Hot and Cold

Funny how when things feel easy and like they are going smoothly, I feel less inclined to write. Then when the “ish” hits the fan…I mean, why not blog about the fiery crash on your way down? Might as well…

πŸ™‚

The past 3 week since my last post have been pretty much awesome. If we had a “honeymoon” period, I would say the last 3 weeks was pretty telling. It’s been filled with daily trips to the local outdoor pool, complete with risk-taking, take-the-bull-by-the-horns-kid diving off the diving board, touching the 11ft. bottom of the pool, learning to tread water, and doing cartwheels off the edge of the pool. We had several huge “wins” attitude-wise, with Wesley doing an amazing job regulating himself when he got to a difficult moment. We learned some great tactics by trial and error that have allowed him to process his feelings in a way that works for him, but at the same time, still come back around to restoring the peace and restoring relationship (in an abbreviated way). We’ve had near-daily evening bike rides to the park for family games of tag and lava monster on the playground, and Wes experienced his first kids’ birthday party at a friend’s house.

So, basically three weeks of constant stimulation – and in the adoption/kids from hard places vernacular that spells D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R.

Although, I’m totally over-stating the actual disastrous end – because in comparison to the first couple weeks home, it has so far been completely mild. I think, though, that I was just beginning to get a little prideful in thinking, “Wow – I think we maybe have made it through the worst! Wouldn’t that be awesome if this was it, and he’s just great from here on out, and he just ‘gets it’ and it just is normal life for the rest of this transition and growing period?” Ha. Ha. Ha. Funny joke.

BUT – before I get into all that – there’s been a handful of really cool, beautiful revelations – which absolutely deserve to be noted!

Talking – Wes has started opening up a little more at random times, answering questions about his past or elaborating on experiences, or even talking about his early-years with his birth family (this comes in bits and pieces and the story changes a bit each time – he was only three at the time, so the reality is that he probably is building memories on fleeting images from that short period). He is also beginning to use his words more to express his frustrations and talk about why he’s “grumpy” or what he wants/doesn’t want. This can get tiring, as I hear about 47 times a day, “I don’t want to do that,” or “I’m not gonna do that/go there,” or my personal favorite, “I’m not gonna eat that.” SIGH. I think the hardest part of parenting a child from trauma is that I can’t just deal with these statements/attitudes the same way I would with my last 3 bio kids who don’t struggle with control or manipulation, who understand that they are safe and will be taken care of no matter what…Wes is still learning all of that.

(Mom’s revelation) – His “happy place” is outside. Period. This past week we had the blessed opportunity to go stay 4 days at a working cattle ranch on Puget Island (across from Cathlamet, not to be confused with Puget Sound). It was absolutely incredible – some intense moments out in the middle of a field of mooing, disgruntled cattle, on horseback, looking around and feeling that my heart was so at ease and peaceful that I just might melt into the serenity of the hay fields and never want to return to real life! My second, more sane thought process was, “if I moved my family out to this peaceful surrounding, would it just ruin it, or would we all actually thrive here?” πŸ˜‰ Anyway – we went on this trip with another family, some long-time friends of ours who also had kids near our kids’ ages which meant built-in playmates and some great memory-making time! We had borrowed another good friend’s boat and inner tube tow package and spent the afternoons on the Columbia river, towing kids in the tube, and feeling the wind on our faces. Wes displayed yet another example of completely fearlessness when it comes to trying new activities – he flew down the river in the tube with his friends and siblings, huge grin plastered to his face, and even jumped in the river to swim when given the chance!

But back to the revelation – as I sat in the back of the boat, bombing down the river, watching Wes having the time of his life in the tube, thought came to me suddenly: “this is his happy place” – being outside, experiencing everything that the outdoors has to offer – the water, the sun, the sand, the sky – he loves it all. When he’s having a tough attitude moment, he just wants to get outside. He does his best regulating outside, he’s happier outside. I looked out across the river and took in the expanse of the sky unfolding over the trees as they rose up from the river banks. Beyond the trees, there were hills and more trees as far as the eye could see. I realized that his happy place was outside because that was most likely where he felt FREE – where he could be unencumbered, unfettered, un-held (I know that’s not a word – but the feeling for him is important and I don’t know how else to say it!). As I saw it in that moment, he loves to be outside because he spent the last 4 years of his life penned in. The walls and fences of the orphanage compound and building itself was all he’d known for the last 4 years outside of walking the well-worn path to school, and the Sunday morning trip to church. He didn’t get to walk down the street and take in the smells and sights. He didn’t get to look up at the sky without seeing walls lined with broken glass and barbed wire in his peripheral vision. The school is barricaded in with a huge metal door and tall walls, once you’re in, you’re stuck until they release you home.

Outside is FREEDOM for him. His happy place – where he can just BE. I began to think beyond that – and tried to ask myself, “where is my happy place? Where do I really feel freedom and that unencumbered release?” and then, even more – how do I build into that for my son? How do I build into that for my husband and kids, my friends and family? When I recognize someone’s picture of freedom, how do I play into that as much as I can and encourage and widen that scope of freedom for them?

I didn’t really come up with answers, but they were good questions! πŸ˜‰

Cutest Turnaround/Regulation WIN – While we were on our trip, Wes did an overall fantastic job dealing with the unstructured days, the constant activities and late nights. However, the last day there they pretty much caught up with him. After a minor correction for an obnoxious behavior early on in the day, he decided that he was going to pretty much pretend I didn’t exist for the next few hours. One of the other “hardest things” to deal with for me is the Hot/Cold nature of Wesley. I’m pretty sure it’s just the fight for control, the experimenting with manipulation and others’ feelings, and just figuring out how to deal with frustration and negative feelings toward others. But for him, he will be happy and engaged one minute and then turn on a dime and not want to accept any affection, give me the cold shoulder, etc. I try not to let it bug me but as a mother, that is REALLY difficult. I want so badly to love and BE LOVED in return, and the moments that he lets me give physical affection these days are few and far between.

Anyway – this day he was keeping me at arms length like inspector gadget would with his go-go-gadget extending arms. Grumpy looks, grumpy attitude, dismissive body language, etc. Kris left on the boat to take the big kids tubing, which left me and my good friend with Wes and the other three younger kids. Due to Wes’ sadness about being left behind on a boat trip, he decided to go “take a walk” outside to process and get away from me and everyone else. I asked him if he wanted to go to the dock (across the road from the ranch) to watch the boat leave and he nodded, so I trailed him down to the dock. We then spent the next 30 minutes, him staring off thinking who knows what out at the water, and me sitting quietly observing, mostly leaving him alone, sometimes talking quietly about random things like “wow, look at these spiderwebs! Do you know that bugs fly into the webs and get caught because the webs are sticky and then the spider comes and rolls the bug into a ball and eats him?” and interjected a couple strategically placed, “sometimes I’m sad when it’s time to go home from a trip”…but mostly just waited it out. After about 35 minutes I sat down on the top of a low table and stretched out my legs in the sun. I sat quietly staring off at the water simply praying for his attitude, the day, and a change. A few minutes later he slowly got down from the chair he was perched in, crawled up beside me and leaned his body into me. I slowly leaned my head to rest on the top of his head and we watched the water together. We sat there staring at the water and the birds flying over head for about 10 minutes before he pointed out another spider web and the unfortunate bug stuck in it. During those 10 minutes he let me rub his back, hug him, kiss his forehead and tell him I loved him. He let me pick him up, and clung to me as we looked at the 40 bazillion webs strung out along the dock railings, chatting softly and enjoying each other’s company. This was just one example of a beautiful turnaround from a rough attitude!

Today, however, was what the writing on the wall the past few days predicted. πŸ˜‰ It wasn’t awful, but after 4 weeks of peace and fun times, it was certainly not peace and fun times. It all began with a simple direction to put something away that he just flat out refused to do, “I’m not going to do that.” Oh. sorry bud, but, yes. You are. It’s really hard to come across a behavior that you think in the moment, “Unfortunately, this is the battle I’m picking today, and it is likely to be a bloody one.” I hate those moments, but we are coming to the place where we have let things go with little to no discipline or correction for too long, and we have to reign it in. For the first several weeks, we try to build relationship and trust, being much more lenient with behaviors because he’s still learning how to function in a normal, loving family situation. But, at this point in time, we are seeing the immediate need to correct the behaviors, which means we are probably in for some hefty tantrums…ugh.

Anyway – today’s fit was short, but the mental battle of wits and minds was definitely longer. Eventually, though, he slowly moved toward the item he was supposed to put away, and put it where it was supposed to go. We made a huge, loud and obnoxious deal about him making a great decision and being proud of him for putting it away, and that was that. But, unfortunately the funk carried with him the rest of the day. I’m praying hard that sleep will reset him – but time will tell.

A huge prayer request as I sign off for the night – school starts in 2 weeks, and he has been adamant that he “doesn’t want to go” – which gives me crazy anxiety. He will be going to the same school as the other kids, a local, private school, and it will be a safe, flexible space for him. However, I am taking a part-time teaching job at the school this fall as well, so I won’t be able to have the constant 100% flexibility to drop everything and come help if he needs help durin the day. I’ve got anxiety about his wilingness to go to school, his ability to make friends, and his behavior while he’s there.

Could you add this to your prayer list if you’ve got one? I would love prayer for his heart, and his attitude, that he would embrace school as a fun opportunity, instead of a chore, and that he would just love it and have very few issues there during the days. I would love prayer that my anxiety would cease and that I would just have a peace about the position and my availability for him during the days.

Thank you for prayers, for following our story, and the encouragement along the way. If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to ask!

Blessings to you all as you move into fall, and the school season for all you parents! πŸ™‚

Laura

I am still just a child!

Over the course of the last school year, I joined a wonderful group of women in moving through three different Beth Moore Bible studies. These women spanned the breadth of most of a lifetime, a few late high-school, all the way up to late 80’s and 90’s. There were single women, young moms, old moms, grandmothers, and beyond – basically nearly every step of life was covered, and almost any experience and life situation had been lived by someone in that room. Each week, these women rallied together to lean on each other, laugh, share stories, and encouragement, but most of all – to chase after Jesus together. I would sit at my table of women that gathered together each Tuesday morning, and thank God for the accountability, for the vulnerability, for the challenge of seeking constantly, not just on Tuesday mornings, or Sunday mornings, or whenever someone asked me to lead worship for their gathering – or when i’m so desperate for relief that I can’t see straight. Don’t get me wrong, all those times are great to chase after a much needed Savior – but I want my life to be more consistent than that, and even more importantly – God deserves more than that from me.

Back to my story – it does have a point: One morning, on a random Tuesday, my good friend who was facilitating the study decided to open up the morning’s session with a few birthday wishes. She called upon two lovely elderly ladies who had just celebrated some very ancient birthdays (to my 36-year-old standards), I can’t honestly remember how young they had turned, but it was up in the late 80’s or early 90’s – enough to cause me to tear up for what came next. While the room of 50+ women sang happy birthday to these silver-haired beauties, one woman took just a minute longer than the other to take her seat. My friend chose that moment to recognize the fact that this woman had been attending this Tuesday morning Bible study for every year that it had been happening. She simply said what an honor it was to have her there. I don’t think for a moment that I will ever forget what this beautiful, creaking soul spoke next. She paused, and looked around the room slowly, with a soft smile and glistening eyes (as tears are literally rolling down my face as I write this), and said, “I am still just a child!” – ACH. This woman went on to say that she followed Jesus daily and went to Bible study faithfully because she knew that there was always something to be learned from the Bible, and from her Lord. That if we are receptive and open, there is always something more to be taught – another way to grow, and another way to mature under the wings of His mercy, grace and incomprehensible love.

From that day on, my commitment has been to never allow myself to be stuck – to constantly seek after knowledge, to chase after growth and maturity, to never be satisfied with being “the same”. This morning, the pastor at church said something I’ve heard multiple times before and finished the sentence in a whisper as he spoke it:

“It’s okay to not be okay…

But it’s not okay to stay there.”

For me, having days where I’m just not “okay” – is great, it’s normal, it’s healthy – sometimes just admitting to myself that I’m really not okay right now is SO FREEING. However that freedom will quickly darken into bondage if I allow myself to stay in that head/heart space. I have to also give my spirit the freedom to gut-check my soul and say, “get yourself off the ground. NOW. If you feel the need to stay on the ground, then may it be flat on your face before Jesus or on your knees but you will NOT be living in the fetal position wallowing in your not-okay-ness.”

“I am still just a child!” – That absolutely wrecks me every time. To hear those words coming out of an 88+ year old woman with life creasing her face in a way mine can’t even dream of just wrings my heart out like a dripping washcloth. After everything she’s seen, after each study she’s been through over the same scripture passage, after each friend she has seen pass on to glory, every new life she’s witnessed come wriggling into this world, after every heartache and every joy, every minute of those umpteen years on this earth – she still looks in the mirror each day and says, “Lord, here I am – just a child before you – teach me, mold me, make me – until the day you call me home!”

Challenge 1: Be teachable – there is always, always something more that you can learn – no matter what the subject/task.

Challenge 2: Find an aged soul like this amazing woman and plaster yourself to their side – they are wise, they are beautiful, and they are irreplaceable. Learn from them, listen to them, let them know how important their life and experiences are to the generations like you coming after them.

Challenge 3: Read on for some disassociated intel on post-adoption life! πŸ˜‰

Last Saturday Wesley was invited to play a 3-on-3 tournament with a little group of 6 and 7 year old boys – he was absolutely giddy about playing soccer outside and when we finally drove up to the tourney – he took a look at the 20+ games happening simultaneously in the large sports complex, and the hundreds of people milling around and promptly announced, “I no play soccer today. This no my soccer now.”

Ha. Nice try.

Once we explained that his game was only 3 kids playing at a time, and this park had lots of games on it, he was wary, but semi-agreeable – and as we made our way across the park to his field, he caught sight of one of the boys on his “team” and said “oh, here it is!” and promptly went to stand by the 6-year old he knew. πŸ™‚ (cute “awwwww” moment). We figured he’d maybe make it through 1 20-minute game…he played all three of his games and played pick-up for a 4th game! haha! By the time the last game was over, he was spent as it was hot – but a happy camper! All his siblings had come to watch him play, as well as his Uncle Reid – so he had been able to show off his skills and have a cheer squad as well!


This past week has given us a few beautiful heart moments – and one of the most important for us to see has been the unfurling of his heart in a new manifestation. Earlier this week, we had some running around to do, then Abby, Wesley and I picked up Logan from her basketball practice. Logan was ready to head home, sweaty and spent from a hard court workout, so after chatting with some good friends and their new puppy (adorably named HARLOW…awwwwww) we hopped in the car to head home. From the minute we got in the car we knew something was off, because there was a body missing – Wes was still sitting on the curb alone, while the rest of us were in the car, and then he turned around and walked back inside the building. As I was scrambling mentally to think through “WHAT IN THE WORLD?! WHAT TRIGGER DID I MISS? IS IT LUNCHTIME ALREADY?” and the quickly following “noooooooooooooooooo…..” that whined a resounding wail in my head as my brain played through the wonderful tantrum that was apparently imminent given this behavior… – he slowly walked back out on his own and stepped up into the car and into his seat. (this in itself was an alteration – because I didn’t go chase him down to coerce him into obedience)

My tactic from this point was simple – pretend there’s no issue, and treat everyone like normal, well-adjusting children on a happy joyride home from a super fun sports activity! I think you can probably hear my fakey-high-pitched voice, laced with faux-laughter, tittering at the silliest of jokes that aren’t really silly, a telltale sign that I am internally STRESSED OUT, and that basically my spleen is walking a tightrope between my esophagus and my mucous membrane because I know full well that at any moment I may be launched into a parenting situation that I don’t feel prepared to deal with. Laughing at me yet? (no? oh, WITH me. Got it. – yeah it’s funny when it’s not YOU.)

Well, we made a timely trip to the gas station, because prior to this display of pre-traumatic-meltdown behavior Wes had reminded me that we needed gas in the car, and that he wanted to help pump the gas. My last ditch effort to distract him from his Forest GRUMP attitude. Unfortunately, it didn’t go as planned because when we pulled up, he immediately told me in a commanding voice, “I no do gas today. I no help you. I stay here in da car.”

SIGH. “Float me away up to glory, send Kris home, drop an ice cream truck or a monstrous Lego batman-mobile in front of my car so that he is jolted out of this funk, because I really really REALLY don’t think I can handle this today, Lord. In fact, heaven would be nice. Now would be the time for Jesus to take advantage of His second coming…cute white angelic horses with golden clouds…”

Yeah. Abby helped me pump the gas.

BUT – after my pointless pleading with the Lord for asinine twisted “blessings”, I took a deep breath and opened his car door and leaned in for a quick heart-to-heart. I said, “it looks like someone made you grumpy today. I’m sorry you’re grumpy, honey. Do you want to tell me about it?” {shaking head, no} “That’s okay. When you’re ready to tell me, I would love to listen! So if you want to tell me later, you can, okay?” I left it at that, and removed myself and went to close the door and then I heard some soft mumble-jumble of lips and breath sweetly speaking. I paused, slowly leaned back in and said, “Can you say it again, because I couldn’t hear you…” and he said, “I’m grumpy with Abby!”

I just about died, and then, after realizing I was not actually passed out yet, said, “You are???!! Thank you for telling me! You’re grumpy with Abby, what happened? How did Abby make you grumpy?”

This is where I almost died even more (if that is even possible).

“Because Abby tell Logan she STINKY.”

It was literally all I could do to hold in my laughter and my dark anxiety was blasted to absolute bits as a bright light poured onto the scene! πŸ™‚ I immediately recalled that after coming outside from basketball, Abby had turned to Logan and said, “EWWW Logan, you stink! You need a shower!”

OH. MY. GOSH. This kid had just displayed the first instance of compassion that we had seen in 8 weeks of being home – I literally was trying not to bawl and laugh and dance around with a gas pump in my hand!

After recovering, I said, “wow. Do you think that made Logan sad when Abby said she was stinky?” (cue a direct prompting glare to Logan in the front seat to nod her head vigorously) to which he responded, “yes.” I told him that wasn’t very nice of Abby to say that, and she probably should tell Logan she was sorry for not being nice.  Then I had a quick top-secret meeting over the gas line with Abby about making a very vocal apology to Logan in front of Wes for saying that she was stinky… LOL! From there, it took about an hour or so for him to warm back up to Abby, and for his compassionate grudge to wear off – but this showed us directly that he is learning, and growing and realizing that people get feelings hurt and mean things make people sad – especially people he loves.

We got to see it in action again this morning in a very sweet way – Abby has had a super wiggly tooth dangling for about a week, and even though Wes has offered multiple times to pull it out for her (he’s a tooth-pulling master), she declined his generous offer. This morning, in near-tears, she begged Daddy to pull it out for her, but was too scared to actually open her mouth for the extraction. Wes took about a split second pause and said, “here Abby,” and crawled over me to sit next to her, “You can hold my hand. Squeeze my hand!” and laced his fingers through hers, plastering himself next to her side. Kris and I choked out a few tears silently and then I gave Abby the stare of absolute death {in love – it is possible, I promise}, and whispered, “you’d better take full advantage of this one! You don’t want to leave him hanging!!” to which she said “I KNOW!!!!” and then opened her mouth with the dangler in full-reach.

He grinned when the tooth popped out, and accepted her hug of thanks – and went on his way. But that boy’s heart grew a size today – for sure. πŸ™‚ We see little changes every day – and it continues to be a beautiful ride, an exhausting ride, and an enlightening and educational ride!

Another adoptive Haiti family came by for a quick visit today with their 4-year old son who has been home 11 months – it was so good to see another family in the FLESH that has been through it and is so far ahead of where we are – to observe parenting tactics and discipline measures that look very familiar to what we are using, to hear the same words and phrases used in dealing with resistant behavior, and most of all, to talk with someone who has been there, done that – and is not “OVER IT.” – but is still living and learning through it. It is amazing how someone I’ve only met once, but chatted with over email a handful of times can feel like a longtime friend simply due to walking a similar journey. Our conversations are open-ended, always asking questions – always learning, which was the inspiration for the opening story in today’s post.

I’m still just a child – in every way – and I will strive to be until the day the Lord calls me home. I will commit to learning, growing, taking hold of any and every opportunity to mature and change by soaking up wisdom and knowledge from others around me who have gone before – from those who have walked where Jesus walked, who have stood before the Lord, asked for GRACE, and received it, from those who may be older but who still would like to exchange knowledge for knowledge, and attempt to learn from me as well – although I’m tempted to make them sign a waiver saying they may come out with the shorter end of the stick.

We are all still just children – and the day that I decide I’m not is the day I’ll begin to be stuck, and I’ll grow old and rotten and cantankerous and just tell people, “deal with it – this is just who I am.” – I don’t want to be that person – ever. I want to be who Jesus wants me to be – and while my God may be an unchanging God – I am a child whose desire is to be constantly changing – by an unchanging Hand.

Blessings,

Laura

Wes helping Mommy make lasagna

Wes and Abby at the fountain at the park

First trip into our woods to hack some trails! He wanted to know if there were bears or lions in there. No on both counts. 

Playing with Daddy at the park

REST. 

 

Ice cream outing!

 

 

Little Beef

“Mommy, do my smell like beef?” says a pair of breathy mauve lips and toothless grin 3 inches from my nostrils. Little tendrils of teriyaki beef jerky trails from the few chompers he still has rooted in his smile. “Hmmm…Yep. You smell a LOT like beef,” I reply with a smile. “In fact, I think I’ll call you Little Beef from now on, that’s perfect!” My Little Beef throws his head back, and laughs a full, smokey belly-laugh, and then mashes his forehead into mine and stares into my eyeballs with a grin.

This is how our day has gone (with about a 35-minute battle between Mommy and a certain Mr. Grumpy-pants who decided to grace us with his presence just before lunch). After he fell asleep this evening, I slowly crept off his bed, and knelt down at the edge, folded my hands and prayed over his deep-breathing lump of exhaustion, huddled under the blanket. I thanked God for a day full of snuggles, kisses, kindness and “listening to Mommy”, of sweet playtime, brave deep-end jumping and swimming at the pool, silly laughter and huge pools of innocent sweetness brimming in his eyes. I think I held him more today than any day thus far, either because he let me pick him up, or because he asked to be carried. I watched him go from refusing to attend his soccer team practice (he was invited to play a 3-on-3 tournament on Saturday), to agreeing to play (even without his soccer jersey and soccer shorts – an amazing feat!) Β and having a wonderful time while his family watched. I coached and coaxed him through his grumpy, bumpy lunch time, and helped him come out the other side without a tantrum, without completely shutting down, and able to recover into a happy, fully-functioning seven-year-old enjoying an afternoon of activities. Daddy was able to come home to a smiling youngest son, without tense overtones, and we had a completely freeing evening together as a family.

Our weekend at the beach was a weekend of fantastic bonding with siblings – some play-time learning and building of endurance for single activities. The most impressive was Wesley’s interest and patience and dedication to FISHING. πŸ˜‰ We went to Lincoln City and fished off the dock at Regatta park – every. Single. Day. Sometimes twice in one day. The last time we went out – Wes fished for 3 hours straight, with no breaks and no bites. I’m really not sure how he even mustered up the determination, but the only fit we had while we were there was because we had to leave the dock! We ended up having a lite-version of a fit back at the house, and it was resolved quickly and without much fight. A few tears, but early-on breaking point and lots of hugs.

Besides fishing, Wes was able to get an experience playing inventive make-believe stories with us while we played with a Playmobil zoo/vet playset and a Lego fishing boat that Braeden had bought for him – It was very interesting to watch him go through the process of trying to figure out why we were saying silly things for animals, or prancing them around the room, but it only took about 20 minutes for him to catch on and start engaging in the creating of the story. Pretty soon, his baby panda was hungry and drinking a bottle of milk, and the doctor was giving the giraffe a walk around the carpet. Later on, he even hopped into a full bathtub in swim shorts with Braeden and played with the lego fishing boat for a good 45 minutes! It was incredible to see him explore new avenues of play. Our favorite thing to see, however, was his immense love for the beach, the sand, the water, and making sand men and sand “houses”! It was so fun to watch him play! He dug holes, built sand castles, and buried himself in sand for hours upon hours. I’m really not sure what will happen when he figures out that this was probably the only sunny weekend he will ever see on the Oregon Coast! LOL I honestly can’t remember the last time we went to the beach in the warm sunshine! It is usually raining and windy and freezing cold…Well, I’m thankful he got to enjoy a “real” beachy experience for a first time memory!

One thing I learned over the weekend (which I think is very important for adoptive parents dealing with kids from hard places, or any parent dealing with a child prone to breakdowns/meltdowns) is to watch my son carefully and always be aware of his demeanor/feelings/expressions/manifestations of what might be going on inside his head/heart. I learned that when I see some bits and pieces of behavior that make my gut say “It’s probably about time to pack up and go…” – that I shouldn’t second guess it. Because yes, he may seem okay for the next 90 minutes after that, but if I would have just packed up and left the dock when I had that impression, we could have avoided the meltdown later on. Or times when I think, “Hmmm…he seems like he’s checking out a bit” – he most likely is – or is beginning to – and if I can catch it early on and give him a hearty, healthy snack with some fruit sugars and carbs, or just simply change the activity to keep his engagement fresh – it changes his attitude entirely. I just need to listen to my first instinct – it’s usually right! πŸ˜‰ And many times, that point in time won’t be an opportune time to make my exit, but it sure beats the alternative dealing with an attitude battle later on.

Changing gears – I had an interesting interaction with a nice older grandmother at the pool today – she was observing my interactions with Wes in the pool and asked if he was my son. I said, “yes! He is my son,” to which she responded, “Okay I have to ask – have you seen the show ‘This is Us’ on TV?” I happen to LOVE that show. Kris and I watch it (when we have time to watch TV alone…which means we are severely behind and I was praying she wasn’t going to blab on about an episode I haven’t seen yet). If you haven’t seen this show (and you’re an adult or a an almost-adult, because there are mature situations and some inappropriate content for younger eyes and hearts which is why our kids don’t watch it) – look it up – and watch it. This show deals with some MAJOR issues in society that people are just frankly afraid to talk about. Homosexuality, adoption, and severe weight battles are three major players. We love the screenwriting – whoever writes for this show is incredibly creative, and I have never in my life watched a television show that is as well-written as this show is. I have watched plenty of TV and movies in my lifetime, have done my time acting in them as well, and while I’m not a professional “writer” (although I thoroughly enjoy it) I can appreciate an incredibly well-written script.

ANYWAY. This nice lady proceeded to ask me questions about Wes, his birth family and whether or not we would be able to tell whether his birth mother was on drugs. Yes. It happened. She was asking from a very honest, heartfelt motivation, I could tell – so I responded kindly with generic basics – pretty much saying, “we don’t have much information, unfortunately, which is pretty typical, but he’s doing great and is such an amazing little guy!” πŸ˜‰ It just reminded me (sorry all that long intro to this lady and it is such a short story) that I’ll need to think quickly on my feet many times, and be prepared with answers that are respectful both to my son, and to our process, but also to the people asking. I don’t want to belittle or shame them by the way I respond, but I also can’t divulge the backstory to my son’s life as if he isn’t sitting there on a pool noodle 10 feet away in 18″ of wading pool grinning up at us πŸ™‚ If you’re someone who’s curious – just find tactful and respectful ways to engage in conversation. Pure motive and pure heart can go a long way. If you’re just asking to satisfy your curiosity – you probably shouldn’t ask anything more than “is that your son?” and when given a “yes” then say “He’s beautiful, you have a wonderful family!” and leave it at that. If I, as an adoptive mother, choose to engage further maybe you’ll get lucky! πŸ™‚

Ok. It’s 10:30 and our kiddos need to be bedded down for the night. ohhhhhh…summer.

Blessings,
Laura

Sand and Sea

This morning we embarked on our first family vacation as a party of 6! Wes was up and bounding down the stairs at 7:00 sharp, bouncing on the bed telling us it was Beach day! πŸ˜‰ we caught a few more snatches of sleep while he watched a few Avengers episodes, but then we couldn’t put off the waking any longer and pulled ourselves together! 

Usually our trips to the beach are relaxing, refreshing, and just a weekend to sit and read books, stare at the ocean and take long walks in the sand…{insert scratching, screech of record stop here} Did we forget we have a 7-year old now who goes non-stop from waking to sleeping??!! πŸ˜‰ this beach weekend has already transported us back in time to when our older kids were little! The 2.5 hour drive went smooth as silk (thank the Lord for the invention of car entertainment systems!!) and his excitement at seeing the water and sand was so fun to watch! It took everything in our power to convince him we had to unload all our stuff before we could walk down to the sand to play! Within minutes of feeling sand beneath his bare toes he was off and running with a shovel and his sisters, to dig holes and make castles and bury body parts in mounds of sand! 

He thought we were crazy at first for playing at the edge of the ice-cold Pacific Ocean water, but once we dragged him along for an initiation of wave jumping – he led the charge, running and screaming with the girls until his toes were too frozen to take anymore! Then they ran back to their sand piles and buried each other’s feet and legs πŸ™‚ I forgot how much fun it is to have a little one at the beach – and I have to fight my inner OCD mantra that keeps trying to tell me, “Sand is so messy! It gets everywhere. You cannot get rid of it. There will be sand in his scalp and in his sheets and in your cereal tomorrow.” Those who know me well would be very proud. I let that kid play waist deep in sand and just decided to enjoy the cold-induced snot dribbling out his nose collecting sand castles πŸ˜‰ He was just having so much fun! 

We made pizza for dinner and watched Moana while we ate – another win here because he wanted to watch Airbender, but I said “not tonight, we are watching Moana!” To which he announced “I no watch this. I no like this movie.” And I simply said, “okay you don’t have to watch it!” To which he sat and stewed with his mouthful of pizza for about 5 minutes until he was fully engrossed in Moana’s journey and the rock-eating chicken. Towards the end, he said again that he didn’t want to watch so I offered to play with him instead while the other kids watched and he took me up on it! 

While the movie played in the background, he and I, and then Daddy and the girls, played with a Playmobil zoo set for almost 45 minutes! It was amazing – as I’ve never seen him engage in a toy or plaything like that yet. It was very interesting! We started to make up imaginary simple scenarios, like Abby’s idea of “the animals are running away to hide and the zookeeper has to find them” so the animals each hid around the room and he tottered his zookeeper around finding each of them. From there, it morphed into animals eating and kissing the zookeeper (that was the compromise from the giraffe karate chopping the zookeeper and eating his face…we said these are nice animals, they are gentle…so then the kissing and licking ensued). It was fantastic! 

We were unsure of how sleeping would go, but we kept him up about an hour past bedtime and by the time we had stories and in bed he was passed out after about 5 minutes! Praying he sleeps in but this kid has his day tomorrow already planned out by the hour! πŸ™‚

Today was a sweet reminder that not everything has to be stressful, and sometimes we will just get to have a fun memory of a first experience – with awesome photos and smiling little face, complete innocence and awe of something most of us take for granted here in the PNW! 

My daughter Logan captured this photo tonight as Daddy took Wes and Abby outside on the deck to watch the sunset – Logan has an amazing eye for photography both with her iPhone and her good camera! Thought I would share – as it is just a precious photo and one I will remember fondly for a long time! 


Here’s a few more of the sand before my phone died!

And I realized I forgot to post photos of the Library and Daddy’s birthday, so here you go! 

Oops – out of order but this boy LOVES swimming, and yesterday decided to prove to me that he could swim by himself so he could go down the water slide! Lol! He swam under water almost across the entire pool, then went down the slide 7 times! Determined. This is what he looks like after that hard work!

Daddy and Wes blowing out daddy’s candles

 
Wes cutting the cake!

Out of order…frosting cake


Out of order, Wes and Abby made the birthday cake all by themselves!

Most likely first present-wrapping of his lifetime. 

This was taken right before we sang JwazAniverse (Daddy!) to Daddy (to the tune of happy birthday)


And – a good friend breathlessly asked me at the pool yesterday – “It’s killing me! You left me hanging! Did he eat the meatloaf????” Lol!! I laughed really hard and had to apologize! YES!!! After all that – he took two bites at dinner and announced he had eaten his two bites – and then proceeded to finish his meatloaf. Haha! (So sorry for not finishing that story earlier! Nothing like a meaty cliffhanger, eh?) 

πŸ˜‰

Blessings,

Laura

Tangled

This week has provided more “firsts” for us – last Friday, I saw a sign at the local indoor soccer arena advertising summer day camps…so spontaneously I asked Wes that morning if he might want to go watch some soccer. I told him if he wanted to play, he could – but he didn’t have to. His eyes lit up and he told me immediately that he wanted to play! We arrived, and I gave the coaches a quick rundown on the “he’s been in the states a month and might not understand everything…oh and by the way he might be ready to go home in 20 min, so it might be short!” πŸ˜‰ The coaches were amused with me I’m sure, but quickly warmed up to my little guy, who had so much fun he stayed the entire three hours of the camp, while I stayed and watched :). He was so enamored with the playtime and the kids that we went down to adidas and found a few soccer jerseys and shorts, socks, shoes and shinguards, and he’s already talking about the little 3-on-3 “outside soccer” game he got invited to play in a couple weeks!

Sunday we had another first, (and a second), as we announced Saturday night that tomorrow was Sunday and we were going to go to church again, have lunch and then take a bike ride on the trail to see the turtles in the pond. He wasn’t too sure about church, so I told him if he wanted to go into the kids’ church, Logan could stay with him in class and help him while mommy and daddy went with the grownups. He seemed interested, so we left it at that. Sunday morning, we had zero complaints about church, and he walked right into Sunday School with Logan, and he had a great time while I wrestled with anxiety in service about all the million and one problems that he could have while I was sitting half-a-building away in “big church” LOL!

Our bike ride was amazing, gorgeous, and an absolute blast! I prayed the entire ride that God would bless us by pushing the turtles to come out in the pond so he could see them, because he’d been counting on seeing some – his whole motivation for bike ride! We saw birds, geese, an owl close-up, a baby racoon (and a disgruntled and protective mama racoon), some fish, and several turtles! πŸ™‚

Yesterday, and again today, he’s back at the indoor arena playing soccer in the morning camp. I actually tried “leaving” him here for 20 min while I got coffee (A big deal for me)! I let him know that I was going to drive and get some coffee while he played but I would be back before he came out for snack. He said, “oh, your coffee? oh, yeah, okay!” and waved when I left and again when I returned. As long as he’s busy and occupied, he doesn’t mind that I’m gone. But if he’s at all un-distracted, he definitely cares where people are, where they are going, and when they will be back!

Yesterday was Kris’ 42nd birthday (!!!!!!!!!) and Kris’ one birthday request was that we have a traditional birthday celebration with cake and decorations and presents so that Wes could see what a birthday was like! πŸ™‚ So…we did! We woke up early and Wes helped me put up streamers and a Happy Birthday banner over the table for Daddy, then Daddy took Wes to soccer camp (THANK YOU!!!) and I was able to get my very first 3-hour BREAK (in 5 weeks) and take Logan out for some much needed mommy-time. It was blessed. πŸ™‚ After lunch, the girls, Wesley and I ran to the store to pick up some presents for Daddy, and we wrapped them in race car paper that Wes picked out. He was very excited for Daddy to open presents (because Daddy asked for a big scooter for his birthday so he could ride with the kids!). We came home and baked a birthday cake, and then the kids swam outside in the wading pool while I got Daddy’s dinner ready – special request – Meatloaf. πŸ˜‰

Interesting scenario at dinner time – as dinner was cooking, Wesley came in to see what was for dinner. When I told him, and he looked in the oven, he got quiet and a bit grumpy and said, “oh, that’s not for me. Not my dinner. I’m having spaghetti.” I said, “oh, nope that’s our dinner, bud, we aren’t having spaghetti tonight!” To which he responded, “I no have dinner tonight.” and I said, “Oh, okay!” and he walked back outside to play (aka SULK). As time went on, and the cooking timer ticked away, he came back in to sulk and turn on the oven light – I think he was really wrestling with “I don’t know what that is, and it looks weird, and I don’t like it, therefore I won’t eat it.” I wasn’t quite sure how to deal with it – fully preparing to deal with starving child who grumped his way through no-dinner and early bed. Kris walked in and noticed him quietly sitting against the cabinets on the floor. He calmly said, “You know what, Wes? Sometimes Abby and Logan and Braeden don’t want the dinner either, but Mommy and Daddy say “eat two bites please!” Tonight, you can have two bites of the dinner, and if you REALLY don’t like it, and its very gross, we will find something else for you to eat so you won’t be hungry okay? Mommy and Daddy will make sure you get lots of food – and you won’t be hungry.”

Immediate change – as I was chopping oranges for dinner (which he loves) and I sat him up on the counter and let him snack on some oranges while the rest of dinner finished. I was in awe at my super-smart husband and his calm way of dealing with the situation. My poor kid was just envisioning an entire night of feeling hunger pains if he didn’t eat the dinner that I prepared. I realized that 5 weeks home is too long to cause unnecessary suffering while he’s still learning to trust that there will always be food available, and he won’t ever have to worry about whether or not there will be a meal for him.

If anyone is wondering how we deal with food in the house – Wes hasn’t displayed many odd food behaviors or obsessions – he doesn’t hoard food, doesn’t obsess about it, other than always wanting to mentally prepare with the “what’s for dinner?” question like any other kid! We did decide early on that we would establish a regular routine for morning and afternoon snack windows where there is always “snack time” and he can pick something or a few things for snack so that he’s not dragging by the next meal-time. However we’ve noticed that some days he is a bottomless pit and needs to have smaller snacks multiple times a day. We have decided that for now, if he says he’s hungry, we need to make sure that need is met. In the first couple weeks, it meant snacks every hour or so – but now 5 weeks later, he doesn’t ask for food unless he’s really hungry – or really bored LOL – but most of the time, we actually have to remind him that he’s hungry. He doesn’t sense the hunger the same way that he did at the Orphanage, I think probably because his hunger now isn’t a painful ache, it’s just an annoying lack-of-energy that he doesn’t always recognize. We see it – I know I mentioned that before – the visible “fading” of his demeanor and produce an applesauce, bananas, peanut butter crackers, or a kids’ protein bar – and the effect is usually immediate.

Revisiting Sunday morning – I missed a ton of what the “big church” message was, due to my constant checking of my phone to see if the Sunday school volunteers had called me, or just in la-la land in my own head, trying to figure out if leaving him in Sunday School was actually going to be traumatizing or a good thing! However one piece of the message caught me. The question all of a sudden was asked, “What has you tangled up?” and it shook me out of my headspace completely. I wish I was an accomplished artist of real-life images because then I could draw the visual that slowly overtook my focus. In my minds-eye I could see myself trying in vain to run, but thick rope-like tendrils of jungle weed were wrapping their sinewy fingers around and through my feet and legs, chaining me to the ground. My arms were outstretched trying to claw my way away, but I could see the vines crawling toward them through the air, latching onto my fingers, so that I couldn’t pry anything off. In one clear instant I knew the one-word answer to the Pastor’s question “what has you tangled up?”:

ANXIETY.

Anxiety is a 7-letter word that somehow has my spirit convinced it is a 4-letter word. The power that that word has exercised over my heart over the past 6 weeks is monstrous. It has overtaken me like very little has ever attempted to before. The word “conquer” seems to breathe out of it’s slobbering vine-laden jaws with a hot, fiery stench – it seems to have one purpose and one purpose only – to conquer my very spirit. To quench my joy, to rob me of the hope and the anticipation of beautiful things to come. I find myself in daily battles trying to loosen its grip, and the struggle is never-ending. While I may have a few hours or even days of reprieve, it only seems to relax its hold across my chest while it eats a meal and then gains even more strength than before. It arises with the simplest of responses or attitudes from Wes, with the barest of shivers of resistance to a direction, it soars in with a little brown yawn and a bright pink tongue that laps at the infinite lake of sleepiness.

Anxiety is massive – it is real, it is not always practical, but it is incredibly strong. It is a presence that un-recognized, has infinitely more power than when it is called out and identified.

However. Anxiety’s strength cannot conquer me. It cannot have me, it cannot hold me down, or keep me still. It cannot retain me captive in darkness, it cannot keep me confined in despair or self-pity. It cannot render me immobile or incomplete, it cannot rob me of my joy or my hope, it cannot steal my refuge or my safety. It can, indeed threaten all of those things – and it can whisper to me in my dreams that it is coming for me. But I have a REDEEMER. I have an ultimate Authority that I have proclaimed as my Truth always – and my TRUTH is that my God is bigger, more powerful, calming and holds a massive AXE. When I, in God’s divine strength, attack that anxiety with His truth – with the words found in His word, with the promises contained there – the latches on my feet and hands and around my heart break – and I am FREE.

I don’t have to live in it – I may always struggle with some sort of battle, but I don’t have to live there – because I live in freedom. My freedom is beautiful, it is a wildflower landscape of joy – and as I told a good friend this morning – may God always and forever line our pockets with joy – because those moments that I give up and stuff my hands in my pockets and my head falls – in those moments may my fingers close around this lining – and emerge with fistfuls of shining anticipation of the hope and joy that the Lord brings me!

Blessings,

Laura

Observations

It’s been a week since my last post – a lot has happened, and we went from having a really rough few days with another lengthy behavior/tantrum incident, a few days following of tense interaction, much prayer and pleading with the Lord for relief, and then a turned corner. We can’t quite pinpoint what sets off the moods, I feel like with normal non-trauma psyches in children, at this point there should be an obvious trigger, but from his hard-place little heart – it seems that it is normal for him to not really have obvious triggers. Some days it is just the simplest thing like a gentle reprimand that sets him into a grumpy spin, other days he tosses those feelings aside and powers through to the next fun part as if they aren’t really that big of a deal. I’m sure this is normal for kids coming from this type of situation, and we’ve seen it a lot in the stories of families that have gone before. The first few days following my last post though, were extremely trying for me. I felt I was really at my first emotional breaking point. After a behavior tantrum/fit (I’m really not sure what to call them…) I carry the anxiety for days. I’m constantly worried that everything he disagrees with or doesn’t like the answer to will set him off in a funk that he can’t shake. It took a lot of prayer and frankly just some time for me to move on and begin to feel like I could start fresh with him.

It is really odd – I feel that I’ve said this before, so forgive me if it is repetitive, but when he’s in the middle of a fit, it is almost an out-of-body experience. It is the oddest thing I have ever seen – it is like his eyes glaze over and he cannot communicate, or accept communication or even recognize his surroundings or what he’s doing (or not doing) in the middle of it. It takes either something to snap him out of it to where he kind of shakes himself out of the tears and realizes “what in the world is going on, and why is everyone so concerned?” or just a long length of time to where he gets so exhausted that slowly the disconnectedness fades and he slides back into reality. For any parent who has children that deal with a tantrum or emoting like this, I’m sure you understand – for those who have not – just trust me in that it is emotionally depleting to watch your child go through this. I literally have prayed out loud over him as he’s in it because at times it is baffling to my heart and my spirit.

About 2-3 days after the last fit (which was right after the last post) he finally seemed to turn a corner. He was extremely excited for 4th of July which seemed to just sugar coat every aspect of our days with a chunky dusting of anticipation and random bursts of excited squeals when he remembered what the day’s count was (“EEEEEEEKKKKKKK!!!!! 2 more days til FIREWORKS!!!!”) πŸ˜‰ We had invited two close families over to spend the evening with us – knowing that these families would be able to be super flexible if we had to cut the night short or make alternate plans last minute. We had decided to lay low and limit our fireworks (usually our gatherings will rival the large fireworks shows because everyone who comes brings a carload of explosives…LOL). Let me tell you on Tuesday this kid was an ANGEL all day long, helping in the yard, cleaning up, playing happily all day as he waited for his friends to arrive! We were talking with him the day before about maybe staying up late and he declared all on his own that he was going to take a nap – well that EVERYONE was going to take a nap from 1:30 to 2:10 (where he got that is beyond me) so that he could stay up late and light fireworks! This is also the kid who has flat out refused to take naps since day 1. He went up to his room with me and proceeded to attempt to sleep for 50 minutes, then got so tired that at 2:09pm I heard him finally fall into heavy breathing-mode of sleep…but then startled himself awake 5 minutes later, took a look at the clock and told me he was sleeping just til 2:30. πŸ™‚ He didn’t make it that long, he was too excited!

He surprised us all, though and powered his way with gusto through the festive evening, playing with all the visiting friends, and building a fire with Daddy for everyone to sit around as we waited for fireworks time, then running around with the pyro festivities “assisting” Daddy in lighting the little ones! He LOVED the noise, loved every bit of the fireworks – and by far his favorites were the huge mortars and the “little pop pops” (pop-its). When the show was over, we hauled him up to bed and he passed out about 10:40pm. Unfortunately, he still got up with his normal 6am pituitary gland alarm… πŸ˜‰

Oh. And by the way, he pulled out his own front tooth this week too. Grossed me out entirely, but he’s one brave kid!


Since that night, he has been an absolute turnaround from the funky 3-day attitude. He is happy constantly, loves being outside playing, keeping busy and has been taking “no” in measured frustration. We have been letting him pout and move through his emotion on his own, while still staying present – and so far that approach has been working. We’ll see how it goes – it is definitely interesting that he seems to have cycles – a long stretch of days where he is very happy and engaged, and then a few very distant, non-affectionate, grumpy, moody ones…we’re watching for connections or triggers but have only found one that makes sense.

He seems to “crash” fairly quickly about an hour or 90 minutes after eating, so we’ve been trying to give small snacks at regular intervals when we can see him visibly “fading” or becoming distanced or detached from the current goings-on. Today this worked wonderfully, and each time, he seems to not be able to recognize he is “hungry” but almost always accepts the snack offered, and then simply minutes after ingesting, is back to his upbeat smiling self. My observation here, is that they were most likely “hungry” so often back at the orphanage, that they begin to not feel it – they will always take food when offered, but they stop beginning to recognize hunger when they feel it – especially for him now if it isn’t a starvation hunger or hunger pains, but more of a slowing down of sorts. Most kids we know and have raised for years in America know what hunger feels like even if they have just eaten 2 hours ago, simply because we are typically well-fed and aren’t subjected to the same lack of food resources or rationing that kids elsewhere may be.

Now, to interject here – Wesley’s orphanage was probably one of the best, most well-funded and well-supplied orphanages available in that area. They have a large garden where they grow their own produce (I believe some they sell at market, and some to eat) and they have a large supply of chickens to lay eggs (again for market and some for consumption). From what we saw, they always had availability of rice, beans, and small portions of meat protein for the kids, and Wes says they ate “spaghetti” often for breakfast so they had access to pasta. However, there were days we arrived to hear that all he had for breakfast that day was a small mini-ear of corn. They ate breakfast and a late afternoon “dinner” before early bedtime, but only had lunch if it was a school day (apparently the school supplied lunches? This is only word-of-mouth from Wes, so we aren’t positive on this, whether it was a regular, daily occurrence or just occasional). This amount of meals for these kids are much more than some children in orphanages receive in Haiti and in other countries, so we consider him blessed to have been cared for there. They have fantastic resources, and take good, solid care of the children in their care. We cannot say enough good things about the director and the staff there. I cannot imagine him having been anywhere else for the past 4 years!

Moving on… πŸ˜‰

On Sunday, we attempted church for the first time with him! It was interesting…not in a wonderful way. LOL Sunday fell on the last day of his “grumpy” negative mood swing, and he was adamant all morning that he was not going to church with us, and no he would not get in the car (even though we were all in the car waiting). We calmly reasoned with him that we were going to go to church all together, and he would sit with us (and the kids) during the music and the talking, and that after church we would get lunch and go for our scooter ride on the “trail” (the Salmon Creek Trail), but unfortunately, (for him), we would not be able to eat lunch or scooter until we had gone to church first. This eventually clicked with his brain, and he plodded slowly to the car and got in his seat. He still was extremely grumpy through the service, would not utilize the coloring I brought for him to do, and read his books loudly and annoyed-ly in the pew while he suffered through the hour. LOL I was super tense and high-anxiety, so I was just waiting to have to jet out of the service at the drop of a hat, but he made it through almost all of it until the very last “we’re going to pray about yada yada” and I was like, eeeehhhhhhh…I’d rather not deal with whatever is about to happen with my child in the middle of a prayerful, emotional moment! haha – so we snuck out the back. I’m sure it wasn’t very sneaky – hard to miss the party-of-6 with the adorable Haitian rustling around the pews. Hmph. If they only knew just how “adorable” he was that day… LOL

After the service, however, his mood changed entirely and kept getting better and better as the day went on. We went to Wendy’s for lunch – where he had a “this is so so good” grilled chicken burger, and then we walked the dog and rode scooters on the paved Salmon Creek Trail for a good long hour – which was a fantastic way to kill a chunk of afternoon! When we got back, we enjoyed popsicles to cool down and had some laughs on the porch. Flippantly, as we put scooters back in the garage, I passed his 2-wheel bmx style bike (that he has pretty much refused to try all but twice in the past month) and said, “Wes, when you learn to ride your bike we can ride bikes on the trail and I can show you the pond with the turtles!” (ha. I need to watch what I say…) About 30 minutes later, I had gone in to take a quick shower and Braeden comes knocking at the door…”Uhhh…mom? You might want to come outside. Wes is riding his bike in the driveway…” HAHAHAHAHAHA! I guess he was motivated? Mr. Determination hopped on his bike and taught himself to ride while Braeden was “on-duty” observing. Since then, he’s been riding all over, we went on a LONG bike ride yesterday as a family – it was so awesome! He is crazy-smart, and super determined when he has his heart set on something! Funny thing is that he told me yesterday, “Mommy I’m no ready for turtles yet…I still no good. I need to ride my bike more.” πŸ˜‰

He speaks 100% English right now. We go back and forth between Creole and English just to keep it fresh, having him repeat words and phrases in Creole for us or translate things if we don’t remember how to say it correctly in Creole – but he doesn’t use any Creole in his day-to-day conversation, unless he’s being silly. He likes to blabber on and on to the kids just to rattle them – half the time it’s legitimate Creole, but the other half it’s just made up mixed up words that he’s just using to torment them! πŸ™‚ It didn’t take him long to figure out how to be obnoxious to them! LOL Typical 7-year old.

Today I hit another huge observation though – I’ve been struggling with his flighty playtime habits at home. He doesn’t “play” with toys here – we don’t have many and have avoided buying more because he just doesn’t use them. I figured it was an over-stimulated, overwhelmed response to flit from one thing to the next, or only be occupied for a few minutes at a time. But today I had an epiphany.

I woke up this morning faced with a huge chunk of time and no plan – prime-time for attitudes and Mr. Grumpy Pants to set up camp in my sweet little man’s heart. So at 8:30am I decided we’d try the Portland Children’s Museum. When our kids were little they would spend HOURS there, exploring, playing pretend, trying out every single thing. So, I packed up the girls and Wes, and we drove the 30 minutes to the Museum. He was all kinds of happy when we arrived, but quickly (in the first 5 minutes) I realized that this was going to be NOTHING like my previous visits. I watched and mused as he spent an average of 2.5 minutes in each room, at each station, the exceptions being the brio trains/tracks room (approx 8min) and the rubber-pellet construction zone (another approx. 8 min) and the theater dress-up show (a good 10 minutes) – which was only that long because Abby was valiantly trying to get him into a dog costume, which he wrestled on, and promptly out of when they realized the reason it was not going on easily was because it was about 3 sizes too small for his body.

I was baffled for the first 25 minutes or so, trying to figure out what was off – was he overwhelmed? Was there too much to see, too much to do? Did I make a mistake in bringing him?

But then it dawned on me – He doesn’t know how to play with TOYS. He has no clue how to play pretend doctor or veterinary, he has no idea how to pretend he’s a construction worker or do a theater production, or even play with simple toys. And that put into perspective my entire last 4 weeks and the lack of playtime we’ve seen at home. The only “play” he has on a normal basis is entertaining himself with other children outside at school – jumprope, hopscotch, soccer, baseball, races, dancing, physical activity – or his other option was laying around the orphanage on the tile floors, or aimlessly playing with broken pieces of toys – because they didn’t have any. He didn’t grow up with legos or playing trains or nerf gun fights, or hot wheels race tracks, or board games even. He didn’t set up his stuffed animals on a bed and pretend they were having a dragon-doctor appointment. He has no idea what to do with exploratory play like the water-play station at the museum – he has never been taught to be curious about what it’s like to be asked “what do you want to be when you grow up?” ummm…a bigger boy? I don’t know if he even understands that he can be anything he wants to be!

It was just a little sad to watch him roam the museum in 30 minutes that took his older siblings hours to go through each themed area (and had to be pried away from) and multiple times in their young lives for repeat adventures. I watched him lose interest in things that should have given at least 20 minutes of focused attention. But he wasn’t overwhelmed, he just didn’t see why he should give it any more time than he had already.

It gave me a new mission – there’s so many areas of his little life that we feel we have to make up for the lost time – in bonding, in teaching affection, in learning language and social cues and MANNERS ;), but now I have a new mission – teach my son how to PLAY. I’m not quite sure where to start, but it will involve other kids his age, it will involve some mommy-and-me time, some on the floor – in the middle of it – crazy-beautiful-silly-moments and some moments where I just have to decide that it doesn’t matter if other people think I’m weird for being silly or playing at the same level as my 7-year old who missed being a little kid. I might have to buy another pretend kitchen set, even though he’s probably almost too big for it. I might have to have my house overrun with hot wheels tracks (again) because that takes some engineering but not a lot of creative story-telling. I might have to figure out how to be Iron Man sometimes when I just want to be Laura. But this kid needs to be given the opportunity to learn how to play. It may backfire, and it may be a grieving process for me because he may never fully “get it”. He might get into first grade and not be able to appreciate the boys playing Pirates or Avengers on the playground, or might never understand what it means when the girls dress up in the silly outfits we have in the buckets upstairs and “play house”. He may never take a bucket of legos and make his own creative project, rather than something that’s already listed in the booklet.

I’ll survive. If that happens, if that is part of the process, I’ll live. I’ll shed some tears for his lost childhood, for the lost innocence that can’t be recaptured, for the stories and umpteen make-believe scenarios that are still floating up in the starry realm of the unimagined. If he never learns to play, I’ll be okay, and he’ll be okay – but I feel as a parent of a little one who is experiencing a full-blown, fully-blossomed, fully-opened and unfurled life of opportunity and one full of infinite possibility – just as much as he deserves loving parenting and solid, consistent structure and life-guidance, he deserves to be invested in as a child – and part of that means teaching him how to PLAY.

So if you happen to see Iron Man and a pint-sized Captain America wandering the aisles of Fred Meyer hand-in-hand (or duking it out in the parking lot)…just wave and say hello, and then go home and play with your kids. πŸ™‚

Blessings,

Laura

Sweet Kisses I’ve Got to Spare

The past few days have been a bit like watching a slo-mo video of a flower unfolding from its baby bud wrappings in the first drips of spring rain. The soil is fertile, fresh, and fluffed just enough to give that sprout the boost it needs to unfurl and turn its inner soul to the sunshine above. This little boy is unfurling right before our very eyes, and the warmth and depth of love that is beginning to spill out is quickly seeping into and coloring our very world around us.


Exhausted? Yes. Some difficult moments and times when I have to plead with the Lord for divine strength and for someone to collect my transmitted ESP brain waves and drop off an extra-caffeinated almond milk latte on my porch? YES. A few anxiety-laden, loooooooong minutes wondering if my attempts at working through an issue will result in the emergence of the Hulk, or if a snuggly Sunshine Care Bear will crawl into my lap? Yes. Tears? Yep, a few. But worth it all? Let me put it this way. When we get to the end of a long day, and we’re snuggled in his bed reading our 4 bedtime stories (including Hulk for the 4th time this week), and I lean over and sneak a quiet kiss on his cheek and he responds by immediately rolling over and giving me a puckered up not-so-sneaky kiss right back…or when he hears Daddy say he’s going to go work in the yard and promptly says, “oh, me too! I goin’ help Daddy wif my gwuvs!” and runs out to grab his “yard shoes” and his new yard gloves and helps daddy shovel dirt and bark chips, carry firewood, and hammer landscaping staples in the 96-degree heat – with a smile…or when I tell him we are leaving to go to the store, and he proceeds to ask by name if each member in our family is going (“Bwaeden comin? Logan comin’? Abby comin? Daddy comin’?”) and when I say yes, everyone is coming, his shining, toothy grin reaches from ear to ear and he says, “Oh I am SO Happy! I am SO SO Happy! Everybody is comin’!”…and when he drives his little ride-on car around the driveway to the “store” and brings me six hot dogs and some milk and a melon (6 rocks, a bigger rock, and an even bigger rock) in the back of his car, or decides he’s going to help me bring the empty cans from the street (with his car)…many of you saw that cute video on Kris’ Facebook page ;)…

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These are just a few of the moments that make it worth it. Last week, we were praying at dinner and we asked him if he wanted to pray, and he said “no, I pray on Tuesday.” So guess what happened on Tuesday? He prayed for dinner, in Creole – I don’t think there was a dry eye at the table, it was one of the sweetest things I have ever witnessed. I couldn’t understand it all, but he thanked God for a brother and sisters, for the dogs, for the food and some of our activities from the day, and said a bunch of other things in Creole that I can only assume were “I love this Mommy she is the best white lady on the planet and this Daddy is the coolest ever, and one of these days I’ll wear that shirt mommy bought that she obviously loves because she tries to get me to wear it every day and I keep saying no.”

His personality is getting bigger and bigger each day, his ability to give and receive love is expanding exponentially by the hour, he has figured out really quickly that he loves his family – immediate and extended, he has cousins coming out his ears and I’m sure he feels like he meets new aunts and uncles on a daily basis πŸ™‚ He takes it all in stride and is outgoing and friendly, but appropriately shy upon first meeting. He is quick to warm up to people, but we are seeing a healthy balance between sticking close to mom/dad when he is presented with a stranger and new introduction. This is great, because through all our training as adoptive parents pre-adoption, we learned how hard it can be to foster the attachment bonds to parents and immediate family. Many times children from hard places like this will jump into strangers’ arms, snuggle up at the drop of a hand or simply a welcoming smile. It can take a long time to re-train them through bonding to see mom/dad as the ultimate safety, comfort and retreat. To look to their new parents as the ones to fulfill needs, rather than seeking needs met from anyone they meet.

We know the timing is early and the days home have been relatively few. We have been home 3 weeks and 1 day, which feels like months already – however we haven’t even scratched the surface on the kinds of symptoms and signs of trauma and neglect that we were prepared for. We know that doesn’t mean it will never surface – it could be months, even a year or more down the road when some of these things arise and startle us out of our new normal. If that happens, then we deal – we work through it and love through it, and we’ll move forward together. For now, we are thankful for a blessedly simple transition. One that allows us to focus on and revel in the unfolding – the new discoveries each day that leave us breathless, waiting for the next surprise – things like the fact that he can sing – and dance, and is most likely (to mommy’s chagrin because it makes her nauseous) double-jointed (ugh). He is incredibly smart – like engineering and math smart, and can do cartwheels, round-offs and a near flip on the hard floor. The kid loves matching his clothes (and shoes) – obviously the Lord knew what he was doing pairing him up with Braeden…they will be shopping buddies for life.

It’s now 10:10pm and I am about to turn into a pumpkin…he has been sleeping much better thanks to a special wake-up alarm clock that glows green when it is “time to wake up” (at a time we pre-set a.k.a. 7am), and has been sleeping in his own bed all week! Makes for much better night’s sleep for us, and great responsibility-builder for him as he has to put himself back to sleep if he gets up to pee, or back to sleep if he wakes up at 5:30am and it’s not 7 yet.

I’ll sign off for now, but I’ll leave you with some photos of the week! If you happen to read this within a few minutes of posting you’ll have to refresh to see the pics πŸ˜‰

Blessings,

Laura

First fire in the fire pit! He’s been counting the days til Thursday all week!
Somebody got his first big boy haircut today!

Scooters on the waterfront to watch the boats

First trip to the library 

Reading stories with sisters

Best use of $30 – hours of fun in the hot sun!


Posing with his friend Jackson (next door neighbor) – these two love to play!