This week has absolutely FLOWN by! I mean, it feels like Josh just came and smacked my butt and kissed me goodbye. (okay, so maybe he didn't smack my butt...THIS time, ha!) But he gets home TOMORROW! For that I am thankful. Really thankful.
My sister-in-law has been in Uganda working on bringing her daughter home from Uganda. She will be flying home this weekend with her oldest biological daughter that joined them this leg of the journey. Their case has been sent to Nairobi. We believe it will only be a matter of time before Chloe joins them here in America, but there must be more waiting and praying first! Now I know that rules and systems are in place to keep all the bad guys from getting all the helpless children, but really?! Chloe just needs to be home already.
Josh and I have graduated to the next season of parenting. We had our first discussion behind closed doors the other day about what in the world we should do. We are dealing with habitual lying and stealing now and the consequences of covering up sin. It's hard. Really hard. We sure are glad to have godly parents and friends with wisdom and experience to steer us as we seek to reach the root of the issues and the heart behind the sinful actions. Have I mentioned that it's hard? Really hard.
I've been reminded of God's grace in a fresh new way this week. I've also realized that I'm going to have a really hard time when my kids grow up and deal with a similar situation that I faced when I was younger. They will most likely do things differently and make different choices than I did. Not that I made the wisest of choices all the time (right mom;), but stepping back and allowing them to live and learn through their own choices. It's gonna be tough. Really tough.
I've really started something this week. We may regret it because it's a bit time-consuming, but it's been the perfect way to close out each day with each of my kids. After the bedtime routine is complete (I've been trying to shred the time off of this routine for years but it still takes AT LEAST 45 minutes to get the kids ready for bed. I believe it could be made into an Olympic sport, ha!)...I digress, ahem...they all grab a book (length approved by mom) and hop in bed. I go grab the flashlight and turn the lights off. I then climb in each bed, one at a time, and read a story softly to them by flashlight, careful not to rush through the pages and most certainly using my finest character voices! They love it, it settles them down. If they get out of bed and run around while I'm reading someone else their story they don't get that time. The best part about it? Not one of them has come out of their room after the door is closed since I started doing that! I have blissful mommy time the rest of the evening:)
My to-do list today is quite lengthy:
I know it will be tough to stick to, but someone needs to soak up all that sun, right?
You know how everyone has an opinion about who your kids look like? One morning I heard, "Jude looks JUST LIKE Areyna", who strongly favors her daddy, and then a few minutes later Jude looked JUST LIKE his mama!
Personally I'm terrible at seeing other peoples traits in a baby most of the time, but every once in a while it just kind of jumps out at ya, you know?!
Well, Jude has looked like everyone in our family (except Alethia...it must be because of the hair, ha!) but I would say the most frequent look-a-like comparison would be to Zeke.
I figured I'd get a few older pictures out and see if we could really see it in age perspective.
Zeke is on the left and Jude is on the right:)
...you should at least figure out which things are worth shelling out the extra dough on!
There is NO need to go "all organic", unless you just really have a few hundred extra bucks sitting around for groceries.
In my quest to find the healthiest, most cost efficient, way to feed the colony I've compiled a list (from several different sources) of which foods to buy organic and which ones are fine to buy...uhhhh..."unorganic":)
Now, this isn't to say that we buy these certain foods organically 100% of the time. We firmly believe that we can do the best we can, with the budget we have been given, and the Lord will honor that!
Foods To Buy Organically:
milk (and milk products)
There is NO NEED to buy these foods as organic:
cantaloupe (try to buy this domestically though)
One more thing to note - the cheapest place I've found to buy organic and healthy food is Trader Joe's. In fact, I just got my big groceries there this week and spent $125 which is no less than I would have spent anywhere else (even with coupons) because we have pretty much cut out snack foods, boxed meals, boxed vegetables and boxed and processed foods. If I were to spend $125/week for a whole month I would actually be staying in my grocery budget a month for a family of 7! Not too shabby.
I also do ALDI for just about everything else on my list.
I've begged Areyna for the last time to finish school. No, she still hasn't finished it. In fact, she's been on her last lesson since a little after 10am! We are ALL in desperate need of a school break.
On a much happier note...
Omega 3 vitamins are my new best friend. Quite honestly I've always kind of rolled my eyes at vitamins and supplements. But that was BEFORE I began taking Omega 3s. I've been transformed into a new woman by those little fish oil supplements and if you don't believe me, ask my husband;)
The new effort I've been putting forth in my relationship with Alethia has actually strengthened my relationship with each of my other kids as well. It's amazing how easy it can be to neglect such simple things as face-to-face time, eye contact, gentle touches while communicating and a couple minutes of bedtime snuggles. And you better believe that I'm right there with you other moms...when 8 o'clock rolls around I am done, spent! But lately I've felt convicted about my half-hearted kiss on the cheek as I walk out the door at night. It's amazing what two minutes of un-interrupted bedtime snuggles can do! (I don't know, maybe I AM alone on this one)
Jude, oh Jude, I love him! He will NEVER be like the other kids who talk back to their mommies or throw temper tantrums or fight over toys...at least for a few more months anyway;)
Josh and I have a hot date tonight. Like a REAL hot date. Not a stay-at-home date night, but a pay-a-babysitter date night:) This momma is SO excited! Where are we going? Well, I'll have to go see what gift cards we have in stock, ha!
The weather has been SO steamy and hot this week! We are SO grateful for the pool that we have to swim in this summer:) Zeke has gotten so brave that he'll take off into the deep"er" end all by himself! That's a big deal for this little guy who won't even walk down the hallway at home by himself.
Our garden has really flourished this season! We picked a tennis ball sized tomato last week and one a little bit larger this week. I'd take a picture of it but by the time we all got a taste it was all gone. We're really living off the land I tell ya.
I believe Alethia grew leaps and bounds in her trust in us as parents and as a family.
We had very few bumps in the road to our attachment and bonding.
The initial response to our family was timid, and then for some reason after a few days she became scared of Josh. Their relationship had a rocky couple of weeks but we worked through it and their relationship has never been better! She is his little shadow:)
Then there was the moment that will forever be engraved in my mind. The moment Josh had to pry my screaming and crying new little Ugandan daughter from my arms at airport security, not knowing if I'd ever see her again. I can't even imagine what was going through her little mind at that moment.
My heart hurt. It ached. There was love there!
Then we got the email stating that her VISA had been accepted and she was coming HOME!
Home to America, to spend her life with her new Forever Family.
There was love and excitement there.
I had no reason to fear that we would have any bonding or attachment issues.
Her transition into life in America seemed seamless. She knew her siblings. She knew mommy. She knew daddy. She'd seen plenty of pictures of her new home.
Now, I'm not saying it wasn't a bit overwhelming for her, but she adjusted just fine.
She was always quick to warm up to anyone that she saw the rest of us trust.
And then we went on with life, finding our new normal.
Fast forward a couple of months.
Out of nowhere Alethia began acting out. It went beyond just normal 3-year-old behavior. Lying, biting and screaming out in defiance were at the top of her game, and pushing away, ignoring and conditional love were the responses at the top of mine.
Every stage up until a couple of months ago was just the "natural" love that you give a hurting child.
I have loved Alethia since I laid eyes on her in October of 2010. I have loved the process that it has taken to make her mine. I have loved seeing her grafted into our family. But I had yet to step into the kind of love that she needed and desired from a mommy.
I hadn't proven myself. If anything I was pulling her farther and farther away from where we needed to be by the lack of attention I was giving her.
Josh and I prayerfully decided to call on a friend of ours who specializes in bonding and attachment issues/disorders for adoptive families. After a little family catch-up we dove right into the issues of our appointment. I wasn't two sentences in when the gentle nods and understanding smiles began to come.
She ever-so-sweetly told me that Alethia has a clear case of attachment disorder. The sure sign being the lying in particular, as well as the other defiant behaviors.
She explained it like this:
Most of the time there is a "honeymoon" period, typically about 3 months. After that period the child often begins testing limits and finding his/her place in the family. The fact that she is the "new" child, but not the baby can really cause some tension (she is out of birth order in our family). Add in the fact that we did just add a baby. Here's the kicker: the one the child normally acts out toward is the mom, no matter what her history is with each of them individually.
Looking back I see that I have been less-than proactive in creating that bond that she needs to complete that grafting. I've been trying my hardest to treat her like my other children but lacking in the balance she needs to feel the individual love that she's needed and desired, yet has been unable to attain before coming into our family.
See, as much as I say that I'm Alethia's mommy and think to myself that I'm Alethia's mommy, I am NOT her mommy! We have no foundation. If she lies to me she could care less if she hurts my feelings because we don't have what that takes yet. And quite honestly I could care less that she was hurting Jesus with her disobedience and more worried about how she had offended me. If she is defiant it's because she wants a reaction from me. She wants to see if I'm going to love her through it like all my other kids, not looking at her as if to say, "Uh-uh...no she didn't!". By acting this way she is basically just saying "Yes, I did just do exactly what you told me not to do. What are you going to do about it?"
I do believe that we are ALL born with a sinful nature, and I'm not dismissing that, but I don't believe that this is solely what this behavior is. I believe that this is just how she has been forced to live like for the past 3 years of her life. She's had to have a backbone. She's had to fend for herself. She has to get her needs met, whether that comes from the lady she calls "mommy" or from the teacher in her class on Sunday mornings.
This part of adoption is personal, but in my opinion, kept all too quiet.
I feel as though there is this unsaid expectation to automatically have this bond as soon as the child enters into their new "forever family". But for many of us, it is a bond that has to be created!
And this is NORMAL!
So many relationships in my life just come naturally to me.
My husband - we dated, we fell in "like", we got engaged, married, made little people together, and daily choose to live this life together.
My biological children - first conceived, then they grew inside of me for 9 months, creating an unbelievable bond that cannot be separated, then were labored out of more pain than one could ever think was tolerable, but made so worth it when you look into those eyes for the first time. Then you stare at them for hours on end and hold them close as they nurse, sleep, roll, jump and smile back at you.
But now...now I have a relationship that I have to fight for on totally different levels. All of a sudden there is a little brown-skinned 3-year-old looking me in the eyes. She calls me mommy, but only because she is told to. There is no movement in my belly that makes her mine. That privilege was given to another woman. There is no infant or even toddler period where I just sit and stare into those big brown eyes. There are 3 years of her life that are non-existant to me. She smells different than my other children. She talks different than my other children, and I still catch myself making faces when I have to pick those little boogies out of her nose:)
Most people won't write about this side. The feelings. How they have to move beyond bringing a child into their families and giving them a "forever family", to stepping into the life beyond that!
I am BECOMING her mommy...more than just the lady she calls "mommy".
I would never want Alethia to read this one day and interpret the post as saying that I did not love her at this stage. On the contrary...I want her to see how hard I am committing to work to gain her trust and her love!
I've got 3 years of bonding that I have to make up for. I'm ready to get started.
It's a good thing we have such a small compact car.
Because if we had one of these massive SUV's I might have a hard time parking this beast of a car.
I might try to pull into the only empty space at the gym, in between a brand new BMW and a curb with a beautifully planted brand new tree
And totally pull in catawampus, nearly hitting the car AND the tree while managing to drive 3 of the tires up on the curb.
And, as if that wouldn't be embarrassing enough, I would have a nice onlooker in her car WAITING for me to get out of the way, while I try to jimmy the beast of a car back and forth trying to straighten out.
After just sitting in the car in order to allow the nice lady to make her way by, the colony in the back would begin asking me what in the world we are doing...driving all crazy, up and down on curbs, screeching tires and then just sitting, as I nervously laugh and sweat profusely...
But if that were to happen I would NEVER get so embarrassed that I would sink down in the drivers seat and try to hide (like one can hide in such a beast of a car parked all crazy-like up on a curb between a brand new BMW and a beautifully planted brand new tree), waiting for the on-looker to find a spot and go on her merry way.
Oh no...I always own up to my embarrassing moments.
I'd surely not sneak a quick peak in my side mirror to make sure the onlooker had left, only to see the onlooker peering through the window at me motioning for me to roll the window down asking if I needed her help.
Well, wouldn't you know, the day after I talk about Jude and how UNinterested in food he is, he starts waking up in the night and eating twice as much during the day. He just wouldn't get full!
So, we decided it was time for some oatmeal.
I'm pretty sure I was more excited about it than he was, but he ate the whole serving I fixed him none-the-less.
The girls were DYING to feed him. It was team effort, which I'm sure they will master in no time. Areyna will get the bite ready on the spoon while Alethia gently holds his hands down. Then after Areyna has fed him a bite Alethia will wipe up the "leftovers" with her bib. Yes, HER bib. I'm sure we have a boy-friendly bib around here somewhere, but I highly doubt little Jude cares one way or the other:)
Josh has been taking turns taking a kid with him to work or around town for some of his meetings. Yesterday was Zeke's turn, so after the 3 littlest littles snuggled up cozily for a nap Areyna and I had some sweet mommy daughter time. We took a blanket out in the backyard, packed up a little snack and enjoyed the afternoon together. Just the two of us:)
My life has quickly become a research field for learning disabilities, children's anxiety, processing and sensory dysfunction and attachment disabilities. I've got books piling up on my desk so fast that I can't keep up with them all. If I stop to think about how far I have to go to just grasp the knowledge of what each of my children is going through it can become overwhelming. But Josh quickly reminded me that I will NEVER be everything that my kids need! I'm not SUPPOSED to be everything they need. But I can become as knowledgeable as I can and seek the Lord's wisdom so that I can be the mom God needs me to be for the five littles He has entrusted to me.
For me, that is much easier said than done, but it's a process:)
Areyna should be able to finish first grade by the end of next week, CAN I GET A HALLELUJAH!
Many of you already know this, but we have a very special boy on our hands. Well actually, we have 3 special little boys, but one little colony member, in particular, is very complex and emotional.
For the past few months we have been taking Zeke to a couple of Psychologists to narrow down what the root of his issues might be.
At first our minds were reeling at the realization that he may have Aspbergers or Autism. After a series of testing we were told that he may have some Autistic tendencies and learning habits, but we can rest assured that we are not going to have to walk down that path.
We are now going down the path of learning disabilities ranging from Dyslexia to delayed cognitive recognition and processing disorders.
We have a lot to pray through as we decide the right steps to take to get him the help he needs.
But that doesn't explain the extreme emotional outbursts and sensory issues that erupt inside (and a lot of times OUTSIDE) Zeke's little body.
These issues stem from anxiety.
Wow, our little almost-6-year-old has an anxiety disorder.
It shouldn't come as a surprise to me, seeing as I battle anxiety on a daily basis, and have since I was (at least) 4!
Zeke's anxiety triggers some of his learning problems, extreme emotional outbursts, fear, obsessive tendencies and many other facets.
When I would initially observe his temper tantrums or "freak-outs", I would just stare at him in disbelief, wondering how in the world such a sweet, loving little boy could flip a switch so instantaneously to act like this.
Then we find out he is struggling with the same inward battles I struggle with every day, but it is exacerbated on an even higher level...it's a wonder he can hold it together as much as he does!
I mean, if I'm honest with myself I'd realize that if I were 6 I'd be "freaking out" the same way he does. In fact, I DO, just in a 33-year-old kind of way.
We ALL have our own ways of "freaking out", don't we?!
We may not stomp our feet and scream, running around the yard like a chicken with our head cut off (or maybe I you do;), but when this weary mom let's her guard down and allows impatience to set in I can raise my voice with the best of 'em.
I am realizing now, more than ever, that I need to be the calm in his storm. I need to exemplify the restraint and self-control that only God can offer.
I need to quit my 33-year-old temper tantrums and mom-up.