Tag - Special Needs

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Dangerous Love: A Mother’s Day Confession
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She can see, right??
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Adopting the Older Child Part II
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If they only knew
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Four days and counting
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Quick Trip Recap
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It’s almost tax season… and we can help!

Dangerous Love: A Mother’s Day Confession

There are things I’ve contemplated sharing for the past ten months. Things I thought, felt and experienced during a time when the title “mommy” stretched me further than I was really okay with. I’ve prayed about sharing, wondering if there were friends, mommas, daddies that needed to hear my heart. And it’s finally time. And it’s conveniently two days before Mother’s Day.

The refining process is not easy and it’s not over. Especially when you find out that your heart issue is standing in the way of redemption. When Lola became our daughter Lola wasn’t ready to be part of a family. She wanted it, but the transition is harder than little hearts can ever imagine. In addition to being an “older child” Lola has a severe vision impairment. She has a lot to overcome.

We launched into a very hard year. I watched my other 3 children experience hurt and anxiety as we tried desperately to curb Lola’s extreme raging. She got all of us, our energy, our time… or so I thought. I was hurting so badly and honestly if one more person told me how cute she was I thought I might actually punch them in the face. We tried everything and anything under the sun. Read the books, did the therapy, went to Vanderbilt. We had one late night conversation where Calvin and I wondered out loud why we were chosen, even questioning if God got it wrong. Those are dark moments. It’s hard to watch your children who seemed well adjusted launch into anxiety attacks and night terrors. I started to think my calling was hurting them.

But in the morning, which is promised to bring Joy. God impressed truth into my heart. Like mighty, refreshing wind God spoke and my mind was filled with truth.  They aren’t yours, they are mine! They are part of this redemption. They will not be lost. They are loved. They cannot be sheltered from pain, that’s not your job! Teach them to love like me! You are not salvation, I am! Look for me and teach them to look for me too! They will grow up knowing life is not good but I AM!

I surrender. In my imperfection I surrender. In my desire to control and fix and perfect I surrender.

There was freedom in surrender. And with that came the freedom to give Lola all of me. I mentioned above that Lola was getting all of us. I believed that lie for approximately 8 months. And the reality hit me so hard and fast that I could barely stand the weight of my heart-breaking position in her life.

I was so consumed with her hurtful behavior toward me that I closed off a little piece of my heart. I protected it, saved it for the other 3 who wanted to cuddle and could make it through Target without tearing everything off a shelf.

For Lola and I to succeed as Mother and daughter I had to open up that closed door. I had to let her hurt me like a daughter can hurt a mom. When that door is closed, when you protect your heart it doesn’t hurt when your child lashes out at you. It was time to be hurt and hurt with her because that’s what she deserves. Who am I to try to feel safe and warm and fuzzy? Who am I to try to protect myself from my child, my daughter.

So I opened my heart to all the dangerous love.

It’s been about 2 months since that dangerous love started taking place. Did it magically solve the things we struggle with? No. But do I see a change? Yes. Children know when you don’t give them full and complete love. They know how to spot the imposters. They are smart and wonderful and worth it. And they will call you out. Maybe not verbally, but in body language and actions they will CALL YOU OUT.

Healing and redemption are coming. Little by little. And it wasn’t up to Lola to engage this change. It was up to Calvin and I as her parents. To trust God, to trust our hearts and to trust the HIGH calling God has given us as parents. When I think about the family I’ve been given I can’t help but feel so inadequate, so undeserving of this challenge. Why did you trust me to get this right God??

And then I hear that whisper that becomes a roar. You aren’t going to get it all right, but if you take the wisdom and guidance I provide in abundance I will walk with you and I will Lead you and in THAT you will find success.

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She can see, right??

We get this question about Lola quite frequently. Blindness is a funny thing. It has many varying degrees. I’ve found the average person, myself included before having Lola, thinks blindness equals darkness and fumbling around. That type of blindness does exist, but blindness in general comes in many forms. People who are considered blind under definition of the law can often see certain colors, light, outlines etc. Lola specifically can see all colors, light and outlines. Because her corneas are opaque light cannot fully pass through to allow full vision. She sees life through a giant cloud. Nothing is remotely clear but she uses her light and color sensing ability to navigate in a way that astounds me.

Is there anything we can do to improve her vision? Not really. There is a very risky option, a cornea transplant, that we are not going to pursue. After consulting with two wonderful eye institutes we felt that the risk of losing her vision completely was not something we felt even remotely comfortable with. Also reading countless online testimonies of parents who attempted this surgery with little success made our decision even easier to make.

Why does Lola wear glasses? Lola’s glasses have transition lenses, the lens becomes darker when she goes into the light. Lola’s eyes are VERY sensitive to light and the transition lens protects her eye and makes going outside much more comfortable. Lola’s eyes are also somewhat fragile, getting poked in the eye with a pencil for example could cause serious injury and compromise the little “sight” she has. All eyes are fragile but Lola’s eyes have a higher risk of bleeding out. Her glasses do have a slight magnification. This is a trial and error type thing. We are testing this to see if it helps with any up close work in the school environment. Upon observation it seems to be doing something positive! We’ll see!

Lola is adjusting quite well, even with her vision needs. She navigates incredibly well in familiar settings. However, new places and experiences present extreme challenges for her and she often falls or bumps her legs into things. When we are home, I often forget that she is visually impaired. She runs around the house like a crazy person. We are working with Lola’s school and teachers to help Lola equip herself with the skills to navigate independently and learn at the same level and pace as her sighted peers. She is quite the little smarty pants. Her knowledge base has gone from zero to a pre- kindergarten level in 3 months. It’s amazing to watch her soak up and speak English. She now listens to books and answers meaningful questions. It’s astounding. When the days are hard and emotions are high I find myself retracing the last four months of progress. It’s amazing, mind boggling, and super-natural the way God is healing her brain and heart. I once wrote that I believed God would work a miracle for Lola. We are living that miracle.

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Adopting the Older Child Part II

We did a very brave thing last night. It was finally time to take the first daring steps into family portraits. So we drove downtown and met up with Marissa of Rylan’s Riches Photography. Here’s her facebook page, trust me, you want to know her, she’s great. That’s a whole ‘nother post in itself but family photography definitely plays into part II of the older child so let’s touch on that before we dig in.

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When things get crazy around here I love to take a moment to check out the thousands of pictures we have stored on our computer. Pictures of my kids at their best. Having fun, celebrating birthdays and just experiencing the best that childhood has to offer. I could get lost for hours just scrolling and celebrating who they are.

As I continue to scroll back through the pictures that represent their little lives there is a little sadness as I realize, again, that there are no birth day pictures of Liam or Lola. Their stories within a family start a little bit later. When I held Charlotte and Elliott for the first time there was a completeness, wholeness… it’s the way things are supposed to be.

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When I held Liam and Lola for the first time there was completeness and wholeness for me… but not for them. This isn’t really the way it’s supposed to be. A very early broken cord brought them into my arms. And while it’s a beautiful thing, it’s a very messed up thing as well. This is a crucial point that you cannot miss when entering into older child adoption. You must, even if you do not verbalize this to your child for a year or two, understand and grieve the loss of first family.

Without grief, there is no healing. Just as I took time to grieve the lost years with my adopted children, they will need a chance to grieve the loss they experienced. Here are a few pointers for parent’s navigating the grief and loss parts of adoption.

1. Keep birth family talk positive but honest. If you don’t know anything about your child’s birth family help the child understand situations in their birth country that may have caused the loss of first family. Pray for the birth family that you may or may not know.

2. Never tell a child they are better off in their new family. This isn’t necessarily true. Poverty/Having less does not always equate a less-than situation. Children were meant to be a part of their birth families, that is plan A. Adoption may be an adoptive parent’s plan A but it is always a child’s plan B.

3. Do not expect your child to be grateful. They didn’t ask for you to rescue them. We don’t expect biological children to be grateful for their birth, don’t expect an adopted child to be grateful for their adoption.

4. Help your child look toward the future. Plan a trip to a birth country or birth state. If it is appropriate, or if your child requests it, a family search should certainly be accommodated.

5. Keep the opportunity for discussion open but never push birth country/birth family talk until your child is ready to engage. Probing with questions before they are ready to talk (sometimes a year or more) will only drive your child further away.

When you scroll through the pictures of family life there will always be a giant eye-sore of a hole for adopted children. There are missing moments and pieces that cannot be filled. However, with a great deal of respect, and LOTS of new family pictures, adoptive parents can begin to help their child process and heal. We can always move forward with our children, and we should! But we must also be available and ready to help process grief and loss whenever the opportunity presents itself.

If they only knew

As I took my children to school this morning I couldn’t help but enter that crazy zone that only moms know. And when you have several small people to think about the crazy zone gets even crazier. Add one level of crazy and worry for each child. So that puts me at crazy zone level 4.

Fortunately, this morning, the crazy zone visit led to my love for my children. And my love for my children led me specifically to my love for Lola and Liam. Adoption is a difficult journey that leads to healing. I couldn’t help but wonder what would change if they really knew how deeply we love them.

What would happen if they knew…

When they cry our hearts pound into overdrive, and our legs can’t move fast enough.

When old trauma is triggered and they spiral away from us, hiding every emotion, digging into the deepest pit… we get a shovel and go after them.

When they push away just to test the boundaries of our love… there won’t be any boundaries in sight.

When they worry we won’t come back… we will. Every time.

When they reject our love, when they don’t understand our love, when they hate our love. Our love. Our never-ending, far-reaching, crazy zone, momma love WILL persevere.

Adoptive moms are like the chewed gum on a hot street in July. We are tired and worn, but we stick and don’t let go.

And we love our kids with a fierceness that won’t be matched. We have crazy eyes and bad hair. (At least I do.) And we, in all our talk of big, never ending love are not the heroes of the story.

Our children, who may never fully understand the depths of our love, are the bright shining stars of this story. They have endured and will endure. They wake up each day, overcoming the one before. And their triumphs fuel ours.

We work and chase and love each day because they are so worth it. Above all, if my kids, all my kids… knew one thing, it would be YOU are worth it.

Four days and counting

We have now known Lola for 17 days. We have been home for 4 of those days. It’s hard to even find a place to start as I try to explain what our journey has been like thus far. Our four children are doing well together. That has probably been the smoothest part of the whole process. We are seeing compassion and love flowing freely between them. Charlotte has been especially understanding and patient, even in the hard moments. She loves her sister so much and wants to help her heart heal.

I have to admit, this is certainly not an easy road. I’m so very tired. But I love Lola so very much. We have this broken little person in our house and I feel like I have to fix her. And I can’t. I’m not that good. Nobody is really. Not even Karyn Purvis herself (attachment therapist goddess) can fix a child.

I’m putting my daughter in the hands of her creator. He will heal her heart. And Calvin and I will rely on His strength to parent and love her every second of the day. Yes. Right now, this is hard. But the right things are rarely the easy things.

We had our second appointment at Vanderbilt today. We met with a cornea specialist. Lola was not happy about going back. She cried most of the way there until she fell asleep. When I parked I snapped a picture of her and prayed that by some miracle I could get her into the building. I also asked others to pray. Elliott came to the appointment with us. Lola is always in a better mood when a sibling is around. He unhooked her carseat and handed her a stuffed animal. Lola was pretty happy when she woke up and held my hand and Elliott’s hand as we walked out of the parking garage. Then she realized where we were. I had to scoop her up and run in quickly before she got too upset. This worked pretty well and soon we were sitting in the waiting room and Elliott was doing English flashcards with her on the Ipad. Great distraction. I was still praying that we would make it through the appointment without a melt down.

We were finally called back, and once again Vanderbilt did not provide Lola with an interpreter. I have asked twice in advance and twice there has been no interpreter. Sure. Stick something in my kids eye without her understanding a word. Great. The nurse who started the assessment was super nice and Lola seemed to like her. After talking for a few minutes she excused herself and came back a few minutes later with a young Chinese doctor. He was a resident doctor doing a round in the “eye specialty” area. He spoke to me first, without a trace of accent and asked if he could speak with Lola. I agreed and he turned to her and began to speak some fantastic Mandarin. He didn’t just speak with her, he got on her level and held her hands. He told her why I was bringing her to the doctor all the time. He told her that we wanted to help her. Then he explained that they needed to numb her eyes and that they also needed to look into her eyes with a big machine. She smiled at him. Her body relaxed. She turned and gave me a kiss. I praised God. The young doctor stayed with us the entire time. When the cornea specialist came in he continued to let Lola know every detail.

I am over the top grateful for this very special doctor who didn’t have to help, but did. He saw a scared little girl who needed compassion and he responded.

The good news… after the past two days of poking and probing… we have been informed that Lola is a candidate for surgery. In the coming months Lola will undergo cornea transplants and muscular surgery. Lola’s cornea specialist and pediatric ophthalmologist are going to take the next three weeks to come up with a plan, we will meet with them at the end of this month and go from there. Even after surgery Lola will still have a visual impairment but we are praying for the best outcome. We are being pretty aggressive with her treatment plan because as her parents we believe deep down that we need to explore every option. We have a great team at Vanderbilt and a God who can work miracles. We have a long year ahead of us. The surgeries will be difficult and her healing will take time. It’s a huge commitment for us and for our little girl. We truly covet your prayers as we work through all the ups and downs of this process.

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Quick Trip Recap

WordPress and WiFi were not functioning well in China. We were not able to update the blog regularly. So here is a quick photo recap of the trip. I have so much to share, so I’ll use pictures to recap and tonight I should be able to sit down and spill my heart after the wee ones are in bed.

IMG_0882 A representative was visiting from the Ethiopian Government. Therefore the Ethiopian flag was flying with China’s flag in Beijing. May have been the coolest thing ever. _MG_0899China is full of intense buildings. Their history is craziness. _MG_0945Locks placed by lovers all along a portion of the Great Wall. Super fun.  _MG_0955Me. Trying to hard to pose well on the Great Wall. It was a serious hike and my hair was FRIZZY. Super humid and smoggy in Beijing. That’s totally not fog behind me… it’s smog friends. So gross. _MG_0957Lots of fun signs along the Great Wall.

IMG_0965 We failed with our Gotcha day pics, but it was so incredibly emotional it just didn’t seem right to stick a camera in her face. It was joyous and sorrowful all at once. I’m meeting her for the first time in the picture above. She kinda hated me here. IMG_0968She liked Daddy (BaBa) much better on that first day. She allowed him to hold her while she cried. IMG_0973 Leaving the Civil Affairs office with our daughter. Unfortunately, we had to go back everyday and she didn’t do well with the visits. IMG_0978This is Miss Lola later that day. She was totally cool with us and pretty happy as soon as we settled her in and gave her some activities. She is playing with big textured stickers in this picture. IMG_0982Lola has it in her mind that if she tries hard enough she will be able to see. In fact, she is so amazing that she fooled us into thinking she could see certain things for the first few days. Basically she can see light, some very bright colors, and can tell where large objects (such as furniture) are located. Having just a little bit of sight tires her out, she is always straining to see more. IMG_0984We ate more noodles than I can even begin to describe. Isn’t this chair beautiful? IMG_1006 Lola’s first bath in the hotel after overcoming her fear. Now we can’t get her OUT of the bath.IMG_1020Checking out the Super nice downtown area in Guangzhou. We came to find that the Chinese government likes to build super expensive buildings and use them for one event. Then they sit there, unused thereafter. An example is directly behind us. We were told by an individual we met there, that China likes to show a good face to the world. I could say a whole lot about that, but I’ll refrain for now. IMG_1030 Okay. I don’t drink Pepsi. But it was delicious in China. IMG_1038Just hanging out with Dad in the hotel.

IMG_1086 Some attachment techniques going on here. Feeding Lychee fruit to the baby bird.IMG_1026Riding on the bus with out travel group. She LOVES her Nalgene.  IMG_1036She kinda likes me now. 🙂 IMG_1062Taking one of our many walks through the hotel.  IMG_1093 Fresh from a bath!_MG_1107We head to Vanderbilt tomorrow with this sweet girl. We are anxious to understand her eye conditions better. There is definitely some hope that surgery may be an option to help her eyes function better. We appreciate prayers as we prepare her for a 3 hour doctor’s appointment tomorrow!

It’s almost tax season… and we can help!

Okay. So maybe we can’t help, but if you are looking for a place to donate your money before the year’s end we would be honored to have you join our adoption fundraising efforts. Our agency is fantastic and they allow people and organizations to donate straight to the agency on our behalf. This donation is tax-deductible. As January approaches we will literally have thousands of dollars in adoption costs, so we would again, be honored to have you partner with us as we work to bring our daughter home. Check out our donation page for information on how to donate. Basically, fill out a form in our name, write a check, put it in the mail… and presto… you have contributed to life change for one sweet little girl, and one very excited family.

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