest upset. It may be just words, but it still stings.

I don't share this to put my kids down, there is a light at the end of the tunnel that we are racing for... and at times that Rob and I are dragging the kids towards, but we are going to get there with God's help if it kills us... But I do share it bc I feel like I am called to, I feel like I can't skip over the details and just say everything is good, working on a few adjustments, but everything is good... bc who really believes that. We all have stuff going on, and if sharing my stuff can you deal with your stuff than please read about my stuff and I will gladly share.

I don't wish upon any parent to have to endure some of the things we have had to go through. No we aren't in any way martyrs for what has happened in our parenting moments, but please understand me when I say that these new experiences for us are sometimes beyond what anyone can prepare you for. To have your child become so upset that you have no physical way of calming them down is very scary for anyone. To then lay by that child's bed for an hour, praying for their healing, for comfort, for the right words... as they are yelling they hate you, as they are telling you that you are not their real parent and that they can't wait to be rid of this place and so on... no I don't wish that upon anyone. Kids (and adults too) will say whatever they can when they are mad just to get a reaction and try to control the situation. One of our kids will choose to keep their lips sealed in anger and the other one will yell anything that comes to mind. Again I realize this is normal for kids, especially ones who have gone through so much instability as ours have, but to have to sit through their rantings is quite painful and takes alot of faith. What makes it even more scary is to think "in 5 months will they still want to say yes to us or will they say no." They have a choice and on the hardest days I always pray that we haven't undone the progress we are trying so hard to make each day. I always reassure the kids when they have calmed down that nothing they ever say or do will cause me to give them back... bc let me tell you a little piece of their story... they were adopted once before and given back. As sad as that sounds, it happens more often than you think in adoption... EXCEPT it won't happen with our kids. I refuse to let myself even think of things getting so bad that we would give them back.... no that will never happen. So I always end each rough time with asserting our love for them.

I don't want to highlight just the negative things bc really for a family that was thrust together one month ago, comprised of two adults who have no idea what they are doing except that they want to follow Christ and two kids who have had enough heart ache beyond what some adults can stand in a lifetime, we are doing quite well. Each day is now lived in a moment to moment situation, and yes the limits are being tested daily by each child, but we are also learning certain things about them... for the good and the bad.

Elva: She is the pickiest eater alive and the slowest eater at that. But don't mention that to her or you will get a full on meltdown and then she will never finish her cereal! haha. She is scared of automatic flushing toilets and is a very sore loser (well I was too at her age). She will draw on any scrap piece of paper or solid paper like surface that she can get her hands on and any scrap piece of string, stick, rock, confetti, bla bla etc. is fair game for an art project. She has the same laugh as me which is totally weird and funny and she loves learning the piano (although not to practice which is also like me at her age). She would rather have a candy cane for a snack or dessert than chocolate and loves to work on spelling words (shes a cute nerd). Elva also loves to ride her bike and collect things for art projects outside (which drives us nuts, but its creativity). She is quick to pester her brother but just as quick to cry when things turn against her will. She says some of the cutest things and while she struggles so much with understanding about God and why she is not with her family anymore and what the definition of a mom is... she has such an innocence about her that I hope she never loses.

Waylon: He is a typical smelly, gross, play in the dirt, get sweaty, be rough kind of boy. He has a hard time letting his imagination come through, but when he gets a crazy idea we let him run with it and he starts to show his creativity. He wants to do good and stay out of time out so bad (and I want him to also). Waylon loves beyond all things to hunt and shoot things with guns (animals not people). He will walk all over the house asking people to "put their hands up" or be shot with one of many nerf guns. He is only ticklish on the sides of his tummy, and he loves to cuddle with momma at the end of the day (oh how I love those moments). He has a growing belly even though we are very strict with his diet and he will do ANYTHING for chocolate or dessert. Funny thing is he chipped his tooth this past week in the exact spot Robert has a chip in his tooth. So now they smile just alike. Waylon loves to be around other kids he can play with and even though his attention span is very short he likes to fish. Waylon has started to embrace his new family members (as in grandparents and aunts/uncles) and doesn't really talk about his old family much. He likes to say how much he is glad to be in our home (well when he is happy he says that haha).

Both of the kids do still have time to talk to their foster parents bc they miss them and for good reasons too. We don't ever want to break those relationships that they had, their foster families were the ones who had to go through the roughest moments with them to reach the point they are at today. We are grateful for them. That being said, I don't know if I've shared this about the kids that they weren't in the same foster home when we got them. For various reasons they have been apart from each other for about 6 months so learning to be brother and sister again has been a struggle. Its hard to teach Elva that her brother is going to be mean and play rough instead of being her protector and provider like he was growing up. And its hard to teach Waylon that his sister is sensitive bc of their past and how much she hasn't yet come to understand. And its hard for us to know when to step in and when to let things go! I'm not going to lie that I get very nervous when they start playing together bc I know it more often than not (and at this point we are at 99% of the time) it will end in a blow up. This will change with time I know as will everything, but still its just one of those not normal situations we are having to learn to handle along with our own adjustments.

I leave you with some of my favorite moments so far... bc no matter how hard the rough moments are, the good ones are what makes it all worth it... and in the end thats what we have to remind ourselves... they are worth it.
Fave moment with Waylon:  When he randomly comes up to each of us multiple times during the day just because he hasn't had a hug in a little while. He might be sinisterly trying to get something, but I will take all the hugs and kisses I can get from him bc I know the time is coming when he will feel too cool for all that... and unfortunately thats not too far away from the age he is. But I'm hoping to have many more of his random hugs :)
Fave moment with Elva: One night Elva was having a hard time getting settled in bed (missing her other mom) so I talked with her and ran my fingers over her face and through her hair, but nothing was really getting that sad look out of her eye. So I asked her if I could sing her a song. My mom used to sing me a song when she put me to bed at night, and even sang it to each other as I got older (like in my 20s) whenever I would stay at their house before I got married. I had always dreamed of singing it to my little girl as she grew up and not until this one night did I think about it. So I sang it to her and saw the sad eyes turn to happy sleepy little eyes. That was a good night :)

Thank you all again for your prayers. I won't lie that at the end of the day I just lay in Robert's arms and just pray for God's understanding and sometimes I cry bc there just seems nothing else to do but cry and sometimes I just smile and am so thankful. But thank you for your prayers. They are still needed very much. Thank you.I cannot stress enough how much God is in this and how much I daily must fall on my knees and ask for His guidance and His strength and His wisdom through it all. God is what makes this all worth it :)

Matthew 11:28-30
Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Making the Adjustments

So I sat down over the course of the last several days and wrote an entire post about my emotions and the hard stuff with the transition to parenthood, but I decided that it will stay a draft and never be published bc I wrote some things in there that just don't need to be shared. It felt good to get them out of my head, but I'm realizing how "normally not normal" our situation is and that some of my crazy emotional vomit (bc thats what it was) was not worth sharing. I may share some quotes from that post, but for now, I've had time to actually let everything sink in and am now ready to update how parenthood is going for us.

We have been parents for 18 days, weird to think bc as we get into this more and more it seems like they have been ours for alot longer. We are officially "Mom" and "Dad" for everything and I have to say that those are some of my favorite words out of their mouth. I mean I can only imagine a babies first moment saying momma or dadda and how proudly ecstatic the parent must be in that moment, but to have had to wait several days for your children who are 6 and 8 to get comfortable with those words... and by comfortable I mean for them to call you those names without having to stop and think about it first or without them saying it just bc they know how much we want to hear have to wait for that moment was hard, yet worth the wait. Its so natural now and I love calling them my son and daughter (that still seems weird to say!). Its funny to see our family/friend's reactions to them calling us mom and dad... we get the cute "aww" eyes and stuff like that... its amusing haha!

I do have to talk about a very serious thing that I have had plenty of time to cry over and to contemplate about. When we announced we were adopting, we realized that it was going to be a change not just for us but for everyone. And I mean everyone - our church family, the youth group, our friends, coworkers, our parents, our brothers and sisters, our nieces and nephews, other family, etc... everyone. But we didn't know to what extent that change would be until we got the kids home with us two weeks ago. The holidays was a great time for us to transition into the kids' parents- we had time to set our boundaries, play games and develop bonds, laugh with them, lay down the rules, and just love on them so they would know more about us and likewise. But the holidays also meant lots of interaction with family and friends in situations that became less than normal even though we were just going through normal routine. When you throw two older kids into the mix of things you were already doing, add lots of different faces, add lots of going here and going there, it becomes overwhelming for everyone. Yes, we were warned during our training to keep the new faces and introductions to a minimum in the first few weeks/month bc of how overwhelming things would be, but how do you do that when you have a big family and the holidays where family gets together?

We tried to take things slow and honestly the kids did as well as they could have with the amount of people they met and we learned somethings to - this worked and this didn't. But the biggest challenge was one that I really didn't expect and totally took me off guard. My kids did fine, they have learned how to communicate their feelings better (which is something they weren't doing in foster care) and they have learned to get to a quiet spot to calm down (or else they get time out which is no fun), so while we handled the typical sibling disputes and cranky tired children messes that are common among children overloaded with Christmas and holiday candy and cheer... we began to notice the true effects of adoption on our family relationships.
My sweet nieces and nephews are so used to us being so loving and rough with them. Now throw in my kids who are watching our every move, have trust issues, and need to know they are equals in their new family... well that was tough for our nieces and nephews to handle. I was conflicted with how much affection to give to each of them without it affecting the bonding situation with my own children. You could see it on some of their faces when we would pick up our kids or when they would run to us and just stop, unsure of it they could hug us or act how they normally would have around us. Our kids were now their cousins, but they were still strangers at that point.
I applaud our parents for being so genuine and kind during this crazy mess. While its evident that they are trying to just be the grandparents, its still odd not knowing the kids' personalities or interests. I mean thats still weird for us, but for our parents its so natural around the other grandchildren... time will fix this and I'm thankful we have two God fearing sets of parents to set great examples and morals for our children. Its still a transition.
I don't want to point him out but my brother really keyed me into how weird things were for him and all our siblings. My brother doesn't do change very well, but through his love for me, he is doing everything to hide how hard this is for him and to just learn to love the four of us stronger through this time. Christmas night I was having just an emotional spillover of everything from the first few days. All the excitement and the nervousness and the frustrations and the questions and the tough moments and the happiest moments just boiled down to me being unable to eat Christmas dinner with my family bc I had to step into a spare bedroom and just let it all come out. The one who was there for me at that time, my brother. He listened and offered his advice (which I DID try and it helped) and we discussed so many things before he admitted just how hard this was for him as well. When he had kids I was so involved with each of them and I wanted to be one of the spotlights of their lives... and how I'm sure he had dreamed the same for me and my kids some day. When he first met my two stranger children, all those things and feelings he could have dreamed of... unable to come true. Again, time is the best healer here and the kids know him as funny uncle John with the weird facial hair now, but think of all the normal emotions you go through daily with your family members and suddenly add a stranger in the mix whom you are supposed to love as one of your own and it changes things a little.

Again, our family has been wonderful. We couldn't handle this without them and without the countless prayers being poured over us and the kiddos. I have a hard time pushing aside some of the most negative and bad thoughts and focusing on the positive. [before you read these please know that Robert has banned me from ever saying them again and I'm scared to even put them on here, but I feel that I must, this is pure and raw, our experience through this and if anything I say can help someone work through their own emotions or whatever then thats why I'm writing it...]  Thoughts about how I'm sorry to have put my family through this less than normal blessing, how I dont want them to have to suffer through this being hard at the sake of being an untraditional family, how much I hate it when the kids mention their mom and how much I think the worst for her bc of what she did to these kids, how I get so mad at the possibility of their being other moms and dads who are missing out on holding their own kids for stupid addictions.

No I will never say those things again, but I know without even the most shadow of a doubt that I love those two kids who right now are playing quietly in the living room - Elva drawing and Waylon in make believe land, and no matter how not normal things are and how much I must (out of necessity) cry myself to sleep in Roberts arms some nights and how much I may or may not feel like a mom to them at any given moment... they are mine. A true blessing from God. Oh the things I've learned from them and the things I have loved seeing them learn through the short time with us, its all so beautifully overwhelming. I challenge anyone who has gone through such a drastic life change to be honest about the dirt that may pop up in their minds and to release. God has given me such a desire for these children and I will rise to the challenge of being their mom - through good and bad - and I will never allow doubt or those thoughts above to ever bother me again. Yes, I will probably burst out in crying spells here and there, but tears are what keeps us sane. God never said it would be easy... but He did say it would be WORTH IT!

For now a little update:
Elva - is doing wonderful at school as expected and is continuing to draw or create something with ever piece of paper or scrap of whatever in the house. The way her mind creates is so beautiful. She has started piano lessons with my mom and can only talk about how she will become a famous piano player and be rich someday. She is having a hard time dealing with her biological mom and mourning through that loss. Its hard to see her get so mad at little things and be unable to shake it off. We are seeing baby steps of improvement, but its taken alot of tears. I hate seeing her cry, but I know this will pay off in the long run. She knows we love her and she is committed our new family. Her past is starting to come to the front of her mind, which we are trying to help her through as healthily as possible.

Waylon - has surprised us in so many ways. Everyone involved in his previous care as well as us were all concerned about him adjusting and accepting a new family.... we couldn't have been more wrong. He has become affectionate and is trying his hardest to stay out of "time out" and to calm himself down when he gets upset. He is funny, stinky, and very full of life. He is doing well in school, but needs to slow down and keep himself focused. He has shared openly how he is very happy to be with us and how he now has all he ever dreamed for - a mom and dad.

We love family time at night because we read through Jesus Calling for kids. This book is amazing (and the adult version I use in the mornings its awesome!). Waylon always wants me to cuddle with him (you don't have to force me kiddo!), and Elva always helps Robert read the verse out of the book. Yes, we have the not so glorious moments, but the happy moments are very much outweighing everything. We are blessed and I thank you for going through this journey with us.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16