Tag Archives: bonding

Fun at the Creek

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School is officially out, and we have transitioned from one season of craziness to another with our days filled with summer projects, camps, summer tutoring and various weekly therapy sessions.

With Ozzie’s arrival home we have reinstated family based therapy. As the date for his release from the residential treatment facility where he resided for eight months while he was receiving more intensive therapy to address the affects of early childhood trauma neared, we started lining up therapeutic support for his return home. His RTF expressed concern for the drastic step-down of care that comes with transitioning from 24/7 therapeutic care to 1-2 outpatient therapy sessions a week and suggested we set up a Family Based team to be assigned to our home to help Ozzie (and the other kids) with his transition home.

We were assigned our Family Based team a month before Ozzie’s release and were thrilled to find out we would be working with the same two ladies that were our Family Based team prior to Ozzie’s placement.

For the last two months they have been in our home multiple times a week helping the entire family adjust to being reunited. Our primary goals revolve around reconnection, improved communication, and healing between Ozzie and the other kids, while Ozzie’s trauma work is addressed in EMDR outpatient therapy with Miss Tina.

Because the goals of Family Based revolve around communication and connection with siblings, most family based sessions involve a whole-family activity that allows the kids to work on those skills. For the most part it has been a positive addition to our network of therapeutic support. Ozzie is doing awesome. Due in large part to his residential stay, Ozzie has found a level of healing and stability that is nothing short of miraculous.

God is so good!

The only struggle I have noted with Oz is a heightened level of anxiety. This is especially true in the days leading up to a Family Based therapy appointment. After taking note of this trend and talking to Oz about my observations he was finally able to identify that the history of Family Based in our home (ie: family based being the final therapeutic tool we tried before we realized that he needed more therapeutic support, a decision that led to him being admitted to Harborcreek Youth Services) was causing his anxiety. In his mind he equated the Family Based team with being judge and jury in deciding whether he goes back to residential care or remains at home. That ANT (automatic-negative-thought) was the cause of the heightened anxiety we were seeing. Once I realized this I was able to speak with his trauma therapist and his Family Based team to come up with a plan to change his perception of Family Based therapy.

The first step I thought might be helpful was to take therapy away from the home and let Ozzie interact with his therapists in an environment that wasn’t connected to memories from nine months ago.

So, on Monday we meet at Brush Creek Park for Family Based therapy. One of his therapists came up with the fun idea of catching crayfish with the kids as a shared, connection-building experience.

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This was our first time visiting this park but we fell in love with it.

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It was absolutely stunning.

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After trying out a few spots along the creek,

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We settled in near the covered bridge.

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The boys were in the water immediately,

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in their excitement to find some crayfish,

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While the girls explored the bridge and took advantage of photographic opportunities.

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It was the most successful Family Based session yet.

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I think the combination of being away from home and out in nature, while participating in an active, hands-on activity was a win-win combo.

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Is there anything better than a summer afternoon splashing in the creek?!

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A Big Brother Reunion

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“Hi Ty!”

That was our greeting when we arrived at Tyler’s biological brother’s home for a sibling reunion.

This was followed by a hug and the observation. “Ty, you got so big!”

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Tyler’s siblings all call him Ty. It is strange and sweet to hear them revert back to the childhood nicknames they called each other before they were separated and adopted into separate homes. Regardless of the miles that separate them or the months that pass between visits they easily and naturally fall back into their childhood roles when they gather as biological siblings.

All summer I have tried to find a free moment to have all four of Tyler’s biological siblings over for a reunion, but the summer sped by and before I knew it school was upon us. So I was thrilled when I received a call from Gayle, Sean’s mother, inviting us and the other siblings to a get-together at her home this past weekend. It was a last-minute, spontaneous idea, and I was thrilled.

Sean, Tyler’s next older brother, lives about an hour and a half away. His siblings are spread out in a 2 1/2 hour driving radius around the city of Pittsburgh. To get everyone together is challenging, but it looked as though we were going to make it happen.

Well it did happen, and it was wonderful, but it wasn’t the reunion we had planned. Of the 5 siblings, only two made it to the reunion, Tyler and Sean. Life commitments came up and prevented Cheyenne, Michael, and Brandon from making it. We didn’t realize that was the case until we arrived at Sean’s house. Both boys were disappointed that the others weren’t going to make it. They were both really hoping to see Michael, their oldest brother, who they haven’t seen in two years. 😦

In the end, however, it worked out to be a blessing. The small group made for a more intimate experience and we were able to get better acquainted then perhaps we would have had there been everyone there. Sean and Tyler LOVED their one on one time and there was even a special surprise for Ozzie.

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Three years ago, when Ozzie was first removed from his home, he was placed in the home of Michele and Peter. For two years he lived in that home with his sister Zoey and his foster sister (daughter of Michele and Peter) Megan. In one of those small-world moments we discovered, soon after Ozzie moved in, that he knew Sean (Tyler’s biological brother.) In fact he had slept at Sean’s house and spent many days playing there,

long before we even knew Ozzie or Sean existed…crazy, huh?!

This weekend Gayle was babysitting Megan, so at the reunion for Tyler’s siblings Ozzie had a reunion of his own with Megan, a friend he called “sister” for two years.

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It is during moments like this I am awed at how small the world is and how BIG our God is.

We had a wonderful time. Tyler and Sean spent the day throwing a ball back and forth and Ozzie and Megan had a wonderful time catching up.

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And my big kids were wonderfully gracious about allowing their little brothers this special experience.

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The get-together began at Sean’s house with a pizza party and then moved to the park where the kids spent a few hours playing.

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Here is a peek at our special reunion:

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A Black and Gold Birthday

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My baby turned 9!

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My little boy, who came to us as a 6-year-old, is now 9!

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My dirty, loud, bouncy, athletic, football-loving, “all boy” boy is now 9.

How crazy is that?!

As we began plans for a special birthday celebration, for a VERY special kid, we were blessed in a very unexpected way.

Toby is currently working for the son of family friend, and he and his wife had their first child this past week…a beautiful baby girl. They are also Steeler season ticket holders. Can you see where this is going? 🙂

Toby got a call on the Thursday before Tyler’s birthday asking if he would like their two tickets for the next game. Well, once Toby realized what day it fell on (Tyler’s birthday) he said, “Yes!” knowing he would make Tyler’s birthday (or life!) by taking him to the game for his birthday.

Knowing the surprise that was coming, I themed his birthday cake and gifts around this surprise.

We woke Tyler on his birthday with our traditional birthday serenade and cupcake in bed. We came downstairs and allowed Tyler to open his gifts first thing. The kids all made or bought Tyler a birthday surprise with their money.

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Then it was time for his gift from Mom and Dad.

He opened the box first, confused as to why he was opening his gift before his card. In the box was a Steelers shirt and hat (to wear to the game…shh.)

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He was thrilled and then he opened his card. Inside lay the tickets to the Steeler game. He didn’t believe us for the longest time, assuming it must be a prank, after years of us telling him that he wouldn’t be able to go to a Steeler game until he was grown and could pay for it himself. 🙂

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When he realized that this was the real deal he was ecstatic.

Toby and Tyler left early for the game so that they had plenty of time to explore the stadium and soak up the atmosphere before the game began.

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Tyler was on the edge of his seat the entire game, clapping, cheering and groaning along with the fans around him.

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It was one of those “once in a lifetime,” memory making, never forget moments between a son and a dad that will be cherished forever.

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The fact that the Steelers won was just icing on the birthday cake. 😉

Thank you, Becks, for making a certain little boy’s dream come true.

Best birthday, EVER!

When they got home Tyler talked and talked about the game, the plays, the stadium, the players, and snacks he enjoyed.

He was beaming.

The night ended with cake…a football cake, of course

and then I tucked a very tired, but happy, little boy into bed with a hug and a kiss.

My heart overfloweth.

Oh, it is fun making dreams come true! 🙂

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“He asked me for my digits!”

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He asked me for my digits!

In the middle of an unexceptional, ordinary day I was approached by a good looking younger man.

He made eye contact, smiled at me from across the room, and then approached.

He was confidant and walked with the ease of an athlete.

As he approached I could sense some hesitation, but with a burst of boldness he asked if he could get my number.

I wasn’t even put off by the hole in his sock or the dried ketchup in his hair…

My heart just melted when he said,

“Momma, can I have your phone number? I just want to be able to call you when I’m a grown-up dad.”

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It has been a long road with Tyler. My handsome little man, who shuffled into my world with a guarded heart and a lot of anger at the world, has finally settled. When he moved in he bonded quickly and easily with Toby. He was a little boy who longed for a Daddy, but I was just the woman who was trying to take the place of the woman he had called mom for the last 2 ½ years of his life. I was the enemy.

It was a long road from the day he moved in to adoption day 9 months later. The first six months were filled with explosive temper tantrums and threats that he was going to pack his bags and leave. I remember the day that little 6-year-old boy carried all his worldly possessions out to the front porch to sell at his “yard sale” in an effort to raise funds for his departure. (He surprisingly had no sales that day.) 😉

The first year with us was filled with brokenness…broken toys, broken furniture, broken trust and broken hearts…and then slowly things began to change. Healing came. The process was so slow and the changes were so slight that you needed time-lapse photography to see it…

But it was changing, and getting better, and healing was taking place.

I began to notice that there were days between fights rather than hours, and tantrums were lasting 30 minutes rather than 300 minutes.

The peaks and valleys of our days weren’t so extreme and the journey evolved from a wild roller coaster ride into a quieter drive through the hillsides of Pennsylvania. We still had our ups and downs but the drops didn’t cause my belly to flip and I was no longer holding on with a white-knuckle grip.

The change was so subtle that I’m not sure when things got easier. I just looked down one day and notice I wasn’t holding on for dear life anymore…

I realized I wasn’t holding my breath…

I had finally exhaled.

Now, here we are 2 years later, and He finally calls me “Mom,” not only verbally, but in his heart. I am his Momma and he wants my digits!

I was so excited that I didn’t have the heart to tell him that “my number” was the same as his phone number. 🙂

My adoption treasures

My adoption treasures

This past year has been a “two steps forward, one step back” journey for our family as we have added Ozzie to the crew. Just when things were getting easier I find myself back on the roller coaster ride of adoption with Ozzie, complete with the peaks and valleys and white knuckle grips. I am amazed as I watch Tyler and his reactions to some of the stomach flipping twists and turns of Ozzie’s adjustment. I see him watching, and remembering his journey into this family, and I can now see how far he has come. It is a merciful reminder of God’s grace and the healing that takes place with time, unconditional love, and a lot of endurance.

It gives me hope, as I navigate these tough early months of adoption with Ozzie, that God doesn’t make mistakes, that Ozzie is ours, that with God’s grace healing will come, that bonding will happen, and he too will one day see me as his Momma…

and maybe even want my “digits.”

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Home again, home again…jiggety jog!

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Ahhh…It is so good to be home. Nothing like sleeping upright in a hospital chair for two nights to make you appreciate your own bed. Today I am feeling incredibly blessed. Blessed that we had good doctors who caught the symptoms of appendicitis quickly. Blessed to have so many wonderful friends who stepped in and lent a hand in the midst of the chaos. Blessed to have such good kids who held down the fort and really stepped up when I needed to focus my time and energy on getting Ozzie better. Blessed to have an amazing husband who is unshakable when things get challenging and especially blessed to have been given an amazing bonding opportunity with our newest addition.
When Tyler moved in with us we had a vacation planned for the following week. A vacation which had been planned for months before we knew of his arrival. We were going on a week-long houseboat vacation with another family and were scheduled to leave 24 hours after he moved in. It was horrible timing, as far as I was concerned, but it ended up being perfect timing in God’s plan. Being “trapped” on a houseboat for a week with no place to escape to ended up serving as a catalyst for the bonding process. Great strides were made that first week. Progress that would normally have taken weeks happened in a matter of days. I feel like this experience with Ozzie had much the same effect. Although not nearly as enjoyable as a houseboat vacation, this week was a week of breakthroughs in our relationships as a family. Through the scare of surgery, IVs, and a hospital stay Ozzie learned that we are trustworthy, that we won’t leave, that we will take care of him. He experienced parental love as we held his hand through procedures, were sitting at his bedside as he woke from surgery, and met his needs on the most basic level as we carried him to the bathroom and spoon fed him jello. God saw what we were in need of as a family and met our needs in a very creative way. It wasn’t as fun as a family vacation but the effect of this week was far more profound.
Ozzie is still recovering. He is feeling better each day but is still sore. When the doctor came in to go over discharge instructions he told Ozzie no school for a week and no gym for two weeks.

Ozzie considered the doctor’s instructions..
“How about tag?” he asked. “My brother likes to play tag.”
“Nope, no tag for a few weeks,” the doctor answered.
“Hmm, how about trampolines?” Ozzie asked.
“No. Definitely no trampolines,” the doctor answered.
“Hmm, what about ultimate Frisbee?”
“Uh, no. No ultimate Frisbee,” the doctor replied.
Ozzie considered this and then asked, “What about horseback riding?”
I then interrupted and reminded Ozzie that we don’t even have a horse for him to ride so it was a moot point.
“Ok,” he said, “How about donkeys? Can I ride donkeys?”
The doctor told him to just avoid all strenuous activities until his follow-up appointment. 🙂

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When Ozzie arrived home we settled him in his “nest” on the couch. Waiting for him were cards from his classmates at school and a gift from friends at co-op. He spent the afternoon building the Lego set he received.
Later that day I received a call from my mom. My parents had their follow-up visit with the surgeon that day. (It is hard to believe only a week before I was sitting in another surgical waiting room.) They received the results back from pathology and they were miraculous. My Dad’s pathology results were clean..totally clean. His extremely aggressive prostate cancer was encapsulated and completely eliminated during his radical prostate removal. As of now the oncologist says no radiation is needed and is declaring my father cancer free.

We are grateful for all the prayers that were said on his behalf and know this miracle came to pass as a result of faithful, powerful prayers and a sovereign God.
We are incredibly blessed!

Remove an Appendix, Grow a Bond.

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Every now and then I have one of those 24 hour periods that make me feel like I have lived a week’s worth of life in one day. This was one of those 24 hour periods. The craziness began yesterday when I drove Ozzie to Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh to have his chipped front tooth fixed. I was dreading the appointment simply because I was dreading the scary drive through Pittsburgh morning traffic to a hospital that I hadn’t visited before. Knowing my propensity for getting lost, I allowed myself 45 minutes more driving time than the GPS suggested. It was a good thing. As I headed on the directed route I found myself facing closed roads due to construction. My GPS, being ever so helpful, suggested that I make a U-turn (in the middle of Pittsburgh morning commute traffic). I, not knowing where to go and feeling the pressure to make a decision quickly due to the large volume of honking horns behind me, chose to simply follow the traffic in front of me and hope that they were all going to Children’s Hospital too. At the very least, I figured, my GPS would eventually give up on the notion of me pulling a Fast and Furious move in the middle of downtown and start directing me on a more sensible route. I did find the hospital and pulled in just as the clock turned 9:00am (my appointment time.)

We walked into the hospital and right away I was blown away by how impressive and kid friendly it was. The waiting room was like a visit to a children’s museum with miniature train sets, multi-tank aquariums and I-pads for the kids to play on. Our first stop was the registration desk where we sat for 15 minutes updating all of Ozzie’s information from what it was at his last visit. It was at that registration desk I learned that Ozzie was multilingual. I only recently found out that he was bilingual. In fact it was at our St. Patrick’s day dinner that he informed us that he speaks Gaelic. When we asked him what he could say in Gaelic he paused for dramatic effect and in his thickest faux Irish accent he said, “Shamrock Shake.” 🙂

While we were sitting at the registration desk a Hispanic family sat down next to us in front of another computer. I was only half listening as I answered the questions of the woman helping us but I could tell the neighboring employee was struggling to communicate with this couple and their two small children. We were wrapping up our registration when the lady helping them called her supervisor over and requested a translator. Ozzie evidently was listening and observing the entire interaction because before I could stop him he just up and said, “Wait. I can handle this! I speak Spanish.” He then strode over to the little girl, crouched down to her eye level and said…”Uno, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco.” The parents looked confused and the little girl looked  puzzled as to why this boy was counting in her face.  Ozzie looked proud, having solved the translation problem. I quickly ushered Ozzie away while nodding my apologies to the parents. “See, Mommy,” Ozzie said as we hurried away, “I told you I could speak lots of languages.”

Ozzie was finally called back to the office to be seen by the dentist. The were able to bond a new piece to his broken tooth. It was wonderful to have it over and done with in one appointment. As we left the hospital Ozzie kept stopping strangers along the way to show them his tooth and inform them that he had tooth surgery. He would then say, “But at least it wasn’t real surgery!” Little did we know 24 hours later we would be at another hospital for “real” surgery.

On the way home from Children’s Hospital Ozzie started complaining of stomach cramps. By the time we got home all he wanted to do was go to bed and sleep. The pain continued through the night. I thought he was getting the stomach bug that had been going around and I kept waiting for the vomiting to start. It never did. By the next day the pain was lower. He was lethargic, had no appetite and complained of pain when he urinated so I thought that perhaps he had a UTI. I had to drive Molly to PSSA (state testing) and took Ozzie with me so we could visit a convenient care office afterwards to have his urine tested. When we arrived and explained his symptoms the nurse strongly encouraged us to head to the ER just in case it was something more serious. It was a good thing she did because it turned out that Ozzie had a perforated appendix that needed to be removed. In a matter of a few hours I went from wondering what I was going to fix for dinner to realizing I would be spending a couple of days in the hospital. I knew Ozzie didn’t feel good because he just lay there quietly. Normally he would have been asking questions and enjoying the excitement of it all. It was soon time for him to go back for surgery. He looked so small in his gown and so vulnerable as he sobbed, “I don’t want to leave you, Mommy.” My heart hurt as I kissed him and told him that I loved him before they wheeled him away.

I sat in the family waiting room praying, crying and waiting. I hated to see Ozzie hurting and hated to see him have to go through the pain of surgery but even in the midst of all that I could see God at work. I could feel Him at work. I knew this was going to be one of those life changing moments that I would look back on years from now. As they wheeled Ozzie away I knew he was mine. Deep down in my heart I felt the bond of mother to child. I felt the same heartbreak and fear any mother faces when their child goes under the knife. I felt the same way I would have felt had it been Grace or Rusty being wheeled away. It was there and I finally knew he was mine.

The bonding that takes place between mother and adoptive child is one of those challenges of adoption that people don’t talk about. You expect it to be instant and powerful and certain. It isn’t always that way in the beginning but nobody warns about that so you live in fear that there is something wrong with you, or your new addition. “It should feel effortless and easy,” you tell yourself. I shouldn’t have to work so hard at these emotions. I knew Ozzie was mine from the start. On a deep, spiritual level I knew he was ours…destined to be part of our forever family from the beginning of time, but my heart struggled to feel the feelings that should come naturally with that knowledge and testimony. I loved Ozzie but was I “in love’ with him in the same way I was “in love” with the others? “Did I love him as a mother loves?” I kept asking myself and then felt guilty that I couldn’t answer with a resounding yes. I felt unworthy and like a failure that it wasn’t easier. I have been pouring my soul out to God for weeks about these very feelings and today he answered my questioning heart when the ache I felt at the thought of losing Ozzie on the surgical table brought me to my knees. When I kissed his tousled hair and breathed in his little boy scent I had my breakthrough moment. He was mine, as much mine as if we were in the maternity ward having just given birth to him instead of the pre-op room preparing to say good-bye. I emotionally gave birth to my son today. As hard as today was, as much as I would have taken his pain away in an instant if I could have, today was a day that will forever be a gift. It was the day God revealed to me the love that had already grown in my heart. I just needed to recognize it for what it was… It was a mother’s love.

It was there all along. I just didn’t know it. I didn’t let my heart feel it.

Today Ozzie became my son…not in the eyes of the court, but in the depths of my heart.

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Brotherly love

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Thursday marked the nine month anniversary of Tyler’s arrival to our home. It was also a breakthrough day for my boys. Gracie and Molly had been invited to a sleepover at a friend’s home. They were excited to go and spent the afternoon packing all of those “essential” items needed for a sleepover. Right before we were due to leave I discovered Tyler outside jumping in mud puddles. It had been raining all day long so the puddles were impressive. Tyler moaned and groaned when I told him to wash off his legs but was cooperative.. especially when I promised him old pots and pans to play with in the mud when we got back home. On the way we went through one of those “windshield wipers flying” sort of downpours. I told Tyler that he could only play in the mud when the storm stopped. Luckily for him by the time we arrived home the clouds had parted.

I pulled out the pots and pans I promised and Tyler spent and hour outside making mud pies. He even convinced Rusty to join him. Rusty didn’t stay out quite as long because he was still battling a flu bug that left him feeling icky. The boys called me out to show me their mud pies. It was nice to see them playing and laughing together.

Rusty and Tyler have probably had the toughest time bonding of all the kids. I think Rusty struggled with feelings of being displaced when Tyler moved in. He was no longer the only boy and no longer the baby of the family. Rusty wasn’t accustomed to a brotherly relationship so when Tyler pushed and roughhoused Rusty wasn’t sure what to make of it all. This new sibling relationship was nothing like what he was accustomed to with his sisters. I knew the bond would grow with time but it was just tougher for the two of them. It is funny how removing the girls from the mix for the night accelerated that bonding.

When the boys came in muddy but happy I sent them to the bathroom to clean up before dinner. At dinner I told them that since the girls were having a slumber party they could have one too. Tyler was thrilled. He had never been to a slumber party before so he questioned Rusty on how one “slumbers.” Rusty informed him that they would get to sleep together in a new room.

“Can we sleep in Molly’s room?” Tyler asked.

“No,” replied Rusty, “we will sleep in the livingroom.”

“Momma, guess what..we are going to sleep in the livingroom!” Tyler informed me excitedly.

“What else, Rusty?” he questioned.

“Well,” said Russ, “We will eat snacks and watch boy movies.”

“Guess what, Momma… Rusty said we are going to eat snacks and watch boy movies!”

Rusty then informed Tyler that he would sleep on the big couch and Tyler would sleep on the little couch. Tyler wanted to know why they couldn’t sleep on the same couch together. Rusty finally compromised and told Tyler they could sit together to watch the movie but not to sleep.

The boys had a great night. You could hear the adoration in Tyler’s voice as he looked to his big brother for guidance on the proper way to proceed with their slumber party. Later in the evening Rusty started feeling yucky again. You could tell that he really wanted to go to bed and abandon the sleepover but he hung in there for Tyler. He did ask for medicine to help with his sore throat. As I went into my bathroom to look for medicine Tyler followed me in.

“Momma,” he said, “I know why Rusty’s throat hurts.”

“Why,” I asked.

“Because,” he answered, “Rusty and I played and laughed so much.”

He then leaned close and whispered with eagerness, “Momma, I think Rusty really likes me.”

Well I just melted into a puddle of Momma mush. There was such hope in his voice and I realized the strides that were made that night between two little boys learning to be brothers. The equation of success..

3 old pots + 1 puddle of mud + 1 load of laundry + 2 bags of popcorn + 1 “boy movie” =

brotherly love!

God is good!

 

Ups and Downs with a little boy..

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Oh, where do I begin..the last few days have been full of ups and downs. Friday morning began with a down..

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Tyler on the fence post

(A DOWN): I thought all was well when I headed to my bathroom to grab a quick shower. Tyler was fed, dressed, had his morning pills and was playing nicely so I thought I was safe leaving the children unsupervised for a few minutes. I was in the shower with a full head of shampoo when I heard over the shower stream the banging of frantic children on my bathroom door…”Mom, come quick, it’s an emergency!” Not knowing what constituted an emergency and expecting the worse I jumped out of the shower with my hair full of shampoo and dripping wet. I threw on my robe and ran to the kitchen. The “emergency” was Tyler and Rusty fighting over a bowl of dog food. Tyler was on one side of the bowl and Rusty was on the other side and dog food was flying as they fought over who should feed the dog. It is Rusty’s job but Tyler wanted a chance to do it. When Rusty wouldn’t let go Tyler began hitting Rusty’s arm to “encourage” him to let go. Everyone’s emotions were running high when I ran into the kitchen dripping wet. They both quickly began telling their side of the story as soon as they saw me..each raising their voices to be heard over each other. “Stop,” I told them both. “Tyler let go of the bowl.” To which Tyler very unwisely answered “No! You can’t make me!” Thus setting off a series of events that ended in Tyler spending much of the morning sitting on the fencepost while I stood outside watching him as the sun cooked the shampoo lather into my hair. We were outside for a couple of hours as I tried to figure out what was wrong and Tyler responded to my inquiries with, “Blah, Blah, Blah” which then resulted in more time on the fence post. Two hours later he was ready to apologize and I was ready to rinse the soap out of my now dry hair.

(A DOWN): Later that day we had to go shopping for a swim suit for me (a definite down) but it was necessary because next week we are going to Kalahari water park for two days and the suit I have been using for the last few years has lost all elastic so in an effort to avoid scaring small children I deemed it necessary..  regardless of how unpleasant… to buy a new suit. I had been putting it off for weeks knowing how unpleasant and challenging it was going to be to take four kids into a store and expect them to sit outside the dressing room while I struggled to find a suit that was somewhat decent…it sounded like a disaster waiting to happen but I put on my brave face and headed out. On the way there we passed a policeman sitting off the side of the road. Tyler spoke up from the back seat in a panic, “Don’t go too fast, Momma. I don’t want you to go to jail.” I told him that I wasn’t speeding and I wasn’t going to go to jail. He was quiet for a minute and then spoke up again, “What if you and Daddy both go to jail? I don’t want you to go to jail because then I’ll have to move to a new family. I don’t want a new family.” I knew he was talking about what had happened to his biological parents and I was once again amazed at the memories he carries from when he was two years old…and the residual fears from those memories. I told him that Daddy and I were not going to go to jail and that he was not going to go to a new family. I think he wants to believe me but is still haunted by those old fears.

(AN UP): When we arrived at the store I began the arduous task of taking armfuls of swimsuits into the dressing room while the kids waited outside the dressing room on a couch. I had an overly enthusiastic sales girl trying to get me into swimsuits with plunging necklines and shoelaces holding the sides together. When I tried to explain that I was looking for something a bit more modest she told me that I needed to “embrace my inner sexy.” I saw Grace out of the corner of my eye trying not to laugh. Tyler was also eager to help. He called me over to see the swimsuit that he thought I should buy. It was a two piece bra and panty set in a hot pink leopard print. “Isn’t it pretty, Momma?” I didn’t have the heart to tell him that it wasn’t a swimsuit. I just told him that it wasn’t my size.  Much to Tyler’s and the saleslady’s disappointment I didn’t “embrace my inner sexy” but I did find a suit that won’t scare the children and we made it out of the store without any major catastrophes…success!

(AN UP): Friday night Tyler needed a bath. Tyler always needs a bath. Within an hour of getting a bath Tyler needs a bath so it wasn’t unusual for Tyler to spend Friday evening in the tub. What was unusual though was that Tyler let me wash his hair. This was one of those adoption milestones for me. When he came to us he was very private about his body. He wouldn’t let me see him change his shirt much less help him with his bath. As his trust in me has grown some of those walls have come down. Friday night, though, was the first time he had let me in the bathroom while he was in the tub. He was already in the tub when I heard him calling me. I stood outside his door asking what he needed when he told me he wanted me to wash his hair. I couldn’t believe it. I walked into the bathroom and discovered him a mass of bubbles with his washcloth strategically placed. “Can you wash my hair for me, Momma?” he asked. My heart melted. As I knelt next to the tub shampooing his hair and washing his back those early memories of doing the same for my other kids came rushing back to me. It was such a gift to be given that special moment of bonding with Tyler. As he tipped his head back, his eyes closed, waiting for me to rinse the soap out of his hair I looked at him and my heart overflowed with gratitude for this special blessing God has given us!

My baby boy!

My baby boy!

(AN UP): Bedtime has greatly improved with the boys. A dear friend gave us a bottle of doTERRA essential oil (calming blend) and suggested that we try rubbing it on the soles of the boys’ feet before bed. It has made a huge difference! Rusty is now falling asleep within 30 minutes of using it and we haven’t had anymore sleepless night in weeks. God is good!

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(AN UP): Saturday was a day of up’s. The morning began with Tyler’s soccer game. When we arrived we discovered the team that we were playing had only 3 boys to our 7 so our coach asked the boys who wanted to play on the other team. It was funny watching all the boys raise their hand and shout, “Me, me!” So much for team loyalty. 🙂 The coach picked Tyler to move to the other team. Tyler had a great game and his “new team” won with Tyler’s help much to the disappointment of his real team. It was a tough game to watch because I didn’t know whether to cheer for our team or for Tyler.

After the game we drove over to the post office to pick up a package that had arrived for the girls. It was their birthday gift from Aunt Kelly and Uncle Tom. They were thrilled with their new shirts, hat and lip gloss.

The girls' new shirts!

The girls’ new shirts!

While we were out we also stopped at the hardware store to pick up some supplies we needed to put up a fence around our garden to keep out critters. We had some boys from church over on Saturday to help out. Some projects we worked on were… putting in the fence posts..

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Some of the critters we are trying to keep out of the garden.

Some of the critters we are trying to keep out of the garden.

..filling a sewer pipe that Toby scavenged and cut down to size to use for a potato garden bed with dirt,

Tyler helped by rolling the pipe into place.

Tyler helped by rolling the pipe into place.

and Molly filled it!

…hanging the hamocks..yep, summer is really here now! The view from the hammock..

Ahhhhh...

Ahhhhh…

and finally canning honey. We received two metal cans of honey from someone who was moving. It was perfectly good but had crystalized so we needed to first melt it to get it out of the cans. A friend suggested wrapping them in heating pads. It took about 10 hours to melt it but it worked!

Melting honey

Melting honey

We then transferred the honey into quart jars for easier use. The end result of our efforts was 25 quarts of honey..YUM! (a definite UP!)

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Overall a pretty great weekend with more UPs than DOWNs!

Braces and Blessings

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Tuesday morning I walked into my room to discover a flower next to my bed. I left my room, carrying the tulip, as to inquire who left it for me. When I asked the kids who it was Tyler smiled at me and told me that he had picked it for me. “It’s so you know that I love you so, so, so much!” he said. What a gift..both from Tyler and God! We have had a few wonderful days with Tyler. He has been very affectionate, happy and positive. My heart melted into a puddle of happy tears at his declaration of love. That began a day full of blessings.

After schoolwork and a social visit in the morning we left for a visit to the orthodontist. Grace had an appointment to have her brackets changed but Molly and Rusty had an appointment as well; a consultation to see if braces were in their future. The orthodontist that we see has two offices. In an attempt to make scheduling easier on us they scheduled all three appointments for one afternoon but that meant we couldn’t go to their regular office. We had appointments at their other office, about an hour and a half from where we live. We couldn’t have asked for a better day for a car trip. The sun was shining and flowers were blooming as we drove through the rolling hills of western Pennsylvania on the way to our appointments.

On our way there the kids began discussing their futures and how many children they would like to have when they are married. Gracie said that she would like three biological children and two adoptive, Tyler informed us that he thought he might like fifty kids, and Rusty said that he would like two boys and two girls. I told him that when I was young I often had this same discussion with my sister and she always said that she wanted two boys and two girls as well…

Upon hearing that Tyler asked, “Well, did she get them?”

“No,” I told him, “she had three boys and one girl.”

“She can have another girl,” Tyler said.

“But then she’d have five kids instead of four,” Rusty pointed out.

Tyler thought about that and came up with a solution..”I know! She can just have twins!” he then continued, “You know, like me and Rusty!”

Rusty looked at him and pointed out the obvious, “We are not twins.”

“Of course we are, Rusty,” Tyler answered, “we like to play together and we both have big ears.”

Well there you go, long-lost twins separated at birth by five years. My heart was smiling as I listened to their exchange..just another sign of the bond that God is growing in Tyler’s heart.

When we arrived at the orthodontist Molly and Rusty were thrilled to see their names hanging on a sign in the waiting room that welcomed the office’s newest friends.

Welcome Molly and Rusty!

Welcome Molly and Rusty!

Gracie went back first and had her work done. They then took Rusty and Molly back, one at a time, to take x-rays and pictures. When they were done we were taken back to an office where we met with one of the staff members and Dr. G to examine the kids and go over his findings and recommendations. As we waited for the doctor to finish with another patient we had a good visit with Dr. G’s assistant. She was telling us about her daughter, who was a senior and graduating, when she mentioned that her daughter was adopted. I told her that we were in the process of adopting Tyler. We had a wonderful visit as she shared her adoption story with us. For her the journey was not smooth..it was eight years of infertility treatments, failed foster placements and disappointments before God led them down the road to international adoption. As she shared how God opened one door after another for them (financially, legally, etc.) it confirmed my testimony of God’s hand in our own adoption journey. We first began exploring the idea of adoption when Rusty was just a baby. We had applied through two other agencies over the years, initially focused on infant adoption, before God led us to our current adoption agency. There were so many obstacles in our way that over the last ten years I often questioned if we were even meant to adopt. I finally reached the point of surrender and gave it to God. I figured if God was calling us to adoption then He would move the mountains that stood in our way…and He did. I have learned through this process that the obstacles are often the most important part of the journey because if the mountains weren’t there, blocking our path, then we wouldn’t get to witness the miracle of God moving those mountains.

I had a friend share with me these words of wisdom as we were beginning our journey with Tyler, “If this is the child that God is calling you to raise there is nothing that will stand in the way of your adoption but if this is not your child it won’t matter how ideal your home, paperwork, interview, etc. are because it is not God’s plans for you.”  That was my mantra through this process. When I found myself battling fear, or allowing the “what-ifs” to steal my joy I would remember her wise words and give God control.

Soon Dr. G walked in and was probably wondering why his assistant and patients’ mother were in tears but he didn’t ask. 🙂  He sat down and went over his findings and shared with us the good news: Molly won’t need braces, and the not so good news: Rusty will. The blessing, though, is that he doesn’t want to do anything  now so we have a year until we need to make decisions (much to Rusty’s relief.)

Braces news= happy Molly, sad Rusty

Braces news= happy Molly, sad Rusty

When we were leaving I realized how close we were to the Pymatuning Spillway, a place we had been introduced to by friends. It is a place where you can go and feed carp that are so abundant in that small area that the ducks just walk across their backs. We thought Tyler would get a kick out of that so we stopped at the store for old bread and drove over to the spillway. Tyler was excited to see the seagulls as soon as we climbed out of the car but then got very excited when he saw the carp. There was nobody else there so we had the place to ourselves. Tyler loved the fish and the birds that battled to get a piece of his bread. When it was time to leave he didn’t want to go. I think he would have gladly spent hours staring down over the railing if I had let him.

My twins!

My twins!

My beautiful girls!

The carp at the Spill Way.

The carp at the Spill Way.

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As I sat on the bench watching the kids throw bread to the fish on that beautiful spring day I counted my blessings..1…2…3…4. God is good!

My blessings!

My blessings!

The blessing of tears

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“Let your tears come. Let them water your soul.” – Eileen Mayhew

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I am grateful for tears. I am grateful for my tears, for the tears of my children, but especially for the tears that fall from Tyler’s eyes.  There have, in the last week or two, been a noticeable increase in the amount of tears that have fallen from his big, brown eyes and my heart is overflowing with gratitude for that blessing. When Tyler first came to us we were amazed at what a tough little kid he was. He would fall or get hurt but he never cried. We thought he was just a rough and tumble little boy or that perhaps the hard road he had traveled in his short life had made him tougher than most six-year-olds but now, in hindsight, we realize what we viewed as “toughness” was actually his emotional wall. When he arrived on our doorstep his emotional fortifications were firmly in place. You could tell from his body language that he didn’t trust us, that he expected us to fail him, that he knew that we were going to get rid of him as soon as he was naughty. He came to us determined not to let us get too close. When he was scared or sad he would fold into himself, avoiding eye contact and curl himself into a ball. He wouldn’t tell us what was bothering him. As time passed he became less closed off as he began to trust us more. He would look us in the eye, he would tell us what was wrong and he became more effective in vocalizing his emotions and how he was feeling. We have now seen more growth in him and it has come in the form of tears. Yesterday Tyler tripped on the steps and hit his elbow. He came running to me in tears, looking for comfort. He crawled into my lap, cuddled up tight against my chest and poured out all of his feelings of anger and frustration about the step that tripped him.  This past week has been full of these incidents. The other kids asked me why Tyler is being so overly sensitive. “Is he tired?” they asked.  His reactions seem dramatic in comparison to his “typical” reactions but what we are seeing now is “typical.” He is a six-year-old boy who should cry when he gets hurt. He should run to Mom in search of comfort when he is distressed. We see the walls crumbling.  I am grateful for Tyler’s tears because it means he is trusting us enough to expose that vulnerable part of himself to us. I am grateful for the interruptions because it means the mother/child bond is growing. I am grateful for the boo-boos that drive him into my arms and most importantly I am grateful for God’s hand in Tyler’s life and in mine as He takes a little boy.. broken, hurt , and fearful and makes him my son.

Oh, what a blessing tears can be!

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“Not flesh of my flesh, nor bone of my bone,

but still miraculously my own.

Never forget for a single minute,

you didn’t grow under my heart, but in it.”