Category Archives: adoption

A “magical” 15th birthday for Ozzie

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Our final day at Disney World was spent at Magic Kingdom, in honor of Ozzie’s 15th birthday. This trip fell at an interesting time with Groundhog’s Day, the Super Bowl, Valentine’s Day, President’s Day,  and Ozzie’s birthday all hitting during the two weeks we were away.

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Our day began, as birthdays always do, with the birthday kid being awoken with a cupcake and the birthday song.  Since Saturday morning was our check out day, we had a speedy birthday celebration before packing up and prepping the house for our 10:00 am departure.

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Rather than pack gifts for Ozzie’s birthday, everyone chose to purchase Ozzie’s gifts in Orlando. As a result, he ended up with special souvenirs for his birthday gifts. His siblings were incredibly generous and made Ozzie’s birthday extra special.

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We planned to spend Ozzie’s birthday at Magic Kingdom. We anticipated it being busier than previous days, since it was a Saturday and President’s Day weekend, but we were not prepared for HOW busy it was. It was crazy!

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We parked in Magic Kingdom’s parking lot and waited an hour to take the ferry across the lagoon to the front gates of the park. It was a bad day to have the monorail out of commission. The result was hoards of guests all waiting for the ferry boats to shuttle them over to the park.

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The blessing, however, was that we had been to Magic Kingdom twice already on this trip, and had already ridden every ride multiple times, enjoyed all the attractions, watched all the shows and sat through the parades, so this was a no-pressure day. We were just excited to be spending Ozzie’s birthday at Magic Kingdom and figured anything beyond that was icing on the cake.

We finally made it to the front gate at 11:30 am, and made plans to stay until closing at 11:00pm… as long as everyone held up. I’d like to say it was perfect day full of magical moments, but that is not entirely true. It was a mixed bag sort of day with many happy moments but also lots of hard emotions. The reality of the adoption journey is that birthdays, holidays and connected family experiences tend to be the hardest days of our life as my kiddos that fear connection and feel unworthy of happy moments work hard to sabotage the attachment they find themselves falling victim to when they let down their guard and open their hearts to the love we offer them.

It sucks.

I hate that saying, but there is no better way to describe the effects of trauma.

 This birthday was a particularly hard one for Ozzie. The overabundance of joy and fun that came with celebrating his birthday at the happiest place on earth led to him to self sabotage, begging for pain and punishment to counteract the discomfort of love and affection.

It wasn’t the happy ending I was hoping for on our last day at the parks. In hindsight, we probably would have been better off pretending it wasn’t Ozzie’s birthday and wait to celebrate his birthday at home in a more subdued way, but we made the best of it. We let go of any agenda, allowed the day to play out organically, and took a lot of breaks for implementing coping skills as needed.

It was an especially hard day for my oldest three who wanted to enjoy their last day in the park without Ozzie instigating fights in hopes his siblings would lash out and hurt him in the way he was craving.

I think it is often underacknowledged the great sacrifice that is made by the biological siblings in adoption stories, when they open their home to adopted children…especially children with a history of trauma of a diagnoses of Reactive Attachment Disorder. Life as they knew it disappeared when their brothers moved in, with life becoming more challenging with each new adoption. This isn’t to say that this life isn’t without great blessings.  My older three would not be the astounding people they are, if not for the unique trials and challenges of opening the door to children others have walked away from. But it is not always easy. Ozzie’s birthday was no different. After pouring out their love on him is the morning they struggled when he responded with unkindness. Knowing that they needed a period of respite and knowing Ozzie needed a break from their acts of love that he was feeling unworthy of, Toby and I decided to split up for an hour.

Toby took the younger three to ride some rides, hoping this would help Ozzie expel some of his anxious energy through high-adrenaline rides,

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While I split off with the older three for some one-on-one time. It is needed sometimes, and they appreciated the period of respite.

The three of them each had a character they were hoping to get a photo with, something we could have never done that day with their younger brothers in tow. Brandon could have gone either way but opted for rides over characters, so we split ways and headed of to meet some Disney friends.

Rusty’s favorite Disney character is Winnie the Pooh and his request was to get a picture with Pooh.

He was even “Disney bounding” for the purpose of getting a twin photo with Pooh.

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We waited in line for 30 minutes and finally got our chance to get Winnie the Pooh and Tigger’s autographs,

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As well as pictures with our friends from the Hundred Acre Woods.

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Our next stop was to meet Molly’s favorite Disney princess, Rapunzel. Molly has loved Rapunzel since the movie Tangled came out when she was a small girl.

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On our first trip to Disney, when Molly was 11-years-old, she broke down in tears upon meeting Rapunzel.

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This time there were no tears but she beamed with joy through the entire encounter.

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They look like they could be sisters!

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Our third character meet-and-greet was for Grace to meet her favorite Disney character- Peter Pan!

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Grace, too, was dressed for the experience, wearing her Peter Pan hat that she bought when we went to Disneyland.

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She even brought her Peter Pan book to get autographed.

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Each of my big kids were over the moon excited over their special moments with magical friends and it was just the medicine needed to re-center us and put us in the right frame of mind for trauma-healthy interactions as we rejoined the family.

The rest of the day was spent re-riding our favorite rides, once their wait time dropped below 20 minutes.

For Grace and Molly that was Splash Mountain:

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For Rusty that was The Haunted Mansion:

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For Brandon that was the Jungle Cruise:

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For Ozzie that was Space Mountain:

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And for Tyler that was Big Thunder Mountain Railroad:

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Ozzie got to pick our dinner location for his birthday dinner, and chose Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Café for tacos (Ozzie’s favorite food).

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And then we found our spots to watch the spectacular nighttime show:

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Happily Ever After

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“Experience a grand finale to your day with the latest—and most spectacular—fireworks show in Magic Kingdom history. 

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Go on a dazzling journey of color, light and song that captures the heart, humor and heroism of many favorite Disney animated films. 

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Watch in awe as Cinderella Castle becomes part of the story by magically transforming through amazing state-of-the art projection technology that you have to see to believe.

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This astounding 18-minute fireworks extravaganza uses more lights, lasers and special effects than any other fireworks spectacular in the history of Magic Kingdom, plus a soaring score featuring contemporary versions of beloved Disney songs. 

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Discover the magic of movies—and be inspired to find your own happily ever after.”

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It was a magical ending to a magical vacation.

 

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A Story to Tell..

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Last Thursday we (and by we I mean Ozzie and I) had the humbling honor of sharing our story.

We were invite speak at our adoption agency’s annual black tie fundraising dinner. This annual event raises money for many of the support services and programs they offer.

We were contacted a month earlier and asked whether Ozzie and I would feel comfortable sharing our story. They wanted us to speak on his journey leading up to adoption, the blessings and struggles of adoption, how God called us to adoption and Bethany Christian Services, and how adoption has impacted our lives.

They wanted us to give insight into what adoption journey looks like to the patrons who were attending and considering whether to donate to such an amazing cause.

When we were asked I approached Ozzie and asked him what his thoughts were. He said that he was nervous but thought we should do it,

so we said, “yes.”

The weeks leading up to our speaking engagement were fraught with high emotion as we worked on what we wanted to say…what parts of the story to tell.

We began by having Ozzie list his non-negotiables, those topics he didn’t want to talk about at all. I made note of those things so we could stay away from them in our presentation, but also so I could slip that list to Tina (our therapist) knowing they were important in his avoidance of them. I knew they were important for future therapy sessions.

Then we began to prepare our thoughts. We wrote out our words as a dialogue between him and I with the thoughts that an interview style of sharing would be less threatening and overwhelming for him. I would be able to lead the presentation by asking him the questions we prepared in between the thoughts I planned to share.

His anxiety built as the day drew closer. I knew that while there were some nerves over public speaking, the bulk of his anxiety centered around the discomfort of telling his story. I was so proud of him soldiering on despite his fears and discomfort.

On the night of the dinner we got dressed up in our Sunday best. It was just Ozzie and I attending since the other kids were marching in a light up night parade. It worked out well. Toby took the other kids north and Ozzie and I headed south for our special date.

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Ozzie looked like a little gentlemen in his suit and I knew the purses of little old ladies were going to open of their own accord when they met my little charmer. 😉

We arrived at The Chadwick and had the opportunity to step on stage, try out the microphone and go over our presentation before guests started to arrive. That practice helped settle Ozzie’s nerves.

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The room was beautiful and Ozzie was amazed that he was going to eat such fancy food at such a fancy table. 🙂

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He then joined a few other Bethany kids at the door to greet guests, point them to the table that held their place cards, and give them the program that outlined the night.

He worked that doorway like nobody’s business, calling on his natural friendliness and charm to make guests feel welcome.

Then it was time for the evening to begin. Fundraising was being done on multiple levels. There was a silent auction, a wish tree that held notecards listing small, specific needs (like diapers or formula for emergency placements), as well as donation envelopes that could be used to make a monetary donation.

The night began with a blessing on the food, followed by opening remarks and an introduction to Bethany Christian and the services they provide. They spoke of the great needs that exist and the staggering number of orphans in need of a home and a family. Ozzie was deeply affected by the statistics and in the middle of the presentation he leaned over to me and said, “That was me…We need to adopt some more of those children.”

It was humbling and affecting.

Then dinner began. We enjoyed a meal of salad, bread, beef medallions, garlic mashed potatoes and maple carrots. The waitress approached Ozzie and asked if he would prefer chicken nuggets and fries like some of the other children, to which Ozzie replied, “No thank you. I can have chicken and fries anytime. I never get fancy food like this!”

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He then enjoyed chocolate mousse for dessert to which he loudly declared,

“I’ve never tasted a chocolate MOUSE before, but I like it!”

Then it was time for our part of the evening. We stepped on stage and told our story. Ozzie stole the show. In his earnest, honest, transparent way he told his story. He spoke of what it is like to be a foster child. He spoke of the fears and uncertainty of being placed in a stranger’s home. He spoke of the mix of emotions that come with adoption and the challenges an entire family faces as they welcome a new member into the home. He spoke of his adoption day and the joy he felt when Mom and Dad promised the judge they would love and care for him forever. Then he told them how adoption changes lives. ..

how it changed his and how it can change others,

if they would just say, “yes.”

There were many tears. The power of the truth he was speaking could be felt by all.

He did it. And I have never been prouder of him.

The night ended with call to act.

A call to make a difference.

A call to change a life,

in whatever way God was calling each of us to do that…

sponsorship, donations, or perhaps opening our home to a child in need.

After dinner was over we prepared to leave. As we worked our way toward the exit Ozzie was stopped many times by those who were touched by his story.

As I watched him interact and speak with the guests I was given  a glimpse into his future. This won’t be the only time he will ever stand before a crowd and move them with his story. This won’t be the only time he stands before a crowd and challenges them to make a difference. God will not let Ozzie’s past define  him, but instead He is going to use the heartbreak to bring about change, to inspire people, and to move mountains in miraculous ways.

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God has big plans for my little man.

Prayers for Brandon

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Brandon and Sean

Brandon and Sean

“We sometimes think that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.” – Mother Teresa

Tonight I find my heart hurting after receiving news that this sort of poverty has taken such a personal turn. Those who have been walking this road with us for a while might remember the story of Brandon, Tyler’s older brother. When we took Tyler in, as a foster son initially, he and Brandon were the final two of five biological siblings still in foster care…still in search of a forever home.

Tyler and Brandon had both been labeled with words like, “difficult,” “unmanageable,” and “unadoptable.” Both were little boys who carried the emotional scars of children who have lived their life in poverty…

that poverty spoken about above,

the poverty of being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for.

That sort of poverty leaves hurts that are deep and scarring and take a lot of loving to heal.

I have had the profound honor and privilege of being an adoptive mother to two of the “wounded ones” and have witnessed firsthand the miracle of healing that comes from loving the “unlovable.”

I have watched as my guarded, frightened, angry, broken hearted boys have been healed through the power of love and God’s amazing grace.

I have also witnessed this healing power in another little boy’s life… Brandon.

About one year after having Tyler join our family we were blessed through a series of “God events” to find all of Tyler’s biological siblings who had been scattered and remained out of touch with each other after being adopted into separate homes. God led us, we found them all, and planned a reunion for these siblings.

This came about as a result of Brandon’s birthday wish

when he told his foster mom, Tina, that all he wanted for his birthday was to see his siblings again.

The reunion was powerful and the experience nothing short of holy.

But while together we witnessed that very poverty that Mother Teresa spoke about when we took group pictures and could visually see the difference in the countenance of the adopted siblings who had found their forever families and the one who was still lost.

(As seen below)

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We began to pray for Brandon and I found he was never far from my thoughts.

We prayed that he would be given the forever family that his heart so longed for.

Fast forward a year.

We met for another reunion and received the wonderful news that Brandon had been adopted by his foster mom, Tina. He was a different child. His spirit, which had been buried so deep under the hurts and disappointments of his short but oh so hard life, was finally shining forth and we could clearly see the great love he had for the woman he now called “Mom.”

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Unconditional love truly is the most powerful force on earth.

That day we saw a different boy.

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(Here is the Heaven-sent angel that loved him into life…)

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Tina roasting marshmallows with Ozzie

Then life took another unexpected turn for Brandon as Tina was diagnosed with cancer. Sweet Tina shared with me the stories of waking up in the morning to find Brandon asleep at her feet and his fears of going to school for fear that she wouldn’t be there when he returned. His security was being tested.

Tina shared with me the intense battle she was fighting for her life…

not for her own sake but for Brandon’s sake.

She shared her prayers and heartfelt pleas to the Lord that she just be allowed to live for five more years so that she could finish raising Brandon before she is taken Home. I watched as this angel among women, who had given her life and dedicated all she had to taking in the orphans, the unloved, the hurt and the “unwanted ones,” battle for her life… battle for Brandon’s security.

We received news Monday night that she has lost that battle and has been called Home, to the arms of her Father in Heaven, where she now rests.

She passed away on Mother’s Day, which is divinely fitting, as she spent her life mothering the motherless.

But now we pray again for Brandon, who is now in limbo. Who is once again without a mother. Who has gone to live with relatives temporarily.  My heart aches and my pillow is wet with tears as I struggle with the injustice of this mortal journey and the sadness I feel for Brandon. I look at that 13 year old boy’s journey and all the heartbreak he has faced in his short life

and my heart hurts…

So much loss.

So much profound poverty.

Today I ask for prayers for Brandon.

I ask that you lift him up in prayer.

He has lost the love of his life, his Momma.

I don’t know where the story goes from here. I don’t know what plans the Lord has for this little boy’s life. I am simply holding onto the truth and testimony that

God loves Brandon.

More than Tina did, more than Tyler does, more than I do,

and must have a plan…

an amazing plan for his life.

In the darkness of the unknown, however, I struggle.

Let us pray.

For Brandon,

and for all those who face this day feeling unloved, unwanted and uncared for.

Ponder today this thought,

“What can I do to remedy this kind of poverty that is rampant around us?”

Let us pray.

Spring Soccer

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“Some people have to wait their entire lives to meet their favorite player,

I am raising mine.” 🙂

Prior to Tyler joining our clan I was completely anti-organized sports. It held little to no appeal and I just didn’t understand why a family would put themselves through the hassle and headaches of juggling practices and games.

 I uttered those dangerous word that inevitably come back to bite you…

“My child will never…”

Then we adopted Tyler and every “My child would never,” or “I will never” came back to bite me.  Tyler was a child unlike any other I had raised. He was high energy, impulsive, competitive and physical…

and he needed and outlet.

So I had to swallow all my “Nevers” and give him what he needed: sports.

There is a genetic gift and drive in Tyler that is so foreign to the rest of us. He is a gifted athlete and when I watch him play with his biological siblings I can see where that talent comes from. They are all talented athletes and you can see that sports are in their DNA.

So after a winter break from sports we have begun Spring Soccer, and Tyler is in heaven. 🙂

He loves his new team and this year he has a woman and a man for his coaches, which is new for him and very good for him. I’m finding that having a female coach brings another level of awareness to Tyler and I see him becoming a better team player.

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He is the biggest kid on his team this year and it is funny to see him lined up next to his team mates. The next tallest kid is also named Tyler but to avoid confusion they call him Ty. Tyler and Ty are best buddies on and off the field. This week they got to be team captains together and call heads or tails on the coin flip.

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The weather was extra chilly this past Saturday and the spring temperatures that we enjoyed at last week’s game were gone. It was chilly! Tyler bundled in my coat waiting for his game to start.

Tyler played a great game, scoring 5 goals for his team, but what made this Momma proud was the growth and maturity I have seen this year as he works to pass to his teammates and be less of a one man show. I see an awareness of his strength and size in comparison to some of the littler boys and see him adjust the power of his kicks to match the player he is passing to. These things all reflect HUGE growth in Tyler as he overcomes the limitations and deficiencies of his past. It is such a blessing to get to watch his growth and see God working on that little boy.

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Tyler making a goal

 

Tyler’s favorite position to play is goalie. He loves diving for the ball and likes the high adrenaline thrill of jumping in front of a flying ball. His fearlessness makes him very good at this position. This week after stopping a goal he had a goal kick and kicked it so hard that it flew to the other end of the field into the other team’s goal earning his team a point. He was ecstatic. 🙂

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So after years of years of saying I will “NEVER” be a soccer mom

I guess I can now say:

I am a…

“Shin guard findin’

Uniform washin’

Gatorade gettin’

Dirty boy drivin’

Picture takin’

Always cheerin’

Soccer Mom”

And I have learned

Never say Never 🙂