Tuesday, November 18, 2014

national adoption month...

Did you know that November was National Adoption Month?  I have heard about this for years since we are a family that was formed through adoption, but never really paid too much attention to what it meant.  Celebrating National Adoption Month is based on raising awareness for the need for foster and adoptive parents here in the US.  It's roots go back to 1976 and you can read more about it here.

It's been interesting to hear people's reactions to the fact that our children were adopted.  Many people do not know what to say or how to broach the topic of adoption.  It's not actually something I bring up very often with people.  It's not that I am hiding or ashamed of adoption, it's just that is occurred in the past and I don't think about it daily.  My husband have been incredibly blessed by adoption and in my speaking bio I say that 'I have three children through the miracle of international adoption'.

As with anything that has politically correct language surrounding it, there are landmines.  We do not always use the correct phrase or words when talking about a topic that is new to us.  I think it is our responsibility to educate people on how a sensitive topic should be talked about.  So, I give people the benefit of the doubt when talking about adoption.  But if I've corrected you and given you a preferred phrase or word to use, I'm not as forgiving when you say the wrong thing in the future. 

Recently, I was talking with the mother of a school friend Luke's and A mentioned that her sister and husband had adopted a sibling group.  Then she went on to say that she couldn't understand a mother 'giving their child away'.  That verbiage is a pretty big no-no in the adoption community.  Many people are adamant that it sends the wrong message to say a child was given away versus the mother made an adoption plan.  I'm not nearly as insulted as some with the use of this language if I can discern that your heart is in the right place and you are not inferring that my children were discarded by their birth parents. 

She explained that her sister adopted right around the time A miscarried and was mourning the loss of a baby she desperately wanted.  We chatted about adoption as a choice for a different life for a child and that sometimes this was the best decision for the mom and child.  Since my children were internationally adopted, I couldn't comment on the foster to adopt process her sister went through.  She ended our conversation saying that now that she wasn't mourning she could understand how adoption is a preferred choice for some mothers.  It was a great chance for me to see the 'other' side of how people view adoption.  And I was so happy to hear that her sister, husband and 3 kids were doing great as a family.

A few months ago, my son John came home one day and said 'when we were playing, N mentioned that his mom had said 'Luke and I weren't really brothers'.  First, I was shocked that a mother would tell her son that and that the son would repeat it to my son.  Second, I know that N's mother doesn't like me so I wasn't surprised that she was talking poorly about my family but I was surprised that adoption came up in such a negative light.  I don't know the situation surrounding why N and his mother were talking about my family but she was speaking the truth.  My children are not biological siblings, we adopted them all separately.  But when we adopted them they became siblings and we experience all the same stuff that biologically related children do.  My prayer from the beginning for my children has been that God would knit their hearts together as brothers and I can see the answer to that prayer on a daily basis.

This gave me a chance to talk with John and Luke about the fact that in truth they were not born brothers but when God put them in our family they became brothers.  John said he knew that but didn't feel like talking about it to N, so he just let it go.  I had a harder time letting it go and it kept knocking around in my brain for a few weeks.  I finally decided not to approach this friend's mom for two reasons.  First, it gave us a chance to talk as a family about adoption and we had some good dialog around what's appropriate to say and not say.  Secondly, given the fact that she doesn't like me to start, I was pretty sure she wouldn't be open to me educating her on adoption.

I've had some incredibly stupid comments made towards me and my children and had some wonderfully thought provoking conversations with total strangers.  It's interesting what people will say apparently without thought or knowledge on a topic.

Just like the word retarded is an insult to me every time you use it, saying negative things about adoption out of ignorance or malice can hurt my kids.  Here's a video made by pastor Jesse Butterworh that compares adoption to a boob job in terms of what's appropriate to say. 

I think it's hilarious and hope you did too.  And yes, I've had people say all that stuff to me...


Thursday, November 13, 2014

grace is a butterfly...

When the kids were little, I bought custom signs to hang in their rooms with their names, an adjective about them and an elephant.  They said, 'John you are awesome' with a picture of an elephant, 'Luke you are incredible' with the picture of a giraffe and 'Grace you are amazing' with the picture of a butterfly.  Every night at bedtime, we would say these things to our children and have them say it to each other.  We are big believers in the power of the spoken word and planting positive thoughts in the ground of our children's fertile brains.

At night we would say our prayers and good nights, and Luke would say 'John you are awesome and Grace you are a butterfly'.  Every night.  One of us would correct him and say Grace you are amazing.  I think Luke continued to do this because I thought it was so cute.

I'm sorry to say the habit of speaking these words into my children at bed time has lapsed and weeks will go by without anyone saying it.  A few nights ago, Luke said 'Goodnight Grace.  You are a butterfly.'  Which caused me to tear up at the sweet memory of those long ago nights.

It also caused me to tear up because I've been struggling lately with some of the realities of having a total care special needs child like Grace.  It's not always hard but sometimes it is.  Recently, sometimes seems to be more frequent than not.  Plus, as you know, life continues and struggles in other areas are always present.  I was telling a friend the other day that I think it would be easier if I could handle one struggle before another one came, but that's not  the life we live in this broken world.

As I was thinking about Luke's comment about Grace being a butterfly, my mind wandered to the transformation that a caterpillar goes through to become a butterfly. Which brought to mind one of my favorite bible verses, Romans 12:2:

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

I love this verse, because it speaks of change, renewing and God's perfect will.  The Message puts it this way:

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

I find myself changed through our daughter and her special needs.  It's not always pretty and it's not always easy to be changed from the inside out.  Sometimes it's hard to accept that the God of the universe loves Grace more than I do and that her disabilities are His perfect plan and will for her life.  But that is what His word says.

Believing His word to be true I place it all before Him.  My hopes and my fears, my tears and my doubts, my joy and my anger, my dreams and my broken plans.  He knows all this about me and still He loves me.  He renews me.  He changes me from the inside out.  As a result of that renewal, my faith is stronger and my heart is fuller.

Accepting this to be truth and love, allows me to change on the inside.  It allows me to be transformed into the person God created me to be.  Allowing God to work in me, brings me one day closer to becoming a butterfly, just like Grace.

This picture is from an after school walk the other day.  The weather was so nice, the kids and I took a walk after they got off the bus.  Grace wouldn't put elmo down so he came too.  She carried him the whole way, which was impressive because she usually doesn't use her hands to hold anything.  Which is a small glimpse of progress and a gift from God for this mama.


Friday, November 7, 2014

november so far...

My camera is broken.  I'm so sad about it too. Grace pulled it off the counter and broke my zoom lens this summer.  Then a week later she pulled it off the stroller handle and the flash broke.  It's been a few months without my camera and I really miss it.  Even though my phone takes great pictures, I miss using a real camera.  Here are some recent-ish pictures of the kids.

This is how they dressed for their school pictures.  John said, 'They only photograph your top half so I'm wearing shorts on the bottom.'  Plus, he can't wear shorts to school starting on November 1st.

Our first fire of the season!   We've had some really strange weather and have only had one fire so far, but I'm going to have Mark build one tonight (even if I have to open up the windows).

The boys have been playing basketball after school.  Well, John plays basketball and Luke hangs from the backboard.  He wants to climb up on top and sit on top of the back board.  I hope he's not able to do that.

I got this picture from Grace's teacher today.  She attended a Veteran's Day Parade with her class.  I love getting pictures of her smiling during the day.  She goes to such an amazing school.

For the past three months I've been eating clean, which means (for me) eating real food without a lot of additives.  I'm also not eating sugar, grains or dairy.  I do this about 90% of the time and really love the way I feel.  I made this recipe this week, and it was amazing.  Even my boys ate it.

We can't stop listening to this song.  We love T Swift!

I'm slowly reading this book.  I usually have 3 or 4 books that I'm reading at a time.  I'm savoring this one in between bible study and our small group study book.  It is good.

My friend and I are going here soon.  I've wanted to try this for a while and finally found a friend who will go with me.  It's a little bit outside of my comfort zone but I can't wait to try it.

Because it is getting cold, I'm wishing I was here with my husband.  We dream of living at the beach and hope to make that a reality sooner rather than later.  But as the weather turns cold, I dream of going to exotic islands and swimming in clear blue waters with my sweetie.  I know that this will never happen right now, based on our season of life.  But I think dreaming keeps us alive and can ignite our souls.


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

halloween 2014...

My boys had a half day on halloween, so I picked them up for an afternoon of fun.  We went out to lunch, walked around our favorite gardens, got hot chocolate and coffee and then came home.  The weather was amazing so, I got some pictures of them in the 'pumpkin patch'.  These boys are so cute they kept posing and asking me to take their picture.

 Just like last year, there was a lot of discussion about costumes.  We set a narrow limit on what our boys can be, so they are typically superheros, action figures or ninjas.  John picks something new every year and Luke has been spiderman every year.  This year Luke decided he was going to be c3po, which made me a little sad but it's his choice.  Well, when we went to the store Luke picked spidey again (I silently cheered!), John is a ninja and Grace has butterfly wings on because she needed a costume for her school parade.   Here are some pictures of my crew...


Grace stayed home with me and 'helped' hand out candy.  One of the kids said 'I like your sound effects.' because Grace was vocalizing her happy noise.  And I replied, 'oh that's my daughter, she's disabled and is happy'.  As soon as I said it, I felt bad because he looked super upset and apologized to me.  Here's how she was laying on the stairs as she was 'talking'...

I'm so happy it's November.  I'm taking all my fall-ish decorations down today and putting up some Christmas-y stuff.  I may or may not have made my Christmas Holiday playlist too.

Don't forget to vote today!


Friday, October 31, 2014

day 31: some final thoughts on order...

I find myself with mixed emotions as this daily writing challenge ends.  To be honest, I struggled with the daily blogging and had to sometimes write 2-3 posts at a time due to my schedule.  I did however, enjoy exploring this topic of order and sharing my thoughts.

In the end, I think my desire for order is being fed by a desire to simplify.  To slow down and really be present with my family and friends.  To intentionally simplify is a practice that I don't have perfect right now, but it is a journey that I find myself on.

As a start, we are simplifying our possessions and sorting through things we no longer need or use.  We are being more mindful of screen time, a topic I intended to cover in this series and didn't.  We are intentionally opening our home and ourselves to others, so that we can practice true, authentic community.

We are also a family that lives with disability on a daily basis, which means sometimes order is not possible.  We have hit some bumps in the road that result in us needing to regroup or adjust what order means to us as a family.  We are also learning as we navigate this path of life what works and doesn't work in terms of simplifying. 

I do a ton of reading, and right now most of the books I am drawn to have the theme of simplifying in one form or another.  So, I'm thinking that this is a lesson I need to focus on and truly find what order looks like for me and my family.

One of the books I've been enjoying is called Almost Amish, One Woman's Quest for a Slower, Simpler, More Sustainable Life, by Nancy Sleeth.  This is her second book and she walks through how we can learn from and adopt practices from the Amish way of life.

Another book that I just picked up and look forward to reading is Hands Free Mama, A guide to putting down the phone, burning the to-do list and letting go of perfection to grasp what really matters, by Rachel Macy Stafford.  It has mixed reviews on amazon but her blog seems to be highly liked.

I try to order my life so that my relationship with God is first, my family comes second and anything else comes third.  I think that by simplifying things I will be able to focus my time and attention where it needs to go.

In honor of today being Halloween, I'm adding a flash back picture to 2009 of my little munchkins.

I can't believe that November starts tomorrow!  I just read on instagram today that there are 55 days until Christmas.  Which means that our year is flying by at warp speed.  I'm hoping to be more intentional, thoughtful and present during the next two months.  I think this 31 day reminder to focus on order has been a good one for me.

Hope you all have enjoyed my series.  I will not be posting daily in the coming months but plan on 2-3 posts a week on some very specific topics.  Thanks for reading my series.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

day 30: choose hope...

Sometimes, often times really, life is complicated and doesn't turn out the way we think it should.  This is one of those times for my family.  In addition to abiding in the Lord right now, I am choosing to have hope that the things we are facing with Grace right now will work out for the best.  Even though I can't see or determine what that is right now.

I love these words by Nelson Mandela.  I find that I need the reminder to base my life and choices on the hope that I have in Jesus and not the fears of this world.  Our home is full of words and sayings that inspire us and remind us of what we want to focus on.  Saying like this help center me on what is important and bring me order and peace.  I encourage you to surround yourself and your home with the words and sayings that inspire you, that remind you of what your hope is in.

Choose hope...


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

day 29: do good...

One of the best ways I've found to restore order to my life is to do something for someone else.  It takes my eyes off myself and causes me to focus on someone other than me and my family.  Not only are you doing something good, you can use this as an example for your children.  I always remember being told that the most important thing to remember in parenting is; 'it's not what you say it's what you do'.  We can tell our children how to behave all we want, but if we aren't modeling it they aren't buying it.

At this time of year especially, there are so many ways to do good in our daily life.  Food banks and soup kitchens pretty much always need supplies and volunteers.  So they are great ways to give of your time and money.  You can simply search  the internet for ones in your local area.  These are great places to take children to volunteer too.  We go to West Virginia for Thanksgiving and my boys have been helping feed the homeless on Thanksgiving day for the past 5 years. 

We also use this time of year to have our kids clean out their toys.  We go through their playroom and bedroom and have them make 3 piles of toys; give, throw away and keep.  They are getting pretty good at it now, but for years it was a battle to get them to give away toys they no longer played with.  So we started identifying who they wanted to give their toys to and it really helped.  Now they have a pile for Colin (their cousin), Eli and Sam (friends from church) and kids they don't know.  I think childhood is a great time to teach children to give out of their excess.

I also believe that the smallest, simplest act goes a long way.  I worked in both retail and in restaurants during college and I know how stressful and sometimes thankless those jobs can be.  So I'm always super nice to our servers and store clerks.  It doesn't cost you anything to be polite and ask how they are doing and it may just turn their day around.  And (again) you are modeling how to treat others to your children.

Another simple, but often overlooked, way to help others is to hold a door for them.  As the mother of two boys it is important to me to train them on how to be polite and treat women.  And yes I realize that all women can open a door themselves, but I like the old ways of manners and am instilling them in my sons.  This lesson of holding doors is twofold in our family, 1) they are learning to be polite to others and 2) I typically need help getting in and out of doors if I have Grace in her adaptive stroller.  So they have learned from a young age that being part of this family means that they get the doors for Mom and Grace. 

I also hope to never forget the example set by another women one day when I was out shopping with all three kids.  I pushing one of those huge carts with the car in the front, when all of the sudden Luke leans over and pukes on the floor.  I remember just standing there for a second 'thinking could this shopping trip get worse?'.  As I'm trying to comfort Luke, ensure that Grace doesn't fall out of the cart, telling John to stop yelling about the puke, trying to figure out how to clean up the floor and trying not to cry, a woman walks over to me and says 'it's going to be okay'.  She told me to stop cleaning the floor and tend to my children.  She would call for help and have the store mop the floor.  Then she hugged me and told me that these days would pass and I would survive them.

The comfort of that stranger went a long way in my life that day and gave me an example to model now that I shop without kids all the time.  A simple smile or a word of kindness goes a long way to making someone else's day better.

So I encourage you to do good today...