Thursday, April 17, 2014

you're our people. thank you.

Yesterday was a hard day.

If you're wondering why, read yesterday morning's post at The Works of God Displayed.
And then read my tweet from last night:

Yep, brutal + beautiful = brutiful.

But?

It was also a good day.

Why's that?

Well, this happened.


Every day, I've been sharing an Upsee giveaway post from my friend Ellen at Love That Max, because each day's share = one more entry in the giveaway. The giveaway is still open for entries, so that's not how the picture above happened.

(Though if we do win one that way, I already know which friend of mine would be blessed by receiving it.)

But, speaking of the giveaway, I got all teary as I read the comments on the giveaway yesterday, as a dozen or so friends have entered on Zoe's behalf with comments like these:












Y'all rock.

Then yesterday morning, as I was in tears missing a sweet boy who didn't get to turn 8 this year, friends from college sent me a precious message asking if we would be open to their buying an Upsee for Zoe.

Be still, my heart.

In January, I wrote about my word for the year: receive. In that post, I confessed that I'm comfortable with giving but I find it hard to receive. But, as we parent six little ones with three special needs and trauma-filled baggage, we can't do it on our own.

We're not meant to.

We're created for community.

And our community? It is the richest.

Back in March, I wrote about a conference I was going to, a conference of "my people." And while those adoption mamas do understand me on a different level than some of you who haven't walked that road, I have to say this: you, if you're reading this and caring about our lives, you're our people too.

We love you.
We need you.
We're so blessed by you.

Some people have called us heroes, but really? You're our heroes.
We couldn't walk this road of faith without you.
Thank you.

It was still a hard day.

But it was a good day too.

Stay tuned to see our Zoe rocking her Upsee once it arrives!

Monday, April 14, 2014

six months ago today, this happened

We landed in Uganda, after something like 32 hours of travel.

We packed ourselves and our stuff into a Land Rover that was too small for all of us.

We rode straight to the orphanage to bring three precious and scared little ones out of its gates for good.





Oh, Jesus. I could write a book on all the changes we've seen in them in the past six months. For example, our sweet Patu is 15 pounds heavier, 9 inches taller, and 3 shoe sizes bigger now than she was then.


But as much as they have changed,
as much as they have grown,
as much as they have learned,


I'm the one most changed.
I'm the one most blessed.
I'm the lucky one.

I get to be their mama.


Thankful.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

remember that time when our house sold in a day? that was cool.

I meant to post this on March 31, but spring break. So let's just pretend I did...

On January 21, 2012, I posted a blog about our home-selling and adoption-ing plans. In it, I wrote:
So next step, get this house on the market next month. Then, sell it and find another house and buy that one and move. And then get underway with adoption plans.

Please pray for us. In my ideal world, we'll get an acceptable offer the first week our house is on the market and have time before closing to find the perfect-for-us home to buy so that the whole process will be as brief and painless as possible and we can move full speed ahead with the adoption plans. I know that's not the most likely scenario in the current housing market, so you can either pray that everything will go according to my ideal scenario or that God will sustain us through the different scenario He has in store.
But then on January 28, 2012, we found out about Zoe. We agreed to pray. We expected to say no. Nothing about it made sense in our plans: the timing, the uncertainty of her health, anything else. One day after we were contacted about Zoe, I told my friend Heather, "We know this just wouldn't be the right move for us."

But God took our plans of saying no and gave us our yes instead.

the first picture we have of her

Adding another child to the mix, especially one whose health and future had a lot of unknowns, made us even more hopeful about getting our house on the market and moving in a short window of time. All the unplanned adoption stuff - like fast-tracking a home study and all that jazz - meant we didn't get the house on the market in February like we had hoped.

I went on the market on the night of March 30th. And then...





And that post back on January 21, 2012? My dear friend left this comment on it.


Goosebumps, y'all.

Friday, April 4, 2014

i just have to take a moment to brag on my mama

She was born on the day WWII ended (V-J day, to be precise).

I hope she doesn't kill me for sharing that.

I think it's worth noting, though, because she was once a little girl who moved all over as a military brat but who considers her roots to be in New Orleans and Mississippi, a little girl who never imagined back then that her grandchildren would come in as many hues as they do.


We chose to say yes to adoption, which in our case meant saying yes to a multi-cultural family. 

My mom didn't really have a say in the matter, but you'd never know it. 


Considering I'm her baby, it's been a while since she's been in the mode of so many little ones. And she was quick to point out that she had three, not six, and none of us three were as close in age as my little ones are.

Nevermind that, though.

She embraced the crazy.


We love you, Mom. Thanks for filling spring break with wonderful memories for all of us.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

for when you yell at your new child for the first time

As we all walked together through the church lobby, one pastor complimented my crew on how well they were all holding hands and listening. Another quipped that we ought to have our own reality show.

Then, as one of our deacons held the door for us and whispered another compliment as we entered the service, my daughter said something. I don't remember what it was, but I know it was in the only volume she ever speaks in, which is more than "loud" but not quite "obnoxious." 

And then I did what any mother would do just after being commended by three different church leaders.

I snapped, "Shut. up."

Mother of the year? Not me.


But it was better for all of us than my reaction several months ago, which was to live in constant fear that my already traumatized kids would never, ever, ever, ever heal if I screwed up. Too many people have failed them, I told myself, and I can't be another person in that line of failures. Their ability to move forward in life or to stay stuck in past hurts is up to me and my handling of their broken places, I whispered to my already perfectionist self.

What should I have said to those self-spoken mantras? 

Shut. up.

You will fail.
You will yell.
You will do your best and screw up anyway.
You will do your worst because, well, you're not Jesus.

You were never meant to save your children.

That's His job.

So go ahead: Fail. Yell. Screw up. 

And in doing so, 
teach them about humility when you apologize. 
teach them about forgiveness when you ask for it.
teach them about God when you turn to Him for perfection instead of expecting it 
from yourself.
or your children.
or your spouse.

Stop holding yourself to a standard that you were never, ever, ever, ever meant to meet.

Let us then with confidence draw near 
to the throne of grace, 
that we may receive mercy 
and find grace to help in time of need.
Hebrews 4:16

Sunday, March 23, 2014

how good and pleasant it is, indeed

This picture generated more "likes" this weekend on Facebook than anything else I've ever posted.


And not just because of the amazing lizard shirt + seersucker puppy shorts + wild animal camo Toms combo, though Philip wore it well.


This handsome five year old saw me on my knees pushing Zoe's Rifton Mini Pacer so she could take steps without having to move the additional weight of the gait trainer (which, with all its accessories, nearly weighs as much as she does), and he politely dismissed me.


He wanted the job of helping his little sister walk around the playground, one we chose to visit specifically because of the accessibility features. (Local friends, it's Marsh Creek Park's play area, if you want to check it out.)


But to him, it wasn't a job. It was a joy.


Without any suggestion from me, he brought her over to the play wall, made for kids like Zoe to enjoy.


Then he enjoyed it with her.


 He wasn't satisfied with that, though. He directed her to the big play structure, where our other four were playing. Zoe wants nothing more than to tag along with her big brothers and sisters, just like any other youngest child.


Up... up... up... and down... down... down... they went.


Full of smiles, full of personality!


Zoe crashed hard on the way home, worn out from all the activity.


And my heart nearly exploded, for the love of two children born across the world from each other and made siblings in a whole 'nother country.

Amazing grace.
Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers
{and, in this case, their sisters}
dwell in unity!
(Psalm 133:1, italics mine)

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Four reasons to fight stigma & support families #preventFASD {plus $100 BRU giveaway!}


I write a lot about stigma, and as I prepared for this post, I realized that I should step back to define the term. Or, to be more accurate, to let Webster define it:


Given that definition, it's obvious why stigma hurts kids and families, right? When it comes to FASD, the stigma is a set of negative and often unfair beliefs that a society of group of people have about FASD... and that stigma is dangerous for families and children.

Why? 

  1. Because children need accurate diagnoses, and the stigma about FASD can hinder that.
  2. Because accurate diagnoses can lead to purposeful interventions, but the interventions can't be identified and applied if FASD is a secret due to stigma.
  3. Because families can only seek and receive support for their needs if they can trust that help will be offered instead of stigma.
  4. Because everyone can seek to build on the strengths of an individual with FASD if the family isn't isolated due to stigma. 
Let me explain a little more about each of those, drawing from a recent webinar led by Dr. Christopher Boys of the University of Minnesota Medical School. I attended this third webinar as part of sponsored campaign with MOFAS and Brandfluential, and I have to admit the topic for this one was the most exciting of the three: Family Matters: Strategies for Successful Outcomes

While I wrote about the basics of FASD here and the benefit of an accurate diagnosis here, my passion for this topic is simple: one of my children was exposed to significant amount of alcohol while still in the womb. For me, FASD isn't a theoretical concept or medical diagnosis; it's a family reality. Just as the webinar's title states, family matters. 

...because children need accurate diagnoses, and the stigma about FASD can hinder that.

I've written before about the need for accurate diagnoses, so I won't spend much time on that in this post. Let's talk about how stigma can hinder that. If parents are worried about FASD stigma, then they might not share about prenatal alcohol use. If doctors buy into this stigma, they might not ask the questions they should ask about alcohol and behavior and support, all of which could lead to an accurate diagnosis. 


...because accurate diagnoses can lead to purposeful interventions, but the interventions can't be identified and applied if FASD is a secret due to stigma.

If a mom has already seen the negative affects of stigma around FASD, then she might be more hesitant to reach out for help, for fear that she or her child might be further stigmatized because of challenging behaviors... not knowing that the behaviors, like impulsivity, poor judgment, sensory integration difficulties, dysregulation of mood and behavior, and trouble following directions, can all be caused by FASD. 

And what's even better? When parents and professionals know that FASD is the root of some of those behaviors, they can use research-proven interventions to improve outcomes for everyone involved! Success is possible with FASD, but stigma can prevent those needed victories.

...because families can only seek and receive support for their needs if they can trust that help will be offered instead of stigma.

Can you imagine having a child with the flu and being scared to seek help because you don't know if the doctor or if your friends might blame you or dismiss your concerns? That's how many families feel when their children have FASD instead of the flu. The FASD triad - that is, the three common behavioral/functional characteristics for people affected by FASD - is that the individual tends to (1) be impulsive, (2) 
misinterpret the intentions of others, and (3) and fail to learn from feedback. Consider the assumptions that others might make about a kid who fits that description. Add to that: limitations on working memory which make multi-step instructions hard to follow, difficulties with executive functioning that make it hard to figure out the first step in a task, potential for aggressive behavior, and a tendency to escalate undesired behaviors without immediate targeted interventions. 

Once again, there is hope. Parents can build on a child's strengths and work with others to implement strategies to address weaknesses. The powerpoint from the MOFAS webinar is a fantastic starting place for specific tips.

...because everyone can seek to build on the strengths of an individual with FASD if the family isn't isolated due to stigma.

Parents can't do it all on their own. Parenting a child with FASD can be exhausting, feel frustrating, and even - at times - seem hopeless. When stigma leads to isolation, the task becomes almost insurmountable. So friends, family, teachers, medical professionals, churches, and so on... step up. Come alongside these families instead of thinking someone else will. 

And as you step up, stigma will begin to shatter. 

And that is truly awesome.

And now... as incentive to join us in the #preventFASD campaign and in fighting stigma for families and individuals affected by FASD, here's a GIVEAWAY! Who couldn't use a $100 gift card, good at Babies R Us or Toys R Us?


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, March 6, 2014

that precious moment when my seven year old compared HIV to Elsa's powers in Frozen

So far, we've mostly shielded our kids from the stigma of HIV.

Mostly.

Our crazy firstborn extrovert - the one who might have gotten more of her fair share of my genes - is an oversharer like her mom. While we've chosen to partially disclose about HIV, we don't publicly identify which of our children is HIV+, so prior to the adoption Jocelyn and I had some late night chats about HIV, why it isn't scary, and why some people think it is.

Back in April, I messaged a friend on Facebook:
I just had a late night chat with my six year old about HIV transmission, access to adequate healthcare in Africa, and severe poverty. As I explained to her that we weren't telling everyone about [name removed for privacy]'s HIV status because some people don't understand that HIV isn't scary, she said, "Yeah, and most kids wouldn't understand anyway. I kinda understand it all, though, because I'm really smart."
No problems with self esteem for that one, huh? Love. her.

Now back to today...

We recently watched Frozen (and by recently, I mean both "for the first time" and "every day since then"). I won't be giving away any major spoilers if I share that Elsa has the power to turn things all wintery. My background in child development made me all squirmy inside when she was isolated as a child because of her magic, and it pained me to see the fear with which people responded to her as an adult, leading to self-imposed exile for her.

(All of that happens within the first part of the movie, so I promise I haven't ruined anything for you.)

But nothing prepared me for the profound reflection of my oldest.

"Hey, Mom," she started. "You know how everyone is scared of Elsa? It made me sad."

"Yeah, me too."

"It made me think of how some people are scared of HIV. People didn't get to know Elsa because they didn't know she needed love like anybody else, and some people might not get to know [my sibling] because they're scared of HIV and don't know kids with it just need love. And meds. And mommies and daddies if they don't have them."

Oh, my girl. Yes, and amen.

It's such a privilege to be your mama.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

FIVE!

Birthdays are a big deal around here, in part because I'm pretty certain three of our little ones probably wouldn't have survived childhood without adoption.

So we do it up big.

It starts with sneaking in to the bedroom the night before and decorating with streamers. This way, when everyone wakes up, the birthday boy (or girl) will remember right away that it's a special day.

Then it's donuts for breakfast.

Then it's PRESENTS.

Then it's a special birthday dinner out at a restaurant, usually Chili's.

Then it's extra bedtime snuggles.

Because we're all about celebrating LIFE around here, especially the lives of our six darlings.

Today, we're celebrating five years of life for this riot team member of the police department.


He opened presents as his fan club looked on.


Present opening is still a new concept for our five year old fella. We had to explain how it all worked, which was a bit bittersweet (mostly sweet).


Totally sweet was the Spider-Man his big sisters made for him. Oh, my heart.


Loved my seat on the couch this morning. It had the best view, don't you think?






Happy birthday, Philip. I love being your mama!