Friday, December 23, 2011

A family for Christmas

I bet you think I'm going to write about how Amani has a family for Christmas this year.  Well, you're wrong.  Actually, okay you're right, this is Amani's first Christmas with his forever family. That is true.

But it's not just Amani who gets a family for Christmas this year. It's me.

This year, my family looks like it always was supposed to look. Last year I was yearning for a child whose face I had never seen. I was holding out hope that maybe, just maybe, I'd get to see his sweet face before the new year began. Two Christmases ago, we had no idea it would take us almost two years to complete the process we'd just begun.

This year I hold him in my arms.

I got a family for Christmas. I have three beautiful children. Beautiful. In so many ways.  When I look at the three of them my heart swells with pride.  They are my gifts this Christmas, more valuable to me than anything you can wrap up and put under a tree.

And I am so honored that my family looks how it does. I am honored that God would use my family to show how he feels about racism, about orphans, about love.  My family is beautiful. Not because of anything I have done, but because God makes it so.

Merry Christmas to all of you. 
May you find your joy in the things that matter.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Just a sweet update

Three months ago today I picked our sweet boy up at the orphanage and brought him home with me to the guest house, never to live the life of an orphan again!  It has been a FAST three months!  We are still chugging along at our house! Things with Amani are still slowly getting better. I'm learning to measure progress against how he was months ago instead of days. It helps me see his overall improvement much better!  Although we are still looking for an attachment therapist just to check in with.

And we had our big craft sale at church tonight to raise money for the next trip to Swaziland. I haven't heard everyone's totals but I was able to raise over $300 towards Rob's trip. I'm pretty proud that I was able to make a bunch of stuff... and maybe now I can start going to bed before 2 am! ;)

Here are some of the latest things we've been up to:

He got his first haircut this month... a waaaaayyyy too short haircut but it's growing back fast! :)

I'm learning that "Amani" sounds a lot like "Mommy" and I often answer "Yes?" when I hear Riley or Allyn say it only to then hear, "I'm not talking to YOU Mommy, I'm talking to Amani!"

Allyn relishes her new role as both a BIG sister and a LITTLE sister. She tells me about it all the time; then proceeds to analyze all her friends' statuses in their families.

Amani LOVES to kiss. He blows kisses and give kisses all the time. Very slobbery, but very sweet. He has also learned to dance. The poor child is learning to dance from his VERY white family, but it's dancing nonetheless. And he loves it. We have dance parties almost every night before bedtime.

Amani has solidified his place with Riley's friends as "King" of whatever they are playing. Today it was "King of the Snakes." Those boys in Riley's pre-K class sure are sweet to him.

I chuckle sometimes at the outings he's been on since he left the orphanage: the children's community theatre's rendition of Aladdin and the Princess and the Pea, Disney Princesses on Ice, trips to the Science Center to see tigers, meerkats, and turtles.  It's amazing to think that three short months ago he'd never left that little room at the orphanage.

Amani has some friends! Granted, they are the younger siblings of some of Riley and Allyn's friends, but they are around his age and know his name! And he has a baby friend that he definitely recognizes and goes to check in with every day on the playground.

And we took some sweet Christmas pictures in the matching pj's their Grand sends them every year. It was so sad that we couldn't have ALL the cousins together for a picture, but I'm hoping that the pjs will still fit everyone so that we can re-enact the holiday get-together sometime this spring when we can finally travel with Amani again!

Here is quite possibly the best picture I've ever been able to take of the kids:

and one that is MUCH more indicative of their normal behavior:

And then, my favorite.  With all the adjustments we've had to bring Amani into our family, Riley and Allyn have yet to show any resentment towards their little brother. I know this may change, but for now, they just l-o-v-e our little guy:

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Moment.

It happened.

I've read LOTS of adoption blogs, lots of adoption books, done a gazillion web-inars on adoption issues.  And lots of them mention a moment when the adoptive parent thinks, "oh no, what have we done?"

Ours happened last Sunday.  Thank God I'd read those other blogs/books because as it was happening, I thought to myself, "it's okay, this is just the moment. We'll be fine in the long run."

Amani and I are having a tough time lately. There's something called mother rejection and apparently it's an issue that is most common when a child is adopted as a toddler.  The very simplified explanation is that it's when a child rejects his mother as a self-defense mechanism: he's lost every other caregiver he's ever had and they were all women, so why should his mama be any different?

And that Sunday morning, he wanted anything but me. If I picked him up, he started to cry. If I tried to soothe him, he'd cry harder.  And if I sat him down on a pillow away from me, he'd settle down.  And that scenario is a much more extreme version of the general way he's been reacting to me lately.

It was heartbreaking. The only thing I know how to do is to be a mom and that was the only thing he didn't want. And I cried. A lot.  So much that I couldn't pull myself together to go to church. And I'm not a church-skipper. I have to miss church every other Sunday for work and that about kills me. So if I don't show up on a weekend I'm not working, you better bet something's up.  In the midst of my meltdown, I thought to myself, "oh no. What have we done???"

My angel of a husband took all three kids to church and let me stay home. I let myself cry for a bit and regrouped.  And the moment passed.

I also just read a blog about how we as adoptive parents need to be careful about just how honest we are on our blogs. Honesty is great - it can be really helpful to other adoptive parents or to family/friends so they know how to be supportive. But the last thing I EVER want is for my honesty to someday hurt Amani.  I would never want him to read words on this blog that would wound him. Never.

So as I thought about whether to share this experience, I realized that I have had the moment about all my kids.  Riley's appearance into our lives rocked our world in a way I was entirely not ready for. And when I was struggling to figure out my relationship to Rob now that I had this crazy needy newborn, I thought to myself, "what have we done???"

And it's no secret that Allyn was a total surprise.  When I told Rob I was pregnant, I burst into tears and then started apologizing (I realize it takes two to tango here, but I was just completely thrown off guard that day!). I remembered how hard we had to work on our family after Riley came and I thought, "what have we done???"

So while what Amani is going through is hard, both on him and on me, it helped me greatly to remember that I've had the moment every time we've added a child to our family.  And once the moment was over, I've been so blessed by those children I once worried over.

And that moment really has nothing to do with the child.  It's just about me. It's me questioning whether I can handle this: can I really be responsible for this little life? Can I do the absolute best by this sweet child? Do I have the strength to give my children everything they need?

But the truth is, I don't. I can't. I pray every morning for patience, grace, mercy, strength, and more patience. And I know God has given these children to me and that He will give me what I need to raise them well.

And my children are my joy.  My children and my husband are God's greatest gifts to me for the short time I have on this earth.  Amani is a gift, just like Riley and Allyn.

And God only gives good gifts.