Category Archives: attachment

Happy Christmas? Indeed.

january joshPast Christmases with Joshua haven’t always been merry. He’s had Big Feelings around the holidays, and it taught us to scale back. It is not unusual at all for kids with traumatized pasts to act out on holidays or birthdays. We were at to one  his therapist appointments last month and  I brought up the fact that Christmas was coming, and let’s talk about how to navigate the season successfully this year. But what he said surprised me – he said, ” I don’t know what you’re talking about. I love Christmas. “. So I recounted just a little of his past issues and behaviors. and he said he doesn’t remember any of that. He remembers good things about Christmas and told some fun things he had enjoyed in the past.  I have no idea how he could forget some of the epic meltdowns of Christmases past, but apparently he has. We talked about it, and the therapist feels that Joshua has put it all behind him, and said we should just relax and enjoy the season. Ok then.

Isn’t it interesting that Joshua is good now, and I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop? Maybe I’m the one that needs to be in therapy now. It’s been 8 years since the Christmas that Paul and Carolyn left home to go pick Joshua up at the orphanage, and this is the best year he’s ever had. He’s a normal kid. No destruction, no melt downs, no outbursts against Santa. He gets up and runs to turn on the lights on the tree, he is gleefully planning his gifts, and he’s all about the baking and the goodies. We went to Wassailfest at his insistence after bowing out for several years to spare ourselves the trauma.  It went great. In short, he’s a normal happy person.  It took 8 years and a whole lot of intervention in the midst, but here we are. It’s a fabulous thing. Joshua is teaching us about peace. Why has peace come, and after all these years? I have a few thoughts on that.  Joshua decided a year ago to follow Jesus and put his trust in God, and God is helping him. That’s the short answer. I am constantly speaking the Old Testament blessing over my family:

Numbers 6:25-26 The LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and grant you peace.

And so I should not be surprised it happened – peace has been granted.   I am blogging today to rejoice in this major moment of victory and peace for our son.  I am also reporting in that for those adoptive parents that are mired  in the combat of attachment parenting of kids from hard places, it can get better. It’s a long haul, and a painful one at times, but then one day you’re at the therapist’s office and you’re the crazy one. What a glorious thing!


How is Caleb doing?

aaaaa3I haven’t been posting enough on the blog lately. I’ve written several posts and then been vetoed by the family, which is cool with me. I am not going to publish anything that they object to. There’s more to life than the blog.

One of the many things I haven’t posted about is Caleb. Somewhat that is because he isn’t doing anything too spectacular.  I was spoiled – those first few years had a meteoric trajectory of progress for him.  It’s been 4 years since we first met him.  He was non verbal, hardly moving, and was considered legally blind. It’s crazy now to think about that.

This last week, he had an evaluation with his speech therapist and he scored out to be in the normal range for his age. Therefore, he no longer qualifies for speech therapy. We are very sad to see Miss Beckie leave us.  We’ve seen her twice a week for three years now, and she is wonderful.  She has taught me so much.  I am a much better question asker of all of my kids after watching how she draws information and conversation out of Caleb. Caleb still is hard to understand when he gets excited and has a typical Cerebral palsy tilt to his speech, but he speaks very well now.   He jokes – badly, but he jokes. (“Knock knock! Who’s there? Doctor Who!!!”) He is really enjoying his Groucho Marx glasses.  He sasses. He’s singing the alphabet song, leaaaa2arning some Bible verses, and can count to 30 when he wants to. He told me last week that he felt “ill” and that he smelled an “odor”.  So he’s come a long way. We are grateful for his progress.

At the same time, we’re not seeing the work ethic he used to have at physical and occupational therapy.  He’s grown a bunch, and growth = trouble with cerebral palsy. He lost his center of balance, and his muscles got tighter. He outgrew his TAOS walking system, which I figured out when he flipped onto his side in it- evidence of some very strong thigh muscles. He complains and fights PT some days.  Other days he’s a trooper.  We are working with him daily doing electrical stimulation to build muscle mass, and that is paying off. He is getting stronger. He is less likely to buckle at the knees that he used to be when using his walker. He is able to use the walker more independently, but still is distractable so he needs a “spotter” with him so he doesn’t tip or run somebody over as he is going. The improvements we’ve seen over the last 6 months are small – he can control his foot movements a little better, and his affected hand is more capable than it was. He’s able to take his shirt on and off by himself. That’s a tshirt or sweater – not buttons. He’s able to wash his hands, and he writes his own first name now.  I’ve heard him lying in bed trying to fall asleep, saying the letters of his name out loud to himself. He asked me how to spell a friend’s name so he could write it down later. Which he never did get around to doing, but it’s good that he is thinking about it. He’s stuck in the wheelchair and the walker. I was really hoping he’d be further along in his walking skills by now, but it is what it is. If you’re of the praying sort, pray for his balance and his walking.

So there’s progress, and there’s struggle, and that’s all to be expected.

His overall health is improving – no need for breathing treatments this school year at all, and his epilepsy is under control with medication. He has acid reflux that seems to be getting worse, and is not responding to medication well.  Therefore, he goes into the hospital on Wednesday for an endoscopy.  Hopefully we will be able to find  out what his issues are and how to help him feel better.  It is interesting to me that hauling a kid to the hospital is not all that out of the routine for me, but  it would have been a big deal to me ten years ago if one of my older kids has gone in for a procedure like this one. Both parents would have taken the day off to bring him and wait it out in the hospital.  These days, I will take him by myself and Paul will deliver the other kids to school. The challenge is not dealing with the medical stuff, it is dealing with keeping aaaaa1the whole ship afloat with the schedule change.

All of this is the details, though.  When you look at him, overall, what is obvious is that he enjoys his life. He loves friends, riding horses, and his school and home. He has a friend at school that he chats with, fusses with, and enjoys. They got into a spat about if they were going to play house or school at centers time at school, and that’s the stuff of real life. We got Seaworld passes for the kids for Christmas, and he LOVES it. He rode the kids roller coaster over and over. He has a serious need for speed.  He’s desperate to ride the Journey to Atlantis, and spent an afternoon with Paul watching  youtube videos of roller coasters together. Hr can’t wait to ride the Great White and Steel Eel. He’s an adrenaline junkie. Who knew? :)

Problems, Issues, Solutions…….

january josh I’m an American. A can-do, individualist, workaholic American and many times that is an asset.  Sometimes, it isn’t, but many times it is neither an asset or liability, it’s just the way I am.

I am thinking about that tendency this morning as I am reading and thinking and researching concerning some of Joshua’s issues. We had a psychologist run  some evaluations on Joshua.  He is doing well, especially considering his rough start in life, but he is having issues keeping up in school.  His grades are poor, and homework is a BATTLE. We went and got a report on the results yesterday.  I won’t go into all the details, but he has tested very ( I mean very) high on IQ, but also high on ADHD, and anxiety.  His ADHD testing shows that he is not getting much visual input at all. He is very audio-oriented. The anxiety isn’t a shock, and we know he’s hyper, but we were a little surprised at how little visual attention ability he showed. And then my American nature that feels a need to DO SOMETHING right now.

So we’re talking through solutions, thinking about how we can help him, and I’ve spent some time on the computer this morning researching.  One thing I notice about ADHD in particular is how much “alternative medicine” advice is out there. While I do believe that a good nights sleep, a sensible diet, reasonable exercise and control over the TV and video screens are important and we have always done those things, tjanuary josh2here’s also a very real condition that might not respond fully to taking those conservative measures.There’s a lot of info about acupuncture, the Feingold diet, essential oils, light therapy and other things that will cure my kid. It’s a daunting thing to try and find research, and not anecdotal evidence, that backs up theories.  It is also interesting to read so many  accusations that Big Pharma is out to make money only and is fleecing America with all of the ADHD drugs being sold. This usually comes from salespeople for alternative approaches. Treatment with Adderall is way cheaper than $2000 for bioneurofeedback sessions or $4500 vision/light therapy that no insurance company would ever help with. Also, I like essential oils BUT I don’t think they cure autism or cancer. They could help with calming massages or to awaken the senses.  I am all for a refreshing whiff of peppermint oil, and I do use them around the house, but I don’t think they will  totally cure his adhd. His is a pretty serious case, compounded with anxiety.

Is ADHD over diagnosed in our culture? Yes. Is medication bad? Sometimes. Other times, it’s a positive game changer for struggling kids. Now you can tell that I am really overthinking things.

However, we are not assuming that it is time to start medicating him. We’re going to start with meeting with his school, meeting with our family physician, and most likely a cognitive behavioral therapist for him.  I see no reason to totally overwhelm ourselves with alternative therapies or too many options.  One step at a time.  These problems are good problems to have.  He’s secure, he’s well fed, he’s a kind person. He can read, he can write, he can add.  Helping him reach his potential is important, but we see no reason to panic about his low grades.  We’ll figure this out. We’re going to breathe, to think, and be in the moment with him instead of running like crazy towards everything that’s out there that might help him pass the second grade. That’s our plan.

Changed forever.

Joshua, the day we met him in Kazakhstan. He was 10 months old.

Joshua, the day we met him in Kazakhstan.  10 months old.

It’s a matter of some debate, whether your circumstances effect your character, your character affects your circumstances, or if circumstances merely reveal the character that was there all along. I’ll take all three options, please.

For example, I have been pro-life pretty much forever. Still am. I used to think this meant voting Republican and marching in January, but then after I was a stay at home mother and my older children were tiny, I started to volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center and met actual women in crisis pregnancies that needed help.  I spent three years there, holding hands and wiping tears and seeing that the world is indeed a complicated place.  No woman goes skipping into an abortion clinic overjoyed. They are crushed. They need compassion and care, and my standing there with love, practical help, and a listening ear is way more helpful than me standing there with a protest sign. Also interesting how useless Republicans can be on this front. The era when abortions were declining in our country? The Clinton years. The politics of abortion is not for me.

My life got too busy for the pregnancy center – I started to school my children, and added a fourth baby, and then God called us to adopt a fifth child. We head off to Kazakhstan thinking we were adding to our family completely unaware of the transformation we all were in store for.  Sitting in an orphanage with 180 little souls whose silence was deafening; but there was one time we saw some yelling and screaming there.  We had gone up to Joshua’s room to pick him up, as the staff did not bring him down to the visiting room for us. It was lunch time, sort of. Not that any of us reading this would think of this as “lunch”. They had two highchairs and 10 children,   between 8 and 12 months old, and two caretakers in there working.  Eight babies were lying on the floor, and two were in the chairs at any given moment. They had tea cups, and the baby in the chair had the cup held up to their mouth, their head forcibly tipped back, and the whole contents of the tea cup splashed into their mouths.  Some swallowed it – some tried to swallow and vomited instead; and then there was a crust of bread that they snatched up, crammed into their mouths and devoured as fast a possible.  The worst part was not the child in the chair -it was the children on the floor, and they were crying and waiting for any crumb to fall, and then grabbing that crumb and shoving it in their mouths frantically so that no other baby might get it away from them.   Each baby’s turn in the feeding chair was very short -two minutes, maybe.

We weren’t able to complete the adoption on that trip – we flew back to Texas to await a court date on which to return to Kazakhstan.  Our frie

Joshua and Sasha, this week.7 years old.

Joshua and Sasha, this week. 7 years old.

nds in Kazakhstan agreed to keep picking Joshua up for visiting time and feeding him for us while we were gone, which made this torture a bit more bearable. We went to a holiday party during this sad interval – and we couldn’t stand it. There was fine china and lovely food and a piano player, and meanwhile our son was scrapping on the floor for a crumb where we had been forced to leave him. Something in us broke. Even if we were able to get him freed and home, 179 would be left there.  A hundred thousand in Kazakhstan. A million in Russia. After that the numbers of the horrors that incalculable children around the world are experiencing don’t compute in my finite brain.

But some things do compute. We can’t give any more designated money to church building programs in America. We had to change our priorities now that we knew what life was like for the orphan.  Now that we had held them, heard them, seen them , fed them, loved them.  Now that we had a boy in our house that was a survivor – one who still has food issues and no wonder – now that we were people who identified with and loved the orphan, even if they were difficult, screaming messes.  We were changed forever by stepping into the lives and circumstances of others.

It changed our pro-life nature, too. We are still in favor of life – for everybody. Born, unborn, disabled, elderly, we all deserve love and care. But we see that those who are born are not being cared for. There are literally millions of children in our world in need of care, and some believers in Jesus are out there giving their all to help, but most are not. It is much easier to hold a protest sign than to go out and care for the “unwanted”.  To get into the hard situations with hard to love people and to love anyways.  That’s where we are going to win this thing – when we stop saying “There are no unwanted babies” when millions are dying, and we go out there and do something for those who need care. And in so doing, be changed forever.



Solving His Own Issues

2013-10-03 17.19.52There are some things that bother Joshua.  Among them are his birthday, his gotcha day, his adoption anniversary.  He does not do well on those occasions, and we have learned to scale way back on these.  We don’t celebrate Gotcha days except for a casual mention. Birthdays are harder to ignore, since the kids at school know about them and he wants to have a party and toys and friends, and yet he can’t enjoy them really and has often ended up having some sort of tantrum. Last January, when he turned 7, he told me with the weight of the world on his shoulders, he didn’t want to have his birthday. He said, ” It was not a good day for me when I was born.” It was rough for him to figure out there was a physical birth and he was not welcomed that day, and then he was abandoned. I can understand that. We had a quiet family evening at Chick-fil-a and left it at that.

Earlier this summer, though, he had an idea.  He decided that he should have a random day party.  A birthday type party, but not a birthday party. He could have cake and friends and fun without it being his actual birthday, right? We decided to play along, and the half-birthday party was planned. We are blessed with some great friends who thought it was a fun idea too and agreed to come to Joshua’s Not-birthday party.  And so we had a great day, and that evening we were telling Joshua that we were proud of him for finding a solution for himself.  He seemed really content and at peace, and he did not misbehave or melt down in any of the process.  Then he said,”Mom, do not put this on Facebook.” So I did not, and I have waited a good while to put it here on the blog, and he does not want pictures of his day on the blog.  Fair enough.   But I mention it now, because so many times I have struggled with finding good options, good ways to deal with things that are issues to Joshua, when really, the options that work come from him.  Now that he is a little older, he is working things out himself, and I just need to talk and listen more.  Also, maybe this idea will help some other family who is dealing with the same thing. We’ve been through several of the other kid’s birthdays since then, and he has had his best year yet at sibling’s birthdays.  No meltdowns, no destruction.  A victory for everyone!

Another thing that bothers Joshua is the fact that people comment on how much he looks like us.  It feels forced to him, and that somehow it shouldn’t matter how we look, because we are family regardless. He wants to know why people have to say that, why it matters to anyone who he looks like.  It is also awkward for him that often when people see Caleb, who is obviously adopted since he is a different race, then they start trying to figure out which of the other kids is adopted too.  One time an acquaintance we’d just met was asking Paul that very question, which kid is adopted and who isn’t, and Paul said, “We forgot.” Joshua loved that one.  One time someone said  out loud about Matthew,”Well, he looks so much like his daddy there’s no way you could deny that one is yours!” and you know they meant it to be nice but it was like slapping Joshua upside the head. This person had no idea that Joshua is adopted or that he is sensitive about this.  Not all adopted kids care about this issue, and it isn’t as though we’re mad about it because we know people aren’t trying to upset Joshua, but we’re trying to figure out solutions for him.  There has to be some balance between being sensitive about it and also helping him to move on.

The other day I was up at Joshua’s school and one of the secretaries said,”Is this your son? He looks so much like you!”, and this delightful lady had no idea about the adoption.  My hand was on his back and I felt him stiffen up.  Oh dear. I knew he needed truth, so I said,”He is my very own, but I can’t take credit for his good looks.  He’s adopted so it was God that chose his looks.” and Joshua relaxed and moved on.  Truth was served, and I think we need to start saying things like this, honoring Joshua’s need for truth. But that was the end of the issue -we don’t need to linger on stuff like this, and letting it go ourselves will hopefully help him let it go too.


Joshua’s and Sasha’s Big Moment

Ok, so maybe Sasha didn’t accomplish anything, but she sure thought she was involved. After many years, hundreds of attempts, and countless practice sessions, Joshua successfully tied a shoe. In this moment of triumph and excitement, a photo had to be taken. This first success was my shoe – bigger shoes are easier to tie.  He is now able to tie his own size shoe as well.

Sasha could not have agreed more about the need for a photograph to commemorate this auspicious occasion. That dog is very proud of Joshua and supported him every step of the way. It was not possible to take a picture without Sasha in it.  Enjoy.

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Building up: Boys and Legos

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Matt’s Eisengard Tower

My kids love Legos.  Recently Matthew had a birthday, and Justin bought him an X Wing fighter, which was a pretty extravagant gesture for a broke college student, but much appreciated. The boys had a great time together building it, and Justin said it was just an excuse for him to play legos again even if he is too old for them now. You never get too old for Legos.  You just don’t.

Legos are too expensive for us to have everything the kids want. Matt wanted the new Eisengard tower set, but the price is out of his range. So he built one of his own design with what he already had. Joshua and Caleb were so impressed with Matt’s creation that they started build more things from their own designs and imaginations. It was something of a break through for Caleb – he is more into tearing things down and not much of a builder, and he can’t work the tiny legos with his disability. However, he can use wooden blocks, and he has started building little houses. He was very proud of his work, and I do mean work, because this takes some serious effort for him. He insisted I take pictures and text them out to his friends and his dad. I’ll add some of the pictures to this post.

You can really see their personalities in the Lego and block work.  Joshua is focused on the little Lego guys; he wants to collect them, set them up, imagine scenarios for them, provide vehicles and storage places and hiding places for them. And he is for the crashing and breaking up of things already built. He’s very much an extrovert, a relational person.  I have no pictures of his creations, as they do not last very long.

This side of the tower has solid walls; the other picture shows the open side.

This side of the tower has solid walls; the other picture shows the open side.

Matthew wants to work in privacy, and set things up that shall never ever be disturbed again. They are not for “playing” with; they are for creating and leaving perfect forever. He builds some amazing and intricate stuff; he is a task oriented perfectionist, an architect on a tiny yet impressive scale. Matt is very much an introvert.

Caleb wants to be included and approved of, but he doesn’t care much about the stuff. He is not very

Caleb designed this house with a fenced in yard for pets.

Caleb designed this house with a fenced in yard for pets.

materialistic, which makes sense when you consider his life experiences and physical limitations. He enjoys being with people and trying, but until this latest set of houses he built, hasn’t shown much design ability. We are super proud of his little village, but with the wooden blocks they don’t last. He made several three story houses, but they fell pretty quickly since the laws of physics are what they are.

You can imagine this contrast in styles causes some problems. Matt has a very hard time with Joshua messing with his Legos. Josh has a very hard time with the fact that Matt has some amazingly cool designs and won’t let anyone play with them.  One parenting rule that we have stuck with through the years is that we are firm believers in personal property rights. We do not make our kids share. If you do not want to play together or share, then don’t. Go be by yourself, put your things where no one else can get them, and have things your own way. Forced sharing is not sharing at all in our opinion. When kids have no choice but to share, they are resentful and sneaky.  We do encourage sharing, and will comment and be pleased when they choose to share, but we do not require

This is small garage with a driveway.

This is small garage with a driveway.

it. We have found that this policy is a great peacemaker, and that the kids have figured out that if you are nice and share your things, then your siblings will be nice and share with you. If you are nasty and mean, you will be alone and without toys and Mom and Dad will not help you with that problem.  Our kids generally get along and do share with each other; but  Matt does have special Legos that he does not ever share, and we respect that.

We have a big box of Lego bricks that I got at a yard sale and those are for everyone -they are mine, and I share with the kids, but I keep them in my closet and hand them out and collect them back to keep the mess down.  That way there are some community bricks, and yet all of the boys have their very own as well.

We’re building more than Lego creations around here.

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One reason among many

We get asked fairly regularly why we would adopt a kid who has disabilities, when clearly we are busy and have other things to do, many of which have serious merit. How does one choose how to spend their life and their time? The simple answer is that this is what God has called us to do; he needed a family and we have a family to share. It is complicated and difficult to parent a child, more so a special needs child. We do get tired, and there are challenges, but we are also having some serious joy around our house because Caleb is here with us. He is a happy, joyful person. He adds so much to our world and God is using his story to touch many lives.

2013-09-13 20.29.50 But some of the reasons we did it have taken years to unfold, like what happened at our house on Friday night. I was tired. It was a long week,  and Caleb needed to be cleaned off after eating a  messy dessert. There are some rules I have for myself, to keep from wearing myself out, and some of those rules are that I don’t give Caleb baths anymore, and I keep his hair short because it is easier for me to use clippers than scissors. I put him on the bath chair, I put him in the shower, but I do not put him in the bathtub. It’s low to the ground, it’s slippery, and it’s time consuming. His caregivers will do bubble bath time for him sometimes – but they’re not on duty 24/7, and they’re not multitasking like I am.

So Caleb wanted to go have a bath, and I told him sorry, it’s just me tonight. I am going to trim your hair up and put you in the shower. Abigail was home, and she said,”No, I will do it. He wants to have a bath and I will do it. It will be fun.” At first I was irritated with her, because if I say something and make a plan, and then other people step in and contradict me, I am going to have chaos here in no time flat. People with 6 children have to be pretty careful about that. Then she started criticising my hairdo plans for Caleb, and that’s not cool either. But I was just tired enough to not even care. If Abigail wanted to deal with his hair and bath, she could knock herself out.

Caleb was very excited and Abigail was too. She set him up on the back porch, put the cape on him, and got out the scissors to fix his hair. He was combed and trimmed and fussed over; they had a ball out there while I was picking2013-09-13 21.28.48 up the dinner dishes and loading up the dishwasher.

Then they headed into the bathroom for his bath and you could hear them laughing all over the house. So cute.

And then it hit me. I have a sixteen year old daughter who, on a Friday night, could think of nothing better to do than bless her little brother with some attention and fun. And she was having a great time. Somehow, in the process of adopting and raising a special  needs kid, we’ve been blessed with our other kids catching a vision for love and joy that goes beyond our own. I just wanted to get him cleaned up, processed, and put to bed. Abigail wanted to enjoy him. She took these pictures for her instagram, but I am borrowing them for the blog.

So, well played, Abigail. Let your light so shine.

Matthew 5: 14 – 16 14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.


Carolyn and I took Joshua and Caleb to the Snake Farm/Animal World zoo.  I will admit it wasn’t high on my list of things to do for the summer, but the boys were so excited to go. I have been, years ago, and I think Matt was in kindergarten, and Justin was still homeschooled. That’s a long time ago. It has come a long way since then, with a much larger collection of animals, who are being cared for more carefully than the last time I was there. However, it still smells like, well, a zoo. That’s for sure.

But little boys do not care about that, so off we went.  It was crowded, and it was 100 degrees. What was I thinking? The boys were making me crazy – Caleb wanted to know what was next and what time we were leaving, and not paying any attention to the animals. Joshua was running away and being super hyper for reasons unknown to me.  Yes, he is hyper normally, but when it’s 100 degrees out, you would think he would wear out at some point.

So I was pretty much playing the role of Mrs. Grumpy Pants. Thankfully, Joshua, while running way ahead, grabbed hold of the bars of an enclosure, and yelled out to us – and everyone around – “Hey! Somebody’s snuck a chihuahua in here!” Caleb was so excited to see this chihuahua. Not interested in Macaws, peacocks, alligators, caimans, rattlers, camels, capuchin monkeys, mountain lions, lemurs, lizards, or bats. But this chihuahua, he must see. Carolyn and I got to laughing out loud, and then when we got to the cage, we really got to laughing. Take a look.

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This, friends, is not a chihuahua. It is a fennec fox. They are cute and have big ears, so I can see the point of confusion, and we all had a good laugh. Joshua is still not convinced fennec foxes are not little Mexican dogs, so I googled up another picture of one on my phone  to prove it to him. He’s not buying it. 2013-07-31 13.20.13

At that point, we were super hot and sweaty, a little slap happy, and a kind employee told us it was time for the snake demonstration.  So we rushed off with the crowd to see the snakes. I assumed that this would not involve little children handling snakes, but I was wrong.  That’s exactly what this involved. They could not have been more impressed.

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Good Gracious.  When the show was over, we headed over to the petting zoo area.  Caleb was now fully engaged, and I guess it makes sense that 5 year old boys do not want to look at exhibits. They want to touch and experience. He and Josh clutched their little $4 bags of animal feed like they were pure gold and headed off to feed the animals.  I will say, those bags were not filled with treasure, but these photos that Carolyn took are treasure for sure.


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Counting the Cost

I recently saw an article in which a fellow adoptive parent  expressed regrets about the costs of parenting hard children and the suffering that can be caused to the biological kids that are also in the home. It is hard – I know. There is a cost. I think there is a need for open discussion and acknowledgement that it’s difficult, draining, hard, and it’s easy to be judged and misunderstood as an adoptive parent. It’s good to talk about the costs.

At the beginning of a parent/child relationship, it’s different betwenn adoptive and biological kids. With a baby born to you biologically, you’ve known each other for nine months, and you share DNA. You know each other already. When it’s an adoption, it takes time to get acquainted, and that’s ok to acknowledge.  When kids come to you older or from a place of trauma, you have to let the child heal and learn to bond, and it takes time and can be messy and hard.  The differences in the process of the relationship and the nature of the relationship are very key here, though.  My adopted children are mine, and have been mine, legally and commitment wise, since they came to me. In this way there is no difference between my biological and adopted children.  We, Paul and I , are all in. In the face of relationship troubles and bad behavior, whether a child is biological or adopted, they are ours. Period.

What if Justin were to give us a ton of trouble and require more resources for his issues than the other kids? Would we feel super sorry about it or guilty about it? Nope. We would do what we need to do for him.  If Caleb needs more time, more trips to the doctor, more trips to the therapist, do we begrudge him, or feel resentful about it? Nope.  We would do what we need to do for him. The primary reason for this is love. We love, or we wouldn’t be adopting in the first place. We love, and we make people a part of our family though birth or adoption, and we commit to that love for as long as we have breath in our bodies. Is it hard? Costly? Painful? Yes. Isn’t everything that is worthwhile?

Some adoptive families head into adoption because they’re going to save the world, change a life, fix a problem. This is going to result in some serious frustration.  Kids aren’t fixable, and they’re not a problem. They are lovable, precious, created individuals, and they need a family. All of them. If   biological kids were to act crazy or do the family damage, and then the parents were to give up, it would not be received well.   But when it’s kids from hard places, it’s ok to give up, and it’s socially acceptable to say it’s too much to ask of a parent, because 99% of people are unwilling to do it. So it’s ok to say it’s too hard, and then everyone who is doing nothing about the millions of children who need homes can all feel better about themselves and think, “Whew! I knew I shouldn’t get involved. Those kids are trouble.”

How sad.  Seriously, if you are not ready to commit to take the bad with the good, to love without stopping, and to allow yourself to feel pain and frustration, don’t have kids of any variety. They’re a mess. They’re not safe.

But if you want to live large, if you want to live abundantly, then step out and love the unlovable. I had a good life before I stepped into the role of an adoptive parent, but when I got my hands on Joshua, our first adopted child, I saw the heart of God in a deep way that could never have been explained to my suburban American self before I lived it.  We emptied our bank account, traveled around the world three times, suffered in a third world country, and cried ourselves to sleep about a little boy who did not even know us yet, because we loved him and wanted him in our family. He had nothing to offer us – he was sickly, malnourished, and completely unaware that there was any other way of living, or even that there was a sun and flowers and kitchens full of food in this world. He was a precious, skinny, stinky, waif of a boy with explosive diarrhea.  The moment we noticed that the monumental ordeal we went through to adopt Joshua was only a faint shadow of what Jesus had done for us, emptying himself and leaving heaven to come after humans who really had nothing to offer Him, at a cost of everything He was, it took our breath away. I would not have missed that for the world.

If you have never watched an orphan transform into a beloved son or daughter, you have missed a blessing. My biological kids feel the same way. We watch miracles daily. We have boys here that walk and talk and love and bring us such joy that our hearts might burst. Joshua would most likely be dead and buried by now, if he had stayed in that orphanage. Caleb’s case worker said he was going to be sent to a nursing home if we didn’t take him.  That is the cost that we need to be counting – the cost of innocent children, who are precious blessings, if you know how to look at them.

So yes, we have hunted down trouble, and we brought it home with us. Obviously, we have six kids, and there’s sacrifice involved. We don’t eat out much, but everyone does get to eat, which wasn’t true before. Matt doesn’t have an iphone, unlike 95% of the 7th graders in his school. Kids share rooms, and they don’t have TVs in them. We don’t have closets full of designer clothes and we don’t eat fancy food and we don’t have cable. There’s been struggle in relationships and damage inflicted. I just took a quick poll of the kids and asked them if they could identify areas of deprivation or concern to them.  They couldn’t.

We can’t do without any of our kids, however. We can’t stand to think about them facing the challenges of life without a family. There isn’t anybody here who is sorry about the trials we’ve gone through or the choices to bring adopted kids into the family. Yes, there’s been suffering, but counting the cost of not having those boys is unthinkable. To all of us.


Disclaimer: There are those children from hard places who need residential treatment/placement and this is in no way judging those parents who ask for help or make alternative living arrangements in the best interests of their families and children.