Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Specifically Speaking From My Heart

I hear the comment all the time, "My heart has a burden for...". I used to wonder what all the hype was about. And I will admit it was thought by me to be a much overused phrase. But I come to you today telling you that "my heart is indeed heavy with a burden".

There are so many, just so darned many children without a family. So many children who are "nobody to anybody". And as I look around me at all my many blessings of material stuff, I admit I sometimes want to torch it all! [no, this is not anything incriminatory for the FBI as I won't be burning all my things ;)]
I would give it all away in a heartbeat to see another child welcomed into a family, or more aptly, to welcome another child into my heart and my family.

I think of the future that I am leaving for my children, and my grandchildren, and possibly {who knows}, my great grandchildren and I think "HOW?"! HOW can the world be a healthy place, a better place when more and more children are growing up not only in severe poverty, but also in a world where they are literally of no consequence to anyone?! I am living in these times just like all of you and I can NOT even conceive what that means.

Imagine going from infancy or early childhood all the way to adulthood and having NO ONE! I look at my children, ages 4 to 17, but especially my older children and think of all the talks we have had and the advice, or even just a sympathetic ear they have gotten from my husband and I. THEY KNOW we will come through for them, THEY KNOW we are here for them, that we LOVE them unconditionally and still they struggle to make sense of their life and the world around them. I have shed tears with each one of them! My heart has broken for pain I couldn't fix. They have fought boundaries we have put in place for their own good and to teach them to become responsible, loving, compassionate, honest adults. Not a one of them is perfect, except maybe in the eyes of their Grandma Jackie ;). They have everything they need to succeed, all the benefits, all the support, parents teaching them to have what it means to have a personal relationship with God... everything. And yet, THEY MIGHT NOT MAKE IT!

So segway with me if you will to the burden that has been on my heart as of late. The problem children. The children that come with baggage, and issues, and have been someone elses problem for a long time. The children that so many fear welcoming into their home. The ones that no one wants. The ones whose future looks so very bleak, and yet the VERY ONES upon whose back THE FUTURE RESTS! I am talking about the older children, and more specifically TEENAGE BOYS.

I am a huge reader/fan of John Eldrige. I agree so strongly with his statement "Femininity can NOT bestow Masculinity". I also strongly believe that true masculinity is complimented and shines brightest in the presence of femininity. Meaning? Meaning that it takes a MOTHER AND A FATHER, or at the very least a committed man or woman to come alongside the single mother or father, to bring out the best in our sons!

As I am sure you know, teenage boys, especially of African American heritage are the most challenging children to place from our US fostercare system. I can not help but look at my own boys, and my heart just breaks for all the "lost boys" out there. My teenage sons are 13, 14, and 16. I have 4 teenage nephews whom I totally adore. I think of what if it had been a different world for me, and now my own sons were in foster care. Granted they are not AA, but they are still teenage boys full to the brim with testosterone, fight, fixated on the opposite sex, angry, grouchy, rebellious, independent, questioning everything, strong, honest, loving, compassionate, and desperately searching for affirmation of who they are! I think of them being without a strong Christian family behind them who continues lifting them up, cheering them on, guiding them through, working through the latest problem, and so on.

Who would take them in? How big of a "problem" would they look like and would anyone being willing to not only take on someone "else problem", but love them through all the problems that are bound to arise. Problems that are not specific to a boy in foster care, but just the problems of growing up in todays world?

When I [since I can not speak for my husband ;)] started the journey into the world of adoption I admit I wanted a baby, and at the most I would accept a baby with "minor special needs". That was the level where we both were comfortable. So we adopted Luke as a newborn, who was born with marijuana in his system. VERY minor in the scheme of things. After Lukes adoption in my time with God I assured him my house would be open to whatever child needed a home. Still my mind was fixed on a young child, but maybe wiht more severe special needs.

Along came James, 7 years old, about to be placed in foster care for reasons that were NOT good, needing a home in the same town as his brothers and the town in which I live. So with some apprehension because of his past environment, but with no question on would we, we moved him in as we were becoming licensed foster parents. 2 years later, he was legally our son though he has been my son in my heart since way before!

Next, I felt a very strong pull towards adopting a child with more challenging special needs. Lots of prayer went into each adoption and each step, but this was the biggest leap of faith that we had ever taken. And, praise God, he intricately and specifically knitted each step together from the very beginning! We were gently and assuredly let to and through this journey by the hands of God! Not only was it an international adoption that would cost $20,000, of which we did NOT have, but it was of a child with more special needs than we had ever parented or really even been around for any length of time. And to top it off, early on in the process we felt led to say "YES" to not only 1 little girl, but 2! Both with special needs, both with DIFFERENT special needs. Don't kid yourself, adopting 2 children with special needs is a very BIG deal!!! Bigger than I realized, and much harder too! Oh, and yes, the support we could have used right from the beginning came straight from God. Family and close friends took a while to come around! But many of them did, and we saw GOD work on their hearts. The whole journey to the girls was like our own personal miracle!

So now, 9 kids later, our family should be complete. And you know what it is. To be honest it was complete after the adoption of Luke. 6 kids rounded it off quite nicely. With there being 6 years between my youngest 2, I got my last baby to spoil and cuddle till my heart was content. No majore issues, no health problems, no major behavior problems, pretty much typical if not easy sailing. Who could ask for more?

God could! And GOD did! Is it really ever my decision to be done with fulfilling the desires of God's heart that He has for me? WHO am I to say "YEP, got my perfect little life, and my perfect little family. Thank you Jesus.", pat myself on the back and continue on my way?

Someone once told me, or maybe I read it, that "when the desires of your heart mesh with the worlds greatest needs, that is where God is asking you to step into the "fire"?" My hearts desire is to see all children be in a loving family. To abollish the need for fostercare, or orphanages. A child without a family or in need of a family continues to be something I can not fathom even though I have seen these children, held these children, comforted these children and become a mother to 4 of them.

Children of all ages, from all countries, with all sorts of health conditions, or maybe none at all NEED families RIGHT NOW! God is calling us all to DO SOMETHING! IT doesn't need to be spoken to you. You don't need a message flashing with neon lights to do something. IT IS WRITTEN. That IS GOD"S MESSAGE TO YOU! You may not be in a position to adopt or foster, but you are called to act.

1 John 3:16-18 (New International Version)

16This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 17If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

1. James 1:27
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

I am praying over the burdens on my heart right now. I find it is steering me towards older boys in foster care here in the US. I don't know what the future holds, or where my husbands heart is on the matter. This is just my heart sharing its burden with whoever reads it.

I have NO special skills for this! My boys are not especially well behaved, though I think they are jsut find. :) I don't have any special advice for raising great teenage sons. I just know that I love them to pieces, love to be around them [usually ;)], and love to share the journey of finding themselves. I know that my heart breaks for the young man who has spent to darned long in a system that caters to birth parents, and does not, in my opinion, do enough to protect the heart of the child.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

More Than Anything....

Sometimes it just overwhelms me.

Sometimes it brings me to tears.

Sometimes it causes my heart to hurt so much I think it will break in two.

Sometimes what I want more than anything in the world is to be able to rock this little boy in my arms when he was just a baby. And tell him how much I LOVE him and that everything is going to be okay. I want him to have had an early childhood that is safe, healthy, and consistently loving. But had that happened, he wouldn't be my son. And I would be so lost and sad without him. Talk about confusing emotions for a mamas heart!

Monday, September 13, 2010

You Want Proof?

They are two of the CUTEST things you will ever encounter in a bathroom! :)

AND Yana finds some TV shows EXTREMELY funny!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I gave in! Faux HAWKS x's 2!

I have to admit I was dreading my beautiful boys looking like alien creatures. But a deal's a deal. Once Luke was always sleeping in big boy undies and staying dry, they could both get faux/mohawks. I gotta admit, they are still pretty darn beautiful!

James 9 years old

Luke 4 years old.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Yana Tidbits....

Yana is loving her new skill of drinking from a sippy cup!!! So is mom! I have started playing around with giving her things like ice cream and yogurt by spoon. She spits it all out, but I think she is showing some interest!

Yana is amazing me daily with her new found freedom. She literally crawls ALL over finding all sorts of things to get into. The best part is she will hear someone having fun in a different room and she will GO CHECK IT OUT! HOW COOL IS THAT? The little girl that not 9 weeks ago was essentially a zombie, seemingly unaware of the happenings in the world around her now intentionally and joyfully goes to where the action is! Never doubt for a single second that GOD protects the hearts and souls of these precious love-starved babies!

Yana is, of all things, using the potty! After each meal, I set her on the potty and she GOES! And I have to be completely honest here, seeing her sitting on her little potty is about the cutest thing in the whole world! :)

*** a couple of other things for moms with children that have some big delays like Yana...
1. If I really want her attention and for her to interact purposefully she can not hvae a toy. Even playing with a toy together... I lose her. SO for now we are doign LOTS of songs, clapping, fingerplays adn wrestling :).

2. She gets told "NO" and patted on the mouth for spitting. When I hold her close, esp. at bed time, she will often spit. I can see her comforting herself with this, or maybe just expressing her displeasure. After a couple of times, she quits, and I get more eye contact and more attention from her. [I also do this as I dont' want her thinking it's okay to spit in peoples faces :)] I hvae had the kids stop spitting at her trying to get her to imitate them also!

Taking advantage of the nice weather we went to the park this weekend. Yana's hair can do pig tails! How cute is that?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

She's my daughter now....

Adopting a child is a process that rarely ends once they are in your arms. You hear so much about bonding and attachment... and you read, and you read, and you read... and you deny that it will be that hard!

But the truth is each and every relationship is unique. And yes, it can really be that hard. As moms we can create such stress for ourselves as we agonize over our feelings toward the new son or daughter in our lives. We want it perfect, and normal, and healthy right from the get go.

At some point, you just have to face it. These things take time. Sometimes lots of time.

It occurred to me a while back, even before the girls were home, that I had the special privilege of choosing to parent/love a child that would have life long special needs. The fact that Tavi was blind never made me sad, it never felt like all my dreams came tumbling down, it never left me with a "what now" feeling.

But lately, and especially today... just for a while my heart was crying for her and all that I "see" that she will never see.

You see, I want the world for her. And every now and then I get overwhelmed with how to teach her what a tree is, what mountains look like, what a sunrise is, what a camel looks like, how blue the sky, how vast the ocean.... and so on. I want her to see all that God has given to us, that we may enjoy His creation.

It made me realize there is so much we teach our children that we never even talk about. But with Tavi, talking is vital, along with feeling, and smelling, and hearing....

As I sat at the park with her today playing in the sand it occurred to me that grieving may well be a part of the process for a parent of a child born with special needs. And I realized that in my heart I am grieving for all the things I can not show or give to her.

I am sad. And you know, I think that may just be okay.

She's not sad. She loves life, and loves learning about her world. Her joy is contagious. And I don't feel sorry for her. I don't pity her. I want to share in that joy! And the sweet blessing God has granted me, that of being her Mama is as precious as can be to me.

She's experiencing life as a typical child with a loving family who will stand by her. She is a typical child. She just happens to be a typical child who is blind. But again, not sure she knows it just yet. :)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Baby steps...

The girls have been home 8 weeks now! Wow, what happened to the end of summer? Or the middle for that matter?

I unashamedly admit that for a short while there I didn't think I could do this, didn't think I was going to make it. I like my routine however crazy it is. I like my peace, at least the peace of what I know. I like the security of worrying about the same things day after day. So throwing 2 little girls into the mix, however adorable they are, shook my world... but thankfully not my foundation {thank you Jesus!}

8 weeks into this new life I am so happy to report things are going very, VERY well!!! The girls continue to grow and change and so do we. How in the world could I have made it through life w/o them being a part of mine? Praise God that HE knows the plans He has for us!

So what exactly has changed? Here is a list of just a few things, befores and afters, that kind of thing.


*** Let me start by saying that when we recieved Yanas referral there was all kinds of medical language about her brain ventricles being widened, and many questions about just how this would affect her. Also it was said "There is NO change between this session, and the previous session done one year before." I admit, both of these things were a bit intimidating. How does a child not change at all in a years time?

Well, I am so proud to admit SHE IS CHANGING NOW, AND IN JUST 8 WEEKS!

Before: Yana ate/drank only from a bottle.
After: Yana now drinks from a sippy cup [as of yesterday I might add!!]

Before: Yana wold stay wherever you put her, touching nothing, noticing nothing.
After: Yana crawls ALL OVER THE HOUSE, and gets into a bunch of stuff!

Before: Yana had no working lanugage that I could tell, Bulgarian or otherwise.
After: Yana obviously knows "mama kiss", "eat", "bye-bye", "up", and probably even more.

Before: Yana never cried, unless she was starving.
After: Yana cries, mostly when shes hungry, but I am starting to see her crying in other cases such as wanting attention or being unsure of whats happening too!

Before: Yana weighed under 25 lbs.
After: Yana weighs almost 29 lbs.!

Before: You had to work very hard to get Yana to interact purposefully with you.
After: Yana interacts with those she knows purposefully and joyfully!

Before: Did not clap.
After: Holds your hands and makes you clap. She LOVES Pat-a-Cake!!!

Before: Would not go to sleep being held.
After: She will rock to sleep. :)

Before: Would not make eye contact.
After: Still working on this, but yes she is making eye contact.

Before: Anyone would comfort/hold her.
After: Most anyone can hold her briefly, but it is obvious she like her mama! :)

These may not all seem like a big deal, but trust me when I say my little girl went from being a virtual zombie to an interactive, smiley, fun, loving, cuddly little girl in such a short time. I am so excited to see what the future holds for her! Someone said it best when they said "She doesn't look like an orphan now! It's not the clothes, it's the twinkle in her eyes!"


*** Tavi's "prognosis" was alot more promising than Yanas. Though her referral did go on to say she was very delayed. She really wasn't and isn't all that delayed, maybe a year in some areas, less in others.

Before: Tavi weighed 25 lbs.
After: Tavie weighs just over 28 lbs.

Before: Tavi would not walk holding my hand in an unfamiliar area, and I think she felt like she needed all her senses to process where we were. Or she cried to be carried.
After: Tavi will walk in most environments peacefully holding my hand.

Before: Hated shopping carts, strollers that weren't moving, cars that were not moving.
After: Does great in a shopping cart, stroller, or car usually moving or not. :)

Before: Tavi always had to stop and feel the floor at every flooring/surface change.
After: Tavi doesn't need to do this to be happy and feel safe. Sometimes we let her, others we keep walking.

Before: Tavi did not like being in unfamiliar environments.
After: Tavi does well in most environments, lets us hold her to comfort her, isn't overwhelmed, doesn't need to touch everything, and noises don't bother her.

Before: Did not like random kids or people touching her.
After: No longer whines or cries when someone {Like Yana :)} touches her out of the blue, or puts there feet in her space.

Before: Had a lot of self soothing behaviors.
After: Some of these self soothing behaviors no longer happen.

Before: Hated the wind and rain!
After: Doesn't mind sprinkles and likes to say "WHOOSH!" as her hair is blown in the wind.

Before: All food had to be finely mushed as she wouldn't chew, just mush and swallow. She would make a painful face whenever she swallowed.
After: She is chewing more, feeding herself a variety of finger foods including McDonalds cheeseburgers adn french fries :). The painful face happens much less often, and she is chewing more. She can even eat Doritos w/o making the face if she isn't starving.

She loves to run, spin, jump, sommersault, get thrown in the air, splash, flip, and generally just be 4 years old. Tavi loves to sing, play the piano, keep beat with any song she hears by tappign her hands or snapping her fingers, and she is just so happy almost all the time. She loves to be swaddled and rocked, goes to sleep held in my arms easily, and loves to give bunny kisses.

We are still working on bonding and attachment with both the girls. It has surprised me that Yana is attaching faster than Tavi. Yana doesn't reach for peopel like Tavi does. And I see Yana "shut down" when she doesn't know someone quickly.

Tavi still willingly goes to anyone and everyone. I have a rule that no one can "take" her out of my arms, but if she is down and wants picked up that family can pick her up. She is only 4, and I just am not sure if I should stop that too or not. I admit it has been very hard for me to see her go to absolutely anyone! Harder than I thought it would be. She actually reaches for anyone, even if I am holding her. I have to say "NO, mama is holding you." Then briefly explain to this person why my daughter is crying about not being able to go to them.

I have also discovered that both girls need to go through a period of "learning to learn". They are so used to just sucking on a toy, or walking aimlessly, or in Tavis case exploring with her hands that they have not learned that some toys can be manipulated to do fun things. They don't dump things out, or put things in, or stack things... Yana just sucks on them, and Tavi either sucks on them or bangs them together. So I am constantly on a search for easy toys and ideas to help them learn how to explore their environment more fully. :)