Cracked

Let’s say you’re building a home. You’ve done all your due diligence. You have the perfect lot. Soil test is done. You have beautiful house plans drawn up by a reputable architect. You’ve got your general contractor who has all the right people in place. Green light to go. You start with your foundation. Seems to be a perfect pour, situated just right on your property. You are so excited as you envision this home you’ve dreamt about for years. People are excited for you. Finally the time feels right and here you stand before this massive slab of concrete on this gorgeous piece of land.

But then you notice a crack. How could this be? This was carefully thought out, carefully poured. But it’s your foundation. It’s what this house will be built on. You can’t ignore this crack. You can’t proceed with building and hope that one day the crack will resolve on its own. That’s not how it works. If the crack is there now, the crack will only get larger with more materials, weight and pressure. Maybe you won’t see it, maybe others won’t see it as you mask it with dry wall and flooring but it’s there. And it’s a hazard. It’s a danger to your whole house.

Let’s just say we have a crack in our foundation right now. The foundation this adoption hinges on. The deeper we go on this foster/adoption journey the more I get why people further along than us (and MUCH wiser) say how full of pain it is. It’s just not going to be tied up with a neat little bow. Trauma sucks. It’s ugly. It seems so unfair. I hate it for these boys, I hate it for our family and I hate that I can’t rescue them with love and hugs and kisses. It’s just not that simple. I wish it was.

I feel crushed under the weight of raising five kids, two with tremendous emotional needs, a husband who works quite a lot, and very limited support. I have been crushed under the weight of this RAD diagnoses. I’m running ragged carting everyone to all manner of appointments to accommodate the needs of these little guys, all the while being hit and screamed at by them. I feel frustrated and slightly abused and I am so consumed by how to help them. So consumed that I fear it’s cracking my foundation; my marriage, my three older children, myself.

As it stands we have to put a hold on moving forward with this adoption so we can re-evaluate what’s in the best interest of everyone. The boys are still with us. We’re getting more services in place to help them. But I don’t know what the future holds. I have cried a lot. I don’t want to contribute to their trauma by them moving. But I also don’t think it would be fair to them to move forward with building their lives on a cracked foundation. They need strong. They need stable. Maybe things will get better. Maybe we will strengthen and unite and move forward. Or maybe changes in plans will occur. I just don’t know but I’m asking you to please pray.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever- help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come and see what the LORD has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

Psalm 46:1-11 NIV

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My 6 year olds “why?”

“Why did we even adopt the boys?”

This was the question my six year old son asked me yesterday. We were driving home from school and J was clawing at him, trying to pull his hair and blowing some really impressive raspberries that Caleb did not appreciate. This is totally normal. Car rides are the worst and particularly for Caleb if he is sitting in between the boys.

I was slightly caught off guard by his question. I say slightly because he and I have had conversations before regarding the boys behavior toward him. One evening after a few stories, I was laying next to Caleb before bedtime and he asked me why they were “so mean to him”. I know this is hard for Caleb. He’s been the youngest for a long time and had two very sweet, accommodating and patient sisters. On one hand I recognize this IS difficult for Caleb. He’s only six. At the same time I see tremendous opportunity for growth in his character. Of course it’s hard for him, he’s never been challenged in this way. He’s never had to love the hard to love. I reflect on when Jesus instructs his disciples, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.” Luke‬ ‭6:32‬ ‭NIV‬‬ Caleb is not the only one who is getting exposed here, our whole family is. Because trust me, I struggle to parent children that are unkind to my other children. I’ve never dealt with that, and it’s tough. In those moments I forget their past and their trauma when they are being so mean spirited to Caleb. Or me.

After a few moments of silence Caleb began answering his own question. “Is it so they can learn to not be mean and to stop saying no all the time to you, mommy?” Six year old minds. 🙂 I responded, “Caleb, the boys have been hurt. Hurt by their mommy and daddy, hurt by all their moving around. They act the way they do because they are hurt. And Jesus calls us to love them even when they are unkind to us. And yes, I do hope they will learn to be nice and obedient from living with us and seeing how much we love them. I hope they learn how to love because we loved them when it was hard.” That seemed like a good enough answer for Caleb. How do you translate the gospel in six year old terms?!

When we got home I suggested he play with J for thirty minutes before doing anything else. Because it was just the two of them this was doable. There are definitely some strong bonds that make it hard when the three of them are together. Caleb is the outsider to them. But when he can get one on one I get little glimmers of hope. Hope that he can love them. Hope that they can bond. Hope that one day all three of them will be a band of brothers.

I will not give up hope.

C and K working on Christmas lists.

My Hedge Hogs

Upon hearing that our three year old suffers from Reactive Attachment Disorder (a lot of children in foster and adoptive situations experience to some degree attachment issues) I have been on what feels like a Psychology crash course. Maybe you’ve never heard of RAD, maybe you are unfamiliar with attachment disorders. I can not even begin to express the tremendous weight and importance that I now realize proper, healthy attachment holds. The things I naturally and unknowingly was giving to my biological children that make them into the happy whole kiddos they are today. Simple things that I did a hundred times a day and each time forming not only a bond and relationship but the foundations of trust and security. When I nurtured my kids in my womb, giving them proper prenatal care, giving them a safe, peaceful environment to develop in, it all played a critical role in their understanding of felt safety.

These two little guys didn’t receive this. Their life in the womb was considerably neglected. Their first years in this world were harsh to say the least. Every time their needs were ignored their brain was rewiring itself into a state of survival and their emotional stability was being disturbed. Young children have no other option but to trust and rely on their caregivers to meet their needs and when that is disrupted it’s extremely detrimental. The first three years of life in particular are so formative, so critical.

Every time we hold our babies, give them food, change their diapers. Every time we get them out of bed in the morning when they wake. Every time we smile and coo with them. Every book we read. The times we swing them or dance with them in our arms. The times we give them structure and discipline that they can depend on. Every time we make eye contact. Every brief touch or long hug. I knew all this mattered, but I didn’t realize how much until now. Now that I’ve seen the effects of its absence.

And I’m a scared mom wondering if they can recover.

It’s not a simple fix by any means. It’s not a matter of giving them those touches and meeting those needs and wants. Because the effects have caused them to distrust and act in ways in an effort to keep a safe distance. What happened in those first few years legitimately effected the way their brain works. They have to ensure their survival and self preservation. They have to be in control. Of everything. Adults have neglected them, left them, failed them. They don’t realize they are safe and loved here and can trust us. They don’t even have the communication and developmental skills to process all they’ve been through. But they KNOW.

This is hard for them.

This is hard for us.

Its hard to give and love and nurture and be met with opposition and screaming and fits of rage. To be hit or spit on and told “Don’t touch me!” I wonder how so much anger can come out of such little bodies? And even in what I’m learning and understanding about attachment I still fail in my responses. I become impatient, frustrated, and defeated. I wonder if I have what it takes? Do we have what they need? And what exactly DO they need? My former naive self thought “love is all they need”. Love and affection and a safe home. To an extent that is true but I’m learning what they need is so much more complex. And it’s been exhausting trying to parent.

Enter the Holy Spirit whispering His Word.

“My grace is sufficient for you……” 2 Corinthians 12:9

And encouraging words from another author/blogger, Abigail Dodds, “Elisabeth [Elliot] was right, “God has promised to supply all our needs. What we don’t have now, we don’t need now.” And what we do need now, we do have now: God the Father’s loving, sovereign hand working all things for our good (Romans 8:28); Christ the Son as our advocate, Savior, and righteousness (1 John 2:1; Philippians 3:20; 1 Corinthians 1:30); and the Holy Spirit’s intercession, help, and comfort surrounding us day by day (Romans 8:26–27).”

This is for me.

This is for our boys.

This is for our family.

I bought J a “taggy” hedge hog. Well actually my mother in law purchased it but we were checking out at Belk and I could not resist this adorable stuffed hedge hog and J has a thing for tags. In some of my researching I recall an author (likely from the book Parenting the Hurt Child) comparing hurt children to hedge hogs. I’ll allow this little snip from an article to explain:

“When a hedgehog is calm, their quills are in a relaxed position. It is at this time that a hedgehog can be held without worrying about the sharp quills……

A scared or angry hedgehog is another story though since the quills are raised and tend to point in all directions. Trying to handle a hedgehog in this defensive posture is sure to be a prickly experience…..” (Taken from article at The Spruce Pets)

And thus, we have two little scared hedge hogs that we want to promote a sense of calm and trust and safety deep within them.

Please pray we would be directed to the right material, services, and professionals that can inform, equip, and assist us in helping these boys continue the healing process.

What’s your part?

“For the body does not consist of one member but of many……..

On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”

‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭12:14, 22-26‬ ‭ESV‬‬

We studied this passage in Sunday school this morning. It’s a pretty familiar one but it struck me like I was reading it for the first time. Maybe it was Jake’s carburetor analogy. He was showing us this little teeny tiny piece, an air screw, that allowed the carburetor to even work. Not only did you have to have the piece but it had to be set just right or the carburetor would not work. Paper weight.

I loved it.

Its got me thinking though. We live in a VERY individualistic society. A society that kind of says if you can’t do it yourself you probably shouldn’t do it. The biblical model of relying on others to accomplish things flies in the face of a “you can only rely on yourself” kind of world. And the thing that really stood out to me in this passage is, “the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable” And in the NIV translation it goes on to say, “while our presentable parts need no special treatment.” Basically I take that to mean the parts that stand out, the ones we see in the forefront and spotlight, maybe even the people that we view as the “super Christians”, they need no special treatment and they can not do what they do with out the “less honorable” parts upholding them. And actually, those “less honorable parts” really deserve the highest honor because their role is SO important. They are indispensable.

Jason and I answered the call to care for orphans and vulnerable children through foster care. Many people think we are special angels and they could never do what we do. I don’t want it to sound like I don’t appreciate the encouragement but we are not special. We are totally normal. And I wish people would quit thinking we are special because I’m starting to wonder if they even understand how much help we need. How we can’t do this alone. And currently we are desperately trying! Often I have thought to myself, “Lord, I KNOW you have called us to these children. But why have you called a family that has such limited local support??”

I think I know why.

I think he intends to use us to invite others along on our journey. To invite other parts of the body of Christ.

Some may look at us and think “Wow! Look at what they are doing. What an amazing role they are playing in the body of Christ.” But honestly, sometimes….. we feel like we’re missing our air screw.

Maybe you couldn’t do what we do. Maybe that is because God meant for you to play a different part. A more INDISPENSABLE part. Maybe you’re an air screw. 🙂

Please take a moment to watch this short video. And if you are interested in pursuing the call to care for orphans in some capacity I welcome questions and would love to direct you as best I can.

https://www.faithbridgefostercare.org/churches/what-is-a-foster-care-ministry/

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.

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.