Friday, March 28, 2014

A new kind of Parent

(Let's here a cheer for the single blog post for March!)

One reason this blog has been so quiet is that much of my energy has been devoted to being a parent. Specifically, becoming a new kind of parent.

A parent to children with special needs.

Discovering the depth of need in the one in whom it was expected.

Realizing that there are other great needs in one not expected.

My past months have been filled with therapy appointments, referrals, parent meetings, result meetings, home testing, inquiry phone calls, and questions. Lots of questions.

I've been learning lots of new words and abbreviations: IEP, Language delay, OT, Attachment Therapy, Sensory Integration, RAD, ADHD, and neuropsychology, and whether or not they apply to my kids.

These months have brought me to my knees in a new kind of way. There are things in my kids that my love can't heal. I can't fix it. There is a fundamental way that the brain is not working. And it rips my heart apart as I realize the ways that coping is now beginning to fail them. God has incredible plans for them and has provided an array of professionals & friends with amazing skills that are walking with us through this.

Just today, I received the results from an evaluation that I agree with--everything in it rings true, the professional is not making things up. And I want to cry. To see the words "difficulties", "well below average", and "decreased skills" associate with my beautiful, insightful, sensitive children just hurts. I want to wrap them into a cocoon and make it all better. Take away their challenge and struggle and make life easier.

Accordingly, I am becoming a new kind of parent. I'm asking a whole lot of questions. I'm not ready to assume anything anymore. I really don't care how uninformed I look, but I need to understand everything so the best decisions possible can be made. What worked for one child in terms of parenting, schooling and discipline doesn't work for another child.

Also, before you respond: "I don't remember any of this from when I was growing up," I would agree. I knew no one who went to therapy that long ago, but there were always those kids: class clowns, loners, someone who just didn't fit in. Kids with needs have always been around, it's just that now we have names and therapies that help.

Regardless of what was true then, this is true in our family now. And I'm pretty sure that many other parents have been in this same place. It is real. I will name it and help my child handle it appropriately. However, I don't want it to become our family's crutch. Giving a label and understanding is important, but it is simply a step towards healing.

I have great hope for our family's future. With constant prayer, appropriate guidance and therapy, and a lot of really hard work, I know these little brains can be healed. God has great things in store for each of us. The lessons I'm learning, well, they aren't the easiest, but they are good. Because God is, all the time.

And it's the new kind of parent who really focuses on that.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

One Year ago..

One year ago, we waited anxiously by the phone. Our stomachs were in knots. We could hardly function.

And waited..

And waited…

The future of our family was being determined in a meeting halfway around the world.

And by the end of the day all we had was a name and age: Maletsatsi and she's 3.

Within a few weeks we had one picture:

Oh my word, what a year does!

And in the past year, I have been asked a few questions. Some of them have been, well, amazing (but not in a good way--Why did her mother give her up? Does she have contact with her?). Most of them have had to do with Mali's history--which frankly, is none of a random person's business. Of course, I understand curiosity. But no, I'm not telling you about her biological parents or why they could no longer care for her.

However, in the midst of all the intrusive questions, I have been asked a few really great ones. But the best on came about two weeks ago and warmed my heart.

"I have a family member traveling to pick up their toddler in a few weeks, given your experience, how can I best support them?"

I have to be honest with you, I almost cried.

Attachment and adjusting and becoming a family with a new little person is gut-wrenchingly hard work. If anyone tells you otherwise, they're lying. Not only that, but it takes a really long time. We're still in the throws of attachment and healing.

So, if you know someone traveling soon or has added someone to their family through adoption, international or domestic, and you want to support them, I have a few words for you. (And this could be true for almost any family--we all need a little support from time to time.)

First, some physical things to do:

  • If they're traveling, make sure they come home to a spotless house. And fill their fridge and freezer with food. We walked in the door and knew we had dinner in the fridge. It wasn't fancy, but it was perfect. We ate, showered, and went to bed. From there on, we were blessed with food and gift cards for food. One less thing to worry about. 
  • I had two friends who did similar yet different things and I am still grateful. One friend committed to coming over for a few hours once a week to do whatever I needed. She usually brought a meal for my freezer. She usually did laundry or cleaned something, then she just sat with me. Another came over from the farmer's market a couple times with fresh raspberries and flowers. It was a total surprise and appreciated. I still choke up when I think about how those two served me. (thank you, friends)
  • Want to help, but don't want to cook? don't have time to spend at someone's home? No biggie. There is a real way you can help. Money. Cold Hard Cash. I'll tell you, adoption is expensive. But God laid it on so many hearts to bless us with money. That cash made it possible for us to not worry. $20, $50, or $100 dollars can go a long way when you add another mouth to feed and body to clothe. 

The physical aspects are way easier than the emotional ones. But here's the short list of things to be emotionally supportive when someone brings home a child.

  • Listen, without judgement. Some of my ugliest emotions and greatest faults have made themselves known in this past year. Don't judge me for them, love me through them. 
  • Offer childcare/respite care--but adhere to every single crazy rule they tell you. Parenting an adopted child is different than a biological child. 
  • There may be things going on in their home that you will never see. Emotions are hard and draining and well, emotional. If you see an outburst, let the parent do what they need to do. (if you have a strong enough relationship you may able to ask about it, but if not, please don't pry.) If you never see one, let me promise you that they are real. Believe them and the exhaustion of the parents. 
  • Pray hard. I've become convinced that Satan hates this: adoption, redemption, love in action. We have been attacked in our marriage, we've struggled in numerous areas of our family life and even work has been affected. And long after a child comes home, after the newness has worn away, pray still. There are still days when I am so discouraged, so convinced of the error of our life that I want to quit and run away and hide forever. Yes, the darkness has mostly passed, but that doesn't mean it's gone forever. 
  • Finally, if there are other children in the family, be a special person to them. We all agreed to this addition to our family, but watching those three struggle has been the most heart-wrenching part of our journey. 
Of course, this list isn't exhaustive, nor does it apply to every situation, but it's what's on my mind. And I'm sure it applies in situations other than adoption. 

What about you? Do you have some helpful words for a friend wanting to support a family member through a transition? I'd love to hear them!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

A year of books--2013

It's a tradition now. 

For the second time in a row, I attempted to write down every book that I read throughout the year. 

I was more diligent in recording books, including the books I read to advance my professional life, my parenting life, and my faith life. 

I'm sure I still missed a few, but I think I did better this year than last. 

Before I give you my list, I want to point out this one thing: It's not up to my standards. I didn't read the quality or quantity that I wanted. So if you peruse this list and discover a bunch of cheap, easy or YA reads, it's because I needed escape this year, when I had the energy to read anything at all. I did start a bunch of more thoughtful books, but found that I didn't have the brain power for it. 

Enough excuses, here's the list. 

Sammy's year of books--2013
(YA books are Young Adult books--generally written for teenagers, however, many of the YA books have rather grown-up content)

(I have bolded the most memorable books. If you can, read them. However, they aren't all easy or nice. Some are rather disturbing. But memorable.)

Dovekeepers--Alice Hoffman
Room--Emma Donaghue
7--Jen Hatmaker
Life of Pi--Yann Martel (reread)
The Paris Wife--McClain
Home--Toni Morrison
Redeeming Love--Francine Rivers
The Girl who Fell from the Sky--Durrow
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows--Rawling
Gold--Chris Cleaves
Unconventional Lives--Kody Brown and wives
The Year of Magical Thinking--Joan Didion (okay, I started this, but it's the story of her grief after the sudden death of her husband and daughter's two near death experiences-I began to imagine I had cancer--time to put the book down)
A Reliable Wife--Robert Goolrick
Kisses from Katie--Katie Davis
Gregor the Overlander (YA)--Suzanne Collins
Half the Sky--Nichoilas D. Kristoff & Sheryl Wundunn
Wild--Cheryl Strayed
The In-Between World of Vikram Lall--M.G. Vassanji
Between Shades of Gray (YA)--Ruta Septys
Septimus Heap (YA)--Angie Sage
     -Magyk Bk 1
     -Flyte Bk 2
Admission--Jean Hanff Korelitz
The House Girl--Tara Conklin
The Widow of the South--Robert Hicks
The Divergent Series (YA)--Veronica Roth
Self Editing for Fiction Writers--Renni Browne
Gone Girl--Gillian Flynn
Raising Dragons (YA)--Bryan Davis
Fly Away--Kristin Hannah
Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation--Michael Pollan
The Sun also Rises--Ernest Hemingway
The Fall of Five (YA)--Pittacus Lore
Nefertitti--Michele Moran
Ender's Game (YA)--Orson Scott Card
Parenting your Internationally Adopted Child
The Connected Child--Purvis
The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience--Ronald Sider

Kid's books I read with/for the kids not related to our curriculum:
The Borrowers--Norton
Owls in the Family--Mowat
Snow Treasure--McSwigan

Total for the year: 39 read, plus the 4 more with the kids. 29 fiction, 10 non-fiction. Of the fiction 9 were YA. 

So the goals for the upcoming reading year: The entire Madeline L'Engle Wrinkle in Time Series (Five books--I got the box set as a gift for Christmas. They're beautiful.) Short Stories (I'm pretty sure I haven't read an adult short story in years). 

Have any suggestions? My book list is pretty short. I need some good titles. As you can see, I'm pretty eclectic and open to a bunch. So fire away, I'm eager to hear your favorites from 2013. 

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A year in Review

I guess it's that time of year.

To reflect, to remember, to remind
To be thankful for this year--for the goods and the bads. And since we are bidding farewell to 2013, I thought I would make a countdown of 13 things about this year. This was a big year--bigger than any other, so a list of 13 things should be a good synopsis. This list may not be in the best order, but don't worry about that.

13. My crockpots are life savers. (Did I think an appliance would make the list, no, but realistically, this one appliance saved my sanity at least twice a week. Seriously--crockpot rice? wonderful!).

Photo by Laura Cebulski
12. Wine therapy.

11. Real attachment therapy. I am thankful to the depth of my being for a good attachment therapist who got us into his office soon after we got home. I am not ashamed to admit our lack of ability or our need. We would not have as much hope as we do if not for his guidance, understanding, and compassion.

10. My writing career. Yes, I will call it that. I started this year with a book offer which was turned down. I start this next one with agent submissions in the works and a much better book. And a sweet blazer. And soon a professional photo. I'm on my way, folks.

9. The grief of death is tempered by the hope of heaven. But the ache of missing crops up and reminds me that I miss my grandma.

8. Matthew 6:34. Never before in my life has a passage been so true. We made it by walking one day at a time.

7. Um, although I don't remember much about it, our family spent a month in Africa. And then the rest of the year locked in our house.

6. Phenomenal friends and family who have worked hard to understand and respect our new life and boundaries, who have provided food, friendship, and grace. (And a few who have spoken into my own blindness and prompted me to change my attitude.) There aren't enough words to say thank you.

photo by Laura Cebulski
5. I didn't get to read or relax as much as I would have liked--consequently, I'm a bit more stressed and tired. And I'm sporting this awesome stripe of soft gray hair in the front of my head.

4. Being blessed to be in the company of children who you really like, watching them open their minds to learn, being loved in the dark moments, loving them in theirs--this is the privilege of being a parent.

3. Realizing that as difficult a year as our family has had, there is no one else I would rather have by my  side than my sweet Husband.

2. Falling in love with my child--learning to hear giggles and sweet songs as joy, grieving her previous life and loss, understanding how she will be marked for life, knowing our Savior is enough for her wounds, realizing it is an incredible privilege to be her Mother.

1. My God has been faithful. Sometimes silent, always near, ever compassionate, always providing, never failing. He is a good God to serve.

After the journey of 2013, I'm nervous to peer too far into the future. Who knows what the future holds? Certainly not I, but you know what, I'm not too worried. Just like all the rest, God's got it.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Writing is Perilous

And I'm talking more than just paperclips.

In fact, in all the years that I have loved writing, I have never received a paper cut from my work. So there is something else dangerous about it.

It's this: it seeps into every part of your fiber. And you can't get rid of it.

Case in point: I'm now having dreams about submitting my work to professionals. It goes like this: I get the head guy of an agency really excited about my work so he asks for a sample. Which is fantastic and I run to my computer, which happens to be in my parent's driveway. But no matter how hard I try, I can't get my document to open, then I can't get it to print. And the crabby secretary from the agency is staring at me out the window of her office with evil eyes. And that makes me nervous. So I get sweaty palms and I can't make my computer work and that makes me nervous and I get all flustered. Finally, it's been like 5 hours and I'm at my wits end, when the head guy comes back up to me and says you have 10 minutes. We close soon. I'm racing. Yes! The computer is on and open and will print--when I run to the printer, and there is no paper.

Ahh, it's everywhere….

To further my point, I have two other specific areas where being a writer is ruining me.

1) Everywhere I look, I find great examples. For instance, I watched Tangled with the kids a couple weeks ago and noticed that Max, the horse, is a brilliant character. And I started to think about how I would write him into a story. And I spent the rest of the movie paying attention to the shift of his eyebrows or the way that he jutted his lower jaw and wondering how I could write that picture out on paper. When I read, I note words or sentence structure or grammatical structure that strikes me as brilliant, moving, creative, disrupting. I may occasionally even jot down a couple notes. I can't just read without noticing anymore.

2) And this point is much more damaging. As a writer, I have an impossibly hard time teaching writing to my kids. Maybe there are other writers who don't have this issue--but I am teaching the basics: how to construct paragraphs and essays and use creative words and such. Currently, I am advised to have them add -ly words and use all kinds of devices to improve the quality of their work. Which is fantastic. Except that my rules, for writing fiction, aren't theirs. For instance, no -ly words. No 'quickly', 'quietly', 'tenderly'. They have even helped edit these words from their work. And now, they're insisting that they don't need them either. Ahhhh!! (Yet, they write some pretty great stories and are no longer afraid of my editing pen!)

The peril is real, my friends. And with a wink in my eye and a smile on my face, I extend my hand to you. Come join me in this perilous life--where there is beauty on the blade of grass, joy in the rising sun, sorrow captured in the souls of the broken.

(And if you don't want to write, I will gladly bear that burden for you!)

From Ms. Dorothy Parker  "If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do is present them with a copy of Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they're happy."

Monday, November 18, 2013

I need your help

Okay friends, I need you.

And not in the "I-need-you-to-bring-me-a-meal" or "Rescue-me" kind of help (although meals and rescuing are always welcome!)

Actually, this is more along the professional lines of my life, and I think it's a bit shameless, but I'm asking anyway.

I am writing a proposal for my novel, The Unexpected Life of Genevieve Ryder. There are a couple agents I'm sending it to. Part of a proposal includes my marketing/publicity plan. I'm pretty sure that this blog is a decent platform for such things, but I need to build it up, so to speak. (And I'm pretty sure I don't have those amazing famous people connections that will allow my book to be read and endorsed--unless you are somewhat famous and would endorse it. ;) )

So, I am asking you for a little bit of help and a little bit of information.

First, the info: How do you follow this blog? Are you a Facebook friend? Are you someone who checks occasionally to see if I've written? What do you like? (What could I improve?--Okay, that's just something I'm curious about) Did you find me somewhere else along the way?
You can leave a comment or email me at sbeuker (at) yahoo (dot) com.

Second, the request: would you be willing to follow my blog? Over to the right side, you can be a follower of me or connect with google connect. Of course, if you are uncomfortable doing this, that's okay, but it would be helpful for me to say "I have 1,000 followers" (which would be awesome, but isn't happening tonight!)

Finally, thanks. As I think back over the years I've had this blog and watched it grow and the interest in it grow, I'm humbled that you have decided to come along for the ride. This next part promises to be pretty exciting. I hope you decide to stay around for that too!
My writing space. If only it always looked that neat! 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Back at It

Class photo from August 2013.
This year I have a 4th, 3rd, 1st grader & a preschooler. Phew. 
So, we're back at it after two beautiful weeks off.

Yep, I took two weeks off of schooling my kids in the middle of October. Why not? I'm a homeschooler, we started early, it's well within my right.

And I know you're jealous (of the two weeks off!)

But this morning we are back at it. I just printed off the kid's checklists and am about to wake them up.

Sometimes I think this homeschool choice will be the death of me--it's too much responsibility, too much work, too little personal freedom. There are days when I fight tooth and nail to get some child to finish their work.


There are other days.
Days where we laugh and sing and dance together.
Days where we all learn or accomplish something new.
Days where someone makes a breakthrough--whether in reading, spelling, math, focus, or obedience.
Days where everything comes together in a beautiful, harmonious way, maybe I even accomplish a household task.

I live for those days.

One of my favorite things is when one of the kids "gets it.' Like when Olivia can sound out and understand a new word or gets excited about doing math through playing store (on tap for today). Like when Katie spends extra time reading 'cause she loves the book or when she draws another picture because she loves art so much. Like when Josh struggles through a tough math concept all week--and then Gets It. These are the beautiful moments.

And I love who my kids are becoming. Of course, they are still kids and mess up often. But I love to hear about how they interact with peers and adults. I love how they ask questions (most of the time). I love the programs and classes that they are involved in this year and how they are growing because of them.

Because of the circumstances of our lives this year, school hasn't always been easy. But it is good. And that's what really matters.

We're studying the world and missions. Which of course includes a large map puzzle.
Which I quickly put away because it drives me nuts.