Sunday, December 23, 2012

Ty's Special Box

You probably don't remember this box.


I purchased it months before sweet Ty ever came home. I wanted him to have a special box to collect all the mementos of his story. There are pictures, letters, cards, and special gifts from Rebekah and her family in this box. It wasn't that I had forgotten about the box (I add pieces to it every year), but I hadn't thought about the timing of showing it to Ty. One day we were in his closet and Ty said, "Mom what is that up there?"

I carefully brought it down and said, "You know what buddy. This is a very special box. Let's go sit down in the living room and I'll tell you about it." I explained that it was the place that I put everything sent to him by his birth family. I got tears in my eyes when I opened it up and together we went through every piece.

There was a DVD in there that I had forgotten about. Rebekah made it for Ben for his first Father's Day (we hadn't left Colorado, yet). We immediately put it in and watched it together, as a family. Ben and I cried watching the combination of hospital pictures and video clips. Ty asked a hundred questions and was so excited to see "baby Ty".

As we walked through the years of Ty's life in his special box, we read every card and looked at every picture. I explained who each person was and whether or not Ty had met them before. The only thing I didn't let Ty do was to open the letters Rebekah has written him. They are still sealed and I want him to be the first person to read them...not me. There are plenty of other cards and notes to read.

It's been about a month since we looked through the box for the first time. Now, Ty asks me, every few days if he can get it down. I snapped these shots, yesterday.

We are going to Colorado in February and my heart is bursting for that time to come sooner. Ty has such a strong handle on his story and the people in it. To be able to put faces to their names is going to be so special.

I love the story God has written for this little boy.




Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Promise

I sat with nervous hands on my chest while the technician squirted warm gel on my belly and turned the monitor screen toward me. It was at that moment that I bit my lip to choke back tears.

For a minute I pretended that I was pregnant.

I thought about what it would be like to sit there looking at my baby on the screen. To hear the swish swish of her heart beat and catch a glimpse of her teeny tiny fingers.

I thought about what it would be like to have the most fantastic secret. To see Ben's eyes get wide with excitement and then fill with tears.

I thought about how fun it would be to announce our pregnancy over Christmas festivities - how surprised everyone would be to hear that the girl who couldn't get pregnant, did.

In order to make it through the ultrasound, I, quickly, returned to reality and hammered the technician with questions regarding fibroids, the retroverted uterus that I didn't know I had, and how far technology has come in regards to hysterectomies....After all, that was why I was there.

Sigh.

I hate writing these posts because they shed negative light on the miraculous arrivals of my sons and make me sound ungrateful toward God's goodness...but I have to write these nagging pieces of my story that quiet for a time, but always resurface.

I went in for my annual a few weeks ago and told my doctor about some irregularities that I am experiencing. It only has me concerned because my mom had similar symptoms and had a hysterectomy at 31. I turned 31, this year. The doctor agreed that further testing was needed and sent me in for ultrasounds, today.

I have been operating under a heavy cloud for a couple of weeks thinking about it. Even though I don't think God will open my womb down the road (he has us on a greater mission!), the thought of closing the door to all possibility fills me with sadness.

My heart nearly tore out of my chest, today, watching the ultrasound monitor. I had many pelvic ultrasounds when we were going through fertility treatments, but this was the first time I had one, topically. As fun as it was to dream for a few minutes, it was devastating to come back to the real world.

It's something I can't talk about....not even with Ben.

It's just this secret place in my heart that I don't venture to very often. A place where I can long to be normal and wish that babies didn't have to come at such sacrifice.

I let my dark cloud dampen my heart for the rest of the day, until LJ snuggled up into my arms and fell asleep on my chest. That boy longs for affection and comes for it when he needs it most. I held him tight and thanked God for the family that he's building...so rich and colorful and full of life.

I know he understands my sadness and desire for more children. He hugs me close, whispers I love yous, and assures me that his plan is still unfolding...

What great peace I find in that promise.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Understanding Adoption at Age 3

Last night, Ty started the most thoughtful, insightful, conversation we have had about adoption, yet. Then...a few hours later, LJ shared his wisdom. It is amazing to me what these three year old boys are capable of processing and expressing.

First with Ty's story. We were making dinner and Ty said, "Did my first mama, Miss Rebekah, live here with my when I was a baby?"

Ben: No, but she took really good care of you in her belly before you were born.

Me: That's right. Remember how you were born in Colorado? Rebekah stayed in Colorado and we brought you home to Michigan.

Ty: Mom, did that make Miss Rebekah very sad not to live with me? [Insert lump in throat]

Ben: Yes, Ty. She was really sad...she loves you SO much.

Ty: Is she still sad?

Me: Miss Rebekah is sad that she doesn't get to see you every day, but she is so happy that you get to live with us.

Ty: We should go see her so that she can be really happy!

Me: We are going to do that in February, remember? You, and Mommy, and Daddy.

Ty: But, I want my brother to come.

Me: I know, but this is a very special trip that you get to take with Mommy and Daddy.

I think the conversation switched to cheese after that, but I was floored with the tenderness Ty showed. I am so excited to take Ty to see Rebekah in February, she hasn't seen him since he was around 20 months old. My how much has changed! It will be so cool to re-introduce Ty to his Colorado family, show him the hospital he was born in, the places we took him, and watch him interact with Rebekah. I am giddy with anticipation, it is going to be such a rich time!

Later that night, we were laying with the boys in their beds and LJ said, "Miss Rebekah is Ty's first mom."

Me: That's right, buddy.

LJ: Ty is adopted just like me.

Me: That's right, too.

LJ: 'Member how Buddy went to find his first dad?

Me: What?

LJ: Buddy went to find his first dad in that movie.

Me: Oh....that's right! LJ, you are so smart. What a good memory you have!

We watched Elf a few weeks ago and used it as an opportunity to talk about adoption (I had forgotten about that part of the story!)

I love that my boys are piecing together their stories and exploring the meaning of adoption. It breaks my heart, however, that Laron's story is spotty at best and, currently, void of first parents. We haven't decided what to do about that, yet. We keep going back and forth about whether or not we want to give LJ a special "G-Mama" (Godmother). Part of us feels like it's unnatural to fabricate an important figure, while the other part sees how he is already starting to reconcile his story with Ty's.

In talking about it tonight, Ben suggested finding a male mentor that shares his race to help teach him about his culture. We are still chewing on it, trying to determine what will be the most beneficial to our second born. I am also holding out hope that LJ's mom will respond to my letter (I haven't written it, yet). From everything I see on Facebook, it's far-reaching...but the mom in me has to try.

The dichotomy is difficult to parent. In no way can we reduce Ty's kinship with his first mom or pull back on the healthy, open relationship that exists, but watching LJ battle the difference in his story is heartbreaking. I'm not sure what the answer is, but I'm praying on it.

Either way, I am encouraged that my little lovers are secure and confident in our family and their respective adoptions. It's really fun watching them grow.


Friday, November 30, 2012

Christmas Outtakes

We took family Christmas pictures the other day in my do-it-yourself studio. These are my favorite outtakes!
 
 These are the boys' "angry" faces
 
 My sweet, little lover.

  My heart skips a beat with this one..




 These boys are best buds.

I have been a little absent, lately, as we have been soaking in our first Christmas as a family of four. We are having so much fun! We've decorated the tree, made cookies, setup the nativity, wrapped presents, had a snowball fight (first snowfall was last week!), watched Elf, read Christmas stories, had hot chocolate, and talked about advent. We have really settled in and I get weepy over the specialness of our family. God has given us a good measure; we have much to celebrate this Christmas!

 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Interview Project: Meet Coley

I participate in The Open Adoption Bloggers Network and for the second year, in a row, submitted my name for the interview project. It is such a neat way to meet others in the open adoption community. This year, I was paired with Coley from Living the Bittersweet Life. She is the real deal. Her story will inspire you.

Before you read my interview of Coley, you should read this post: Being a Birthmom is Bittersweet. Coley writes with conviction and her words draw you in, "Sweet is watching him and his brother bond; bitter is explaining to the son I parent why his brother doesn’t live with us."

I was glued to her story as I read post after post. My first question came after reading this excerpt:
 
As I sat cross legged in a red t-shirt and watermelon boxers in the hospital bed holding a sweet four pound little baby boy in my lap, I cried. He wasn’t theirs. He was mine. He was a part of me. I saw my nose in his, our complexions were similar. As I counted ten toes and ten tiny fingers, I realized at that moment, I’d just been telling myself he was theirs to make it easier on me. It didn’t work. It was silly. I wish I’d fully experienced, accepted, and enjoyed that pregnancy as my own because sadly it will probably be my last full term pregnancy ever and I spent most of it pretending he wasn’t mine.

Ben and I have been in a relationship with Ty's birth family for four years. I have done my best to always prefer Rebekah (his mother) and her feelings over my own. However, if the mom in me, today, could go back and talk to the soon-to-be-mother back then, there are a few key pieces of advice that I would give myself, especially, as it relates to our hospital experience. I am curious about your perspective, given your role as a birth mother to an eleven year old son (you're much farther along this path than Rebekah and I are). I found your "Their Baby" post incredibly moving. If you could go back, what would you say to the girl wearing watermelon boxers in the hospital, so many years ago?

Honestly, that girl in watermelon boxers sitting on the hospital bed cradling her baby was doing the best she could to survive. I would go back a little bit further and talk to the girl laying on the ultrasound table staring in disbelief at the screen as the ultrasound tech told her she was 5 months along due to a failed depo provera (birth control) shot. I would tell that girl – you are enough, you are good enough to be this baby’s Mom. Don’t doubt yourself so much.

I would also tell her to celebrate this pregnancy. It may very well be her last. (I don’t have a single picture of me pregnant with Charlie!)
And lastly, I would tell her to research the option of parenting two children. I almost instantly dismissed the idea because it seemed so hard and unattainable. Honestly, I don’t know that it would have changed my decision but it would relieve some of the “what ifs” that I face today.

I consider it a privilege to be able to talk so openly with birth mothers. Hearing stories like yours really helps ground me as an adoptive mother. Because I have so many adoptive families reading, I would like to ask you two related questions. 1) What pieces of your story would you tell to help adoptive parents understand pregnancy and motherhood from the birth mother's perspective?
 
Gosh, it is hard to narrow it down! But I think my age at the time of my pregnancy (25) and circumstances (not first child, got pregnant on the depo provera shot and did not find out I was pregnant until the 5th month) surrounding my pregnancy are good examples for adoptive parents and perspective adoptive parents to know that there is no stereotypical birthmother. We are all different; different ages, different ethnicities, come from different walks of life, have different stories, yet we love our children deeply and are simply trying to be good Mothers and sometimes being a good Mother means knowing we can’t raise our child at that time in our lives and passing that privilege on to another who is ready.

 2) What can adoptive parents do long-term to help cultivate a healthy open adoption for their adopted child(ren)? 
I really believe that honesty and communication are the keys in an open adoption relationship. If there is something bothering either party (adoptive parents or birth parents) I think they should gently broach the subject and talk about it. Not talking about it and just letting it fester can only make things worse later on down the road.

The open adoption relationship is just like any other relationship like a friendship or marriage – it requires a commitment from all involved.

Because our boys are so young (three), one of the things I wonder about most is the questions that will surface in the years to come. Can you tell us a little about your relationship with your son Charlie and the questions he asks? As well, as your relationship with your oldest son, Noah, and the questions he asks.

Charlie and I have a good relationship. He has always known that he was adopted and that I am his birthmother. It’s never been a secret or a taboo topic amongst his family and me. It’s always been something that he could openly talk about and ask questions about and because of that approach being adopted and having a birthmother is extremely normal to him.
Charlie started asking me questions around age 4. The first question he asked was quite cute but caught me off guard. He asked me the question when his Mom was not around so I fumbled to answer on my own. He asked me who Noah’s (my parented son) birthmother was. That’s how “normal” adoption is to him; he thought everyone had two Moms. I first responded that I was Noah’s birthmom but then I quickly realized that’s not true. And I explained that Noah doesn’t have a birthmom and an adoptive Mom like Charlie. He just has one Mom; me. Then Charlie asked who’s belly Noah grew in and I responded with mine. Charlie then exclaimed “No he didn’t! I remember I was in there all by myself!”I laughed so hard. But don’t worry – I explained the whole situation to his Mom and we made sure he truly understood as much as a 4 year old could.
He’s also been very interested in my version of his birth story. So much so that I wrote it down for him and placed it in his lifebook for him to read whenever he wants to. He’s also been curious of his name before he was adopted. So far, he hasn’t had any heavy questions but I know they are coming one day.
Noah has Cerebral Palsy, Epilepsy, and Autism and is much more mentally like a 4-5 year old than his chronological age of 16 years so he’s never really asked any questions. He does know Charlie is his brother and I try to facilitate that brotherly relationship as much as possible.

Lastly, will you tell us about the BirthMom Buds organization that you started?
Deep in grief just weeks after Charlie was born, I began typing in different adoption related words into my search engine. I was desperately searching for another birthmother to talk to. I needed someone who understood the bittersweet grief and loss I was experiencing. I stumbled upon an “Is anyone out there” post on an adoption forum written by another birthmother named LeiLani. Lani lived in the next state over and had placed her baby girl into an open adoption just 4 days before Charlie was born which just so happened to be my birthday. I immediately sent Lani a private message and we connected and hit it off immediately. Having someone who understood what I was feeling before I could even get the words out of my mouth was priceless. Because our kids were only 4 days apart we were experiencing the same milestones at the same time. Around the time our kids celebrated their first birthday, Lani and I began talking about the idea of creating a central place where other birthmothers could go to find birthmothers to talk to without all the searching we went through. Thus, BirthMom Buds was born!
Today, BirthMom Buds (www.birthmombuds.com) is a large web based support organization that provides birthmothers as well as pregnant women considering adoption support through a “been there, done that” perspective. We have many different programs and resources including yearly retreats, a quarterly newsletter, a private forums, weekly chats, our buddy system, a mentoring program for expectant mothers considering adoption, and more! Check us out! 


I hope you enjoyed this interview with Coley as much as I did. Please go and read more of her story! You can read her interview of me on her blog and if you're interested in checking out the other participants, hop on over to Production Not Reproduction. Such a fun way to get to know other members of our community!


Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Reward

We had a really awesome experience tonight.

Our first parent/teacher conferences.

Even though I drop the boys off and pick them up from preschool, every time, the two minute, "How are the boys doing?" conversations were not good indicators on what was really going on in the classroom.

I was wide-eyed as their teacher went through their portfolios with us. When did LJ learn to trace lines? And how is it Ty can recognize the number 8 when asked? They are cutting and matching and patterning...all while learning how much Jesus loves them!

While we were curious about both boys, we were most concerned about LJ's progress, attention, and attitude in school. In 8 months, we have seen a complete transformation. We know what LJ is capable of and the challenges he's faced, head-on. What we didn't know, was whether or not his progression translated to the classroom. Another brand new experience for him.

My mama heart BEAMED with pride at the teacher's words.

"...Ty is expressive in his participation, curious in his learning, and kind-hearted and polite in his actions. Laron always has a smile on his face, gives the most hugs, plays really well with the other children, and follows direction. Both boys are truly a joy..."

I am proud of BOTH of my boys for the men they are becoming and the actions they are displaying, away from home. I was elated to hear about Laron. Not because we play favorites, but because that kid has been through a whirlwind of change in the last several months. He went from not being able to drink from a cup and throwing defiant tantrums at whim to cutting straight lines and raising his hand when called on, in class! My son, did that! He can do anything. I always believed it, but HEARING his teacher say the words was like a God song.

I'm sorry, but I have to get out my soapbox, here.

My son was a state ward. His profile was sent to, what most consider, our state's "unadoptable" website. (i.e. case workers are not able to find families for the children listed). My son was listed with moderate emotional and physical needs (physical being the "severe" asthma he does not have). My son lived in FIVE foster homes, two of which he was removed from for CPS violations, and he swapped out siblings like I pay our car insurance. He spent his first weeks with us void of most emotion and the next several weeks, crying. He has scars on his body that I cannot explain. He wouldn't laugh when we tickled him. He didn't know how to go to the bathroom on the potty or eat properly or problem solve. He was a tripping maniac and had little hand-eye coordination. He had a constant line of drool streaming from his face because he hadn't properly learned how to suck. He cried for "home" every time we left the house because he didn't understand that we would be back. He didn't know how to sit still on my lap when I read him a book. He called me "mama" from day one because the name held no meaning. He didn't talk much, and then when he tried, his words came out in stutters.

He didn't know security.

He didn't know how to belong.

He didn't understand that family is forever.

In eight months (EIGHT!) That same boy...MY BOY...is an outgoing, full-of-life, passionate, energetic, leader in his classroom. He is confident and secure and knows his place in our family. He is a stickler for the rules because they mean something to him. They provide him with healthy boundaries, while allowing him to explore and dream and be creative. He knows that EVERY good gift comes from God and that Jesus loves him more than anyone else on this planet. He knows that his brother is his best friend. He understands that he will never live in another home again. He knows that when Daddy lays on the floor, it's wrestle time. He gets what we mean when we ask him to act like a gentleman or pray from his heart or to "dip responsibly" (table manners).

The same boy that couldn't figure out how to back his monster truck up from underneath a table is now painting within lines, leading his classmates in songs, and recognizing the letters in his name. I am in awe of what God has done.

Isn't it amazing what one little "yes" can do? We said yes to our son before ever seeing his picture or meeting him in person.

Isn't it amazing what a little lot of patience, time, love, and expectations can do for a three year old?

It's an absolute privilege to mother these two boys. I know the love and pride in my heart, for them, pales in comparison to God's, but, man, I am just EXPLODING, tonight.

I always wanted a HUGE life. I wanted my actions to make a difference.

I have it. They are.

My boys are going to change the world.








Friday, November 2, 2012

The Start of Forever

We had a great day.

The morning was early and a bit rushed; the boys a little cranky.

The court room smelled musty, but there was an awe all the same. The judge asked us a series of questions, most of which left me choked up. I held Ty, while LJ snuggled and schmoozed Ben. The judge watched them for a few minutes and was, outwardly, touched by their interaction. Our case worker gave a teary affirmation toward our adoption and the judge answered with an, equally, teary declaration that the state found it within the best interest of "the child" to remain in our family.

(Yes, LJ has bright blue striped socks. Target shorted me a black sock in my two pack and we didn't notice it until this morning. Bright blue was the darkest we had!)

The part that gets me every time is when the judge says, "It will be as if this child was born to you..."


It's not that I need the confirmation; I don't. But, the weight of those words fit the love in my heart. I love both of my sons as if they were born to me....and they weren't.

I love them because God loves them. I love them because they enrich my life in every way.

The judge gave the boys lollipops and allowed them to practice with the gavel.




We had a celebratory breakfast with our loved ones and followed it up with a family  nap! The sweetest moment of the entire day was not swearing in or standing before the judge...It came at bedtime. When I kissed LJ's head, tucked his covers tight, and told him that he would be in our family forever, there was an assurance that didn't exist before.

I love my family and what God is doing through us.



Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Court Day

Friday cannot come sooner for me.

Friday is LJ's adoption court hearing.

It is an exciting day for our family, but for me it's only affirming what I already know to be true. For LJ, however, it's a re-write for his future. A formalized decree that will hopefully soothe his insecure heart. We have been talking about his "adoption day" for a couple of weeks, now. We wanted to prepare him for what could seem scary, but also help him understand what this day will mean for his place in our family. It helps give teeth to forever.

He is not an introvert by any means, but when it comes to emotional expression, he is stunted. Even at three, it's clear that he has mastered the ability to gloss over heartache and ignore challenging conversation....but, we are working on that!

Up until the last couple of days, he hadn't said anything about his court date and wouldn't participate in our conversation about it at the dinner table. On Sunday, we put him to bed a few minutes early for an act of disobedience. After a couple of minutes, I could still hear his quiet sobs. I went in and sat on his bed and put my hand on his chest. The conversation went something like, "Honey...I know today was a tough day for you. But you know what? You are a GOOD boy. And tomorrow is a new day. Mommy and Daddy love you very much and we are so glad that you are in our family." We sat for a few minutes in silence, while I rubbed his head and patted his belly. He then looked right at me and said, "Mom. I want to go to court tomorrow."

His words grip my heart. I knew it was his way of saying, "I'm insecure" or even worse, "I'm still afraid you might give me back."

I hugged him tight, whispered more lovelies, and told him we only had a few more days to wait.

The injustice of what has been done to this precious boy's heart makes me angrier than I've ever been. This is my son. And he's three. He is battling insecurities that his brother will never experience in his lifetime. It's just not right.

This little boy deserves more. And we are going to give it to him!

Only a few more days...


...and LJ will have his forever family.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Finalization

We got word, last week, that LJ's adoption finalization will be next Friday, November 2nd! We are really excited to celebrate such a special day. We have been talking about it to help LJ understand what will be happening and to ease any insecurity that the courthouse might bring. The first couple of times I brought it up he didn't say anything, but yesterday on our way to church he said, "Mom, are we going to court to be a family?"

His little voice pierced my heart and reminded me that this sweet boy knows and understands more than he lets on. I did call and invite LJ's G-Mama. She responded that she would let me know...I haven't heard back. Either way, I'm not going to tell LJ. No reason to stir up emotion if she doesn't make it.

This baby boy has added so much flavor to our family. He is a direct blessing from God and makes every corner of my heart smile.



Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Sharing Bag

Ty was so excited that he was selected for the sharing bag at preschool, this week. He must have asked me ten times before dinner when we were going to work on it; I am not sure the last time I saw him so excited. The letter inside the bag explained that he was supposed to select an item that had special meaning and come up with three clues, so that his classmates could try to guess his item, before the big reveal.

Ty selected the book Rebekah recorded for him on his first birthday. I wrote the clues in picture form on big pieces of paper, so that Ty could pull them out one-by-one and "read" them. Ben and I were taken with his excitement and eagerness to practice the clues - It's a rectangle...It has pictures...It's something you can read.

I explained to Ty that once his classmates guessed his special item, that his teacher would ask why it was so special to him. It was really sweet to hear Ty explain that he is adopted and that his first mama lives in Colorado and took care of him in her belly. I wish more than anything I could have been in the room for his big moment...to hear him explain his story to his three year old peers.

Because LJ was so new to our family, we did have a meeting with the teachers, before school started, to talk about our concerns and the ways we have found to reinforce security in LJ. In that meeting, I mentioned that both boys are adopted, but we didn't get into much detail about their adoption stories or that we have a relationship with Ty's birth family. I am so curious as to what he said and if it made sense...I did not see the morning teacher when I picked the boys up in the afternoon. I will, definitely, inquire about it, next week, at drop off.

Whether it was a cohesive conversation or not, I am just thankful that Ty is so proud of his story. Tomorrow happens to be Rebekah's birthday and I wanted to share this cute video of the boys singing happy birthday. They pretty much melt my heart with every word.

My life is richer than I ever dreamed it could be.


video

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Naming Adopted Kids

I want to start an FAQ series to respond to a number of questions that I get asked in emails. Today, I'm going to talk about our boys' names.

Even though we adopted Ty from birth, we were still very sensitive to Rebekah and approached the subject of naming with deference. We started by asking Rebekah if she would like to name Tyrus (who we called "Baby Boy", at the time). Rebekah's heart for us through her pregnancy was evident in everything she did. Her response was consistently, "I have done this before...I want you and Ben to have all the firsts. I don't want you miss out on this." I know the honor we offered one another in those early days is the chord of unity that still runs thick to Tyrus, today. The love he has for both of his mothers is pure, genuine, and overflowing.

I could talk about the connection Ty feels to Rebekah all day, but I'll try to stay on topic here! Once we found out that Ty was a boy, we really wanted to use Ben's grandfather's name, Tyrus. We couldn't think of a better namesake. Because we wanted Rebekah to be a part of the decision, we came up with two more names that were a close second. I think they were Maximus and Cole. We gave all three names to Rebekah and asked for her feedback. When she said she loved, Tyrus, I cried with joy. Even though she had left the decision to us, we wanted it to be a collective choice. We used "Lee" as the middle name because it held significance on both sides of our families and funny enough, both Ben and I share the middle name, as well. Had Ty been a girl, I would have absolutely used Rebekah in her name.

One of the first questions LJ's foster mom asked us was whether or not we would change his name. She admitted that she would have. Prior to PRIDE training, Ben and I probably wouldn't have thought twice about changing a young foster child's name. As it turned out, I was the volunteer for the exercise that left me with lasting impressions. The trainer had different people in the class come up to the front of the room to represent the biggest pieces of me - my family, my friends, my church, my job, my education, this blog....maybe a few others. One by one she "took" pieces a way from me until I was only left standing with my name...and then she took that. After a dramatic pause, she asked me how I felt.

Most foster children have had everything dear to them taken. Unless we adopt a child with a name that binds him to his past in an unhealthy way (I know a family that adopted a child named Dark Dragon) or the child is old enough to request a name change, we will keep our children's given first names.

I use LJ on this blog, for LJ's protection. It is not his given name, but has become a nickname that we do call him. LJ's first name remains, but we did change his middle name to Jeremiah because we love the promise that comes with it. LJ's first name starts with an "L", so LJ has become a natural nickname that he enjoys, especially because we often call Ty, "T-Y" (saying each letter). We use LJ's given name and his nick name, interchangeably. When he's writing or spelling out his name with letters, he always uses LJ, but when he introduces himself, he always uses his given name. I beam with pride when I hear him tell people his full name and he ends with an emphatic "JEREMIAH PINCH--BACK!!" He sounds like a boy that knows exactly who he is. I love it.

If we are able to adopt LJ's sister (PRAYING!), we will also keep her given name and call her Mia for short, as it is a part of her longer name. I don't think I've given an update on her in awhile....we are getting closer. Her case is moving toward termination and her, current, foster family has expressed that they do not intend to adopt. If we had been asked to adopt her a few months ago, the answer would probably have been no, but we are feeling much more settled in our family, today. We pray for Baby Mia every day and trust God for his perfect plan, recognizing that it may not include us.

We are no where near expert status in the field of adoption. Every child is different and right answers vary. I will, however, continue to share our experiences and the ways God had led us on this path, in effort to encourage your heart.

Feel free to leave your questions in the comments and I will use them for upcoming FAQs!


Monday, October 1, 2012

LJ's Sweet Prayer


My dear, sweet friend is fighting cancer (and winning, I declare!)

Tonight, we prayed for her at bed time.

I had to share this video of LJ's sweet prayer. This boy is the most loving three year old I know. He thanks God every night for his mommy and daddy and "friend Tyrus".


video

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

Amen.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Open Adoption Challenge in Foster Adoption

One of Ty's favorite books, right now, is a hallmark book that Rebekah recorded for him. I've been letting the boys read, quietly, in bed for a few minutes before we come in for hugs and kisses. A couple of weeks ago, I heard Rebekah's voice floating down the hall. I poked my head in and Ty caught my eye.

"I'm reading my special book, mama, from Miss Rebekah."

I see that, honey. How cool!

"Can I call her, mama?"

It was the first time Ty has initiated contact. I assured him that she would love to hear from him and ran to get my phone. He held the phone and answered with a sweet, "Hi, Miss Rebekah" when she answered. I could tell she was tickled to have Ty on the other end. She asked what he was doing and he responded, "Reading my very special book you made me!" I could tell she was surprised to hear that (she gave him the book more than two years ago!)

They talked for a few minutes before we said goodnight and Ty thanked her for "babysitting him" in her belly. It's one of the new phrases he uses in his adoption story. It's one that he came up with on his own.

As soon as we hung up, LJ crawled off his bed and said, "Mama, can I call someone?"

Yes, you may. Who would you like to call?

"My G-Mama."

I tucked Ty in and then snuggled with LJ on his bed as we called his last foster mom. She didn't answer, but I let LJ leave a message. He seemed okay with that.

Ty said, "Mom, we both have special mamas!"

I know, Ty, isn't that cool? You guys have so many people that love you!

I walked away with a troubled heart. Before LJ came to live with us, I wondered a lot about how our future children, adopted from foster care, would handle the openness between Ty and Rebekah. Open adoption is such a special part of Ty's story, that we don't want to downplay the significance. At the same time, I want to be sensitive to LJ's feelings regarding his own story. LJ's last foster mom, genuinely, cares about him, but I'm not sure what her commitment will be long term. Once the adoption is final (we were pushed out a couple more months - I'll explain in a later post), I plan on doing two things:

1) Contacting LJ's birth mom to let her know that we've adopted her son and that he is a growing, healthy, boy. For his security, I will do this, anonymously (through an attorney). My hope is that through letters, we'll be able to foster a relationship that will ultimately lead her to having some sort of connection/contact with LJ (even if only through pictures/letters). I have no idea how this will go and will prepare for disappointment.

2) Asking LJ's G-Mama if she would be willing to be LJ's "special person".

I realized that while, ultimately, having a relationship with their first moms is ideal, the real significance to these relationships is that it makes my boys feel special. It gives them a unique testimony that few other people have. It gives credence to the idea that they are surrounded by community and love and that there is another cheerleader in their corner jumping as high as me. If we can't make meaningful connections with LJ's first mom or foster mom, than I will call on a friend to take this place in his life. I have several friends that live a distance from us that could fill this role in a similar way that Rebekah does for Ty.

Maybe none of this will matter in ten years....but for the time being, I need every card in my pocket to help LJ reconcile his adoption and feel secure. I think having a special connection unique to him will help.

It's always an adventure over, here!




Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Reassuring an Insecure Heart

We had a difficult weekend.

LJ is experiencing some processing challenges that can be frustrating on days when my patience is running thin. I feel good about the resources we have at hand and thank God for the support he's put in our life to help teach us how to address LJ's needs, best. I will talk about this more in coming blogs.

So, last night I sent LJ to his room for the second time over the same issue of disobedience. I asked him to sit in there for a few minutes to think about his behavior. Really, I needed a few moments to pray and gather my thoughts. I was out of answers and more than a little frustrated. The Holy Spirit came on me and breathed peace to my heart. I walked in and sat cross-legged on the floor and asked LJ to join me. His lower lip quivered as he looked at me with big, sad eyes.

Before I started talking, I had him take some big deep breaths with me. When he was relaxed, I, quietly, said, "Honey, do you know that I will always be your mommy...forever?

Little nod.

"And that daddy will by your daddy forever?"

Little nod.

"And that Ty will be your brother forever?"

More nodding.

"You are always going to be a part of this family and you will never have to move to a new home again." I went on to explain why his behavior was wrong and had him confirm his understanding by repeating what we went over.

As I stood up, I said, "Alright, let's go join daddy and Ty for dinner!" Before I could get to the door, LJ pulled on my arm and said, "Mama, I wanna do someth'n." I looked at him quizzically, not sure I heard what he said. He tugged on my hands and I saw that he wanted me to come back to the floor. As soon as I got to my knees, he wrapped his arms around my neck and crawled into my lap.

I forced a big lump in my throat and held him tight for a long time.

God is teaching me how to reach my son and his reassurance comes through pudgy hands and tight hugs. I am so thankful for the Holy Spirit's guidance, here. After six months, it's easy to forget that our son still needs continued confirmation of his place and identity in our family. I hate that LJ has deep layers of insecurity and sometimes wakes up with nightmares. I wish I could give him a re-do on life and let him start over in our family. I wish we could tell him about the day he was born and explain away his scars...but we can't.

We are forced to put our words into action. We show him our love in a safe, consistent, healthy way. Eventually, our practices will override his past and he'll fall into complete assurance. I pray for that day and all the days in-between.

God has special plans for this little boy...


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

We Remember!

I was challenged, yesterday, when I heard KLOVE (radio) ask what we were doing to remember our everyday heroes, in honor of those that lost lives on 9/11. A mom called in and said her family was taking fresh baked cookies to their local police station. The boys and I jumped to action and ran to the store for necessary items. We spent the night dipping oreos, pretzels, strawberries, and blueberries in both milk and dark chocolate. Because the boys are enamored by firemen, right now, we chose to make our goodies for our local station.



When I picked the boys up from preschool, they were ecstatic. We didn't talk about September 11th, but we did talk about what a tremendous sacrifice our local heroes make for us and the thanksgiving in our hearts for all they do.

I explained that today is Patriot day and that we made goodies to honor our firemen and to thank them for keeping us safe.

I think the boys expected the firefighters to greet them in full gear, but once the "trucks" were mentioned, the boys were all ears. We handed over our treats and on cue, Ty said, "We want to thank you for keeping us safe." It was crazy cute.

I could tell the men were tickled to have so much three year old attention. They spent an hour with us, touring the station and every vehicle (even though once you've seen one...). The boys asked dozens of questions and were completely enchanted by the experience.





It was a great way to spend the day remembering.





Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Preschool Pals

My babies grew up, today, and entered the world of preschool.

I was totally that mom. Walking the hall, sniffling, and remembering what the days leading up to today held.  I am so proud of my little men and the gentleman they are.

We have been talking about today a lot, trying to prepare LJ for a new environment. On the way to school, Ty said, "Mama, we will not be sad. We're brothers."

I heard a little "Brothers!" echo.

I love the family God has shaped us to be.

 




I asked the boys what they want to be when they grow up.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Millie the Fierce!

Today, I am on the TLC book tour for:
 by Jane Manning


This has been our favorite book to review, so far! We have had the book about a month and Ty asks to read it every night before bed.

The premise is that Millie feels invisible. She creates an alter ego to get attention, but in the end realizes that it's not the kind of attention she desires. It is such sweet story that opens conversation with my boys on why God created us to be exactly the way we are.

From word selection to illustration, this book will have long-time standing on our shelf!

Thank you, Jane, for such a creative twist on learning to be comfortable in our own skin.

We love Millie the Fierce!!



Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Family Rules

The personalities emerging from these two boys are wildly entertaining.


On Sunday, we were driving home from church and the following conversation had me stifling laughs.

Ben and I were talking and after the sixth polite, but insistent, "Excuse meeeeeeeeeeeee" from Ty, Ben asked, "What is it, son?"

"I need to talk to you about something."

I say, "Okay, Ty, it's your turn. What do you need to talk about."

Ty: "No, I need to talk to, daddy. It's important."

Ben: "Okay, Ty, I'm listening, now. What do you want to talk about?"

Ty: "I want to talk about smoking."

We swallowed our smiles and allowed Ty to ask his questions. The background story here is that the boys saw someone smoking the other day and wanted to know why "steam was coming out of that man's head". I told the boys about smoking and how we don't smoke in our family because it's not God's best, etc, etc. Well, a couple of days later, we saw another man smoking outside of the restaurant we were about to eat at. Ty made a scene by pointing passionately, saying, "Mom, that man is not being healthy to his body!!"

We, then, had to have a conversation around the corner about how rude it is to point and make people feel bad about their choices. (I had no idea I would be having the just-because-it's-right-for-another-family conversation already!) I explained to the boys that when we are in the car or at home with our family, we can talk about anything and answer all of their questions, but in public, we need to respect people who act differently than our family.

Ever since that day, every time we get in the van, the boys want to talk about smoking.

Watching the boys discover their identities, within our family, is really fun to be a part of. We were playing in their room and I heard a very matter-of-fact Ty say, "In this family, we eat our crust and we don't smoke!" LJ chimed in with, "We don't smoke and we go to church!"

Their thought combinations can be silly, but their convictions are right on.

I am, constantly, amazed at how influential our role as parent is. Ty and LJ believe everything we tell them. And they're shocked when they see standards in the world that don't align with ours. In their minds, everyone should dip their cucumbers in ranch and pray before bed and hold doors open for their moms....it's the only experience they have; therefore it's right.

Last night, I was praying over the boys and thinking about their interpretation of our family rules - not smoking, going to church, and eating crust...It hit me. We are creating mini versions of ourselves. While we all have four very distinct personalities, there is a strong family current connecting us. We think, believe, and express ourselves in the same ways.

It's a sobering thought.

I love that the men in my life are, consistently, pushing me to be BETTER...to be more like the Father. I need to be a direct reflection...because I want my boys to be the same.

This week we tackled smoking and Halloween. Maybe next week we'll talk about sex and drugs? That's a joke. We mostly focus on God's simple promises in our life and use every day scenarios to educate our boys on what it means to honor God in all we do.

I'm pretty excited to let my little flashlights into the world. I have every confidence that as they start preschool, next week, their lights will shine, as their minds expand.

I love this job.



Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Birthday Boy

Happy birthday to my precious boy!!


LJ,
I love that you are the first person to run to the door after a long day at work. I love that your hugs linger and your kisses come in groups of three. When you grab my cheeks and smash my nose to yours, I know sweeter moments don't exist. I love the energy you embrace the world with and the giant adventurer trapped in your tiny body. I love that you love all the things I love because I love them. I love that we are pickle buddies and that we both prefer water as our drink of choice. I love experiencing life through your expressions. I love your rhythm and the dance remixes you and daddy come up with. I love your "whoop-whoops" and easy spirit. My heart melts every time you say, "Come on, guys!" As if your place in our family always was. I love that you ask to hold my hand and that every night you touch my ears and ask about my earrings. I love your smile and strong muscles. I love the loyalty and friendship you give to your brother and the undeniable affection you share with your daddy. You make me smile when you say, "cocoa butter" and laugh when your response is "my bad!" I love your sensitive heart.

I love the way you love.

I love the way you belong.

I love the boy God made you.

You, my love, will change this world. You have already changed mine.

- Mama






Wednesday, August 15, 2012

"De-licious!"

I can't even tell you how much I love this boy!



Ben and I have been taking turns taking the boys on individual "dates". This week, Ty went with daddy, while LJ came with me. In the last month or so, LJ's personality has really surfaced - and he is funny. The other day, I said, "LJ, you just ran into me" and his response was, "My bad, Mom." My bad? I laughed out loud!


We ventured out for ice cream on our date and I snagged this quick, but adorable, video. It was too cute not to share.



More than anything, I love watching the light in LJ shine.


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Rainy Day


Someone had a lot of fun in the rain, today...




 


...and I had a lot of fun watching!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Miss Rebekah

Today, while LJ was napping, Ty asked to hear his "baby adoption story." He loves to hear that we drove all night to watch him be born and that he cried as soon as he "popped out of Miss Rebekah's belly." He had more commentary, today, than I've ever heard. It was really cute hearing him reason why he was crying (it was because he was "so SO hungry"). For the first time, I told Ty that Rebekah was really, really sad when we left the hospital. I gauged his response as I continued...I told him how much she loved him and that she desperately wanted to be his mommy, but more than that she wanted him to have a daddy, but wasn't married to a daddy.

Ty listened intently and asked, "Did she want to be my mommy for a long, long time?"

"Yes, she did, baby. Do you know how much God loves you? Miss Rebekah prayed and prayed to God asking for a family that would take good care of her baby. She wanted a family with a daddy and she wanted to make sure you would be taught all about Jesus. At the same time she was praying, I was praying that God would bring us a baby to love and take care of. Do you know what God did? He answered BOTH of our prayers and led Miss Rebekah to our family! Isn't that cool?"

"Yes, mom!"

I went on to tell him how we all celebrated the day he was born. I told him about all Rebekah's family and how they came to the hospital to see him and spend time with us. I stopped for a few seconds when I saw his mind turning. The words that came out of his mouth were so sweet I wish I could bottle them forever.

Ty said, "Mom. I want to thank Miss Rebekah for babysitting me in her belly and taking good care of me."

"Honey, I think that's a really good idea. We'll call her tonight."

Watching Ty fall in love with his first mom is more special than I can express...

Saturday, August 4, 2012

World Changers

Before I dive into what I want to share about Ty and LJ's relationship, I would like to say that I consider this blog an online journal of not only our experiences as a family, traveling through adoption, but it also reflects the growth and stretching that I experience as a woman, mother, and person of faith. Naturally, when I chose to keep such a public record of my heart cries, I opened myself up to every shade of criticism and encouragement. Most criticism passes moderation because I find value in discussion. I don't, however, post mean-spirited comments that direct malice toward Ben, Ty, LJ, or Rebekah (thankfully, those are few and far between, now that we're on the path to foster adoption).

I say all that to say, this is my space to write from my heart. It doesn't always look or sound pretty. It's not perfect because I'm not perfect. And it may not always be a good representation of adoption, parenting, or Christ...but it is a representation of me...my life, my heart, my struggles.

Yes, Ben and I are being stretched as people and parents, right now...but we wouldn't change a thing. Ty and LJ are the most valuable gifts we've ever been entrusted with. And although I do not subscribe to the theory that God made them for me, I do believe he brought them into our life and will help us grow them for His purpose.

Lately, I've had lots of questions about how LJ and Ty are bonding. I want to talk a little about that, today!

God has given Tyrus an incredible capacity to love. He is the most tenderhearted, perceptive boy I know and God is using him in our family. He says things like, "Mom. I always wanted a brother like LJ" or "Mom, are you so happy to have two boys?"

Although LJ is much more adventurous than Ty and only young by two months, he looks to his big brother for a lot of direction. Lately, LJ has been saying, "Mom, Ty is my best friend." We can thank Cars for introducing the concept!

Their brotherhood is equally beneficial.

LJ is extremely different than Ty in personality and activeness. It has been really neat to watch Ty extend his limits and be willing to try new things because of LJ. One of LJ's best qualities is that he's game for anything. Food, adventure, new experiences - LJ will try it...and now, so will Ty (most of the time).

LJ, naturally, requires constant reassurance and symbolism of home, right now. Ty has become a healthy security for LJ. Work, church, and date-nights are a breeze because LJ always has a piece of home. In the last five months, LJ has never been without me, Ben, or Ty. I think it has really helped in shaping his definition of home and family.

They play SO well together. From cars to dinos to master chef, the boys are buds. Their new game has been playing "daddy". One of them pretends to be the daddy and the other pretends to be a baby. I was cracking up, the other day listening to them talk like Ben.

I love watching the interaction.

One trait that has really surfaced in LJ is loyalty. Last week, we were at a children's museum and another boy came by to get into the car that Ty was driving. LJ shoved him to the side and yelled something "brother" and sat down close, next to Ty. He did get in trouble for the push, but his demonstration of protectiveness was interesting to me.

My constant prayer is that they will be mighty men of God. I hug them and kiss them and lay hands on them every chance I can. I know their love for each other and God is enough to change the world.




Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Ups and Downs

I have been enjoying the new Blake Shelton song, "God gave me you for the ups and downs."

When I heard it this morning, it brought tears to my eyes. Ben and I have been living this wave for the several months, now. The amount of love and patience required to parent LJ is well past our natural ability.

There are so many moments that I have to walk away and take a deep breath.

Unless we're on a family run (mama does more of a walk-jog) or expelling energy in some other way - park, pool, bikes, etc - LJ struggles. He has endless energy and minimal ability to focus or regulate his emotions. It's exhausting.

Tonight, after dinner, LJ said, "Mom, I want to go home."

My reply was, "Honey, we are home."

I want to go to another home.

I sighed and bit my comeback, then exchanged eyes with Ben before saying, "That isn't very nice LJ. This is your home and we love you very much."

Ben has the amazing ability to punch restart and move on. He is calm and patient and, continually, redirects the boys' attention. I am in awe of it.

I thought about LJ's comment all night.

It's not that I took his words, personally...I fully recognize that he is three and discriminating in his opinions.

It bugged me that he understood what he said.

As a mom, I want to protect my kids from the world, so that God's truth and goodness can shape their view before they have to face it head on. With Ty, that's easy. All of his experiences have been controlled and protected.

LJ's have not.

He has seen glimpses of the world that will be hidden from Ty for years to come.

I hate the injustice.

In LJ's life, I know the wrongs will be righted and I recognize the significant progress that he's made...it is just, so, extremely, slow going.

The good news is that, tonight, I get to sleep beside my helpmate and tomorrow will be a NEW DAY.




Thursday, July 19, 2012

"I want to go home."


I was recently telling someone that parenting LJ requires multiple lenses. I can't just look at him as my son. I have to look at him as my son that has grown up in five foster homes, my son that has pockets full of memories that I cannot access, my son that has never had a father, my son that doesn't understand stability, my son that questions security, and my son that has lived a harder life than most thirty year olds, but is only able to communicate as a three year old.

Sometimes I forget about the extra lenses and LJ's emotions or reactions take me by surprise, reminding me how important it is to, continually, rely on our heavenly Father for LJ's success in our family.

We were on vacation, this past week, and talked about it for many days prior to leaving. Ty and LJ were excited and had fun packing their dinos, trains, and sand toys. On the way "Up North" (where we Michiganders go for breathtaking views and water fun!), LJ started crying, "Mama, I want to go home."

Excited about our trip, I didn't think anything of his outburst and dismissed his [what-I-perceived-to-be] reasonless cries.

It wasn't until about the third I-wanna-go-home meltdown that I connected his crying to a lack of security.

And then it all made sense.

It didn't matter that the four of us were vacationing together with our closest friends or that we shared the same bedroom or that we were staying in a dream lakehouse or that we would return home in a week. From LJ's perspective, we were sleeping in a new bed in a new home with "friends" that in his experience turn into a new family. He doesn't understand vacation or temporary housing. He only sees that he has been taken from the house and bed and toys that he has come to know as "home"- for the sixth time - and he isn't sure that he'll ever go back (in the past he hasn't).

I hate that.

I hate that security cannot be talked into place. It requires strong hugs, warm kisses, kind words, and so much time...

LJ trusts us - enough. But, how are we any different than the last five homes? He never lived in a home more than 6 months and he's only lived with us for 4. His experiences will override any good his heart conveys. Security in our family is going to take time.

My heart breaks for his. When it comes to mothering Ty, I can reason and love away any fears that exist. My arms are safe and forever and secure. With LJ, I spend so much time wondering about his heart and fragile emotions. I know he finds love and safety in my arms (although truth be told, he runs to daddy first), but the latter hold no definition. What does forever mean when your life has been chopped into six month segments? What does security mean when adults have been transient and boundaries crossed?

Some days A lot of days, I wish we could just fast forward. I wish we could skip the growing pains and move right to the place of peace....Isn't that how it always is?

With me anyway. Always looking for that easy button. Navigating through this path has been more challenging than we were prepared, but we hold on, knowing that we are doing the work of God and applying sweet balm to LJ's heart.

We will move past these insecurities and one day LJ will only remember the unparalleled love of one mommy, one daddy, and one heavenly King.

Pray for us as we move toward that day.




Thursday, July 12, 2012

I hope you enjoy the new pictures! I finally updated Our Story, here:
http://rebekahpinchback.blogspot.com/p/our-story.html

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Book Review

Today, I am on the TLC book tour for:
 by Peter & Cheryl Barnes



Although the book was much too mature for our three year olds (reading level is age 5+), Ben and I really enjoyed it! Being a lover of words, I found the rhythm quite catchy:

To begin, let's go back more than 400 years
To meet the first settler - the first pioneers.
Across the Atlantic from England they came
To seek opportunity, fortune, and fame!

The book was written by a husband and wife team (awww) and showcases a very patriotic mouse, Liberty Lee. The story walks you through the foundation of America, from Jamestown to the Declaration of Independence. The most darling element for me was that Liberty Lee is hidden on every page. The boys are really digging "eye spy" these days, so they got a kick out of looking for Liberty Lee throughout the book!

The ending lines were surprisingly impacting:

And you know, with a friend, there's no way you can fail
If he lends you a hand - or lends you his tail -
Together, you might change the world, just you see!
We did it together, my friend Thomas and me!

When I look at my boys I see world changers...it was refreshing to see that affirmed in a children's book.

Good work Barnes Family! I look forward to reading more!


Monday, July 2, 2012

Summer

I am having such a great summer with my boys. We have been spending a lot of time in big pools, little pools, and waves at the beach.


 They are just SO full of life!

A lot of times when they are playing together, I read, text, or surf the web. Today, I sat and watched them for well over an hour. I drank in every moment, thinking about what incredible gifts I have. There are so many challenges that come with having one three year old - let alone two - especially when one of them came to you AT two...but there are also many laughs, giggles, "huggies", and inquisitive questions.

Today, I thought about how much I would miss their chubby hands and spontaneous kisses.
Their unending questions and fascination in all things truck related.

LJ's morning snuggles and Ty's helpful suggestions.

My heart just beams with pride for both boys.

We ended our day with homemade ice cream cones on the front porch. LJ put his hand on my knee and said, "Mom. This is delicious."

I laughed out loud and said, "LJ, I love you more than you know...this IS delicious."

I can't think of a better way to spend my summer...