Saturday, September 27, 2014

A Little Piece of Our Reality

Sometimes true reality doesn't fit nicely into words.

I think about y'all everyday. All you lovely folks who've supported us so fiercely these last few years. Hanging on every word and every picture, loving us, giving of yourselves for us, even some of you we've never met.

I don't mean to leave you hanging. Wouldn't it be great if we could sit down for a cup of coffee together? Maybe at our place, in case there are tears, and so we can enjoy the quiet that comes only after two active little people have fallen asleep for the night.

Since we're gathering here from far and wide, and since I've not yet found my new normal (for real though, it's got to be coming soon), and because honestly, time for a coffee date might not be in my near future, I'm gonna give this whole *writing my thoughts down* thing a try.

Side note: I'm drinking a big old cup of chai tea. Maybe you want to break and grab a warm cup of [fill in the blank] and when you come back we'll chat. I promise this will be the most jumbled conversation you've ever had with me here. I 'm afraid that's all I got today. Forgive me.


How's Tony? Is he loving life in his new family?

You know, Tony rocked that first week in Bulgaria. Michaela and I paused several times to say to one another, "This is almost too easy..." And it was. He was calm, content, affectionate, and loving every minute of his new life. Exploring the city? No problem. Living in a hotel? Super awesome. Adult to child ratio 2:1, yes, please! Three plane rides, long layovers, waiting in line over and over again? He didn't really mind.

Home has brought a new set challenges. I weaned Tony off a med he was taking for ADHD because, well, he's not ADHD. But, that med may have been taking the edge off of his anxiety. This last month and a half, he's been experiencing a full range of emotions as I assume he is grieving his old life and growing accustomed to a new one. He's testing every boundary and he's testing me. The question I think is often on his mind is..."Will you still love me if I...(this is different by the day)" There's anger and uncertainty and anxiety, all of which I trust God can heal. But it took nearly 15 years for such pain to build up in his little heart. I can't, and don't expect that he will be healed overnight.

There are a few things I'm discovering he loves, though. He has a stuffed puppy that lights up and sings. It is a great comfort to him. He LOVES to play the piano. He could sing "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" and "If You're Happy and You Know It" all day. I mean allllllllll day. And the boy can dance.

Let's see, what else about Mr. Tony? Ooh, yes! He is brilliant. Like beyond brilliant. And actually I think that explains so much of his pain. He has an acute awareness of his surroundings. He watches and listens and notices everything. He's already learning how to sign. And he can feed himself. And, he has on several occasions gone potty in the toilet. These are all things he's learned just since coming home! However, as I'm learning how to love him, and trying to win his heart (Oh, I have so much more to learn) I'm sure now that I need to back off of trying to teach him and just focus my efforts on trying to love him well. That'll be the springboard for all he'll be able to accomplish in the future.

I think all that teaching is the reason he and I got off to a bit of a rough start in those first weeks home. I was noticing all he was capable of. "He can feed himself! Well, let's work on that." "He woke up dry! Quick, run to the potty!" "He can sign! Say 'please', Tony. Can you say 'more'?" In my mind I just kept thinking about all the years of his life that were completely wasted. Thrown away. And I had this driving desire to win back all he'd lost. And in doing so, I kind of lost myself and all I know about attachment parenting. He has so much healing to do. I need to meet those most basic needs before I can teach him anything. Our relationship needs to come first. So, I'm back to feeding him and I'm backing off of potty training and signing, for the most part. We're also experimenting with essential oils and they really seem to be working. They're not the solution to healing his hurt. Only God can do that. But God seems to be using them as a small piece of the puzzle and I'm thankful to have found them.

We've had several doctor appointments so far and I am happy and grateful to report that Tony is surprisingly and miraculously quite healthy. His echo was perfect, his x-rays looked great, his bone age is 9 (incredible, seriously, considering his history), his blood work: better than expected. He did test positive for H. Pylori and just finished his first round of medication for that. He's continues to struggle with vomiting and diarrhea, but that could be from the antibiotics. He's been to the dentist, too, and just followed up with a dental surgery yesterday, which leads me to the most crazy news yet...he had no cavities! What?! All of the big black "holes" the green/gray/rotten looking color of his teeth, his bleeding gums, the terrible, awful was all calculus. That nasty, smelly stuff built up over the last 15 years and probably protected his teeth. The dentist said calculus is very uncomfortable and his mouth probably felt like it was filled with splinters. So, though his mouth was probably sore when he woke up (he had 7 baby teeth pulled), it still probably feels better than it has in a very long time.

How about a Sam update? What does she think of her new brother?

Can I just say that Sam is a rockstar? I don't mean to brag (except that I do), but she is just the most incredible little joy baby you'll every meet. She exudes happiness as she bounces around our house, taking her balloon for a walk, opening every drawer to search for treasures, drumming on every surface, each move she makes is music.

I couldn't stop laughing a few days ago when she emerged from her room where she'd been playing. She walked through the living room, pulled stuff off of every surface she could reach and casually threw it behind her, coughed twice, pulled a long red ribbon out of her mouth and then walked back out of the room. Haha, what? She cracks me up.

Parent teacher conferences were last week, and Sam's teacher and I both teared up talking about how far she's come, how special she is. My favorite quote from Mrs. Smith, her sweet new first grade teacher- "I hope you never worried about how the other students would treat Samantha at school, because they all love her. And they're not babying her, either. They are really friends." She went on to describe how she's had to ask the other first graders not to rush the door when Sam comes in the room, everyone eager to greet her. "That might overwhelm, Samantha," she tells them. And so the solution is that students take turns. And whoever is the class helper for the day gets to walk right over to Sam's desk and and say hello. They also get to ride along with her in the elevator when they go to specials. Several students enjoy taking turns reading to Sam, and two little girls, who I adore, claim Samantha as their best of friends.

Sam has just taken off, and it is completely a God thing. Actually, even before I left to pick up Tony, she was developing an independent streak. She just knows what she wants and doesn't often need help doing it. Now, I still take care of all of her feeding/hygiene needs and such, but as far as keeping busy, Sam is just full of fun ideas all day, moving from this toy to that instrument, from this trouble to that mischief. It's beyond amazing. I had to put a baby gate up in the bathroom doorframe because she learned how to turn the doorknob and was, several times a day, helping herself into the bathtub and treating herself to a bath with clothes on. (Well, short baths. Just long enough for mom to hear the water and ruin her fun.)

Sam likes her new brother. I thought she'd be the jealous one, for sure, but she is gracious to share her toys and her mom with Tony. More than once she's taken my hand and placed it on her brother. So generous, that girl! Tony is still not so sure about Sam. He had to compete for adult attention at the orphanage and still seems to view Sam as a threat. I've been forcing the together time issue and hope that one day very soon Tony will realize the friend he has in Sam.

How are you adjusting to being a mother of two? Is everything what you expected?

You know, I went into this adoption knowing it was going to be hard. I've been preparing people around me for a long time that things were going to be rough for a few months, maybe a year. Maybe forever. Taking Tony's age into account, and what I know of his history, it just made sense that this transition would not be easy. I was right. The thing is though, you can know that things are going to be hard. You can read the books, gather advice, set up your home...all of those things helpful. But you'll never be prepared for hard. Not really. I wasn't prepared for this, but I can't say that's a bad thing. I can already feel a tension brewing in me. Or maybe its a leaning in. I need the Lord right now. His nearness is my biggest desire. What more can a person need than a constant reminder of their need for Him. Life is hard, regardless, right? We all feel it, the world getting uglier by the day? I needed Tony to remind me to lift my head. Stop distracting myself. To bow my knee. I need him. We need HIM.

Well, y'all, it's getting late. I'm out of tea, and I bet you are, too. Maybe we ought to call it a night. Let's do this again soon, though, huh?

More to come.

Lots of love to all of you.


  1. Thank you for this beautiful update! Wow! Sam looks so grown up sitting next to her big brother! I need to apologize to you because I selfishly waited for this update. I would peek into your blog and sigh when you hadn't updated. Imagine that! are home adjusting to your life...Sam's life...Tony's life...and I give a sigh! Shame on me! I am sorry. Of course your life is difficult now...growing pains. My prayer is that God takes your frustration, pain, anger, anxiety, fear and any other burdens that need to be lifted from your family...and give some to me. I can carry them for a while! When I feel the burdens I may even grin, knowing where they come from. Again, thank you for the beautiful update. I admit...I am looking forward the book that could/should come from your experience and writing skill. I will wait patiently this time.

  2. So awesome! Sam is so much like my daughter, with music and looking for treasures. I pray God continues to strengthen you and the children each day. You have blessed these precious children so much. God is so good!

  3. Kimberly Umland-WaddleSeptember 28, 2014 at 3:05 PM

    What an exciting update Grace. Your struggles with trying to do what is best for Sam and Tony v. what you want to help them achieve is no different than any parent's struggles. We all want our children to reach their full potential, to love their siblings and over all to be happy. Your description of understanding how much work having Sam and Tony in your life is so true, to know it and to live it are NOT the same. You are doing a wonderful job adjusting at giving them each what they need and for Sam to be the helper for Tony has to be a fantastic growth experience for her. To feel useful and help someone feeds the soul.
    God has put all of you where you need to be right now, not just for Sam and Tony's needs but yours as well. We keep you all in our thoughts and prayers.

  4. I love you Grace, and I love your two little ones, they are precious. I will be praying for you sweet friend, keep leaning on Him, He is all you need. xoxoxo

  5. Thank you for taking time to update us all. Thank you for keeping it real. I am so thankful that you have such a great support system around you. I will keep your sweet family in my prayer as you all go thru this time of adjusting together.

  6. Thank you for the update. Praying and knowing God is at work in you and around you.

  7. Congratulations on the arrival of Tony! I love the photos of your two beautiful children! How very heartwarming to read of Sam ' s wonderful successes. Prayers being said for Tony ' s continued adjustment into your family.

  8. "You know, I went into this adoption knowing it was going to be hard. I've been preparing people around me for a long time that things were going to be rough for a few months, maybe a year. Maybe forever... it just made sense that this transition would not be easy. I was right. The thing is though, you can know that things are going to be hard. You can read the books, gather advice, set up your home...all of those things helpful. But you'll never be prepared for hard. Not really. I wasn't prepared for this"

    In the past year that I have been home with my beautiful son, I have yet to hear something that so adequately describes where I'm at. Thank you for this. For putting into words what I have been unable to put into words, partially because I'm too afraid of what people would think/say. Thank you for letting me know that I'm not the only one and for making it ok to say that although I was realistic and as prepared as I could be and although I expected hard, it's harder than I thought it would be. From one single mom to another, thank you. And know that you are in my thoughts and prayers.

    p.s. As I was reading this my son Samuel climbed up in my lap, pointed to a picture of Tony and said, "Who that?". "That's Tony", I said to which he replied, "Me go play Tony." Too bad we don't live closer... Seems our precious boys could be sweet friends (and us too I imagine!)