Thursday, September 15, 2011

Double Digits For My Girl

Today is my daughter's 10th birthday. I spent the evening making some very special s'mores cupcakes for her to bring to school. Ever since we started watching Cupcake Wars our family has taken cupcakes much more seriously. I found this fabulous recipe at Teacher by Day, Chef by Night. I must confess that I did use a boxed chocolate cake mix for the cupcakes. I did make the graham cracker bottom layer and the marshmallow butter cream frosting. It feels so good to have your children beam with delight at something you did for them or made for them. It felt particularly good to see her face when she saw the cupcakes this morning. Then we gave her one of the new outfits for her birthday so she could wear it to school today. There are two things my girl loves are treats to eat and a new outfit. All I want to be is a MOM to her. It is so difficult having her so desperately need to keep distance between us so she can feel safe. It breaks my heart. But today I am thinking of someone else's broken heart. The woman who gave birth to her. The woman who carried her under her heart for 9 months and then circumstances beyond her control lead her to give her sweet baby girl up. We'll probably never know what happened or why it happened. All I do know is that those circumstances lead to this sweet girl to come into our lives. How incredibly amazing is it that a child born half way around the world in a place that we had never been to would one day be matched to us in some business office. It was actually someone's "job" to match a baby girl to her forever family. That is mind boggling to me. Before that even happened though, there was one day, one moment that someone had to set her down and with every once of willpower they could muster, turn around and walk away. My chest hurt just typing this so I can't even begin to imagine what it must have been like. I am swallowing back the cry that I feel that is caught in my throat, blinking back the tears, and take a moment to say a prayer for them. I share a lot on here about the challenges that come with this disorder that our daughter carries with her. That one moment left her with such a profound loss. A loss that was the beginning to her RAD. A day that was the beginning of her journey to us, her forever family. Today we celebrate her birthday. She is now 10 years old. We get to celebrate her life with her. Today is a very special day. My little girl is 10, DOUBLE DIGITS!!!! So exciting. Such a happy day to celebrate. A day to remember, a day to make a wish and look forward to another wonderful day as her mom, and she is my daughter. 


Monday, September 5, 2011

New Beginnings

It's been an exciting month. Hurricane Irene visited the East coast. Fortunately for us we only lost power from Sunday morning until Tuesday night. We had shower access at the town pool that we had passes to. So I took the kids to the pool to spend some energy and then we showered. We also had a generator for the fridge, tv, phone chargers and a lamp. Greene and Schoharie County got hit very hard. We moved here from Greene county so it was very sad to see so many places that we knew be wiped out. 

Now September is here and with it comes new beginnings.  New clothes to wear and new school supplies mark a new school year for our kids. It's also time for a new season for sports. This is our first season with Bethlehem Soccer. Our 3 younger kids are all on recreation teams. Rob and I are coaching again. The kids are very happy to be playing soccer again. We are settling into our new town. Rob is coaching Meg's modified soccer team and Justin is playing on the  Varsity soccer team. Today my new co coach called us a "soccer family" and we certainly are. 

The other big new beginning is that our church is going to start The Sleeping Bag Project. I can't begin to tell you how excited I am that the Youth that attended the Mission Trip in Harrisburg, PA are also excited to make sleeping bags for the homeless here in Albany. I've been ready to start working for the Lord for quite some time... probably for my entire 30's. I've tried different things such as working with young kids in church, thought of trying some great ideas that that I THOUGHT were good things to do but just never got it together... I believe God's perfect timing is now. Personally these sleeping bags bring together so many previous aspects of my life and culminate to this project. In college I volunteered at the Adult Learning Center and met some great people from various walks of life who wanted to learn to read, when my 2 oldest children were babies, I learned how to quilt, I have known people who have mental illnesses and who have used drugs who by the grace of God were not homeless but came close to it, Rob also has an ancestor who lived on the streets for a period of time. I have given a McDonald's meal to one gentleman with all of his belongings in a shopping cart. I have a heart for homeless children. I had a difficult childhood and had often thought of running away from home. I spent a lot of time wondering what life was like on the streets vs my own life. Now I have the opportunity to work with the youth of our church and make sleeping bags for the people whose very lives may depend on something warm to sleep in to keep them alive on a bitter cold night. It's such a simple thing but could actually make a difference in someone's life. This is truly the work of Jesus. We will be His hands and feet and reach out to some people who need to be shown His love the most. To allow the Lord to work through you is a true blessing. 

So September comes, Irene has come and gone and the clean up continues for so many, the kids are getting ready for a new school year, a new season of sports begins, and our church's youth are preparing to make sleeping bags for the homeless. I am looking forward to these new beginnings. I have been waiting for God to call me to do His work. I have second guessed what he wanted me to do and I have been wrong... or maybe they were just things that he wanted to see if I was willing. A willing heart may be the most important thing He wants from us. Are you willing to do what He asks of you, no matter if it doesn't feel "right" or "important enough"? Have you pushed what you thought fit, like I did with working with younger kids because "hey I have kids so God must want me to work with kids at church" when actually He's been wanting me to go where He has sent me and gather from each 
experience. Now is time to start this new project and reach out to the homeless. It is an honor to do the Lord's work. 

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Coming out of the Desert

I keep having to remind myself that this is real. It has been 9 years of dealing with the behaviors that come with attachment disorder. Truthfully I had resigned myself to 9 more years until I assumed our daughter would follow through on her plan to "run away" at the age of 18 and that would be it. I honestly saw it as a prison sentence at times. I know that doesn't sound "pretty" but believe me not much about these last 9 years has been pretty. So now suddenly, for about a month now, our daughter has started to open up. I see her as slowly beginning to blossom. She has not had one of her outbursts or rants for a month now. I have even gone away for a week with our 2 oldest children on a missions trip and came back expecting her to be angry at me for being gone. (for abandoning her) I've been home for a week and a half now and things are still calm. There have been brief moments, like when she felt like she messed up her summer reading assignment, that she started to get mad at herself, but we were able to talk about it and she calmed right down. Today we even talked about me talking to her new teacher about coming into her classroom and help out. That way if she starts to feel overwhelmed or stressed (usually when she doesn't understand the work or thinks she is going to have a lot of homework that she won't be able to understand or not be able to finish her classwork on time) she will have me there to help her out. She was very relieved at the idea that I would be there for her. (This is counter intuitive to what we had been thinking. She seemed fine in school but then seemed to lose it at home. I had always thought she was just combative with me due to the attachment disorder and the thinking that she felt she didn't need me.)The therapist has recently suggested that our daughter has stress over being separted from me all day and that the reunion at the end of the day is at first a relief but then she is angry over the fact that I hadn't been there for her.)

So here it is 9 years later, and finally there is a glimmer of hope. The other kids are adjusting to having her as a SISTER rather than as someone who lied, stole and pretended to be all nice in public while at home she was a screaming, ranting mess. Suddenly there is giggling, playing together and yes, even normal sibling bickering. ALL of which I welcome.Suddenly family time is truly FAMILY time not 6 of us doing something and she had misbehaved to the point of not being included. Believe me it is not fun to go out for ice cream with 6 of us getting a treat and one (yes the obviously adopted child) being excluded. Talk about feeling like you are being whispered about and judged. Truthfully NO ONE could have judged me harder than I judged myself. I constantly second guessed myself when it came to parenting her. I am sure it will continue. It was so difficult having a daughter that not only rejected me as her mother but also whenever (rare as it was) that we did connect, she felt that love as something she had to protect herself from.

So it has been 9 years in a desert, wandering through this thing called attachment disorder, lost, thirsting for something that could help, seeing mirages and then being bitterly disappointed when the reality of the situation slapped us again, wanting desperately to escape. Today I have tasted the refreshing relief of water. Our daughter is not cured, but there is relief for now. A time of finally seeing her. That has been the hardest part for me. Not knowing HER beyond her pain and defensive wall building that she did to protect herself from feeling loved. Now I am beginning to see her and know her. I realize that there is a long and bumpy road ahead of us. I am trusting that God will continue to walk with us and be in control. This time of coming out of the desert is something I wasn't expecting. I honestly didn't see an end to this feeling of being lost and wandering. Now I can begin to see that we might be coming out of the desert much sooner than I had thought. This is such a blessing. I had hoped she would have some time as a child. That she would not lose her entire childhood to this disorder. That she would feel loved and trust. A few weeks ago she said that she looked forward to a time when she could tell her children about how she overcame this. How it had been a rough time but she got through it and it turned out good. I look forward to that time too.

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Monday, July 18, 2011

Thoughts After My First Missions Trip

On Saturday I returned from my first missions trip. It was through Youth Works and was based in Harrisburg, PA. Our church sent 7 adults and 28 youths on this trip. I was blessed to attend with my two oldest children. 
Going into the trip, I thought it was going to be a fun experience for the 3 of us to share together. God had other plans. I did not have either one of my children in my work group, so we basically saw each other in passing at meals and in between activities in the evenings. It was an interesting experience to let them go like that. 

For me, I experienced friendship, acceptance and got to know some great youth and amazing people in the Harrisburg community. I met Sue and Vern who just pour out love, support, and everything they have back into the community, reaching out to those who fall through the cracks in society. What was even more amazing was to watch how their "family", those that used to be homeless but now live in the homes Sue and Vern own, pour back into the community themselves. They reach back to those still living on the streets and offer a hand in any way they can to help them get off the streets. The homes are a safe haven in a very rough part of the city. (Sue referred to it as the "ghetto" herself) One of the big "take homes" for me was how much I could do differently with the same 24 hours that I have. Something as simple as just putting out free vegetables on a table for the taking. There were also the "ugly" sleeping bags. Sue and Dan (a family member who used to live on the streets) explained that a nice sleeping bag could be sold for money or could be something you would be killed for. The solution is to make these "ugly" sleeping bags that are very warm and are filled with items like a hat, scarf, a hymn, hygiene items and a pad to keep the moisture from the ground from soaking your sleeping bag. These sleeping bags are very warm and are made with love. I can only imagine how comforting it must be to snuggle down into a hand made "ugly" sleeping bag, knowing that the love of Jesus was with you. Sue and Dan gave me one and I look forward to making them with the youth group at our church and sharing them with others who live out on the streets. The one other thing that struck me was that some of the "ugly" sleeping bags were made smaller and out of fabrics for children. There are children out there sleeping under the bridges that we drive by and over. Makes it a little easier to give up some of my time to help make these sleeping bags when I think of the people who will be sleeping in them. 
A rolled up Ugly Sleeping bag. Notice the ties used to tie it up.

Inside the UGLY sleeping bag are items to help the recipient.

Our group also spent some time playing BINGO at a home for the elderly. It is amazing how much joy the game of BINGO brings to someone. The time we take to talk with someone who does not have visitors is such a small amount of time for us but is so meaningful to them. Just helping out to wheel people down to the sanctuary for Hymn singing is such a help to the workers. They dedicate their time to help people during this time in their life when many others avoid them or get too busy to visit them. It only takes an hour to help out, to smile, ask how someone is doing, to just make some sort of contact with someone, to just show that you care about them, but that small amount of time out of my week can make such a difference. 

That is what I discovered this week, that just being present for others is more than enough to make a difference. To show another person that they matter and are worth caring about is all that it takes to spread God's love. That is what I learned about how I can use the same 24 hours in better ways to share God's love. I am not always going to be God's feet by going under the bridges to search out the homeless, but I can be the one who puts together "ugly" sleeping bags with our youth group to be given to the ones who do go to the bridges. 

Each one of us can be used by the Holy Spirit to do God's work and pour out His love onto His children.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Lessons from the fields

Earlier this evening I dropped my two oldest kids off at church. They are heading up to the Adirondacks for a few days of fun with some other kids in the Youth Group. They will be going for hikes, white water rafting, and to Adirondack Extreme. My oldest daughter and I spent the afternoon shopping for last minute necesseties. They are only last minute because our weekend was filled with baseball games and cleaning out some of the garage. As I type this, my middle child is probably on his way home from All Stars practice with his dad. I took the two youngest out to dinner (they chose McDonalds and YES for the toys) and then to ice cream. It is so seldom to have one on one time like I had with my oldest daughter today and then to even have the time to spend alone with the two youngest is pretty rare too. We are usually all headed off to some ball game or other, taking two cars because my husband is always there early to help get things ready and stays late to clean up and talk about any issues that came up with whoever else ends up staying late.

Earlier today, during one his quick pit stops to change after work and head off to the ball field, he told me about how someone "accused" him of doing all of this for our kids. I'm assuming the emphasis was on OUR kids. What a funny thing to be accused of. I'm not really sure what to say to that except, "Yes." We do give almost all of our free time to our children's activities. I don't mean just driving them to the activities (which is a part time job in and of itself) but also coaching, reffing games, being on boards, getting fields ready, cleaning up afterwards, dealing with all of the negativity, complaining and snide remarks that go with it from the very few albeit very vocal people who seem to thrive on their own anger.

We have 5 children and let me tell you it is not easy. I will also tell you that it is so wonderful. I truly wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. That's not just some phoney baloney, Rob and I are truly dedicated to our our children. We are always trying to do better by them and we struggle to know what exactly that is. When we got married we "planned" on having 2 children. I have photos of us on vacation with just our two oldest kids when they were so little and the only two. I was so happy and truly felt our family was complete. The happy  fool that I was, I didn't see God's plan at work. We were so happy that we truly felt we had to share that love with another child. Before we even went to China to bring home our daughter, we already had our "third" child. So our "third" child became our fourth. (our adopted daughter came to our family AFTER our son was born but she is actually OLDER than he is by 3 months). We again, thought we were a complete family of 6 until less than a year later we found out we were pregnant with #5. We had added 3 more children to our family within two years. We had no choice but to hit the ground running. We never changed what kind of parents we were going to be just because we now had 5 kids. Rob was already coaching Justin in soccer. I spent that same summer with the double stroller coming across the soccer fields to watch all of Justin's games and his little brother and 2 sisters were there to cheer him on. Fast forward to 9 years later and Justin is now helping out at the score board, Megan is helping rake the fields and work the concession stand, while Helen, Nate and I are cheering for Logan's All Stars games. Nate also helped out as batboy for the travel baseball team Logan is on. And that is just this past weekend. THAT is our family time. We wear the team's colors to the big games as a family and sometimes even wear shirts with our last name on it with our son's number on them. YES, we're that family. LOL We support each other and cheer each other on. We don't just drop our kids off at practices and use the time to get errands done. (not that that doesn't sound like a very practical idea sometimes) We coach. We volunteer for boards. (granted Rob does more than I do but I'm right there supporting in any way I can even if it's just to listen) Yes, we do it for our kids but we are there for all of the kids. We want the best for all of the kids. Why else would anyone do this? Kids should have Little Leagues, Soccer Leagues, Basketball Leagues to play in. These organizations take an incredible amount of work and time commitments.

I don't remember the last time Rob and I went out and had a nice dinner together. Many nights are spent grabbing a hot dog at the concession stand or stopping at the local pizza place in town for a late dinner. Don't worry, this is so not a pity party. This is our family. A family of 5 kids & 2 parents that spend as much time as possible together, supporting each other, cheering each other on and spending a lot of time making sure everyone has their equipement, uniform clean (yes boys, you need to wear CLEAN socks LOL), and having bizarre conversations that go very similar to:
 "I don't know where your jock is, believe me I didn't take it and hide it on you... oh wait you made it into a boat for your lego guys... .NICE... we'll be cleaning the Lego guys now too."
" Do you have your water bottle? Yes, I know they sell water at the concession stand. Do YOU know how much I've spent at the concession stand this year? No, actually I do not want you to try and figure out how much I've spent at the concessions stand this year. Forget it we have to go, we'll get water from the concession stand when we get there. Get in the car. Did anyone feed the dogs?"

This is a snapshot of our crazy life and I wouldn't trade it for the world. I will treasure these moments when one day we find ourselves sitting across from each other alone, just the 2 of us. I know that one by one they will grow up and move onto the next stage of their lives. There will be no more soccer games, baseball games or basketball games to go to.There may even be days, very few I hope, that we don't get a call or email or text.  I can only hope that we have grandchildren who have activities that we get go to and sit proudly in the stands or auditorium. Then hopefully we'll be watching our children coaching and cheering on their children. That's what life is all about. Supporting, cheering, offering a shoulder for disappointed tears that come from time to time, talking about the great plays or how to do better next time, reminding them that we win as a team and lose as a team, and to always respect the umps, coaches and each other and don't forget to hustle and keep your chins up.

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

If I were a Robot, would it be easier?

Being a woman who wears her heart on her sleeve, you never really have to guess where I'm at. I've been called "transparent" many times and I've considered that a compliment. There are times when I wish I was harder to read... that I could keep my feelings closer to my "vest". I especially wish this with my youngest daughter. It is so difficult to not take her "rejection" personally. Nancy Thomas lists 23 symptoms to tell if a child has Reactive Attachment Disorder. #23 pretty much sums it up.

23) Parents appear hostile and angry. This is very sad, and people that don’t have RAD kids don’t understand this. The more the parent loves the child, the more pain the child dishes out to get them to stop. The child had his heart broken as an infant, and he believes that love hurts. They do whatever they can not to be loved – they don’t use the parents love to grow emotionally strong. Parents are basically abused in their own home.

As a mom to a child who has RAD, my love is received as pain. I really struggle with how to counter that. How do you show someone love when it causes that person pain based on their own brokenness? Her goal is to keep distance between us to protect herself. Believe me she is very good at it. I try to parent her in the ways suggested by RAD therapists and experts. At the same time it is very difficult to muster up the energy to even want to be with someone who you already know is going to do everything in their power to make sure you don't get close to them. I am not a Robot. I have feelings too. I went into adoption with the idea that there was a child out there somewhere in the world that needed someone to love them. That hungered for a mother's hug and love. Someone who would now know that there was someone, actually an entire family, in the world that wanted THEM and LOVED THEM. I admit that it was rooted in my own childhood desire to have someone in the world who loved me just as I was. That desire grew into wanting to give that love that I longed for to another child who felt that same emptiness and loss.

I still know that I am a warrior and that God is using all of this for our good. My question is simply, how do I show love to her without causing her pain... without her needing to do everything in her power to keep distance between us. How many times can I say "I love you no matter what." before she believes me. I do get frustrated but I keep going back to her to show her that I still love her. Yes, being pushed away hurts but even though it hurts I will always keep coming back to love her more. The roots of my love for her come from a place of my childhood pain and now her childhood pain is hurting both of us, but as the mother I have to love her through both of our pain.

It's not easy.

There are no guarantees that this will have a happy ending for us. I just want her to see me as her mom or at least I want her to feel love, period. Then there are days when I just want to get through that day without reacting to her pushing me away.

If I was a Robot it would be easier.
Robots do not have feelings to get hurt, but then again Robots also don't feel LOVE either.

"Three things will last forever--faith, hope, and love--
and the greatest of these is love."
 ~1Corinthians 13:13 NLT

It is my faith in and my greatest hope that LOVE will indeed last forever between she and I. 


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I am a Warrior

The major motivation for our move was to be closer to our church. We were there (in some combination of us) 4 nights a week and then on Sundays. It was a 35 minute drive one way and was just taking up our family time, let alone homework, and eating dinner together as a family time. Recently my youngest asked me, "So why did we move again?" "Do you remember all the time we were spending in the car going back and forth to church at night and how you had to come along on nights that daddy wasn't home even on nights that it was for Justin or Megan?" "OH yeah! Now I remember. I used to get grumpy about that. I don't like being out all night."

We still have ties to our old community since our family lives there and our kids still are involved in sports there. It is difficult realizing that some people take it personally when you move. It's very difficult to try and understand the mentallity of  "you moved... so you must think you are better than us" or the idea that "you moved so you have no right to be involved here anymore".  We sacrificed a lot to move in order to be closer to our church. Our life is pretty much all about church, the kids' school and the kids' sports.

For me, I get to continue in a great bible study group. Currently we are studying with the book, "Fashioned for Intimacy". God wants restoration of the first relationship between man and woman as image bearers of God. We need our eyes and hearts opened to how the enemy (satan) has worked to break that union with distrust, fear and suspision between man and woman. Through man and woman together, God is fully revealed. In order for this to come to pass, we need to begin to see how God created us as women and men and stop believing the lies that satan has been whispering to us about ourselves and about each other. When we, women, have the "eyes of our understanding" opened we are able to move in a realm of spiritual authority that is powerful. We are then able to see the enemy's tactics against our family members and we are then able to use the power we have in God against him. We become the virtuous warrior that God intended us to be in our families. (Chapter 10 is called the Warrior Woman) When God declared satan our enemy in the Garden of Eden, He was declaring the WE are Satan's enemy as well. As believers, we are the ones called into battle against our enemy and we need to fight off Satan's attempts at breaking apart our families and leading our children astray with his lies.

In our family, Satan has been able to use our daughter's attachment disorder to whisper many lies to us. I had questioned God's hand in this, why He would do this not only to her but to our family. The outlook for attachment disorder generally does not look good. Our daughter believes MANY lies about herself and of those who love her. It has been a constant attack from satan and a battle in our home, both spiritually and literally. This bible study has opened my eyes to these lies and have shown me who I am in Christ and what my true role is in our family. I know longer see myself in battle with my daughter or against attachment disorder. I now see that what man intended for bad, God intended for good. (I know there is a bible verse to insert here but I want to continue this thought) By seeing myself as the enemy of satan, I can see God's truths. The truth is that God did intend for our daughter to be adopted by us, she is part of God's plan, God does love me and her and He desires me to allow Him to work in her life. I need to see my enemy for who and what he is, the father of all lies. If you are familiar at all with attachment disorder then you know how invasive lying is with these children. I need to stand on God's truths and fight off the arrows of lies that are being directed at me and the members of my family. God can use attachment disorder for our good. (WOW now that is a new thought and could only be from God) I have been fighting the wrong enemy. I have been seeing the enemy's disguise. I'm not sure people who do not experience attachment disorder within their homes can truly understand how easily satan can use it. Being "rejected" as a mother by a child that you love and loved long before they were even born is devastating. It attacked every weakness and insecurity I have. I did realize that I wasn't truly the person that I was being treated like, but it didn't change the fact that one person in my life, my child, was acting as if I was. She rejected all the love I offered her because that very love was what she feared the most. For her love meant being hurt. It was and is easier for her not to receive love because that way she can not be abandoned or hurt again. It is a horrible disorder. It is a disorder that satan used to try and take me down with. I was becoming the person the LIES were telling me I was. "God must not love you." "You aren't a good mother."  "Maybe all the pain you suffered as a child that lead to your desire to adopt was all a big joke on you and no good was ever to come out of it."

Now my eyes and heart have been opened to God's truths. I now see that I am a warrior fighting for my family. I need to put on the whole armour of God and protect myself and them.

I am a warrior and you can be one too.