Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Our idea of "heavy work"...

Many adoptive children struggle in one way or another with their sensory system.   One (of many) suggestions for activities to help a child regulate is to have them do "heavy work"--to push, pull, or carry heavy items.

At our house, this was our "heavy work" last week--

Yup, got three of the kids' sensory work in.  Vaida was just along for the ride.  Don't worry, the engine was off, and we were watching carefully:)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

What we've been up to....

We've been busy starting school and trying to get into a routine during our days.  Truly, Sima and Vaida's school for this year is Family 101---learning so much about trusting and feeling safe.

Our first day of school we have always had a treasure hunt for the kids' backpacks with clues and surprises in the backpacks.  I never thought it would be tradition that the kids would look forward to--but they do so each year I try to stump them with clues and have some fun surprises.

Another day we went for a nature color walk (with backpacks!)--

And some painting after reading Mouse Paint to Sima and Vaida-

We are starting to get into a groove with school.  It is fun to see how the girls are liking different things and great to see them continue to grow and change before our eyes.

Monday, September 1, 2014

The beauty of a family.....

This week was an interesting one.  The day after I posted my last post was one of the most challenging ones I've had since we got home.  We can see the girls attaching more and more and with that, testing us in ways.  And Wednesday was a day full of struggles for one of our treasures.

We knew from our reading and preparation before we adopted that living in an orphanage can result in certain behaviors--but to see them acted out is very different from reading a book.  And seeing actors on a video act out how to correct can be very different than "doing it" in real life:)  Let's just say the lines don't always go as planned!

Bill and I discuss things that come up, turn to friends and family for prayer, and spend time praying over our current approach and if we should change it.  On Thursday we decided to try a new approach with one issue that has become a real stumbling block in our house.  And we have seen changes happening--praise God!  Not at all the way we had planned it but so thankful to see some progress.

Saturday morning I was in the midst of a struggle over bubble gum and eating toast with one of our girls and could see things escalating quickly.  The volcano was close to erupting!  And in walks Jenny on her way to work.  She asked what was going on and said to her sister in a very matter-of-fact way, "What are you doing?  Just eat your toast.  Mom is letting you have a piece of gum after--why would you be so silly about eating your toast first?"

Her sister bounced out of the chair, grabbed her toast, ate it and smiled. Then she proceeded to chat with Jenny before she left (while enjoying her bubble gum).   I was sitting with my jaw on my lap trying to process what had just happened.  I had been trying for almost twenty minutes to diffuse the situation through playful engagement and even a compromise--and Jenny eliminated the problem within a minute (I had prayed earlier when things were ramping up).  The power of an older sister--what an answer to prayer!

Such a blessing to have so many different personalities in this place we call home.  As our precious Sima and Vaida begin to grasp what a family is and how people in a family interact, love, forgive, share, play, cheer each other on, and comfort each other, I am thrilled to see how God has prepared each of us for this journey.  I am filled with a sense of peace seeing our teenagers interact and seeing their tenderness and playfulness.  My heart rejoices seeing their realization of the true worth of their new sisters---discussions of what their lives were like and would have been like if they weren't adopted and our hopes and dreams for them.  Giggles and laughs over cute things the girls say or do (we all love to hear Vaida humming when eating food she likes and truly get a kick out of Sima's dancing and singing--she is learning more and more English through song!)

And to see how each day the younger four grow closer and closer.  How they are becoming not only siblings but friends.  To hear prayers from Nate and Ellie for their younger sisters, thanking Him for their new sisters.  And to hear sweet Sima pray too---we can understand the "Dear God" and "Amen" and "chocolate", "ice cream", "coffee":)--says that for Mom's sake,   "gum", "banana" and "apple"--our girl likes sweets!

A year ago when we told people that we were adopting, we had some question us about our other children.  I think every family has to look at their own situations, their children and their needs, and spend time in prayer to see if adoption is right for them--and the time is right.   I had written up a post last fall called something like "what about your other kids?" but decided not to post.  I know some may feel that adding two more children, especially children who will need time and attention to learn things, may not be the best for a family.  Bill and I felt adoption was the right decision for our family, all of our family.  We have all had to stretch ourselves at times and put what we would like to do aside--something that will prepare our children for "real life" with a spouse and family.

We are so thankful that our children are able to try to empathize with Sima and Vaida as they adjust to a new life, everything in their lives having changed.  We are thankful for an opportunity to help them learn compassion and service, two things that truly only grow through action. One can read all kinds of books to your children about compassion and service and talk until you are blue in the face but doing is learning. We are very thankful for all of our kids' support with our decision.

 Thanking God today for every person He has in this family and what each ones bring to the beautiful tapestry called family.  And how He can answer prayer through a big sister's words!

The night we got home.....

Sima loves going for rides with Joe!

Sisters forever...

Waiting for Dad to come home from work...

First time on a slip and slide:)

Fun to walk down a slip and slide...

And giving it a try with Dad's help...

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.