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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Older Child Adoption . . . Do You Hear What I Hear?

 This post is especially typed (with love in every word) for my bloggy friends who are adopting or have adopted older children.

First, let me share with you my definition of an "older child". . . a child who comes home after the age of two.   I know many authors define an "older child" in adoption as any child who is no longer a newborn.  I resist that definition, especially for orphanage-raised treasures.

Here's why: a child raised in an orphanage - even a WONDERFUL orphanage - tends to have notable delays in meeting his milestones.
It is not at all unusual for an 18-month old orphanage-raised child to be unable to walk.  A 9-month old may not be sitting  yet. A 6-month old may still have trouble lifting and controlling his head.   None of these little factoids means your child is relegated to a lifetime of battling special needs.  It simply means he wasn't someone's "one and only baby"  and that tends to cause delays in development.   It usually means he was not breast fed nor did he spend copious hours listening to his caregiver's heartbeat while she sat marveling at him on the couch contemplating putting him down but deciding not to.   That's just the nature of "group care".

For all intents and purposes, your two-year-old adopted child may still be very much a baby when he comes home - diapered, bottle fed, mouthing anything he can get his hands on, few or no spoken words.   In most cases, he will catch up given plenty of time and stimulation.   Sometimes he won't.   The only way to know is to raise him.

Our boys were 4 years old, 8 years old, 2.5 years old and 15 years old when they came home to us.   Without calling any child's name or sharing too much, let me list for you some textbook behaviors I have seen in my older children.  No ONE child of mine has exhibited all of these behaviors but each child has exhibited at least one:

1. Hypochondria - I have a son for whom even the slightest tickle in his throat or cramp in his stomach is a 4-alarm event. When I pick him up from a sporting event, the FIRST thing he does is list for me each and every injury and pain he has suffered as a result of playing said sport.  I have read countless articles that describe a child such as mine and just as many solutions to this issue. My own personal approach involves listening sympathetically and trusting my "gut" to tell me when medication or a doctor's visit is merited and when he is just fishing for an arm around the shoulders and a let-me-have-a-look.

2. Food Issues-  for an older child in adoption, food is a very touchy subject. ALL of my boys over ate tremendously upon arrival home. None of them came from an environment of starvation - NOT ONE!  Each of my boys was lovingly provided for in his orphanage.   The reason I believe my boys over ate (one to the point of vomiting on a regular basis) is the lack of CHOICE in food selection and portion sizes in an orphanage environment.  My boys were fed three nutritious meals a day before they were mine. But they did not get to choose their food, neither did they get to snack very often.  When brought into a family setting, they were literal "kids in a candy shop".   Some of my boys had no "shut off" valve and would out eat their father (and that man can EAT)!  Others would get right up from dinner and ask for a snack. Still others would take food to their rooms and keep it in a drawer so they never had to feel far from it.   For three of my boys, I found the best approach to be "just go with it".  I let them eat as much and as often as they liked within reason.  I DID NOT make a big deal about the amount or selection of food they ate.  The same result was yielded in each case.  My boys spent about a month or two pigging out and then returned to a normal, controlled, less-than-obsessed type of eating.
There are no more food issues in this house (unless you count me buying myself jars of cake frosting and hiding them in my nightstand for my own private "get away").

3. Clamming Up - this is, by far, THE MOST FRUSTRATING aspect of older child adoption for me.  There were times when I could clearly see one of my sons copping an attitude about something but he refused to discuss it with us.  Even when asked in his native language, he insisted all was well - with pursed lips and a distant gaze.  If ever a mother had to resist "reaching out and touching someone" . . . it was me when a son of mine chose to throw the silent treatment at us.  For this particular behavior, I am far less gracious than for those discussed above.  Refusing to answer and adult who is talking to you is RUDE and DISRESPECTFUL and, frankly, you don't get the luxury of being rude or disrespectful in our home.  I generally send the child to his room until he decides to respond when spoken to. .  and trust me, it's in HIS best interest to be far away from me when he's clamming up (ha ha).  In time, an apology and explanation are usually forthcoming.  Sometimes I have to apologize, too.  I never handle this one very well.

4. Grief-  my boys all missed their "old lives" to one degree or another.  Sometimes their way of coping is to talk about life in the orphanage with great grandeur. Other times, it is to refuse to talk about it at all.  I thought it would be a very loving act to make a bulletin board for one of our sons before he came home.  I printed pictures of his house parents, friends and other caregivers and covered the board with them.  Within two days of coming home, he promptly removed every photo and replaced it with sports pictures he printed from the internet.  Okay, point taken.  Either I was not close enough to him to choose the fodder for his bulletin board or he did not want a reminder of all the loved-ones he left behind.  No matter what the reason, I let him steer the ship on this one.  The same goes for talking about the "old life" or sharing birth history.  I let my boys pick the tempo on that. If they want to talk, I'll listen. If they have questions, I will answer them.  One of my boys even asked to read his paperwork.  I let him.  He seemed relieved afterward.
Their lives are a puzzle, even to them, and they deserve to have the pieces when they ask for them.  It's their story. They have the right.

5. The desire to be "White" - one of my boys asked to die his hair blond within the first week home. When I asked why on Earth he would want to do that, he plainly said "I wish I was white".   This same child refused to speak his native language with my husband, much to the chagrin of Daddy.   This is a behavior that I might have expected if my boys came into an all-white family and just wanted to blend but my husband is full-on Filipino, speaks the language, we cook the food, etc.  I am the oddball in this home and that's just fine with me.   You may find your older child rejecting his birth heritage for a time after coming home and all the dance classes, play groups and Brown-is-Beautiful books may not reach him . . . YET.  There is no  "quick, slap on a bandaid" approach to handling this one.  Reality therapy was our best bet.  We simply told our son that God made him Filipino, he is handsome, smart and strong and God never makes mistakes so you'll have to learn to say "thank you, Jesus, for making me who I am".   This child has been home for years and now seems quite proud of his race - but he still insists his wife will be white!   Sorry, son, I have no answer for that one except "more power to ya"   . . . ha ha . . .

Now, take a look back over my list and tell me.  If you happen to have older, biological children in the home, is it possible you've seen some of these issues in THOSE children, too?  I have.  And sometimes my heart breaks for the adopted child because he lives in a fishbowl.  If he likes to draw pictures of machine guns, he's headed for prison.  If my biological son does the same thing he's just interested in the military.   If an adopted child takes a candy bar from a store, he MUST have a full-blown attachment disorder. If a biological child does the same thing, he is committing a sin and must apologize - and then he's learned his lesson.

Yes, often times older child adoption brings with it a specific set of behaviors.  Children learn to cope and survive in some unpredictable ways.  But I BEG you to give it time. . . some of these issues will extinguish on their own and others may require a little more directed intervention.  Whatever the case may be, give thanks.   Remember when that child was just a photo in your hands and a file on your desk? Remember when you longed to just touch him in person? To be the one to tuck him in at night? To be the person to walk him through his fears and adjustment?    Well, here we are . . .   GIVE THANKS.    When our Father could have chosen anyone for the job, He chose YOU.  And equipped you to guide and love  your older child through every phase and every stage.


Monday, December 10, 2012

A Trip in Pictures

I have wanted so badly to share all that is going on with my husband and older children on this trip to The Philippines!  There has been awesome ministry, times of rest and relaxation, visits with family and friends and time with our sweet Ariel that all bear sharing.   I want to tell you EVERYTHING, precious readers, but after suffering for 9 days with the flu, my creative genius appears to be on hiatus . . . I am having a hard time  organizing my thoughts into words that might do this trip justice. So I've decided to share "A Trip in Pictures" with you instead.

Please note that due to the Hague regulations, I am not able to share ANY specifics online about the children the team was blessed to work with. I can't share their names or locations online. We have to honor the rules of the Hague for both the safety of the children and the integrity of the project. I know you understand!

Manila traffic is unbelievable, day and night, and deserves a mention!

My family used the jeepney (above) and trike (below) as a way to get around town on this trip...inexpensive and efficient!

A little "chill time" in the hotel was always welcome at the end of a long, hot day.

Lunch with Sharon (back r), Ariel (orange shirt) and friends makes the trip so much fun!
Ariel (Lem's bio brother) skyping with us from the family' hotel room.  Brothers need to stay in touch. For both of them, a lot is at stake in this relationship. Blood ties are so important! 
These little cones are a family tradition! You get to pick five different flavors of mini cone. I don't know why someone in the US hasn't started a business like this! These are so good!

Having his mini cones . . .
This beautiful girl has visual impairment but can track light! She IS light  .  . . so lovely!!!

This sweet boy is shy and cooperative . . .he has partial sight  but such a severely crossed eye.  And the surgery he needs is literally a 30 minutes out patient procedure here in the US. 

The spot on this gorgeous girl's eye will be evaluated by our trustworthy doctor. Please pray that it is benign and cosmetic.  We want so much to be able to deliver good news to her wonderful children's home!

This gorgeous angel is not visually impaired but hearing impaired. Her orphanage staff lovingly brought her to our team asking us to PLEASE find her some hearing aids.  This is not the work we set out to do but who can say "no" to this beautiful girl?  If any reader knows how to get some child-sized hearing aids, we're "all ears" . . . we want so much to help her!!!

This 16 year old boy has cerebral palsy and visual impairment.  He worked SO hard to impress our team with his shape sorting skills, never losing that big smile or that determination.  This child is worth investing in. Yes, he's "older", yes, he's considerably disabled but YES, he is a precious human made in the image of God.  He deserves to have someone cheering him on at even the smallest gain. 

This trip only further ignites the fire in our family that we NEED to relocate as soon as possible!
Please pray for a speedy sale of our home and for the pieces to fall into place.
We are still in need of monthly donors to make this move possible.  Won't you consider donating $25 per month so we can go?    I'm not so good at "asking for stuff" but for these children and the many others who wait in their orphanages for someone to come alongside them, take up their cause and shine a spotlight into the darkness, I'm not afraid to ask.  In fact, it's my honor.

For HIS Fame,

The Bartimaeus Project

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

In The Line of Fire

Those of you who know me IRL, know that I am not a "demon around every corner" type of Believer.

I don't go around binding and rebuking things.

I've never cast anything out of anyone.

But I DO believe in spiritual warfare and am living in the line of fire right now.

My beautiful Ezekiel landed in the hospital just a week before my family's scheduled trip to The Philippines to begin work for The Bartimaeus Project!
He was diagnosed with bronchiolitis brought on by a virus, most likely influenza. He had a high fever and the hospital staff struggled to find a medication that would open his airways. It was terrifying for our whole family.   God graciously healed our boy! My husband and two hard-working older children went on the trip in my stead . . .

And second-to-youngest son got the flu.

A few days later I was preparing to speak at our church's Christmas Brunch for ladies.  I began
to have that nagging, powdery throat that signals something is coming on.  I went on to enjoy the brunch but by the end of that day, I was in bed with a fever of 103 and the flu. 

Yup . . . more flu.

And now twice-daily skypes with my Philippine travelers are muddled by so much coughing from the US side of things.

And middle son came stumbling into my bedroom in the wee hours of last night to tell me every joint hurts, his head was burning up and he has "watery eyes" . . . fourth victim of the flu emerges . . .

The weather is dreary and now I'm glued to my facebook as I pray for the healing miracle of a BEAUTIFUL little girl with Down Syndrome who appears to be close to dying from sepsis and a host of other complications . . . the effect of this on my spirit has been surprising even to me. Please pray for her. Her name is Aziza and she is a dark-haired beauty all of six years old . . .

I don't know this family directly but her mother and I have many mutual friends online. You see, the Down Syndrome community is very close-knit, even online. When one of us loses, we all lose. We all know it could just as easily be our own child and one day might be.  And the reality that God doesn't always heal is not lost on any of us.  We have held all-night candle light, leave-your-porch-light-on vigils and all-day fasts for the healing of other children and God has chosen to take those children Home.    And sometimes the reminder of the fragility of life leaves me questioning. I feel faithless but He doesn't always heal. He gives and takes away.

And the enemy is hard at work to take the combination of all that I mentioned and twist it into   the shape of a dark cloud and plaster it over my head.   I'm an easy target.  Sick.  Sick kids. Husband and teens across the ocean.

But the enemy will NOT gain a foothold in this heart and mind.  Not today!  Because greater is He who is in me than he that is in the world"!

I have to be willing, not just willing but eager, to take from the hand of the Lord, both the good and the bad.  You see, I learned long ago from the reading of the story of Job, that the enemy has boundaries.  And God is sovereign.

So I choose to use this time to flex the muscle called "counting it all joy" . . . which is rusty because life has been pretty darn good for me up until the whole hospitalization of my angel baby, for a long long time it's been sweet.

So I'm counting it all joy as my husband, adult son and almost-adult daughter minister to children on the other side of the world . . .
 As a little girl is given an extra measure of joy from some special time with my husband...
As a 16 year old boy feels the overwhelming sense of achievement of being able to sort some shapes with an audience cheering him on . . .
As a child too disabled to give much indication that she is aware of her surroundings blesses my own family because she is life . . . and life is precious . . . NO MATTER WHAT~!

"Count it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials, knowing the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing."   James 1:2-3