Adoption Reality Vs. Adoption Fantasy

Adoption Fantasy Vs. Adoption Reality

 One need look no further than the MIRROR to see that we are ALL flawed Human Beings.

There are many who have answered the call to adoption either through prayer support, for those walking down the adoption path, through financial support, or actually adopting themselves.
We have had the great privilege of walking hand in hand with prayer supporters, financial supporters and then each other as we stepped out in faith to bring our children home.

It is a normal thing to “fantasize” about what your child is going to be like; dreaming of what their personality will be like, but  it becomes DANGEROUS, when you expect your fantasy to be REAL.

You may have fantasized  about a docile child and your child is hyperactive! You may have expected a child with long blonde hair and your child’s head is shaved and her hair is dark brown. You may have expected a girly girl and gotten a tom boy, or a boy who is great in sports, but he prefers the violin! These are VERY SHALLOW thoughts, really, when it comes to bringing a child home, or even giving birth to a child.


There is NO TIME to dwell on the  “what if’s”  when your child comes home with unexpected behaviors, illnesses, syndromes INCLUDING FAS, RAD, PTSD, ADHD, ODD, or any OTHER label your child can be given…. HONESTLY, the ONLY REASON to have these diagnosis, would be to help SECURE your UNDERSTANDING and COMPASSION so that you can PARENT YOUR CHILD, the CHILD GOD HAS GIVEN YOU, in the BEST WAY for THEM to SUCCEED!

Sometimes the path is HARD…. and sometimes NOT.  But there is JOY in the JOURNEY, no matter the path!  GOD FULFILLS HIS PURPOSES in our lives, weaving that Beautiful Tapestry of Life, sometimes with the fabric of tears, and sometimes with the fabric of great joy!
Sometimes that GREAT JOY comes from a child who learns, finally that they are loved, or for a child with learning disabilities, the first time they remember how to spell a word!
Sometimes joy comes when a child hugs you for REALLY REAL for the first time after, being home for years…..or when, like Sweetie 3, they immediately call you, “My Precious Mother”, “My Precious Father”, from the first time they see you.
Sometimes that joy comes when your 2 year old sits up for the very first time, or when he walks without assistance for the first time at 8!  You get joy in just cheering him on!

There is NO TIME to waste in the “what if’s”…… and IT IS A WASTE OF TIME!  It is also a mindset that will allow Bitterness to set into the heart, if we are not careful!

ALL CHILDREN are a blessing, and there are no perfect children!

I would like to strongly appeal to those on the adoption journey;  ALL CHILDREN who come into your family through adoption are Special Needs Children!  And asking for a child with “minor, correctable issues” such as a cleft lip or pallet is only dealing with the physical!
There is NOTHING MINOR, about being abandoned and living in an orphanage.  There is NOTHING MINOR about NEGLECT,  ABUSE and STARVATION, and it cannot be “corrected”!  The emotional scars of REJECTION are NOT MINOR, no matter HOW YOUNG your children come home.  Each little personality is DIFFERENT and they will handle those stresses differently!
Some will regress and be ANGRY. Some will be so fearful they cannot respond. Some will have behaviors that are downright BIZARRE, and some will come out of situations like that seemingly unscathed; but I would say that is the exception, rather than the rule!  It is up to us to LOVE OUR CHILDREN WITHOUT HOLDING BACK!
Don’t WASTE years being angry because you don’t think everything was disclosed to you!
You have the child that GOD HAS GIVEN YOU!  PARENT THEM! LOVE THEM!
TAKE GREAT JOY IN THEIR ACCOMPLISHMENTS! TAKE JOY IN THEIR BABY STEPS TOWARDS WHOLENESS….. REMOVE the PLANK from your eye, so you can see HOW to clearly remove the speck from your child’s eye.
Bitterness has NO place in the life of a parent.  It will only beget Bitterness!  PRESS ON! MOVE FORWARD! DON’T LOOK TO THE RIGHT OR THE LEFT, but KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE GOAL!  Bringing your child towards wholeness and healing!

Fantasy Land is a very dangerous place to live!

How God Uses Even Our Selfishness For His Purposes

How God Uses Even Our Selfishness For His Purposes

I have wanted to share this since 2006 when I started this blog.  On our private blog we included old letters written from when we were in Ukraine.   We had shared this story with Mike’s dad.   He sent an email saying  there was a story to tell;  I am going to tell that story today.

We were sharing this with our Pastor Justin on Sunday and I remembered again, how God is so full of Grace and Mercy towards His children.

Mike,  Sweetie 3 and I were back in Kyiv on the last leg of our trip.  She had passed the American Embassy physical, and had her passport.  We had all of our adoption documents, but we were there a little longer than expected, and had to change our Air  Line Tickets.  We had one day to find the Delta Airlines office in Kyiv, but they had MOVED, and we couldn’t read the door in Ukrainian that gave the new directions.
We called the phone number feverishly, but nobody answered. Instead, we got a disconnect message. Or I think that is what we were getting.

Our translator was gone for  Easter Weekend.  We were quite comfortable when she wasn’t with us, and in fact found it better for her time with us in Kyiv to be limited.  She was young and sweet, but made some errors in judgment that caused everybody struggles.  She kept purchasing gifts for Erika, and at one point had Mike carry all her luggage while she pushed Erika in the wheel chair.  Needless to say, we were a little stressed, and concerned and disappointed that her first Ice Cream cone didn’t come from us, even though we had made a real request that it did.
I know this may sound silly, but we were being very careful with a very attention deprived, sensory deprived child, and we were on red alert trying to get her through without too much stimulation.
I was cooking most meals so we could just eat as a family, though we did meet with another family a few times and took walks.
Sweetie 3 ENJOYED the sun and the sights. 🙂

I remember enjoying that Easter  Sunday morning SO MUCH, listening to the Church Bells going off all over the City, and standing on the balcony of our High Rise Apartment Building to remember the Resurrection of our Dear Lord.

After being pretty exhausted from a full day on Monday, longing for home, anxious to  be back with the girlies, I headed out to get some salsa, and ground pepper.  We were going to have scrambled eggs and toast, and I wanted some spice!  This was my “pre night shade” era where I could have SALSA!

However, Salsa is not a popular item in Ukraine.  IN fact, it was TERRIBLY expensive, so much so, that I could not justify the cost, so I decided to settle for ground pepper.
In the stores, you are not allowed to go behind the counter, you have to point for things, or say the correct word in Russian or Ukrainian.
I waited in line and when I got to the counter I couldn’t remember the word for pepper.  So, I said “salt’ in Russian and then signaled “SALT….shaking  and ?? shaking my other hand hoping they would understand I wanted pepper.”
She did! YEA!  But she gave me pepper corns, not ground.  So I explained with hand motions again…. doing the grinding motion.
She got mad and kicked me out of line!  I was BOOTED!

So I went to the end of the line and tried again.  BOOTED AGAIN!
So I went to the end of the line and tried again!  I felt like I was going to cry, but sucked it up.
After all, I should have KNOWN that word, but I had left my book in the apartment.
The 3rd time, I purchased the peppercorns and figured I’d try to crush them myself.
When I got back, Sweetie 3 was enjoying a luxurious bath and I started dinner.  But I couldn’t get those pepper corns crushed.  It was too hard and they kept shooting out from under the knife.That is when MY window of tolerance shut and I began to cry.  Mike came in to find a hysterical wife saying, “I’M NOT COOKING ONE MORE MEAL!” “I’M NOT!”
I told him, “I want NACHOS and Jalapenos and SALSA!”  We had been SO GOOD not to go to McDonald’s when there was all that wonderful Ukrainian food to be had!
McDonald’s was for coffee only, and the bathroom, but that is ANOTHER LONG STORY!<–Link

We knew there was a TGI FRIDAYS about 4 blocks from our Apartment, so we headed out.  When we arrived, the restaurant was FULL! There was no place to wait, especially with a wheel chair, but we insisted we would wait!

Then, this man’s voice that was DISTINCTLY AMERICAN spoke up and said, “I’m at a table for 4 and I’m by myself, I’ll move!”
We said, “Don’t Move, can we just join you?”  He said, “Sure!”
So we introduced ourselves, and he asked the obvious…. “Why are you in Ukraine!”
We explained to him why we were there, and told him all about the miracles that took place to even get there, and all the adventures we were having.
Sweetie 3 entertained us with her new ability to Sing “Jesus Loves Me”….. every time she heard the word “Cheese”, she’d break into song. LOL   (cheesus loves me) 🙂
We told him about my pepper nightmare and need for spice, and then told him we needed one more miracle.  As we explained to him our predicament about needing to change our Airline Tickets by the very next day, or we’d have to buy new ones, he was intrigued.
“What airline are you with?”

We told him we were with Delta Airlines.   He got this huge smile on his face and said, “Well, it looks like your last miracle has taken place!”
“He then picked up his knapsack…. It said, “Delta Airlines” right on it!  He was the NEW DIRECTOR for Delta, and had been in Ukraine for 6 weeks, originally from Atlanta Georgia!

We couldn’t believe it!  He pointed to a building across the street from the restaurant, and said, that is the new building. Sorry about the phones, nothing happens quickly here. LOL
And then, he said, when you come tomorrow, ask for me, I’ll come out and make sure you are taken care of.
The next day, we did just that.  When he came out, he explained to the two ladies that were there what we needed.  They were so kind, and as they were looking for the best deal on tickets, both had little tears streaming down their faces; happy that Miss Sweetie 3 was headed to her forever home.

I will never forget how God even used my own selfishness of not wanting to cook, to bless us so very much with one more confirmation that HE was in control, even to the point of the mean pepper lady who kept on kicking me out of line! 🙂
And we RESTED in HIM.

And then, about 4 hours into our second flight, my mind was numb staring at that airplane going across the sea…..:)
And I began to struggle with fear thinking, “We have no money! We have to start over after being out of business for the last 5 weeks….we now have 3 children!  Are we crazy??”
And as soon as I thought it, I confessed…..”Lord, you know all things… If you can get us through Ukraine and back, while it is supposed to be closed, arrange for the details of our trip home, and provide all you have provided…..I’m SURE you will not abandon us!

When we finally made it home, it as very late.  We headed straight to bed and sort of went into hibernation.  Our ministry group  had decorated our home, filled it with food, and left all sorts of cards on the counter.
At about 3:00 in the afternoon, I was opening cards and then found an envelope with $$…. a GIFT to us from those who love the Lord.
And another thing was placed in my heart to remember God’s Faithfulness to His Children.

Attachment Is NOT Just Up To Our Kids!

Attachment Is NOT Just Up To Our Kids!

Have you ever thought “They aren’t attached?”  or “They aren’t attaching to me?”  Have you ever thought, “They have no relationship with me?” Do you catch yourself picking out or noticing all of your child’s flaws, and not their strengths?  Do you struggle with even seeing the good things about them?  Are you at a point where you have allowed yourself to think, “I am just here to give them food and shelter and then, they are outta here at 18?”
(dramatic photo courtesy of me) 🙂
It DOESN’T have to be that way!  It really doesn’t!

It is my prayer that this post offers hope and encouragement for the discouraged.

Let’s take a little peer into a work place scenario:

Think about going to a new job. You are nervous and want to do well, but your job has many new concepts to learn and many more responsibilities than you knew about when you took the job.
Now, let’s say your manager is watching all you do.  This makes you rather nervous, because you don’t know how to relate to him or her.  Things are rather “disjointed”, and then, you do something that you have been doing, and she blows her stack! She gets angry, and you don’t understand why!
You are trying, but it is rather hard to know what to do because nobody is really communicating with you. There are all these unwritten rules and expectations! This is HARD! You become more stressed, because you don’t want to make your manager mad, or to disappoint them, yet at the same time, you don’t know what to do, exactly….
Then, the other employees begin to judge you. They speak unkindly to you. “How come you don’t know how to do THAT??” “I can’t believe they hired you!”  “Why don’t you CHANGE?” “WHY DON’T YOU DO BETTER?”  “Things were better before YOU came!”
You begin to feel that every time you try to do something, or even relax, your manager and the other employees are  there to tell you how you did it wrong and they are dissatisfied with you.  You begin to feel ashamed and that something must be wrong with you! In fact, something MUST be wrong with you, because you have had this experience before!  The shame becomes greater, and you give up.
You stop trying because, “Why does it matter?  Nobody cares if I’m trying! I feel like my manager is dissatisfied with me all the time, and that I’ll never measure up to the expectations of those who have been on this job much longer than I have. ”
And you shut down.
Your manager then accuses you of not trying. They accuse you of being lazy and make sure they send you to the HR department for help.  The HR department discusses how you can do your job better, but never discusses how you feel lost and don’t really understand your job description.  They give you a small hint that you need to shape up! But the information is disjointed, and you are told all of the problem is YOU.

(photo courtesy of google)

THIS is what it is like to be a traumatized child coming into a home where they are expected to attach, when RELATIONSHIP is not looked upon as the responsibility of ALL  parties, but for the child to attach to the family; placing huge responsibility on the child to conform.

I STRONGLY believe that RELATIONSHIP’S GREATEST responsibility is upon us, as parents, and then siblings!
When we bring a new child into our home, it is a STRESSFUL yet JOYOUS time.  It is different than bringing home a newborn. Our children have lived lives outside of our home. They have developed habits, had hurts and pain beyond imagination.
How DARE us, be critical of them.  How DARE us, expect them to just fall into line with the children that have always been with us, or been with us a long time! And HOW DARE us, be a bad example to our children already home, causing them to judge also.
OUR example can cause our children to SIN.

(dramatic photo courtesy of Miss Sweetie #4) 🙂

Our children come to us very broken.  Gently putting the pieces of their lives together cannot happen OUTSIDE of true relationship!

Looking back on Sweetie 4’s arrival to our home, I was reminded of this incident in my childhood:

I distinctly remember 2 little girls coming to stay at our home when I was about 11. They were my age and younger, and it was an emergency placement, just for 2 weeks.  I remember the oldest one crying when she was corrected for over pouring her cereal and then wiping the cereal on the floor.
It wasn’t the correction. It was HOW it was done. She was shamed.
I remember feeling two ways.
1. I felt sorry for her.
2. I thought to myself, “Why did she do that? Didn’t she know any better?”
The answer was NO! SHE DIDN’T KNOW ANY BETTER.  I still feel guilt for even thinking that.
Her stress level must have been so much.   She cried at night as we slept in the same bed.  I didn’t know what to do.  I layed there, turned the other way, silent.  I was scared. I didn’t know how to relate. I was totally unprepared as a child to deal with such a thing.
My parents never even talked about it or offered any guidance. NONE! The girls  were there; they were gone.  I felt sad and empty. I didn’t even know they were leaving. When I came home from school, they were gone. I didn’t even say good bye.  I still feel empty from that short 2 week period in my life. I still feel shame that I did not do better to try and relate.

Sweetie 4, was the same age as these girls, and the same age as our girls.   I was determined when she came home to make sure that our girls understood NOT to judge any of her actions, but find compassion for her, and everybody would then help to guide her through our kindness and acceptance of her!
Was it easy? No. It was not.  But OH HOW VALUABLE were the lessons we all learned through her coming into our lives.  We ALL had sin that needed rooted out. 🙂

We learned that we can be judgmental and prideful attitudes and OUR hearts needed some weeding.  We learned that  “A Soft Answer Turns Away Wrath!”  We learned how very much she wanted to be accepted and loved, but was so used to being misunderstood, she was totally shut down.
We learned together, to encourage her to open up just a smidge….. and then, we KNEW the floodgates of love would open.
We learned that our acceptance of her, ALL of her personality, FLAWS AND ALL, was REQUIRED for her to move forward and heal.  She held onto her behaviors like a shield of shame. She slowly began to let that shield down as she felt accepted and loved.
We took our girls out one at a time as needed to encourage them to keep up the good work, to listen to their hearts and offer understanding and direction, and then to pray with them along with us for guidance and direction.

Sweetie 1, 2 and 3  have been  an integral part of 4’s healing.  They LOVED her unconditionally from day one, and LOVE her and each other unconditionally to this day!

If you have other children in your home when you bring a new child home, please help them to see
that they too are responsible to foster a TRUE LOVING relationship with their new sibling!
Prepare them, that this new child will not know how to attach or have a relationship, but it will be up to you as a TEAM to teach and guide them, gently, slowly, steadily, with great Steadfast love…. and that child WILL attach!

Relationship is a two way street.  If we become drawn into our child’s rejection of our attempts to love them, and give up.  The relationship will stagnate and fester and die on the vine.
We are SUPPOSED to be the ones who guide our children into relationship. Don’t let your child’s hurts DICTATE how you respond to them.  ALWAYS respond with RELATIONSHIP in mind!
If it is not happening, reassess how you are relating to your child.
Are they stressed?  If so WHY?
Are you angry? Yelling?  Judging?
You may be thinking, “Well, if my child does xy or z, I have the RIGHT to get upset or even angry! Or of course I’m going to judge them! They are hoarding! “They are not going to sleep at night!”  “They are making mess after mess after mess!”  THESE BEHAVIORS ARE FEAR BASED BEHAVIORS STEEPED IN SHAME!  Punishing a child during this stage will only be a self fulfilling prophecy for them that they deserve to be punished and that they are NOT worthy of your love.
I DO feel your pain. 🙂  We have been through all of those things with EACH of our girls.
But THINK RELATIONSHIP!  How can I help my child through fits of rage, hoarding, stealing, lying, and making huge messes, by getting mad at them?  How does separating them into time out, or grounding them to their room, spanking them, or making them miss a family event,   help them to be honest?  How will that help them to  do the things we  want them to do, and get rid of unwanted behaviors?
WHY?  Because  relationship is NOT there. It is not established yet.
I have heard it said, “Don’t let them take an inch!” “Lay down the Law!”
I disagree.  That does NOT mean to let anybody wreak havoc either.  But get BUSY establishing relationship!  Study your child to see how old they are emotionally and parent them according to emotional age, NOT gestational age!  Get to know them. Try to understand them.
No amount of “punishment” is going to cause a hurt child to suddenly say, “Oh mother dear, or father dear, I am so sorry. I will never do this again! You are  right, and I am  wrong.” “Hugs and kisses!”
No. Not YET anyway! 🙂
Those times DO come!  But not until a real relationship that goes BOTH WAYS is established!

Now, how CAN we help them?

1.By LOVING THEM…. GIVE YOUR WHOLE HEART TO THEM NO MATTER HOW YOU FEEL! Choosing what is best for them at all times, even when you don’t feel like it.
2.By discipling them.
3. By teaching them self discipline.
4. By being  the steady, the ROCK in their life.
5. By gentle, instruction, a little at a time, with great love and hugs and rocking and reassuring…. solving one problem at a time, not dumping everything wrong about their behavior onto them all at once.
6. By opening dialogue.

A little at a time with great reassurance, our children will respond to RELATIONSHIP.  They want it. They CRAVE it.  But they are also AFRAID  of it.  They don’t want to lose it.  Sometimes the fear of losing a potential relationship they cherish, will cause a child to be too afraid to feel and attach, because they don’t trust that relationship to be solid. If they feel disapproval, they may stop trying because they are so very fragile.  That is why it is so important to US to be on top of our OWN emotions and behaviors!

Have we done this perfectly? No. We have not. Nobody does.  But we work HARD at it. VERY HARD… and when we blow it, we APOLOGIZE to our child. A REAL apology, not a “I’m sorry I got mad, but if you handn’t done….”
No, a REAL apology.  “Sweetie, Mama was wrong. I am so very sorry. Will you forgive me?”

That vulnerability opens a door for our children to be vulnerable too, and teaches them to learn how to forgive themselves. 🙂
Our humility, brings about healing in our children! 🙂  And it also helps US to improve our OWN personal skills in dealing with relationships!
Isn’t that awesome!

None of us have “arrived” yet. We are all on the road of life.  I pray that we each continue down that road, trusting the Lord to help us, and treating our children as HE treats us, with GREAT LOVING KINDNESS.
“It’s your KINDNESS that leads us to Repentance”. Romans 2:4
“A soft Answer turns away wrath!” Proverbs 15: 1
“Children Are a Blessing From the Lord”  Psalm 127:3
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.  James 1:27

Our dependence is upon Him; we cannot walk this walk, alone. cm
“I can do ALL things IN CHRIST who Strengthens me.” Phillipians 4:13

Any Unpacked Bags??

Any Unpacked Bags ?

I wrote this post in 2008 , but wanted to repost it, as this topic was on my mind after a conversation I had yesterday.
There are those in the adoption community that believe only a “professional” knows what to do with a child who has  a trauma background.  I disagree.  While I DO agree that there is a time and a place for counseling….. healing begins at HOME.  And before we can help our kids heal, We MUST deal with our own stuff.  Many times, we don’t even know it is there, or we have learned to keep certain things neatly packed away in the recesses of our mind, and then, we get zinged and we have a PTSD moment of our own.
It is an honor and privilege to parent our children in a way that brings them into a place of safety and healing.
I wrote this post about 3 years ago and a LOT has happened since then. SO, instead of rewriting what I already wrote.  Here is my old post. And then I’ll add some more thoughts.  I apologize this is so long.


                                     Any Unpacked Bags?


As parents, our children come most of the time when we are young and foolish and in no way ready to be parents. That is how God chose to do it! 🙂
It seems that God has made a great effort to want us to be dependent upon HIM for every breath of life that we breathe and every step we take. Our inadequacy glaring at us each day caused us to run for our prayer closet and hang onto our Heavenly Father for the inspiration of the day, for the strength to get to the coffee pot, for the words we spoke and the energy our days required of us.

As our children got older and we were more comfortable with what direction they were taking, we relaxed a bit, as we knew that GOD had ordained their steps and our job was almost done. It was a time of thrilling enjoyment, seeing those flowers unfold into beautiful bloom. (yes,even with boys the analogy works)

Now, there are those crazy types that have decided to do it all over again! LOL You know who you are….

But the difference is: They come potty trained and talking back! They haven’t learned your language, either unspoken OR spoken. They come with loads of baggage that needs to be sorted through and a tangled mess of ideas and hurts that give the feeling of continual untangling of Christmas lights. AHHHHH!!!!! You can throw the Christmas lights away and buy a new set! (don’t tell, but I have actually done this before)
But our Children are not throw away. There is something new we must learn, like…..
timing, patience, kindness, careful untangling of a little life and unpacking of a bag so tattered that if you don’t unzip it carefully it will fall apart.

So, we say to ourselves… this a different sort of kid. This kid didn’t come with instructions.(even though we know very well our others didn’t either)
If we are not careful, we can find ourselves looking through instruction manuals of a different nature that will offer loads of “man’s wisdom”, devoid of Godly wisdom.

Some books are great and we can identify things in our dear children in them, and they can offer help to us BUT without prayer and discernment, they can also be VERY, VERY dangerous. The same goes with counselors, and those who have made businesses dealing with emotional pain and baggage.
While some of the information and techniques used can be utilized in a positive way, some of it is just down right dangerous, and we MUST discern what is best for our children.
This very issue SHOULD bring us to our knees in prayer and to the Word of God for instruction, but slowly, instead, the phone call is made to the counselor, the books are re read and we forget Who our TRUE source of guidance is.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not against reading of books, and I read them A LOT too. But it is a battle to remember to hold them up to the whole counsel of the word of God.
I am not against counseling either, as I think sometimes there are things they can offer for a parent to try, or offer advice to the parent themselves that they may need to work through some of their own issues.

What I AM against is the forcing of a child to face things he or she may not be ready to face. I am 50 years old, and there are STILL things in my life from long ago that I am JUST NOW, starting to comprehend. I don’t think any amount of counseling would have helped me to see it any sooner.

I remember several years ago, after a very traumatic event in my life, a counselor at a church kept calling me. She kept trying to get me to come and and talk to her and she persisted to the point that I totally shut down. I didn’t want to talk to her. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t want her prodding me for how I felt or act like she cared about me. I felt like one of her “projects” she had chosen to fix.
What welled up in me was anger, frustration and self thoughts of inadequacy and pain.

Why does SHE think I need fixing? Why MUST she bother me so?

I finally wrote a letter to her and the church pastor and asked him to please tell her to lay off. I didn’t need her help. I needed to work things out between ME and my LORD. She is not my intermediary! I have no need of one.
She didn’t back off, and I found sanctuary at a new church.

You know what happened? The pastor there was amazing. He was a little younger and the church was HUGE. ( I thought I could hide out for a while) He saw me and 4 little boys watching the worship team practice. I was so used to going to church early for music; but I was no longer fit.

That guy came over and sat down and showed me respect and kindness. He introduced himself and talked to each of the boys who were between 4 and 8. He never asked me where my husband was. He never asked if I was in need of anything. He just respected me as person, and then he went on his merry way. Oh I was never so thankful for a simple kind person to just treat me as normal.

In time, the Lord brought things to my heart and I poured my heart our to HIM. Later he provided me with a friend to share with, but it had to be with HIM first!

Why do I say all that?

Because I think so many times we are on a mission to “fix” our children. We are on the fast track to make them whole, and in the process, we may be missing God’s timing, and our children’s timing.
They may not be ready for things to be discussed. They may just need to chill and be loved just for who they are, with all their quirks and unpacked bags. They may need us to soak that scab in love so it gets soft and doesn’t hurt when it comes off.

(sorry for the gross analogy)

I remember when our first sweetie came to us, she decided she wanted to be a baby. She went through the birth process all on her own, curling up under a blanket and being “born” and then snuggling up and I gave her a bottle of warm milk and swaddled and rocked her. THIS WAS NOT INITIATED BY ME OR ANOTHER PERSON, though I have heard of it being done; this was initiated by HER!
She was 6, and after she finished, she looked me straight in the eye and said, “YOU ARE MY MAMA!” It was like she birthed herself into a new role in the family. She was REALLY part of a family and chose to identify herself in that way.

Well, along came Sweetie 2 and guess what? After about 6 months…. she did the exact same thing. I thought… how interesting. They have both done this and they are the ones who have initiated this. I felt honored.

When Sweetie 3 came, she was a little older (almost 8) She of course loved being rocked and sang to, and because of her physical problems, she could not curl into a ball under a blanket on my lap, but she wanted to. We tried some different things and so we just announced that we had a new baby. I held her in my arms and talked to her just like I talked to the boys when they were newborns. “Oh, look at her Mike, she is just BEAUTIFUL”! Look at her hair. Look at her eyes! She is ours! We prayed for her and we gooed and gahhed at her and she snuggled up, just as the other girls did.
She actually went a little further and she would catch me in the hall and grab me and then pretend to nurse! YIKES…… She was fascinated for a few weeks about if her brothers were nursed etc. I explained to her that not all babies are nursed, so though her brothers were nursed with mother’s milk, Tim wasn’t able to latch on because of being preemie. She was preemie too.

These things happened over time. We had incidents with each girl of disturbing behaviors, but saw those as bags being unpacked. And the longer we loved them, the longer we respected them, the longer we were able to reach them, the more those behaviors disappeared.
As we have been able to instruct them and lead them to Christ…. they have continued to grow and are now learning to ask HIM for help and comfort along with mom and dad.
The words placed in their hearts, the love that has been planted is growing and each of them, are shining in their own ways.
All bags are NOT unpacked. But in God’s timing, it will happen. God’s timing evokes change from the heart. It is welcomed and does not bring resentfulness and anger.
His timing brings about repentance and healing.

If it were up to me…. I’d want everything fixed today. No YESTERDAY! But God is multi-layered. He knows that I need to continue to learn patience and kindness and a big helping of MORE forgiveness.
AND…. as He helps them unpack their bags, He shows me that I still have some bags to unpack too, and so we do it together. 🙂

So,  here we are 3 years later, with another little girl under our roof. We have 2 teenagers and in 2 weeks, we will have 2 12 year olds also. 🙂    I remember so well, when we first started this adventure in life, Sweetie 1 was 5.  I counted the years until she was 13. “Just 8! ” I thought to myself.  We lost her first 5 years, and almost 6 of Sarah’s life and almost 8 of Sweetie 3’s  life, and a full 11 years and one month of Sweetie 4’s life!
According to some books, MANY books, the losses our girls had, the lack of instruction, the lack of nurturing, the abuse, the anger, the rejection again and again, should have led us to believe that they were lost causes…. chaff, forever to be labeled RAD, or some other sort of label.  But according to THE BOOK, it says, “I will make all things NEW!” “I came to heal the broken hearted.”

Instead of disaster,  I am the delighted mother of 4 young ladies who are caring, loving, compassionate, nurturing, sweet TEENAGE and TWEENAGE girls.  I am so GLAD that we did not listen to the books…. or in some cases FOLLOW the books….
Praise the Lord. He is the Lord of new beginnings, of starting over, and of healing our deepest and most personal burdens.  I have come to understand over the years, God’s mercy in my own life, and His wisdom in allowing me to go through so much personal pain.  It was meant for what I do today. It  was meant to prepare me for the life I have now.  I fully believe this to be true.  There are MANY times that I can relate to my girls, because of my own personal past.
Thank you Lord for answering my “Why” prayers. 🙂

So, as we continue down this journey called Life, I am so honored.  I am so in love with my husband and with what the Lord has called Mike and I to do….I  love all of my dear children.
And the more we unpack, the richer our lives become.  I am one LUCKY mama. 🙂

Understanding The Window Of Tolerance

Understanding The Window of Tolerance

You can call it what you want, to get a good picture in your mind.  Heather Forbe’s calls it “The Window of Tolerance”…..
For the child who lives in a constant state of past trauma, Picture a window barely open, and slamming shut very easily.  For the child who has moved in the direction of healing, the window is open much wider, and as time goes on, remains open and there is a lovely breeze blowing.

I would say, that for us, we are in that second category now.  However, there are times, where we take 3 steps back and I have to remember that the window is not open very far at that time.

A child who is living at a Fear Level, has a very VERY small opening for things going wrong for them.  It could be a bad math day, a bad hair day or difficulty making their bed.  It could be ANYTHING….. If that window is barely open, their stress level will be WAY UP very quickly.
This is why some children will be tantruming nearly as soon as they wake up.
If we add stress upon stress, the window never gets open and there is an endless cycle of trauma for both child and parent.
Those stresses may be as simple as getting dressed or not having time for a favorite thing before the school bus arrives.  It doesn’t matter. To the child, it is HUGE, because they are unable to be flexible at that point.
(Notice, I didn’t say unwilling, I said UNABLE.)

However, as ILLOGICAL as it sounds, if we work to understand our children and listen to their many times UNREASONABLE frustration, fears or hurt, (unreasonable to us) showing them empathy, the window gets opened a little further and a little further… And before you know it, it is WIDE open!

Some have wondered if their children will ever respond , especially if they have extreme behaviors.  The answer is YES, a RESOUNDING YES…. but they HAVE to get to a place where they can handle more stresses.
It is important in the early stages of  transition, to help our children all we can by not needlessly stressing them.  If  they are used to foreign foods like borscht or fish, we should be sure to have it in ample supply.
We need to make sure that our yesses are more than our nos.  Don’t automatically say no to everything. And don’t automatically become some sort of “Supreme Boss” or Queen of Control”.  There is plenty of time to introduce rules. Relationship is of utmost importance.
When Sweetie 4 first came home, we found that computer time calmed her in the morning.  Our NORMAL routine would be to get up, get dressed, brush hair, brush teeth and THEN, IF there was time after breakfast, computer time.  This did not work for her. It was too much and her window of tolerance would SLAM shut.
We could have FORCED it, but it wouldn’t have done anything to build a relationship with her. We were total strangers, and she was too traumatized and stressed at that time to have responded in a positive way..
Mike and I talked it over and decided it was best for her to go ahead and have the computer time, because it calmed her.
I believe this is what Heather calls “the dance”.  You work things out based upon the stresses your child can handle.  AND, when your child is CALM, that is the time you correct or give instruction.
After Sweetie’s computer time, I would sit with her in the rocker and say something like, “Tomorrow, before computer I would like for you to get dressed ok?  Don’t forget. ”  And she would be dressed.. We would give lots of praise like, “Wow, you got dressed! That is great!”  Sounds silly, but it was a BIG DEAL for her.

Then, when that became routine, we’d add something else.  It was a balancing act to understand if she was more stressed one day than another.  And we had to be very sensitive to that, and to her unknown anniversaries.  Loads of rocking and talking helped with all of this.

Over time, we added another requirement as we saw that window open a bit.  And today, she is in full compliance, (MOST OF THE TIME) 🙂 for what is required for computer time.
If she sits down and has not brushed her hair, I can simply say, “you forgot to brush your hair, go and do that first”, and she will typically say “Yes Ma’am.”. Usually with an “I’m sorry mama, I forgot.”

We have also implemented the10- 20- 10 plan with the girls especially when they are new.  That 10 in the a.m. can be a valuable assessment of how far their window is open.  And it give us a chance to adjust what we do according to emotional age and according to stress level.
There have been times where we missed it, and then look back and say, “Ugh, If only…..”  but overall, this works really well.
We are now at a place where we are not having to use the 10 20 10 plan every day.  Most of the time, things are very normal around here and we get enough snuggles throughout the day anyway.
(The 10 20 10 plan, is taking 10 minutes in the a.m. to snuggle somebody awake, maybe rubbing their back and whispering sweetness to them as they wake, and for us praying with them. 20 minutes in the afternoon of just snuggle time, or playing a game together, and then 10 minutes before bedtime. )

Parenting is not easy, but it is so full of joy and reward.  Parenting traumatized children is even harder, but the reward is great.  There is great toil when we properly plant into somebody else, the seeds of life.  Waiting for the harvest can cause us to feel anxious and impatient, but joy comes in the morning, when the fresh breeze of an open window blows over us, and we see the fruit of our labor.

Overcoming Food Issues

Many Internationally Adopted children  have issues with food when they come home. They are afraid of the different food textures, tastes and smells.   In some cases it can be more than just fear or dislike of the new tastes….. it can actually be an induced eating disorder CAUSED by actual starvation within the system from where they came.

A sweet friend who suffered from an eating disorder  described our sweetie’s pain exactly!  I remember Sweetie 3 waking at night crying hysterically that she was hungry, and then not being able to really eat more than one bite.

When she came home, she weighed 32 lbs and was nearly 6 years old. She was in a 3T.  The first time we sat down for a meal she said, “I only eat red soup!”  (borscht)

When we went to see the movie “Martian Child”. both Mike and I looked at each other and grinned when the little boy said, “I eat Lucky Charms.” 🙂img_22752

I realized very quickly, based upon what I had been told by her other family that she was going to have feeding issues.  In fact, feeding issues were a huge deal in her previous family.  They felt that she was being rebellious by not eating.  They thought she was throwing up on purpose.  Not only was she NOT, the lack of understanding towards her reinforced the food problems she was having.

I had to become a   a beet expert really fast!  I learned to make red soup!

I cannot tell you the joy she had on her face when she saw that comfort food sitting before her!  She happily ate her bowl of soup.

Why soup though?  Because It was easy on her stomach and she was very used to liquids and very simple foods. Everything else she would claim “hurt her stomach.”   I believed that it did, but I think the pain was something else.

She was suffering the pain of hunger. She had been starved for so long and gone hungry for so long that she couldn’t tell the difference between  hungry and full.  So, when she ate a pea, she’d say, “I’m full.”  She hated the feeling of being FULL. But she would cry because her tummy hurt, especially at night.

We were giving her lots of whole fats and familiar foods, letting her graze all day long to try and not have a setting that would cause her stress.  We found that she would eat a few bites, declare herself full and then 10 minutes later she would be able to come back and eat a little more.

It was a very slow process getting Sweetie to understand and recognize the difference between full and hungry. Before we could address it, she had to fully trust us with one of  her most vulnerable of feelings.


One day, after a couple of years being home, she declared that she was full after just eating a few bites.  I suggested to her, “Sweetie, maybe you are not full, but your tummy just needs to rest a minute and what you are actually feeling is still hunger.”  “Can you try to take 3 more bites and see if it goes away?”

She was very willing, and took those 3 more bites. This is something we could have never done 2 years before!   And, surprisingly to her, the feeling went away.  We worked with her  on  recognizing the difference between the feeling of full and hungry for a long time.

That was the beginning of the learning process which enabled her  to eat more, try more foods and heal.

In the last 4 years, as we have served her the comfort foods she loves and   have introduced slowly more and more foods. Today, I am very happy to say, we have a very healthy eater. She eats all of her food and has begun to ask for SECONDS!

She still eats something right before bedtime and drinks whole milk regularly.  She still grazes in between meals too, and her food intake is at a healthy balanced rate. She loves all sorts of foods and will even eat cookies! 🙂   She is ON the charts! (not that charts are that important)  But she is ON THEM! 🙂

(Since this post was originally written, Sweetie has continued to grow and is now at a normal size for a young lady!)


Beyond Consequences Logic and Control: Parenting According To Emotional Age

Beyond Consequences Logic and Control: Parenting According To Emotional Age

Over several years, I have been asked on and off what BCLC looks like in our home. I have blogged about it, in several posts, but today I wanted to address emotional age, because I think it is PARAMOUNT in understanding BCLC. (Beyond Consequences Logic and Control) Many times I get questions about children who will not obey, are diagnosed RAD or have been diagnosed ODD, PDD, ADHD, PTSD, etc. All those are labels given under an umbrella of behaviors that lead to diagnosis. But none of them really offer underlying CAUSE or deal with what is BENEATH the behavior. BCLC addresses CAUSES NOT symptoms. If you can get to the ROOT of a behavior, you can “weed it out”. If you just keep cutting the top, it will come back again and again. I prefer to deal with ROOTS and though it is HARD, I bet it is what all parents WANT! They want to help their children HEAL.

I decided to address a few broad issues that have happened in our own home and how we have dealt with them. I don't think we have handled them perfectly, or that we are perfect parents, but we ARE parents who want to do our best before the Lord and represent HIM to our children.  So here goes: Hang on for the ride. :) 
 If your child is 10 years old in body, yet 2 years old emotionally... how do you handle things like not staying at the table for dinner, or not cleaning his room?
You may need to have your child sit right by you at dinner and treat him/her much younger.  This is gonna sound weird, but a few times we actually fed one of our girls like a toddler.  If she didn't NEED it, she would have refused it. But she did.  We had one of our girls sit on our laps and fed her when she was about 7.  This seemed to help her stay calm. She had a lot of food issues when she was first home. The issue of not eating really stopped quickly.  Another way that helped during dinner was  giving her comfort foods from her country and allowing her to help prepare meals.
Each of our girls helps in kitchen once a month for a week. This includes all kitchen duties, and the privilege of helping mom cook. :)  
In light of that, when Miss Sweetie came home, she was 11 years old.  However, she was really about 18 months emotionally.
My expectations of her doing kitchen were greatly diminished. I had to teach her how, and guide her attitude so she didn't get overwhelmed.  Singing, playing games, pretending all helped her cope with the ultimate chore. We didn't REMOVE the chore, we just adjusted our expectations.
Here is an example of how things were 10 months ago!
 With our Sweetie, my gentle assistance made her angry.  I assisted her anyway.  I remember an instance in filling the dishwasher where she was slamming dishes and I let her know that it was not ok to take her frustration out on the pretty dishes.  She did it again and again, and as she loaded them in , I took them out until she FINALLY realized, this was not going to end until the dishes were put in the dishwasher with a kind attitude. It took a couple of trips to the rocking chair and a talk or two, some deep breaths, getting our tools out (MINE INCLUDED) and about an HOUR.... and FINALLY, she did it correctly. I felt like I was reliving a Helen Keller scene with BCLC overtones! LOL
BCLC does NOT mean allowing a child to lead everything. 
TODAY.... just 11 months later, Miss  Sweetie 4 handles the kitchen by herself! She does a GOOD JOB, including the floors!  I can trust she knows how to do each thing and she is really proud of herself.
This is another part of BCLC that some may not understand. When you parent a child towards their EMOTIONAL AGE, THIS DOES NOT MEAN THEY WILL REMAIN THERE. The idea is that once you recognize and fill in the holes of emotional neglect, the child is then able to move on.  
To me, it is like helping a child fill in the holes of a bad math education. If they are in Pre-Algebra, but do not yet understand fractions, decimals and times tables.
BEFORE they can master Pre Algebra, they have to go back and master the basics. 
If you keep them struggling through the Pre Alegbra, they will ALWAYS struggle. If you go BACK and master the easy stuff, they will QUICKLY move ahead and MASTER Pre-Algebra! Does that make sense?
 How have we handled hitting, disrespect or hurting our animals?
 We have handled this the same way we would with a baby or toddler. 
"You may not hit" or "We don't hurt the chicken!"...." We do not talk to each other that way!"  We NEVER EVER leave a child alone with an animal or another child unless we know they can be trusted. In the case of Miss Sweetie, we moved all 4 girls into the same room, so our older girls could keep an eye out for her behaviors. We also left our bedroom doors open which were right across from each other for the first 6 months.  That way we were doubly aware and nobody was singled out.
When Sweetie 2 was first home, she had so much underlying anger she would shake. I saw her with the chickens and she would hover over them and shake. If I had left her alone with a chicken, I have no doubt she would have tried to hurt it.  I had to manually teach her how to show the chickens proper affection.  Within a year, she was able to dress the ROOSTER and have him lay on his back in her doll carriage to everybody's disbelief! :)  She became Sweetie the Chicken Whisperer and is still known by that name by our neighbors. :)
I would reassure a child while correcting behaviors, "I love you too much to let you hit."
If this invokes a tantrum, that is ok. Our children need to learn to accept correction and understand they are NOT the only ones who need it.  After waiting for them to get calm, we can  then deal with the issue at hand.  If it takes an hour or four hours, it doesn't matter.  This is something EACH FAMILY has to go through, and because of that, I would get every family member on the same TEAM!
 During a time of calm instruction, always make sure your child knows they are NOT the only ones who have ever been snotty, hit a dog or hit a sibling.  This keeps them from feeling so overwhelmed with being "different", or from being overwhelmed with "shame".  
Preparing them for transitions:
Many of our little ones don't handle transitions well. When our kids are two or three , it is important to prepare them for leaving the park, or going to bed, so they aren't surprised with change. Some of our older children are about that age emotionally, so we have to do much the same thing for a while. :)
If they are 2 or 3 in emotion, they may need very, very simple commands for a chore.  Overwhelm is typically the reason a person will not do something!  Ask my husband; I'm supposed to be doing the data entry so we can complete taxes. LOL
Instead I would prepare them for what they are  supposed to do and make SURE they understand.  "In 15 minutes we are going to make your bed."  "In 5 minutes it will be time to put away your toys."  When the timer goes off, (timers are great because they do not involve you directly)  we are going to come to the table for dinner." 
MOST of the time, this solves transition problems. Many times, they are having trouble transitioning, not necessarily refusing a request.
  Refusing A Request
If a child flat our refuses to do a chore or follow an instruction,  I would never wait to intervene as in, wait for a mood to change. I may wait for a moment and take a deep breath. But waiting on a child's mood to change puts the child in the driver's seat, and that can make them feel very insecure and also reinforce their possible view that they do not need us or that we do not care.
 If cleaning their room, they many need simple instructions one at a time. "I need you to take this bag and fill it with the trash from your bedroom".  "Now, I need you to pick up your clothes and put them in the laundry."  "Can you please put your shoes in the closet?" "Can you help mommy make your bed?"  Simple, short and sweet, gets a job done.  (I need to remember this for my overwhelming office job) :)

 Making things right!
I would instantly intervene in any hitting or snottiness towards another person.  "WE DO NOT HIT!" "It is not ok to speak disrespectfully to another person". This was one of our girl's biggest struggle.  She was a little shocked when it was directly addressed the very first time it happened, and each time after that.  At first it was a tantrum invoking, tree climbing  thing, but she soon realized that life didn't move on until this was dealt with, in gentle kindness.  It is an extreme rarity now. I would say non existent, but the minute I hit the post button, that would be over. LOL

HOWEVER, we didn't deal with just the behavior, but inquired about the underlying cause.  (Usually fear of rejection and insecurity)  "What's going on sweetie? You seem really upset? You are speaking harshly!"  Sitting in the rocking chair, or near the tree, or by the bed, or wherever she would wind up was interesting. On the bed, blankets would be pulled over her head. So we talk through the blanket. After a few minutes, a gentle rub on the back, and then, permission to enter her world.... "May I see you?"  And then, a hand.... and a grip from her that signals, I want you to snuggle.  Then, a tender talk...about the underlying issue...and how to rectify the hurt feelings of another.   And if her feelings were hurt, rectifying that too.  THAT is what I mean by dealing with it.  Not harsh correction or punishment.  But ROOTING out the problem.
There is no punishment you can give for a child feeling hurt or insecure. You deal with the insecurity and the problem disappears.
I think sometimes BCLC can be confusing. Some think that a child's words to you can be snotty and harsh. I know in BCI live, some of those instances happen in the skits.  I do not believe Heather is saying that it is ok for kids to yell at parents because they don't have the right cereal.  
Her message is, the cereal isn't the issue. Obviously! Getting to the root of the issue; a child being scared about a test, or a child who was formerly starved, or past pain, gets the child calm, and THEN you can deal with the actual behaviors.  If all you addressed were the disrespect, that is the mowing over the weed and forgetting the root.  To root out, you need to dig deeper, address the pain first and THEN come up with new ways to express frustration or fear.
 What about Apologies?
This is the tricky part.
I have always insisted on an apology. Usually they come naturally, as we are all apologizers. :) We have had one of our girls say, "Well I'm not sorry!"  I have told her, it doesn't matter. It is the right thing to do. So we worded it, as, "It was wrong to hit you, or be snotty to you,  will you forgive me!"  
That takes the "lie" out of it. LOL  AND we ALWAYS deal with the Spiritual along with correction.  We pray. We talk faith, and what God's laws are and how we NEED a SAVIOR, mama and daddy too. None of us do what is right,all the time,  we ALL sin. We need to pray that God will HELP us to be sorry if we are not.
This usually causes our hypervigilant children to relax as they know they are not the only ones, even if they are the only ones at that moment. :)
 Parenting hurt children is a wild ride!  We parents..... get to go along for the ride; but it is much better if we take the driver's seat and slow the car down, making sure everybody stays safe. :)
Of course all circumstances are not the same.  If a child is significantly older, and you can easily be overpowered, it may be that some tweaking is needed.   A 12 year old may do best calming themselves with you near them, IN their room.   They may need 20 minutes and then you can sit next to each other and attempt to snuggle.  A calming understanding voice makes all the difference in the world.  I have seen my girls hearts melt when my voice gives them the understanding and reassurance they so need.  Just saying, “It’s gonna be ok!” has an amazing effect.
I am a rather tall person, so holding a 12 year old isn’t that hard.
But if you are 5’1″, it may be a lot harder.   If a child NEEDS to be rocked, or snuggled, do what you can to find that comfortable position, so it can happen.
A word about EYE CONTACT:
We do not force it.  Of course, many want to say if a child doesn’t make eye contact they are not attached or are unattached. I don’t think this is true. I think sometimes they are too ashamed.  To force it, is too harsh.  We do encourage eye contact, but not in the height of the moment.  When we are talking many times it is at the END of our conversation that eye contact is established.  And for one of our little girls, (Our Sweetie 2),  she just gets too nervous during a serious talk. Eye contact makes her have nervous laughter.  She HATES it when that happens, so we wait for her to be relaxed.  It works very well.
About Miss Sweetie:
I have truly been amazed how quickly she has grown. Our one year anniversary is coming up fast and she is really looking forward to it. I have much to share that will be reserved for our one year celebration post.  She is a brave, amazing little girl! 🙂 And HEALING TRULY HAPPENS! We are living it! 🙂
Don’t EVER, EVER, EVER, EVER, give up! Never, EVER, EVER! EVER. 🙂

Adopting Older Children

There is much going on in the news about adoption, about older adopted children, about the possibilities of RAD, (Reactive Attachment Disorder) PTSD ,(Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and FAS. (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome) And if  those children can have successful adoptions.

I would like to explain what I  believe happens to children when they have abuse and neglect or alcohol exposure, and WHY I feel, “traditional” parenting, in these cases many times does not work, or why I believe it could cause delay in attachment and healing, and unnecessary hardship on all.

Because of trauma…. our children can be all over the age spectrum. They may be 11 in their body, but 3 emotionally.  When parenting them, you really have to understand if they are 3, that is where you parent them.  It is one of the hardest concepts to grasp, because you don’t WANT them to be 3. You want to reason with them like an 11 year old…
What we have found, is if you reach them where they are… those gaps will fill in and your child will no longer be fragmented.

In my own children’s cases, they all have vastly different backgrounds and experiences, the one thing that we have found that DOES work, is a consistent, unconditionally loving, stable, environment, where they were allowed to go through the grief process and heal.

Yes, our children grieved.  When they realized that their normal, all those years wasn’t really normal, they finally allowed themselves to grieve.  If we can see the different stages our kids go through clearly, we will recognize grief.

There is NO way to determine how a child will react to a new family. If that could be predicted, there would be a whole lot of “do it this way” books out there.
Instead, our children come home with a very heavy suitcase of emotional baggage…. (think piles of Christmas Lights all wadded up and needing untangling)  and no instruction manual.
I remember Alli saying, “Every family says I am in a forever family.”….. So we dropped that phrase from our vocabulary.

Our children come,  having lived, apart from us in a totally separate life. They have celebrated holidays, or not, in other countries and with different traditions. They have good memories and bad memories.  And we, before we got them, were used to how WE did things….
They cried themselves to sleep more times than not, and quivered with fear at the thought of being harmed in the middle of the night.
Sometimes they were tied down in their beds, and nobody came when they cried. So they stopped crying.
They learned very quickly that nobody will look out for them, and if they want food, they better get all they can, because it is scarce and nobody cares that you are hungry.
They learned that other kids are wanting the same things you do, and if you don’t get it first, you may never get it, because there isn’t any rule about fair.
They learned that it doesn’t matter what you wear, because it isn’t yours anyway.
They learned that there is something called a Mama and a Papa, and everybody wants one, but they don’t really know what they are, really.
They learned that caretakers can be indifferent, sometimes downright mean, and sometimes nice. You never know what your are going to get.
They learned that some children leave with Mama’s and Papa’s and they cry because they miss them.
The caretakers tell them that they are the lucky ones, because the one that left will be killed and sold for body parts, so don’t cry.
This is just a FRACTION of what they know when they come home.

Their world is very different from what most people experience  growing up. They don’t know baseball, football, restaurants, church services, zoos, parks, beaches, and birthday celebrations.
They don’t understand all the food. They don’t get that the bed will be there for them tomorrow too, and they don’t have to fight for a blanket anymore.
They don’t get that mom and dad will love them…. forever.  In fact, many times, they don’t understand what a mom and dad are for.
They get a little freaked out by all the attention and pull away. It is so foreign.  It takes a long time to unravel the world of the orphan.
SLOWLY…. layer by layer, emerges a new understanding, and a new dawning, that is both comforting to them, and painful at the same time.
It is comforting for a fleeting moment when they dare to trust, just a smidge… and painful when they realize just a taste of what they missed their whole life.

They hoard food. ( some call it stealing)  I don’t believe a child can STEAL food…. food is for the needs of the family members and if they need food…. they NEED it, so FEED them.
(Alli has gained 10 lbs and 2 1/2 inches in 7 months and eats non stop. 🙂 She is still very thin)

Sometimes they become collectors of the most interesting things….. when you find it… don’t accuse, take notice, “Oh, I was looking for those nail clippers,  or, the flashlight is best kept in the kitchen drawer so we can remember where it is.  Would you like your own flash light? Simply ask them to put the item away or remind them where it belongs… whatever it is. 🙂  This may be a process that takes awhile to recover from.
They may lash out at a sibling out of a lack of understanding that love is not scarce or limited but flows freely for all. LOVE THEM. And love the child lashed out upon. Encourage them to be part of the team.  We didn’t adopt the girls until the boys were older. With the girls, they are very close in age.  We didn’t adopt in birth order, but close enough. Alli is the youngest by 7 months.

When you need to instruct them, sometimes it won’t be received…. those are rocking chair times. 🙂
(What do you mean I need a bath? I only took one once a week in Russia!)
Sometimes you just have to repeat, repeat, repeat,repeat…. “Yes, we take a bath every night. Remember? We talked about this?”  If they have possible FAE, they won’t remember. We have to be patient until it becomes habit. 🙂 Try reading a story to them while they are in the bath… or sing to them… Make up all sorts of silly songs for all sorts of things including cleaning rooms, making beds, etc.

As they begin to come to an understanding, they start to test the waters abit….. “So you love me? PROVE IT!  Nobody else has ever loved me…”
And the testing begins.
Some see this as the “End of the Honeymoon Period”.

I choose to see it as the beginning of REAL healing.  When a child feels they are finally safe…. that is sometimes when they can really grieve.

This is also the period of time where  a parent can lose control IF they do not  understand what is going on. The child tries to bring the parent into THEIR norm of control and chaos, because THAT is where they are comfortable.  The PARENT MUST RESIST this, and carefully, like a surgeon of the heart, bring the child into the world of peace and a new reality of belonging, of being cherished, of being LOVED.
It is a very humbling experience to be the parent of a child who is so needy, but doesn’t believe they have a need. It is heartbreaking to  truly love a child who has never had the experience of being loved.
It is very challenging to try to guide a child  who thinks they don’t need guidance. 🙂

I think sometimes we try to rush things, or  we think they SHOULD KNOW THIS BY NOW, (whatever it is) and we get impatient just doing life… And when we do, it backfires.  The unconditional love, suddenly has a condition and the child picks up on that like a strong radar signal going off.   And the wall goes up, and that is when the negative cycle can begin…. and some, unfortunately never get out of it.
It turns into a button pushing fest for both parent and child…. and it will require that WE AS PARENTS stop it!   And I mean stop the cycle in a loving wave of acceptance and comfort. When they think they don’t need it, we are there anyway. When they reject us, we are there anyway. When they hurl insults out of deep pain, we  are there anyway…. and we wrap our loving arms around them and keep them safe. And if we have children already in our home, we include them in the process teaching them also, to put themselves aside , and love unconditionally.   You become a team, a wave if you will, of love.

And then….. out of the ashes… a little bud of hope appears.  It starts to grow, and as you tend to that little bud, sometimes it will try to retreat and hide…. the sun is just too bright…. and the new world is just too scary.  One of the reasons it is so scary is because of a fear they just might lose it. They might lose  what they are beginning to love.
And so, when that happens, sometimes they try to make the inevitable (in their minds) happen. They try to make the process of rejection get sped up, because the anticipation hurts too much.
Unfortunately, THIS is the time, when many people throw in the towel.  They have given all they feel they can give.  They do not understand why the things that work on most kids isn’t working on theirs.
They think, if I get a little harder, or punish a little more, that will make them understand…. when in reality, what they are dealing with is fear and  grief.  You cannot punish fear and  grief out of a person. You have to comfort and reassure and slowly guide them out to safety, in the process teaching them right from wrong, respect vs. disrespect, responsibility and how to love.  Loving instruction with unconditional acceptance…. goes a long way.
When you gain your child’s trust….  (trust cannot be forced) and they know they are in their home to stay…. that is when real learning takes place.

Is it a TALL order??  Ummm… Yes it is.  But it is so worth it. EVERY minute of it. Because in the process, not only your child grows, but you grow to in ways you never imagined. 🙂  The Lord leads and guides us along the way, and we find that our prayer life is MUCH improved! 🙂  We come to a deeper understanding of what GOD has done for us, through HIS sacrifice for us.
And we get to see our children turn into healthy, happy, productive kids that are no longer looking back, but looking forward to a newness of life that they never understood they could have.  And when we mess up…. an “I’m sorry can go a really long way!” 🙂

Tonight, Miss Sweetie spent a good amount of time in the shoppe with her dad. She was having so much fun out there she wanted to stay longer. 🙂   She also has kitchen duty this week.  Since she was having such a good time, I decided I’d go ahead and do the dishes.  I had just started when she came in. I was very pleased that she said, “Mom, that’s my job, I’ll take care of it!”….. So I was the helper and we did them  together. 🙂  7 months ago, this would not have happened.

Healing Begins At Home: Being a Therapeutic Home

I remember when I was little, I would feel rage inside, but I wasn’t allowed to express it in any way. It was perceived as rebellion. Much of it was hurt. Was there rebellion? Yes,  and much frustration.
I remember going into my closet one time and saying 3 curse words, 3 x’s each. I laugh about it now, a little, but I still remember that hurt child. I remember the incident, well and I remember not being allowed to “feel”.

So, in that closet, after I was finished with my secret tantrum…. I was consumed by horrible guilt and shame. How could I , a Christian girl at that, dare to do something so awful. And, I repented to my Lord. I was 8.
When I finished praying, I actually felt better, and left my closet to go back into my real world.
But that feeling of being pushed to the brink has stayed with me for my whole life.

Honestly, If the person who hurt me had just said they were sorry, or apologized, or if somebody ELSE had recognized that I needed a voice, I don’t think I would have needed to rage. That is important to remember. I think a listening ear, can be enough. Just to feel understood, can be enough.

God can use the terrible things in our lives to bring about Good! In me, he brought about repentance and dependence upon HIM, and in the long term, he later brought that recollection and understanding of what happened and how I could better understand children in my care.

As we took the parenting classes preparing for the worst with our first sweetie, I could identify so much with the hurt child. I cannot go into details, but I remember moving so much as a child that I stopped making real friends for a while. I figured, “Why bother, we will just move again and I’ll have to start over all over again.”

There were many other things I identified with. I also remember during a couple of years in my life having a dog. I remembered spending time with her and caring for her.
She was where I would go when I was upset, and she could help settle my heart when I was down.

So when the girlies came, one of the first things we did was get animals. Animals have a way of reaching the heart of a child. Even the hardest of hearts can be taught to be loving and compassionate.
When our sweetie came, she was so full of rage that she would put her hands in the air and stiffen her body and shake. Sometimes she did this several times a day for no reason at all. She nearly looked like she was having a seizure, but she wasn’t.
I remember giving her, her very first pet chicken. I watched her like a hawk (no pun intended) to make sure she didn’t hurt the chicken. I would sit and listen to her play, and realized she had no idea what to do with that chicken, just like she had no idea what to do with her first baby doll.
With her doll, she held it by the foot and asked me to baby sit it, because she had to go to “wook”…
I told her no, I couldn’t because mommy’s need to stay with their new babies and love them. She got so mad at me and said, “BUT I HAVE TO GO TO WOOK!” LOL
I said, “your baby is your work!” “She said, “Are you gonna watch my baby or not?”
I said, NO, I am not; to which she picked up a fake phone and called a fake friend to watch her baby! ” LOL

I didn’t intervene at that moment. I just cracked up and figured, we have much work to do!

So, I said,sweeite, how do you hold a baby? She didn’t know. So we wrapped that baby up and placed it in her arms. And she learned her first lesson in nurturing.
I also told her lots of stories in the rocking chair about bringing her brothers home and how we cared for them. We would just talk and converse and she learned during our rocking chair experiences.

With her chicken, she would stand over it and shake at first, but with learning how to care for her baby and speak kindly to it… (this was work too) she learned to talk to her chicken in the same way. She fed it, gave it water and made sure it was cared for.

We added sheep. Oh my goodness, you would not believe how she became Mrs. Boe peep!

One day she couldn’t get them to do what she wanted them to and she cam in all red faced just sobbing, “LET’s KILL THEM! KILL THEM ALL! Let’s just EAT THEM!!!!” LOL
I calmed her down and learned that they were not cooperating with her animal school.
So we washed her face and got herself cooled off, and we sat together in the rocker.

I asked her how she would feel if we got mad at her when she didn’t cooperate? She thought about it. I asked her also, “do you think maybe they don’t understand?” “It is your job to help them understand and teach them.” So we went over ways to help animals trust us. Repeat repeat repeat! And she also learned about animal behavior, what is normal etc.

After that incident, she became known as Sweetie the Animal Whisperer.

She can make those animals do ANYTHING and she is kind and gentle to them. She is always studying some sort of book on animal behavior. LOL

When this sweetie came,
we purchased a Play School Family Doll House for her and her sister for Christmas.

We bought lots of family members so they had enough to play with, and I would watch them interact. You can learn a whole lot about what is in your child’s heart, by watching them pretend “family”. There were some pretty interesting interactions that took place with that doll house. This was our “therapy” house. They just didn’t know it. 🙂

I would observe, and most of the time didn’t need to intervene too quickly. But when somebody would pretend to yell at a child, or get violent, I would intervene….
I’d say, “Oh dear, that is sad.” Do you remember that? The answer might be yes, or “No I was just playing.”
Either way, we would talk about how that kind of thing in real life isn’t ok because it hurts us. I would let them know, of course it is ok to feel hurt if that happened to you, and then I would guide them about what to do with that hurt.

“God does not want us to keep our hurts. He wants us to give our hurts to Him. Do you know that he holds our tears in a bottle? They are so precious to Him, He doesn’t forget even one!” And we would have a simple lesson in giving our hurts to God and forgiving those who hurt us.

These times took place in our home 24/7. There came a time when I didn’t have to worry about how the girlies would play with that doll house because they received what I shared with them readily, and learned new ways to be “mommies”.

I also read them lovely books on wonderful mommies. The Mennonites have wonderful family books that are read a louds. You can find many of their readers online.
The girl’s favorite was Annette and Samuel on the Farm and Kitten in the Well.
Another fabulous book was “Conduct for the Crayon Crowd” by Edna Gerstner.
They are little stories about family life and how it is related to God.

One of the things we have done a lot of is singing songs like “Stop and let me tell you!” and when you say “Stop”, we say something positive. It is a fun game that makes us think on the positive and not concentrate on the negative.

I also came up with our imaginary tool box. We put inside the things we need at the moment. This was a huge help to them. I told our sweetie, 6 years ago, “Daddy has tools to use to work on cars and he keeps them safe in his toolbox. You don’t seem to have any tools to help you”. So we went through the motions of opening our tool box and putting in, “Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Gentleness,Self Control, Faithfulness and many other things…. telling the truth tools, keeping our hands to ourselves tools. Etc.
If she were going to start a rage, I would say, “What tool can you use?” Many times this would stop her in her tracks and she would think about a tool to use, and use it.

The girls also keep journals. We started journaling about 2 years ago. They can write anything they want and it will not be erased or corrected. Many times they have written about their past experiences, and they bring it to me to read. I always ask, “Are you ok?” And I get a smile and a yes mom, I am fine! We have wept together, and laughed together. And of course, we always pray together.

I do not try to give them all the answers, like I understand everything, because I don’t.
Some of my deeper conversations with another sweetie have included us weeping together and me saying, I don’t understand why you had to go through so much. But I DO KNOW, from the bottom of my heart that God intends it for good. And I do believe that, I know that she does too.

We repeated much of the same things with each of our sweeties. When our third sweetie came home, at first  I thought I was going to be glued to the rocking chair for life. LOL It didn’t take too long to get everybody settled.

We have also added painting and art to our lives, and dancing. It is a great outlet.

Third sweetie’s adjustment has been amazing.
But honestly, she is one of the most steady, resilient, content people I have ever met. She is at peace. And it is apart of her natural makeup.

When I mentioned in my last post about our son being incredibly sensitive,
that is the same description I would give this sweetie.

She and our son , shared a lot of the same types of behaviors. So while trauma is a trigger for those, I think how a child heals, is greatly dependent upon what their natural makeup is like.

As someone once spoke about traumatized horses, I’m sure there are some horses that recover easier than others, yet have been through very similar circumstances.

I think the biggest thing I have learned is, “If it isn’t going to matter in 100 years, don’t sweat it now.” Sort of a take on “he won’t be going to college in diapers.” 🙂

We want to focus on healing yes, but we want to focus on future. I knew when my daughters were whole, when they stopped looking at the past and started planning for the future.
Before, there were no plans for a next birthday or a next holiday. That had never happened to them. But now, oh my, they plan way ahead, and we are in that plan!

I think emotional healing is like that onion I have talked about before. There are layers of understanding to it. You heal what you understand, but then, as you gain more knowledge, you may revisit and need to heal some more.

I like to see our home as a beacon of light to show the way out of a very dark place.
I try to make sure my arms are always open for hugs, endless hugs, even though sometimes I am tired. I want to be available in the middle of the night, or anytime, to just be there if they need me. Because that is what mothers do. I want them to remember my smile, to remember me warmly caressing their hair, and to remember that I always always love them, even though I am not perfect.
I also try to model what I want them to do. If I am wrong, I drop what I do and I apologize, sincerely and ask their forgiveness. In doing that, it opens the door for them to do the same.

  1. Healing starts at home.

The wounds this life causes are not to be forgotten totally, lest we repeat history.
They however can be used as a crutch for life, or, can be used as a spring board that can launch us into a wonderful life.


I have been wanting to do this for a very long time.  Welcome to “Parenting That Heals”.  I plan to transfer important posts from my old blog to this site, and continue to offer support and help for parents who have home grown children already, are going to adopt, have already adopted, are struggling in your family, or are sailing along!  There is something here for everybody. 🙂

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