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Monday, October 31, 2011

I Just Can't Do It All!!!!!

I am sorry. I am ashamed of myself. I am in over my head by at least a mile! While riding in the car with my family yesterday, it dawned on me that a friend reached out to me with a bitterly distressed email and I NEVER ANSWERED HER! I read her plea for prayers and knew how hard it must have been for her to pour her heart out to me and I NEVER REPLIED! I am horrified! I vividly remember thinking after reading her note that I needed to give it the proper time and attention and I would respond when I had a little more time to pray and think.
I am not a blackberry user and from within my Astro Van, I had no way of rectifying this situation. I worried the whole way home from our family trip to the fair.
After our family outing, I headed into the house to first apologize to and then reply to my hurting friend. It was then that I noticed the message light on the answering machine blinking. I hit the button and listened to three new and four old messages. Two of the old messages were from people who needed my attention promptly. If two days later qualifies as "promptly", I guessed I was still in the clear. But it doesn't.
I decided to do damage control regarding those messages later and to attend to my friend's email. When I pulled up my email account, I noticed seven new people are "following my boards on Pinterest". . . . I have only been on Pinterest once and I couldn't exactly get the hang of it. I felt guilty that I needed to either delete my Pinterest account or snazz it up and make it worth following.
My sweet 11 year old niece has tried to skype with me at least a dozen times in the last two weeks. She leaves me the cutest notes on my skype account, complete with little hearts and kisses. I love her. I want to talk to her but I can't seem to milk five minutes from my crazy life to do that.
I am writing this blog post for two reasons. First, to ask for forgiveness publicly from those I have unwittingly (or maybe "wittingly") ignored lately. Second, to tell those family members who have made comments about my needing to "stop biting off more than I can chew" that you are sort of right but a little wrong as well.
We're still in a state of transition and I am trying too soon to jump back into full swing.
As we settle into our "new normal" over here as a family that has gained two children in less than two years, I am still learning. I am learning that everything takes a little longer now than it used to. Everything is on a slightly bigger scale and, as much as I truly love having one on one time with my family members, it is harder to come by as we grow. Amidst trying to do right by my husband and children, serving the Lord in the adoption community and eeking out a tiny bit of time for reading or friends, I have let things slide - some in unforgivable ways. I want to do better but for me, doing better has to mean doing less. My walk with Christ has to come first. If I don't spend time with Him every day - sometimes a LOT of time, I am not the kind of person anyone would share her heart with, in an email or otherwise. Second place goes to my family. Spending time with and taking care of them gives me joy that I have found nowhere else. Having dinner together or playing games (like the big candy hunt we had tonight in lieu of trick or treating) is always restful for my spirit, even when it's noisy and chaotic in my home. Third is the ministry God has given me. The ministry that makes my heart go "thump thump" is anything related to adoption - from praying over files of waiting children to talking to families struggling with a tough placement. I am truly charged up and revived in that role! All the rest, when I can find time for it, is icing on the big, messy cake that my life has turned into.
I have come to realize that "catching up on things" may never happen. I may just have to "start over" with better priorities and pray that anyone I have offended by not being available will show me some grace. So, I erased the answering machine, deleted my Pinterest account, left my niece a message on HER skype wall and canceled a meeting I was supposed to facilitate.
I'm all done overestimating my importance. The world still turns without my direct involvement and that is such a freeing revelation. I can say it loud and proud . . . . . I JUST CAN'T DO IT ALL . . . and I was never meant to.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Bonding - The Flap and the Facts

In the adoption world, much is made of the concept of "bonding". Children who are not bonding with their new families in the allotted length of time (usually 6 months) are suspected of having attachment disorder. Parents who do not feel a strong bond to their newly adopted children immediately often become terrified and wonder "what if we DON'T BOND?". Parents who struggle to feel bonded to their new child in the first month or two often assume their adoption is doomed to failure and begin considering disrupting the adoption for fear that a lack of bonding is the kiss of death. I am here to tell you that bonding is important but it is not the only glue that holds an adoptive family together.
Let me tell you straight: I am firmly bonded with three of our four adopted children. Two of them came to us in diapers and I have been up to my elbows in their . . .um . . . excrement and not batted an eye. I could not do that for a neighbor's child or even a niece or nephew. Only for one of my own. Just a couple of weeks ago, our newest son got a stomach virus. I knelt beside him and rubbed his back as cup o noodles poured from every orifice. Not only was I NOT grossed out, I felt only pity for his illness and barely noticed the splashage on my night shirt. Yup . . . he's mine.
Those of you who have been around this blog for awhile know the struggles we've had with our thirteen year old. He came to us at age eight and has put us through the ringer with lying, sneaking, disobeying and hurting other children. He came home from residential treatment last May after a 7-month placement. He is not attached to us and THAT IS OKAY. I am parenting a child who does not really love me. AND THAT IS OKAY, TOO. I am here to tell you that it can be done! Attaching in adoption is beautiful but it is not mandatory for a successful placement.
We recently visited a friend's church and a sweet young man from the youth group came and introduced himself to my teens. He invited them to come and sit with him. All of my teens refused except . . . you guessed it . . . my little RADish. He left us in the back of the church without even looking behind. He is no more outgoing than my other children. He is no more social. He just does not prefer our family to other people - in public or in private. When you read a narrative of a child who is waiting for a family and that narrative says "little Johnny has never met a stranger . . . " you can bet dollars to doughnuts that little Johnny has attachment issues. I used to believe that Reactive Attachment Disorder was a ruse. I thought that psychologists made it up in order to sell books and keep their client lists long. BOY, WAS I WRONG! I have no doubt that our son has a significant attachment disorder. He interacts with us as if he's reading from a script. He is not genuine but his words say the right things. When he hurts someone, he is contrite but his eyes are hard. He tries to give his toys away to kids he just met but then is stingy and greedy with family members or close friends of the family. He compliments strangers about their shoes, cars or physical appearances in an odd cadence and during our church's greeting time, he hugs visitors but stands stiffly if a family member extends their arms. Trust me, he is not suffering from mal treatment in our home. He does not recoil because we have hurt him in some way. He just does not like to be close with us - physically or emotionally.
Recently we were able to start a skype relationship with his older brother who still lives in The Philippines. I once asked Lemuel if he wanted to see if his big brother remembers their mom and dad. He could not, for the life of him, figure out why he should care about his birth family. He knows his birthmom is deceased but he said flatly "I don't want to know anything about that stuff" and went on to put his ear buds in and crank up his mp3 player. I could fill at least ten lengthy blog posts with evidence that our son is not securely bonded to us or to anyone.
He cares little about his past. He does not want to keep ties with former caregivers or orphanage mates. He is happy to see them if the opportunity arises but he never asks. He has a biological brother in the same state we live in and I have reminded him often that he can call or see his brother any time he wishes. He simply says "okay" but never pursues contact. Take my word for it. This child has all the textbook symptoms of RAD except that he does not set fires, does not treat his "mother figure" with contempt and does not have sexual deviance issues. He has been with us for more than FIVE YEARS and has never shown genuine sympathy, remorse or unsolicited affection. . . NEVER. I think you get the point. He isn't very bonded to us. He's happy to have a place to call "home". He likes my cooking and he lives for his birthday and Christmas when he gets lots of cool "stuff". He likes "stuff" an awful lot. He found a way to get a football team mate to get him some very nice Nike cleats and I still don't have the facts straight on that story. I'm sure he painted us as some sort of derelict parents who only shop at yard sales and could never buy new cleats - to be honest, I don't really care to chase that bunny down the trail anyway. He has besmirched our reputation countless times. We are growing immune to besmirchism.
Even as I type, he sits in the livingroom eating popcorn and watching "Mr. Bean" with two of his siblings. He is laughing his head off and having a blast. He HAS TO LIVE SOMEWHERE and I have been blessed with three precious adopted sons and two amazing biological children who truly love me. They all think the sun shines out of my . . . um . . . "eyes" and so, I can muddle through with one child who does not follow suit.
Is it difficult parenting an unattached child?
Absolutely! If he was my first child or if he was my only child, I would be devastated. If he was violent or sexually inappropriate with anyone under this roof, I would disrupt the adoption but he is neither. He is just a broken little boy who, for self preservation, decided early on that he could count on no one but himself. And that is how he lives his life.
How does his attachment problem play out in everyday life?
First, he needs to be supervised 100% of his waking hours. If he is not supervised, he plays waaaay too roughly with younger children. He steals on occasion. He is loud mouthed and obnoxious. He has a "me first" attitude to the Nth degree - and no amount of training, punishing or guilting has freed him from these habits. He is addicted to video games and will literally shed tears over lost games but he is remiss to cry over a flesh and blood person he has hurt. He eats to the point of feeling sick if he is not watched. He puts others down verbally. He tells lies about our family that paint us in a less-than-favorable light.
Would you do it all over again if you knew then what you know now?
No. I would not. Not with this child. It's like asking a person if he would choose to have an amputation without anesthesia. It hurts incredibly. It changes life in ways that nobody would choose but I know it's "right" that he's here. I know that God is sovereign and HE put that boy in our house for the duration of his childhood. He needs to be trained and guided and shown the love of Christ to have even a snowball's chance in hell of having some semblance of a normal adulthood. We've been charged with the task and we must rise to it.
/Why didn't you disrupt the adoption early on when things were so bad?
We didn't disrupt because God placed him in our home and we never felt free to change the arrangement. We had no peace about disrupting. We did not believe that a new family would somehow be able to show him how to attach. We believed, and still do believe, that sending him from our home would just start a chain reaction of multiple placements that would reinforce his innate sense of self preservation.
What if he reads this post?
He won't care. I let him read the post about adoption disruption that featured his life story. He could not have cared less. I wanted to get his permission to publish it because it was so very personal. I shared with him that it could help people to understand some things about adoption. He asked me if I would add something that tells how good he is at football and how he's not scared to fight even if the other guy is bigger than he is.
How do YOU feel about him, really?
Honestly, sometimes it really sucks parenting an unattached child. There's a lot of "give" on my part and a ton of "take" on his. I believe that when he is older he'll leave us for a better deal and may not even keep in touch. That's sad. It's hard to invest in someone when the pay off is miniscule. It's hard to keep tending to the daily needs of a child who casts aspersions behind your back. It's also very freeing. My goals are different with this child than with the five others. I hope to help him learn a little empathy for others so he does not hurt people who want to be close to him. I teach him to fear the law so he does not end up incarcerated. I stress to him the love that Jesus has for him and that it is NOT conditional upon him feeling "warm fuzzy feelings" toward God. We are on a very basic track with him. I know that our other five children will have more "normal" lives. I know there will be weddings and grandchildren (oh, I long for those grandchildren!!!!) and job decisions and that they will call home to my husband and I for advice on life-altering decisions. I know they will. I know Lem won't.
I realize it sounds like I have completely eschewed God's ability to heal. I used to pray for Lem's healing and his bonding a hundred times a day. Five years later, I believe it's time to take another approach. I remain open to and hopeful for God's miraculous hand but realistically, we need to plan for the "what if he never attaches to us". That seems to be the eventuality.
Forgive me if this post sounds dismal. It is meant to encourage! We have a joyous, full, happy family life. There are so many fun times, so much physical affection, so many games, sports and chores together that we treasure and enjoy. Every child, Lem included, is here for a reason. Every life is precious to God and He is refining and shaping us all. It's just that with Lem, his heart is off limits to the rest of us and we have to rely on Jesus to get in there and touch the places that we will not be allowed to go near.
If WE can do it, YOU can do it! So your adopted child doesn't open up to you, tell you with sincerity how much he loves you . . . sometimes knowing he would if he could has to be enough. It has to be.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

But Who's Counting?

I want to tell you a little bit about one of my best friends. Those of you who know me in "real life" probably know her, too. Her name is Thea and she and her husband have nine beautiful biological children with another on the way! Thea helped me lay down my fear of having a large family just by letting me get to know hers - the good, the bad and the messy (ha ha)- she reminds me often that God decides who comes to our table and HIS decisions are always right . . . I need to hear that from time to time.
Recently Thea and Steve read the book "Radical" by David Platt. She and I spent many hours talking about our own lives and ways that we might live more radically for Jesus. Thea has had a heart for adoption for a long time but her calling became even more clear through study of God's word and His mandate for us to truly abandon ourselves to Him . . .no matter how "far out" his path for our lives may look to the rest of the world. So, as crazy as it seems, God called this VERY large family to grow even larger through the miracle of adoption. After much prayer and soul searching, the family decided to request a match with two beautiful brothers from Ethiopia! They ARE beautiful, too. I've seen pictures and video that make me wish I had seen them first . . . but, no, they are destined to be Thea's and the Lord has made it plain.
The family is in the throes of raising money for their adoption. Their precious children have made some incredible stationary and survival bracelets (long pieces of rope that are braided into pretty bracelets but can be unwound and used to save you if you find yourself in a "Bear Grylls" situation sans the years of training).
You can check the bracelets out at www.fromgodstummy.blogspot.com
It's a truly novel idea. I'm getting a purple one!
Another way you can help this family is to come to our local Chic-fil-a restaurant at Cary Towne Center on October 25th from 5-8pm, order some dinner and tell the cashier that you are there to support the adoption fundraiser. Chic-fil-a will donate 20% of your meal purchase price to the family's adoption fund. We had this very same fund raiser for Francis' adoption and it was SO much fun and so very successful!!!!
Finally, the most tangible way you can help my friends is to pray for them. During the adoption process, families tend to face grueling spiritual attacks. There is money stress, extended family's dissension, doubt of hearing God's calling correctly . . oh, you name it! Adoption is hard and wonderful at the same time. Please pray that my friends have a lot more "wonderful" than "hard".

Friday, October 14, 2011

WAR . . . What is it good for?

I'm going through a stretch of bad attitude right now . . .no, not from one of my teens . . my OWN bad attitude! I'm tired. I'm too busy and the joy I normally find in serving my family is at war with a "woe is me" mind set (and woe is kicking joy's butt)!

I know my attitude is wrong. I am trying to fix it. I have been praying and reading God's word regularly. I have been attempting to take those "everyone is dumping on me" thoughts captive but not always succeeding. The sad thing is, nothing around here has changed. My children are generally helpful without me having to ask. They get along well and we rarely deal with fighting (I attribute that to the Filipino style of leadership here where the younger children must listen to the olders - there's no "you're not the boss of me" crap happening around here because, yes, if he is older than you, he IS the boss of you. IF he's a mean boss, I'll take him down myself!). We're not under financial stress or a health crisis (praise God) but I'm just having to work double time NOT to get resentful quickly.

I don't believe I'm having any post-adoption blues. I had those after one of our earlier adoptions and I know how they feel - much worse than this. I think that somewhere along the line, I have allowed the Enemy to slide a paradigm shift into my brain and I'm not looking at things with the most Godly perspective. I also believe that some of my selfless serving of the family was done in my flesh and so it's just not sustainable. Burn out is inevitable when you're not walking in a Holy Spirit fueled manner. On a practical level, I'm just tired. Our public schooler needs to be woken up at 6:30am and I usually stay up waaaaay too late at night trying to get a little quiet time to read or just see what's new on craigslist. It sounds like I need a vacation ALONE but I believe that would be the worst thing I could do. I have found the concept of "me time" to be a big lie! Whenever I do get a little "me time" (out to dinner with a friend or Anthony takes all the kids to a movie and leaves me home alone) I don't tend to feel refreshed afterward. I tend to feel more greedy for just a little more of that time . . .I think "me time" feeds the beast but maybe that's just me. I find the remedy for eyes-on-self syndrome to be serving others just a little bit more.
Now that I've dumped all my dirty laundry on the doorstep of this blog, I think it's time to sign off, spend some more time in prayer and see if I can recognize the cure for my slump when God offers it! I know it's just around the corner. He's always been so good to convict and cure me in the same time frame. I'm definitely convicted . . . looking forward to "cured"!

Romans 7
21So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22For I delight in the law of God,in my inner being, 23but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Monday, October 10, 2011

WARNING . . .GRAPHIC VIDEO . . .Life Altering Content

I just finished watching this 33 minute video (which is very graphic) and my heart is broken. I have been a pro-life voter and an advocate for LIFE for many years but sometimes it's easy to sanitize the discussion to the point where even I forget the tragedy of abortion. I am the mother of a child who is in the category MOST ABORTED in the United States (Down Syndrome diagnoses carry a 90% abortion rate when prenatally discovered). I am the mother to TWO adopted children who were born despite their birth mother's attempts to end their lives chemically. I am not surprised after watching this video. The thought processes of some of my fellow Americans in this astounds me! Even though many of these Americans being interviewed are young, still forming opinions and not as intellectually developed as they might be in the future, their knee jerk reactions to some of the questions they are asked saddens me deeply.
If you happen to be in the market for a thought-provoking twist on a discussion that often ends in frustration for both sides of the matter, grab a seat and take a look. If you have been duped into believing this issue is "settled" and that only "old school Christians" still fight this fight, think again!
For those of you who take the time to press "pause" on your busy lives and ponder this video, I would love to hear from you, even privately. Those who just can't spare the time or would rather not ruminate on this controversial issue - I am saddest for you. When your heart becomes hard to the most innocent members of society, there is little hope.