Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Some contemplatings

Lately, I've had time to think and when I do, I always think in the form of what I would post on this blog. Silly, I know, but in my head, I've had about 10 really great ideas for fun/quirky/heartfelt/reminiscent/reasonable blog posts.

So instead of busting my butt right this moment to get every single great thought down on paper, I thought I would list out the titles of said posts along with a blurb and you can tell me which ones you want to read.

They are listed in order of nothing. Just random thoughts.

Strength and Dignity--the aging process is real, but trading in the grasping for beauty for strength, wisdom and dignity. And chopping wood gives you a strong back and great arms!

Freeze Frame--for the first time ever, I looked at all four of my kids and wanted to freeze them right now, in their stages of childhood before I loose them to growing up (which is happening faster than I would like).

This is how much I love her-- As a homeschool mom, there is a certain amount of can-do-it-yourselfness that I have. But I love my RADish daughter so much that I am sending her to school. Here's why.

What I learned about parenting on a cross-country vacation--Truly, it was ugly. Full of moments I'm not proud of.

End of school 2014/Beginning 2014

The Elusive shiftiness of "Calling"--I've often struggled with what a call looks like in my life: to do something big and different and change the world. To seek justice. To walk with mercy. To serve those with great needs.

A New Kind of Mommy Guilt--I'm not one to struggle with such things, until it comes to adoption and attachment and all the things that we didn't know.

Meeting Baby June--yep, we went to Utah to meet our new cousin. It was fun--and there are lots of gratuitous baby pictures. But also prompted a lot of thought about babies and parenting and attachment and beyond.

A Novel Update--Things have happened and haven't. Betcha you're curious as to what. And maybe you know someone who could help me.

So, I guess if you're being technical, that's only 9. Oh well. Someday I'll get to writing them. A bit sooner, if you'd like. Or anything else. Sometimes what's hard on a blog is that I don't know that the mundane parts of my life are interesting to others. Can I share something that would be an encouragement to you? Let me know, I'd love to try.


Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Marathon

I feel rather contemplative lately.

Maybe it's the end of a school year.
Maybe it's that Mother's Day and Father's Day surround the trip where Mali was added to our family.
Maybe it's that sun and warm temps encourage me to think positive, thoughtful thoughts.
Maybe it's because I realize how very far I've come.

Thoughts have been swirling through my head about this crazy, wild ride called adoption, both what we expected and what it has been.

I shake my head at my own level of naivety. I can hear my younger self (because I have aged more than just a few years in the past year) telling people, "Oh yes, adoption will be so great. We've been called to it. The kids are ready for adding a sibling. And we home school. Is there any better way to build a family than by spending our time together and cuddling on the couch reading books?" I shake my head in embarrassment.

I thought I'd be so much farther: a model for trusting God and peace written across my brow. I had unrealistic images of a family bonded by true love and trust. I imagined myself a vocal advocate for adoption and for the one million orphans.

Instead, I tremble in knowing fear as I listen to those I dearly love consider what we are walking through. I pray hard and encourage such prayer for those who've adopted from foster care, an older child, a tramatised child. I'm not ready to encourage someone into what has happened to us. But I can say that we haven't walked alone. Jesus was walked next to us each step. He's heard my cries. The Holy Spirit has been present in this home, even in the midst of day-long, multiple tantrums from multiple people, myself included. God has provided answers and glimmers of light in the darkness.

Our therapist likes to use a marathon as analogy for this attachment/trauma journey. And lucky me, I've run one, so I know exactly what it's like. The thrill at the beginning. Settling in for the long haul. There are a couple times when you're able to grab a pit stop or a slice of orange or a sip of gatorade. And these little breaks keep you going.

Until you hit The Wall.

At 20 miles you start to loose sight of those you were running with.
At mile 22, you look around and you are completely alone. On a long lonely stretch of asphalt. You know that there are at least 2 miles before you see people again.


And you hurt all over. All you want to do is lie down and quit, but you know that if you do so, you may not get back up. Walking hurts more than running and every step is searing itself into your muscles.

You have to keep going. I have to keep going.

But then, just when you can't take another step, you're cursing yourself for ever thinking you could run a stupid marathon, there's a glimmer of hope. An encouraging voice, the sound of cheering in the distance, the end in sight.

What's my point? I don't know. These are the things I've been thinking of lately.

Adoption is hard. God is faithful.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The days are long, but the years are short....

My dearest Mali May,

One year ago, this happened:

Gotcha! May 15, 2013

May 15, 2013, you walked into the conference room at Beautiful Gate. And into our family. (Well, technically you were a Beuker in late April, but on this day you became 'ours.')

I remember you walking in with your head held high, such bravery on your face. It seemed like only a few moments passed before you plopped yourself onto my lap. To me, not knowing anything about you, you seemed so sure of yourself. You knew that we were your 'family', whatever that meant and had resigned yourself to your fate. 

I remember that on your first night in our family, you didn't cry and only one tear leaked out. That broke my heart. Since then there have been many, many tears (and a couple tantrums ;)). But also lots of hugs, laughter, smiles. 

One year later, here we are. 

You have grown so much. Physically (10 lbs/6 in. in 12 months), emotionally, and socially. There's been so much to learn: English, American food, the winter that never ended with snow and cold, new routines, new toys, how to be friends. 

You, my sweet one, have been so very, very brave. You had no idea what it meant to belong in a family. The rules, the structure, the siblings, being dependent on 'Mom' and 'Dad'. There is a lot of hurt in your past. You're still learning to trust, what it means to share people and know safety and love. 

And I'll confess, this has not been easy for me either. I've had to learn how to be a new kind of mom. I've never been an adoptive mom before. I didn't know how to earn trust that had always been implicitly given to me by my other kids. I still learning how to earn love from a broken heart. I've wanted to hide from our struggle so many times, but you would always draw me back to you with that bright smile, your deep need, that brilliant laughter, a simple statement of trust. I never knew how much trust was spoken with a head resting on a shoulder until it took 10 months to earn it from you. 

I'm trusting that now that our first year is behind us, we only have hope in our future. Hope for sweet smiles and deep laughter, hope for shared secrets and quiet, honest moments together, hope for unity as a family and trust from mother to daughter.

Someday, you're going to read these words. And I want you to hear my heart. Despite everything we've been through this year you are a forever part of this family. 

I love you, I will never stop loving you. 

Easter Sunday 2014

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.