Posts Filed Under Adoption

AREN’T YOU DONE YET? – Life With 5 Kids (What It’s Like)

by bosssanders on August 26, 2015 with no comments

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “Gosh, aren’t you done yet?”   or “Your hands must be SO full,” or “There’s just no way that I could EVER do that,” said with an eyeroll and as if “THAT” was akin to licking pond scum.

Sometimes, it’s from family or friends…and even, strangers.  And, while I’ve got some pretty awesome witty one-liners ready to go, it pierces my heart even so.  And, I wonder if my children feel like they are something that should just be “tolerated,” rather than celebrated for the blessings they are to us.

You see, what you don’t know about us is this:

There was a time early on in our marriage when we thought (and were told by medical doctors) that it was VERY LIKELY that we may NEVER have biological children due to some fertility issues I have.  I was crushed.  Since I was a little girl, I always wanted to be a MOMMY.  And, a teacher…but, mostly…a MOMMY.  It was just a “given.”

Many diagnostic and blood tests, fertility medicines, charting, and disappointments later…we stood heartbroken, picking up the pieces, wondering what we should do next.

But, God.

After so many crushingly negative pee sticks, we finally got our first positive.  It was SO faint.  I had to ask someone else to verify that I was indeed not just imagining a second line.  And, in the days to come, we faced much uncertainty as we almost lost our sweet daughter.

We went on to birth 2 more precious miracles and lose 2 more.  I clearly recall how HOLLOW I felt, knowing that the life that was inside of me was no more.

Our 2nd son, came to us from across the world through international adoption.  We were in process to adopt again from Ethiopia when God shut those doors.  We decided we would move into foster care so we could still love children as we buried another dream of what would be and healed our hearts.

Soon after “opening” our home as a foster home, I became pregnant.  And this baby, too, went home to God.  I was SO brokenhearted, having just buried the dream of one baby (via adoption) and then literally, the death of our baby…It was so so hard.  Months and months of unimaginable hard.  A few faithful friends stuck by me and allowed me to grieve when the world demanded that I “shake it off.”

Over the next several months, we welcomed two precious babies into our home through foster care.  One left, one did not.  Both forever have a piece of my heart.

And so, here we are.  Pursuing adoption for our youngest member…a “family” of 7 (5 kids, 2 adults).  And, as we walk through the grocery and the kids are helping (quietly and sweetly!) put what we need in the cart …or, as we walk, holding hands through the parking lot …and, we get those stares.  And, those comments…  What they don’t know or understand is that there was a time when we ached at the thought that we may NEVER have children.  Adoption seemed out of our reach and my fertility seemed to be a death sentence to those dreams.  (But, God!)

What you may not know from looking at us is that we CHERISH these (and any) children that God entrusts us with.  Psalm 127:3-5 tells us that children are a gift from the Lord.  And, that a man whose quiver is full of arrows is BLESSED.  And, that’s how we feel…BLESSED.

I know that this bucks everything that society infiltrates our minds with… that the American dream is summarized by a picket fence, a lot of STUFF and 2.5 kids.    But, really… picket fences require way too much upkeep, STUFF drains us, and 1/2 a kid?  Really?

I can’t imagine not having these precious children that we call ours.  They bring so much magic and laughter to our home.  Do we get frustrated?  Tired?  Overwhelmed?  Yes.  Sometimes.  But, we got like that when we had 0 kids.  And, 1 kid.  It’s just life.

I can’t imagine not having a home that can be instantly turned into a smoldering land with castles and dragons …or a shimmering lagoon with mermaids and the occasional pirate!

I can’t imagine a home without their precious laughter and cuddles and the way their hands fit into mine.

And, so, the answer to those questions…

Are we done yet?  Not yet…unless God says otherwise.  We ADORE these kids.  We don’t just LOVE them, we also really LIKE them and enjoy spending time with them.

Yes, we know what causes it.  We are very aware :)

And, even on our HARDEST days… I’m so very THANKFUL.  I am SO BLESSED.

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bosssanders
filed under Adoption, Family

Adoption At School: When Your Older Adopted Child Begins Public School

by bosssanders on July 20, 2015 with no comments

You are most likely reading this post because you are either a parent of an older-adopted child, a teacher or administrator in the school system, someone who supports an adoptive family and wants to understand, or someone who got lost trying to find my awesome recipes.  If you are the latter, I’m sorry (check the links on the side).  :)  But, no matter how you got here…THANK YOU.  THANK YOU for stepping up and out and being WILLING to learn more about these beautiful children.

As July slowly slips away, I know for many of us (parents of older-adopted children), anxiety sets in.  Depending on the school system and the individual teachers, our year is about to be a breeze…or, hell.  And, we’re sitting here wondering which it will be.  I pray that this post will be an encouragement to both school officials and parents.  I pray that it will be both informative and empowering.

School can be HARD when you bring home an older child from a foreign country.

Everything you THOUGHT you knew, can (and should) be thrown out the window.

When we brought Z home, I knew I was in over my head (even though we were a homeschooling family).  Where do you start with a kiddo who you lost out on so many years?  And, then there were the speech and language and other therapies I didn’t know if he needed.  And, honestly?  I was overwhelmed.  I was afraid to FAIL.  But, for almost 2 years, I did it anyhow because I felt it was what he needed in that period of time (we still stand by that).  We have a list of reasons why we think public school would be better suited for Z at this particular time, but it’s probably not what you might think.  When we’ve told others, they automatically assumed it was because 1) he wasn’t learning at home (we have psychological evaluations to prove otherwise) and 2) for socialization.  Some days I think folks forget that we don’t have ONE child and live on a secluded homestead.  What we DO think will help are VERY structured schedules, someone other than mom teaching him, ability to easily integrate any needed therapies as needed, and the ability to ONLY focus on bonding with my son.  He has worked his tail off (and so have I) in the past 18 months.  He jumped through 4 grade levels in less than 18 months…which is HUGE.  So, now, I’m passing the baton.  And, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t anxious at all.

When our older adopted children first come, they often do not know the English language.  Sometimes, they’ve never even had a school experience at all… so what do you do?

This was one of our first questions.  And, even as veteran homeschoolers, we felt overwhelmed and ill-equipped.  Search as I might, I couldn’t find ANYONE who had really forged a path for us to just follow behind.  The little research we found suggested two main things:  Have your child FULLY tested (full psycho-educational testing) and/or homeschool for 6 months or more before transitioning them to mainstream school.  While part of the reason for homeschooling is to help acclimate your child to their new home, family, language, and culture, I also believe the other huge reason was quite simply…schools often don’t know what to do with our children (keep reading, I’ll explain).

Once we arrived home, we had floods of physical tests and specialists to go see, as well as appointments to make sure all of our paperwork was good to go. –Not to mention, the first month of craziness as we all figured out what this new family dynamic would look like.  When we finally poked our heads up for air 3 weeks later, our son was already beginning to lose his language…meaning, even if we could FIND an Amharic translator…he was entering a period where he would be “without a language” for a bit, making testing IMPOSSIBLE.  Also, the language he spoke wasn’t Amharic, but bits and pieces of Amharic and other tribal languages that he had picked up.  Think, slang.

I sincerely wish we had better systems in place within our schools (not everyone can stay home and homeschool!), where we had relevant and updated research that guided how we transition older adopted children into our academics.

Boris Gindis, Ph.D states (source):

“…Early, well-planned, systematic and intensive cognitive and language remediation is a necessity for the majority of international adoptees who will start formal schooling immediately after the adoption. An overall functional model of such remediation should include four steps:

  • Accurate initial evaluation of educational needs.
  • Proper placement according to actual readiness.
  • Supportive and remedial services at school.
  • Remediation via specialized methodologies, if needed.

Unfortunately, this proven model typically encounters major roadblocks at schools due to persistent misconceptions among school personnel and administration regarding international adoptees, such as:

  • Internationally adopted children are similar to children from recently immigrated families and therefore should be educated the same way: placed academically according to their chronological age and taught English as Second Language the same way. The parents would be generally advised to “wait and see” how their children adjust to the new social/cultural environment.
  • No testing should be done before the children learn English.
  • Difficulties, both academic and behavioral, are solely due to the children’s institutional background; thus, loving families, good nutrition, and consistent schooling are all these children need for recovery.
  • International adoptees may not be eligible for special education services because of the language and cultural issues involved.

All these assumptions are damaging for internationally adopted post-institutionalized children, depriving them of needed help and support in education.”

Being Prepared…

I don’t think a person can be adequately prepared for this journey.  It’s one of those where you get thrown out of the cart and are scrambling, trying to move your feet as quickly as possible to minimize impact upon hitting the ground at break-neck speed while simultaneously, trying to keep your gait and not get even more behind when you’ve missed out on so much (and, the world slows down for NO ONE).

However, we need to research and educate ourselves as much as possible.  Parents are often more educated on education when it comes to their older adopted child simply because they have spent months (years) anticipating, researching, and being trained.  However, with the willingness and research of our school systems (or some really amazing individual teachers), this could all change…

What You Need To Know:

First, older adopted children are NOT the same as a child in an immigrant family.  And thus,  teaching and handling behaviors in the same manner will NOT be effective.  Older adopted children are NOT in their original families, speaking a common language.  Second, older adopted children likely have encountered much trauma which impacts the brain in significant ways.  Comparing an older-adopted child to a child who had been through major neglect/abuse in foster care would be getting a little warmer, but still incorrect, as older adoptees have not had the “base” of American culture and education built since they were infants.

Second. Parents and teachers, alike, must understand the effects of such things such as Post -Traumatic Stress Disorder and Post- Institutionalized Behavior in children AND understand and be able to successfully implement coping strategies both at home and in the classroom.  Parents and teachers will need to forge a relationship built on teamwork.  Teachers must also understand that what LOOKS like “normal behavior” in an non-adoptive child does NOT necessarily mean normal or healthy for an older adoptee.

Some common behaviors seen with Post-Institutionalized behavior are (source):

- Poor self-regulation – difficulties with sustaining goal-directed behavior, emotional volatility, reluctance/unwillingness, difficulty with delaying gratification.
- Mixed maturity-a child may seem advanced for their age in some areas and delayed in others.
- Self-parenting – taking “justice” into their own hands, bossing around siblings/parents, constantly attempting tasks beyond their age level and ability.
- Learned helplessness – this seems to be the opposite of self-parenting, but both can be found in the same child.  A child may act helpless in order to get attention (for example, with schoolwork because they want someone to sit with them)
- Controlling and/or avoiding behavior
- Self-soothing and self-stimulated behavior
- Hyper vigilance and “pro-active” aggressiveness
- Feeling of entitlement
- Extreme attention seeking
- Indiscriminate friendliness with strangers – I know we all love hugs, but many adopted children will show indiscriminate friendliness with ANYONE and EVERYONE.  This is NOT healthy for our children and should NOT be encouraged.  It has nothing to do with feelings of love or affection.

While the above behaviors may SEEM like “normal kid stuff” – let me tell you that the behavior itself may seem benign, but what is underneath it is NOT.  Please understand that if you encounter this in the classroom…we (parents) NEED to know.  It means there are things going on in our kiddos that we need to make sure we pay very close attention to (in many areas).  Please understand that when we try to explain that our child has some special struggles that we are not MEAN nor do we HATE our children.  We are wanting you to WATCH for these things so that you know how to handle them in a way that will prove beneficial for our child and their emotional well-being (which often does not look like conventional ways of dealing with things.)

Third.  Please use positive adoption references.  Here’s a list to help (as many of these never occurred to me before we began this journey.) (source):

Instead of….   Try this…

Real parents… birth (or biological) parents
Give up… terminate parental rights
Give away… make an adoption plan
to keep… to parent

Also, our children ARE American (or whatever country they are a current citizen of).

* For a complete list, check out the source above, as well as here and here.

Fourth. Please use alternatives to the following assignments.  –They cause much stress in families like ours.

- bring a “baby” picture assignments
- family tree assignments
- family history assignments
- genetic history assignments
- cultural or ethnic heritage assignments
- create a timeline of student’s life

Instead, here is a link with some alternatives.  Also, books and learning about great people who were also adopted can help adoptees feel more accepted and develop a positive self-awareness.

Fifth.  Please seek to understand our children.  Books like The Connected Child by Karyn Purvis will give you great insight into our children’s minds and some great tools to handle things.  Also, please understand that while most of us own Karyn Purvis’ books, sometimes even her methods don’t work for us.  Please just talk with us to see what we’ve found works with our kids.  And, please NEVER try to tell us how to raise our children better by one article you read online or something from a book (even if we gave you said book).  The truth is, we have tried most of it.  We know our kids extremely well, better than anyone else.  We see the hardest parts, because they feel free to be themselves with us.  Which is both good…and hard.

Sixth. Sometimes we see a different side of our child than you do.  Actually…this is pretty true most of the time.  My child will act golden for most people.  This is also post-institutionalized behavior.  (See the links above.)  Please don’t accuse us of making things up.  Please understand this is part of it.  Sometimes we get tired.  Sometimes we may seem like we are rough, tough, and jaded.  Maybe we are, sometimes.  But, we love our kids.  And, we need others who listen, believe us, work hard with us, and love our children WITH us and are willing to FIGHT for our children.  (And if you are a parent and have these types of educators in your life, VALUE them more than gold.  Bring them lots of chocolate and CHERISH THEM.)

Preparing For Back To School

I asked Chris Troutt, LMFT,  Executive Director and Therapist at the Papillion Center for FASD (Gallatin, TN) for her top 5 recommendations for parents of older adoptees beginning school.

1.  Begin getting into “school” routine 1-2 weeks prior to school starting. Go to bed like you would for school instead of summer, get up the same.

2.  Block off 2-3 hours during the day where “school related” activities such as worksheets (easily found on the internet), reading books, etc, become a part of their daily routine again. This helps to get their minds back into “learning” mode, instead of vacation mode.

3.  Pay attention to sensory overload when they come home from starting school. Most of our kids do their very best to “hold it together” during the school day, but fall apart when they get home. Make sure that they receive nutrition/hydration when they arrive home and allow them to “rest” for a short period before expecting anything else of them.

4.  If at all possible, request “no homework”.    Again, our children struggle with overload much of the time.  Homework is counterproductive for them.

5.  Lastly, encourage your child to begin some mindfulness exercises as a preventative method to becoming overwhelmed (most parents need to do this as well).   Simply stopping every two hours, taking time to take deep breaths, feeling where their feet are planted and calming their brain can help ward off meltdowns.   I also encourage nutrition and hydration every two hours to keep their brain in the most optimal place possible.

Some More Resources

Cognitive, Language, and Educational Issues of Children Adopted from Overseas Orphanages (a peer-reviewed publication)

Adoption In The Schools: A Lot To Learn

Supporting Adopted Children In School

Children of Trauma: What Educators Need To Know

In The Classroom…helping foster or late-adopted children succeed

Adoption Basics For Educators: How Adoption Impacts Children And How Educators Can Help

Papillion Center for FASD in Gallatin, TN - “Bringing Hope & Healing to Children and Families in Hard Places” and specializing in Attachment Disorders, Trauma and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.

bosssanders

Adoption At Home: Attachment And Bonding In Families

by bosssanders on July 16, 2015 with no comments

Whether a child comes into a family in infancy or as an older child, the journey of attachment and bonding can be a long and arduous road.

The Difference Between Attachment And Bonding


While attachment and bonding are often used interchangeably, they actually ARE NOT the same.

If you need a quick refresher of the difference between the two, consider this (it’s one of the simplest ways I’ve seen it put):

BOTH refer to the feelings and emotions you and child feel toward each other.

Bonding refers to the surge of love and tenderness YOU feel toward said child.

Attachment is about a relationship built over time between you and child that leaves your child feeling secure, loved, and ready to face the world.

Attachment and bonding are BOTH disrupted in adoption (or foster care) scenarios.  There is much loss that precedes both scenarios.  Children who have endured maltreatment, neglect, and/or abuse often struggle with basic family and life concepts.

Struggles

Often, children with attachment issues struggle with (and, this is the short, abbreviated list ;) ):

- The need to know you will always be there. At some point, someone they loved in a parenting role either badly hurt them or left them (or both).  Some children will cry just to be comforted.  Others will run away, hoping you will chase them and bring them back.  Others will refuse to get close to you because they do not believe you will always be there and if they remain distant, they feel they can’t be hurt again.
-
Trust that their basic needs will always be met. Many children from hard places steal and hoard food.  Even babies will sometimes “overeat” because their brains have been rewired to say “this may be it for a long time.”
-
The need for control over SOMETHING in their life. In toddlers, this can be hard to tell if it’s adoption related or just toddler years, but either way, you can approach it much the same.  In toddler years, their brains can feel some very COMPLEX emotions and yet, the language and knowledge of how to express it isn’t quite there.  This is a very frustrating time for them (and us) in development in general.  Add in some pretty intense feelings of loss of sadness and anger…and you quite possibly have your hands full.  With toddlers and older children, they may avoid eye contact, test boundaries, lie, pretend to not hear you, do the exact opposite of what you say, etc to try to control their little piece of the world.  This is a battle of control, but also a test to see if you will stay with them.
-
The need for validation. Some children internalize their hurt and develop some very unhealthy belief systems about themselves like “I’m unwanted,” “I’m disposable,” I’m bad,” etc.  They feel like they did something wrong or weren’t enough and therefore DESERVED the treatment they received.   If these are their core beliefs, they will often try to live up to them.
-
Understanding what family is and what family is not. We have experienced this a lot with our older son who we adopted as an older child from Africa.  Mostly growing up in orphanages, he knew the culture of an orphanage but had never had a mommy to tuck him in at night.  Or parents who set boundaries and kept them.  He didn’t know what it meant to respect, feel sympathy, and show affection.  These were all so foreign to him.  In his world, lying, stealing, and manipulation was how the game was played.  Switching to American society and family life with our rules and expectations was a HUGE change over from orphanage life where boys ran mostly unsupervised with little consequence.
- Seeking attention in a positive way. If you are a child from hard places, often ANY attention is craved.  –Even if it’s attention where you are angry because the 9 year old who should know better just drew you some pictures…with sharpie… on the couch…and walls…  Some kids will also use their bowel movements to gain attention (although this can also be a sign of them not feeling safe or sexual abuse or other physical issues.)  Also, many children from hard-places show indiscriminate affection to strangers.
- Misinterpreting non-verbal cues and phrases. Sometimes a child who does not have a good “attachment base” with you will automatically filter non-verbal cues and phrases with a negative lens (often due to their thoughts about their self and belief system).
-Anxiety
-Ability to regulate emotions like anxiety, anger, sadness, etc.
-A lower emotional and social age than their physical age. Great trauma can often “stunt” our growth in areas, leaving us behind emotionally and socially.  I remember when our son first came home, we were really surprised that our 7 year old boy connected best with 3 year olds socially and emotionally, he seemed between 1-2 years old.   I don’t often quote Karyn Purvis, but I do like what she said about emotional age.  She said,

” It’s not uncommon to find within a single harmed youngster:
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  sixteen-year old
…all wrapped in the body of an eight-year old.”

(If you’ve not read The Connected Child by Karyn Purvis, I do recommend you read it to at least get an insight inside a child from a hard place’s brain.  She has some pretty good nuggets of wisdom to offer.)


Ways To Help Your Child Develop A Secure Attachment

(Please note that while these things have been helpful to us and others, it is a LONG and arduous road.  So, take care of yourself, friend, and also give yourself grace as you go along.)

= One of the top things you will likely hear over and over is: Make their world small. We call it cocooning, oftentimes, in the adoption world.  It’s one of those things you need to not overlook!  Just trust me on this one!  And, another thing… this isn’t an exact science and every child is different.  And, honestly, they can go through things in stages…they may be experiencing trouble in one are one month and something else the next.  They may be doing awesome with boundaries and then two months later, you’re like WHAT JUST HAPPENED?  One of the things we asked when we first brought Z home was, “How long?”  And, there really isn’t a timeline.  You just do it.  You do it until you think maybe they are ready and you gradually invite someone into their tiny world… and if it works… do it again the next week.  If it doesn’t… close your circle again and go slower.  DO NOT RUSH THIS STAGE.  If your children are still indiscriminate with their love for strangers, you may want to consider making their world a little smaller.  (And yes, we are FULLY aware of how HARD this is when you have a marriage you want to nurture AWAY and you have lots of family who doesn’t understand why you aren’t at family functions and you have friends you NEED to see and the other kids have STUFF TO DO!)  Be creative :)  My husband and I would often switch duties.  When we first began going back to church after months of being home, he couldn’t handle interacting with people…so, he sat right there with us.  The whole time.  We held his hand (he was too big for me to carry or else I would’ve).  We asked people to not pat him or hug him or cuddle him (as irresistibly cute as he is).  Just high-fives or shake his hand.  It took him almost 2 full years before he finally trusted us that THIS was his family.  Forever.  He didn’t need to scope out other families and win them over just in case.
- Routine. Kids from hard places THRIVE in routine.  We are a homeschooling family generally, but our son needs routine so much, that we are opting to try out public school this year (keep in mind he’s been home for almost 2 years).  Make them a picture chart that shows them when they eat, when they sleep, when they play, etc.  There are lots of fun activity charts online and some fun ones you can customize and DIY, too.  Then, follow through.  In time, they will come to trust it.  (Also, warning before changing activities can also help … In 10 minutes, we are goint to bed…in 5 min, we are going to bed…Okay, time for bed.)
- Give them SOMETHING to control…but, don’t let them control you. If you said bedtime is at 8, bed time is at 8.  Be consistent.  However, do give them some choices… do you want to wear the red shoes or green shoes?  Would you like an apple or an orange?  (Or, if they can handle it, maybe even a basket of breakfast options that they can choose from.  –However, if this one goes awry, you may want to simplify the options to only 2.)
- Validate them. If they have negative self-beliefs, it’s important you zone in on those and help them readjust those beliefs.  It will take a LOT of work and time.  Some ideas are: Consistently tell them positive things about themselves.  Reframe their past circumstances… Your birth mom was scared and THAT is why xyz happened or… SHE made choices because SHE didn’t have resources or whatever.  NOT because your child was “bad.”  We have even given our child an outside story to help show this (when the storyline doesn’t involve them, they can sometimes see it more clearly and can talk through it…then relate it to them).  We also do individual date nights with our children, write good qualities on each of their fingers, and go around the table with each person saying something positive about each person.  They all LOVE this!  Also, compliment them to someone in public if they are old enough to understand.
- Teach them what family is.  And, what it’s not. If your child is a baby, this will be an ACTION sort of thing.  Showing up and providing for his/her needs.  For toddlers and older kids, constantly repeating things like “Family loves each other.  We are kind to each other.  Family needs to be able to trust each other.  Family is FOREVER.  Even when we are mad at each other.”  With our older son, we have had many talks about what happens in a family when trust is destroyed.  We have also employed some tomato-stake parenting (keeping the child close at ALL times…if you are in the living room doing laundry, they must be in there doing whatever…even when the other kids go off to play.  The idea is that until I can trust you to do what you are supposed to do, I need to help you make good choices.)
- Teach appropriate behaviors. We ingrain appropriate behaviors from BIRTH!  Instead of just saying “don’t hit your sister”, we try to figure out the WHY and then address ways to better deal with it next time.  Maybe he hit his sister because he wanted the toy and she said no.  So, we would walk through how to deal when we feel angry and we want something and if we feel like we may hit again, to come get mom or dad, and we will help them navigate that.
- Be clear in your cues and what you say.
- Pay close attention to your child’s emotional and social age and then, meet them there.
One of the things we did when our son first came home was make a list of normal things families do at different stages in a babies life.  There are different stages where we cuddle a baby to feed it with lots of eye contact and rocking, singing them to sleep.  They need to be held a LOT.  There are stages that come later where a child can sit to eat, but you are still handing them the food and sometimes putting it in their mouth.  They become more independent, but you still keep a very close eye on them.  They are not ready to play independent from you, just yet.  They still must learn the do’s and don’ts.  Once they hit 3, they gain a little more independence.  They can do things for themselves but still need a lot of validation and cuddling, etc.  They still need some supervision, etc.  —-Now, while I do believe there is some truth to this, please know we aren’t ones to bottle feed an older kid.  We did begin rocking him more in that time, though.  Who doesn’t like to be rocked?  I tried feeding him and that was weird for us… but, hey.  Try it.  It may work for you!

Ways To Build Attachment As a Family

- Laugh together.  Be silly. It sounds simplistic, but it really works.  It’s a way to bond deeply with each other.  Learn some new jokes or riddles and practice telling them to each other.  For babies and toddlers, you can make funny faces and sounds or tickle them.  Take photo booth style photos while acting goofy!  Play games that require you to make a fool out of yourself.  Tickle wars!
- Touch. Holding, cuddling, massage, etc.  Rub lotion on each other’s arms/hands, etc.  Rocking.  Baby-wearing if baby/toddler age.  Let your children use you as a jungle gym, climbing, crawling, swinging, etc.
- Help child feel like an integral part of the family. Our son, Z, actually asked for chores when he got acclimated a little because he wanted to be like the rest of us.  It helped him feel like he belonged and had purpose.  Beginning at 3, we give our children little “chores” or tasks to do.  As they grow older, these are more structured.  He also identified with his “place” in the family (older brother) and has taken great pride in helping with the younger children.  (Little brothers and sisters can also feel important in the family by making a big deal over their part in the family, too.  Little brothers and sisters in our family have special privileges, too!)
- Do special things together and  TAKE PHOTOGRAPHS! There’s nothing like going through an adventure together, and having photographs to remind us of those bonding experiences.  Also, when you take photographs of you and your adopted child (and them with their siblings), it helps to reinforce bonding and attachment, further making them feel like they belong.
– Focus on the most important 8 minutes of the day. The first 4 and last 4.  Focus on making sure these 8 minutes are positive and used to validate.
- Let your children choose something to teach the rest of the family. Even young toddlers can “teach” us how to build a tower of blocks or how to sing a song or dance a dance they’ve made up.  Older kids could read up on a fun skill (or watch youtube kids videos to learn) and then teach it.  The possibilities are endless!  And, it leaves them feeling important and validated and special!
- Exercise together. Cardio and yoga have both been proven to help regulate our children (and us!)   This is a two-fer!  It helps regulate AND creates a memory of something done together.  Learn some simple calming yoga poses or go jump on a trampoline together.  Other ideas: playing tag, hopping around like frogs, jumping rope, swimming together, etc.
- Do projects together. The sense of accomplishment and togetherness that comes from completing a project together is huge!  Complete a puzzle, clean the house (scrubbing floors!), color, plant flowers/garden (let them dig!), moving big and small rocks,  building something, etc.
– Display photographs of your adopted child and you, and another with them and their siblings in a PROMINENT place in your home.
-  Play games together…the funnier, the better!  Games where you have to act things out, guess things, draw and guess, etc are always a hit!  Choose games that focus more on fun than winning.
- Be sensitive to over-stimulation in your child. Some children need a space of their own to calm down, while others simply need to run or jump on a mini-trampoline.  Provide sensory activities in a box or a little tent in a corner that they can access as needed.  Pinterest has lots of ideas, but a weighted blanket, stuffed animal with a calming scent (lavender or Gentle baby by Young Living), headphones to cancel noise, exercise ball to balance on, stress ball, bubble wrap (if old enough to not swallow), discovery bottles.

**Please know, this is NOT an exhaustive list.  More like, just the beginning of a conversation about a journey :)  Not all of these will work for every kid and sometimes you will be required to change up your game plan in stages (it may work a while and then stop!)  Also, I’m not a doctor of anything.  I’m just a mom.  I’ve walked the road of both adoption and foster-care and parenting, in general.

Another NOTE:  I see a HUGE difference in ALL of my children if they do not have good, nutritional meals.  I’ve noticed that lots of artificial flavorings and dyes and sugar do not react nicely with my children.  They also have a huge need for exercising (which I wish I was as passionate about in my own body!).

And, Lastly…For You…

- Join a support group. You need people who “get you.”  I’m a part of both internet support groups (several) AND local.  They both have their positives.  I LOVE having a local group that comes together and supports one another in a very real way.  And, when things get too hard, we switch up kids with each other.  Not to mention, they get it.  And, no judgement.
- Take time away. Do it.  Go away for a weekend.  Go with the girls, spouse, by yourself…whatever.  Just do it.  It’s necessary to recharge to be a good parent.
-  Eat well.  Get enough sleep.  Drink enough water.  Move your body. Take care of your health.  You can’t run this race on fumes.
- Write out a thankful list. And, read Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts if you haven’t already.  Seriously.  Review said list often.
- Ground yourself in God’s Word DAILY. Preferably before your feet even hit the ground in the morning.  My 3 year old is more accurate than an alarm clock at daybreak each day, so I rarely beat him up.  For this stage of my life, it’s not feasible for me to do a Bible study in the mornings.  So, I picked up a short devotional (Right now, I love Jesus Calling.  It’s simple and gives me a nugget that I meditate on throughout the day.  You can also go through Proverbs, one a day and choose a verse or two that really speaks to you to meditate on throughout the day.)  Then, at nap time, I TRY to study the bible for an hour or more.  It grounds me and makes me feel more peaceful and gives me strength to keep going.
- Start a journal and write down every. little. bit. of progress your child makes.  Every tiny bit.  And, when you feel like NOTHING is changing, look back at just how much HAS changed.
- Take time to nourish your marriage. It’s important.  Don’t put each other on the backburner.  Instead, remember to focus on your marriage and you will both be invaluable support and a safe haven for one another.
- Remember to laugh…and buy some wine…and laugh some more. For real.  I didn’t even like wine 2 years ago.

bosssanders

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

by bosssanders on April 8, 2014 with 7 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.

bosssanders

Homeschooling and Adoption

by bosssanders on April 5, 2014 with 2 comments



“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.

UPDATE!! – 34 weeks
We finished the Kindergarten Hooked on Phonics back in May.  He can now read Bob books like an average 1st grader learning to read.  We are now going through the first grade Hooked On Phonics book and learning about Countries and Cultures via My Father’s World.  We have also started the “Complete Book of Math” workbook from amazon.  He’s doing really great!  He’s on target for early first grade in reading and math, but is enjoying learning the other subjects with his 3rd grade sister.  Right now, beyond MFW Exploring Countries and Cultures curriculum, HOP – 1st grade, and his Complete Book of MATH, most of the other books we use with him are books he can look through from the library.  And, still bob books.

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!

bosssanders

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…

and…


bosssanders

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!

HIGH
– 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.

bosssanders

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!

Brandi:
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!

bosssanders

ADOPTION – How To Love The Adoptive Family

by bosssanders on November 19, 2013 with no comments

This isn’t a post on how to feel butterflies and happy thoughts towards adoptive families, but how to action-verb “LOVE” them.  Really LOVE them.  But, to be honest, this list could be used to LOVE and support almost any family facing difficult journeys.  (If you have ideas to add – things that have/would have helped you in your journey, I would SO love to know in the comments.)

PRAY

It may seem so simple, but really it’s one of the most IMPORTANT and BIGGEST things you can do.  Our God is MIGHTY.  Pray for them…and write down your prayers and any insight that the Holy Spirit gives you.  Send it to them.  It’s one thing to to say “Oh, I’m praying for you.” in passing and quite another to actually take the time to send them the prayer you prayed or call them up and pray together.  Honestly, I look back over prayers that friends have sent me in some of my hardest moments (in life, in general).
What can you pray for?
- Strength, patience, grace, and mercy
- God’s truth to be revealed and the schemes and lies of the Enemy to be shown for what they are.
- That their ears may be open to hearing the Living God, who will walk them through these trials
= That any siblings would face this new adjustment with love and grace and mercy and that God would cover them in His perfect love
……and, specifically for the child…..
- That God would heal wounds of rejection, abandonment, fear and mistrust.
= That their child will know and believe in the hope and love of our God and Jesus Christ
- That their child will trust in and receive his/her new family’s love and desire to help him/her heal
- That God would bind up all of the broken places in their heart

SERVICE

Meals

- Meals.  Meals are HUGE.  Get a group of friends together in honor of the family (along with a list of the family’s likes and dislikes regarding food) and have a Freezer Meal Party over the course of a couple of days (they could be spread out).  Prepare (as a group) a bunch of ready-to-go frozen meals.  (Many will be eager to help but not always available for the time you choose, so you can let them in on it by offering to let them contribute to the cost of the ingredients.)  These meals will be GREAT months in, when the “meal trains” are no longer running, but the family REALLY still needs help.  (If a family doesn’t have a deep-freeze, you could find someone to help out by storing the meals in theirs OR it could be a great gift.)
- Another GREAT way to help with meals is to set up a “meal train” (meal train.com).  Basically, you set up days that they need meals and invite folks via Facebook or email and they sign up for different days to deliver food.  It’s easy and fast.  This has been SO helpful for us.
- Give gift cards to restaurants.
- When the family has been home for a bit and is no longer just in “surviving mode,” you could offer to come over to help prepare meals as they slowly begin to step back into preparing meals.

Shopping
= Let them know if you are going to the store that week and ask them to just send you their shopping list.  Or, if you are on your way to bring a meal, ask if they need you to pick up a couple of items on your way.  (For us, this has been another HUGE one.)  It can be hard to get to the grocery and everyone is just exhausted.  It’s great to have someone who will go for you and get what you need and drop them off at your front door.

Housework

- Offer to pick up their laundry, wash it, and fold it and then bring it back.  OR, offer to bring by their favorite treat (sweet tea and a cookie, frappucino, coffee, etc) when the kids go down for a nap and sit on their couch and talk while you help fold laundry.   (It’s SO nice to be able to not lose touch with friends -and to have friends who are willing to do whatever it takes to slide into this new version of normal for a while AND help you in the process.)
- Again, offer to come by while the kiddos are napping or while mom is homeschooling or bonding or WHATEVER and bring a little treat for the parents and do the dishes in the sink.
- Go in together with some friends and pool some money to hire a housekeeper to come over once a week for 3 months to give the parents a break.  (ASK your friends about their comfort level on this first.  Some people would rather someone they know help.  Others would prefer a stranger.  Still others would be WAY TOO embarrassed.)
- If your skill is in organizing, offer to help do some light housework and a little organizing.
- One of the ways some of our friends loved on us while we were in Africa is by getting a key to our home and coming in to bless our home.  They fixed a lightswitch, a couple of doorknobs, organized, decorated the boys’ room, and planted sweet surprises around the house.  It was so exciting and amazing to uncover each surprise.  They snuck body/hair care gifts, a few toys, organizing totes, wall art, etc.  They did A LOT.  And, we are STILL enjoying it!

Yardwork
- Offer to come over to mow their lawn.
- If their yard needs more TLC, get some teenagers and adults together for this special mission.  You could paint things, weed, plant, trim, mow, and minor fix-ups to bless them.

Gifts
- We welcome new babies by having baby showers, so why not have a blessing shower for the adoptive family?  Before the child comes home, you could invite people over for snacks and drinks and collect gift cards and have a time of sharing stories and praying over the family.
- Another great idea that I have heard of (and LOVE!) is folks coming together and laying wrapped gifts out on tables.  Then, after they had gone, the adoptive family goes in with their child.  No people, no pressure.  The family gets to “provide” for the child by physically going through the gifts with them (they will explain when appropriate these gifts were from folks who love them).  Less risk of overstimulation.  And, the gifts can be unwrapped as quickly or slowly as is deemed best.
- Sometimes we forget the other siblings.  It’s sweet to give a little something to each child so they don’t begin to feel resentment or overshadowed.
- A date night in a basket or other little treat for mom and dad would be a great way to encourage and bless the parents who cannot leave the house like they used to.

Your Unique Talents
= One of our friends is a photographer and she blessed us by giving us a free photo shoot once our son came home.  We had waited so long and we wanted a family photo as soon as we could with him finally in it!
= If you cut hair, maybe you could come to the family’s home and offer free haircuts WITHOUT them having to leave the house?
- If you paint, make jewelry, make candles, soaps, etc… maybe you could give a gift that would be a little bit of “happy” sunshine on a rough day?
- You do massage?  You could offer a free in-home massage to the parents during the kids nap=time or even better, after bedtime.  (How heavenly would that be?)
= If  the family homeschools, you could offer to come over to help the siblings with their “classes” while mom works with her newest child.
- If you do nails, etc… you could offer a free gift for mom to have her nails done.  Or, eyebrows waxed, etc.

*The idea is that we ALL have talents.  These talents and gifts can be used to bless families… and it may be as simple as pampering adoptive when their self-care is at a place that looks close to non-existent as they triage all of the other needs of their adopted child, other children, and household.  Be creative!  They’ll love it!

ENCOURAGE

- Be encouraging.  Send handwritten notes, texts, copies of devotions that you feel they’d benefit from.  Look them in the eyes and tell them “You are amazing parents.  You are doing a great job.”  If their life is blessing you by encouraging or inspiring you, TELL THEM!  You don’t have to have the answers or advice… just let them know you think they are amazing and believe in them!
- Encourage them with God’s promises.  Help fill them up.  Use scripture, devotions, etc.

RESPITE

Offer respite care.  Respite care is a very very special blessing.  Often, respite care is for the families who are struggling 3 months and beyond.  At 3 months, it may look like simply coming over to “man the house” after the kids have been put to bed so mom and dad can go out for an evening.  After you’ve done it a few times, it may look like a full weekend.  Respite care is simply offering parents a break in more challenging adoptions.
-Mark your calendar to offer respite care 3-4 months out.
- In order to be a good respite care provider, you should get to know the children (with mom and dad present) well beforehand.  There should be a sense of trust there.
- Respite care is NOT a vacation time for the children.  Generally, respite is only needed with their are significant challenges that are being worked through.  –Which means, they need to stay on schedule, chores (if they have them) should still be done, and things should stay normal.  This is not a time to “spoil” them or break a few “little” rules.  Basically, at the end of the time with them, they should not want to go home to live with their respite care providers.

- All decisions and communication from the respite provider should affirm the adoptive parents to the child. Parents must clearly present boundaries and limits so respite providers can offer consistent care.
- If possible, provide respite in the children’s home in order to maintain as much of the structure and schedule as possible. There are times, however, when parents and other siblings may need quiet time at home; If so, the respite can happen away from home
- During respite care, cuddling the children is generally discouraged.  Bonding and attachment is likely still a process for the parents and children and you don’t want to get in the way of that.

*If you are interesting in providing this type of care, let the parents know you are interested in partnering with them to provide a time of respite.  Suggest full days or weekends to them.  If they are brave enough to ASK for help, but you are unavailable, be sure to respond enthusiastically and offer up some FULL days/weekends that you are free so they know you are willing.  Keep in mind, however, that this is NOT the same as babysitting.  A couple of hours is rarely enough.  Also, keep in mind that it’s hard to find someone who can be trusted to follow the guidelines of respite care, so if a family agrees to give it a go… it is a great HONOR and very special thing.  On the other hand, if they decline, they may just not be ready.  Don’t take it personally.

Please, if you choose one of these things off the list and offer it up but are politely turned down, don’t take offense.  They may not be ready…or, they may not think they need help yet (or may have trouble admitting they do/accepting help), or perhaps they don’t need help in that way.  If that’s the case, consider asking how you could help and even offering again later.

Finally, a note:

There are different types of support (hence, different types of supporters).  Some of us feel more led to DO SOMETHING.  Others of us are much better with words and praying.  Still, others are GREAT encouragers.

Don’t feel like you must do ALL of these things to support and love on someone.  However, if you know of a family that isn’t getting a whole lot of support…rather than you trying to be it all, maybe you could get your church or community or bible study group or book club involved?  Together, maybe you could support as a team!

And for the ones who need supporting: if your friends and family aren’t being supportive, maybe they don’t understand your need.  People don’t generally automatically understand (I didn’t before we were here) what it’s like.  So, tell them.  Ask for help.  Be specific.  And, THEN if there’s still nothing… THEN, maybe you need some new friends.

I HIGHLY recommend a support network.  Best case scenario is that you’ve already built this network up before you need one, but sometimes that’s just not the case.  In your support network,  you need a number of people – and different types.  First, you need your people who “get it.”  These are the people who’ve been there, done that, and survived.  People who are at the same stage as you are won’t always be able to support you.  It’s hard to help someone float if you, yourself, are having trouble swimming.  (So, look for people who have aspects of their stories that are like yours… If you are adopting trans-racially… if you are military and adopting…. adopting and homeschooling/public-schooling…adopting and have a large family…adopting because of infertility…adopting with parenting styles/discipline styles like yours, etc.  You don’t need ONE family to reflect yours exactly, but several who share at least one facet.)  Second, you need your listeners.  The people who can listen and not over-share and who won’t judge you or offer advice.  Third, you need people who will BE THERE…physically … to help you when you need it.  These are those who show love by acts of service.  They are the ones who will jump in and help with meals, cleaning, etc.  Fourth, you need people who will have FUN and can make you LAUGH.  –It may be laughing over a phone call, or getting out after the kids are in bed for an hour (on the back porch)… but, someone who can cheer you up is golden.  Fifth… you need someone who will pray for you and pray hard.  Someone who will remind you of biblical promises and hold your arms up when you are tired.  You need several people in each category because the truth is, no ONE person can be all of this for very long.

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ADOPTION – What It Is And What It Is Not

by bosssanders on November 19, 2013 with no comments

Adoption isn’t perfect; it isn’t all skittles and rainbows. I’ve seen both sides of adoption – the hard and the happy.  Some, have it “harder” (if you can say that) and some have more happy.  Some kids transition quickly and well.  Some don’t.  Some trauma can’t be undone.  Some, however, CAN be healed.  Adoption is one of the biggest outpourings of love and mercy EVER.  It’s what God did for us.  It’s talked about all through the Bible (Moses, Paul, Abraham, Jesus, YOU and ME, etc.)  All of those adoptions (including ours into God’s family) was messy, so why do we expect to only hear the rosy side of other’s adoptions?  I have no idea.  And yes, there have been some horrible stories about deceit and hardness and corruption… but, hey friends… we live in this place that is fallen.  So, it simply means walking in with eyes wide open and doing your research.  None of these things mean we shouldn’t adopt, it just means that we must fight HARD.

The journey isn’t over once they’ve come home. (See above.)  There is such relief once we step out of our planes onto US soil, like a sobbing-ugly-cry relief that you hadn’t let yourself feel until that moment.  But, the truth is, the journey has JUST STARTED.  While it may feel like celebrating your friend’s child family coming home is perfect closure, it is simply the end of one hard journey and the beginning of another, much HARDER and tedious journey.  And, your friend or family member… they are going to need you more than ever.

Our children aren’t necessarily grateful to have been adopted. And, that’s okay.  ALL of our adopted children had to experience some major loss to even get to this point of needing a family through adoption.  And, while MOST of them are excited to be in America, there is still a great LOSS of everything that was familiar or comforting to them – the people, knowing and being a part of the culture, the language, the sounds, the climate, the sights, the smells, the tastes, and any bit of control they had.  EVERYTHING.  I know for us, our child left EVERYTHING behind except for a handful of photos of us and him that we left him last trip.  He even left the clothes he had on behind (they belonged to the place he was staying in, and after we put new ones on him, of course.)  Many of them have been taught that America equals whatever you want, whenever you want.  They may have been pining for this new life with a family, but chances are that they had no idea what that really meant.

Please don’t feed our (adopted) children. With babies, it’s important that we (the parents) are the only ones rocking them, feeding them, changing diapers, and comforting them.  With older children, it’s important that we (the parents) are the ones that they come to when they get hurt, need soothing, are hungry, and any other needs must be met.  Providing these needs is the most basic form of bonding, something we’ve missed out on in a big part of their lives.  Please don’t give them seconds or put on band-aids, even if it seems like a no biggie.  It’s HUGE for us.

Please don’t ask us personal questions in front of them or others.
I know it’s fascinating to hear how children got to be there.  Most people really genuinely care, while others are curious.  We are sure you are in the former category (the caring one), and we so appreciate you, but please realize that even if our kids can’t speak English, they understand more than they let on.  Even still, some information is meant to be private.  Some things we may share, other things we may choose not to.  In our personal case, we don’t know what our son knows about his own history and the last thing we want is for it to be “common knowledge” and known by everyone else but him.  We don’t want a child from church to come up to our son and begin a conversation that ends in him telling our child the things we’ve been waiting to tell him.  This is hard, delicate stuff.  It may be details and a story to you, but for our son… it’s his life and it hurts.

Also, please don’t assume or ask us if our son has HIV/AIDS/sickle cell or whatever else you’ve heard of.  It’s rude.  Just because you are overweight, I don’t come up to you and ask you if you have diabetes.  Or, just because you are not overweight, I don’t ask you if you have an eating disorder.  The color of his skin and the fact he needed a family doesn’t automatically mean anything.  It also doesn’t mean you are entitled to such information should our children have (or not have) ANY medical issues.  Most of us don’t walk around flashing our medical charts, so why would you ask for our kids?  (And, for the record… if our kids do have sickle cell, HIV, AIDS, autism, ADD, etc… you and your kids CAN’T “catch” it.  So, it should matter not.)  If you ask us these things, we will choose to ignore this lapse in judgment the first time – please don’t take this to mean anything more than us giving some grace.

Yes, he’s our child.  Just like the others are.  Whether he was born under or in my heart doesn’t make him or the others any less ours.

Raising an adopted child is NOT the same as raising a biological child.
I know on the surface, it may seem like it.  It may seem like we’re making excuses and all of that jazz.  You may see defiance and lying and think you can totally relate and it’s no different than your story.  The thing is, unless your child suffers from the loss of their entire family and language and culture, unless your child has been without food, been beaten, had to learn to depend on their own selves for comfort or safety and had so much cortisol dumped into their brain that it resembles someone with PTSD… then you have NO idea.  We’re not trying to be difficult.  It’s just how it is.  I have two 6 year olds.  One is adopted, one is not.  While both could lie, the things that could be triggering these actions would be FAR different.  One of my 6 year olds has no idea what it feels like to have to rely on lying to survive.  One 6 year old just doesn’t want to get into trouble, while the other has learned this tactic just to get by.  No matter how it seems on the surface, it’s just not the same.  (For more info, I invite you to read The Connected Child by Karyn Purvis.)

Parenting an adopted child is hard work. Parenting in general is hard work, but with a child that you bring into your home that hasn’t always been there… there is so much more.  You have to undo negative learned things while maintaining (and figuring out) their identities AND implementing positive coping skills and reactions.  –And, you have to do it all at once while maintaining your life and other kids.  It means putting aside your “feelings” and “triggers” and finding grace that on some days you don’t feel you have.  And, that’s all “normal”.

We don’t advertise our child’s “cost.” I know so many well-meaning folks who would love to know more about the process and all of that.  But, please please save those questions for a private message (NOT on my facebook wall, NOT in front of my kids or others.  Private.  As in, where nobody else can see.)  Adoption is expensive, but the fees we paid were for lawyers and court costs and things like that.  We don’t ever want our child to feel like he/she was “bought.”  It’s just not how it is.

Please give our other kids attention too.  It’s only fair, and while we know there is this “newness” about our newest addition to the family, there is only so much grace that little siblings can give.  Then, at some point, they begin to feel like the outcasts.  We know we look different as a family and this is all so very exciting for us, but please remember them too.

High-fives are great. We are stoked that our community has been SO STINKING AMAZING and we are excited that y’all are excited.  But, with very little English, we know that connecting and sharing this enthusiasm with our newest kiddo can be hard.  Well, high-fives and hand-shakes are PERFECT.  Smiles, too.  He gets all of those things.  A pat on the head, and an occasional hug is okay too.  However, please don’t let him sit in your lap, snuggle, or hang on/climb on you.  Please don’t read him books (just yet), or swing him, give him piggy back rides, or get in the floor to play with him.  Right now, we are working hard on bonding and attaching.  It’s hard work.  We need him to attach to us FIRST in those ways.  I know this may seem SO confusing (because it kind of is), but basically… those are some of the things that speak love and closeness to his little heart.  We want to fill those gaps.  If you do, then it’s kind of like the little bird wandering around asking the truck “Are you my momma?”

This is a journey.  Some days will be hard.
Like most journeys, this one too will have peaks and valleys.  There will be mountains that we will have to climb and there will be downhill slopes as well.  The mountains may be few or they may be many… we have no idea.  I can assure you that there will be a lot of hardness related to adoption.  We will feel things we never thought we’d feel.  We will experience things we’d never considered.  And WHEN those days hit us like a brick in the face, please don’t assume we regret this adoption or imply that we “asked for it” (so suck it up).  You would never say that to a mom with a colicky baby or a parent facing other “hard” parenting things that sometimes come along.

We need our friends and family more than ever.  But, we may not ask for help. The truth is, so many people think we should be SO over the moon and that our child coming home was like the fireworks finale.  A lot of people don’t want to hear that we might barely be getting by or that we’re having a rough time.  It can be hard to hear, but even harder to say.  It’s not that we regret this, it’s just that some stuff is dang hard.  So, if you want to cook, clean, mow the yard, bring food, or just love on us… please don’t wait for us to ask.  Please just offer something and follow through.  I promise you, it will bless adoptive families.

Three months… Three years… later…. We still need you.  You know how they say “It takes a village”?  Well, it’s true – ESPECIALLY when we’re talking about reclaiming a child for God.  The needs may change (but, then again… some families need respite care and meals for much longer, depending on the amount of healing that must be done), but we still need you.  We so appreciate when you stay in our lives and as we come out of the harder battles, we look forward to loving on you as well.

Educating your children about “adoption” and “diversity” and ” acceptance” helps my children. When you talk to your children about adoption and nontraditional-looking families, it helps everyone feel more accepted and secure at church, on the playground, in sports, and in school.  Understanding and acceptance goes a LONG way.

If you measure my child by your measuring sticks, he/she will likely not measure up. Again, all children are different with different pasts and different …well, everything.  If you hold my child to a certain “normal” – especially if my child has a traumatic past – he/she will never measure up.  Instead, please see the little victories that have already been won.  It’s much harder to look into a field of measuring sticks that you’ll never measure up to than it is to look at a field of miracles and hurdles you’ve already won.

We appreciate your gifts.
This may not be true for EVERY family, but it’s true for us.  We are learning as we go how to parent a six year old boy and what six year olds like and don’t.  We don’t know all of the coolest toys for boys his age and we don’t know the best hair care (nor do we have the time/finances/energy to go out and search/experiment).  We didn’t know what size he wore until he came home, so his wardrobe is pretty limited (we have most things now clothing wise except for PJs, long sleeve tops and nice sweatshirts).  If you want to bless us and our kiddo with a gift, we are perfectly fine with that… but, we ask that you give it to us (or leave it on the porch).  That way, we can give it to him and again “provide” for him to help him attach to US… not to everyone else.

We are “staying in” mostly.  But, it’s not forever. I know it may SEEM like we have become hermits and/or dropped off the face of the earth, but we are still here!  I swear!  Some call it “cocooning” – this staying in so that we can focus on attachment/bonding and boundaries and not overstimulating our little guy.  This also means we aren’t visiting family (or friends) and that we’ve mostly dumped our schedule of extra-curriculars.   It won’t last FOREVER, but it may last for a while.  We’re totally just reading his cues.  (Okay… so, you know how when you have a toddler or 18 month old going through the terrible twos and you are working hard to reinforce boundaries since they are now old enough to understand and also old enough to touch. every. thing?  This is sort of like that except way different.  Imagine that “toddler” not only doesn’t understand boundaries and what’s socially acceptable, but they also don’t totally understand what family is or how it’s meant to work (it’s more than warm cuddles and being provided for).  Imagine trying to connect with this toddler who is basically a stranger and trying to bond.  Imagine also that this “toddler” isn’t actually a toddler but older and his past is about to hit him square in the jaw and all of the loss and pain is going to come front and center as soon as the newness wears off.  )  That’s sort of what it’s like.  -ish.

But, most of all…

Remember that we love you.  That we appreciate you.  That we are thankful for you.  And, most of all… that none of us are perfect so that if you accidentally do one of these things on here, it’s okay and we will totally forgive you and still love you.  We’re just trying to educate and give perspective because we know you want to try and be helpful because you are amazing like that.  This isn’t a list to beat you upside the head with.  It’s to clear up the fogginess that we’re all wading through, together.  We are so thankful you are wading through with us.

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