Posts Filed Under A Grand Adventure

When Adoption Isn’t Easy – The Things Nobody Wants To Say Outloud

by bosssanders on April 8, 2014 with 6 comments

Sometimes, I just want to be a “plain ‘ol” mom.  I want to be able to sit around a table and talk about my rough days without being looked at with wide eyed horror or like I’m a three-eyed monster.  Sometimes, I just want to be so honest about my thoughts and not judged.  Sometimes, I just need to be seen as a mom, wife, woman… just trying to love Jesus and her family and doing her best to do what’s right.  I’m just like every other mama…

I teeter on the line between being a “Trauma Mama” (as my friend, CS calls them… people who constantly complain about the hardness that comes when your life changes) and appearing as if our family came right out of a “Leave it to Beaver” episode.  I have no interest in either, I just want to be real.  And, while adoption can be messy, it is also beautiful.  I’ll never stop saying that.  I believe it.

But, here’s some things I don’t want to say, but that I want you to know (and to know…those of you with me… you are NOT ALONE):

- There are days when I’m EXHAUSTED and WEARY and feel like I’m losing a fight.  On those days, I miss how simple things used to be.  On REALLY hard days, I feel like we messed everything up.  It’s SO hard to say those words.  It’s hard to even think them.  But, on the HARDEST of HARD days, I wonder what the future holds and if we are hurting our other children.  But, the TRUTH is we didn’t mess anything up.  We have grown and our kids have grown and have an up-close view of tangible mercy and grace and redemption.  They know what it’s like to love others and to LOVE big.  The TRUTH is that doing what God has called you to do is never EASY.  He doesn’t call us to EASY.  I bet even Noah had fleeting thoughts as he built the ark and waited for the rains…

- And, on those super HARD days, I feel like the worst. person. ever for even thinking those thoughts.

- I hate the thought of saying it out loud, out of fear that some of the people who disagreed with our adopting would think they were right all along (YOU WERE NOT, BY THE WAY.  We were meant to do this.)

- But, down deep, I know the thoughts fleeting through my brain are NOT TRUE.  Because, I KNOW …without a shadow of a doubt… that God called us to THIS journey, THIS child.

- Some days, I feel weary from the burden of knowing there are people looking at OUR STORY, as they are considering adoption.  I don’t want to vent and them be overwhelmed and disheartened, and I also don’t want to contribute to some view of adoption where there is no mess, no hurt.  Because, ALL children need homes. –The easy kids, the hard ones, the healthy ones, the ones with illnesses, the black ones, the white ones, the young ones, the old ones… ALL of them.  We ALL need families.  Even when we don’t think we need families… we do.

- i screw up a lot.  And, I’m really tired of hearing about “What Would Karyn Purvis Do?”  Let’s all get bracelets: WWKPD?… NOT.

- Kids with hard pasts come home with a range of behaviors… manipulation, stealing, lying, bed-wetting, etc.  They are all “normal.”  And yet, it’s hard to talk about with my “normal friends” (those who haven’t adopted older kids) because I don’t want my child labeled.  I yearn for relationships where I can be real and talk about my day without a friend eye-ing my child when their kiddo misplaces their own favorite toy or book.  The truth is… my kid is a GOOD kid struggling along on his own journey.  And, he’s doing pretty darn awesome.

- MOST DAYS, I’m SO thankful for this little boy.  He makes me smile.  He has already come SUCH a long way.  We have trekked a LONG and TEDIOUS journey with him, even in the past few months.  I see where and what he came from and am AMAZED at the ways in which God has protected him and shielded him – physically, spiritually, and emotionally.  Had it been me, I can only imagine the shape I’d be in… I’d probably be rocking in a corner.  He has changed SO much.  He used to be a fighter, full of defiance and … HARD.  Now, we deal with some things (that are small in comparison but feel BIG on hard days in the moment) but he left fighting behind and has tried hard to become a new version of himself when he started this new chapter of his life.  He works hard, trying to obey and has attached well to his siblings.  He tries to be helpful at home, doing chores and helping with his little brother.

- Attachment is HARD.  I never, ever expected how hard it would be.  I had grand visions of a little boy who would give hugs and we’d snuggle (because we’re all snugglers here) and we’d all be so in love with each other.  After all, my “mama bear” instinct was immediately ignited for him and I prayed and fought so hard to get him good, quality care and keep him safe.

- Instead, hugs were awkward and it took 5 months to cuddle…once.  For the first couple of months, there were NO butterfly feelings.  I loved him because he was my son, but I didn’t expect the feelings that came instead of the butterflies….  The truth is… why wouldn’t attachment be hard?  Expecting a child who has never known what a family looks like to seamlessly integrate in…that’s CRAZY.

- And, again… I felt like the most horrible mother on the face of the planet.  What kind of mother was I?  (A NORMAL ADOPTIVE ONE, IT TURNS OUT.)  (Now, we are MUCH better but are still journeying towards complete attachment.)

- There are some days where it doesn’t feel like he cares.  About anything other than his immediate gratification.  And, fear grips me.  And, I feel overwhelmed with my responsibility to help him un-learn the negative behaviors he’s spent the past 7-8 years learning and to teach him to connect with others and love others and most of all, to love Jesus.  I feel overwhelmed and the fear of failing this task is SO HARD.  My mind darts to the future and the what-ifs and I just don’t want to fail God and the little boy He entrusted me with.  But, the TRUTH is… it’s our responsibility to train him up to know and love Jesus… but beyond that, it’s up to him.  And, it’s up to God.  Not me.  Maybe I didn’t get the first years of his life, but God has protected him and shielded him and He will not abandon him now.  My fears are simply a distraction from the truth.

- We adopted because we love Jesus and wanted to share our home with a child who didn’t have a family.  That’s it.  Not because we were super patient or had super powers.  Not because we were bored or rich.  Not because we wanted more kids (not that we don’t…it just wasn’t the reason.)  The truth is….We’re just … normal (mostly)… people.  Please don’t expect more from me than any other mama who spends her days pouring into her littles.

- And, sometimes, I just want to get out of the house.  Alone.  I homeschool 4 little kids and I pour BEYOND what I have into them on a daily basis.  My days don’t end at 5 pm.  They never end on some days…like when fevers or stomach bugs visit our home.  Some days I get super excited about getting out… or look super tired… it’s not because I hate my kids (I DON’T)… I just need a break.  And, by break, I don’t mean a playdate at the park, where I’m on high alert for child predators, moving vehicles, potential broken bones, or on the run children!

At the end of the day, I just want to be a mom… just like you.  I want to sit around a table with friends and be able to admit “this is HARD” without people hearing, “this was a mistake” instead.  Sometimes, I just want to be able to talk about a hard day and people know I’m talking about that day, that moment… not that my life sucks.  (Because, if we’re being honest, we ALL have hard days… I remember having 3 kids under the age 4 while my husband was deployed and that was HARD of a different kind.  But, still…HARD).  I want my son to be seen as a kid…not as the potential source of trouble because his beginnings started out a little differently.  –Because, the truth is… each of our kids have their own “stuff” to deal with.  I want us to be heard and seen and loved…with no mental assessments or judgements.

Because this journey we are on?  It’s just a journey… much like yours.

And, we don’t regret it, it’s worth it.  He’s worth it.

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Homeschooling and Adoption

by bosssanders on April 5, 2014 with 1 comment

“Z” has been home in the US with us for 21 weeks and 2 days.

I remember searching the internet for clues on how to school a child who does not speak your language, how to catch them up quickly.  I remember the search for materials that could help us, help him, and help us help him!  I remember finding next to nothing.  I remember calling schools, frantic, asking what they could do for my son (turns out, beyond Spanish students, there’s not much for older children from different languages when it comes to integrating them into school.  Their solution?  Stick him in a Kindergarten class with children 2 years younger than him and leave him there so that he’d always be 2 years older than the other kids.)  It felt like everywhere I turned, people encouraged me to put him in the hands of our local schools… they didn’t believe I could do it.  Heck, I wasn’t even sure I believed in me… so why should they?

I’ll admit… taking a child who had NEVER had any formal schooling and couldn’t speak our language…and trying to “catch him up” was a daunting task.  Terrifying.  I homeschool 2 of our other children, but we’ve never encountered barriers like this.  They are EASY to homeschool.  They are motivated and quick-learners.  It wasn’t until I was told that they’d simply “stick” him in Kindergarten to sink or swim that I decided I could AT LEAST do that.  I could AT LEAST get him to Kindergarten, if nothing else.  And, I could give him more than 30 minutes of one on one time that the school was offering.  I could do that much, I knew.

And, 21 weeks and 2 days later… this is what I’ve learned:

- You don’t have to catch your child up to where they need to be in the first year.  If the schools in your area aren’t the best option for you (I know some schools do this VERY WELL and have experience with older adopted children transitioning in…or, at the very least… are willing to TRY and WORK CLOSELY WITH PARENTS).  I kept thinking… must catch him up to 1st/2nd grade in the first school year (which only had 6 months left in it).  It felt and looked like a mountain.  It felt impossible.  But, the truth is… we homeschool ALL.DAY.LONG.  We may put the books away, but we keep learning.  He has siblings that are eager to teach him all they know.  We don’t have to take snow day breaks and our summer breaks will be filled with learning, too.  And, when you have a classroom of 4 children, you can get MORE done in a shorter amount of time.  (We have gotten through 1.5 grade levels in ONE school year before and another .5 during the summer.)

- When “Z” first came home, he didn’t know his alphabet, colors, English, numbers, or how this world worked.  Needless to say, basic etiquette, how to eat in public, safety rules, etc… all BRAND NEW!  EVERYTHING was new.  I wasn’t prepared for that to this extreme!  (I’m not sure why!  It makes COMPLETE SENSE!)  So, we began with PRE-K and toddler lessons.  The difference, though, was that he has the CAPACITY to learn quickly and deeply (unlike a toddler).

- We began with colors, ABCs, words, safety rules, manners, and numbers.  We bought picture dictionaries (like what you’d buy for toddlers) and Richard Scarry’s books.  The kids and my husband and I (and other family members) would take turns going through it with him, pointing out things and practicing naming them in English.  We role-played for manners at the table and other places.  We sang ABCs and practiced writing those and numbers.  We put on ABC songs and ABC/counting dvds and practiced naming a new color each day.  I had a sheet of paper that i tracked his new words (so I knew what else to work on with him) and in 3 weeks, he could say his ABCs and count to ten and name his colors.  He could communicate at a basic level with words with us.

- Then, we began the Leap Frog letter factory DVD to learn his letter sounds.  Each day before nap-time, the kids would watch it (even our 2nd grader and toddler still liked it!)  We kept teaching new words, practiced writing letters and numbers.  In about 1.5-2 weeks, he knew 90% of his letter sounds.

- At approximately 5 weeks, he “graduated” Preschool level!

- Next, we began Hooked On Phonics for Kindergarten, level one.  At first, it went TERRIBLY slow.  He could sound out the letters S-A-M, but then would simply say HAT!  We were really confused and felt like the wonderful progress we’d made had come to halt!  (Our four year old was speeding through and seemed to be able to identify letter sounds so we weren’t sure where the disconnect was coming from).  We kept trudging through for a couple of weeks with no real progress on that part.  Then, we realized his “best time” was in the morning after breakfast and we were trying to read in the evenings.  So, we changed the time and then had his older sister help him practice.  I’m not sure if it was just extra time, the difference in the time of day, or having someone to compete with that made the change (or all 3)… but, soon… he was on a ROLL!  (We do notice in the evenings, when his brain is FINISHED… he’ll resort back to having difficulty taking anything in.  I can SO relate!)

- We began some basic math … “You have 2 cookies, I give you 1 more, how many do you have?” sort of thing.  We used wooden pattern blocks and pattern animals to help learn problem solving.  (He caught on FAST!)

- With a good foundation of English, we began putting him in more situations where we could teach him how to interact with others in different settings.  AWANA – where he began to learn and memorize scripture.  Prayer group.  Playgrounds.  Stores.  Parks.  Theatre.  Restaurants.  Church.  He was a quick learner!  He went from a place where “anything goes” to some pretty specific rules and he did GREAT!

- I used the World Book Typical Course of Study (google it)and a few other curriculum guides to help me be intentional of things to prioritize to learn (jobs in community, family members/roles, farm and zoo animals, etc) for each grade.  Some things, I know he’ll pick up as we go… others, I spent some extra time on.  Some things, I had to wait to teach because he didn’t have the normal experiences an American child would to pull from (ex., He’s never been to a zoo.  Explaining zoo animals vs. farm animals is HARD when you’ve never been to either.  So are a lot of other things!)

- At 21 weeks… a little over 5 months… he’s finished Pre-K and almost half-way through Kindergarten!  We are focusing mostly on Reading and Math for Kindergarten while we try to catch him up.  He is learning science and Geography with his sisters from our My Father’s World Exploring Countries and Cultures set (3rd grade + level but adjustable for younger/older kids)  He can identify the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Africa.  He knows who God is and why Jesus was sent to Earth.  He can listen to simple stories and tell you what happened.  He can say a few words in Spanish and sing “Let it Go” from Frozen :)   His English vocabulary has grown SO much!  (Because MFW goes on a “cycle,” we put our kids in together for whatever the oldest is learning for science, geography, Bible, and history.  IF he didn’t have an older sister, I would’ve probably started him in their K or 1st program and fast-tracked through.  Example — the kindergarten curriculum can be done in 1/2 the time for an older child.)

- Next, he will begin the 2nd book for Hooked On Phonics (Kindergarten)  and continue to read Bob Books.  We will continue learning about countries and cultures, together.  Soon, we will begin 1st grade math and then first grade Hooked On Phonics.

Items we used and found helpful:
- Colors, shapes, and counting DVD like this one.
- Richard Scarry’s Biggest, Busiest Storybook Ever (HERE)
- Children’s picture dictionaries like THIS and THIS and THIS
- Hooked On Phonics – Kindergarten (Here) Also, check out the Hooked on Phonics Website to see if they are running any deals!  I bought mine on sale!
- Bob books (HERE)
- Letter Factory DVD (HERE)
- World Book Typical Course of Study Lists (HERE)
- Pattern Blocks and Pattern Animals (HERE) and (HERE)
- My Father’s World Curriculum (HERE) – We are using THIS ONE.
- This Math book (HERE)

For those of you who have adopted older children, which resources did you find most helpful for learning?  Please tell me in the comments!


Today, April 1, 2014

by bosssanders on April 1, 2014 with 1 comment

Outside my window…
The wind chimes are softly singing, the sun is shining, and the weather is… PERFECT!

I am thinking…
About how HARD it can be to move past hurts.

How HARD it can be to love specific people when they’ve BURNT you in REALLY big ways… CONSISTENTLY… and may never change.

And what it means to LOVE them anyhow.

I’m thinking about…

8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  –Philippians 4:8

And how, sometimes… we MUST remember so that we can adjust our expectations and shield our hearts and NOT go through an unbearable and endless cycle.

But, sometimes… when a person is working so hard to change… we must FORGET on purpose.  Intentionally not remember.  Forgetting is a process…just like changing is.  It’s a journey.  A journey to not remember the things singed deep.  A journey to focus, instead, on the love washed clean.  To focus on Jesus instead of failures, both yours and mine.  To focus on whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.  To change our thoughts so that we may change our world.

I am thankful…
65.  For new mercies every day.
66.  For science experiments outside on pretty days.
67.  For the freedom to homeschool our children.
68.  For a husband who seeks to define himself by God’s Word.
69.  For the ability to read the words of God and Jesus.
70.  For His redeeming love and unwavering forgiveness.
71.  That my God always was, always is, and always will be.  That He is unwavering and never-changing…regardless of how unsteady I may be…
72.  Friendship bread in a basket from a friend…
73.  Sweet texts before bed.
74.  Tiny boy in his new, big bed…

75.  A sweet friend, bringing a piece of her adventures to France back home to share with the littles…
76.  This blessing of children…

In the kitchen…

White cheesy chicken enchiladas… YUM!

I am reading…


(My Bible – specifically… the Gospels at the moment)


(As I reach new points in the Gospel, I read a little extra from this book, matching up different parts of His life and adding insight)

(And, I would recommend each of these!)

We/I am learning…

Ro just finished her Kindergarten Reading 1 Book!  One more book and she graduates from the Kindergarten program!  Z is about half way through and trying hard!

We are finishing up MEXICO this week!  It’s been SO much fun!!  (For more specifics, go HERE.)

Making our forest diorama…

Learning the difference between warm and cold-blooded animals.  (Specifically, how a turtle or other cold-blooded animal’s temperature would rise or fall depending on how hot/cold it’s surrounding were whereas a warm-blooded animal’s body temp. would stay steady.)

We made Mexican “tunics”… and…


Had a fiesta with decorations and mexican food (taco/burrito bar), complete with Spanish music, dancing, and …

a pinata!!

We even dissected a cactus!

Around the house…

The kids were SUPER excited to mop the kitchen floor by hand (with rags) today. As La is scrubbing with princess flair (and I’m cleaning the microwave), she says…
La: Mom, I’m just like Cinderella!
Me: You think so? I mean… besides the evil stepmother and schizophrenia (hearing voices from animals), right?
La: I MEAN… Because look, I’m scrubbing the floor! Just like Cinderella!
Me: More like… just like a mommy…
La: Yeh… but… Cinderella’s sisters always tell her, “tie my bow,” “fix this,” “clean that”…
Me: Hmmm… sounds like a mommy, still. “Mommy tie my shoes.” “Mommy, fix me food.” “Mommy, clean this.” “Mommy…mom… mother… mama… !!”
La: You’re right! You are much busier than Cinderella! Hey mom? Do animals talk to you too?

A favorite quote…
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  –Philippians 4:8

One of my favorite things…

Action, intrigue, and danger follow Scarboy wherever he goes, especially in the Enchanted City, where the “imperfect” are cast away and orphans are enslaved. Scarboy manages to escape the evil Enchanter to safety in Great Park, but has yet to confront his greatest fear—and he’ll need enormous courage to conquer it!

An exciting series from best-selling authors David and Karen Mains, the gold-medallion award-winning Tales of the Kingdom offers fast-paced action and exciting storytelling with a enduring Christian message.

Enjoy the beautiful, full-color illustrations as these classic allegories teach kids and adults the importance of trusting God as they unveil fundamental truths about good and evil.

I enjoyed this book as much as the kids did!  You can find it here.  Or, you can buy the complete trilogy in paper-form HERE (my favorite!–Skip down to “Kingdom Tales”)

filed under A Grand Adventure

Today, March 12, 2014

by bosssanders on March 12, 2014 with no comments

Outside my window…
And…it’s cold again!  But, I’m so thankful for the nicer temps this week, that I don’t care!  And hey, maybe it’ll kill off the mosquitoes!  (Actually, probably not, since apparently our region is home to approximately SIXTY different species of mosquitoes!  And… some of those species’ eggs can lay dormant in ice and then hatch as soon as the weather is okay!  Are you SERIOUS?  Yesterday…day 2 of consistent nice weather… and mosquitoes already had begun to flog us!  Crazy!  (This is where I now beg for you to tell me in comments your favorite methods of keeping those things AWAY from us and our babies and yard!  GO!)

I am thinking…
About the new “Ban Bossy” campaign.

For those who are unfamiliar with it, it’s a campaign backed by Girl Scouts and some others to ban the word “bossy” as they feel it has negative implications and makes girls not live up to their potential.

And, while I’m all about affirming others, I’m having a hard time getting behind this thing.  I’m wrestling with why that is and trying to put thoughts into words.

First, I think there is a big difference between being bossy and being a leader.  Bossiness is when you TELL people to follow you (or else).  Leadership is when people CHOOSE to follow you.

Second, while I know words can hurt and wound pretty deeply… I think saying that one word CAUSED you to not go after your dreams or reach your potential… has more to do with you than that word.  Everyone has their own story, their own hurt, their own mountain they’ve had to climb.  We ALL have had a choice … we either climb the mountain or we don’t.  And, while I don’t condone mean-spirited name-calling, I think that our focus should be on AFFIRMING girls (and boys) in their strengths and helping to work through their weaknesses rather than just “banning” a word we don’t like because it messes with how we see ourselves.  And, just being honest… if a word like “bossy” can break us…probably so could many others.  Perhaps we should learn how to raise strong children who can embrace their strengths and weaknesses and know who they are Who it is they were made for (God).

I am thankful…
62.  For a Savior who died on the cross to cover my sins
63.  Beautiful weather and science lessons outdoors
64.  Tiny bubbles floating through my kitchen, bouncing prisms from the window light pouring in

In the kitchen…

Roasted carrots, cabbage, and chicken pot pie…

I am reading…

Here’s the synopsis:

With the twenty-first century just a distant memory and the world in environmental chaos, many people have lost the will to live.

Business is brisk at The Suicide Shop. Run by the Tuvache family, the shop offers a variety of ways to end it all, with something to fit every budget.

The Tuvaches go mournfully about their business until the youngest member of the family threatens to destroy their contented misery by confronting them with something they’ve never encountered before: a love of life.

We/I am learning…

Z and Ro are learning to read and doing a great job!
The three oldest munchkins have begun out journey into GEOGRAPHY!  First, we learned about maps and the many different functions they can have (climate, landscapes, political, etc).  This week, we began with North America — United States.  In science, we are learning about biomes (forests, lakes/rivers, oceans, deserts, etc) and habitats and animals that live in different places.

We made a compass with magnets and experimented with different magnets and what they could do…

This was Z’s first time for this activity and he was a natural!

We went to see a great play: “How I Became A Pirate”

Collecting worms (Look at La’s face!)

“Mom, I’m ready for class!”

Checking out their worms in their new habitat…

Around the house…

For Lent this year, we made a crown of thorns .  Under it, is a crimson bowl filled with stones with “sins” written on each (there are 40).  For us, the bowl represents Jesus’ crimson blood and the “crown of thorns” the crown that Jesus wore.  The rocks represent our sins and the “crown of thorns” is over them because He died to cover our sins.  A purple candle in the middle reminds us of His royalty (and thus, our adoption into royalty) and that there is HOPE.

Each night, we pull a stone out and read what the Bible has to say about each one.

A favorite quote…
“Don’t make a PERMANENT decision for your TEMPORARY emotion.”
“What other people think about you is not YOUR business.” – C.Althoff

One of my favorite things…

These are super fun!  Chopstick helpers!  You can find them here.


Today, February 24, 2014

by bosssanders on February 24, 2014 with no comments

(La lost her first tooth!  She was SO excited!!)

Outside my window…
We had a couple of BEAUTIFUL days…and then it’s back to COLD!  Seems to keep doing that…but, slowly…slowly… the temperatures keep rising little by little!  Hoping we actually get a spring and don’t go straight into summer!  We shall see!

I am thinking…
that children grow up WAY too fast!

I am thankful…
51.  For sweet daughters
52.  For La, who loves her siblings SO much that she asked if we’d please have more!
53.  For a house full of princesses, fairies, knights, dragons, puppies, kitties, moats, castles and magic galore!  You just never know what you’ll walk into here!
54.  A stocked freezer
55.  coffee dates
56.  Z learning to read!  Finally!
57.  Goofy antics from the littlest son…always making me laugh!
58.  Hubby being back home!
59.  Friends who will pray for us when we’re having a rough day (or night!)
60.  Music that sings straight to my soul.
61.  Crockpots.

In the kitchen…

Homemade beef stock simmering…
…and beef roast cooking for tonight’s supper (choice of burritos or open-face roast beef sandwiches on homemade sourdough bread)

I am reading…

The Child Catchers by Kathryn Joyce

My husband and I have seen first-hand both the sorrow and triumphs that come with adoption (whether it’s local or international).  The truth is that adoption comes with a cost, it always does.  Something heart-breaking had to happen for a child to even need to be adopted into a family.  Adoption, in itself, can be tricky…trying to navigate through what’s ethical and true…and what’s not.

I applaud Kathryn Joyce in her attempt to open eyes to some of the darker sides of adoption, HOWEVER her view is a very doom and gloom one.  In fact, it actually feels like the book is more of a soap-box rather than an unbiased look at the beauty and ashes of adoption and HOW to help without hurt.  It seems more like she dumps her “findings” at the feet of her readers as if it simply validates that adoption isn’t a great thing.

In her book, Joyce writes about the “evangelical Christian” and their crusade to adopt in order to somehow make Christians of these children.  She writes, ” To tens of millions of evangelicals, adoption is a new front in the culture wars: a test of “pro-life” bona fides, a way for born again Christians to reinvent compassionate conservatism on the global stage, and a means to fulfill the “Great Commission” mandate to evangelize the nations.”  Interesting.  I love (sarcasm) when others speak up to explain my heart for adoption.  Our goal in adoption was simple: give an orphaned child a home.  We were not interested in just “adding on to our family” (we can think of much easier ways to do that… without leaving home.  For free.)  Our rationale was pretty simple.  We love because God first loved us.  We had a home.  Someone needed a home.  PERIOD.  Granted, we WOULD be raising this child as a Christian (he actually knew who Jesus was already) like we were raising our other children, but we did not adopt as a way to simply “evangelize the nations.”

We are 100% FOR verifying children are truly orphans before adopting and weeding out unethical practices, BUT discouraging people from adoption altogether is like throwing out the baby with the bathwater.  Adoption is GOOD.  There are MANY children who NEED and WANT homes.  True orphans.  And YES, we need to have our eyes wide open to the ethical issues and we need to do due diligence and WORK TOGETHER to make this thing BETTER for birth families, for the kids, and for the adoptive parents.  But, this book?  It’s not the way to get there.

Conclusion:  TAKE it or LEAVE it?  LEAVE it.

We/I am learning…

We just finished up with our 3rd Quarter for Homeschooling, today.  La got all As.

Last night, we had a great discussion.  Our roses from Valentine’s Day are beginning to darken around the edges and droop and La wanted to know why they were dying, if she hadn’t watered them well enough.  And so, we explained that when you separate a flower from it’s plant…it dies.  You can water it, and it may look okay for a little while, but then it’ll die.  We told her it was kind of like when you are separated from God.  At first, we think we are doing okay and we seem to be fine.  Then, we start to crumble (on the inside) …like the roses.  She nodded and said, “Yeh.  I get it.  Because God is like our roots.  Without roots, we all die.”

La has been digging into her Bible lately.  She enjoys reading and has been picking up the Bible as her choice read during reading time.  I can’t express how happy it makes my heart for her to come to us and say, “Hey mom and dad, can I read this to you?  It’s my favorite for today!”  Or, “Mom, what does this mean?”  And, we get to work through word for word, the Living Word.

Rora (4) and Z (6) are learning to read.  Rora was just ready.  She came to me and asked if I could start teaching her and she’s been SO enthusiastic and she’s catching on really well!  Z has been home approximately 3.5 months and factoring in the fact that we began with Pre-K and that he’s now in K, learning to read within 3.5 months is GREAT progress!  I think his main motivation is because now both of his sisters can read.  So, we are working through Hooked On Phonics for Kindergarten.  They are both doing great!  I’m hoping that we’ll be able to get him to first grade level by summer and fast-track him through, picking up the necessities to catch him (mostly) up.

La has begun the beginnings of multiplication and division (grouping) and is enjoying this new turn in math.  We are reading some about early American History and she’s found a place in her heart for the Little House On the Prairie books.  She’s testing at about a 4.5-5th grade reading level.

Around the house…

I’m not really sure what my new house project will be… Hmmm… BUT, I did get most of the dishes done.  And, the house is MOSTLY cleaned up from our homestudy visit last week.  That surely must count for something!

A favorite quote…

(image from Ann Voskamp’s A Holy Experience–memorizing scripture)

One of my favorite things…



A Screwtape Letter For The Unappreciated Mom – Guest Post

by bosssanders on February 6, 2014 with 2 comments

Hey y’all… I have a great guest-post by Kelsey (from Organizing Life with Littles) that almost-perfectly sums up what it seems like Satan is busy saying and speaking into MY life!  Over the past few weeks, I’ve had some people speak into my life – I’m not “fun” enough, some people just don’t like me (that’s probably true…although many more DO), I don’t do enough as a momma…as a wife… as a woman…  That I’m not enough.  You get it.  And, when all of the pokes come at once, they suddenly feel more like punches, dragging me down.  And, I begin to question myself and wonder at the merit of these things.  This is for all of you…women, especially.  I know I’m not alone.

A Screwtape Letter For the Unappreciated Mom

A Screwtape Letter for the Unappreciated Mom

My Dear Wormwood,

I was thrilled to hear you have been making progress with the mother.  You have a good lead, from what I hear.  She’s feels over-worked, unappreciated, and discouraged?  I’m so glad to hear it.  If you tread carefully, this can be a great opportunity.  With the kids waking her up every hour last night, we already have an advantage.  A tired Mom makes for a more emotional Mom, and an emotional Mom is a vulnerable one.

I do have a few tips.  First, aim your best efforts at her marriage.

As you know, we cannot do much with a unified marriage.  Luckily for us, a cranky and exhausted wife can do wonders to change that.  We must convince her that her husband is no longer the friend and ally she first married.  Instead, we must reveal every sin and selfish habit, especially drawing attention to his thoughtless actions (mal-intended or not) against her.

Sometimes it’s the less obvious things, things the husband doesn’t even realize, that we can use to offend her the most.  When he comes home from work and dumps his things on the counter nearest the door (instead of hanging his coat or putting away his keys), let her think of it as a direct assault on her work as a homekeeper.  When he treks mud in with his shoes, let her think it is because he does not love her.  Such extremes of thought may seem ridiculous to you or I, but to the exhausted mortal woman, it can seem possible.  Your goal is to make her think the husband does not notice, or even better, that he does not care about her efforts at home.

Secondly, do what you can to keep her focused on  her troubles and pains.  Remind her how much her back aches, how draining the children were all day, and how many undone tasks still beckon her.  Do not let her wonder what difficulties her husband faced that day or whether his back might also be aching.  Valuing others above oneself is one of those silly, though strangely effective, tactics of the Enemy.  If she stops to make him a cup of coffee, the next thing you know she’ll be rubbing his shoulders and flirting with him on the couch.  It can progress out of your control if you’re not careful.

Along those lines, be sure the Mother starts to value productivity above everything else.  Have her wake up early and work non-stop until bedtime.  If the husband relaxes in the evening with an hour of computer gaming, be sure the wife notices the pile of unfolded laundry or unswept floors.  Do not let her grab a book and relax alongside her husband.  Diligence, often one of the Enemy’s virtues, when overdone can be used to our advantage as well.  Convince her that as long as there is a shred of work to be done (and there always is), no one should be resting.  Then, as she folds and sweeps and he sits, you can introduce the sweet bitterness of resentment.

A word of caution here.  Remember, the love of a husband can be dangerous to our cause.  If he senses her unhappiness, he may begin to help or (even worse) show her affection.  This is where previously planted seeds of resentment can be guided into full bloom.  Make her think that his displays of affection are because he “only wants one thing”.  Do not let her view his help with the dishes (or kisses or cuddling) as having pure motives.  If he shows his desire for her, convince her that she is being used, not loved.  As we both know, the ultimate Act of Marriage can bond them together in a way that can undo much hard work on our part.  Because of this, do not allow her to prioritize that Act on her mental to-do-list.  It is in our best interest to keep the wife busy, busy, busy and be sure she’s far too exhausted to consider it by the end of the evening.

Now, onto the children.  Lovely little opportunities for us, the children, especially the little ones.  We all know that children are a favorite tool of the Enemy.  He calls them Blessings and Gifts and calls parents to lay down their lives for them, just as his Son did.  Insane, I know.  We must convince her that the obnoxious little people she has charge of are not really worth her sacrifice.  When the Mother first dreamed of having children, she probably imagined large, innocent eyes and chubby, happy grins taking up the majority of her days.  Do your best to shatter those expectations.

Instead, draw attention to how much they take from her.  Let them take and take and take…  And need and need and need, until the Mother feels totally spent.  Let them start crying at the same time for the most irrational of reasons.  Let the noise bother her.  Let their bad behavior surprise her.  Do your best to make the day-to-day monotony of diaper changes, meals, and baths seem simultaneously overwhelming and beneath her.  Let her think of all the better, more important things she could be doing with her life, if only she didn’t have the children.

Don’t let her think about the future responsible, faithful adults she is raising.  Society changers, friends, workers, husbands or wives…  Don’t let her think of them as life-long companions who will love her, converse with her, and care for her in her old age.  Oh, and definitely don’t let her think about the grandchildren she might be able to see in their little grubby faces if she looked hard enough now.  No, no, no…  Thinking ahead to when her work bears fruit, as the Enemy calls it, is always a bad idea.  Keep words like ‘heritage’ or ‘legacy’ far away from the runny noses and jelly stains of the day to day.

If there is any last piece of advice I have for you, Wormwood, it is to keep the Mother looking to her husband or family for her fulfillment and comfort.  We know that the Enemy is always watching and willing to take the burdens of his children, but if we divert the Mother’s attention well enough, this fact can be forgotten.  Make her look to her husband for worth and affirmation.  Then, when he lets her down (as he is sure to do), she will be ours to torment.  Yes, the worst thing that could happen would be for her to turn to Him with her needs and inadequacies.  Once she realizes that the Enemy offers a peace that transcends her situation, our work could be utterly compromised.

Your Malevolent Uncle,


About Kelsey:  A Christian first, a happily married wife second, and then a Mom to two handsome boys, Gabriel the three-year-old and Matthias, the almost-one-year old. I love them all to pieces and try to enjoy each day of this busy, blessed life!


Today, January 28, 2014

by bosssanders on January 28, 2014 with no comments

Outside my window…
Global warming was all the rage for the past decade…and now people are yammering about global cooling.  I think both are natural and it goes back and forth… but, in the meantime… it’s TOO cold outside thankyouverymuch.

I am thinking…
It’s perfectly fine to want something better, to be better.  It becomes not okay when we begin to use and hurt people to get there.  Sometimes, we hurt more than we help…even when we had good intentions.

I am thankful…
41.  For communication.  Real truth, spoken with love.
42.  True friendships.  The kind that make you smile and have your back.
43.  That my oldest daughter has some amazing little people in her life that she calls friends (and I happen to really like, too!)
44.  That I’m a grown up…
45.  For unfrozen unbusted pipes… I’ve seen so many people dealing with crazy stuff during this weather…
46.  For a warm home and a soft bed.
47.  For the funny things that my kids say…like AJ’s new phrase, “Poopty tooty” – I have no idea exactly what it means but he says it and his face plus voice just makes it hysterical.
48.  For yummy coffee and a “vat of brownies”
49.  For friends who bring goodies when weeks seem to not let up
50.  For listening ears and wise advice

In the kitchen…

Sourdough bread….rising….
And, chicken pot pie for supper…

I am reading…


On the back cover of The Simplified Guide: Paul’s Letters to the Churches by David Hazelton:

“Paul’s letters were written for “all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:2).  He wrote to regular Christians, like you and me, about the daily challenges we confront in our walk with Christ.  Paul is very clear – the Gospel message of salvation is simple, straightforward, and available to all who come in faith.”

My favorite thing about this book is that Hazelton takes Paul’s letters and breaks them down into categories like: sexual purity, daily ups and downs, how we act, our relationships, etc.  He goes through and lays out what the teachings of Paul has for us WITH scripture notated (which is important!).  I really appreciate that it’s written in a no-nonsense-pick-up-and-go way and the topics don’t have to be read in order.

This book is perfect for folks who can’t dedicate a couple of hours in one sitting to thoroughly meditate on scripture (or just feel overwhelmed at thinking about it) and could use a super easy way to get started at looking at what Paul’s letters and teachings say about [insert topic here].

You can find it … HERE.

We/I am learning…

*I* am learning about using yoga to help with back pain using these videos:

In Arthritis Rx, Stephanie Culen leads three levels of workouts based on yoga and Pilates designed by Vijay Vad, MD.  The beginners level helps with flexibility, the intermediate level helps build strength, and the advanced level improves endurance.  While I may be considered “young” still, it’s been a helpful set to learn some stretches for problem areas where my stress tends to “collect” and cause issues.

Then, there’s the Yoga to the Rescue series… MY FAVORITE!  I had been to the doctor and complained about a lower back pain that I could NOT get rid of.  Peppermint oil, lots of ibuprofen, stretching, resting, cold packs, warm packs, massage…NOTHING.  It was enough pain that anything beyond lying down hurt…which, with 4 little kids was NOT an issue.  I popped this dvd in and within moments… I had relief!  With a few simple stretches and an exercise to help move my hips to their correct alignment, the pain subsided and has STAYED gone.  Now, I do the stretches as I think of them (the hip alignment is unnoticeable to others so you can even do it in line at the grocery!) and they’ve helped a ton!

Stress tends to collect in my body in my neck and shoulders, as well and there is also a neck and shoulders dvd in this series that is great!  I know SO many people with hurting backs, necks and shoulders due to all sorts of things (stress, playing with our kiddos, computer use, discs, etc) and this dvd set is incredibly brilliant.  Just make sure you order BOTH the back and neck/shoulders dvds!

Around the house…

Remember back when I posted that one of my next projects was to do a photo collage in my living room?  Well… it’s finished.  I’m pretty happy with it, I do believe…

A favorite quote…

One of my favorite things…

These ink pens for the many notes I take:

filed under A Grand Adventure, Reviews

Home 11 Weeks – Highs and Lows

by bosssanders on January 23, 2014 with no comments

We’ve had Isaiah for 12 weeks and been home for 11.  So much has changed!  Here’s a quick update…

HIGH – He is catching on to the English!  It’s not 100% but for day-to-day activities… he’s got it down.  He used to play in Amharic and we really noticed his English skills when he started PLAYING in English, too!  Also, he’s grown an inch and gained about a half-pound in these 11 weeks!

LOW – It’s harder to discipline a kiddo who doesn’t really seem to care on some things.  With my biological kids, getting onto them is generally enough and they are sorry and ready to try to do better.  I’m really struggling.  It’s simple psychology and I know WHY it’s like this… but… when it comes to the day to day… it can be really frustrating.  He’s a GOOD kid… there are just some boundaries and lessons that … he doesn’t really care long-term about.  Some days I feel like we’ll be still working on them when he turns 18.  And… that’s hard.

HIGH – There are many boundaries/rules that he DOESN’T test and goes along with those pretty easily.

LOW – I’m at an all-time low as a homeschool mama.  I have a 2nd grader, 2 Kindergarteners, and a toddler.  I feel like I need to get Isaiah to where he should be (for his age)…2nd grade.  I got him from Pre-K level to K.  But, getting him to 2nd grade in a year or even, two… feels like a mountain I’ll never jump.  And, I’m beating myself up for it.  Because… I’m just not okay with imagining him as a 15 year old at 3rd grade level.  There HAS to be a better way.  And… I’m not pushing him hard (we go at his pace)… but, *I* put pressure on ME (not him).  It is what it is.  I even considered putting him in local schools but was told they’d stick him in Kindergarten and not work with him to help him get further.  None of this sits well with me.  I need more of me!

– He’s still sleeping through the night and he LOVES American food!

LOW - As he gains his English, he’s told us about life in Ethiopia.  Some of it, along with some other  realizations surrounding ours and others adoptions…has been really tough to hear.

HIGH – He ADORES his siblings.  I had worried about bringing in an older child when we have a toddler in the home… and my fears were put at ease the day he met little AJ.  They became instant buddies.  They adore him and he adores them.  They’ve bonded REALLY well!

LOW – I wasn’t prepared for MY emotions.  I wasn’t prepared for the fact that I might not bond as quickly to my child.  I love him…and I have a mama bear instinct over him…and he’s FAMILY.  But, some things just take time (so the internet and professionals say)… I guess I just thought we’d have an immediate bond.  We didn’t.  And, I GET IT.  He hasn’t really had a mama and daddy and family.  Hugs aren’t a NORMAL part of his day…so they are awkward for him (he likes trying…but you can tell it’s not natural yet).  I get that I haven’t had years to bond with this sweet boy…holding him, rocking him, being his mama… and he’s not had me to do that.  Again… I GET it… but, it stinks.  And, it stinks that I still feel like I should somehow be able to “rise above it” and feel this stuff anyways.

HIGH – Yesterday, he drew a family portrait of all of us… and he put me beside him… with us holding hands and smiling.  It was incredibly sweet and great.  Baby steps.

It’s a great, big, grand adventure.  After some things being brought to light, we also chose to stop our second adoption that we were in process for.  It was tough.  And, a great loss for us as I had already imagined and prepared for a baby boy or girl that would share the same heritage as Isaiah.  But, once you know some things, you just can’t keep moving forward.

We still plan to adopt and stand in the gap for children…we’re just taking a little bit of a detour.  It’ll look a little different than we originally intended…and while it’s hard in one way…it’s freeing in another to know we did the “right” thing.  –The God-honoring thing.  Our life is full of highs and lows…always has been, always will be.  It’s the nature of life, right?

Adoption changes everyone involved.  It’s not about waiting for life to be perfect…or, to go back to the way it was…it probably never will.  It’s about being committed to the journey, learning from your mistakes, being able to say “I’m sorry”, and loving well.  It’s about finding beauty in the every-day-ordinary and sometimes… it means finding the beauty of God in the tedious, hard, and complicated.


Today, December 27, 2013

by bosssanders on December 27, 2013 with no comments

Outside my window…
It is COLD… it almost looks sunny and warm-ish… but it’s really not!

I am thinking…
about this great quote from Rachel Evans:

And when we make separate categories for the “real sinners,” when we reduce our fellow human beings to theological issues up for constant debate who cannot even be told they are loved without qualifiers, when our hermeneutic conveniently renders others the problem and us the heroes, maybe it’s time to sit across a table and get to know one another a little better, to break up some categories and make some new friends. Maybe it’s time to drop our stones for a while and pass the bread.

There are things that aren’t okay in this world.  -Something everyone of us has: sins.  I’ve really been bothered lately about how sins are addressed (something I’ve even taken part of in my past).  There is this screaming of biblical truth, as if the louder and more insistent we are, the more people will hear.  Instead, folks hear hate and noise.  It may not have been what we meant, but really… it’s hard to hear a person’s heart when they’re screaming in your face.  I’ve really felt convicted lately that it’s not about convincing others about what is sin and what isn’t (it’s not about ignoring it, either), but it’s about LOVING others.  Diving into relationships.  Hard, messy…but, beautiful.  Not because we want to change them…but, because it’s what the Gospel is all about.  LOVE.  And in this knowing of each other, maybe we’ll ALL be changed.

I am thankful…
31.  For running CLEAN water, heat, and so many LUXURIES (like beds and sheets and showers!)
32.  For my husband and his heart and soul and brain.  Gosh, I love him!
33.  For my hubby’s and mine reading time in the mornings, where we pore over ways to be better parents, spouses…people.
34.  For prayer time every morning with my husband…I love sitting at God’s feet with him.
35.  For my sweet kiddos.
36.  AJ’s sweet laugh and hugs.
37.  Lala’s love for others.
38. Rora’s creativity and ability to make us laugh
39.  Zay’s helpfulness and sweetness
40.  For light, illuminating the truth.

In the kitchen…

Sourdough bread….rising….

I am reading…

Just finished:

Grace Filled Marriage
by Dr. Tim Kimmel with Darcy Kimmel.

This was  a breath of fresh air that both myself and my husband enjoyed.  Rather than the “usual” marriage advice often doled out, this book focuses on …you guessed it… GRACE.  It was refreshing and written lovingly and …just…so great.  It’s actually one of our top favorite marriage books, now.  It’ll be in the top 2 that we give out to newlyweds!  However, this book doesn’t dismiss issues couples have with “Ah, just give them grace and overlook it!”  Instead, it focuses on what grace looks like and how we can build our spouses up to feel secure, significant, hopeful, vulnerable, candid, and more.  Because, the truth is, we’ll never be perfect spouses and we’ll mess up… A LOT…but, having a grace-filled perspective can sure go a LONG way in a marriage.

Currently Reading:

Give Them Grace by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson

If I was being honest, I’d tell you that I considered quitting this book after the first chapter.  –Not because it was horrid stuff, but because I wasn’t quite “sold” on what was being said.  Luckily, I kept reading (and brought my husband along for the ride).  It got better.  And, while some of the dialogues she suggests for our little ones (all 6 and under at my house) are (in my opinion) a little too wordy, I get her point…and agree with where she’s going.  Elyse and Jessica give a fresh new look at parenting in their book, Give Them Grace.  They break down some of the parenting traps we fall into and dissect what parenting with grace TRULY looks like.  And beyond my parenting, this book has impacted ME as I take a step back and look at myself and the way I see others under the grace lens.  Great book…definitely worth reading!

We/I am learning…

Our newest little guy has learned SO much.  I’m amazed at how much he has learned, actually.  We’ve gone through the ABCs, colors, numbers, and random words for things.  Now, we are working on letter sounds and he’s doing AMAZINGLY WELL!  He’s learning some more abstract things which is SO EXCITING!  Lala is learning how to borrow in subtraction…FUN!  Rora is learning letter sounds and wants to read SO BADLY!

I am learning more and more about giving grace and love…even when things aren’t fun or fair.  I’m nowhere near perfect, but progress…

Around the house…
I just took down our Christmas decor and now, to catch up on cleaning and organizing the bedroom.

A favorite quote…

One of my favorite things…

Dresses from Corinna Couture

(photo from here.)

While we don’t buy a ton of fancy shmancy things… I really like her designs and fabrics.  She makes some very beautiful dresses!  Our girls each received their very own dress this year from this boutique for Christmas and after wearing them all day, begged to sleep in them because they liked them so much!  We don’t splurge often, but this one was well worth it!

filed under A Grand Adventure

A Q&A On Adopting The “Older Child”

by bosssanders on December 17, 2013 with 2 comments

I, along with some other adoptive mamas, sat down to answer some really great questions about Adoption – specifically, adopting an “older child.”  See below.

Amanda:  In the US when adopting an older child from the foster system you often times have to battle a very very hard road with behavior problems. They just aren’t used to it and rebel pretty hard. Its the main reason we decided to opt out of fostering. Anyways, is it the same way with international older child adoption?

Ashley: Amanda, this is a GREAT question.  I think it’s one of the ones that scare most of us enough to consider NOT adopting an older child.

The truth is that in order to become an orphan, you have to go through some pretty hard circumstances.  Whether it’s Ethiopia or Ukraine or America (or anywhere else), hard backgrounds are still… hard.

We were told that Ethiopia would be EASIER than Europe… and, I really can’t speak much to that as I REALLY think it depends on your child – their personality, how they deal with things, their history, YOUR personalities and family dynamics, your support system, etc.  There ARE, however, some different things you will face that vary with each country (some countries have more drug use (FAS or doping kids up), etc.)

Will there be some behavioral issues?  Probably.  What will they be?  How hard will it be?  I think that will all depend on the things I listed above.  Some kids come home and do AMAZINGLY well.  Others?  It takes time, therapy, and a whole lot of love and grace.

I’m not one to sugar-coat or totally doom-and-gloom it, so here’s my straight answer:

Adoption was never meant to be EASY.  It was meant to get messy.  It’s about amazing grace and redeeming love.  It’s also beautiful.  One of the things we were told in the beginning is that ALL adoptions are special needs adoptions… ALL of them.  You may not SEE the hurt, but it’s there in some way.  Even in the babies…  So, I guess the question is… Why do you want to adopt?  If you want to do it because you feel God is leading you here or because you believe that even older kids DESERVE to have a family, then great.  If you’re doing it because it seems like a nice thing to do or you thought it’d be fun, you should probably rethink things a little :)   Determination and a lot of love and mercy (and God) can get you through anything.

While I don’t get all glitter-eyed at Karyn Purvis as some do, she does make a great point in her book, The Connected Child.  She says our children have:

the trust and bonding needs of an infant
the independence needs of a two-year old
the shame issues of a three year old
the concrete thinking of a four year old
the reasoning skills of a five year old
the street smarts of a sixteen year old
all wrapped up in the body of an eight year old.

And, I think this is a GREAT illustration.  (Her book has some other great insights as well, it’s worth the read.)  Most of these kids just need a chance.  It may be hard, but it’ll be worth it.  And, healing often comes.

Shannon: I believe that anytime a child has suffered trauma and heartbreak (like losing their family) there will be behavior problems. It is a battle. Their behavior is often a symptom or expression of their grief. It is so important to remember what you are fighting…..not against the symptom, but for redemption for their broken heart. Hard, hard stuff! I thought I was a patient person until we began dealing with this.

Kelly: Yes, that’s a problem. I would not adopt an older US child unless I knew the child well already. I’m not equipped to deal with the behavior issues. I don’t think you can answer that question for all international children. Different countries deal with kids differently. I read about Ethiopia and saw they don’t have the behavior issues some other countries do.

Meredith:  Not necessarily for all kids. A lot of it will depend on the child’s previous life experiences. Our 16 year old daughter who was adopted at age 15 has never even come close to that, nor has she ever rebelled (home 5 months now). She has her own personality with a good head on her shoulders. She has a good work ethic and wants to excel in every way possible. We feel extremely lucky with her.

Brandi: The behavior problems from my older 2 children (adopted from foster care) have been substantial due to neglect and abuse. They both have RAD (inhibited and disinhibited), therefore it is a struggle.  With “J” (adopted from Ethiopia), we were TERRIFIED of him being institutionalized (another dimension of behavior issues) because of his tremendous loss and grief. Loss of his family, loss of his orphanage, meeting of us….loss of us for 15 mths…watching his friends come and go with their families and him never leaving. I just prayed and prayed because I didn’t feel like I could do it again. I was blessed to have someone to look after him while we were gone, but she said that she saw him change from tearful and sad to stone cold when kids would leave. The Lord chose to bless us tremendously when we finally met again, after 15 mths. He not only remembered us, but he has had NO issues, at all with behavior. It is completely and utterly different.

Deanna: I would be interested in experiences parents have had putting their kids in public school. Some put them in immediately, some after 6-12 months and some longer. For kids in each age bracket(4-7, 8-12, and 13 and over), what did people do and what was their experience like?

Brandi: PS or private school has been a nightmare for 12 and 9 yr old. Their behavior problems were difficult to control and their anxiety was tremendous. That and daily threats from bio family. Also, our daughter “played” people really well. She is a severe attention seeker and would do anything to disrupt class, so behavior was the main factor in them not succeeding in PS or private school. Daniel has had severe learning disabilities and he sort of fell through the cracks because he wasn’t severe enough to warrant help and he was placed in main stream classes where he failed at everything he touched. It was a nightmare. We were forced to put them in school immediately upon them living with us. We had a weekend to change schools. It was awful.

For “J”, within the community we live, will not enter into PS because of race. He is about a year behind a “normal” child and he is doing well. We are 99% white and 1% other in our community.

Shannon: We homeschool our children. I believe it has been especially important for our son who came home when he was 4. Spending the time to teach him has given me important insight into his struggles, weaknesses, and strengths. I am able to immediately (well, most of the time:) address issues that arise. Some of these issues are so complicated, it is so important that their teacher understand what he/she is dealing with.

Kelly: Empowered to Connect’s Karen Purvis says one month at home out of school for every year of life. I think that’s a good measure. So for “K,” that would be a full year before putting her in school.

Meredith: All of ours are in public school. ages, 3 (daycare), 7 (1st grade), 16 (9th grade). The younger 2 came home late April. We cocooned them for 30 days, strict. We had family watch them when I returned to work and when school started Aug 1st we sent the 7 year old to school. We picked a small school that we were familiar with. I met with the Principle in May right after my younger 2 came home. He met them and heard my plans for their education. I expressed that my concerns for the 1st year was not for her to excel in the classroom. It was to learn the language, become more socially appropriate and adjust to her new life here. He agreed. Her 1st grade teacher has been AMAZING with her. We tailor her learning. So instead of spelling test, we do letter test, number tests. She works with the teacher one on one a lot or is paired with a partner to assist her. Her homework was slightly changed to meet her level of learning.

Our oldest came home at age 15. She was home for 3 1/2 weeks before she started 9th grade. She told us when she was ready. We planned on after 30 days but she wanted to start just a little sooner. She attends the same school as the 7 year old. It is a k-12 school (it is public!) Same situation, the principle knew us, was aware she was going to be starting. She spoke some english (3 grade level). All her teachers were prepped for her and our expectations for her: To attend class, participate and interact with her peers. We had NO expectations for her to pass her classes right now and if that it was they expected out of her they were asking too much. We struggled with the amount of homework she had. It wasn’t alot, it was time consuming for us. She did homework from 4-10pm every night. Failure is not an option for her. We met with her teachers 6weeks in and discussed our concerns regarding how much we worked with her….and I mean we sat with her for ALL her homework. It took, talking, re wording to help her understand. We audio recorded her at one point for them to hear what exactly we had to do with her. Things were good before, but they got much better after that. They changed her assignments to tailor her learning. Some of her test were given orally. Her verbal language is better than written. We talk to her teachers on a weekly basis and sometimes daily pending what is going on for the week. We also talked to them about what changes our child is going through and in reality, school doesn’t matter THAT much in the grand scheme of things.

As a parent for an international older child you HAVE to be involved in their education. You are their advocate! You may have to be their resource and ideas to help foster your child’s learning. You know your child better than anyone. You have to help the teachers understand your child.

Ashley: We looked at both private and public schools right after our son came home.  However, because it is almost mid-year, we were looking at not only starting him behind in grades, but also behind in the year.  Also, many of the local schools here are not very familiar with older child adoptions of non-speaking children who have never been in school.  After talking to principals and school systems, we only felt comfortable with one school –however, they were full for this year.  After a LOT of prayer and deliberation, we decided to homeschool him.  (We homeschool our other children, but felt that if we could find a school that would truly work with us and was experienced in helping children who were behind and non-

Deanna:  Also, how long to cocoon and does it matter on the age group? For example, do you cocoon more or less for 13 and over than for 4-7 or 8-12 ages?

Sara: How you cocoon and how long you cocoon often depend on the child, the parents, the family makeup, and your situation. The reason for cocooning is to encourage attachments to form and often we need to clear our schedules to allow this to happen and to encourage it to happen. Being out and about can often be overwhelming and overstimulating for a child coming home regardless of their age. There are so many situations that may be so different/overwhelming/strange that are hard to explain, especially when language is a struggle. By keeping a world small it gives you opportunities to begin to build trust (both ways) so that when you venture out you have some idea of how your child might respond (though it can still be unpredictable). It also gives your child a chance to learn that they can trust you to keep them safe and provide for their needs rather than shop around for someone who will when they venture out. This is important regardless of the age of your child, though there can be unique challenges regardless if your child is 4 or 13. It is important to remember that once your child comes home many experiences will be stressful and overwhelming and cocooning creates a safe place for a child to learn to relax as they learn how to navigate a new world and family.

Shannon: We “cocooned” with our children for 6 weeks, and then gradually worked our way back to to life….small crowds, short amounts of time, etc. We had to be very diligent with our son especially who loved to jump into other peoples’ laps, climb on them, and “perform” for their approval.

Kelly: I don’t know for this. I’m thinking for smaller children and babies, it needs to be longer. The house and family are a big world for them (remember how everything seemed so much smaller when you grew up? They are content with that world). K wanted to ride around and explore, but she obviously did not want much “company.” People coming over seemed like invaders to her.

Meredith: We cocooned for 1 month strict for all of them (ages 3, 7 and 16). Our 16 year was able to verbalize how much that helped her. In her words, everything is different, sights, smells, lights, temperature, food, having parents, a home, a room to herself verses sharing a room with 4+ kids, a bed. When we narrowed her environment she adjusted well, felt safe. She said going out of the house once a week was enough for her. Any more was overwhelming and made her anxious. She would wear ear phones to help her focus in. She did this for almost 2 months. We learned to read her.

The 7 year old had MAJOR MAJOR MAJOR fear of abandonment issues, social anxiety causing her to vomit. EVERY DAY, several times a day for 4 1/2 months! (I promise this was the longest 4 1/2 months of my life) Besides being with family after I went back to work, she went NO WHERE! And if we did go out to church, she stayed with us the whole time.

My 3 year old is a different personality. He never cared. He attached to us quickly and he was fine as long as he had me. He did cry when I would leave for work but was appropriate.

Brandi: Cocooning is vital. With G and D, we didn’t and I regret that because she was not able to distinguish between us and anyone else because they had had so many caregivers. She would go to anyone and because they were “cute” everyone tried to meet their needs. This has aided in her RAD (reactive attachment disorders) behaviors. We truly did her, at a least, a disservice by not hiding out for a while.

With J, we went to church the Sunday after he got home, but we stayed home the rest of the time. When I left, he went with me. I was his soul caregiver and our bond is extremely tight and secure. We are the only ones that he comes too for needs, though he called every woman “mommy” for a long time. That is understandable, so when he would do that, I would have teachers, family, friends, etc tell him who mommy was and who they were. It helped with his confusion.

Ashley: Cocooning has been huge for us as well.  We began with staying ONLY at home.  We didn’t feel like he truly grasped that not everyone was “mommy” and “daddy.”  We asked folks to not visit, and we didn’t go out for the first week or two.  After about two weeks home, we tried grocery shopping with him.  He had been doing well, and we were kind of curious as to how he’d do.  So, with a very tiny list, we went forward.  We knew we may have to drop the list and run out of the store and we were okay with that possibility.  We went in for maybe 7 items, and then left.  He did GREAT.  After that, we felt we could try church (we have a very small church).  He did pretty well with that as well, however there was a personal boundary issue we noticed as folks were standing around after service.  We knew, at that point, that we needed to come FOR church and not before, not after.  Other than church and grocery and Thanksgiving with family (2 hours TOPS), we stayed home.  Now, over a month later, he does great in less than 2 hour increments BUT still really needs to be right next to us (personal boundaries, curiosity about how things work…microwaves, ovens, etc, and relating to others).  We haven’t had any meltdowns from simply being over-stimulated… but, that has a lot to do with his personality and the fact that we watch him really closely for cues so we can get him out of situations quickly and smoothly.  For him, the reason we are still mostly “cocooning” is we are trying to teach things like: We don’t hug EVERYONE (he now gets that WE are mom and dad), we don’t TAKE or TOUCH things that aren’t ours (dealing more with other kids or just touching everything), some things are very dangerous (like walking into oncoming traffic, turning on the stove, turning on an empty microwave for 30 minutes.  It’s also a great time to really sort through some of the things that need to be worked through when coming home as far as behavior goes.

Deanna:  How long does the honeymoon period last with older kids?

Shannon: No honeymoon for us.

Meredith: Different for every kid. Our 7 year old-1 month. Then she came completely unglued. She is our more difficult personality.

our 16 year old-nothing has changed. She is just different.

the 3 year old- same has the 16 year old. JUST easy!

With my 2 foster/adoptive children, the honeymoon lasted a week and then it was COMPLETELY over. With J, I’d say once he lost his language…about 2 mths. Then it was COMPLETELY over LOL

Ashley: No honeymoon for us.  Our son chose to use our 18 hour plane flight to test boundaries and be completely defiant.  Fun times.  I agree that it TOTALLY depends on your environment, the children’s personalities, your personalities, and discipline (which style they respond to + consistency).  Things got MUCH better even after we landed in the US.  A lot of testing and defiance still, but we were no longer stuck in tiny quarters and were able to show him basic cause and effect (i.e., You throw the crayon, crayon goes away.  You refuse to watch the movie we deem appropriate and keep changing it to something we said NO to…. No movie.).  At home, things got even better since it’s easier to set and enforce boundaries when you aren’t trying to go through customs and catch planes.  Things were/are still tough sometimes… but it’s little tedious things that just exhaust us.  Not so much throw-down fits or scary behavior.  We set our expectations at MUCH WORSE coming into this so that we wouldn’t be devastated if it went that way but hoped that he’d do well (all things considered, he has done well).  For weeks, I went around terrified that this WAS the honeymoon and at any moment, the sky would fall on my head and it’d all just explode.  I’ve come to realize that in our situation, we have an “onion” rather than an “explosive bomb.”  He has layers.  And, we’re dealing with things in layers as they come up.

Kelley: Did you change their name and, if so, how did that go?

Shannon: We did not change his Ethiopian name. It is his first name given by his Ethiopian family and we gave him a middle name. He goes by his initials. This was important to me, don’t really know that it matters to him. He had been through so many hard changes, didn’t want to take that from him. However, I know of many families that have and it has not been an issue.

Kelly: No, not at this age. I think the kids need some say in this. K may want an American name eventually, but we would keep her name as part of it, like a middle name. I would not let her choose just any name. I would have to like it, too. I might give her a list to choose from.

Meredith: Interesting question! Our oldest we never had plans to change her name. We were told she was proud of her name, culture, heritage and most likely wouldn’t like it.

When we traveled to meet her, she asked what her “American name” was going to be. We explained we liked her name, that was who she has been for 15 years and we had no plans on changing that. She stated over and over she wanted a new name. We left it at we would discussed that once she was home and we could really talk about it.

Fast forward, once home and we were able to really talk about it, she said she was glad we kept her name. She never wanted to change it. She only said she did because she thought that was what we wanted. She said she would have resented us if we did change it.

The other 2 didn’t care. The oldest doesn’t care that others change their name, she just didn’t want to change hers.

My advice would be if they say they want to, you might want to wait until you can further talk about it and they understand you.They may feel like they “have too”. They come home with their ET name anyways and it take a while to have it changed pending your state.

Brandi: With our older 2, our daughter came into our bedroom after the first night and said “what are you going to name me.” We told her that her name was Angela and that was what we were going to call her. SHE said she didn’t like that name because it made her think of all the “uglies” about her past. She chose her name (after 4 yrs) of Grayce (Gray-ce) Ruth (after my granny and the story of Ruth). My son always called himself Daniel (his bio name is Edward, after his father and abuser). So, we kept it because it was fitting….Bible story…his middle name we changed to Gage after a little town we passed through to get to my granny’s house. It didn’t really have much of an impression on him because he was young. Jude was the name we had picked out when we began the process of adoption. We like the meaning (he who is praised). It was a good fitting for the IDEA of a new child. When we met him, we LOVED his name “Abinet” and we called him that, exclusively, until one day after about 3 mths, he said “my name no Abinet, my name Jude.” So, we let him take the lead. His name is Israel Jude Abinet. They have never asked for their names to to back…it has been almost 8 yrs home for 2 of my kids. It has never been an issue. They wanted new beginnings.

Ashley: We gave our son an American first name and kept his middle and last name as his 2 middle names.  For us, God gave us a name when he called us to adopt…before we even knew WHO we were adopting.  In Hebrew, his name means: The Lord is generous. Salvation of the Lord (or, The Lord is my salvation). God’s helper. We didn’t know this when we felt this was THE name, we just know God kept putting it in our lives.  Needless to say, this name and the story of this little boy and all God has done so far is pretty amazing.  We did want to keep a part of his heritage and history, though, so we kept his first and last names as his 2 middle names.  Our children all have 2 middle names, so it was perfect.  I love that name God chose for him and it’s a perfect symbolism of adoption and the new names you get when entering into a new family (think Paul/Saul and many others) – ours and God’s family.  He likes his name and is proud to tell others of it.  Occasionally, someone will read his other name on his paperwork, and he will tell them that’s not his name.  In Africa, he told us that he was (insert name here), but now he will be (insert name here).  We know enough of his past to know he wants a new start, a fresh beginning.  It’s very fitting for him.

Deanna: With the older kids in the 8 and over group or 12 and over, how did they adjust to American food? I assume most parents are not experienced cooks in the native foods, and small kids are often picky no matter what, but what about the pre-teen and teens?

Kelly: K did great here. I can’t speak for all kids, but we had some native foods on hand for her at first: injera, peanut butter, bananas, rice, milk. She seemed happy just to be eating. She was willing to try new things, but I never forced it. She could always have a pb sandwich or bowl of cereal instead of what we were having. Sometimes she created her own meal out of what was on the table, like mixing rice with pico de gallo. I let her choose stuff at the grocery store. I think we have so much variety. They are not used to that. They are fine with a few basic things. Just try to keep those things on hand for the first few months. They really want to try American food, usually, so they will get adventurous in time. Don’t push it.

Meredith: Depends on the child and what foods they were exposed to in ET. If they are older, even 7-8, I’m sure they know how to cook some. Culturally they don’t drink milk. Most are lactose intolerant and if the aren’t, they drink warm goats milk with sugar in it (learned that from our 16 year old). Most will not like cheese. (I swear it’s like brain washing) they are taught to not like cheese. From my understanding the way cheese is made there is….gross so…. my kids LOVED things with cheese on it, until they learned it was cheese.

If they don’t have an option on things to eat, they will eat eventually. Our oldest can fix all the food so we eat Ethiopian a lot. That has made it harder for ours to eat more american. And also having more than 1 makes the switch harder. If our oldest doesn’t like what we are having, she does fix her own. After 5 months home, her palate is changing finally. She told us that this week.

Brandi: D would eat anything from the beginning of time.

G, who came at 6, was HORRIBLE with eating ANYTHING. It was a nightmare. She was used to hamburger helper and cereal. I would chose one night a week where I would cook her favorite and the rest of the time, she ate what I fixed or she didn’t eat. She had to get used to food and relearn how to eat properly and healthy. I would give her a tablespoon at a time (always making sure I had something she like)….she gradually started eating more and liking everything. It was a huge struggle. More of “I can’t control what my bio family did or how I was abused, but so help me, I can dig my feet in and control food.” She later learned that wasn’t such a good idea.

With J, I did the same thing that i did with her. I knew some American food he liked and made sure I had that and bananas. Bananas are considered a delicacy in ET…and bread….I made a lot of bread. I made him try everything because he can’t tell me he doesn’t like it if he has never had it. 1 Tablespoon at a time. Now, he eats everything but fish….”fish no smell yummy yummy mommy, no smell yummy yummy.”

Ashley: Our kiddo LOVES American food.  I think this is one of those “depends on the kid” answers.  We keep bananas around here and peanut butter, honey, bread, pasta, etc.  When he first got home, he asked for “American Ice Cream” – so, we did that when we got here.  Then, Subway at the airport and he loved it.  We’ve found MAYBE 3-4 things he’s not a fan of… a tart chicken dish, slaw, dressing (Thanksgiving)…There are certain things he likes more than others, of course.  Our main food issue has been overeating.  I like the idea of having some “basics” ready just in case at home (bananas, pb, bread, etc).  I WOULD recommend buying probiotics and having those on hand.  New food can wreak havoc on their bellies.

Have another question you want answered?  We’d love to give you our perspective and experience.  Please keep in mind… these are our thoughts and experiences but all children are different and we in no way are claiming perfection!

Have you adopted an older child and want to weigh-in?  Please do in the comments!

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