Happy Famiversary!

Famiversary

Fam-ih-ver-suh-ree

An anniversary of the day you came home with your new family. Synonymous with “Gotcha Day”, “Adoption Day” and the like.

One year ago today, a very tiny, skin-and-bones, wide-eyed 7-year-old Haitian boy stepped onto U.S. soil hand in hand with his Mommy and Daddy and became a U.S. Citizen and the youngest McGreevey child. I am sitting here completely exhausted, a text to study for, remnants of pokémon card packs strewn all over the kitchen table and a pile of dishes in the sink…and I. Am. Overwhelmed. I’m overwhelmed that we flew through an entire year and it feels somehow like the Haitian sun was overhead just yesterday, yet simultaneously – eons ago.

We’ve come a long way in a year. If anyone had told me, “don’t worry it gets better” when we were in month two I probably would have said a few choice words that shouldn’t be repeated and then cried myself to sleep. My anxiety was high, we were walking on eggshells with our new family member avoiding conflict as much as possible while trying to build a base of trust and dependence that we could use for support when the conflict became necessary. We had a few really, really rough days – but thankfully the good ones far outweighed the hairy, and about the 6-month mark had settled into some good routine and processes.

In one year, Wesley has put on almost 25lbs, (guessing about 95% of that is pure muscle mass), grown about 5″ in height, grown an additional 5″ in hair (LOL), and gone through 3 sizes of shoes and clothing. He has gone from happily accepting any clothing I had him to wear, to meticulously choosing his own outfits each morning (and subsequently changing 1-3x before a final decision is made). Wesley is a wealth of knowledge, a human sponge, and can tell you how far we are from the sun, the planets in their correct order, the rank in hottest to coldest and what each planet is made of. He knows which ones are likely to have a climate like earth, and which ones are uninhabitable. He even told me the other day exactly how many moons each planet had and how long it would take for us to travel there.

One year ago, I asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up – he responded with “nothing” – because in Haiti I really don’t think anyone asks these kids that question. They will be lucky if they can answer that question “full” or “loved”. When you ask Wesley that question today, the top of his list is “professional soccer player like Christiano Ronaldo”, followed by “astronaut who studies rocks on other planets” and “a dad” and a rotating fourth choice. He lives for school and sports, is battling the internal push and pull of happy/sad that school is ending for the summer, and is super excited for the local outdoor pool to open up for summer swimming.

Wesley has more friends than I can count, and consistently makes friends around him easily, even if he doesn’t know their names. He still hovers over the acceptance of physical affection with mom/dad, brother and sisters, and refuses to say “I love you” – but some days are more obviously vulnerable than others, and nearly every night, regardless of the day, he snuggles up next to us as we read stories and lay with him until he falls asleep. He loves his big extended family of aunts, uncles, cousins, grandmas and grandpas, loves to be silly and plays the “obnoxious little brother” role like he was gunning for an Oscar. When the kids bicker and fight, tattle and whine, we know we’ve arrived at “part of the family” status.

A few months ago, we took a family trip to California over Spring Break, and Wesley got his first taste of California sunshine and Disneyland. He had the time of his life and often tells us we should move to California. 😉 His favorite ride was the Radiator Springs Racers, with the new Guardians of the Galaxy (previously Tower of Terror) as a close runner up. We had some fantastic laughs on scary rides, and he surprised us all! Braeden was once again left holding all the bags and pin-studded lanyards at all the crazy rides! While we were there, we also celebrated Wesley’s 8th birthday, so he got to be the only one in our family who has ever celebrated a birthday in Disneyland! Some good friends were able to connect with us while we were there, so we shared some memorable rides and birthday cupcakes to celebrate the extra special day.

Our lives here are moving from one adventure to the next as Spring sports wrap up (PRAISE JESUS – we had 7 sports at the same time between 4 kids – stinking overlap!) and we head into a super-light summer round. Wesley just had tryouts today for a local club soccer team, just finished baseball, and will be going to several day camps and sports camps over the summer to keep busy! Braeden finished his JV Baseball gig playing for the high school (after he finally got his cast off…he finally played the last few games) and decided that since he hadn’t been able to play much, he wanted to play summer ball – so he snagged an available spot on a summer league roster and is playing one more round! Logan is wrapping up the last few weeks of her softball team (Kris is coaching) with a bunch of girls from school and loving it! When summer hits, I thinks she plans to sit poolside, and eat bonbons until September…she’s in for a rude awakening. LOL! Abby is finishing her last week of rec soccer this week and will pop into some summer trainings to prep for fall soccer at King’s Way in the fall. Kris is almost done coaching until summer is over! I’m hopeful I’ll actually get to hold a conversation longer than 3 minute update sessions when he’s finally done! 🙂

My Haitian goods company, Bél Lavi, is closing its doors – so if you want some incredible pieces at great prices, shop online at http://www.bel-lavi.com with code CLOSEOUT20 at checkout for an extra 20% off already-reduced prices!

With the exit of that company comes a brief bit of sadness, but also a joy in knowing that I was able to share so much of my son’s heritage through handmade pieces around North America! We had customers in Canada, Florida, East Coast and all over in between – it was amazing! Those of you who have supported that venture – THANK YOU!

My teaching this year at the school has turned into a blessing – albeit a hard one – but I have grown to love and cherish those 360 elementary students so much! Which makes it even harder to know that I’ll be leaving my position when school finishes. The school decided to pull the program from the lineup, and there isn’t yet another place for me to transfer into – so until there’s a spot that lines up with my passions, I’m going to sit it out!

However, due to the influx of free time in my schedule and a long-time brewing interest, I started (and finished) Real Estate School and am taking my broker’s exam on Friday morning! I have wanted to get into Real Estate here in Washington for over 10 years, and each time Kris and I mull it over, it just hasn’t been the right time – well – we finally decided there’s no time like the present! 🙂 I’m super excited, and will be teaming up with a local firm here in Vancouver. If anyone is in Washington State and needs help buying/selling you know where to find me!

As I prepare to close my laptop on Wesley’s Year One, I want to end with a heartfelt “Thank you”. To those of you who prayed, thank you. To those of you who listened, thank you. To those of you who laughed with us, thank you. Cried with us, thank you. Rolled your eyes with us – ESPECIALLY thank you to you eye rollers. Eye Rollers UNITE. There are so many pieces of these processes and parenting in general that just need a good, solid eye roll. I actually saw a T-shirt the other day that said, “I’m sorry, did I roll my eyes out loud again?” Yes. I need that one.

Thank you to those of you who have walked beside us and continue to walk (and sometimes run) the course daily. Thank you to those of you loving on our kiddos, loving on Wesley, encouraging us as parents and friends. Please don’t stop. We haven’t “arrived” until the day we step through Heaven’s gates, so we will graciously accept your prayers and encouragement!

My eyes are rolling around now, not because I’m annoyed – but because I feel like I haven’t slept in a year (which is actually highly probable). So, with that, I’ll say again,

Happy Famiversary, Wesley! We love you!

~ Laura

The Words We Speak

This (school) year has already grown and stretched me beyond what I thought reasonable. Having nothing to do with my own children or our adoption transition, going back to work – and working with children, no less – has had its own plethora of challenges that I wasn’t always prepared for. I love kids, I love my approximately 350 K-5 students and pride myself in the fact that I know them all by name (with the exception of maybe two that I get wrong on a 50/50 basis). I greet the by name as I pass by, make a point to recognize them at Fred Meyer on my off-days and wave across restaurant booths, and say hello in the parking lot. The relationships are what I love most about my job – its the classroom management that is the beast that kills my soul! (okay, so that’s a bit over-exaggerated, but seriously – I love organizing my shelves, organizing projects and setting out supplies, and doing life with these kids all year long. It’s just the discipline part of it that kills me! Then I go home after school and am so exhausted of “managing” kids, that my own children get the bare bones of my patience…not quite the ideal especially for a newly transitioning family! 😉

At any rate – back to the relationships. I love the random conversations I have with my students,  it’s definitely the part that feeds my soul (see, prior comment was an over exaggeration, I still have a soul to feed). I find out about who loves unicorns and who plays soccer and whose sister broke their arm over the weekend. I hear about grandmas coming to visit (and which ones will receive the day’s coveted art project), grandpas going to see Jesus, and whose dog died…when they were in their mommy’s tummy. I hear it all. Apparently I have more of an art therapy room…

I don’t mind that part – and it is those stories that rock my weeks, those words that I hear and in turn speak, that propel the rest of the class time, or the discussions to follow.

Last week I had a very heartfelt conversation at the back table in one of my younger grade classes. It moved me quickly to tears, and I thought – this is why I’m here – as frustrating as some days are, as much as I wake up some mornings and think there’s 73 other places I’d rather be right now – this is why I’m here. I had started my class, done my “intro” to the project and was starting them on a coloring assignment. I noticed that one of my students was struggling with something – and it was affecting his ability to interact with other kids and he was obviously lost in his own heart struggle. I quietly came alongside him, and said “Hey (X), it seems like you’re having a rough morning, buddy.” He nodded. “What’s going on?” He continued slowly drawing his picture, and I could see tears welling up in his brown eyes as he struggled to keep his emotions contained. he slowly drew fingers on an arm. “I’m drawing me on here.” “I see that, (X), it looks great!”…Long pause, shuddering sigh. He hovered his pen off the page and lifted his eyes up to mine. His lashes held tears that threatened to spill over as he softly said, “Mrs. McGreevey, I just wish I didn’t have brown skin.”

Be still my heart.

I dropped to my knees instantly and held onto his gaze as my eyes came down to his eye level. “Why do you wish that, (X)?” “Because, Mrs. McGreevey, I wish I didn’t have brown skin so I could be NORMAL.”

“Oh, (X), you are normal just the way you are, but even more importantly, you are SPECIAL because God made you the way you are. Look at XYZ in your class – they all have brown skin like you! And they are pretty cool kids just like you. Do you know M in 2nd grade? He has brown skin too and he’s a great friend. Do you know the big boys in high school? They have brown skin just like you and are basketball players and they are awesome! You know what, (X), you are normal – but even more importantly, you are amazing because GOD MADE YOU. He made you with brown skin – because you were special to Him – and our God does NOT make mistakes. He made you and you are amazing!” And in that moment he took in a deep breath, picked up his pen, and with his eyes now shining he looked at me with a sloppy smile and said, “Well, when you put it that way…!” and went on happily coloring.

That moment seared my heart – because I know that someday I’ll have the same conversations with my son – and it caught my tears in my throat for that child’s mama, because she’s going through it now even if she doesn’t realize it. To me, it’s truly an amazing thing that God had the creativity to create so many different colors and peoples – but in that same fist is also clenched the pain of our fallen world twisting that creativity and beauty into something it was never intended to be. Our differences were crafted to glorify the Creator, and now even our youngest children are wading through painful assessments of their fragmented hearts simply because they look different than someone else.

I pray that when the time comes for that conversation that my son can hear those words and respond with such grace and innocent faith. That he will, as well, recognize that the simple truth that God created him and that he is not a mistake, that he has a purpose bigger than what he can see in front of him. We don’t all look the same – but that’s the beauty of the created – we are each unique, created out of an intense, reckless, passionate love – chased down by a Father who longs for us to listen to His truth and allow that to be our anthem.

The words we speak are important – they matter – whether to each other, to our children, or to someone else’s children. Don’t be afraid to speak truth into someone else when it needs to be heard. Feel a moment? Take it – run with it – risk with it – you never know when the words you have to say may just be the awakening their heart needs to shake their soul.

Blessings,

Laura

Addendum

This is quite embarrassing, but I felt the need to post a quick addendum tonight because I was 100% positive that I was so loopy with exhaustion when I wrote a few nights ago, that my words didn’t make sense. I couldn’t even remember what I wrote about and was convinced I hadn’t finished or formulated any complete thoughts! LOL – whew. I just read it and even I will admit, it’s fairly cohesive – so I think I’m in the clear.

I just had a few more things on my mind, that I thought I’d add on to my post.

For many of you reading, you’re an adoptive parent fresh-home with your new little one, or perhaps trying to prepare as best you can for the coming days when your new child will finally be home. I really hope that this blog has been helpful, and not discouraging – but I would LOVE to reiterate again – as I try to frequently in some way or another – that our experience in no way will be your own. You may read pieces of my posts and think “she’s describing my child” but then in the next sentence what worked for us in dealing with a certain behavior will not work for yours. I don’t say this to discourage you further – I know exactly what it’s like to be the one searching for answers. But, I will encourage you by saying so much of this adoptive parenting (and parenting in general) is trial-and-error. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, don’t be afraid to say, “I’m sorry, that didn’t work!”, you aren’t going to “mess them up further” by dealing with a behavior in a poor way one time (or many) in fact, I truly think that our journey with Wesley and also our older children, has been strengthened by our willingness to admit we were wrong. To get down on the floor, with our faces close and look them in the eye and say, “Mommy was wrong. I’m so sorry. I’m going to try differently next time.” To know that we are not always right allows them the freedom to still be themselves, to still learn to make good decisions on their own, to blossom into a fuller version of themselves and not a fuller version of a static US.

On a different note, I thought it might be helpful to quickly chat about the challenges we are having at nearing the 9 month home mark, and also the hurdles we have (mostly) moved beyond. I think it is so important for new adoptive parents to know that the exhausting black-hole of inadequacy does fade, and that you do start to gain your footing on solid places, and actually feel like you’re doing a passable job at this adoptive parenting thing.

Challenges at 9 months home:

Talking back. – this annoys me to NO end, and since the language is at 100% fluency, and he’s in school with peers, this allows him full breadth of skills in nuances, implied wording, and passive-aggressive speech! UGH. 😉 We gently correct the behavior the first time in a lighthearted way, and sometimes second time, but then firmness is necessary if it moves beyond this. We haven’t had to instill a disciplinary action for talking back yet – he usually can grasp the frustration in our voice enough to think “Yeah, I probably shouldn’t say that again right now” – the most common form of this is saying “no it’s not.” to almost everything we say. (Dad) “What a great day for baseball!” (Wes) “No it’s not.” or (Mom) “It’s going to take awhile to get there” (Wes) “no it’s not”. Most of the time his responses are due to the fact that he doesn’t like something and is feeling negative, but our tactic in changing this behavior has been to encourage him to say, “I don’t think it is” instead of “no it’s not” because it’s way less obnoxious, and also more correct. It’s going to rain today, “no it’s not”, well,  if you don’t agree with me, you can say, “I don’t think it is going to rain today”.

Constant activity level – he wants to be DOING something always. He doesn’t “do” down time, unless it’s watching a movie, which we try to limit TV and movies as much as possible – especially within 30-40 min of bedtime. This is great when his little best friend next door is home and they can entertain each other, but when a playmate isn’t around and everyone else is doing homework or cleaning house, the attitude shifts. His world is still largely self-centered (as most kids are at that age especially) and when no one will play with him he quickly decides he has “nothing to do” and every parent cringes when they ear that phrase.

Telling the truth the first time – now I’m not talking here about lying. Thankfully, right now, we don’t have an issue with lying. What we do have an issue with (still) is working on telling the truth the first time for simple things like “did you have fun at the park?” (No) “is that the truth the first time? Remember to tell the truth the first time…” (yes). Simple, silly things – his intention is to be funny, he loves to joke around – but there comes a definite point where he doesn’t have a good judgement cap on as far as what is a funny joke to everyone else, and what is only funny to you. This also extends to other things like “shutting off” for a minute or so so that it seems like he’s mad or despondent, but then snapping out of it and saying “just kidding”…it can get old and frustrating. But, we still are trying to drive the point home about telling the truth the first time so that people know they can trust what you say/do.

Saying I Love You – We have just barely begun this breakthrough – he has admitted to us that saying “I love you” makes him feel nervous, so we don’t push it – he’s much more willing to say it to the kids offhandedly (even though its very few and far between) than to say it to Kris or I. We continue to tell him multiple times a day and let him feel like it’s normal. We want him to have the exposure of hearing it constantly so that it no longer feels like a “special” phrase that should make him nervous to say.

Sleeping in new places, and being alone – A few weeks ago we went on a long weekend trip with two other families – something we do every year together – and the biggest issue we had was that he was “scared” to sleep in our room on the floor, away from the kids, removed from where we were sleeping, in a room with windows and an exterior door that opened to the woods. He was very afraid and it ended up being a massive battle until we figured out a better plan the 2nd night. He still wants us to fall asleep with him each night, and occasionally wakes up in the night and needs an older sibling to walk him down to our room. For some reason, he just gets unsettled in the dark, which is again – totally normal for the age. The new space for sleeping arrangement threw  him off too I think – which we knew it might be trigger, but I’m not sure why – other than simply the unknown properties of the new space.

Positive Wins after 9 months home:

Praying out loud – He began opening up and being willing to pray out loud a couple nights a week at bedtime, and is getting more and more comfortable with just spilling his day out to the Lord in the dark – it is truly a beautiful and cherished moment when he begins to pray! 🙂

Heart Change – we are seeing some serious beginning buds of heart change. About a week and a half ago, Wesley prayed with mom and dad to ask Jesus into his heart, fully understanding Jesus’ death, resurrection, the payment for sin, and forgiveness and grace. The personal story behind this moment is a teary one, and one that I’m not going to post here – so if you know us personally and would like to hear it, ask me next time you see me! Like most kids at this age, he is a little embarrassed by the whole exchange, so other than his brothers and sisters I don’t think he’s told anyone. However we have begun to see little bits of his heart changing over the past couple weeks – being more agreeable, finding easy compromise, putting others’ needs or desires or preferences over his own.

Fear of unknowns lessening – for about 8 months, anytime a situation involved a complete unknown for him, he would flat out refuse to participate, go there, or be involved. We would usually make him eventually, but the initial digging in of his heels on any given subject or event was maddening, especially when it was something he’d never experienced! Thankfully, he is starting to realize that we won’t be asking him to do terrible things, so the trust that is building here is fantastic, and he’s learning that there are things he has never seen or experienced that are really cool – so it might be worth checking it out before he says “no thanks” 🙂

Willingness to accept responsibility – whether responsibility around the house like caring for dogs or doing dishes, or accepting responsibility for his actions (like decapitating the snowman) his process of acceptance and follow through are becoming quicker and self-regulated rather than parent-enforced.

Tantrums and uncontrollable emotion are very limited – His ability to regulate emotion even when he’s mad or extremely sad is becoming a more and more “normal” part of his emotional routine. He is able to monitor his feelings better, communicate how he is feeling with words and sentences, and provide his own process of “cooling down” or “calming down” without parent involvement.

These are all just the few things off the top of my head that I can think of! I hope this is helpful to many, and I have to say how encouraged I am when I see posts on the forums about people recommending this blog to other parents/families, or just the encouraging words about my writing. I love writing (when I have the time) and I really pray that it is purposeful, and not just frivolous documentation.

Thank you for reading, thanks for asking questions, thanks for answering them, and for continuing to do whatever it is that you’re doing. Love on your kids, flex with them, and teach them how to be incredible versions of themselves! 🙂

Blessings,

Laura

 

Guilt Trip

I can’t even begin to understand how two full months have gone by since my last post. Part of me doesn’t even remember what happened its all a complete blur! For those of you who follow this blog regularly, my sincere apologies as I promised I would faithfully update it, and now I’ve missed at least two of my regularly scheduled posts! 😉

Enough groveling.

So – if your winter has looked anything like ours in the PNW this year, it appears as though the Good Lord may have ADD, ADHD or Hyper Vigilance, or possibly Schizophrenia depending on the manifestation. We launched into January fully preparing Wesley for the best time of the PNW winter weather, and many snow days, only to be bombarded with balmy, sunny weather, spring sprouts creaking through the bark chunks and blooms on the bushes lining the walk. We actually said at one point, “I think we might need to mow the lawn…???!” Not normal in the least for us. Wesley had finally decided that he got completely gypped by this whole “come live in Washington” family deal, and was borderline ready to move back to Haiti where at least it was warm enough to wear shorts outside and chase down a few ripe mangoes. Then out of the blue one morning a cold front came in and we could see our breath, and the tips of each blade of grass were frosted in a sparkly, brittle shell. It was beautiful – we left on vacation for a weekend with some good friends and came home to a snowy wintry neighborhood! He helped build his first snow man, assembled many snowballs, got in trouble for throwing snowballs at the kitchen window, and had to re-make Frosty’s head (much to his chagrin), when he decided to decapitate Abby’s Snow-Masterpiece of a Frosty replica.

With school back in session after Christmas break, we slipped back into our favored weekly routines, adding in a soccer skills clinic for Wesley (which he loves) and doubling down with session 2 of basketball for both Wesley and Abby. Braeden wrapped up his basketball season playing with the school, and was just gearing up to start getting ready for baseball tryouts when he decided to take a header down the stairs on Super Bowl Weekend and crush his left wrist. Painful fall, even more painful catch (smart move protecting his head from smashing into the landing, by catching his full weight on his wrist), and quite a notable time in the ER while the docs had to reset his bones before they could splint him up for the week. He’s held up extremely well, had a great attitude, and after 3 weeks in a full-arm cast (over the elbow), will be swapping out for a shortie cast tomorrow for another 3 weeks. Thankfully, he will only miss about 3 weeks of full-capacity baseball practice and the coaches have okayed him stepping in to participate and play as soon as he’s cleared by the docs. Meanwhile, he’s keeping his pitching arm warm and ready to go! 😉

In the middle of all of this constant movement and schedule for our family (I mean, really, unless we just sentence them all to sitting home every day and not playing any sports or doing clubs, etc. with four kids, chaos is just a given), we are finding some interesting moments. Wesley LOVES, DEPENDS, LIVES for the schedule. He’s the perfect little brother counterpart to Braeden. For Braeden’s birthday each year we type out a schedule for the day. A literal schedule with time-stamps and travel and all our stops. He just functions best when he knows what the plan is. Wesley is the same way – without structure his life falls apart at the seams – which is super interesting because at the Orphanage, other than school, he didn’t have any structure. The afternoons after homework were free-for-alls, there was never a “plan” in place for what to do that day, or who to play with, or how long you were going to hunt spiders and then how long you’d lay your face on the coolness of the tile before sprawling across the hallway to play with a toothpaste cap for 40 minutes. That’s just not how life was. So coming home, where there IS the opportunity to have a schedule, he loves it, lives by it, counts minutes and hours, keeps track of time and order of events. But the interesting thing, is that we are starting to see him come to a point where he just gets tired of the constant go-go-go. 2 weeks ago, he abruptly asked me after school if he could stay home from soccer that evening. It caught me so off guard that all of a sudden my mama-bear brain went on high-alert for dangers. “Is there someone bothering you at soccer? Is there a grownup that is not nice to you? Is something making you sad about soccer?” on and on…bleh. I hate that feeling. I finally got to the bottom of it a day later when he finally admitted that he didn’t want to go to soccer because he just wanted to stay home and have a chance to play with his friend next door. He had been so chained to the schedule that he was missing his unscripted down-time to just play and be “free” from scheduling. I had, in the moment, of course – said “sure, you can skip soccer tonight” – because I sensed that there was something he was needing but couldn’t put a finger on – and I wanted to be able to be present in that moment and not hang onto the schedule for the sake of the schedule, or training, or development – but simply to acknowledge that yes, every day feels busy to you, and YES you are important and your TIME is important.

We find ourselves more and more making off-the-cuff, in-the-moment decisions like that, not because we are catering to his wants or expressions of desire (although that’s how it was early-on after homecoming, just to avoid blow-ups) but because we are realizing that part of the design of being a “present and accounted for” parent means that you have to be willing to flex. If you aren’t, then there’s a good chance you’re only present in your own universe, and not that of your child. Each of our kids lives in their own plane of existence at times. We are all part of the same world, but almost parallel universes! For each of them, being present and accounted for as a parent looks completely different.  For our oldest son and daughter, a lot of that stems from being available and engaged with them after-hours. They LOVE their “after-Wes-and-Abby’s-bedtime-time”. Many times we watch a favorite show together, or just hang out and shoot the breeze – but that’s how we show them we are here with them, living, growing and learning alongside them. For Abby and Wesley, being present with them looks totally different – but by realizing that they are different kids, and therefore have different needs is ESSENTIAL. They won’t all feel loved and cared for the same way. Abby would be in tears if I tried to stay up late with her and watch a show. She’s my early-bedtime old soul, and would much rather I be present in a different way – like sitting with her while she does homework, picking up a harmony while she’s singing around the kitchen, or playing a game together. Wesley’s moments are those like this evening, when we began reading a bedtime story, only to have it bust into a hard rap version of the story line complete with “wiki wiki”‘s, beat boxing and operatic elements. It was quite amazing, if I’d had my phone you’d be watching a video right now. But those moments, when we can just be completely silly and unguarded – that’s when he knows we are present.

Another piece of the flexibility with the parenting here has morphed with time. We’re almost at 9 months home now – incredible, absolutely incredible! – and we are finding that all the books we read and videos we watched have one huge thing in common – they don’t seem to apply to our kid.

I was chatting on one of the online forums I’m a part of with other adoptive moms from our orphanage, and there was a common theme that I saw threaded through our discussion. Multiple people have said it and I honestly don’t know where it came from or who to give originating credit to! I’ll speak to it in a minute…

One of the hardest thing as an adoptive parent (in my opinion) is reading all these rule books on how to parent your child from hard places, how to deal with traumatic pasts, what to do for discipline when you can’t do time outs or spanks, and a million other subjects. Each one has a formula or process you should follow in order to turn out a well-adjusted adoptive child.

This is my opinion on all that – There is some great advice and teaching out there. if you find some good stuff – by all means read it. But by all means do NOT make your only acceptable plan of attack based on their itemized list of what works and what doesn’t. The reason being: every child is different. Every situation is different. Every background and trauma is different, every age is different, every heart tendency and malleability is different. Kicker, – and here’s the part I wish I could credit to someone – , someone said it and I don’t know who, but I would love to go give this person a massive hug and a million dollars – Parent the child you HAVE, not the child they say you should have.

To all you adoptive mamas out there – I think one of you should write a book about this, and it will revolutionize adoptive parenting. What has worked for us is to consistently parent the child we HAVE – not the one the book says we should have. We tried for months to operate according to the “book””s plan, the steps laid out in response to negative behavior, how to combat “no'”‘s and the power of redirection. However – when we tried to shove Wes into the box that fit those responses, he folded. It has only been since we began to parent HIM in the way that HE resonated with, that he truly began to blossom like crazy!

So even if you’re not an adoptive parent, but a regular, old-fashioned, “from-my-womb” parent – please remember that your child is not a statistic. They most likely haven’t been screened for their aptitude and willingness to respond to this kind of book-learned disciplinary response. Your child is unique, and while you can still be firm and create boundaries for your children, you need to remember to parent the child that you have, not the one you’re reading about in the self-help chapters.

I promise I’ll post again soon – there’s lots more to say, but my eyes are looping in my head and I have to get up early and teach tomorrow!

 

Blessings to you all,

Laura

When the magic fades

It’s amazing to me how quickly the element of a magical experience can dissipate, leaving you in the throes of a magic hangover where we all wander like zombies, falling asleep late, sleeping in late (for some), all sense of routine and schedule thrown out the window. Gone is the tinkling of sleigh bells, the little red Elf has flown back to her wintry home, Santa came to town and left us with a mess of paper and stacks of “stuff” that now has to find a permanent home on a shelf or in a closet. It is incredible how much anticipation and breathlessness is compounded over the course of a month, only to completely disappear as soon as in-laws and cousins board the planes or buckle in for the drives home. The tree is gone, almost all traces of the wondrous, magical day is packed into bright red plastic tubs, correctly labeled and snapped closed to ward off any creatures that may think my 18″ Santa’s beard is a great place to rear their new family.

Our December month was certainly a magical, wondrous experience here – the whole “magic of Christmas” that has been somewhat lost the past couple years as our bio kids grew older, was refreshed in full-force with a 7-year-old experiencing Christmas for the first time! He has loved every bit of it, and the older kids have really enjoyed playing the role of encouraging excitement for someone else other than themselves. Imagination ran wild, many times running the gauntlet of targeted, fire-balls of questions aimed to prick any potential holes in the glittery facade. We decided to let the imagination run, pretty much on it’s own, answering Wesley’s questions with leading questions or thought-provoking questions, encouraging him to come up with an answer for himself. I can see him being a lot like his older brother, and next year we will probably have the pointed, “tell me the truth. Is Santa real?” And, when we get that question, as we did with Braeden, when the truth is asked of us, we tell it.

I found an awesome book this year, called “God Gave Us Christmas” by Lisa Tawn Bergren and David Hohn

it does a fantastic job of relating Santa, God and Christmas all together in a way that even Wes could understand. We read it many many times over this season, I highly recommend it!

We were able to have many “first” experiences this Christmas, first presents opened, first trip to the Zoo at night to see the Zoolights at the Oregon Zoo, first 2.5 hour Star Wars movie in the theater, first Christmas cookies made, first gingerbread house, first ornaments handmade, first family Christmas gatherings, first taste of Anise Cookies (secret family recipe…he loved them – he’s a keeper LOL), and most memorable of all – FIRST SNOW!

Helping make daddy’s famous Christmas morning cinnamon rolls

Gingerbread houses with Aunt Noelle and cousin Lucie

Ornament making with Aunt Laura

Christmas cookies!

Christmas Jam session with Uncle Reid, Grandpa Steve, and Spencer!

On Christmas Eve, despite the weather forecasters’ predictions of rain and blah, it started snowing while we were in our morning Christmas Eve service! It was quite incredible – We were inside singing O Holy Night by candlelight (another beautiful first, accompanied by a wash of fresh tears for a mama so thankful to be holding candles alongside my Haitian son and his Daddy, brother, and sisters), and we walked out of church to a wintry wonderland of snow falling, white powdery fluff on the ground, and grinning, giggling Wes, who couldn’t even believe what was happening! We drove home as fast as possible, busted out the snow gear and he proceeded to play in the snow for probably close to 6-7 hours over the course of the day, even into the dark with his cousins when they joined us for Christmas Eve dinner! It was an incredible gift for a first Christmas, and the kicker was that it was still there when we woke up on Christmas morning, giving us our first White Christmas in a very, very long time!

On the 23rd, we brought home our newest FURRY family member, 8-week old Maggie, a chocolate, standard-sized Australian Labradoodle. She was met at the front door with screaming Wes who couldn’t believe we got a puppy all our own, and teary older three, who were just completely melted at the sight of her. She has fast become everyone’s newest obsession, and the way that everyone is coming together to care for her and play with her is very sweet! She is highly entertained by our 2.5 year old pup Ollie, who thinks she is the best thing since dog food, and has to be put in isolation at times just to leave her alone! 😉 Bella, our 11-year old grumpy grandma dog, on the other hand, thinks she is the worst thing to happen to this family since Ollie came home, and refuses to give her the time of day, avoiding her like the plague! LOL

Wes handled Christmas gifting like a champ, we gave him a quick intro on how to be polite with gifts, even if it is something you don’t want, like underwear or a barbie (he thought that was funny), and after a couple awkward go-arounds with his first gift or two, he figured it out. We decided we would see how he was transitioning with American life before we made any decisions on Christmas and whether or not we were going to eliminate gifts this year, or change our normal routine for Christmas morning or gatherings. He was doing so well, that we decided to proceed as normal, being prepared to be flexible should we see anything questionable arise. We got through everything with zero issues, other than a tiny bit of normal kid crabbiness due to late nights and overstimulation. He was excited and a bit nervous to see how Christmas in America played out – it was very different at the orphanage, but I think he was satisfied with the result, and decided he might like to stick around to see how next Christmas goes…the countdown has already begun. haha 🙂

We’ve had a very nice break from the constant sports and practices and coaching, although at this point everyone is very ready to get back into their normal routines, needing their friend-time, and workouts, and court-time. This morning Wes woke up super excited because it was sunny outside (how come it is sunny in December??!!) and is already chowing through breakfast so he can “practice” shooting baskets on the sport court outside before he goes to his playdate later today!

We are continuing to see a blossoming of his personality, now coming up on 7 months home, he does continue to wrestle with the challenge of unknowns – but he’s learning to try something, (or be asked to try something) new  before he makes a decision as to whether or not he likes it.

Praying for a fantastic new year for all of us, and all of you – please continue to keep in touch and ask questions, and we’ll continue to update here!

I’ll post pics in a few min from my phone!

Blessings,

Laura

Elves, Santa, Jesus, and balance

This is a weird world we live in. I’m totally seeing Christmas from a new vantage point and it’s certainly gotten weird, and not just because I live a sneeze away from Portland (for reference, Portland has gotten weirder and weirder in the past 20 years, to the point that there are bumper stickers driving around on Toyota Priuses and Subaru Outbacks that simply say, “Keep Portland Weird”). Vancouver is going through its own growing pains, but Portland has fallen in my opinion. I drive down there to shop or take the kids roaming and I don’t even recognize all of the places I grew up in. Most likely that’s due to the tent cities on the side of the freeway and the Hipster Santa in the mall (real life story, people. What’s so wrong with a regular Santa who eats Christmas cookies and milk and hands out candy canes? Why do we need a Scotch drinking, mustache waxed, fair isles sweater wearing Santa with rolled up jeans and trouser socks and penny loafers who hands out packets of weed? (okay, the weed was an added creative liberty, but I wouldn’t be surprised) Let me tell you I had a very weirded out 7-year old who immediately said, “Mommy that’s not real Santa, let’s go.”).

Sorry. Rabbit trailing. I feel like Christmas as a kid was so much simpler. I know it was, in actuality, much much simpler – there was no Santa magic in our home, Santa was just a cheesy name on the from tag that meant Mom was trying to be cute. I didn’t think anything of it as a kid – never really questioned Santa or whether or not his existence (or lack thereof) would ruin my own. Christmas was filled with family gatherings, lots of food, cousins, tights (the ONLY time I would wear tights, {shudder}), and a pair of mom-sewn Christmas pajamas. We baked Christmas cookies, made homemade gifts for others, and drove Peacock Lane with a carful of kids. We parked on a bluff and watched the Christmas ships on the Willamette River, sucked our candy canes into dangerous saber-points of peppermint, and hung our tube socks on Christmas Eve. We watched black and white Christmas classics, It’s a Wonderful Life and Holiday Inn, and celebrated Advent every day throughout December, an activity planned for each family dinner or breakfast of the day. We made paper chains, and thanked the Lord for many, many things. We sang Christmas carols during church each Sunday, went caroling with our Fellowship Group in the neighborhood, and lit candles at the Christmas Eve service.

Christmas was always fun, but more than that it was always something that gave me warmth, hope, and a soft reminder of who Jesus was to me – not to my family, or my church, or my friends, but to me.

Fast forward 25 years, to a new world of Christmas where iPhone X is at the top of your kids’ Christmas lists, regardless of whether that’s even a practical thing to list (it’s not), and the Elf on the Shelf is competing with baby Jesus to bring joy to the world on these not-so-silent nights of Christmas. Somehow flying, glow-in-the-dark reindeer become the heralds of a little king’s birth which is usurped and trumped by a large, ruddy nosed, cookie eating old guy (very unhealthy role model for children today, I might add…surprised we didn’t have a healthy-plate makeover for Santa’s diet when we re-did our school lunch menus…), who sneaks in your house at night, and sees everything that you do – (does Santa see you in the bathroom? No. What if you pull your sister’s hair in the bathroom. Yes. Ew. Creepy.) – and somehow this gift-giving crazy-man takes over everything.

Most parents probably don’t realize how much of the bare bones of Christmas is getting pushed out each year by more and more of the froofy magical made-up stories and excuses for consumerism. I hadn’t either – until I all of a sudden had a new 7-year old who has never experienced Christmas like this before. America in general is a complete overload of the senses – but Christmas? Right now I’m starting to wish we lived in a remote village with nothing but a rudimentary nativity scene and a candle and a scrubby pine with popcorn strings and a star.

How did Christmas get so crazy and over-the-top far-fetched? I’m sitting on my couch with a set of Elf on the Shelf eyes boring into the back of my skull as we speak. Wesley was so concerned when the Elf showed up December 1st, and the onslaught of questions we received all of a sudden had us wondering – is it okay to allow your kids to believe in this stuff?

We’ve always dealt with our kids’ questions over the years with returned questions. “Is Santa real?” “I don’t know – what do you think?” etc. With Wesley, he has an engineering mind, and strategery (I know that’s not a real word, but Monty Python said it so I’m using it) is his right hand man. He wants to know the details of how Santa gets here, how he comes in side, and why he doesn’t use the front door. How does he make the dogs not bark, and what exactly is he bringing again? Do his reindeer really fly and why is every book about Santa a little different? Does the Elf go into your room and does he go tell Santa stuff when you leave the house or only at night?

Funny how he has no questions about baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph, and the shepherds other than, “Mommy what’s a shepherd again?” It’s all so straightforward – and there’s no muddling of facts. Mary and Joseph traveled a long way, there was no room in the hotel so they had to have baby Jesus in a cave (or barn) with the animals. Jesus was the King of the world, even though he was just a baby. He came to save all of us, even the people who aren’t nice. God sent him because He loved us very much – end of Christmas story. There’s not a billion different ways to tell it – and maybe that’s my biggest frustration with today’s version of Christmas.

For a child who is entering the American Christmas Story for the first time ever – what is it important to me that he know? We’ve wrestled through a ton – he’s doing amazing, our family is rocking the 6 month mark for sure! But we are constantly revisiting – what do we really want Wes to know or learn right now? What are the froofy non-essentials and what is a make-it-or-break-it lesson that needs to be taught? What are the parts that really matter and what things could we just let go? How much of the magical made-up version of Christmas is a fun add-on to childhood and where is the line crossed at leading him on into a world of consumerism and materialism and stuff that is just a flat-out lie? How do you balance that as a parent – is it wrong to allow your child to believe in Santa when you have never actually said “yes, Santa is real”? Our older kids eventually got to the point where they decided for themselves that Santa wasn’t real – but how is that different for a child who is new to all of this? Who hasn’t grown up with all the stories, or the Christmas morning stockings, or the Elf that comes for a month and does crazy things, etc.? We are realizing that just because something was okay for some kids, doesn’t mean it’s beneficial for every kid – it doesn’t mean it’s NOT, it just means it’s worth asking the question – and being aware.

I don’t necessarily have the answers right now – but it is a good question to allow ourselves to explore – many, many times over. We’re working on it.

We hit the 6-month mark this morning. Just another morning, but I realize that an encouraging thing for other transitioning families is that there does come a point where you realize, “wow, we just hit 6 months – that flew by!” When you’re in the first few months home, it’s like having a baby – you count the days first, “He’s 9 days old!” (really? Not a week and a half?) then the weeks, “He’s 8 weeks old!” (actually, he’s 2 months, but who’s counting?) and actually for transitioning families it’s more like “I can’t believe it’s only been 9 days” and then “I think it’s been 12 weeks already…(count on the calendar)…cue fresh fountain of hot tears and exhausted blubbering…It’s only been 8 weeks!!!” and then one day you wake up and get to the grocery store and realize that you calmly and naturally told your new child “no” about 33 times in a 10 minute trip to 33 different items and you had no pushback other than the normal “aww, mommy, why?!” and you mentally count and realize it’s been 4 months since he came home. Then you blink, and all of a sudden it’s Christmas and you’ve nearly forgotten that he hasn’t been a part of your life for your family’s whole existence.

It does get easier, the days don’t necessarily get shorter, but the minutes are less calculated, and the hours pass quickly. The anxiety wanes, and typical parent-of-four-children responses surface – like today’s exasperated outburst to drawing a sharpie angel on his own palm…it was a very nice angel, but we don’t write with sharpie on our hands! – and he shrugs off the reprimand with a small pout and moves on. I no longer count days between meltdowns, we haven’t had an issue with that since the middle of August – he’s learning very well how to self-regulate and emote in healthy ways, uses verbal communication and even says, “I’m sorry” when prompted – and has asked for forgiveness. These seem like small things, but there were many months where I just had to settle with my heart and accept the fact that he may never learn to say I’m sorry, and he may never learn to tell someone how he feels – and that needed to be okay.

We have transitioned into bedtime rituals where he seeks out the physical comfort of snuggles and hugs, and practically welds himself to us as he falls asleep. We’ve heard “I love you”‘s and seen true compassion in action several times over.

We definitely have our side-splitting laughter moments, funny things that just randomly “click” for him and come out as random bits of conversation – like his new favorite conversation is about babies and “lots of kids” because he saw Cheaper by the Dozen and thinks that somewhere between 12 and 20 kids is ideal for our family. LOL He asked me what babies wear when they come out – and I said, “honey, they are naked when they come out.” To which his eyes squeezed tight and he shook his head vigorously and said, “Naaaaaahhhhhhhhh….” and then looked at me quizzically like I was joking – I assured him that no, they really do come out naked, but then the doctors put on a diaper and some little jammies to keep them warm and he responded with, “Well, maybe you should swallow some shirts and pants so he can put them on before he comes out.”

🙂 Yes. We all had a fantastic laugh! 😉 I’m just a little concerned that he keeps saying “You should…” instead of “the mommy should…” and then in the next breath tells me that we should have 12 kids, but we should only adopt again from Haiti if it is some kids that he knows already.

Sigh. I thought 4 was a good number…I’ll have to intercept Wes’ prayers for awhile…

I’m sure more posts will follow as we get closer to Christmas – it is very fun to see Christmas as fresh and new again, but it is definitely a wake up call to all the extra stuff cozying up to Truth that may need some pruning.

Oh, also – a moment of silence for the loss of 18 months of photos and videos of our adoption journey from my phone. We have some of our trips backed up, but somehow a couple weeks back, 18 months of my photos and videos disappeared from my phone and my icloud with no reason or explanation. Hours-long support from Apple and recovery attempts from external software have turned up nothing.

So – if you happen to have photos or videos that I’ve sent you at all in the past 18 months, I’d love it if you could send them back to me – especially those from the past 6 months of being home. I shed many frustrated tears and have come to grips with the reality, but yet another reason to simplify. I’m getting a poloroid and digging out my 35 mm camera from high school and going to start hoarding physical photos. Does anyone still own a VHS camcorder?

Blessings, and Merry Christmas!

Laura

family tree farm