Saturday, November 29, 2014

We Are So Thankful

When I first started to follow a few adoption blogs I was always so sad when after the child came home the posts because so few and far between... now I understand why.  Although you think during the adoption process life could not get more busy with all the paperwork, appointments for things, fundraising, etc. it only increases once this dear child you have been working so hard to bring home is finally home... who has time to post?! :)  (Actually, I know many dear people who still post a lot, I am just back to my former day, pre- adoption when I didn't check email each day (or sometimes even every other...) or think to use the computer for more than news websites... and most likely that will not really change, but here is a post for all her fans. (Written in pieces over a few weeks and sadly not posted in time for Thanksgiving... but none-the-less here it is...)

Our little one continues to adjust to life with her family and we know her adjustment will continue to take lots and lots of time and we will continue to meet her at each point with lots of love and patience.

I had an image of her around her birthday (mid October she turned 6!).  I could see this huge granite mountain and started to chip away at parts of it because I knew there was so much beauty underneath waiting to come out.  Each time I finally got a small piece to come off, this little arm could come out and place an even bigger piece on top of where I had chipped, smack it down hard (one can do that with imaginary granite) and then shoo me away with the motion of the hand and disappear.

As is the case for most children that experience years of neglect and pain, our little one is a very hurt child and sees the world through very different eyes that we do and actually has a brain that has been wired to do so... so, the adjustment to life outside the hurt, the path to get there, the means that it takes to get there, is all something we work at each day.  It can be very tiring, trying and disheartening, but she is precious and worth every effort.  And in it all we have learned to be even more thankful for so much...

We are SO THANKFUL we have met so many wonderful professionals over the past few months (and some before) that have insight into older child international adoption adjustments and guide us in the ways that will one day bring healing to this little girl.

We are SO THANKFUL that instead of taking 9 steps forward only to take 10 steps back, we are now taking 10 steps forward and 9 steps back... it all takes so much time, but in little ways we can see progress... and then in many other ways new hard things arise... it is a long process but we are grateful for the small steps towards healing - even if they are a 'tiptoe' forward in a month of effort.

We are SO THANKFUL that we have learned ways that really do help her feel safe and loved (ways many from the outside can not even see or understand) - this is such a comfort for a parent's heart because so there is so little we can actually 'do' to help her in the things she needs to overcome. 

We are SO THANKFUL we have learned to have boundaries for her and our family which aid in her healing, even though we have lost others in the process who don't understand these boundaries.  It is so great to feel so confident in caring for one's family well and knowing these boundaries are helping this sweet girl overcome such pain.

We are SO THANKFUL for having some amazing family and friends (friends who are family to us!) who constantly support us, even when they don't understand all the details of her hurt and road to healing, and who encourage us so well.  

We are SO THANKFUL for the grace so many have extended (again beyond themselves because they don't really understand it all) to us to pursue us through cards, phone message, emails and even packages (really?!) that say things like, 'We love you and are thinking of and praying for you and miss you! No need to get back to us, just wanted to let you know that.'  You are amazing people!

We are SO THANKFUL for insight other adoptive families of older children have shared with us - their pain, their hurt, their triumphs, their prayers... it is so great to know on a hard (er) day that we are not alone on this journey of helping a hurt child to heal and that we can all support one another.  Thank you for taking time from your very busy lives to be a support.

We are SO THANKFUL that our little one's younger sister is ever gracious and loving in pursuing her older sister constantly even when she is rarely responded to with kindness and that she continues to grow in love and seems to always be thinking of others over herself despite how she is treated by her sibling.  She is a great example to us.

We are SO THANKFUL for all we are learning in this process, especially that loving someone who is hurt looks completely different at times from what we have always assumed 'love' to look like.  We know she is not the only one who is hurting in this world and feel we are learning skills to love other hurting people as well in a way that they can understand, which can be so different from how we - who have known so much love - do.

We are SO THANKFUL for our little family... having been dear friends for years before we got married we have always been close in our marriage and it has been a really easy and fun relationship for us, but through this time we have grown even closer and our relationship is even sweeter and flows with such an even greater ease than it even did before.  We love our little girls so deeply and they make our lives and love even fuller.  It is such a gift.

We are SO THANKFUL that the newest little one, who should be making her appearance into the world very soon now, has grown well even during this intense and strenuous time and that this pregnancy has been so much easier on her mama than the last one was.

We are SO THANKFUL for our little 6 year old.  We love her immensely and stand hoping that someday she will be able to heal completely... and until then we just keep trying, each day, sometimes by the minute, to create spaces where she feels safe, feels love in the way she is able, and feels the ability to start to make choices on her own.  Little by little, we believe she will overcome.

And we are ever SO THANKFUL for the gracious reminder that this entire process has been to us that God first loved us and pursued us even when we far from him... what a loving and gracious Heavenly Father we have!

"Your love will surely come find us
Like blazing wild fires singing Your name"
Need to Breathe, Multiplied

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Vision

A very happy little girl walked out of the eye glass store with a new ability...
We have vision!!!

She could actually see the bird that flew up near the tree as we walked out of the store.
She smiled and kept saying, 'wow' over and over as she looked at things.

We then took the girls to a playground and noticed how much more she was looking around at things and how much less she was looking down to see where her feet were stepping.

It was glorious!  It is glorious!
 
And now we hear, 'purple' (the color of her glasses) and 'don't touch' (the constant reminder from her parents and herself to others, like her sister.)

Something else happened too.
You might hear those words and think, 'what is she saying?'
And we, her parents, would be able to tell you, 'Oh, she is saying purple and don't touch.'
We are communicating.  So much more than a month ago and even so much more than a week ago.
She has exploded with phrases and words and understanding of our own.
Again, you may not understand her when she talks, but we do, and it is so wonderful!

And how goes the 'cacooning'?
It is still happening and will for quite some time.
And the more moments we have with her and the more others are able to smile, say hello and move on, the more the attachment is happening and the less of all the others things... which is also so so wonderful.

But, we still have moments, and we still have days that are hard... in fact the other day we, the parents, were in the kitchen a moment and both girls were crying over something completely unrelated to one another and we smiled and said, 'so... if we just ran out the kitchen door they would be fine for awhile right?!'... 
 
Do not worry, we didn't run.
 (We actually had to force ourselves to stay out past 2 hours last week when we took our first date night since Meira came home - Meira at home with our very loving/trained and on board with all our boundaries babysitter and Aila at a friend's home getting her nails painted and blue eye shadow on... we barely made it to the hour and 45 minutes when we forced ourselves to stay out 15 minutes more! We are hooked on these two!)

We are all doing well, adjusting well, growing and enjoying the summer season together.
We look back to a year ago and remember all we were doing to bring Meira home then... and we are so thrilled she is with us this summer and so thrilled we can be helping her to heal and grow.

She is a sweet gift to us all, this little girl!




And for those still interested in further reading about attachment post-adoption for older children especially (but not exclusively) here are a few other great posts from others:

My personal favorite! She is funny, honest and this is a good read.
 
Another good one, but we are near the end of this blog post, but may be helpful for other families you know who are adopting!

This last one is not my favorite, and there are several things stated that I don't feel we have come into contact with just yet, but that being said, there is a lot the does pertain too.
 
This is the part I like best of this article:
"We may discourage physical contact with our child for the first several months that they are home or until we feel like they are securely attached to us.
Please do not insist on holding them, hugging them or having them sit on your lap. Many children who have lived in orphanages and institutions learn to fight for adult attention. Often they can put on quite the show and act like the most friendly, charming child to draw attention to themselves. While it may be cute and though it gives the false impression that they are well-adjusted and confident, it is very important that initially the parents are the only adults who help fulfill these children's need for physical affection. This also teaches healthy boundaries and is a safety consideration since no child, adopted or biological, should feel obligated to have close physical contact with someone that they do not know well."
 
Thanks for loving us, especially during this time as we bond and grow into our family more.
Thank you so very much for wanting to know how you can love us and Meira well - I hope these recommended ( to me) articles shared help understand some day to day things we experience and why the boundaries we have are helping her grow.
 
 
 
 


Friday, June 27, 2014

A Purple Star

As a parent one tries (and tries and tries) to always do what is best for their child.

Sometimes, on the first try it works.

Sometimes, no matter what you try (and try and try) it does not seem to work... and because you love your child, because you are determined to do what is best for them you try again.  And again. And again.

And then the beauty of what your child was born to do happens.  They grow.  And what may have worked for them a few weeks before (or if they are in those very early stages of growth a few days before!) no longer works and you move with them, you grow with them to the next thing. 

And because they grow, we as parents/caregivers/guardians grow as well.

We are actually all 'growing up'.

This past week we celebrated Meira's one month of arriving home - her Homecoming Day!  From her papa's dinner time singing of Neil Diamond's "America" (I will spare you the details of that but as always we were all roaring in laughter) to pondering about the last month together to a moment where both of her parents just beamed looking at her as we stated with teary eyes, 'She just has always belonged here.  This is so right.'


This past month we have grown as parents in ways we could not have prepared for no matter how many books we read, adopted parents we talked with, seminars we took, classes we sat through or other children we had with us before she came into our lives.

Meira is unique.  Just like all children she will cause us to grow and change with her uniquely.

And then again, because of her background there are a few ways where she is very similar to other children who have also experienced her same level (or lack there of) of care in her formative years of life.

For us, responding to these aspects of her that permeate her entire being and movement daily, we felt at such a loss for many, many (many, many) moments of this past month.  Our intuition as parents was not there for certain behaviors she would show, our normal responses as parents did not work (at all) for many situations and at times we doubted our ability to help her grow.  We tried, we tried again.  We found something that worked one moment and 5 minutes later it did not. We felt like we relied almost completely on our intuition for care of our first up to this point (she is 3), how is it nothing seemed to work for our newest one?

And because we LOVE her, because 'this is so right' that she is a part of our family, we kept trying.  We will keep trying.  Always.

A month is not a long time, yet the days (hm... the minutes?) seem long when you are working so intensely with a child you are trying to understand, trying to help work through hurt/fear/anger/sorrow, a child who despite their physical age is more like a 2 year old (perhaps a little younger in things, perhaps a little older?  A little.) and you have to keep reminding yourself of that because after all she is wearing a 4T so she should be behaving at least that old, right?...

But still, it has only been a month.  A month that we have been given the gift of all being together as a family.
Despite all the challenges we have faced, the beauty of watching healing and true redemption happen within this sweet little girl FAR outweighs the tears and moments of hopelessness we have felt.  FAR outweighs them.  In truth, her adjustment time so far is not as bad as we expected.  We were prepared for much worse.  But emotionally we could not prepare for the impact it would have on us, or her.

Our brokenness is a humble reminder that although there is so much beauty in adoption - and there is - SO MUCH - it all starts from a place of abandonment.  There is no way around that.

But as we know from our own lives - the greatest beauty rises from the ashes, from the brokenness... Yet, how often I forget that in order for their to be ashes, something first was burned.

What we found, when we admitted that we did not have all it took to parent her through our intuition, was that following a model of what is done for many post-institutionalized who are adopted as older children to attach and adjust to life is what we needed to work better at doing.

We needed to be her family, without any outside interruptions.  We needed to be firmer in the boundaries we set for her and for others when they interacted with her.  Again, not what we could at first 'feel' seemed the best to do... because why would you take a kid who was so starved of love for years and then not allow other people to love her to pieces too?  Isn't that just basic sense?  Isn't that what would be best for helping to solve all that is broken in her?

Well, No, and Yes.  Yes, love WILL help to heal her.  Love, from her source of constancy, which is now her family.  And ultimately love from God.

And No - any of it at this point that is outside her family, can confuse her and actually inhibit the attachment and growth process she will have as she learns to trust us a parents (at totally new concept for her - parents and learning to truly trust others.).

But rather than trying to express what is already so very hard to express (believe me, I try, but my words fall so very short), I thought it best to share with you the truly best short series I have found that discusses why we have these silly rules for her right now (ex. just waving hello, minimal contact with her beyond that is best when you interact with her, letting us as parents guide how she can interact with you, etc.).  There are books/research and the like out there and you can explore them if you have the time and really want to learn even more, but basically this series sums it up (with humor no less!) and is something that I read and reread when I need assurance that not only is there hope, but that we as her parents are doing OK.

That we are truly doing what is best for her, for right now.

I can not wait for the day that she is secure enough and free enough from some of her past that she can run up to you and genuinely hug you because she likes you and have a relationship with you and not just be manipulating you because that is what she has been conditioned to you.  (And you just may give her the food that is on your plate.)  This will be one of my proudest moments as her mama to see one day!

I believe that can happen.  I believe that WILL happen - with many, many people in her life.  Just like it does for many of us... this is what makes our lives sweet and full - other people, relationships (Be them a few for the introverts, or many for the extroverts), being able to say which is your favorite ice cream and not just eating down the bowl of strawberry the same way you would the bowl of chocolate because lets face it - she will know in a few years which is the better! (Grin.)


The series starts here:  At Copperlight Wood - http://copperlightwood.com/2014/03/upside-down-an-introduction.html and at the end of each blog post in the series you can go on to the next.

And just a side note - you are all doing a great job of encouraging us along and of respecting the boundaries we have set.  In sharing this it is out of a place to better explain why we have these 'silly rules' and what happens when the line is crossed (or what can happen eventually as Meira's responses are not as extreme as some shared here. They hopefully never will be.).  It is just shared as a chance to understand what is happening in our family right now and how you can be a part of helping Meira to grow.

Today we had someone come over for the second time.  Someone special to our family (to many families) who has a real heart for people with special needs, especially children.  The other day this week we thought we might have lost her - that her interaction with our children may have scared her away from us and from her pursuit to work with children with special needs in the future - but she came back today - the dear soul!

She respects the boundaries so well that instead of the usual 'swing' that happens when Meira interacts with any other adult (or older high school student ;) ) that Meira is actually learning from her.  She loves our girls.  She even took time to make them both bracelets similar to the one she had on that they had admired a few days before.


This afternoon there has been a choir of "purple star" around me. Again and again and again.

"A purple star," says the little girl who less than a year ago was still just making only sounds (in another language) when she spoke.


I add it to my heart's collection of the many words and phrases she has started to say in her one month home.  A month is not a long time, remember...

We are growing, trying and trying again - and again and again.  All of us.

All the gifts and growing this little one has brought to each of us already, to all of us as your family, we are grateful.


Life has become slower and faster all at the same time.  Words mean more.  Hugs mean more.  Kisses on bumps and the words 'I love you' from all of us here at Meira's home to one another - all these things mean so much more this past month.  It would be hard to meet her, to see what not having had these things for many years can do to a person and walk away not valuing these moments of life just a little more.

And at the top of the list tonight - while the little girl who can not yet join in with the children at VBS playing outside because it is too overwhelming for her falls to sleep - the words 'A purple star' bring the greatest HOPE to my heart that she is going to be just fine.

And that someday she will choose chocolate ice cream as the best choice of all!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A confession by a mama



Now, there is usually a moment in my day where I will sneak off to the kitchen, open the freezer, pull out the nearest container of ice cream (there are several in there…) and indulge in a huge spoonful.  Or two.

I hope I am not alone.  I hope I have joined some ‘rank of motherhood’ and that all mom’s sneak off at moments to the kitchen for something just for them.

Perhaps it has nothing to do with ice cream (or you know me well and know it has EVERYTHING to do with ice cream), but moreso with the moment, the literal moment of aloneness, of doing something just for me, for the moment.  Or perhaps I need a greater outlet and the idea of ‘sneaking off’ is filled in that moment.  Then again, deep down inside I know if I do not sneak I will be caught and the ice cream will no longer be just mine, but now will be divided between 3 instead of the usual 2 it used to be.

That folks is all my own moment of my day.  The rest has been devoured by the post-adoption life.

These weeks of adoption cocooning – where we are with our newest daughter in a much more intense situation than we will be in future years – have been intense.  We were prepared for them, as much as anyone can prepare for a new member joining their family and overall they are much smoother than we were expecting.  Yet still they are intense.  And how could they not be – we have not just added a family member.   We have added a 5.5 year old little girl that was just taken from everything familiar to her, after spending her first several formative years without much human interaction, and plopped her in the middle of everything imaginably new, complete with parents, a siblings and lots of the thing I mentioned above – ice cream.  Intense just about sums it up.

With all our hopes for Meira – all the things one could dream for their children – to thrive in life, to find deep joy, to grow and love – the greatest by far is that she would know she is loved. We will work all our lives with this as our greatest hope for her, for any of our children, that they will know they are loved.

Over the past few weeks of being with her so intensely we have come to see so much of her and still that is just the tip, the very tip of who she is.

She is strong.  Brave.  Compassionate.  Loving.  Loud.  Gentle.  Intense.  Full of smiles. Curious.  Cuddly.  Scared.  And perhaps the greatest eater we have ever witnessed in our lives.  No one I have ever known eats as much as this child.

She is also the perfect candidate for being a poster child of institutionalization and the devastating impact it has on a child.  In every movement of most every moment of the day we can see it – institutionalized behavior.  It is heartbreaking, exhausting, intense, scary, draining, sad and emotional… and that is just what it is for us as her parents.  For her, it is all that and many more things we can not imagine or name.

To know this about her and to know she all the things listed above it is absolutely amazing. 
She is absolutely amazing.  In fact, she is miraculous.

She will grow.  She will overcome.  She will defy all that has been cruel to her.

That is my hope for her.  That is what we as a family work for daily, moment by moment.

It is what we wake up to with the cry of ‘Papa, mama’ from her bed as she waits for us to get her… until we put her to bed at night and leave her for a few moments to chat with herself before she falls asleep.  Then we fall asleep, directly after.  Literally.

We were not looking to adopt.  We felt the pull of the gospel message, ‘to care for the widows and orphans’ and were looking for ways to respond simply because suddenly that part of the message broke us.  We lived nearby an orphanage in Asia and thought the answer was to work there.  We knew foster families and began looking into becoming one oversees. 

Then we saw a picture of Meira on an advocacy site.  We knew she was our daughter.
There was nothing more to it.  This does not mean that we had our answer to our brokenness, but our search for us had led us to her.  So we worked, for 1.5 years to bring her home to us.  And we are still seeking to be a part of that beautiful message…

Meira is home.  She is our daughter, just as she was the moment we saw her.

I can tell you with the millions (and I literally means millions) of things we do not yet know about our beautiful newest daughter there are two things I do know.

One.  The depth of love we have for her is without bounds.  It is a love so beyond us, a love that makes me know only One loves this way... and it is that One alone that allows me a piece of love to love her with.

And most importantly two. She knows she is loved.  Maybe she doesn’t believe it all the time, or even know the depth of all it means. Maybe she couldn’t put it to words, but I have seen it in her eyes, dare I say in her soul.  Somewhere, among all that was ugly she saw a glimpse and she is seeing even more of it now.








Yep, she is loved.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Lelya Program through The Pleven Project


This is how our daughter spent most of her 3+ years in her first orphanage.
From the age of 5 days until a few months after her 3rd birthday she would sit in a crib, next to children also sitting in other cribs.  That was their day.  That was their night.

A few of these children, Meira included, were paired with Lelyas (or Babas) - women who were paid to come in for 2 hours a day (excluding weekends) to play with, care for, and love the children, giving them the  care that all children need to grow; care that is not normal found in institutions.
Meira's Lelya helped her start to walk, play with toys and mimic sounds - all at nearly 3 years of age.
Meira was one of the lucky ones...
There were many, many more children - with much more severe needs - that were never given the same chance.  They continue, even now, to live out their days in a crib.  Some are now 16 years of age... hard to imagine, but true.  But NOW there is hope for them and we can all be a part of it!
I look at Aila, who turned 3 in April, and try to imagine the person she would be right now had her fate been the same as Meira's for her first 3 years...
I begin to cry after just a moment of doing so...
There would be no 'life' in her.  She would not be anything she is today.
If you were to meet Meira today - turning 6 in October - you would see she is now, after 9 months with a foster family, full of life... and also, right away, you would see the impact that years of neglect leaves on a child.  Despite all her strides, her beautiful smile, her amazing ability to love, she will always carry this with her... all of the children will.
I can not bear to think of the years she spent seeking love when none was given.
And I can not even comprehend that there are children - FAR worse off than Meira - who STILL spend their days like this... especially when people can help!  Really, 2 hours a day of one on one care can and will do SO much for the children, until hopefully more is able to be given to them.

We have the opportunity to help them.
We have the chance to help keep the Leyla program at the Pleven Baby Home still running.
Please take a moment to read about this program.
I personally know the people who have created and are running the Pleven Project and can assure you that each sent that is sent to them goes directly to pay for the Leyla's salary.

You can learn more details of the baby home and Pleven Project from Susanna Musser's website here:
The Musser's first adopted daughter, Katie's, adoption was what sparked the movement and change brought for these children.  You can see her story to the right on Susanna's website and also that her brother, Tommy, brought home after her.  (They have 13 children total!)

Please consider donating to this program.
Any amount will be helpful!
It will literally bring LIFE to the children in this orphanage.  All children over 4 years of age have special needs.  These children deserve so much more than they have... children that deserve FAMILIES of their own... in the meantime, as they wait and wait a Leyla can love them and tell them THEY MATTER TOO...

In thanks for donating (at least a $10 donation), we will send you a copy of the small children's book (paperback) we wrote (The Night Lions of China) and had illustrated by our friend.  We are covering the cost of what the book cost to print and the shipping cost to you - every cent you donate will go directly to a Leyla's salary.

You can donate through our link here on the top right, or directly through the paypal link on the Pleven Project website.
Please then email us at: middlekingdomcarrs AT gmail.com (replacing AT with @ and taking out the spacing)with your name and address and we will ship the book to you promptly.

THANK YOU for helping us all bring care to the children of the Pleven Baby Orphanage.




Monday, June 2, 2014

Friday, May 23, 2014

Wonderfully made...

"Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
 
 
My frame was not hidden from you,
 
 
when I was being made in secret,
 

intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
 

Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
 
 
in your book were written every one of them, the days that were formed for me,
 
 
when as yet there were none of them.
 
 
How precious to me are your thoughts, oh God!
 
 
How vast the sum of them!"
 
Psalm 138:14-17