Three Years

I got back from Costa Rica last Sunday…. again. When our student pastor said our church was going to take a mission trip this year with high schoolers– before I could think I heard myself say, “Can I go?”. Which after a bit of reflecting, I was pretty proud of myself for. After we lived there for a month- that felt like a year… all 6 of us in a hotel …not really speaking Spanish, I said I would be very happy never leaving America..more specifically the southeast -again. But two weeks ago 19 high schoolers and two adult leaders and I boarded a Delta plane to that same airport we left, fairly ironically three years ago to the week that we left the first time.

It takes a lot for me to leave home…especially now.  This time I took the most helpful kid with me :). But I knew this trip was something I needed to do. It’s strange when you have those moments of clarity. The week before we left, I lost my passport (I found it) and considered just saying I wasn’t going because I felt the pressure of work and home and kids.

I wondered if I would get off the plane and start crying and not stop the whole week. I was with a bunch of cool kid teenagers so I had my friends praying that I would keep it together. Yet, as we stepped off the plane this time -that land of everything unfamiliar three years ago-looked like a tall glass of water on a hot day.

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The work we did was some of the most precious I’ve done in 41 years of serving people. We slid into a preexisting ministry called Roblealto that has been around for 85 years helping the poor. The partner church that loved us so well while we were there getting the boys works with them as their local outreach in the community and has groups all summer that come and serve for a week-painting, working along side the teachers who love and serve families that fit into the category of making “less than $400 a month” and who commit to the programs they provide. Our students killed it. Paige came on this trip too-and I loved seeing things from her eyes. I met new friends, got closer to old ones, learned I snore and saw that teenagers are not weird, but they are wonderful (ok they are weird too…but in a wonderful way).

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This might sound odd: but as my summer lined up I started to feel very weary. I was more than tired. I was soul tired. I had a hard time making decisions which for me is a key warning sign that something needs attention. But fairly quickly I saw that this summer was going to be full of special things. Vacation –and a little longer than normal. This mission trip, a week at the lake, and on top of that -our church is doing something different and taking off two Sundays in a row over that tricky July 4th window and closing the office too.

About two months ago in a week’s time span I met with my counselor, my prayer mentor friend, my friend who is also a counselor (not to be confused with the two previous friends) and a few of my friends in ministry and each of them mentioned the concept of “sabbath” almost without much prompting. I have realized that when this happens I need to listen. So by that hot Friday morning when I was walking my puppy around my in-laws neighborhood with Angel I had it figured out. I was going to take each of these gifts this summer as a chance to pull away and find deep soul rest.

At the start of the summer it took me 7 days on our vacation to Fort Walton to key down. How weird is that?! I was unsettled and almost agitated until day 7… and then I rested. Even now–I am kicking myself at the irony of that. God mentions “sabbath” in the early account of creation in Genesis. He worked hard creating all things in 6 days and then on the 7th He rested. Not that God was tired, but it set up a rhythm for his people and one that He knew we needed even Him to observe because its just that hard. I am just as guilty as the rest for going and going and going…even if I try to rest– 4 kids and a full time ministry job rarely equals rest.

(May Forth Walton Beach Family Trip)

Its hard to imagine that a mission trip with 19 teenagers could be restful. But this trip was exactly what I needed. First, we stayed in a very nice place. The Costa Rican people are incredibly hospitable. The church wanted us to have a place to lay our heads at night that felt easy and warm and gave us a home. And our accommodations were more than that. Secondly, we were on central time–so I naturally woke up 2 hours earlier than necessary. I made it my routine to grab a cup of coffee and sit by the mountains as the sun greeted the day and pray and read. But lastly, God simply did a work. And I will try my best to explain it because I don’t want to forget.

You see: when we came to San Jose three years earlier it was like inflicting a purposeful wound to our family. I know that sounds harsh. But you don’t enter in to an older child international adoption with two boys who have been removed from their birth parents gracefully.  This was not the movie Annie. There’s nothing really graceful about it. It was hard. Ugly. Painful for them…and us. The first day of our mission trip with the students we were driving around the city and I thought to myself, “who in the world did I think I was adopting two older boys from a foreign country?!?!”. It’s crazy really. I still can’t believe we did it.

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(June 18, 2013 Gotcha Day)

But two weeks ago I once again held hands with children from hard places with scars no child should have. I saw teachers help them eat every meal away from home, because there were no meals at home, brush their teeth and get their pjs on in the late afternoon because their parents couldn’t. These kids are beautiful. Chosen. Cherished. We all fell in love with them individually and corporately.

We rubbed their backs at nap time while Hosanna played (strangely loud) and they drifted off  safely to sleep for nap time at school. We taught them through a few words and a lot of hand motions and crafts that God loves them, God gave them Jesus, they can believe and receive this love and gift. I didn’t cry nonstop the whole week but I did see teenagers think outside of themselves, care for the broken, paint like champions (well… with hearts of champions) and act like Jesus would if He was here…because in some way, when God’s people serve sacrificially He is right there.

On Wednesday we traveled WAY up a mountain to the children’s full time shelter that Roblealto runs. It is a beautiful place, but I lost it terribly. The director started talking about the kids, their families, and why they were living at this shelter rather than their homes. She showed us those little beds that reminded me of the shelter where the boys lived for two years. The director talked about how they are working with the families to learn how to be good parents and how they come to visit every weekend. She talked about how Costa Rica doesn’t remove children from their birth parents if the child is under 6 years old-unless it is a very VERY bad situation. She talked about how kids come to this shelter on so many medications–and really what they need is love, structure and consistency.

I ugly cried…the kind where I look like a frog when I’m done and my eyes are still swollen the next morning. I cried because my boys, if they were at this place, would not have had parents who came to visit–and would eventually would have been removed from this place to a government run shelter. I cried because they were 4 and 6 when they  last saw their mom…and who knows when they last saw their dad-which according to Costa Rica–means it was far worse than the paperwork made it sound. I cried because Dominic was on a whole host of psychiatric medications…. and now he’s on none. I cried because we entered into the most unnatural of situations… and have questioned hearing God and have had our little family ripped open–only to see them rally and have their hearts grow and love even more. I cried because adoption is tiring and many many days, you put actions of love before feelings of love and that is just soul tiring. Leaking tears all over the place. Yet it was a healing cry not a breaking one like it was before.

We traveled to the beach -Puenta Leona–the exact same beach we stayed at for 10 days while we waited for paperwork to get finalized. I remembered leaving the last time and a new hotel was being built–and I thought, “next time we are here it will be done” only to think– “there’s probably not going to be a next time”. Yet there we were– driving by… and it was finished. We went to Playa Blanca and I walked down the beach and saw “our spot” where we sat among all of that beauty with Dominic in a time out circle drawing hearts in the sand and girls holding hands in the surf and Justin walking carefully in the sand. Our tree–where we hung our towels– was there. The lady who we bought Dominic’s wooden toucan from –was still there. All of it-was just as we left it. Yet I was so very different.

You see that wound was a part of God’s plan for us. Adding children is always a blessing, but this way was a very difficult way to do it. Yet, it was wide open and like wounds do-it was raw, painful, tender, open, and deep. It needed time, healing, covering, hovering around it….and now there I was walking down that beach, so very familiar to me, collecting stones smoothed by the waves and I realized– we did it. I’m still not sure who I think I was–but it dawned on me–that a life fully surrendered to the Lord will look crazy at times. It will be risky at times. And yes, it  all was a wound, but we have healed with a beautiful scar. And we can run with that scar knowing that, although we have debt to pay off still… we have a beautiful full colorful family with a story of God’s redemption and mercy and sustaining grace.

One of my biggest concerns three years ago was that this was going to break Chloe. She is our most tender child. So caring, and peacemaking. She loves us visibly, tenderly and vocally.  The boys and their learning of discipline and the grieving that looked more like defiance was way more than her tender heart had seen and maybe should have ever seen. It was probably one week into the boys being with us at our hotel when I woke up from a dead sleep and I was crying…and told Matt to bring me Chloe who was fast asleep and I held her, as I sobbed, wondering what story she would tell and if her family that she held so dear was gone….and we did it on purpose.

I got home from our mission trip-heart full and contented with hope for the kids we met. Full of renewed love for the Costa Rican culture and hospitality. I was so ready and thankful to have heard God’s voice and have my own little Costa Ricans waiting for me in their very own beds with big stories to tell. And very ready to sleep in my own bed.

Part of our family cadence is that after dinner we often retreat to our upstairs porch, light candles and chat about the day. Apparently, while I was gone, Chloe took my spot with Matt in this routine. Sunday night after dinner and baths, I found her outside on the porch by herself. Matt was tired after 7 days of solo parenting and was already in bed.

She was listening to ” O Come to the Alter” which is one of my favorite songs. They sang it at camp a few weeks before and I had left before I could debrief with her about her week at camp.

I sat down in the white rocking chair and my now 12 year old baby girl curled up in my arms-like she did that morning three years ago and like she still does today. And I held her and rocked her as we watched the lightening in the distance….and she sang in her precious, alto voice, “oh come to the alter, the Father’s arms are open wide. Forgiveness was bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ. Oh what a Savior, isn’t He wonderful, sing Hallelujah Christ is risen”. I joined her and in this tender moment that I wanted to embrace fully and never forget.

In that moment I realized God did far more than my fears. She wasn’t broken. She didn’t loose anything. She gained a heart that learned that when you offer up what is most precious to you—God gives back 10 fold. She has been stretched and God has given her the heart of a worshiper. And we are all more than ok.

 

 

 

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Winter Survival Plan

Well, it has been an eternity since I have written. But, alas, what will break the silence (that honestly isn’t silence at all, but a very bustling house of 6) is something that I am VERY excited about:

The 2015-2016 Winter Survival Plan

My friend Courtney and I have bemoaned winter for years. I am a native Floridan (no I don’t wear jean shorts…anymore). But I grew up thinking “winter” was 60 degrees and sunny….and I had to wear a jacket with my
shorts and flip flops.

Disclaimer: I KNOW Georgia can hardly claim our weather in December through March as “winter” compared to our fellow states of Indiana, Colorado, Missouri etc. BUT friends, its cold..and its cold FAR longer than I am ready for. I belong in 75 degrees and sunny.

Courtney and I met at Jason’s Deli and wrote down our brainstorming plan on my notes app on my phone. After that we sensed a growing giddiness about winter. Ok maybe it was more “acceptance” rather than “giddiness”. We created our own hashtag… cleverly #welovewinter. We can’t tell if we are pretending or if its real…because its too early to tell…but I have joked about our “winter plan” with my friends and have had so many people say, ” I want in on this! Will you send me your notes?”

So, of coarse in my head I started a full scale women’s movement in the city of Athens…with a great name and tag line and everything…but then I realized: I forgot two meetings I had scheduled today, I have 4 kids and I never ever follow though on my exercise goals and dreams. Probably launching a full scale city wide women’s group isn’t what I need to do right now.

BUT I DO need to share with you our Winter Survival Plan! We refer to it as our “HAPPY Plan” as in opposition to “SADD Plan”. I’m not joking about Seasonal Affective Depression Disorder here, its a real thing. I’m sure that we are no where near it, but I know that we, along with a number of other friends get a serious case of the winter blues.

Because everyone loves a top 10 list… I tried to simplify it to 10.

  1. NATURAL SUNLIGHT: Winter brings shorter daylight hours and its cold. We don’t want to go outside-but we need to. So #1 is: Everyday, we need to try as hard as we can to get outside and have our bodies exposed to natural sunlight. We may or may not be investigating one of those Vitamin D lamps. Now that I have boys I have seen first hand the value of “put on an extra layer and a hat and GET OUTSIDE-in the cold/rain/sleat/snow” We are all better for it.
  2. VITAMIN D: It’s one of the reasons why we are biologically happy when we are laying on the beach in the summer. We are not doctors but we are increasing our Vitamin D intake. I’m taking 2 extra a day. I think it also has added benefits of boosting your immune system too. Your body only holds Vitamin D for a day, so thats why daily natural sunlight and Vit D are important daily habits to keep.
  3. WINTER CANDLES: We have a sweet tradition of welcoming each new season by running out to Bath and Body Works during our lunch break when their 3 wick candles are on sale and buying the most perfect scent for the  upcoming season…yet somehow.. not intentionally, but consistently, we SKIP winter! This year, we bought  Twisted Peppermint and the most wonderful one of all…”Winter”.  Winter needs candlelight and wonderful smelling living rooms. Check them out here: Bath and Body Works 3 Wick Candles
  4. FOCUS: We realized that we all do ok until December 26th. The holidays are fun and busy …and cold….but who cares because we have our Christmas tree up with sparkling lights and presents! …but once December 26th hits, I’m ready for summer. SO we realize that yes, the plan starts in December (for us we started in November), but we have to really buckle down in January, February and sadly even March. I am also trying to enjoy the season for what it brings, and call it good.
  5. MANDATORY MOVEMENT: I’m terrible at this, but we all know that our bodies need to move. Endorphins are a real thing. Every winter I find myself puddled up in my yoga pants for days in my chair and realize I have only moved from my bed to my car to my desk to my sofa to my bed. So in order to help our physical bodies, we must move-even if its walking around the inside of our building for 20 minutes a day. Ideally, this is outside…which helps with #1 and #2. We want to do a monthly group yoga class…but I’m having a hard time finding someone who can come at the time when we can make it happen (Thursday afternoons).
  6. CLOTHES WE LOVE: Winter=pants and I hate pants. Correction, I hate that skinny jeans have waistbands that dig into my former baby apartment. Sure if I was 20 pounds lighter that might not happen, but honestly I think maybe it still would. SO this winter, I am buying a few things that I really like to wear. ((Get yourself to Old Navy and get the amazing gift from Above called the “Rockstar Jegging”. They are jeans, with pockets, but NO button/zipper…. and GLORY: an elastic waistband…and no they are not maternity pants.)) Old Navy Mid Rise Jeggings . Also on the list: a plaid blanket scarf, some tunics to wear with real leggings, and a new winter coat..and boots. The last winter coat I bought was before Matt and I got married…15 years ago. Not good.
  7. NO SWEATSHIRTS AT THE OFFICE: This might not be an issue for most of you, but I am lucky enough to work at a place where I can wear jeans to work. We don’t have a strict dress code. We have to look neat and professional, but there are times where we can dress up a t shirt, or in the winter, can wear a (clean, nice) sweatshirt. BUT, sweatshirts were designed for the gym, walking outside OR snuggling in your yoga pants–and when you live in a sweatshirt you feel… like, well,  you are living in a sweatshirt. Which is glorious, but makes me personally feel like inertia is setting in.  So yes, I can run home and change into my “winter uniform” as Matt calls it (yoga pants, t shirt, sweatshirt and clean white socks) but I have to “dress” for work .. at least in the winter. …It’s December 1 and I have already had to confess to this desire 3 times.
  8. HAPPY NAILS=HAPPY HEART: We are committing to get our nails done every 3 weeks. In the winter one of the only things you see are your hands–why not make them pretty? Its worth the cost. Even if it happens once a month, this will be a great investment…and fun with friends. (Fridays at 10am every 3 weeks for me-come join the party!)
  9. EAT A FRUIT OR VEGGIE AT EVERY MEAL: When winter comes we just want to eat carbs and lots of them. Carbs are warm and fill us with momentary happiness. But carbs also make you feel bloated and can tend to put on extra pounds over time. So we are committing to eat a fruit or vegetable at every meal. Its just good for everything. I just started the Transfit 14 Day Recharge which is packed with whole foods, fruits and veggies. Also, we are drinking lots of water because hydrated bodies are happy bodies.
  10. FIND A WINTER PROJECT: My friend Josh said the key to winter is finding a whole TV series and watching it season 1 episode 1 until the end. Thank you Netflix for making this possible! We are taking this season to LEARN something or PRACTICE something or TACKLE something… so when spring comes you can say, “over the winter I….. (insert: learn to knit, watched all of Glee, hosted a weekly supper club, took a weekly tai chi class, or my choice: used the content of Marie Kondo’s book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up to completely declutter my whole house (and maybe my in-laws if I make it though mine!)”

SO there you have it! It is a lot of common sense but for us, we have hung our hat on these 10 things as gospel truth for surviving winter. I would love for you to join us and hear any of your winter survival techniques!

#welovewinter

 

 

 

 

We Are All Crazy

We are all just a little bit crazy.

Everyone is striving so hard to act, look, feel and function as “normal”-but Im more and more convinced that really, we are all on the crazy spectrum. Yes, even you.

Last weekend I took the boys to Birmingham, AL (where they greet you wearing big As instead of Gs and say, “Roll Tide!” instead of the normal “hello” or better yet “Go Dawgs”). Our wonderful adoption agency hosted a reunion for all of the families that have adopted from Costa Rica…and some prospective families as well. I knew I HAD to go because my two best adoption friends were going to be there in real life and our precious lawyer Yolanda who is more like our Costa Rican fairy godmother.

Me and these two friends have texted back and forth for about 2 years on all sorts of topics and sometimes chose to speak in only Facebook Stickers when words failed us, but we had never hung out face to face… Matt had football tickets already and a trip planned to FSU (its an annual trip he takes with either the girls or the boys and meets his best friend from college).) SO just me and the boys packed up and headed to AL.

It dawned on me as we were driving that this was the first time we had taken just a “mom and boys” trip. We divide up a lot around here. Im pretty sure I have never gone grocery shopping with all 4 kids in over a year. And its SO MUCH easier with 2 than it is with 4. They were awesome the whole weekend. Spanish church, tons of new people, staying at with a family we didn’t know, soccer conflicts and all.

There was a lot that could have gone wrong. 15 families with biological and adopted older kids, unfamiliar places… and yet, it was really great. I often feel like no one really “gets” us. The mental ping pong of working, thinking, praying, planning for everyone to be “ok”… “are the girls adjusting ok? are the boys attaching to us as their family? is everyone behaving at school? laundry, laundry, laundry, work, school, snack, rest, baths, did you wash your hands?….” you get the picture. Every parent feels it, but its multiplied times 100% when you interrupt a family like we did…. interrupt in the best of all ways.

But I was there, and had two girls happily watching football with their dad, two boys who were thankfully behaving (in front of a ton of people) and talking to a family who will be traveling soon.  Sitting in the yard watching all sorts of kids dark skinned with light skinned siblings and moms and dad-not sure who went with who… sitting with my dear friends in real time… laughing and yet feeling so understood… it was bliss.

The normal questions were tossed around  of “how many kids do you have? how many are you adopting? what are their ages?” and the answers being those consisting of -not keeping birth order, adopting older kids, traveling mid year, spending all sorts of money, leaving jobs for months and staying in a foreign country where you don’t know the language…. and I just had to smile… because we literally all sound completely nuts. I was SO thankful to be on this end of crazy, but needless to say we all just sound crazy.

But who isn’t? Everyone is on a journey and often it just sounds crazy. Leaving an stable job for a risky one, having a baby later in life, moving from the suburbs to the inner city, starting a nonprofit, a church….To some people the crazy happens to them, a chronic  illness, learning disability, job loss, the list goes on and on.

Our student ministry at church is getting ready to do a series called Storms. And our student pastor said that there are three categories of seasons in life. Everyone is either- in a storm, just coming out of a storm or about to go into one. (depressing maybe? but isn’t it true?) We’ve got to know that we are going to know that we are going to make it through, and if we are not in the middle of the crazy storm…look to those who are and do all we can to help.

Im so thankful for this fall…. its still waking up at 5am and go go go. But the gut level exhaustion that was my life last year seems far far away. Love has grown where hope was. Everything seems less fragile and more stable. Routine is still king, but it can break a bit here and there. We all have a groove and we are mostly in it. Dominic has turned into a star student evidently, and has gotten the highest behavior mark for the past 3 days. WHAT in the world!?!? There is still a long way to go and just a little thing can throw us off for a week or two… but its a good crazy around here.

So moms and dads in the thick of it-like I’m not :)- but if you are traveling, just home or in that first year….

what I wish is that…. I could have chilled out a bit (but thats a life theme…not sure if its possible)

I wish I could have enjoyed the crazy

Keep up the routine and hard work….and know you won’t have to live in it forever as strongly as you are now.

Try to hope and dream for your kids and your family…but if you can’t, know it will come again.

And when you feel completely nuts, know that everyone is.

-Laurie

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((nothing says road trip like 10am cheese puffs))

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((all of the families at Spanish church))

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(( Audra, me and Sara– LIFE savers and God’s great blessings in my life!))

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((backyard soccer bliss))

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((Yolanda, kissing brothers, selfies, purple dinosaurs and lots and lots of kids))

One Year

June 16 marked one year since we traveled to Costa Rica.

June 18 was one year since we met the boys.

and July 16 will be one year since we got home.

Its been a busy bustle of life around here. But something really amazing happened at our one year mark. I think its the protective nature of humans -to self protect…but once one year hit, it dawned on me that we made it. We did it. All of it. All of us…For a year. Beginning of school, birthdays, Christmas, Easter, work, school, vacations 365 days of becoming a family. And from June 16, 2015 on… we will have memories of the year before, what we did and funny stories.

Dominic had his Kindergarten end of the year concert right before school let out. I always cry at those things, but this whole year has kind of turned me into a bit of a rock..ok just more than I used to be. I really really just thought/hoped/prayed that Dominic would get through the songs without falling off the stage.  But something happened during song 2…it was 7 seconds into the ABC song for goodness sake and the mommy floodgates unleashed and I was a puddle of tears all over the gym floor. Could not get a hold of myself. I just sat there thinking, this boy, didn’t even know the english letter sounds 10 months ago, he was a MESS, defiant, deceitful …and LOOK at him up there singing, cute polo shirt, like a role model. I couldn’t even lock eyes with his dear teacher, who is also our neighbor and friend and I acted like I didn’t know her so she wouldn’t break down as well.

Our little family, has rallied. NO. It is not perfect. It is more like a circus than perfect. But I have 4 English speaking kids. 4 that call me “Mommy” and Matt “Daddy”. There hasn’t been a fit in 6 months maybe. Rule breaking-yes. Squirrels-every night if its past 8.30pm, there are days we wonder…. “have you forgotten everything we have been doing for the past year?”–about every 2 months. But they are reading–on grade level!,  playing together, sleeping really well, off all medication, and acting appropriately to non-family.

Justin joined the soccer team and played like a champ and we loved his coach. Dominic got the honorary award for the biggest fan and the extra team jersey. We will definitely get both of them in sports next year bc people keep telling me what incredible athletes they are…(same sport/same team so I’m not driving all over creation). They girls embrace them, most times, like true siblings. That doesnt mean they hold hands and skip down the road together singing….but it does mean that Paige takes care of Dominic and even recorded his height on our pantry door (this was a BIG step!). Chloe has rallied as a big sister and reads them books and gives them things to play with and sometimes pep talks…its such a beautiful thing to see her heart grow even more.

We even went out of town for 10 days for our anniversary (probably not what the adoption pros would recommend but it was 15 years!) and they really did GREAT! (and we were even better)

People say it ALL the time, but Im more convinced after this year, that ANY big change takes a year to adjust to/recover from. New baby, new job, move out of town, surgery, loss of a friend or family member, adopting 2 kids… but its in that YEAR, the one that we just want to wish away, the one that is SO painful and confusing and dark and tiring, the one that the forces around us are so strong that we act unlike ourselves….that God works His refining way. He somehow shows up and refines us–files down the hard spots, shows us more of Him, makes us softer, more dependent on Him and on each other, and then you wake up a year later…and think: I DID IT. I made it. And the struggle seems a little bit less dark and painful, because you have experienced joy, you have survived, and overcome.

I have had the blissful gift of SOLITUDE since Monday. The girls have been at over night camp and Matt took the boys on a crazy adventure to NYC and Boston to see his brother. My house has been clean, I have gone on long walks, have not run the dishwasher once, and my puppy is so confused and is wondering where the circus went. But this solitude has been healing, fueling, and best of all quiet. Im a high extrovert….at least I used to be. And I honestly wish I had 2 more days. But tomorrow Mommy comes back into full swing …but as hard and loud and dirty as our life can be…. Im more convinced after this year…that THESE are the glory days. Lord, help me to be as fully present in them and not wish them away!

-Hopefully Ill write again before next year..

Laurie

Living in the OC

Spring is officially here! The warm sunny days are almost equalling the cold rainy days. In Dominic’s words “March is weird”.

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We had one of those days today…the idealic ones where you feel like you are living in a movie. Chloe had her Honors Chorus concert where all of the elementary schools in the county came together at the high school to perform together. She had to be there at 8.30 am which is FAR before Curtises great a Saturday. Then I came home and sat on our porch with Matt and drank coffee while the boys watched cartoons on TV…and Paige slept until 10.30am. After that we loaded up the van with the puppy, 3/4 of the kids, drinks, snacks and headed to the park where the soccer fields are… Matt and I are convinced that they pump happy gas in the air there… but half of the people we know were there… we walked for awhile, the Justin saw his FAVORITE friend from school and they got to play soccer for a little while before practice. Then at 12.30 Justin had practice ….Dominic isn’t in soccer yet-for a number of reasons 🙂 but he is the ultimate sideline coach, ball boy and cheer leader. Well, today the coach said they were down a few players and said he could play if we were ok with it. OH MY GOODNESS. He was SO cute…and SO good. He kept going like the energizer bunny…and even kept up with the older kids. He has said it about 10 times since but he also stole the ball from his brother for a goal. Matt picked up Publix subs and I sprayed sunscreen on for the first time all year and worried about burning… Paige even saw a few of her cool 6th grade friends at their practice too.

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After that we headed to the concert and our baby girl and all of the singers did such a great job! I could see Matt swell with choir pride from back in the day seeing his girl up on the risers. We got her a flower and you could see that she caught the choir bug that might just be in her genes. We stopped at Racetrack (for the second time in the day) for celebration frozen yogurt (Pringles, coke and lemonade)

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In true form, we got home in time for a little nap which was well needed from our day and also from the pollen that the beautiful spring red buds, bradford pears and whatever else in the world is blooming in Athens. Now Matt is playing a mean game of pick up basketball (thanks March Madness) with the neighborhood kids ranging in age from 6-14. One is wearing a skirt, two are not wearing shoes, one is wearing cleats and there might be a puppy and our beloved neighborhood cat involved too.

Spaghetti is on the stove simmering waiting for the sun to go down…. and Im pretty sure we are committed to maxing out this day in the OC (Oconee County)

We got our adoption tax credit back with a happy first installment of our giant refund/credit or whatever you call it from adoption two kids..which hopefully will replenish our savings some.

Its one of those days that I dreamt of when I was single and uncertain about who I would marry, where I would live or what I would do.

We are entering the one year mark…which I am thrilled to say! It was one year ago just a few weeks ago that we first learned of the boys and got their sad little pictures. The clothes we wore when we were in Costa Rica are slowly being brought out from the rubber made bins in our closet. June 18 will mark the one year mark of when we traveled to Costa Rica…and July 18 when we came home.

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I went on a retreat for work a few weeks ago, and it was SO refreshing. But I kept having this pervasive feeling of how tired I was, how all of my thoughts, energy, learning have been directed towards surviving and acclimating and teaching and praying for the 6 of us to mold together as a family. Very little of anything else has taken up too much time or space in my mind. I sat in the breakouts feeling… slow…tired… and my body and mind felt ….spent.

This year has been one that has had a lot of NO. Or like the book Im reading, a lot of “the best yes”. We have had to simplify like never before…and y’all know we love to simplify. The past few weeks I have scheduled things forgetting about the reality of my life… yes, it would be lovely to go to that ladies event in Atlanta on a Monday night… but really Laurie, who do you think you are??! I have had a year of not signing up for school parties, snacks for chorus, really evaluating the birthday party invitations, not buying clothes for the adults in the family, lots of forgetting about yearbook sign ups, conferences, feeling like “that mom” that I used to shake my head at when I taught school, before I had 17 kids like I do now… ok there are only 4 but every day it ranges between 4 and 9000 kids depending on how high maintenance they are …or how low my energy is.

My anniversary band lost a diamond, my poor body has not seen the gym in a year, my ice maker and garage door are broken still… but my heart is full.

The girls call the boys their brothers and Chloe even hugs Dominic on occasion on her own initiative. They have a few games they play all together outside with the neighborhood kids… and get sad when I make one come in for a bath. The boys are speaking English only after 8 months of being home. Its incredible.

Its been months since we brought the red circle out for Dominic to take a break. We haven’t seen a melt down fit in months either. Last week he came home with ALL green or better on his behavior chart. The kid looks like he has gained 15 pounds… and is “squishy” as my friend Rachel calls him. The same little guy who was so hollow and thin and small in the pictures we got just a year ago.

Justin. Justin is smart. And asks 10000000 questions a day. Most of the time they are because he is trying to figure things out. Sometimes they are manipulative for attention and we get sucked in. He has started soccer and the coach thinks he scored big time–soccer runs in his blood. He is beginning to settle…I think Matt landed on something when I was out of town for Chloe’s birthday. He needs proactive attention…wrestling, joking, direct conversation and respect.

The boys are both in counseling and we are so thankful for the man God brought our way to help start this lifelong process of healing and understanding. So much happened before Dominic had memory, but Justin remembers everything. His recall of ages when he moved, people, events is so detailed. Our counselor is helping him to verbalize and process the “hard stuff” in hopes that he will be able to move past it.

As much no as we have had to say… our house has become a home to us all… and the 6 of us have become family.

(For Chloe’s 10th bday I took her and Paige to Great Wolf Lodge-they had a blast! Im still not a water park person.)

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Its a wonderful life…

Until next time–

Laurie

Carbs

As I sit here I have a bag of jellybeans that my sweet friend Debbie gave me and I am planning to eat the whole thing, by myself. Yesterday I had cressant pizza rolls for dinner, a feta burger and fries for lunch… Monday I had a full bagel for breakfast and shrimp and grits for lunch. I cannot stop eating carbs. Well, I did for .75 of a day when I did “Whole 30” –really I did “Whole .75”. I want to stop eating sugar and white fluffy breads and pasta and coke… and I do… just about every day… until about lunch…oftentimes I can make it until dinner and then I just think, “I need this. Ill start tomorrow”. The thing is… the bread, sugar etc tastes good for the immediate moment…but then-it makes me feel bloated, angry and tired. Who wants to feel bloated, angry and tired?!?! I know exactly why I am feeling that way and still… I choose the bad choice.

It got me thinking… change takes a lot more than momentary willpower. And the more we fail the easier it is to fail again. Failing, actually becomes less like failing and more like… normal. But there is no victory in that type of life.

We are knee deep into first year of adoption here. Really we are doing well… everyone is. Not that its signing songs around the camp fire all day- but its not running away from home and yelling at us either. Pee goes in the toilet 99.9% of the time now and the towel bars are affixed to the walls.  The girls are actually talking TO the boys and even playing with them …by choice not force and seem happy about it. We are trying to help both of the boys change lifelong habits of defiance, lying, fear, bad memories… and we can’t expect it to happen just because we try once..or twice…or 40000 times.

I think change comes from a thousand tiny little successes. By the grace of God you… bypass the jellybeans and drink water with Mio instead, or you think of a scary guy from your past and turn your thoughts to the bible verses your mom gave you, or you are tempted to lie but you tell the truth instead and still serve the consequence knowing its for your good. And then you celebrate the heck out of it, tell the world, feel less tired, bloated, angry or scared. And then you do it again…and again…and again….and again. Until you win more than you lose. Until water, and courage and obedience and carrots feel more normal and good in the now and in the future.

Thats how the carb girl becomes lean meat and veggie girl who drinks lots of water

…or how to disobedient kid becomes the (mostly) obedient kid

….or the fearful boy becomes the joyful courageous boy

….its how the kid who thinks he is “bad” over time sees himself as “good”.

But you have to make your mind up….  you have to say, here is my “issue” and I am going to tackle it. I will not be a slave to _______ anymore. Enough is enough.

For kids this is REALLLLLYYYY hard. I say it all the time, but kids are just trying to make their life “normal”. And when not normal stuff happens to them…. the last thing they want to do is acknowledge it and become “not normal”–so they spend their energy and thoughts forcing whatever has happened to them… to become normal. And it just messes with them and comes out it behavior issues…fear, anxiety, not sleeping, fighting etc.

No one wants to voice the “not normal”. We saw with Justin just last night… he doesnt sleep well. He is HIGH strung and wakes up before his 6.25am wake up call EVERY day. He told me a few nights ago he woke up at 12.30 and didn’t go back to sleep. Last night in the calm pace of the night he told me, “mom, I know why I didn’t sleep the other night. I was thinking of bad things. Bad people and scary thoughts.” Come on that’s a win right?!?!  So after I ushered Dominic to bed (Paige was sick in her room…still,  and Chloe was at a school concert with Matt). I told him to tell me the thoughts. He didn’t want to. But after some awkward silence… he did. I didn’t solve them, tell him that they would never happen…I just said, “those are scary thoughts buddy.” And we searched two bible verses that we wrote down…so when those thoughts came, he could hold that piece of paper in his hands, think of his God and his mommy and retrain his mind. This morning he came down and said “I slept all night mom!” And we were so thankful!

God is at work… and we just need to confess our struggle and be open to the change that He offers….and then celebrate the smack out of it when we overcome.

Hitting Our Stride-8 months

My friends that run say that its always terrible to start but somewhere in the duration of the run–they hit a stride and it starts being easier…maybe enjoyable…

I don’t run….well …I have tried for years but never pass that first stage where I want to die and am convinced that my lungs were not designed for running… but I think in our family life–we are hitting that stride.

The  8 months that rocked our world like no other… is in the books… and we are all pretty proud of ourselves for making it through. Everyone left the house today with shoes on, teeth brushed, projects done and kisses. It feels like a small school around here all of the time, but I am thankful for the years of education and experience in the teaching world that really helped me with the organization necessary to make this happen.

Hitting our stride means that now and then…all 4 kids choose to play together. We moved the basketball goal to the front yard (I know my neighbors might hate us…as well as the homeowners association) and last night instead of watching the Super Bowl Paige came downstairs and said “Justin, Dominic come play!” Hitting our stride means that there is more English being spoke between everyone in our house…except when we decide to have “Spanish Only” dinners…which turns out to be funny bc now the boys are forgetting their Spanish and ours is very limited… They talk to each other in English now, and are even finally being able to talk to us about their “first family” and some of the hardships that brought them here. Hitting our stride means that when the behavior report comes back “bad” it is for disrespect not hitting. We have not seen a meltdown fit in months.

I am experiencing being on the other side of those longing glances from other moms with the heart to adopt. I was just there and there is a mixed pride of actually making it to the point where we did it–where are family HAS grown, where there are two boys off the street and into a safe place and into our hearts… with the desire in my heart to tell them “this is MUCH harder than you think”. Generally I just smile and tell them what a joy it is to be a mom and wish them well. Justin told the lady at Target yesterday, “it was easy for my mom and dad to adopt us. They just said yes and it was easy” I think I am glad that he thinks that. But it wasn’t…and it isn’t. But it is worth it.

I had a realization the other day…that I probably should have had about a year ago. In order for the boys to be removed from their “first family” it had to be really bad. Like really really bad. Here –it takes an act of congress to get a child removed from a bad situation in the home. Their paperwork didn’t look “so bad”. The things that they tell us… don’t seem “that bad”…but I know the system -at least here- and it had to be B.A.D. That brings compassion when the towel bar gets ripped off the wall, and my white walls have finger prints ALL over them, and the 10th pair of jeans comes home with a hole and when I tell them to do something and they do the exact opposite. Because even in the midst of all of that… this is such a safer place. But it is a place that might feel like Oz to them.

Adoption is a beautiful thing but it is not glamorous. It is actually the opposite. It is messy, dirty and makes you rethink everything you ever stood on firmly as a parent.. or even as a person.

But in the midst of it all… we are hitting our stride. We are realizing that there are cycles and recognizing them when they come. We are giving ourselves, the girls and the boys much more grace. We are planning fun, embracing the messy… in between visits from the housecleaner (praise Jesus for the housecleaner!). We are talking, beginning to break out of the hole that we have been living in. We are being proactive on behavior issues, started Dominic in counseling and are planning to just cycle the kids through one by one.

I am convinced more and more–that everyone needs a good counselor in their back pocket. Life is hard. Normal life is hard. This world can be a beautiful place but can also be a very broken place. Getting rid of the stigma of counseling and embracing the good that it is.. could possibly be the best thing that this generation could do. Other than put down their phones and talk to each other.

I am SO excited–this weekend I am going to the Create for Care retreat. I have been twice before…but before we got the boys. This will be my first time as an adoptive mom. And I need it. I need to sit in a room with 400 other crazy mothers that are in this too. I need a little time away. I need to sleep, not do laundry or wash another dish. I can’t wait. I might go a day early just for some solitude.

SO sweet supportive friends… thanks for running this race with us. For encouraging us to start, endure through those first few miles of pain and through this season of finding a pace and rhythm. It is most surely a marathon not a sprint…

-Laurie