Our Family

Our Family
Our Family: Pops, Me, The Teenager, The Boy, The Freckle Faced Ninja, Miss Priss, Miss Sassy Pants, Madi-Lou-Who, & Dora the Explorer

Thursday, November 21, 2013

And Then We Were 9

Teen Extraordinaire!
It's funny how life can change in an instant.  One day I'm thinking how "busy" my life is with homeschooling 4 children, occassional volunteering with a ministry, trying to help my previously adopted children heal from past traumas, and keeping up with laundry for 6.  I THOUGHT I was busy....I was delusional!!  ;)  
Ninjas Warriors - Watch out!!

I got the call on a Friday.  September 20th to be exact.  We prayed on Saturday and Sunday.  We said yes on Monday.  7 days later 3 new children joined our family.  So here's our family now:

The Tooth Fairy, a fairy princess,
a butterfly, and Dorothy

Gabby - 15
The Boy (Will) - 9
The Freckle Faced Ninja - 7
Miss Priss (Lydia Grace) - 7
Miss Sassy Pants - 6
Dora the Explorer - 5
Madi-Lou-Who - 5
FYI: We will not post face shots or use their names on my blog or social media until our adoption is final.
So, we had 1 week prepare for this new part of our family's journey and all along the way we have been met by the hands of Christ.  

1 week to complete a 3 month homestudy process. And through it we had the opportunity to share our story at 2 doctor offices and watch as they bent over backwards to help us get things done with amazing speed!  Things came together that we had no reason to believe would come together that fast!
1 week to prepare our house to hold 7 children.  Over the weekend I had prayed through all doubts and fears.  I had total confidence that this was where God was leading us.  Once I made the phone call, I became assailed with doubts and anxiety about how we could do all that was needed, did I even know what was needed, was I really prepared to walk this road of discomfort again.  And once again God met us in our need.  He supplied everything: 
  • an interior decorator to help us organize bedrooms (thank you Andria!!)
  • a teenager who in my moments of frustration and anxiety, quietly asks, "How can I help mom?"  Who said to me in a moment when I feared I might cry in front of everyone, "ya know, they aren't as bad as I thought they'd be.  I think things are going to be just fine!"  Thank you so much Gabby Gonzalez, you are such a blessing to all of us!
  • A laundry fairy named Jeannie Gautier who I can never thank enough!!!!
  • Willing hands to donate furniture, help us move and organize things (thank you Tony's men's group, April, Tracy, & Amy, Dean & Rachel!) 
  • Friends with willing hearts to ask how we are and listen to our story. Again and again!  :)
  • Family...could we be blessed with any better family?  All of our family has loved and supported us as we broke the news they'd be gaining more grands/nieces/newphew/cousins!  They have welcomed, helped, prayed, and loved.  Thank you all!!!!  
  • Financial blessings from countless people ranging from checks out of the blue to putting money under our name at a clothing store!!  
  • 2 Care Teams organized by Promise686 (www.promise686.org) to bring us meals several times a week, babysit occasionally, and support us (If you are a foster parent or have adopted children from trauma, or just been through a time of trial, you know what a HUGE blessing it is to have dinner just SHOW UP!!  Thanks to all who are on our Care Teams!) 
  • a new refrigerator, fixed back fence, and carpeting in our now playroom (Finn Smith and friends, you are wonderful!!!) 
  • Yard Help...Hallelujah!  (Thanks so much Jeff!!)
  • Most importantly, people to constantly pray for and over us!  You have no idea how this has blessed us and we have felt your prayers to be sure!!
1 week to prepare our hearts for hard days to come.
1 week to prepare our teenager to go through a huge life transition again.  
1 week to prepare our children to re-live what they had been through.  To help them understand that these kids might be with us only for a time.  As excited as we might be to welcome new sisters and a brother, they weren't exactly thrilled to be coming to live with us.  And it was going to be hard.  And hard is OK.  

We knew we were saying yes to 3 freckly foster children.  What we didn't know is for how long.  They were not yet legally free to adopt but the expectation was that they would become free.  That their mother's parental rights would be terminated.  In 3 months.  Or in 6 months.  The judge felt mom needed more time than the 12 months she'd had.  

On Monday night they came amidst what felt like chaos.  Beds not ready, dressers still to be put in place, clothes in chaos.  

On Tuesday the chaos became real.  Registering for school, teaching routines, restraining one after another during some pretty intense tantrums, trying to explain to them what in the world was happening to them.  

6 different families in 1 year.  At least 4 schools. 3 schools this school year alone.  Their heads were whirling.  And so was their behavior.  

They had not seen their biological mother in several weeks and there was a very real possibility that we would need to take them to see her.  The last visit had been very traumatic so how to prepare them for it. And how to prepare ourselves for the aftermath.  Tuesday we were told they'd let us know but there would be a visit in the next week.  

Wednesday we got an email.  The subject said, "A great big praise the Lord". The sender was the a supervisor at our agency.  The body said, "Social worker was in court all day.  On a positive note, TPR (termination) WAS GRANTED!!!! There will be not more visits."  

To say we were stunned would be a huge understatement!  We'd prepared ourselves to let these children go in six or eight months if that was God's plan and suddenly the were ours!  With that came a great sadness.  This meant that, despite her poor choices, these three innocents could not go see the person that they had more connection to than anyone.  This woman who is more of a child herself, raised by parents much like herself.  I see her as a scared, lonely, abused child in my mind's eye when I look at these children.  

I am sad for her life losses.  The path she was set upon with no one to rescue her.  I am sad for the loss my children feel, all of them, because of someone else's choices.  

But I am also reminded of the sovereignty of God and his plan of redemption. It's now my job to impart this to these babies.  To teach children who feel unloved and unlovely, that their life has purpose.  It has beauty.  That THEY are beautiful.  That what has happened in to them was NOT in their control. Not their fault.  

But first...I must explain that they can never. see. their. mother. again. How? How?  I'm at a loss.  And the chaos of settling in swirls around us.  

By the end of the first week we have both been hit and kicked and dealt with what feels like 100 tantrums.  One won't sleep more than four hours at a stretch then she's awake two.  One is so angry and yells, "DON'T TOUCH ME!" if your hand reaches towards him.  One knows every song I would never let my kids hear in a million years and the Miley Cyrus like moves to match them! They are all so angry, frustrated, confused.  

My stomach is in knots and I constantly pray that God will give me peace.  I cannot eat and I feel as if I've had too much coffee and no sleep, which I have.  Both.   

Week two is much the same with maybe a couple less tantrums.  Bath and bedtime takes two hours and it is completely necessary that all hands are on deck.  I am constantly on the verge of tears and not sure which way is up.  

At the end of week two I realize that they have no school on Monday and I'm in a panic because Tony won't be here.  HOW AM I GOING TO SURVIVE THAT? And Thanksgiving break?  And Christmas break?  As I ask a friend to pray for that I begin to realize that I am so busy worrying about tomorrow that I am forgetting to live in today.  

Suddenly I am calm.  God's peace that I had been praying for settles over me like a blanket as I realize God is in control of tomorrow.  He always was.  We will all survive one way or another. And the day comes.  It is our best day yet.  And my heart, my faith, has turned a corner.  

Somewhere around the third week our Freckle Faced Ninja made the connection based on The Boy telling his story that he was not going home to his mom again.  I guess it was time to talk about it.  He heard it, denied it, took responsibility for it himself.  Miss Sassy Pants refused to hear it at all for a long time.  Freezes anytime any discussion of the past comes up.  Dora the Explorer gets a furrowed brow then launches into a story about her birth parents that makes us all sad.  She's so matter of fact about it.  Maybe that's why it's so sad.  

Now here we are seven weeks down this road and I am amazed.  The child who would not let me touch him now asks for constant hugs.  The child who never smiled for 3 weeks, giggles and laughs with joy.  The child with the Miley Cyrus moves...well they all do them now so that's not exactly forward progress but she also has begun to make eye contact for more than 3 seconds.  We see playfulness and joy where before all we saw was anger.  We see the tentative beginnings of sibling bonds and the full-blown ability to fight like any brothers and sisters do.  The fear that did paralyze them as soon as the lights go out for bedtime is still present but it's not quite so paralyzing.  

Most days are still hard.   We've moved from survival mode to beginning down the long road.  This road to healing where there is no end in sight.  Yet if we could just see around the bend in the road we'd see, really see as God sees, the child who could be.  This is the time we are desiring to see the child hiding behind the coping mechanisms.   

What will the real Miss Sassy Pants be like?  Behind that tough exterior that tells everyone what to do and tries to make sure no one is getting into trouble, is there a soft-hearted ballerina?  Or perhaps a spunky soccer player? I can't imagine the energy she expends focusing on keeping everyone on the straight and narrow.  And the thoughts of why she does it makes me so sad. To look at this sweet thing and realize that she feels the burden of keeping everything copacetic so no one gets yelled at.  Or worse.  To think that she feels the burden of CAUSING the pain her mother experienced at the hands of another.  That she thinks she had the power to stop the hurting at someone else's hands.  This long road of us teaching her how little of it all was in her power.  How little of it all was her burden to bear.  And how it is time to let go of control because it is God's job to hold the world together, not hers.  

And now is when the stories just begin to come out in drips, a few here and a few there.  Part of me desires to hear them in hopes they will help me find the cause of the anxiety that is causing Dora the Explorer to have such a hard time going to sleep and to wake up from 2 am to 4 am every night.  But part of me doesn't want to know.  It rips at my heart to hear some of the things my children say, as if it's normal to sleep in the trunk of the car.  Or to share a "hotel room" with 5 kids and 4 adults.  Or to have more kids come to live with you, causing a shortage of food.  

Seeking ways to build trust with The Boy who is starting to hoard food out of fear again.  Desiring to give new coping skills to replace the lying that is done by several of them, again out of fear.  Wanting to replace their inner fear life with one of faith and trust and dependency.  

How to show God to The Freckle Faced Ninja?  How to walk beside him as he begins to let the anger drain out and replace it with the constant joy of KNOWING that he is the kid of a KING and not the kid of a jerk.  That no matter how his earthly father acted, succeeded or failed, that there is one who loves him so dearly that He was willing to die for him.  He is like a wall of wooden slats.  The sun shines through slim gaps in the wood but not enough to warm the room.  That is his joy.  It leaks through but does not yet pour out.  It is a beginning though.  I am seeing him begin to spring more and more leaks as the wood weakens and the anger holds less sway.  

Many have asked how we are doing.  I will tell you honestly, I am tired.  I am exhausted.  So is Tony.  And some days by bedtime I wonder how I will get up and do this again tomorrow.  But each day I do.  And each day I see beauty and joy and laughter in my children.  Some days the chaos is too much for this introvert and her introverted husband (I am SURE God has a sense of humor...2 introverts raising 2 introverts...plus 5 extroverts....).  

Many days I lose my cool too often and must ask for forgiveness.  Many days I'm too mad to remember to ask until they are all asleep.  

Many nights I am baffled and on the internet or buried in a book trying to find answers to behaviors.  

I am overwhelmed with 2 therapists, dr appointments, psychologicals, IEP and SST school meetings, laundry & dishes, dentist appointments that require sedation because of the amount of work needed on such a little mouth.  

And everyday I am over run by eager hugs and kisses, children who demand more tickling, and dare me to zerbert their tummy.  

Mostly I am amazed that God has blessed me with his long road.  Each hurdle we jump, we jump together as a family.  And there is Christ to catch us if we stumble as we land.  I am grateful for every mud puddle along the way because each time I will look down and see God's reflection looking back at me out of it and hopefully be able to keep walking.  Thank you for walking this long road with us!  

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