Three Lessons

Yesterday marked five months since the boys came back to live with us. I think I can officially say we are out of the weeds. (Or maybe you prefer “woods” but for those of us that worked in the restaurant industry, it’s “weeds.”) We still face our challenges. There are still hard days, many behavioral and trauma related issues, and plenty of legal annoyances to settle (the boys are still not officially adopted) BUT we are eating less corn dogs, our home is a little less dirty, we are getting a lot more sleep, and I’m not crying nearly as much from exhaustion and being overwhelmed. Yay for progress!

I’d like to share three things the Lord is teaching me.

1.) Appreciate each little step.

I find myself more and more in these moments where I can look at the boys and really FEEL in my bones they are mine. I smile and giggle over their little personalities and the unique ways God has created them. I can envision the ways He might use them in the future. The frustration of their negative behaviors lingers less and has been replaced with a passion to equip them however I can for life. I appreciate little things like leaving undergarments ON and making it to the potty. Snuggling up for a book and going to sleep without tears. Learning to like tilapia and other healthy foods. And being the one that can fix their boo-boos. For the first four months I was not the one who could fix a boo-boo, it was “mawmaw will fix it.” And one day K got his fingers caught in a door at school and it was pretty bad. He only wanted ME. “Mommy will fix it. Mommy will make it better.” I never realized how something that simple really signifies me being the mommy.

2.) Be content when there is no progress.

This is a hard one. There are definitely days when you feel like you aren’t getting anywhere. When the tears never end, and the kicking and screaming is volatile, when the aggressive behavior continues, when all you here is “NO!” or “I don’t want to!”, when you look at your children and just wonder, “Are they happy here?” “How can I help them?” “What’s happening in their little minds?” We all want for our children to be peaceful and happy. No one wants to see their child in turmoil and chaos all the time. As a foster/adoptive mother I also want to be confident that I am actually helping my child move forward in healing. So a lack of progress can make you feel like a failure in that. But instead of focusing on progress God is calling us to have patience, trust Him and love unconditionally. Love when there is no progress.

3.) How much are you willing to give?

Being called to foster/adopt you know it will involve sacrifice. But you can never know what little daily things God will ask you to give or give up for these children. I have a tendency to think that “I’m sacrificing this so I deserve this.” That’s just not a Biblical way to view sacrifice. There are so many moments in my day where I feel the Holy Spirit prompting me, asking me “Can you stop that for now?” “Can you put your phone down?” “Can you let the laundry pile up a little bit more?” “Those dishes can wait.” “Will you read a few more books?” I know its opportunity to serve my children better and to be more intentional and present in my parenting but many times I respond, “No, I can’t do that.” or “I deserve this bit of down time.” I’m praying for growth and maturity in this area. That I would see the immense value in all those little mothering opportunities and that my heart would desire pleasing the Lord over what I think will make me feel better in the moment.

Yesterday I went to the library and checked out a stack of books in an effort to continue my education on the layers of adoption, trauma, attachment, sibling rivalry, and developmental delays. I’d like to ask you to pray that I would be able to become well informed on how to meet the various needs of our children. I’d also like to continue asking for prayer that we would not run into any more delays or hang ups with the TPR hearing. It’s so important for these boys to have stability and with rights still in place it puts them at risk for unnecessary interference’s. Thank you for all the ways you continue to encourage and support our family. We are blessed beyond measure.

~Katie

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A church. A family. A home.

This evening my heart was completely flooded with joy and praise. And before I go further, let me just interject that today has been HARD. Like WAY hard. So before you get some unrealistic picture from what I’m about to paint…. Picture it all amid several melt downs (including one of my own), a dirty house, a few bite marks,….at this very moment I have a screaming three year old that doesn’t want to sleep because four books was not enough. It’s been hard but you guys God is good even in the hard, amen? The kids and I gathered around our kitchen island (seriously, I can’t believe we are still squeezing the six of us around this thing and there is a dining table four feet away that seats eight! Haha!) I served everyone their plates and Caleb said “And now we can pray!” and Micaila said “Yeah! You’re right, lets pray!” I asked them who wanted to be the one to pray and they all were saying “Me! Me! Me!” This may surprise you all. I mean I AM a pastors daughter, why is this such a big deal? Well I have an even bigger shocker, it’s a big deal because it’s NEVER happened. My children have NEVER wanted to pray at the dinner table. When I have tried to encourage them to, they mostly look down and hope I don’t press to hard.

In April, we visited a church in our small town. This was like our last effort and if it didn’t work out I figured we would just have to move. They were the most genuine welcoming people I had ever been greeted by. They didn’t just give a casual “Good morning, nice to have you.” And assume “You’ll figure the rest out.” They warmly welcomed us, made sure we knew of every event, activity, and appropriate class we could be a part of. Basically, they went great lengths to assure us that they wanted us there.

We’ve visited a lot of churches and one thing I have learned in the process is how important it is to WELCOME visitors. I know. It’s hard. You feel a bit awkward. You wonder if they even want to be spoken to. We have got to get over our own comfort and church cliques and ENSURE people feel welcomed by the body of Christ.

So we tried a Sunday school class and were so impressed by how committed to being in God’s Word this group of adults was. It wasn’t a social hour, it was an hour meant for edifying each other and growing in grace and knowledge of our Lord. And our kids went to class and they thoroughly enjoyed it as well. We recently have been able to start going on Wednesday nights. And we are becoming more and more connected to this church and I see how God is working in the life of this church and my life and my children’s lives. It was not that long ago that Caleb told me “I don’t want to go to church. I don’t like church.” I was heartbroken. As a child I LOVED church. I loved my church family. I loved GA’s and youth, and camp and growing up in church. And I was so discouraged that our children (and me and Jason for that matter) were not connected to God’s people like I had always been.

Last week my kids all shared with me how they wished church was every night. And tonight, hearing their desire to commune with the Lord and thank him for our food and family, I’m just so grateful for God’s faithfulness. We had to hang in there to finally connect with a healthy church. There were times I wanted to give up. Rainy Sundays that I was just fine staying home. But the Holy Spirit kept pressing and pulling and reminding me “You need fellowship with Christians. You need the church. Don’t give up on my Bride!!” I never thought finding a church home would have been the struggle that it was. And I’m so thankful for His grace in that difficult season and for how He has brought us here with this church body.

Link to a previous post on our journey to finding a church. https://familyofgrahams.wordpress.com/2018/02/26/my-struggle-with-church/

Ryann is 10

Dear sweet smiley Ryann,

You are 10 years old today. I remember bringing you home from the hospital. I remember sitting on our living room couch in Brooksville and having this overwhelming sense of protectiveness over you. You weighed a pound less than your big sister (only because she stayed in an extra 2 weeks!!) but you seemed so tiny. You were such an easy going baby. You slept great, you cried very little, you just were happy and you loved your big sister and she loved you. There was never any sibling rivalry and I can say that is true even now. You look up to Micaila and recognize that y’all are both different and God has made you both unique with varying strengths and weaknesses and you are totally comfortable with how God has made you.

People come up to me often and tell me how beautiful my girls are and of course I 100% agree but the thing that I am most proud to tell them is that my girls are sweet. You are kind, thoughtful, and generous. When Caleb came along you were 4 years old and you just loved him so much. You wanted to read to him and hold him and take care of him. Now we have two more little guys and all through out fostering you have been such a tremendous help to me. And growing more helpful every day, taking more and more initiative.

Ryann you are artistic, silly, fun, happy, thoughtful and tender hearted. I love how God has wired you and look forward to all the ways he wants to use your gifts to further his kingdom.

We have made a lot of sacrifices lately as a family. Sometimes it’s hard and uncomfortable. You and Micaila are old enough to understand that following Jesus is more than just saying you believe He exists but actually surrendering all to Him, whatever He asks, whatever the cost. But when we understand what He did for us, the sacrifice seems so very small. God created us for himself and he sacrificed his Son to secure our eternity with him if we choose Him. I pray you will choose Him. That every day of your life you will fight hard to choose Jesus. The world can be captivating. Satan is constantly out to deceive us and our flesh is naturally inclined to pursue selfish desires and selfish gain. “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” Proverbs‬ ‭14:12‬ ‭NIV‬‬ Ryann, it’s always been my prayer that my children would grasp early on the depths of the gospel and passionately pursue Jesus.

We love you Ryann. Oh how I love you and can’t imagine our family with out your precious spirit. You are a gift. Happy 10th Birthday.

Thankful for bedtime

So I’m laying in my bed…. Jason had to work late, the girls are still in Florida and I got my buddy Caleb next to me watching Team Umizoomi way to late. I’m reading my new book Confessions of an Adoptive Parent by Mike Berry. I just started it and already feel so encouraged and hopeful.

I don’t know why this struck me just now, maybe it’s the book, “Confessions….” and I felt compelled to write about it but I am SO THANKFUL for bedtime. With our two little guys that is. And let me tell you why.

I love bedtime because on most days it’s the only thing I feel confident I have done right and well.

We have our routine. We get jammie’s on, we read books, we rock a little. For the most part they go to bed well and happy now, maybe a few tears from J but all in all, bedtime is an easy and happy experience. This is a huge deal. We have had bed time issues and I know a lot of children who have experienced trauma deal with on going night time issues.

Our days lately have been hard. The honeymoon is over and we are realizing just exactly what all the trauma and disruption has done to these two little guys. I remember telling Jason one of the “positives” of adopting these boys was that we “know” them. Because we had had them in our home and maintained contact with them…. I naively thought I knew what we were getting into. But I realize now you can’t know or anticipate what you will encounter with children from hard places. There are just so many layers. So much has occurred in their short lives. And it’s all compounding and here we are.

But bedtime is sweet and not just because they are going to bed. Although, that is a wonderful victory for me if I’m being honest. We made it through another day, yay us!! Bedtime is sweet because I enjoy reading to them and they love being read to. And I love reading Pete the Cat and Little Bear and Poems and Prayers. And I know that the simple fact that I get this one moment every night that affirms my soul “This is right”, is not to be taken for granted.

For all the thousand times I doubt myself during the day, I am so grateful to end most nights knowing I did at least one thing well.

Caleb turns 6!

Caleb, today you turn six. I can’t believe my baby boy is six. That adorable chubby, tractor loving boy is growing up so fast. No more baby chunk. And your love for tractors has been replaced by legos and a play station. Boohoo. Can we please bring the tractors back?! And now you are not the only boy. You are a big brother to two more boys! And I am happy to see you growing into that role. It’s truly wonderful when I see you running around chasing the little guys and I absolutely love hearing how tickled they get. I love when K requests that you come say goodnight to him and I love when you don’t want to go to bed because you want to keep playing with them. Sometimes they annoy you but I guess that’s what makes all this brotherly love genuine.

This year you completed preschool and I got to hear all.year.long. from your teachers what a sweet boy you are. In the beginning of the year I wondered how long they would be singing your praises, but sure enough your sweet compliant spirit carried through the entire year. They wanted a school full of Calebs! I have to say, you are a sweet, gentle, kind boy and I hope you become that kind of man when you grow up.

Speaking of your sweetness, one thing I want to highlight is your hugs. Every single morning the VERY first thing you do when you wake up is come straight to me and give me a great big morning hug. And you NEVER forget to tell me goodnight and give me like 6 hugs because you always need “just one more”. I love this so much.

We had a few milestones this year. You learned how to swim. You got your very first professional haircut. (Mommy now realizes she has no business cutting hair, haha!) You lost your first tooth and since then two more! You are champ at losing teeth by the way. You’re sisters hate it but you pull them out like a boss!

You still are so silly. It’s just who you are. You still make the funniest facial expressions. You’ve been talking about your birthday every day since last July and last night you asked me if I had gotten you any presents. (I haven’t) And when I said “How can I, I’m always with you?” You responded, “Well I sleep in pretty late.” Oh Caleb. You do typically have a reasonable answer to solve every problem.

Caleb you were ecstatic when mommy announced she was having a baby. And like us all you were sad when we lost the baby. But you know that baby is with Jesus. And every night you bring me my special bear that was given to me in the wake of our mourning. You understand when people are sad and you do what you know to do to offer comfort. I hope you remain sensitive like that always.

I love you buddy. Our whole family loves you so much. I pray you will always know how special and loved you are and how much I loved you being my baby boy for so long. I enjoyed you in ways I don’t think my young immature self could enjoy your sisters. I treasured my pregnancy and every day with you after because I was old enough to appreciate more of mothering. You are kind of the most “middle” child kid I know. You are between two sisters who are so close and two brothers that are so close but I pray you find how God wants to use you and your unique birth ordered experience. I pray you entrust your life to him. Your strengths and your weaknesses. That’s always my prayer for you kiddos. I love you so very much! Happy 6th Birthday, to our first “buddy”. (And now I’ll go have a good cry)

Boundaries in Adoption

Hey look at that! A Two-fer. 😉 The elephants moved from upstairs to the pool so I figured, hey I can lifeguard and blog at the same time! Night swim, woohoo! Love having a pool. 🙂

One thing I am learning in our foster to adopt journey is the importance of boundaries. There are so many dynamics you can not possibly anticipate in adoption and every situation is unique. Most of the people in our life simply will not understand what we are navigating. They will try to understand and they will BE “understanding”  (and I am SO grateful for how understanding and compassionate people have been) but that’s different from actually living it and truly getting it. And that’s okay. There are  hundreds of experiences I will never personally walk through and wont be able to understand. What I’m learning though is that this means I have to be honest, direct, and fearless about what I believe (and what I have sought the Lord in) is best for our family.

I have been trying to be very sensitive and open to the boys great grandparents. We have always said we would want them to remain in the boys lives. And they will. But I’m praying over what will be a hard conversation with great grandma because honestly, we just need some space. It’s so vital that the boys bond to us and see us as their parental figures. Since the boys moved in the great grandparents have visited every week. About a month ago the caseworker expressed concern over the frequency of their visits so early on and offered to step in but I didn’t think this would be necessary. I just like to handle my concerns and conflicts personally. I truly believe that in every relationship we should be the one to confront people not send someone else to do it for us. I know this situation is different, but I’m really wanting to maintain a good rapport with great grandma and I think the key to that is open, honest communication. Plus, I fully recognize how difficult this is for her. She cared for her great grandchildren for a year and a half, day in and day out and now they are here. To some degree I know that heart break. I know she misses them terribly. And yet, they are young, they have been through so much, and seeing her so frequently prevents them from settling in. In some ways I believe its hindering them from healing and fully attaching and moving forward with their lives. So while I’m extremely empathetic toward her, my responsibility is to them. Please pray I would have the courage to express my concerns. Pray I would do so tenderly and lovingly and that she would hear my heart and love for these boys and understand.

Another boundary area I didn’t anticipate encountering is our traveling or people traveling to us. When you have children coming from hard places, consistency and routine are VITAL. When you change the schedule or add something new, sometimes they do great and sometimes they absolutely cannot handle it. And you will know by their behavior. All kids can get thrown off but it’s just a different beast when you have children who are being adopted. My big kids, I can basically say “suck it up buttercup!” but with my little guys, I have to treat it sensitively and carefully. When we went to the beach the boys did pretty well. I did my best to maintain the schedule we keep at home. After our trip to the beach we had family come and stay with us. By the end of their stay we had a full fledge BITER. Both boys are pretty off but one is definitely exhibiting some concerning behaviors. It’s summer, the time to travel. I wanted to go to Florida and I also had plans for our family to come back again…. Basically everything is getting put on hold because we have to get back to normal and help our little guy handle his big emotions. It stinks RSVPing “No” to my sister in laws baby shower, and “No” to a friend’s daughter’s birthday, and telling my sweet family “Hey, umm, I love you but can you maybe not come?” I mean that’s hard. I don’t want to hurt anyones feelings or come off like I don’t care about their special events and milestones. But we’re only a couple months in to a huge adjustment not only for ourselves but for these boys. I keep telling myself “It’s like having a new baby. No, twins. That come with DFCS, great grandparents, and a mixed bag of bonding and behavioral issues.” And they are completely worth it all. So to those in similar adoptive situations, the boundaries you have to set may surprise you but be open, be honest, and be fearless! These kiddos are so worth it!

We are on a seriously steep learning curve here. I know we are doing this all so far from perfectly and I pray people know we mean well as we stumble through the journey. I pray these boys especially know how loved they are. The other night, J was having a hard time getting to sleep, and it was one of my finer mothering moments. I went up and rocked him for like 20 minutes and just sang every worship song I could think of, plus Never Enough from the Greatest Showman. And then I prayed over that little guy and that God would continue to be so merciful in his and his brothers life. That He would step in all our many parenting gaps and all the broken places that everyone has left in their little lives. And I prayed they would know the Lords fierce love for them. And that he would equip Jason and I to love all our kids in ways that direct their hearts to Him. I am such a mess sometimes you guys and my prayers have been desperate for God because I cannot do this without Him. Maybe you are feeling a bit like me today…. Just desperate for God to be present in your parenting. Tonight I am just praying that I would not neglect meeting with my Heavenly Father. I need my Good Shepherd to lead and guide me otherwise, I am utterly lost with out Him.

The Journey Continues

Well happy July everyone! It’s been several weeks since I’ve written here and boy is there a lot I’d like to share. Today was one of those days that I wasn’t sure I would make it through. For starters we are in the throws of potty training and all in all K is doing GREAT but on the days that he poops his pants and decides to finger paint his crib…. Oh and bonus, the power went out as I discovered the mess and I got to learn how to clean and disinfect in the dark. Yay! But I’ve got the little ones safely in bed and currently can hear my big kids above me having a blast jumping off furniture. Sounds like someone might fall through the ceiling or possibly a baby elephant. (Two story home owners feel me?) I don’t know what it is about tough days that bring me to write….. although it IS one of the healthier options to decompress. I guess I fear you will think we only ever have tough days and that’s not true at all.

In fact, we’ve had some very good days. In the middle of June we spent a glorious week at the beach. It was the boys first trip and our first trip as a new family. The boys absolutely loved the water and sand. Our extended family loved them. And it was a very needed time of bonding for us all. We had each other day in and day out and I didn’t realize how much we needed that week together. In fact I would strongly encourage families who are adopting to consider planning a vacation specifically for a special time of bonding. I wish I could share pictures but since they are not legally ours yet I still am not allowed to do that. I also am out of storage on my blog here. :bummer:

I wish we were still at the beach. But alas, we are home and reality is in full swing. Upon returning I was made aware that our boys biological mother requested visitation. Since DFCS has yet to terminate parental rights, (they have filed three times and keep messing up paperwork) she can not be denied this privilege. We went a few weeks with no action and then I received a phone call from a transporter who would pick the boys up and supervise the visits. My heart sank. It feels so wrong and unfair. All because of “policies” the system allows these children to be yanked around and thrown into confusing situations that will only deepen their trauma. While I’m trying to build and strengthen the boys trust in me as their mother, caregiver and protector now I’m having to put them in a car with a stranger, to go have play time with another stranger, who will claim to be their “mommy”. I don’t mean to come off harsh but I struggle to call her their mother when she hasn’t been a mother to them for two years. Their great grandmother was their “mother” for the last year and a half. (which is another story) This is all just hard and I’m human and oh so fallible. I did the best I could to explain to K that he was having a visit with someone he may remember and that a helper would come to take him and brother. I told him they would play with toys and then the helper would bring them home. And then I cried in private and called out to my Helper. I know God is sovereign in all this and it’s another opportunity for us to rely on and trust in Him. Thankfully, the boys did well and it sounds like the visit went something like when they get dropped off at the church nursery. They played and were pleasant and excited to come home to me, mommy. Please pray that the TPR hearing would be expedited quickly. These children need normalcy and stability and consistency. And as long as we are waiting for rights to be terminated all of that is very difficult to have.

I have so much more to write about. I am learning SO MUCH in this foster to adopt journey. Like boundaries you must set, conversations you can’t avoid, things you just have to say no to, and so much more. I also have some fun stuff to write about like how we acquired a puppy, a pig, and two bunnies in one month. And tomorrow is Calebs 6th Birthday! I hope I can get a birthday letter in for that boy. Heck I hope I can get his birthday in period! This momma is off her game lol. Lesson number 465 in the adoption journey…… Grace. Grace. Give yourself lots of grace.