Thursday, June 19, 2014

Strangers in the grocery store

I know I haven't blogged in quite a long time. Mainly because our blog is somehow messed up and runs all the paragraphs together...who wants to read like that? We'll see if it's fixed when I publish..but be warned. We've been busy with life too. But today I have a very interesting story to share, and I think it may be helpful to all those families still in the waiting that don't already have a child...that's different :)

Now this post is NOT what you expect....based on the title of the post.  I'm not going to tell you about a stranger asking how much I paid for our daughter, or who is her mother....or all of those horror stories you hear from time to time (of which we haven't experienced personally any of those things, but I know it does happen).  I'm writing to share some light and pure joy of what it's like to have an adopted child that is different than you.

Lauren knows she's different....she attracts looks from everyone....everyone says how pretty she is, they look at her and how she and I relate in public... I'm sure in their mind they are trying to figure her out.  What is her story??  Is her mommy married to an Africa-American man - and is that how her hair turned out so straight? (Lauren's skin is very dark, so I'm not sure everyone immediately thinks of India when they see her). She is strikingly unique ....   I see it in the "strangers' eyes"...they have questions.....and then little Miss Lauren breaks into that barrier with a wonderfully, joyful question, "hi, what's your name"....she says to strangers... they are surprised and happy she asked about them... they tell her, like tonight, "hi, I'm Joslyn"..."you are such a pretty girl"...Lauren replies, "I know it"...we all chuckle....and I prompt her to say, "Thank you" and she quickly obeys. But tonight was special, as the lady walked away she said, "I love you".  ...the lady asked, "what did she say?"... {her "I love you" is a hard one to understand at the moment}.... I relayed the message - and the lady looked back and said, "I love you too".  It was precious.  Now before we go down a path of protect your child, don't talk to strangers, "she must not be bonded if she can say that to a stranger", and all the other typical adoption concerns.... let's put all that on a shelf for a moment and just think about the pure, simple, innocence of a child .... that is merely telling another person, "I like you.... you are kind.... you are good".... and I hope that one day she will have in her spirit, "you are one of God's yes, I do love you as I love humanity... with all its warts". Don't misunderstand, I'm not dismissing all the typical advice about boundaries with your child, etc.  I so appreciate all that training and research.  I'm just saying on occasion I want my children to know that generally people are good.  This child has taught me soooo much about unconditional love.  It's hard to describe.

One other angle to share about almost all of our public experiences with Lauren that have a similar ring to them... although tonight was the first "I love you" addition -- {she's in a great mood...and just came home from Vacation Bible School with our who knows???}.....anyway, what if I told you that almost without exception the people that speak to us in public about Lauren... similar to above are ALL African Americans.  ..... and what is strange is, I didn't get the same reaction EVER with Joshua - and he was one cute baby :)  .... so what does this mean? (and this isn't just when it's me with Lauren...Brad experiences the same thing when he's with her.)  I think it means a barrier between us and the society is broken down when people see a happy, loving, well-adjusted transracial family. People don't assume we have prejudice...and appear free to engage in conversation.  We do naturally stay to ourselves as a society for the most part.... we come home from work, drive in our garages, close the door, and stay in a close knit family. Lauren has broken that wall down.... with her confident, free-spirit that says, "if you are looking at me, you must want to know me, even if for a minute" She assumes everyone wants to be her friend.... and she cares more about relationships than anything in the world. Of course we will watch her closely and not put her in harms way.... we will teach her not to help a stranger in the neighborhood that is offering candy...or needs help with their kittens in the car, etc.  We will protect her.  But I also want to share a thought ......what if we were all so bold that we could talk to strangers in the grocery with a loving spirit without fear??   I can't wait to see what God does with this special child through the years and all that He has in store for her.

There is hope...not all grocery store conversations are bad ones. :)      

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Romans 13 Submission to Governing Authorities

At the risk of writing something terribly controversial - and maybe even losing a few blog readers - my heart has this overwelming desire to share something with all potential PAPs. We started thinking and praying on adoption shortly after Joshua was born. For several reasons I was "warned" not to try to have other children. Being older parents, we really wanted a sibling for Joshua. So we started down a path - it started with China in 2007... started that process and then rules changed and we didn't qualify any longer - got on the Nepal list - and literally watched that program for a year (2009) and decided, no... we were not going to push forward on an adoption that by all accounts the government in Nepal would not likely complete. God directed us to India and we started the process..... and a few years later we have our Lauren. I recognize there is a dark world of sin, and I also recognize that Satan wants to continue for as long as he can to keep children without loving parents - because that is how he rolls. But since being in the world of adoption for literally seven years one thing I see over and over again... and I feel compelled to share........ When the government acts and it's a negative action against a PAP - why do we immediately say it's Satan at work? I'm not always sure it is.... I think scripture tells us to submit to governing authorities in Romans 13 (I don't think it says - submit to American governing authorities, or to only Christian faith governing authorities)... people across this globe are in power and position because God allowed it. He CAN change it. So with that said, what is God teaching us through these struggles..... may I suggest he's teaching us (and perhaps adoption agencies and social workers too)... that we should respect the rules established by governing agencies - even if we don't like it. What breaks my heart is to see a family being told by their adoption agency - I know you already have 6 children - but we can appeal their decision and fight further in a country that merely doesn't allow adoptions in larger families. Likewise rules on adopting out of birth order, or even to a single mom (Lauren was referred to an India woman before she was referred to us - who was an American resident/Indian - but she was single -and LOST the referral (I think about that alot - because our Lauren could be raised by an Indian that would likely be much better equipped to teach her about the Indian culture in ways that we can't) - but because the government / authorities said they wanted Lauren in a family that has a mother and a father....she's ours! God's plan for her was OUR family!! Now don't go off on me here - I know some of my friends are single mom's with adopted kiddos... that's not what I'm saying. What I am saying is... during the adoption process, if the government denies you - really search your heart about whether God's plan is different for you....and first and foremost, submit to the rules and decisions they make, even when we don't like it. For new families - I really think it's important to point-blank ask the adoption agency - what are the rules for successful Indian adoptions? Respect those rules.... and discern if it's right for you. I know several families that started in India and moved to other countries - I know others that started in other countries and moved to India. God would love nothing more than to place every child in a family - I'm certain about that - but what I'm not sure about is whether His plan is always the same as ours and I'm certain often times his timeline is no way near our timeline :) - and I just want families to think about that as they walk this journey. Only you will know if God's call on your heart is for India...I think it will persist and doors will open that provide you with such confidence you will know. But be careful with your hearts, not to mention your finances when it comes to denials - seek God's will and match that up with your own.... the child you thought he had for you, he does have a plan for - just in another family.... and your match is in His plan another way. It's also my understanding that photo books are not shared with the child until after court approval - at least that was how our orphanage handled it - so I'm not sure a lost referred child always does know that their referral "broke down".... as I read this - it sounds harsh or uncaring and that is not what is on my heart at all - I'm just wanting families to walk through this journey carefully - and to absolutely expect facts and success stories from their agency as to not fall into a terrible painful circumstance. While we are fighting and appealing decisions there just might be another child that God has planned for you .... he's just waiting for you to submit.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Bump in the road

Well, Lauren's been home 1 year and just over 3 months. We really feel we're in a good groove... and then Christmas break... we went to Rockford and had a great time, but because of sleeping arrangements, Lauren slept with me for several days in a row... like 6 or so. Now that we're home, she can't seem to sleep alone in her bed in her room. We came home, did the exact same night time routine, and her rely is, "it's scary"... it's been so very hard. So I recalled one of her teachers telling me that at nap she chews on a plastic chew toy. So yesterday, Lauren's first day back to school, Joshua and I went on a shopping mission to find a few perfect chew toys for her. We hit the jackpot and came home with several and she tried out the first one last night. First of all, when we gave them to her she cheered, she knew exactly what they were for!! So last night, starting our regular routine, she chewed on her monkey/banana toy (that vibrates just slightly) was about 5 minutes, my PJ top was somewhat soaked with drool, she was out and I put her in her bed.... her "new" bed, by the way that we set up for her..... basically bought a memory foam cover, and also a fluffy down comforter -- anything to try to get her to sleep...she liked the new bed set up on her existing toddler bed...but nothing hit the spot like that monkey/banana. I am reminded, that just when you think you've got it figured out -- something reminds you that your child is special... her background is special and unique... she's highly sensory (although we thought most of that was resolved through new neuro-pathways built this last year)...but now I see we have the remains of the oral sensory issues. For now, I'm not worried about her teeth -- I'm sure her dentist would say otherwise, but I more worried about her sleeping. So I guess we are still experiencing these little bumps in the road ... even after a year... (I have a feeling we will have other bumps in the road as time goes by)... it's still a shock for us, because Joshua was and is such an easy kid to raise, for the most part. He's predictable and easy to read... he's consistent.... he's a rule follower...legalist... with few surprises. (I think God gave us an easy one, so we have the stamina to handle the challenges of the other one :) ... meanwhile, I can try to catch up on sleep -- sleeping with her is really hard on me..she kicks, tosses, etc. But hey, while Joshua got his hair cut today, I dozed in the lobby :) Lauren, btw: took a full two hour nap at her school with her new "chewy". :)

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Potty trained

So sorry we haven't posted is such a long time. We have been so busy... and I have also tried to post on our blog and something seems amiss.... it wants to run all the paragraphs together and I can't even do a hard return to separate them. Anyway, just a quick update... after a year and 3 months home.... our daugher is now potty trained! I can't tell you have much a difference this has made to all of us. It's wonderful giving up changing those diapers - but more importantly, our little miss is embracing the idea of "growing up" and is so much more confident! I guess she needed to be a baby for a good long while in her new family --- and I am totally ok with that. :) If I don't post again before Christmas - wishing all of you a very merry Christmas in celebrating our Lord's birth! Renae.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Book reviews for a beloved PAP

I don't know what is wrong with our blog - I can't seem to format anyting - so this all runs together (sorry). I really want to blog on events, update pictures ... tell about Lauren's birthday, gotcha day, our fall break.... all the things of family -- but I have no time!! I do however, love helping other PAPs... so per request from a beloved PAP - I'm posting about adoption books we've read. It was actually easier for me to pull some of this info. from our service plan document - so here is goes.... We loved reading all these books in preparation for Lauren - and let me tell you -- each one just increased our knowledge and anticipation for our little girl's arrival. Family of Adoption by Joyce Maguire Pavao This book was very helpful in it describes various issues and challenges based on the age of the adopted child. We particularly liked the discussions on the birth mother, the need to know they were born a normal birth like every other human. The family tree discussion will certainly be helpful when that issue comes up in school. Similarly the discussion on daydreaming was particularly interesting and helpful. The urge to search discussion and ideas for how to describe the birth mother (by not using the typical explanation, “you birth mother was very young and very poor”), seemed to be quite helpful and logical – although was not obvious to us before our reading on this topic. The characteristics of an adopted child were quite helpful as well…to allow us to understand when issues of anger or intimacy, or fantasy may come up as she grows and matures. It seems as the truth is the key concept of the book throughout the various stages of their development – truth, respect, and understanding. 20 Things Adopted Children Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew by Sherrie Eldridge All of the 20 things are profound; here are the items that spoke to us: Grief and loss may surface into anger towards the adoptive parent. This helps us to understand when behavior issues arise; we likely are dealing with grief. Yet Eldridge also says firm and loving discipline is needed to reassure Lauren that we can handle her. This appears like a very delicate balance between being able to recognize grief and loss…and also the idea of control and challenge of boundaries. This will be something we will need to work together on to determine what we are dealing with. Also the fear of abandonment is one that we will have to be mindful of – we anticipate either a pleaser or someone trying to push us away to test our love and see if we will reject her. While clearly we’d rather have a pleaser, but we know that even that has its challenges, we just want to build self-esteem and validate all that Lauren is so that she feels safe and secure in who she is and can be free to make mistakes and be herself. Inside Transracial Adoption by Gail Steinberg and Beth Hall Inside Transracial Adoption is like an encyclopedia for adoptive families. It comes with so many issues it’s difficult to summarize here. The primary themes are the normal stages that children of color go through when adopted into a white family and also the importance of providing your child of color with real, meaningful relationships with people that are like them. This involves the family understanding to live multi-culturally, being deliberate in bringing multiple races into the family circle of friends, and also looking at the world through your child’s eyes and equipping them for their future in this society. There were so many helpful tips, examples, ideas, thoughts… one of particular is to “not worry about being perfect and doing everything right …our own security about being good enough will provide security to our child”. This resonated with us, because we do want to do things right by Lauren, and want to give her all the nurture and self-worth possible – so we have to be careful about over doing it, or worrying about whether we are doing all the right things. At some point we have to pray for discernment, seek advice from others, and trust our instincts. This is really a fabulous book that we are sure will serve as a reference tool through the years as challenges come up. Attaching in Adoption by Deborah Gray The personal vignettes included on various family situations encountered by adoptive families proved particularly insightful, as you want to know how the theories and concepts are integrated within the family. The therapist peering down the throat of a young girl and stating “I see a good heart down there” moved me. The author appears to have a solid grounding on practical techniques and good insight on adopted children’s issues…and how best to approach them. The developmental stages will be very helpful to us as we proceed with evaluating Lauren’s child development stage, and where we need to begin our parenting to help her complete that stage so she can progress to the next one. This book shall be a good reference for many years as we look for advice and approaches to best parent our adopted daughter. Toddler Adoption: The Weaver’s Craft by Mary Hopkins-Best We learned several helpful insights from The Weaver’s Craft. In summary, here are key points we gathered from the book: For discipline: use physical redirects by leading a child away from undesirable behavior; utilize referential speaking, speaking about the child within earshot to others praising the child; state positively and concisely what you want from the child – such as sit quietly in your seat versus don’t be doing something On transition: work on transition objects, including toys, sheets, blankets and even toothbrushes; smell may be important so don’t wash prior to them being taken; offer to replace the items with new ones. Could be a significant part of the transition process. We are planning a few things of transition – we plan on sending the orphanage a photo album of our family, Lauren’s room, our van – and her car seat, etc… Then we also plan on bring toys when we arrive at the orphanage… one set to play with her during short visits two days before we take her with us. We plan to leave the toys at Bal Asha – but also have an identical set in our hotel, so when we do take her with us, they same toys will be at our hotel, and we won’t be faced with bringing her a few toys and then taking them away… plus it is a way for us to donate to the orphanage. We are not planning many, many toys…just a few interesting learning toys, blocks, stacking cups…typical things that 2-3 year old children enjoy. Hopkins also suggests taking pictures of her care givers, honoring them, etc… of course this will also be a key item for her Life Book when we return home. On language: Lauren will likely stop speaking for awhile while she “regroups” and begins acquiring English; it may be several weeks or months before she begins speaking to us, depending on where she is developmentally. Hopkins suggests testing for developmental delays may be best later, after she has time to adjust; she may be affected by environmental conditioning, including institutional conditioning On Developmental stage: Hopkins suggests knowing the child’s developmental stage is important; child may exhibit self-comforting behaviors (self-rocking, sucking on her own body parts) to soothe herself; may have given up on adults soothing her so she attempts self-care; may resist being fed; may need to regress toward infant dependency to transfer dependency on newly adoptive parents; very important to have caregiver give permission to Lauren for transition to adoptive parents On Play: Hopkins suggest play is an important developmental method for toddlers; activities such as mud, sand and finger painting all encourage creative play; use the “stop/start” game to allow toddler sense of mastery of when to begin/end involved play; page 158 provides ideas on toys to encourage development at age-appropriate levels; work toward child directed play in which the toddler uses their imagination, such as playing with dolls and dress up; stimulation can be done through a baby swing if the child is an infant or small enough; very good to have that rocking motion while standing in front of the swing so they can smile and demonstrate involvement On Structure, Rituals, Family: Hopkins suggests structure and consistency are essential to the adoptive toddler; important to shown consistency as toddler may have come from chaos before; discuss upcoming events ahead of time; don’t led toddler wake up to unfamiliar/strange people: work to tell them if this will occur ahead of time; work toward consistency and constancy by “a place for everything and everything in its place” for toys, shoes and other important artifacts; incorporate rituals and traditions into the family, such as special foods, celebrations of culture, “brother-sister” day celebrating the adoption into the family, and other events; limit interaction with others the first few weeks; family should bond with adopted child; Our Own: Adopting the Older Child by Trish Maskew Many insightful things were gathered from this book, in summary the following were new take aways: Maskew suggests that independence and dependence might be in conflict with each other; child may demonstrate very good behavior the first few weeks and then regress; may also regress in language as she begins to learn English—may enter a quiet phase until she speaks more English Some tips on bonding: Tips – Building Attachment  Read a bedtime story every night  Have family meetings  Put on kids’ music and clap to it  Have a new family portrait made early on  Have fun together  Rock the child to sleep  Put up any valuables so as not get broken  Establish set routines  Change bad behaviors over time and not all at once  Let housekeeping go and focus on child  Find opportunities to touch  Exercise together Parenting Your Adopted Older Child by Brenda McCreight This book was very well laid out with practical tips on dealing with a wide variety of issues. It seems to cover a wide array of topics in a succinct manner. We really liked the family identity chapter and ideas for creating a strong sense of family. The chapter on play was interesting, because it never occurred to us that our daughter may not know “how” to play given limited resources in an orphanage (this was certainly the case with Lauren – no knowing how to play). I guess we assumed that in that setting, there would still be toys and interaction among children, that the children would learn the concept of play. We recognize this may or may not be the case with Lauren, but it’s nice to know in advance this may be the case – so we know the importance of possibly needing to slowly teach her to play. It seemed the book wrapped up with a concept we believe is crucial to a successful transition with Lauren, and that is the concept of creating a sense of belonging. Actually, the book put it as moving the child from a sense of aloneness to a sense of belonging. It seems that many of the disorders described in the book (ADHD, etc) are generally found in all children, not necessarily only in adopted children….and the concept of attachment, bonding, etc… we fully understand how this occurs as an infant, but we question if this is a life-long issue, as families allow children to retreat to a bedroom only to play video games or watch TV, while parents work overtime or focus on their own desires. For us, we pray that our family values and traditions set us apart from some of the things of the world that seem to pull families apart. Raising children well must be a high family priority and deliberate in many actions. So the creation of a sense of belonging can only be accomplished by a structured environment that is loving, open, consistent, and a high priority to the family as a unit. Letters from Motherless Daughters (although a heart-breaker - really good for understanding loss and trauma) Although many letters are from daughters that have no mother as a result of their death, there are also several stories of abandoned daughters. These are particularly pointed and as one daughter wrote, “I think that it’s harder to be abandoned by your mother than to have her die. Death is final, and you know in your heart and soul that your mother is never coming back. When she just leaves, you always have hope that one day you will be reunited.” Although this is really hard to accept, Lauren will always wonder about her mother, as this book describes, many times in her life she will long for her mother, such as her wedding or birth of her own child. There are times and events throughout her life in which she will be particularly sad that she is unable to share them with her birthmother. We must acknowledge and validate that sadness, knowing there is nothing we can do to make this hurt go away. – a great website for all things Indian