Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Emotionally Beat-Up

Happy Wednesday afternoon friends! I’ve struggled to post for a few days now, because…well…in all honesty, I’m just feeling emotionally beat-up. Those were the exact words I spoke to a friend who recently called to check on me and see how I was doing, and I struggled to come up with what to stay. Finally…it came to me…I just feel…emotionally beat-up! And then she got it. She knew exactly what I meant.

  • I’m in the process of grieving the death of a second husband in less than 6 years, who’s been gone just slightly over a month. That, in and of itself, is almost too much to bear at times.
  • I have four young, adopted children…two with clinically-defined special needs and one probably, yet to be diagnosed. Throw a little, well a lot, of ADHD into the mix, and you’ve got one keyed up, stretched thin, worn through and through mama.
  • Then, this blasted foot surgery. It’s supposed to help restore life in areas where I’ve needed restoration…the ability to walk well (pain-free) again, and the ability to retreat back to those outdoor activities that bring me such joy hiking, camping, river tubing, etc. It was supposed to be an easy surgery. Key words “supposed to be”. Joel’s surgery was supposed to be easy too, and we see how that turned out. I guess I’m blessed to be alive, but I’m struggling with lots of PAIN, and I mean a ton! And…before the surgery I was given instructions that I could be ambulatory immediately post surgery (while using a surgery shoe) as I felt up to it. I had full, weigh-bearing privileges. Now…I’m not allowed to put any weight on it at all. Did you see the part about having 4 young, rambunctious children at home? Nearly impossible doc.

I’m begging God for a breakthrough, for a release from ALL the pain (even if it’s just temporary)…I just need some relief. I’ve asked Him for a better attitude, because I know I’m struggling in that area too, and I truly don’t want to be…I just want my joy back…even if it’s just a smidgen. It’s that smidgen that will carry me through to the next dose.

Come, Lord Jesus! Rain down bucketfuls of joy upon me, and remove the pain!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Where Has the Time Gone?

Yes. I’m still here in Blogland. There’s so much I’ve been wanting to share with you, but life has been “huge” as of late, and I’ve honestly had to step back from writing projects for a bit. But, oh how I’ve missed this oasis.

2016 was a BIG…HUGE…GINORMOUS…year for us. If acclimating to life with our newest Bulgarian cuties wasn’t enough, we also completed the adoption of our two-year-old foster son and bought a new house and relocated three counties away! We’ve been in the new house almost three months but still have boxes to unpack!

As for the Bulgarian sibling group we adopted at the end of 2015, they are thriving!

From one year ago to now…such a difference!

They only speak English now, and honestly…they have been doing so since around the three month mark. It’s absolutely astonishing to me to see how quickly these kiddos picked up a new language. We have had our challenges (more to share on some of that in later posts), but we’ve also been blessed immensely. Adoption is the hardest thing we’ve tackled as a couple, but I can’t imagine our life without these precious brown-eyed, olive-skinned, beautiful children.

Then comes Austyn. We simply thought we were caring for him until he was reunified with his biological family, but God had other plans. This little guy is now our son. It brings tears to my eyes to type those words. Our SON! I am overwhelmed at the blessing this little boy has been to our family. He loves his siblings, and they adore him. Sure…they fight sometimes…as siblings do, but the love they have between each other wins out every single time. This little guys brightens up every room he walks into. He’s full of love, laughter, and such an intense personality. He’s a go-getter (even at the age of two), and I know God has great plans for him.

Our relocation a little more eastward has been challenging (as far as moves go), but we’re so excited to finally be in our home and don’t plan to leave for a long, long time. Hopefully not until we retire (if then). Ha! When Joel and I married, he committed to making the commute from my hometown to his job (75 miles one way) in order for my girlie to graduate from high school. He ended up commuting for over four years. We knew we would end up moving eventually, but we didn’t know if that would be in the same county but closer to his work or out of the county. We chose the latter, because we were able to get so much more house for the money. I have the commute now, but I love it!!! I have so much thinking time, and my INFJ personality type desperately needs that.

We can’t wait to see all that’s in store for our life in our new town. We’re open to whatever God brings our way, and we know that could be a wild ride, as it’s been nothing less than that up to this point.

And…if all that wasn’t enough…my first book was published in June. That project produced a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. LOTS of tears, as I had to relive my first year as a widow. There were many days my heart ached so deeply and yet to be reminded of God’s faithfulness time and time again during those dark days of my life was nothing short of gracious. My goal with Rescued and Restored is to bring hope to those in need of it. While it’s a story of grief and restoration from the tragic suicidal death of my husband, it’s so much more than that. It’s not just for widows…it’s for anyone in need of rescue…in need of healing…in need of hope. You can get it here (paperback and Kindle formats available). I’m also willing to come share my story at a women’s event or retreat, and you can learn more about that here.

As for Out of Deep Waters…I plan to be here a lot more often and more consistently. And…believe it or not…you might be seeing me in other places as well. Lots of stuff in the works I’ll reveal as time goes on.

Thank you for stopping by and being faithful even through the “desert periods”. Feel free to comment and say hi! I would love to hear from you!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Six Months Home

As of this past Saturday, May 21, our Bulgarian children have been on U.S. soil for six months! In some respects, it’s hard to believe it’s already been six months, but in other respects, it feels like they’ve been with us from the beginning. We’re still figuring each other out. We still have so much to learn about parenting children from hard places, and they still have so much to learn about being parented. Six months hardly touches on any of that, but take a look at just a few of the accomplishments so far:

  • Six months ago, they spoke no English. Today, they speak no Bulgarian. Yes…I’m serious! I hardly believe it myself, but it’s true. There are a couple Bulgarian words we simply like and still use (long story there), but other than those 2-3 words, it’s all English. Their vocabulary is still growing, but their use of slang is also growing…kind of funny to hear. We were told they would learn English quickly…but WOW! Josiah has not only learned to speak English, but is also reading English!
  • Six months ago, they had few boundaries. Today, they have many boundaries, and they aren’t always excited about that. Some days we feel like it’s all rules…rules…rules, but we know that by setting up the safeguards now, there will be room for even more fun and enjoyment later. Our oldest doesn’t always understand why he can’t just watch any cartoon on TV. We’ve tried to explain that cartoons don’t always mean kid-friendly (or even appropriate for me to watch, for that matter), but that’s hard to grasp when he was able to watch the same shows in Bulgaria.
  • Six months ago, Katerina was considered a child with occasional ADD-type behavior, never had any formal schooling, and struggled to manage her emotional swings. Today, she’s about to finish Kindergarten, has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), has been evaluated by a team of professionals who are working to help us obtain the right therapies for her special needs disability, and she is THRIVING!
  • Six months ago, they woke up several times during the night or before the crack of dawn. They’d be “full on” ready to play whenever they got up, with no understanding of the time of day/night it might be. Today, they sleep solidly through the night, and Benjamin still takes a nap every afternoon.
  • Six months ago, they weren’t able to sit still long enough to be read to. Today, they love books and will sit through as many books as we’re willing to read at one time.
  • Six months ago, Benjamin would throw puzzle pieces all over the house, because he truly didn’t know how to work puzzles. The kiddos destroyed many toys initially, because they simply didn’t understand how to play. Today, Benjamin loves to work puzzles…the right way. Katerina is the best little mommy to her baby dolls, and Josiah builds Legos and K’nex structures until his heart’s content.
  • Six months ago, they had a very limited selection of food they would eat. However, we’ve always asked them to try at least one bite of everything we fix, and we are so pleased to see their taste buds explode with desire for new culinary delights. While I still consider them a bit picky, they’ve come a long way from where they were when they first got home.
  • Six months ago, they had no manners or social graces. Today, they say please and thank you most of the time. They are learning to say yes/no ma’am and sir. They ask to be excused from the table following a meal. They’ve learned to apologize for wrongdoing and will even hug siblings to help make up for their naughty behavior. They want to help mommy and daddy all over the house (except for cleaning their room…ha!). And, they are so stinkin’ sweet with their little foster brother, who adores them right back!

Now, everything is not perfect in paradise. We stay exhausted, and some days we wonder why God chose us to travel this hard road. But, then we look at those little olive-skinned munchkins with deep brown eyes and know it’s all worth it! They’ve come so far…and so have we.

The day they left their orphanage...forever.

11/12/15 – The day they left their orphanage…forever.

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5/8/16 – Mother’s Day!

Friday, February 26, 2016

The Nightmarish Trip

BG2-2You’ve seen a glimpse of our three newest children. Yes…they are adorable. Yes…they are loads of fun. Yes…we are very blessed to be their parents. BUT…

You knew I would have to go there someday.

BUT…it’s not all peaches and cream.

While we didn’t become parents overnight, and between the two of us, we’ve been parenting children for over a decade, I can honestly say there was no amount of education and preparation we could have received to prepare us for the ten days we spent in Bulgaria for our “pick up trip”.

I have experienced many difficult things in life. I lost a spouse to a heartbreaking divorce and another one to suicide. My parents divorced when I was fourteen, and I lived through a very dysfunctional childhood. Even so…our “pick up trip” ranks in the top 3 of the hardest things I’ve ever had to endure. Seriously.

When we traveled to Bulgaria last July to actually meet our children for the first time, we had some “down time”, which was definitely needed at the end of each day…for us and them. It was a lot to take in and absorb, especially for their precious hearts. Their world was about to turn upside-down, and while they couldn’t fully grasp it at that time, they knew it was coming, and they’d witnessed their friends leaving the orphanage to go to their new homes. They fully welcomed being adopted and were thrilled to finally have a family of their very own. During trip one, we would spend the days together, but they would go back to their friends by dinnertime and would sleep in their own beds at night. We had the hotel room to go back to, but we could process the events of the day with each other and do a little sight-seeing on the side too.

Our November trip looked nothing like the one in July. We arrived after two days of travel and “took custody” of our children the very next day. They were excited and anxious, as we were. The four hour trip back to the capital of Sofia produced tired children ready to get out of the car and explore everything new around them…which was literally…everything! They had no social graces. Manners were non-existent. They knew nothing of personal space, and they laughed in the face of danger. They were very obedient whenever the translator/driver was around, but as soon as he offered his goodbyes, the “Mr. Hyde” children surfaced. Now, don’t get me wrong, we love our children to pieces and don’t regret becoming their mommy and daddy for one minute, however I want to be real about some of our experiences. It was all perfectly “normal”, but normal or not…it was grueling.

We found out rather quickly we had to stay close by the apartment we were housed in, because it was simply too hard to take them most places. We also learned right off the bat we were outnumbered. Yes…we’re adults and bigger than they are, but even so…we were outnumbered 3-2. If we had to do it over again, we would have had a third person with us to help balance things out.

Most of our meals were takeout style, in which Joel or I would venture out for food to bring back to the apartment to eat. If we did go out to eat with them, it was either to McDonald’s, a pizza place, or food from a street vendor. There were two occasions where we took them to a nice sit-down meal, because we were craving it, and we really wanted to make some fun memories with them too. It happened towards the end of the trip and resulted from a little behavior bribery (yes…true that).

Just a snippet of the things we experienced during the pickup trip:

  • One child picked up a piece of chewed up gum from underneath a table at McDonald’s and proceeded to chew it further. Blech!
  • A different child thought cigarette butts picked up on the street were mighty tasty. Even bigger BLECH!
  • A third child thought it would be okay to steal some items from the pizza place we ate at a couple times. This child quickly learned that wouldn’t be tolerated when we took them back to apologize to the owner and return the stolen goods.
  • After being told by zoo staff to not tap on the glass of the reptiles, one child decided to test that theory and continued banging the glass container as loud as possible until we ended up leaving the zoo out of fear of being kicked out.
  • One child thought it would be fun to run away from a certain parent in the park (all in an effort to make said parent begin a chase).
  • On our souvenir shopping day near the time we were to return home, we took a cab to a part of town we hadn’t yet ventured to before. We took turns shopping and watching the children, because we were still uneasy about the little thief in our presence. During my time with the kids outside, we were all supposed to be sitting on a bench quietly waiting on daddy. One child decided that didn’t seem like much fun and pushed a sibling off the bench onto the concrete below only to create a little more excitement. And it did…blood, sweat, and many tears!

Now after reading this,  you probably think we adopted a bunch of little hellions. At the time, we did too. Ha! However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. They really are sweet children who were testing us to the nth degree while we were still on their turf. They didn’t know us well enough to trust us yet. Their whole world had been completely turned upside-down, and while we knew what was coming was better, they had no way of knowing that just yet.

They’ve been home 3 months, and I can truthfully say they are drastically different children. Honestly, the change started the moment they stepped foot on US soil. They still have a lot to learn, as do we all, but they are doing it and working really hard at everything we’re teaching them. And, we praise God for allowing us to be their parents!

As an aside, you might be wondering how we even survived our pick-up trip. PRAYER. Lots of prayer! We sent out multiple requests from friends and other families who have walked similar paths. We know it was the prayer of those standing in the gap for us that allowed us to make it through those very difficult days!

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Monday, February 22, 2016

Benjamin – The Charmer

If we’ve heard it once, we’ve heard it dozens of times, “What a little charmer!” This is in reference to the youngest of our Bulgarian adopted children – Benjamin. And…I would have to concur. I don’t know if it’s all the hugs and high-fives he likes to give or that endearing smile that lights up his face, but anybody who has spent event a smidgen of time with Benjamin will talk about his charm!

Much like his siblings, he was initially quiet and shy upon our first meeting last July, but it took very little time before he snuggled with his new mommy quite content to be held for as long as time would allow.

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Similar to Katerina, Benjamin had to be taught how to be held. He wanted me to pick him up and carry him everywhere during that first time we spent together in Bulgaria. However, he would always keep his legs stiff where his knees wouldn’t be able to bend and naturally curl up around my waist. We worked on it, and over time, he has settled into a “normal hold”. It’s amazing how we so easily take for granted the simplest of things, because it’s what we’ve always known. But for an orphan…especially this little guy who entered the orphanage when he was only 1-month-old…that kind of “normal” doesn’t exist. The love that comes from a mommy and daddy and family simply isn’t known…until there actually is one!

While he might be the youngest of the three, Benjamin can certainly hold his own with his siblings. He’s very bossy and loves to give orders. Depending on who he’s trying to order around, he may or may not be successful. Most of the time, his older two siblings ignore his demands, although Katerina is typically the most compliant. Our foster son just tells him “no” if it’s not something he’s interested in. So, Benjamin is probably more like a “middle child” now and is having to learn that role in a different way than he might be accustomed.

Many orphans who have lived in institutional environments any length of time typically have physical habits indicative of that. For Josiah and Katerina, surprisingly, they got over these types of habits rather quickly. For Benjamin, it hasn’t happened quite as quickly. He still rocks himself (self-soothing) and will sometimes still “head-bang” against his pillow to go to sleep. He’s almost given up the head-banging, but the rocking still happens quite frequently, and we’ve learned from other adoptive families that could last a really long time (ex. some children still rock after being home 3 or more years). We just have to continue to hold him and love him, and pray he’ll feel soothed outside of having to do so for himself.

As for his name, I first suggested the name Benjamin to Joel, because he reminded me so much of another Benjamin I knew. Joel liked the name too, but we had to dig a little deeper for his middle name. Interestingly, we loved the name Levi, and it means “attached or pledged; joined”. We thought that was very fitting considering we have attached/pledged ourselves to Benjamin as his parents, and he has joined our family through adoption.

Some fun facts about Benjamin:

  • He LOVES to dance!
  • He has many faces and is very expression-filled!
  • He would prefer to listen to music over watching anything on TV.
  • He sleeps with a stuffed dog but is a little timid over real ones.
  • He is our pickiest eater of the three and is quick to say “Benjamin no like ________” even before trying something. Although, he has gotten much better at trying those foods he claims to not like and has (on occasion) changed his mind.
  • He shares the same birthday with his older sister, Anna.
  • He loves to help empty the dishwasher and truthfully anything else we’re willing to let him help with. He’ll frequently say, “Benjamin I got it” if it’s something he wants to do unassisted (i.e. sweep the floor, hold a door open).
  • Bath time is a favorite time for Benjamin!
  • While he loves being in a swimming pool, Benjamin and Josiah both have a healthy fear of it.
  • He still takes a nap each day and never gives us a fit about it.
  • Pizza and macaroni are his favorite foods. He calls pizza “peacha” (or at least that how it sounds).
  • Our granddaughter, Noelle, is one of his favorite friends. He adores her and can’t wait to play with her again.
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Roasting marshmallows for the first time.

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They may fight like cats and dogs, but they really do love each other.

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Pulling off the junior GQ look after his first haircut in America!

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Goofing off with Aunt Donna on Christmas Day!

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Letting Mommy rock me to sleep.