Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A final update for 2014 (in which we celebrate Tavin's birthday)

Apparently I'm a terrible blogger. But the time I sit down and actually post, I've composed at least a dozen posts dozens of times in my head, which unfortunately does you no good. So here I am squeezing in one last post for 2014, a year which proved one of our most challenging and most rewarding. Funny how that usually works.

December was a awesome month. Like really so good! It started with Tavin's birthday. Now if you've adopted you will know that celebrating your adopted child's birthday, if they've come from a hurt place, could go very badly wrong. Over stimulation is a good probability, the whole new experience could be scary, as your child doesn't know what to expect or what's happening or it could drum up some memory seared into the subcounsience that you have no knowledge of. So to be honest I was pretty nervous about the day. That probably sounds crazy unless you've been there. 

We gave him our gifts in the morning, so he would know a little what to expect in the evening, and so he wouldn't have as many gifts to open later in case it was overwhelming. His brothers were happy to help him rip the paper.

After that the day started off..terrible. Like bad. Tavin was resistant all morning to interaction, and one of his brothers who will remain un-named woke up on the whiny side of the bed big time. All morning I contemplated canceling his small party I had planned just for family but seeing as I come from a large family "small" really means over a dozen people so....well, not so small. By lunch I had been almost in tears more than once, and may have had a meltdown when the hubs came home before dinner. I grieved the birthdays he hadn't celebrated, and imagine his first lonely days after birth. Happy birthday right?

But nap time was a reset for Tavin and his brother. At dinner he ate spaghetti like a champ. 

The evening was awesome. He relished in the happy birthday singing, loved blowing the candles out and figured out how to rip the paper mid way through gifts. He would have been happy with any one of his gifts, stopping to look at books till we promoted him to open more. He was relaxed, sweet, engaged the whole time, and insisted on shaking everyone's hands and hugging them when they left. He's been singing his version of happy birthday ever since and blowing out an imaginary candle afterwards.

Christmas was fantastic. Two moments stand out, one was Christmas Eve as we sang carols with candles lit at my parents house, a Christmas Eve tradition from when I was young. Tavin sat tucked under my arm, sing-songing along and swaying to the music, wanting to blow out the candles and sing happy birthday. I choked up knowing the alternative his life would have been. One of THOSE moments.

The other was Christmas morning. We (and by we I mean Steve) knocked off a set of stairs that flip over to be a boat/rocker for Tavin. He loves stairs and needs sensory input as he lacks mobility in general and various kinds of input as a result of orphanage life, which the rocking will be great for. He sat on the stairs sucking a sucker (which he only recently learned how to do, his under developed mouth muscles finally getting strong enough) playing with a little toy he had opened, happy, care free, relaxed. And the image of him laying in his orphanage crib, eyes blank, where he spent too much time, was a stark contrast. His little room mates faces were again before me, and the reality that his Christmas would have been what theirs still is was overwhelming. 

We are blessed with three amazing boys. Tucker and maddox waited patiently as they took turns opening gifts, "thank you mommy and daddy!", relishing in the day, enjoying giving the gifts they chose for each other and us, and the gifts they opened.

(Home made donuts are a Christmas tradition)

It was the best kind of day. A day to celebrate the ultimate redemption, our adoption as sons and daughters into Jesus' family, made possible by the most upside down swap ever as he took our punishment and offers us His righteousness in exchange. 

Merry Christmas and happy new year!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Happy 6 months home!

Six months ago today we walked out of an orphanage in Ukraine with our son. OUR son. It felt so surreal. Like "really? We get to leave with him?" Although really how much more paperwork could we have done?!?

It feels crazy that it's been six months, HALF A YEAR! How can that be? Six months really is a good place. So different than 1 month home, or two months home. Better than 5 months home. He's really settled in. We've settled in. We've adapted, learned each other, built trust. Worked on attachment. And it's gotten easier, it feels more natural, it comes from a real place now. 

I know some are more experienced from previously fostering, or some feel an attachment from the very the beginning. I gotta be honest, we read, we talked to other adoptive parents, we talked, we prepared mentally, we did all the things. But nothing is the same as actually doing it, actually bringing your child home who hasn't been your child for the first years of their life. And the doing can feel really different than the theory of doing. We had a honeymoon period for 10 days, then it was craziness and screaming and raging and not eating, and raging about eating, and hitting and head butting and crazy eyed craziness. And of course if I could have seen into the future and known that at 3 months home it would drastically start to improve, 3 months really isn't that big a deal in the grand scheme of things, but in the moment you don't know how long the crazy will last, and what if it lasts forever? What if it never feels natural, what if what if what if....and you dig deep and come up short and drink coffee and and go out for a girls night sometimes, and get up in the morning and just try to take one day at a time because to think of more than one day is too much. You might fall exhausted onto the sofa at night wishing for a good cry which really is too much effort to bother so you go to bed instead. And the rejection you thought wouldn't bother you actually does. And the screaming you thought wouldn't be such a big deal is, and you just choose to believe that it will get better because that's what everyone says.

And guess what? It did. And we found our sweet boy again, and we love him. He's our son, and at 6 months home it feels real to say that. And that's pretty darn good. 

So if you're at the beginning of it, just arriving home, I can now join the ranks that can tell you "hang in there, just survive, just do the loving things you need to do, and eventually you'll catch up with the actions and it will feel real." 

6 months home is a good place to be. To everyone who has supported us along the way, here's a special thank you today!! We couldn't have done it alone. 

We love you Tavin!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Coming full circle

Recipe for joy:
1 little boy who until recently spent too much time in a crib with little outside stimuli, who loves water

1 large sandy beach with perfectly shallow waves

Mix well and enjoy. 

Here's a glimpse of the joy that peeks through redemption. 

This week is especially meaningful because one year ago we spent a week here, same beach, same house. Every week I refreshed this photo listing of a little boy who had grabbed our hearts on Reeces Rainbow. Every day we prayed for a family to find him, and wondered if that family was us. Every day we played in the sand, ran in the waves and wondered if this little boy could be part of our lives. Really a better question that we asked was whether we could adapt ourselves to be the family he needed. I would see our sons running and jumping in the little puddles left from the outgoing tide and think "he can't run but I bet he would love to sit in those puddles and splash". Picturing our lives with him. Praying for wisdom. Researching arthrogryposis a little more. And all week God was tugging on our hearts. 

So this week, a year later, here we are, and here he is. And while we fell in love with a picture last year, knowing it wasn't really him, we've spent the last five months knowing the real little boy and falling in love with each other. So to see his joy in the waves, his laughter when they smack his feet and belly, his love of living, well I don't think it was sand in my eyes. 


A kind man near us found this starfish, alive, so cool to hold and feel his little jelly like tentacles feeling our hands. 


Me: "what was your favorite part of the day?"
Maddox: "dada bury me in da sand."

All that fun wears you out though. 

"Mama Maddox gonna catch all da fish and eat all da fish!"


And we ended the day with this reaction to "we will play in the water more tomorrow" when he wanted to get in, again, at dusk. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

The good, the bad and the honest....3 months home

Blogging is a strange thing. A public forum to put our private thoughts, experiences, and life. It's often a struggle for me to know what to say and what to leave to inspire but keep it real.

Here's the bottom line, after being home 2 1/2 months. The hardest thing in adoption is attachment. Not the language barrier, or the fact that Tavin can't walk, or countless other things that may come to mind. You know, you hear that in all the trainings prior to adoption, adoption books, and from other adoptive parents. But hearing and preparing is different than living it. Living out the reality of not having attachment is approximately 1000x harder to experience as a parent than you can prepare for. I hurt every day for the last 2 1/2 years that Tavin simply missed out on family life....any family, and specifically ours. When he occasionally falls asleep on me, I mostly feel sadness for his not to have had this when he was a day old...a month old...a year old. When I see a mother cuddling her infant, I feel a stab of hurt for what he has lost out on, what we lost out on with him. Our one and only current goal with Tavin is attachment. It's SO much more than him preferring us to other friends or strangers. It's developing a deep seated, internal confidence, trust, in us, that we will always be around, always meet his needs. This can take years to establish. It's built in every daily interaction. We are seeing roots of it taking place. Beautiful sprouts that often seem when he lets me finger feed him, tucking small pieces into his cheek to swallow, instead of refusing to eat. Relaxing into my chest when I hold him, screaming less, laughing when we play, reaching to be picked up.

Attachment is a two way street, and as he has relaxed and "let it all hang out" the last few months, we have to constantly remind ourselves that attachment takes time, for us as well as for him. Reminding ourselves that every day is a fresh day to pour into him, regardless of our failures the day before. That healing takes time, and can't be reached in a day. Constantly looking back over the time we've been home and seeing how far he's come helps to get through the rough spots. And there are plenty of those. But it IS getting better.

Two weeks ago we turned a HUGE corner when Tavin started shaking his head no, when offered something (usually food) that he didn't want. Rather than his knee jerk reaction (screaming) he learned that a simple head shake does just as well. This has drastically cut down on the tantrums throughout the day! That sounds small, but trust me - its not. It's the biggest gain so far! Also its a great reminder that as communication improves, so will our days.
We celebrated his first Independence Day. Several hours at the pool (never have pictures of that - I promise we were there), grilled out, caught fireflies and saw fireworks. (Maddox, taking the jar of fireflies to see the fireworks: "dem fidafwies gonna wub da fidaworks")

 Letting him sit in the front seat of the car with daddy and "drive" while waiting for the fireworks to start far trumped the fireworks. It's now his desire to drive whenever we are in the car. Sorry buddy you have a few more years to go!

Tucker and Maddox have truly adjusted SO well, like a breeze, to having another brother. But we try to incorporate dates often with them to have some one on one time. I took out Tucker to Starbucks for breakfast and games of Uno. Somehow he will be 7 this year. It just doesn't seem possible!

Then I took Maddox out for a date to Subway and ice cream (his choice). I want to store up each moment with our boys. They are all three so precious!!

We celebrated Maddox's "half birthday" with cupcakes. Halfway to four!

Summertime has been the biggest blessing, mainly the pool. The boys love the pool, and Tavin is obsessed! He isn't afraid of getting his face wet or dunking under, never comes up sputtering, he just instinctively knows to hold his breath. he has this great flotation device that lets his paddle around anywhere, and gives us lots of time to play together. I'm so thankful for the timing of bringing him home, if it was winter we would go crazy cooped up inside! 

We went to the mountains a couple weekends ago for the afternoon. Played in the creek, grilled out and took a walk. Unfortunately they had a sign posted proclaiming it "bear country", even more unfortunate is that Tucker felt the need to read it out loud, and Maddox spent the entire time asking where the bears were, if they would attack, what they were doing, if we would hunt them, and on and on. He's talked about them quite often since and how "Maddah so gwad da bear's not attacked we". Yes his grammar is a little off, but seriously so cute.


Sometimes we have pretend birthday parties, complete with singing and gifts from the playroom in gift bags. The boys think its the best.

Daffodils and earthworms-life is so much messy, so much beauty. I think it's a life long journey to learn to embrace both.