First Week of School!

I cannot believe we’ve already been through an entire week of school! They began last Wednesday, and had Weds – Friday last week and we are almost to Friday again! This week has flown by – mostly because I began teaching classes this week, so my normally laid-back days spent casually folding laundry, running errands, chatting with friends at Bible Study, or eating bon-bons (ummmm…I know guys joke about this all the time, but seriously. Does any stay-at-home mom even have a clue what a “bon-bon” is?? I think my Grandma used to eat them when I was a kid. I remember something about chocolate covered ice cream balls…kinda like today’s Dibs…For the record – I don’t like chocolate, and I can’t eat ice cream…so I definitely am not a bon-bon eating, stay-at-home mom) – complete, miles-long run-on sentence, segue-ing into the fact that I’m sitting on the couch trying to write a blog while the kids are watching “SING” a movie which I LOVE and makes me cry every time the adorable elephant sings – so I’m very distracted – and I have no idea what I was talking about. Okay. So obviously I’m super exhausted because stay-at-home mom-ing is super tiring, but teaching Kindergarteners, 1st graders and 2nd graders on top of being a mom is absolute INSANITY. I thought my life was loud before I took this job. This week, I spent three out of the last 4 days teaching kids about “magic (AKA Primary) colors” and inspiring an immediate love for the new art room in every child that walked in – especially the ones that declared their disgust for all things “artsy fartsy” the moment they walked in the door. πŸ™‚ So far so good – I now have 160 or so new best friends who hug me at our rendezvous at the bathroom sink, wave to me in the halls and tell their mommies “that’s Mrs. M-m-m-GRAVY, she’s our art teacher, mommy, she’s so nice!” in the pickup line. I can’t feel my big toes, I have a huge blister on my heel from being on my feet all day in new shoes, I’m pretty sure I will always refer to RYB as “magic colors” for the rest of my life and I’m having dreams about Tempra paint and Trolls singing “Hair up!” with rows of paintbrushes…but I love it.

You want to know the other thing I love? This morning, at my 9am class hour, my little 1st grader came to my room with the rest of his class, sat down at his paper, and expectantly waited for his mommy to begin teaching his art class. He grinned giggled when his picture came up on my power point slide show introducing my family, and shyly nodded yes when all the kids said, “Are you Wesley’s Mommy??!!” and explored the magic of his primary color mixing with the rest of the kids, laughing and working hard to create something beautiful on his page.

This boy never ceases to amaze us – his growth, his change, his adaptation to new experiences and new environments is crazy-beautiful! He started school last week on Wednesday morning, and came home Thursday with his first school worksheet where he colored in the appropriate black and white image that portrayed the emotion he was feeling on the first day of school – he chose “Excited” and in his adorable handwriting below he wrote, “I am excited because I love school!”

I cried.

I have prayed my dear Lord’s EARS off the past few months pleading with him to change my son’s heart about school, to create a healthy environment, to instill in him a love for learning and friends and his teacher. God has answered that 1million-fold if that is even possible! This little 7-year old has blossomed even more since school began 8 days ago – his countenance is joyful when he wakes, he is always the first one ready to go and smiles all day long. He practically skips out the door to school and gives me a high-five each morning before sitting down at his desk to start his work. He participates in class, engaging in conversation, answering questions, and being helpful to his teacher and classmates. He plays at recess with his new friends, is the soccer-star of the elementary school playground (each student that has watched my intro-slideshow in art class has looked at his picture and said, “hey! I know that boy! He is very good at soccer!”). His teacher loves him, and he respects her greatly, he has 2 other adoptees in his class, from Ethiopia, and even more friends from the states that he jokes and chats with like he’s been here forever. The aides all know who he is and gush about how sweet he is, and all of the big kids tell him hello and give him high-fives or hugs as he walks by (the perks of having older siblings at the school, I’m sure).

To anyone observing, Wes would most likely come across as a student who had been at the school since he began walking – he is at home, at ease, loves to play, but works hard and always does his best. This boy’s attitude has changed in the rest of his life since school began as well! While he was still a normally happy kid at home, his ability to shrug off frustrations, or respond positively to correction has morphed into something I can only describe as a pleasing aroma to our household! He is helpful, quick to be positive or give a smile, and even when he refuses physical affection (still working on that) he is beginning to allow himself to be moldable at times.

For those bringing kids home – we have dealt the past 3 months with something that has been increasingly frustrating – which is that every time he is asked a question, he gives a non-truth answer. Not in a malicious-intent way – he isn’t intending to deceive or lie in order to be rebellious or hurt- he thinks it is funny to say one thing and get someone to believe you (typical for this age)…but it was getting to the point where every question asked of him would get an opposite answer, including when a grown up friend would ask “Hi Wesley, are you having a good day?” and he would say “no” every time. Or mom says, “did you have fun at soccer today?” and “no” would be the automatic answer, even if we know he had a great time! It was getting to the point where we had to correct every time we got a negative answer, or we tried ignoring – and each time it would heap more frustration on the situation. After awhile, the older kids joined in on the “joke” and would start answering with a negative answer in a joking manner when we asked a question. For example, “Did you eat all your lunch today?” “No….I’m just kidding, yes”. UGH. It was to the point of terrible.

So – I had a spontaneous chat in the car with all the kids on the way to school the other day. I just offhandedly told them that we were going to work on ALL telling the truth the first time. I gave them a few examples of questions where they could answer the “truth answer” the first time, and told them that we are ALL going to work on telling the truth the first time – so we needed to all be practicing. I wanted Wes to know that it wasn’t a reprimand or correction targeted at him – but that everyone was going to be working on the behavior change.

I was absolutely blown away by the change. When I picked Wes up from school – “how was your day?” “Ummm…Good!” I seriously think I almost had a heart-attack. Immediately I said, “awesome, I’m glad to hear it! Thanks for telling the truth the first time!” Wes’ turnaround in how he answers questions has been immediate since that conversation and I can see a difference in how he engages in those conversations as well – he is more chatty, puts on a smile when he says “good!” and even told Daddy at the dinner table what we talked about in Art Class today – “magic colors” – with mommy!

We decided that it was time to start making more firm corrections in behaviors that have been annoying and brushed off the past few months due to “making an easier transition” because we were trying to avoid things that created massive conflicts. We have found that at this point in time, he is responding VERY well to firm correction, given with patience, grace and love. We still have to allow some extra beats before he follows a direction – many times – but that’s coming along. There are very few things we still continue to make concessions about – we don’t avoid the conflict, and we are shutting down the little behaviors that are laced with even the slightest malicious intent. Wes has not “shut down” in weeks – He hasn’t even really “shut off” others emotionally or closed off himself to anyone for long periods of time. He had his first stint of going to a friend’s house, with his sisters along, after school while I headed out to a Driver’s Ed Parent meeting with Braeden (!!!!!! HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE!!!???) and enjoyed his first late-night High School football game at school after-hours.

Overall – this week has been a week of firsts, but it has been amazing to watch this boy blossom inside and outside of the structure of school in America. He loves school, loves his teacher, his friends, and the structure of always knowing what is next! He loves everything about the many walls and halls of that building, and even seems to not mind that Mommy is there sometimes, passing in a hallway, or waving from a window!

We are blessed – incredibly. We are so so so so so aware. We have heard others’ struggles with transitioning kiddos from tough places, we have friends who are struggling, and others who are just surviving. Right now I feel like I’m surviving – but not for the same reason that I was “surviving” 5-6 weeks ago. It is finally starting to feel like a new normal – like this school year is just like any other school year – busy, and a tad crazy, with a few more oil pastels and dirty paint-water buckets thrown in.

I’m so excited to revisit this year come June – when he’s been through a year and we get to see just how much he has changed and grown! So far, I’m encouraged, I’m incredibly thankful, and I’m also incredibly exhausted…LOL! So, I’m going to sign off. I appreciate those of you who read through this entire account, because it is SO long – thank you for being you – for being supportive, committed, and our fortress of encouragement!

OH! Before I go – a quick update on my mom’s progress for those who know her and have inquired: she is now at a local rehab facility, where she will be until they release her to go home. She is making incredible progress each day – working hard, and absolutely determined to come out on top. She has a great attitude, perseverance, and grit that would make the toughest men blush! The OT and PT teams are encouraged by her progress and continue to give her new challenges each day! She has an incredible group of friends in addition to her family that are keeping her company, encouraging her and stepping up to take care of tasks that need doing while she’s “out”.

Blessings to you all, we will continue to partner with you in prayer, to lift others up as they have lifted up our hearts the past few years. Thank you for the honor and privilege of your friendship(s)!

~ Laura & family


This room was a complete transformation done with help from my husband, kids, and a couple sweet friends! Every time a child walks in for the first time, their face lights up! I love it! 

First Dentist appointment!

He was a Pro!

Warmed my heart – Abby helping Wes with his math homework!

Decided to explore the roller blades today! First thing he wanted to do was figure out “mommy how do I sit down?” Lol.  

First Day of School!

Thank you. Thank you for prayers, for encouragement, for the texts today inquiring how Wes’s first day of school went! All the stress leading up to this day and this is how it started:

“Mommy, how do you make my spaghetti stay warm for my lunch??!!” This guy was the first one asleep last night after an evening of giddy silliness (you would have thought it was Christmas Eve), and was the first one up this morning, downstairs fully dressed, helping pack his lunch πŸ˜€

We took photos on the porch: (and yes, one for me – it was technically my first day of school too, although I don’t  have to teach any classes this week)

Laura – 37 years old, 32nd grade, Kings Way K-5 Art teacher

Braeden, 15 years old (driving), 9th grade

Logan, 13-years old, 8th grade

Abby, 11-years old, 6th grade

Wesley, 7-years old, 1st grade


Wes walked right into class without so much as a tear, I had to March him right back out to give me a darn hug! Basically said, hey. I have spent months in anxiety over this moment – so give that anxiety a bit of validation and at least give me a clinging hug goodbye!! Lol! He sat down with a grin, waved at his new bestie across the desk, (a little girl who he met yesterday at the school social), and immediately got out his crayons to color! 

When I picked him up after school he was full of smiles and his teacher said he had an awesome day! He told us he is wearing his “snackcident bacon shirt” tomorrow so that his friend will like it and laugh πŸ˜‰ FYI his shirt says “Snackcident: noun: when you accidentally eat all the bacon” (or something like that). He thinks it’s hilarious and I’m just glad he’s already planning to go to school tomorrow! πŸ™‚

Today was a bit of a breather from a very very long, stressful and frightening weekend. On Friday evening last week, my mom was in a bike vs. vehicle accident that put her in OHSU Emergency care with two crushed wrists, a fractured leg, torn shoulder tissue and other cuts, bruising, and abrasions. We are incredibly thankful that she came out with clear CTs, no spine injuries, no other broken bones, no brain damage, and quite frankly, that she’s alive. 

Needless to say, my sister and I have spent many hours in the hospital and on the phone trying to coordinate care, visits and rehab placements in addition to trying to keep life as normal as possible for our families. It has made for some 3am nights, early mornings with Wes’ early-rider status, and now first day of school. In the meantime I also had to get my art classroom entirely painted top to bottom. I was so thankful for good friends to spend a night helping me paint walls, and Kris and the kids to help me make some headway when I was maxed out on stress! 

So today, I will admit, was a blessed morning. I dropped the kids off and was able to go spend almost 4 hours with my mom at the hospital, connect with the PT, OT and trauma team as well as her case manager to coordinate rehab following her discharge – all without worrying about what my kids were doing or who would watch them while I was up there! 

It has been an odd blessing – but a blessing indeed to be able to love my mom in a new way. She is always the one that has done the waiting at the hospitals, the recovery care, the checking-in – and now we get to show her in a very practical way how much she means to us. 

Her progress is better every day – she had surgery on both wrists on Saturday evening and while she still doesn’t have mobility and needs 24-hour care, it is so encouraging to see the little progress made each day! She is determined to move, to heal, and to be independent again – a physical therapist’s dream patient! πŸ˜‰

I’m signing off as we have another early morning tomorrow, but mostly wanted to say a huge thank you to those who prayed for this special day for Wes! All our kids had such an awesome first day of school – and they were all so excited to hear about his day and what he did and what his new friends names were! πŸ˜‰ (should I be surprised that the bulk of them are girls? I’m gonna have to watch that kid…) he said he “played school” with his friends at recess in the classroom – they had indoor recess today because the smoke is so heavy from the Columbia Gorge fires it is literally raining ash. (Or as Wes said this morning “there’s eyelash in the sky” – to which we were very confused until we realized he was trying to say “ash” LOL)

Unfortunately for Wes that means no swimming, no playing outside, no bikes, etc. the air quality is so thick with smoke and ash – thankfully this all hit just a couple days before school started and not midway through summer!! Praying they get the fires under control soon!

I’m heading to sleep – exhausted. Praying for another great day tomorrow!



This was how I found them at pickup after school! Happy kids!

It all started with a paper hat…

It all started with a paper hat. Yesterday, he was in a funky beginning of a moody grouch session and picked up a random piece of glossy paper insert that was laying on the counter and began to fold it. After about 2 minutes it was carefully folded into a paper hat – to which I pounced on the opportunity for a distraction and said, “wow, that is so cool! You made a hat! How did you make that?” To which he dismissed my excitement with an offhanded, “oh I make those in Haiti all the time.” (Yeah, no big deal, mom). 

I slid over a blank white piece of paper and asked if he could do it again. He quickly made a hat and then I said “hey do you know how to use glue? You could glue colored pieces of paper on there for a decoration!” He thought for a split second and said “oh that’s a good idea!” (Skies open and Angels sing the hallelujah chorus) 10 minutes later he had shapes carefully glued on each side, took a look at it from arms length and said, “ehhh. Mommy we no have paint?” (Dude. You think God is going to place you in a forever family that doesn’t have PAINT? You drew the longest straw in this one, buddy!) “paint?? Oh yeah. Mommy has paints!” He turned inquisitively to face me and lifted an eyebrow, “I can paint this hat?” (A family that has paint and doesn’t let you use it? Pssshhhh!) “of course you can! Take your hat to the table and I’ll get some paints for you!” 

An hour later, the girls had gotten in on the action and there were multiple painted paper hats and then a host of painted pictures as well! I figured maybe that was my little blessing window of seeing creativity budding. 

This morning he went right to the table when we got up and busted out a pencil drawing of our house interior complete with all the rooms for everyone and a dining table complete with a bowl of spaghetti – all before the solar eclipse started at 9:06am πŸ˜‰ after we completed seeing the sun “get black” with special glasses and our next door neighbors he spent the next 2 hours painting his house and beginning an art museum’s worth of masterpieces. Later on in the afternoon the girls joined him and they painted another hour together. I have never seen him so deliberate and focused – and the creativity was so beautiful! 

I was so encouraged to see this part of him come through – as he has resisted projects and coloring and drawing for the most part – guess maybe he just needed to be inspired by the paints! πŸ˜‰ 

We had such a beautiful Wesley day today – the painting just added to it! I had an hours worth of snuggles and cuddles in my bed this morning and at bedtime tonight he gave and received kisses and tried falling asleep cuddled against me with his arm thrown across my chest! (The bliss came to a screeching halt when he kept fidgeting and finally I heard, “mommy you hair is tickle me.” πŸ™‚ Guess I have tickley hair. Who knew? 

Anyway – I don’t usually post two days in succession but I thought it was important to share the beautiful moments and not just the “this is tough and I’m exhausted” ones. 

I could use a few extra prayers tomorrow – I have a bit of a crazy day with my Crohn’s treatment and not my normal availability of Kris’ help. πŸ˜‰ I’m sure it will be fine but I can already feel my anxiety building. Pray for smooth day with Wes and a smooth peace over my heart as well! Oh – and he has his first official soccer practice – and it sounds silly but pray for his little emotional self that he will not fight going to soccer – because I know he will have a blast if he goes and plays – but I’m also having to get him there by myself after being wasted from my treatment. Praying hard that he goes peacefully and that it’s a smooth evening πŸ˜‰


Oh and forgot to post pics yesterday so here’s a few from the past few weeks!

So focused!

Apple tree and a swimming pool with a guy diving!

Watching the black sun…

Today’s architectural drawing…

Yesterday’s hat-making…

Another perk to being on property…shoot guns in the front yard! πŸ˜‰

Rare midday snuggles…

“Mommy I catch a huge big one fish!!”

I just want to live here. Forever. 

Thumbs up means go fast-fast!

Watching the horses…

Exploring the old Silos on the farm!

So adorable, this is where the Little’s wanted to sit every time they rode in the boat! Up front!

He doesn’t like boats at all πŸ˜‰

Our trip to Columbia River Ranch – for a few days of (active) rest! Wes experienced his first boat rides and inner tubing!

We took Wes to his first Clark County Fair! He loved every second of it – and his favorite ride was the rollercoaster!

Gotta love the ping pong ball in the goldfish bowl game…somehow we get a fish for almost free but the tank and stuff to keep it alive is $60. Now out of 6 fair fish, only one is still swimming. I think it would have been more fun to use that $60 on more roller coaster rides for Wes! Lol

My dad does an annual “Adventure Day” with each grandkid to explore different activities and try new things – he did a modified version for Wes – and they had a blast! Making musical instruments with wood spoons and washers, and shooting bow/arrows in the back yard!
Caught a fish!

The kids were building a dam – so dad decided to use his muscles to help out!

The ultimate Sand Man!

Can’t see them very well but this is our traditional photo-taking spot at Lincoln City beach!

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…


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™‚


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.



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



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.


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?)