We Can’t Watch That

Movie

We messed up. We always read the reviews, but this one time, we didn’t.  You would think that we would have this down by now, but as we sat there watching this movie, my mind was racing…wondering what to do.  Should I go turn it off?  Leave it on?  Should I try to grasp for some off topic theme?  No…there was nothing to do but finish the movie, and pray.  You might think that this movie had really naughty language…or maybe adult content, but that wasn’t the problem.

We found Bold Eagle on Amazon Prime, and we thought that it was just a non-mainstream movie, one of those silly budget kid flicks that would be completely harmless.  And to a good percentage of the child population, that’s exactly what it was.  But not to our family.  The plot involves a baby eagle being separated from his birth mother while she has been captured by evil people with the help of babbling, ignorant policemen.  The baby eagle spent lots of time in the care of a kind police dog.  And then, at the end, the people who captured the birth mom turn out to be the bad guys and the baby eagle is reunited with his mother in a fantastic, feel-good ending.

Yeah….it really does sound pretty much harmless. But here’s what it teaches my adopted son.  It teaches him that the people who locked up his birth mother (the police) were probably bad guys, confirming something that he already halfway believes.  It teaches him that one day, there will be a glorious reunion with his birth mother…a reunion in which she has been looking for him for a long time, and it was the bad people keeping her from him.  It teaches him that his birth mom was most likely a victim.  It plants the seed that maybe we are just a temporary family.

I had never, never, seen these things in movies before adopting James.  It never crossed my mind, but now it’s what we think about every time we sit down to watch a movie.  Do you have any idea how many movies have adoption-related themes?  A gazillion.  I’m not condemning these movies…really I’m not, but I do sometimes wish that we didn’t have to be so vigilant.  Movies that all the other kids are watching are many times a no-go for our family for that very reason.  And let’s just be honest here…what kind of movie would end with the baby eagle being forever separated from its mother?  I mean, seriously?  So I get it, really I do.

It just gets frustrating sometimes. It’s a constant reminder that our story won’t exactly have a happy, feel-good ending.  There will always be moments where he will look at me with tears in his eyes and say, “I just want to be with my real mom.” And that phrase will still sting ten years from now.  There’s a really good chance that he will always think of his birth mother as a victim, and there’s an even better chance that he will always, always hope for a glorious reunion with her.  Some days, it’s just hard.  Some days, I am tempted to go through his birth mom’s entire rap sheet with him.  But I don’t.  I know that she holds a special place in his heart, and while I will be truthful, I won’t be hurtful.

I am reminded of a storyline from a movie that we absolutely loved, Inside Out. It’s a storyline that shows that our memories and emotions aren’t continually set on joyful.  Sometimes they are slightly colored with sadness, and best of all, this storyline shows us all that it’s okay to be sad sometimes.  We need to feel our emotions, big and small, pleasant and unpleasant, regardless of whether we want to or not.  But going through those emotions with people who love us and care about us make it just a little bit better.  So that’s what we will continue to do.  In the meantime, I sure do hope for more movies like Inside Out.

My Newest Adventure…

 

I’m starting a preschool. Have I told you that?  Maybe not…I wasn’t sure that I wanted to blog about it, because it’s really different from what I’ve blogged about in the past.  But I’m not really concerned with that anymore.  My blog has always been a journal of my life and thoughts and I believe that it should stay that way.  So here I am, sharing a new adventure with you…

Believe it or not, this is yet another dream I’ve always had. It just hasn’t been the right time until this year.  I’ve always loved teaching children, and as the years have passed, I’ve been so blessed to have so many different experiences that have all shaped my educational philosophy.  From teaching in public school to homeschooling my own children to teaching all age groups in churches and volunteering in various mentoring programs, to adopting a child from the foster care system, I’ve had the great blessing to use all these things to shape my ideals about education.

I’m really excited about this new adventure. I’ll be using all my experience to make a memorable, meaningful preschool experience.  Our preschool will be nature-based.  We have a large garden and small farm behind the preschool that we will be visiting often.  We will take nature walks and play a whole lot.  We will build a strong foundation for future learning in all subject areas, but specifically in reading, writing and math.  One of the greatest qualities in children is their natural curiosity, and we will use that to foster a deep love of learning.  But more important than all that, my personal goal as a teacher is to teach them about Jesus.  It is my deepest desire that they know scripture by heart, that they hear all the great bible stories that each point so clearly back to The Gospel, and that they know why I love Him so much.

I’ve realized over the years that children don’t need a room full of bright colors and busy decorations. For children with sensory issues and hyperactivity, that is a huge distraction that makes them uncomfortable and doomed to fail.  So we have been working hard on remodeling an older home.  We are designing it to have the feel of a home, with a touch of vintage schoolhouse.  Our hope is that children walk in and immediately feel comfortable, peaceful, and at home.

I’m looking forward to telling you more about the preschool. In the next few weeks, I’ll be giving you a full tour via this blog right here.  But for now, here are some pictures of the transformation.

the schoohouse before

This was what the house looked like when we started. Check out that 1950’s floor!

the schoolhouse ceiling before

When my sweet in-laws peeled off the ceiling tile we found a boarded ceiling!

the schoolhouse old

Then, we ripped the walls off and found shiplap underneath. Some of the boards were original shiplap. So cool!

the schoolhouse 2

A lot of paint, new windows, new floor, and beautiful trim, and it’s starting to look great!

the schoolhouse scallop

The scallop you see here is one of the many nods to the vintage feel we are going for.

the schoolhouse with floor

And this is the first room almost finished. Can you just imagine lots of learning happening here?

 

.

 For more information about our preschool, you can check out our Facebook Page.

The Schoolhouse Facebook Page

https://www.facebook.com/theschoolhouseinmorrilton/

Preparing Your Biological Children for Adoption

Preparing Your Biological Children for Adoption

When we began the long process leading up to adoption, we knew that this was not going to be a husband and wife thing. It was going to be a family thing.  We knew that we would need our children to be on board, because we had a suspicion that it wouldn’t always be easy, and we never wanted our kids to resent the decision to adopt.  Looking back now, I can clearly see that God had his hand at work in our kids long before we ever knew that adoption was on the horizon.  So, I wanted to share some of the things that we did (both knowingly and unknowingly) that helped to prepare our children’s hearts for adopting their brother.

  • Read missionary biographies. We particularly loved George Mueller and Gladys Aylward. Those were two of our all-time favorites. These are really great to show the hardships and the blessings that come through adoption. When we were reading these books, we had no idea that God was preparing our hearts, but when the time came, those biographies boosted our faith in God, and helped us through some of the more trying times that we faced.
  • Talk about it. A lot. We started the conversation over a year before we began moving forward with the adoption process. It started very casually, just discussing the fact that many children don’t have families and that more families are needed. Then it became more serious as we started discussing it in a more personal way. Some questions to ask are:
    • How would you feel about getting a new brother/sister?
    • Would you enjoy sharing your room?
    • Will you begin to pray about this?
    • How do you think adopting a child will change our family?
  • Discuss reality. Everyone has the picture of Little Orphan Annie in their head when they hear the word “adoption”. But in reality, it is not like that. There is a lot of hurt and pain involved with adopting a child, and that will affect your children and your family as a whole. So it’s important to talk about the reality of adoption, not the pre-conceived ideals.
  • Give them your time. Waiting is one of the hardest parts of adoption, but trust God with the timing because it’s also the greatest gift. During that pre-adoption period when your paperwork is finished and you are just waiting for a call, take that time to focus on your bios. It will be a while before you can do that again. For a little bit, most of your energy is going to go to your newest addition, so spend one-on-one time with each one of them. Talk to them, play with them, and give them lots of love to store up.
  • Pray Together. We prayed together with our biological kiddos a lot before and during the adoption process. We wanted them to know that God was in control of the situation, and that we were depending entirely on Him (because we definitely were!). We wanted them to see God at work and one of the main ways to do that is to see God answering your prayers.

Preparing Your Biological Children for Adoption

  • Keep the lines of communication open…before and after adoption. Nothing was off limits for our kids during the pre- and post-adoption stages. If it was on their hearts, we wanted to know it. There were several times that we had to pry out a confession about how they felt. But it was so important to let them get it off their chest, and to let them know that their feelings were 100% normal.
  • Point out their God-given qualities that they will get to exercise through adoption. We really tried to play up my kids’ character qualities. I remember saying things like, “Isaac, you have such a kind and forgiving heart. That is going to be so helpful to you and so comforting to your new brother.”

 

These are just a few ideas that will help to prepare your biological children for adoption. Adoption is such a blessing, but it should not be taken lightly.  It absolutely will change your family.  Expect your family dynamics to shift, your routines to be upset for a while, and your children to feel a little unsettled for a while.  But rest assured and know that it’s only a short time before things begin to settle and the blessings start flowing.

It’s Different

Surviving and Thriving in Pre-Adoption

It’s different. There, I said it.  And to be honest, it feels pretty good to get it off my chest.  For over a year now, I’ve struggled with guilt over the fact that I love James a little differently than I love Isaac, Hannah and Lydia.  Before you think I’m a terrible, awful mother, let me say that it’s a common thought among adoptive parents.  Not all, but many adoptive parents, particularly parents of older adopted children, talk about these things in hushed voices behind closed doors.  Most of the time, you can see some distress on their faces as they gingerly say the thing that terrifies them the most.  And yes, they are worried what you might think of them, and they are also worried that they are somehow cheating their adopted child, maybe not doing the job that God called them to do.

The absence of those precious early years with James haunt me every day. There’s not a minute that goes by that I don’t wish that I had gotten to hold him, cuddle him, and rub his tiny hand as he drifts off to sleep in the comfort of a crib set up just for him.  It pains me to talk about the things that my biological kids did when they were babies.  I show them a video from the past, and I can see it in his eyes, the hunger for a video of him when he was a baby, the wish that I had a cute story about him.  I wish it too.  But it’s just not there.  This is a hole in our history that we both will always grieve.  And due in large part to this fact, our love is on a bit of a different course.

As I’ve tried to put an adjective to my love for him, I’ve only come up with one. Fierce.  My love towards James is a fierce love.  It’s a love that is determined to prove to him his worth.  I refuse to allow him to believe that he will never amount to anything.  I refuse to accept, “Nah, I don’t want to learn that new thing,” because he says it out of fear that he will fail, but I know he will fly if he just tries.  I refuse to allow him to gain acceptance through acting out or acting babyish.  Because I know who he is…he’s a bright, sweet boy that anyone would love to get to know.  It’s a love born out of determination, and it’s a love that is slowly and tenderly formed alongside each other.  As I’ve walked this adoptive parent path now for over a year, I have come to realize that not everyone understands a fierce love.  But I think this is what adoptive parents have in common…the ability to love in many different ways.

And it’s my prayer that this post might comfort prospective adoptive parents who say the words that have fallen out of the mouths of thousands of adoptive parents before you…”But what if I can’t love them like I love my other child?” So let me take this opportunity to tell you that you probably won’t, and that’s okay.  A different love doesn’t mean it’s wrong.  And even a different love…a fierce love…has the amazing ability to grow over time.

I believe with all my heart that God has a plan for James.   A big plan, and as much as I’ve tried to be the perfect mom for him, I’m still just me-completely imperfect me.  So, I’m slowly coming to accept the idea that God knew that I would love James in a fierce way.  And maybe that’s just the different kind of love he needs to be everything that God wants for him.

Mom’s Helper System

Today, I had the pleasure of speaking to a group of Mothers of Preschoolers or MOPS for short. I really enjoyed it, and I would most definitely recommend this group to anyone with preschoolers!  I spoke about chores, and I must say, in the chore system area, I’ve pretty much tried everything.  But there are two systems that have really worked for my family.  So I thought I’d share them here with you.

Preschool-chore-charts-with-pictures-2

From Homeschool Creations

The first system is one I used when my kids were preschoolers. It’s from the website Homeschool Creations.  I really liked it because it was simple for me and fun for them, plus it gave the option of extra paid chores.  Click here for this system.

The second system is one I developed after my oldest came to me one day and said, “Mom, you never spend time with me.” After I got over the initial shock and rage of the comment (after all, I am a homeschooler…we spend every waking minute together for goodness sakes!), I evaluated our routine, and aside from school time, I really didn’t spend much extra time with them.  A big reason for this was simply that the work load of having a larger family was taking a lot of my time.  So, after some brainstorming, I figured out a system that would accomplish three things:

  1. To teach my kids to do everything needed to keep the house going
  2. To take some of the housework off me
  3. To spend quality time with each child while I’m getting a clean house

So here it is…the Mom’s Helper System. I simply put four hooks (one for each kid) on the closet door in our kitchen, and I hung the cards on the hooks.  Every day that we are home, I rotate the cards.  So, everyone gets to do every job.  I really like this system too, because if we are gone one day, it’s no big deal…I just rotate the next day.

Click here for the files:

Moms Helper Chore SystemMoms Helper Chore System vERTICAL

Moms Helper Chore System

My laundry helper helps wash, dry, fold and put away all the clothes for the day. My kitchen helper (this is the most coveted position available) helps me decide what to make, prepare the food for each meal, and clean up after each meal.  My Outdoor helper helps me keep the outside of the house clean by picking up trash, watering plants and putting up toys and bikes.  Sometimes, this person also gets to pick out the new wreath and put out new décor or plant flowers in the springtime.  The Bathroom helper gives all the surfaces a good wiping with a Clorox wipe, changes toilet paper, and cleans the toilet (as needed).  My kids are still young and not very confident with these “bigger” chores yet, so I at least supervise, but usually I’m right there with them helping.  That’s where the quality time comes in.  While we’re up to our elbows cleaning the toilet, I’m talking to them and finding out what’s going on in their world.

One of the great benefits, however, is that after just a few weeks, these jobs can be done by the kids themselves (for the most part), so if I get in a pinch, I can easily say, “Isaac, go start lunch for everyone.” He will know what to do, because he has plenty of experience now.

I’ve also included a Living Room card. This person could do the dusting or picking up of the living room area.  I’ve also included a Mom’s Helper and a blank card.  These can be used just about any way.  It’s up to you.  This has been a really easy system to keep going.  I know because if it’s not easy, I won’t do it!

I’m making these files available to you to download for free. I hope you enjoy them!

 

 

One Year of Trusting God

Surviving and Thriving in the Pre-Adoptive Stage

It’s been one year. Okay, one year and 28 days since we added our fourth child.  In some ways, it seems like the past year has been going in slow motion, but in other ways, it flew by.  Life is funny sometimes.  We had a lot of “firsts” last year.  On Valentine’s Day this year, I realized that it would be the first holiday that wasn’t a “first” for James.  It seems like such a long time ago when he wasn’t quite ready to make Valentine cards for the family.  I still remember it like yesterday though.  When I explained to him that every year, we write each other Valentine’s and have a special Valentine Day dinner, he said, “That’s weird.”  But that night he sat down at the table and couldn’t keep himself from smiling when he opened one Valentine Card after another and read about how much we love him.  It must have felt strange to him.   I can remember wondering if our Valentine’s Days would ever be the same again.  After this year’s celebration, I can say they’re not the same.  They are even better.

This year, James was on board from the beginning, helping with decorations, making Valentine Cards for everyone, and excitedly preparing the traditional Valentine supper. It was so fun to see the difference a year has made.  It filled my soul and renewed my hope that broken things can be beautiful again.  Here’s a taste of this year’s celebration:

brothers valentine

 

 

 

 

Sometimes, I think about these blessings that I would be missing out on if we hadn’t obeyed God, and I just am saddened by the sheer possibility. Hearing your biological child say, “I love you,” is absolutely amazing.  Have your adopted child say, “I love you,” is a totally different kind of amazing.  Not necessarily better or worse…just a feeling that I wouldn’t want to miss out on experiencing.

 

James has made leaps this year:

  1. He has grown like a weed! I have no doubt we’ll see a good two inches of growth this year on his ceremonial birthday doorway marking.
  2. He has flourished in (home)school without the assistance of medication.
  3. He is sleeping regularly.
  4. He is becoming a great brother.
  5. He no longer becomes hysterical at bumps and bruises.
  6. He is starting to trust us.
  7. He has accepted our traditions and added some new ones.
  8. He freely expresses his love for us.
  9. He expresses remorse when he does wrong.

This isn’t even half of the list. The confidence I now see in him, the peace I’m seeing growing in him…

 

I wish that I could say, “Look at what we did! We saved this child!”  But there’s no way.  It was much less about what we did and much more about what God did.  Last year, most days I felt as though I was drowning, struggling up to the surface every few days just to get a gasp of fresh air before heading back down.  I experienced my first (and hopefully last) round of serious depression.   Looking back, I think it was just the perfect “thorn in my side” to remind me that God is doing this…not me.  God was making us a family…not me.

On the very day that marked one year since James has been with us, I could literally feel a big sigh from deep inside. I looked around and suddenly saw James, who seemed like he had just always been there.  I looked at my biological kids and said, “Wow!  You’ve grown since last time I really saw you.” And I had this renewed sense that I’m still here.  I’m not coming up for air every few days anymore.  No, I am swimming strong, and all my little ducks are right beside me.  While I wasn’t looking, they were having the time of their life learning to swim strong too.

When There Isn't Enough Mom to Go Around

That phrase that I said every day last year as soon as my feet hit the floor…do you remember it? I trust you, God. It got me through, and not only did it get me through, but God was right.  His plan for our family was and is good and right and perfect.

So, as we close the door on this first year together, I am climbing out of survival mode. I’m shedding the extra pounds I picked up on the way, but even more than that, I’ve shed many of the worries I carried with me, seeing once again that God can be trusted.  And now, my faith is just a little-or maybe it’s a lot-stronger than it was.  Now the next time God asks me to do something hard, I’ll know without a doubt that it’s a good plan, and maybe, just maybe, I won’t worry so much.

It’s Just a Tongue Depressor

It was Just a Tongue Depressor

You might have thought he had a broken arm. If you were outside in the hallway of the doctor’s office today, you probably would have suspected a possible dislocated shoulder that they were trying to reset.  One thing is certain, you never would have guessed that it was a simple tongue depressor.

My adopted son, James, hates to hurt. Now, I think that’s true for everyone, but he really hates to hurt, and I know that, but he was sick and a doctor’s visit was a must.  I did everything right…

I prepped him…I told him before we left exactly what to expect. “The doctor will look in your ears, your nose, your mouth.  You might get a flu test, but probably not…etc, etc”.

But there’s one fundamental problem with that-he still doesn’t completely trust me. And he certainly doesn’t trust a doctor.  Honestly, I knew that there would be some hiccups in this trip.  James was really, really sick, but I never expected the hang up to be right out the shoot…on the “Open your mouth and say ahhhhh….” part.

But we’re talking about full blown panic mode. I mean, screaming, kicking, crying, over a tongue depressor.  Yeah, you would have thought we were torturing him.  I had to physically restrain him so the doctor could just get a quick peek down the windpipes.  It was at that point that I knew that taking James to the doctor rivaled taking my four-year-old Lydia to the doctor (one of the Winter Olympic Sports).

So when the doctor said that he was going to do an injection, my heart sunk like an anchor off the side of a cruise liner. Oh boy….

I did everything right….

I prepped him. I told him exactly what to expect.  We related this shot to the flu shot, which he said wasn’t bad at all.  Personally, I think a flu shot stings like crazy, so for a moment, a fleeting second, I figured that this might just be okay.  But then, I looked into his face, tears still streaming down his cheeks, a look of complete panic in his eyes, and I remembered, no, this child needs more healing than a family doctor can offer.  So I hunkered down, and made the decision that we’re going to get through this together.  We’re just going to survive.

The nurse came in, and we got him ready. I’ve seen him jittery, but this was a new level of panic for him.  He asked to hold my thumb, and I offered him that, and took his other hand in mine.  Even though I told him every single step, the alcohol swab alone was enough to send him into a fresh batch of tears.  The shot came and went, and for a split second, I thought it was over…maybe not as bad as I thought.  And then the wailing began.

I have no doubt that the shot hurt like blue blazes, but what followed was not the typical reaction of an eight-year-old. In fact, my toddlers handled antibiotic shots better, I thought.  But then, they knew that I would immediately grab them and give them the comfort they so desperately needed at that moment.  The crying then lasted for mere seconds.  James just doesn’t have that history.  He isn’t sure that I’ll be able to provide him comfort.  So when he hurts, no matter how big or how small, in his mind, he’s handling it alone, completely and utterly alone.  That’s why the smallest hurts hurt so bad.

The odd thing is that since he missed that toddler experience of being swooped up and comforted, he has to be dealt with completely differently. I can’t just swoop him up and it’s over.  No, because he’s expecting everyone in his life to hurt him, he goes straight to the fight or flight response.  So in these situations, he has to be talked down from the ledge.  I’m sure that I looked like an insensitive parent when I looked at him and firmly said, “James, stop.”  But the thing is that if I allow him to keep going, we will be completely out of control in a few seconds.  Once I interrupted the immediate shock, I start in gentle and firm, “James, it’s over.  It’s done, and you’re going to feel so much better. James, you’re okay!  Look, you made it through just fine.”  It’s a long process of talking him off the ledge.  Over the course of the afternoon, we ordered a milkshake, talked about the doctor and how he wants to help us, how our doctor can be trusted to do the right thing to make us well.  We even talked about the best way to take a shot.  It’s been a long day.  In fact, he was still talking about his shot tonight when I put him to bed.  Because the truth is, it was traumatic for him.  Not just the normal traumatic doctor visit that every kid (and adult) makes from time to time, but worse.  Exponentially multiplied by the past.

Teaching Your Adopted Child to Trust Again

We have to teach them that fear is not a wall that stops us…it’s a wall that we climb. We have to equip our kids with the footholds they need to climb those walls.

And here’s where I have a choice….I could simply say, “Well, I tried. I guess this is just what it is to go to the doctor with him.”  But I won’t.  Because that does him a disservice. I want him to know that fear is not a wall to stop you, it’s just a wall to climb, and I want to give him the footholds he needs to help him climb those walls.  That’s one of the things we do as parents.  We make life a little less scary for our kids, right?

 

So this week, we will be playing a lot of doctor. We will be practicing our “Ahhhhh” tongue depressing skills, and we’ll do pretend shots.  I never knew that I’d have to use every ounce of patience and creativity I can muster for something as simple as a doctor’s visit.  Sometimes, it seems like my patience has run too thin…but right about that moment, we have a breakthrough.  Suddenly, he can tie his shoes.  Suddenly, he doesn’t cry endlessly about a minor bump.  So while this was a tough experience for us both, I’m keeping in mind the victory we will share when we finally earn his trust.