Tuesday, August 26, 2014

They are worth being loved like crazy....

Bill and I are so thankful that we attended the Empowered to Connect conference with Dr. Karyn Purvis.  I guess you could say we are groupies!  Our church's orphan ministry has all of her teaching materials, and we now see just how important it was to spend time reading and studying before we added the girls to our family.  The Connected Child and our study workbooks from the ETC conference can be found by our bedsides with sticky notes and bookmarks in them--often read in three minute increments.  As we walk through this journey of parenting two "children from hard places", we are grateful to have such terrific resources.  Even though we studied it all before we left,  "real life" presents a much different picture.

She LOVES the water in any form!

And we are all loving Aldi's ice cream treats!

Just as reading all the books on parenting and babies before we had Jenny prepared us in some ways, so often, real people are much different that what books describe.  Although we had ideas of what our girls would be dealing with (things that all adoptive children do), we didn't know some of the things they have experienced and some of their personality traits that have developed with years of being institutionalized.  All the reading in the world can give us much knowledge, but Bill and I have truly learned with parenting all of our children that wisdom comes from God (and not always in our timeframe).

There are many things we know about our girls past, some we knew from the beginning, some we learned in country, some we learned in court, and some we have learned since we have had them home.   And there will always be things we will never, ever know---things that have affected them in deep ways within their hearts and souls.  But God.....He knows.  He knows all they have experienced and endured.  And He will show us what we need to do to help them heal--He is faithful and His love for the fatherless is so much more than our love for Sima and Vaida.

They are "painting"with water--next summer we'll use the real thing!

One thing that Dr. Purvis stated again and again is to look at the belief behind the behavior.  So often it is fear driving behavior, fear of things we have no concept of in our lives---lives in which we have both have parents who loved, protected and cared for us.  God has opened our eyes in so many ways, and the eyes of our other children.  They have seen and heard things that we don't usually allow in our home and have seen two little girls become much gentler and two girls beginning to realize, even just in a very small way, what "forever" and "family" means.  We have seen our girls "soothe" themselves in ways that make me want to weep---thinking of all the times they were alone comforting themselves.  We have seen what a caring sister Sima has been for Vaida, something that God put deep within her as this wasn't modeled to her---how she has looked out for Vaida.  Thanking Him for that as we know it has helped Vaida in ways we can't imagine.

Our Lithuanians love potatoes!  

Vaida peeled the skin off this cold leftover baked potato and started snacking!

And they love pancakes!  And big spoons!

Praying daily and hourly that our love in action may be a dim reflection of the love of Jesus
 and that every day Sima and Vaida feel they have worth.

Below is a quote from the Empowered to Connect site that I love--

If our children are to believe that Jesus is crazy in love with them, 
then I suspect they will need to first understand 
that they are worth being loved like crazy. 

Yet we know that what they have experienced in life-- 
in terms of trauma, abuse, neglect, abandonment, and relinquishment -- 
often whispers...
no shouts to them a very different message. 
So, by God's grace we as adoptive and foster parents are given
 the indescribable privilege of showing our kids, 
day-by-day and moment-by-moment, 
that they are valuable and deserving of love. 
Not because they are worthy, 
but because they have worth
As parents may our love in action be even a dim reflection of the love of Jesus
 and send the inescapable message to our children: 
you are worth being loved like crazy.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Before dinner..

Mixing up quiche for dinner
Raining and storming outside
Four children doing "laps" around the rooms
Laughter and noise filling the air
Faces full of smiles

Watching our 5 year old run after her older three siblings
Something she couldn't do smoothly just two months ago

Learning how to play together
Having fun playing chase

Simple things that bring joy

A house that is not spotless
Window panes full of fingerprints
Sand all over the deck
Simple meals on paper plates
Crushed laundry and digging through baskets
Piles of schoolwork to plan on my desk

Seeing the smiles of our youngest two as they run
All worth it
Realizing once again what is important--

Not things

Praying that God will help many to feel His heart for the fatherless
the preciousness of each child
"A Father to the fatherless, 
a defender of widows, 
is God in his holy dwelling.
God sets the lonely in families...."
Psalm 68:5-6

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

One month....

So yesterday it was a year since we saw the girls and today we celebrate a month being home!

The month has flown!  Each day is so full--- lots of learning, lots of food being made,  lots of trips outside, lots of time spent "talking", and lots of coffee and chocolate:)

Some of the things we have done lately--

nature walks and collages (Sima loves to pick flowers)~~
love how much they are enjoying the beauty of creation

lots of rides in the van around the "neighborhood"-- they LOVE going for rides!

(some of the cows we see numerous times a week:)

playing with dolls (loved finding this--Sima made sure to have the monitor on)--

trying to help get a baby bird back into the nest

watching a caterpillar make a chrysalis and become a butterfly

playing in the rain (Sima and Vaida were thrilled!)

coloring, cutting, pasting, playing....

petting our cat Fluffy 
(this is huge for Sima as she was terrified of cats when she came home)--
we are SO proud of her!

We are cocooning but one thing we can do is go for car or stroller rides so our outings are around our "neighborhood (farm fields)" or a run to the local library (tiny--I run in to pick up holds while one of the older kids wait with the girls).

Vaida had on a pair of flip-flops the other day and was so proud of herself!  So wonderful to see her walking around in them.  She has also mastered climbing up and down the stairs to our upstairs--and had to show everyone.  Both girls are growing and changing before our eyes!

Sima is a big helper in the kitchen. She loves to set the table (she must think it is crazy that Americans use plates made out of paper--being real here--we have done a lot of paper this last month!) and also loves to help bake.

We've had one month home of our "cocooning" time.  And I've learned about why some things are recommended (keeping the child within three feet of you is recommended--I thought mostly for attachment reasons but now feel it is also to keep them out of trouble!).  Love the Gotcha! book and so thankful we read it and saw Dr. Purvis before we started on this adventure.

What have we seen with the cocooning---

For the two days after I hurt my knee that we had people come help, we saw one of the girls behaving extremely well when people were here.  We have seen other kinds of behavior when it is "just" our family---all behavior we know they are "letting their hair down" and feeling comfortable.  And a lot of behavior that they picked up from time in an orphanage, much which we have been able to redirect and correct through all we learned with Dr. Purvis.

We have heard "sorry" being said for hurts--Dr. Purvis states that a family should have "no hurts"---physical or with words.  And it has been great to hear apologies for hurts.  I was thrilled to hear "my turn" this week instead of seeing physical action to keep a turn.  So many things that our children have learned through living in a family are things our new girls are learning.

Vaida continues to LOVE to cuddle at night and naptime--such an amazing blessing from God.  She will grab her binky and get as close to me as possible, always liking one arm around her and the other stroking her hair.  Sima loves to sit on our laps and does not like it when I am gone (it is very upsetting for her).  Although at times it is hard to be home all the time (other than our daily car rides), we can see the fruit of what we are doing.  We see the girls beginning to see what a mother and father are and do, as well as see how a family works.  It is very interesting to watch them study the interactions in daily family life.

I know it would be SO much easier to be out and about, keeping them busy with activities out of the home and trying new experiences, but I also know, from all we have read and what we are now seeing with the girls, that they need, truly need, time to connect with us, to get out of fight/flight/freeze, and to begin to process so many things that have occurred in their short lives.  I often think about my three months of bedrest with Joe and how I had to do that for the pregnancy---the girls NEED this time at home for their attachment.  We really miss having seeing our family and friends and would love to have everyone meet the girls but also understand more and more that they need to have time without others here so that they can truly attach.

In the Gotcha! book, the author discusses how regardless of the age of the child you bring home, you need to consider they are at about a 2 year old level emotionally and behaviorally.  We have definitely seen that---hard at times to realize that when their bodies are much older (and they can "act" older).

So thankful for the month we have had at home and the amazing changes we have already seen in our precious girls!  So thankful for the prayers of many and the beauty of a family---seeing how each one of our children have attached to their new sisters and seeing how God has done things in each of their hearts to help out and to love on the girls.

A friend asked if the last month has been anything like we expected.  Bill and I tried to keep very open expectations of what things would be like. I have read many blogs in the past about adoption and talked to others about how adoption is presented---some people feeling that adoptive parents "sugar coat" things and aren't realistic in their posts.  I want to share the joys we are experiencing but also say that some days it has been much harder than we thought it would be--some of that coming from adding two people to our home (just as having long term guests changes the "flow" in a house, we have had to learn how the girls do things and they have had to learn SO many new things--some things which they don't really think are needed or don't like) , two people who haven't had the opportunity to make choices and understand consequences, two that speak a totally different language and have some behaviors that come from years of never having a permanent person in their life--someone they can trust to be there every day and night.  We have all been stretched at times but we know that anything worthwhile requires some work and stretching of us!  And we have seen God's faithfulness and provision every step of the way.  As always, He has given us all we need, sometimes just when we need it.   He has stripped us of some of the things we felt we "need" and helped us to see the things that are important--and right now in our home, it is so important to help our sweet girls come to understand what a family is---how to trust, how to love, how to understand their preciousness and their worth, and what forever means.  And it truly is rewarding to see the excitement, joy, and pride in learning new things....so many things that are simple in many ways but huge for our girls.

 Swimming--so proud of both girls--both decided to try out the pool and had such fun!

lots of playing in water--
so thankful it is summer

Ellie made Vaida into  "Thing 1"

eating lots of ice cream and spending time together

Hard to believe a month ago we were driving home from the airport after missing our third flight (by 10 minutes--yikes!).  It has been such an amazing journey---God has opened our eyes to the need for orphans to have families in a whole new way, intimately showing us what living in an orphanage is like and how it can cause a child to not understand trust, love and their worth.   He has also shown us such amazing pieces of our girls' personalities already---bits and pieces of how He fearfully and wonderfully created them--and we are excited to see more and more.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A year ago today...

....we first saw our girls' pictures.  Hard to believe what can happen in a year.

Now we are blessed to have them a part of this big crazy family---a word they are beginning to understand more and more every day.

So grateful to have our sweeties home and so grateful we saw their picture and God opened our hearts to them.

We truly are blessed...