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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

3 years ago 8/8/2010

3 years ago today, I met Verlande. (8/8/2010)
What a day.
How silly I was.
Thinking there was a “building” that was an orphanage.  I had no idea and was embarrassed by myself for even thinking that these girls would have a building…  nope.  They had rubble and tents.  And cement walls to surround the area.  A sliding metal door as is found in Haiti, was all that separated the  “orphanage” (that Verlande calls orphalina.. this name is far too cute for what it really was) from the outside vendors and masses of people selling bananas, various onions, oil stands, vendors that had stacks of rebar… and just a holy mess it was.   Overwhelming.  The air was even overwhelming.

I walked in and my heart probably broke immediately… for so many reasons… for so many girls.  For the young girl crying at the very beginning… and the older girls that I KNEW were going to have what???  What would they do in a few short years when they were too old and had to leave the orphanage?  They would have nothing, nowhere, and nothing.  Mind boggling.  So heart breaking.  The whole thing frankly sucked.  How could this truly be.  But it was.

Of course I saw my girl… she was beautiful… but they all were.  But I saw Verlande intent.  Intent on drawing, with serious eyes… with playful eyes… eyes with intensity…. Oh my gosh… how does she look like me?  The girls were given soccer balls and I watched her play, and laugh, and love moving, and I know… I know it so truly.. I know that this girl …. Well, all these girls… do not belong here.  They don’t belong here and this one…. (Verlande.. although I honestly didn’t find her name out that day… I didn’t want to know) looks like me… We are connected and I know it. 

We leave, and that was it.  That was our only day at the orphanage.  We were working in other places on buildings during the week- no more orphanage.  I did not want to leave.. but I wanted to leave and not see so bad.  And I was scared because this was now imprinted on my heart somehow.  But how unrealistic is this- our family had never thought about adopting.  We are not a family that has oodles of money… Ryan is not even here with me.  What would he say.  What am I even thinking?  Am I really thinking this?  So overwhelming.

I have to walk out the sliding door.  Away from the girls.  They will be left in the rubble again.  Just with soccer balls, new dresses, crayons and crafts.  But still no future.  In all reality, there it is.  No future.  Just balls and crafts.  Sickness spills through my body.  The only way I can get on our tap tap/bus is to calmly say to myself something that I have no idea where it came from… I never used to talk to myself this way… but I say, “If God wants me to take care of her, I will be here again.”

The tap tap rolls away, through the horrible air, the horrible streets of garbage, the heat, in to Port au Prince.  Tears just roll down my face on this ride, and I just want to melt away.. I don’t want to be seen crying, I am with a group that is new to me, and I don’t know what to do with these feelings.  This intensity.  This child.  How can this world be?  What a day to my naïve soul.  What a wonderful, blessed day God gave me.  Amazing.  He brought me RIGHT to her.  

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

TWO months.
Oh my gosh. I cannot even believe… I’m writing this purely for my memories, I cannot imagine it will be any fun to read—I may even make lists because….
*1.  I am swamped.  I’m having a hard time balancing working/running my business/transitioning the 3 kids (yes, it is MUCH MORE than transitioning just Verlande)/ seriously--- these people I live with also seem to need dinners every single night… (and yes.. we still are having oatmeal every Wednesday night, you would think that would help make things easier… it does.. but I am still overwhelmed)… I’m trying to keep a bit of the things I love (swim/bike/run/gardening/reading/just BEING!)...  so yes… the days are packed, and I’ve been exhausted.  As packed as the days have been, I also have been so fatigued that I’ve been napping.  Yes, I am to the point now if I get my work done and I have 30 m inutes until my next person, I will set my alarm and sleep for 20 minutes.. I can fall asleep within 3.2 seconds, I swear. 
So that was all to say that.. this may be in the form of lists.
Verlande is really amazing.  I always knew she was.  But, even when I have a hard day with her, she really has been remarkable at adjusting from such a DIFFERENT Place.
Amazing.  She has told us more of her stories from Haiti- about her life living w/ her dad and brothers, the chickens and roosters, how they got water, where they would go to use a bathroom, her time at the “orphalina”… but at the same time, she somehow accepts this new life here very easily.  School—she is LOVING it.  She loves her teacher, she comes home explaining 1000% of the things they do (and I … do.. mean… 1000%... sigh…. Long long conversations and millions of words to  get the point of really a 5 word sentence of “we play voll eyball in PE”…  she loves telling me about “all her friends”…she loves her teachers—she loves her PE teachers—of course this is important to me!  And she made them special cards for teacher appreciation week, she loves music and art, and sings the songs they learned and loves bringing home her artwork.  If anything, I sometimes cringe that she is so overly dramatic about how much she loves school, because it leaves absolutely zero time for Forrest or Phoebe to pipe in with the things they did…. And I worry that all of her over-enthusiasm kind of “squashes” Phoebe’s and Forrest’s “space”…. Just overwhelms everything.
She does well with soccer team… somewhat well—well in the fact that she goes out there and “plays soccer”… she sometimes is super aggressive and sporty and really goes after the ball.  She even has been known to pull some pretty sweet “soccer  moves”… but also she has times where literally her foot jjust MISSES the ball and kicks the grass…. Or she is like 3 feet from the goal and it literally goes 5 feet away from the goal- just not even sure how she will not be able to kick the ball…. It is funny.. she is such a mix of great coordination and being athletic, but then also a bit unfocused.  Not sure what to think about it.
She does really well with her food eating— in SOME regards.  She really has done a great job learning that in this family, we simply must eat our vegetables.  She knows that if she is hungry, she will have to come back to the broccoli because we have saved it for her.  She really has been a rockstar at “getting that”.. but at the same time, I don’t really tell her that since I act like it is not a choice.  I also have to be very hopeful and careful that phoebe and forrest don’t act like they want to get “out of” eating their vegetables….

She seems to already have become somewhat “Americanized”…. She complains of small thing that she thinks will get her some attention- she really is an ‘attention suck”… she simply knows how to get all eyes on her.   I have to say that annoys me.  She will act like a scrape is life threatening at times.  It would annoy me with P and F doing this also, but I feel bad saying this, but it annoys me more because in the back of my mind, I think, “hey… you have it so good here, we have medicine and band aids… and frankly… the tiredness in your legs or whatever she is complaining about, will go away.”   I wish I didn’t feel negative like this, I wish I was just doubled over in love with taking care of a “fake booboo.”… like I might do for a baby… she didn’t have this experience of being loved on and taken care of fully as a baby/child… so I feel like I should give her this extra “grace” and softness… I’m trying to be the best I can for her. 
She loves when I do her hair in great styles.. I am proud of myself for really trying so hard, and so thankful that she seems to think I am pretty decent at this!!!  Seriously.. so thankful!  I didn’t want this to be an issue.. I wanted her to accept me as her mom, to not think of me as clueless.. (although honestly.. I am in terms of hair)…
A few funny things:
*she calls her diary of wimpy kid book her “diarrhea book”… she can’t quite see that these words are different.  (since I originally wrote this.. it is no longer under the category of “funny”.. seriously, over and over she keeps calling it that and we are tired of reminding her that diarrhea is her watery poop from her worms in her stomach. Grrrr.)
**Forrest is having some troubles.. but also is loving having her as a sister.  He loves to just get ON her for any little thing.  Verlande’s “foot touched him”… she “stood on the grass of the people’s lawn at the bus stop” (I don’t let the kids play on that persons yard.. and seriously.. I will never move to a house that has a bus stop in front of it)… any thing he can find… He loves to tell me.. AND HER.  Verlande, you’re not able to use that pencil, you can’t hold the fork in your left hand, silly annoying stuff.  She takes it well, but we have to tell Forrest that he cannot just tell Verlande what to do all the time.  And she plays unfairly back with him.. she cheats in games and thinks she can push stuff past him and it just gets  messy… it gets FREAKING REAL.. that is all, reg. brother and sister stuff.  We are real… I love this.  We’re in it.. AREN’T WE LUCKY!?? Seriously, we waited so so so so so long for this… it is so good.. even when I’m complaining here about their silly ole stuff!
**Phoebe is having some troubles too.  She has just been randomly all grumpy grumpy.  Yuck!  And she cries over nothing.  She is just in a rotten vinegar mood, and then cries…. And I do feel bad for her.  She is so sensitive.  She has given up her own room, she shares with VVerlande so well… she has prayed for Verlande for so long… She is so generous. Oh .. I could cry.  And then when Phoebe cries, Verlande cries for her.  It is sweet.. but also annoying.. that just amplifies all of the crying we have.. yuck.
**and of course Verlande has her troubles.  She does things specifically we tell her not to.  She threw a book the other day for the first time, and then answered back to me like a true 15 year old attitude… I nearly died.  She gets bossy, she crosses her arms and HUFFS when she doesn’t get to watch TV or do something… well, she is a kid, huh.  It is ok… it is.  It is easier to see this when I write this. In the middle of it, I mentally freak myself out thinking, “oh NO… she expects to get everything she wants” but in writing this, I see that this just makes her NORMAL!  She went to her first birthday party this past weekend and she was definitely nervous when I dropped her off. We spent a good 15 minutes talking to her about what to expect, how to behave, etc.  She definitely was a little clingy and uncharacteristically worried looking.  1.5 hours later I went to pick her up and she was having a BLAST!  I heard for 1 full hour afterwards how much fun she had (well, her first words were “we had such a good CAKE”  (I thought the word would be time.. but no, it was CAKE… more on that shortly)..  It was a birthday party that phoebe also went to, so I was slightly trying to get Verlande to talk less about it and make sure to get phoebe to talk a little bit about.   Then I got the real information on the party…. From the mom of the birthday girl… that Verlande picked a small fight/power struggle with another child, that she took 2 juice boxes (after we specifically told her only ONE of the drink and cake)(yes, we were quite specific based on earlier instances that we have needed to do this), and also that she wouldn’t leave the table where she ate her cake and sat there licking the plate with her tongue.  Damn I was mad.  Seriously.. mad and sad and shakey.. trying to not take it “personally” but I did.  I did because Verlande is smart and it isn’t new to her, this isn’t the first time we have told her these things, because I knew darn well she would not have done this in front of us.  She knew better, and I know that she was basically trying to get away with it, so I was mad… hurt, worried, I don’t even know…  We had the same thing on her first field trip with school- she had a water bottle and big lunch in a bag- enough to definitely keep her full through the trip.  But of course I wasn’t there, and even after being instructed that this was hers, that she was not to take someone else’s water or food, that she had to use these through the 6 hours.. apparently it was quite an effort through the day for her to continue asking the adults for more food.  Two steps forward, one step back.
It is all okay.. it will be.
She is trying to bike now without training wheels and very excited.  She is in love with caterpillars.  She is still trying to act too physical with people.  She sings in church honestly way too loud, and we remind her all the time that when we sing and pray that we are not trying to be the loudest or ‘best”… that God can hear us even when we are silent.  She is an attention seeker.  I am not, and it makes me completely uncomfortable…

OK, so I am trying to just write this all down and this will be it since I am again 2 weeks left for a “2 month” update!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

I’m writing this after Verlande has been home about 5 weeks…
I’ve been busy, tired, joyful, frustrated… knowing it is all so so so so so good.. and I am so blessed, lucky, thankful.. but of course I am human and I get frustrated, and then I fall into a trap of wondering what is wrong with me, why am I frustrated at my child after all she has been through, and then I think maybe I am a mean and cold mama… and it leads me to feel bad at myself, and then am generally more prone to letting my emotions get me frustrated…  So it is such a blend of things.
I look around me all the time thinking, “my little girl from Haiti is HOME! We have waited so long, we are so lucky..” and I KNOW I am in the middle of a real live dream… I cannot believe when I see her getting off of the bus, or when she is not here/ at school, and I think, “she is AT SCHOOL sitting in a chair, doing American school, having her NEW LIFE at THIS MOMENT!” I am amazed… I love and feel so lucky to do her hair and have been trying to do as well as I can with it… I want to do so well, this will show me that I am “worthy” in some regards of being her mom, even though I didn’t get to take care of her as a baby.. I think I have some part of me that needs to still show her that I’m “legit” and enough for her… I know that is funny and probably sounds self conscious.. but I just love doing her hair and feeling like it helps me bond w/her, and I feel like I am really “taking care” of her…. Meeting a need…. I go into her and Phoebe’s room at night to make sure they are tucked in… really just to look at their cuteness while they sleep… and I’m like a kid in a candy shop.. “ohhhh she is IN HER BED”!!!!
She started school and has been doing well… great, in fact.
She got on the bus the first day, SURPRISINGLY well.. (and I was super excited to go back to work!!)  She loves coming home and getting her homework done RIGHt AWAY if she hasn’t done it.. or if we have a busy night, she’ll do it in the AM before the bus… she reads every day, and is doing a great job, but it has also frustrated me to some extent because she is so slow and dramatic and it takes her like 20 minutes sometimes per page.. not because she is struggling with words, but because she likes to SING the words… and then she tries to stop and look at the pictures, make jokes about them, etc!!  This is the main THEME of the times that I lose my patience with her… is that she is constantly trying to bring the center of attention to herself- whether it is constantly talking …. Even about nonsense things, or making up stories, or talking about how her “nose wants to take a walk” or anything to just keep words going… to trying to always be reading out loud when all 3 are trying to do their homework (which reminds me that I need to very quickly create 3 separate “desk” areas or something in our house)… or dancing down the aisle in church (yes, Ryan had her and Forrest and was putting their coats away while Phoebe and I sat down and before I knew it, here came Verlande dancing and twirling in the aisle, lifting her leg up, pirouetting like Angelina Ballerina…. Not good for someone like me who would like to sit in the back and be as ANONYMOUS as possible!!
Verlande has started soccer as well.  She goes with Phoebe to all of her soccer right now:  Tuesday PM soccer which is a big huge thing with probably about 50 -75 kids that they break into groups/boys/girls, etc… Then her TEAM practices are Saturdays and  games are Sunday.  She has done well, Ryan is her and Phoebe’s (and Forrest’s) coach. She does love to go out into the yard also and practice soccer.  She loves playing outside, and I love that also.  She loves to jump on the trampoline, bounce the basketball, bike, play soccer, swing, etc. 
We knew we would have some issues that we would be dealing with… and we are. They are not HORRIBLE, but yes, we do need to  pay attention to  these.   She watch because as she is constantly seeking out being in the limelight/center of attention, she always wants to be the one that gets to sit next to Daddy when reading books, or getting to feed the dogs, or going first somewhere,  choose the nighttime book, and Phoebe and Forrest notice this and of course do not allow it, nor should they.  And  try to not let it get to the point that they have to be the ones to not allow it.  It is MY JOB to catch these things and to make it fair for all 3…. And Ryan’s job also… and it frustrates me when he doesn’t catch these things, and it is so natural for me to catch them.  She definitely loves to TEST.  She is a smart little cookie.. She is always thinking of how she can get MORE.. more stuff, more attention, more time, more food, more of what she wants… so we struggle with that a bit… just teaching her some “life lessons” that she hasn’t ever been taught.
We are doing some things purposefully to remind her “of her place” …. That she is a child… that she now has parents…. Who take CARE of her…. That she isn’t 100% independent any longer.  So even though we are sure that it would probably be okay if she is in the front yard by herself, we don’t allow her to go out there by herself.  We try to scoop her food, pour her salad dressing, (more on her eating her veggies to follow)… and I have been  mostly getting her clotehs out for her on a daily basis (sometimes because I’m not sure what will fit her… her body shape is so different from Phoebe’s… also because sometimes she has come down on her own in shorts that are WAYYYYY unacceptably small with her buns sticking out the bottom and these long winter socks pulled up to  her knees…a nd… there… is…. Just no way.  She has been very accepting of me teling her that she has to change, or that I will do these things for her… some things she WANTS to always have done for her.. mostly like for someone to reach and get things for her.. I’m not sure why she thinks that she can ask us to do those things for her… but I feel very lucky that she is open to allowing her independence to be…. Lessened.
Food—she has really been a rockstar about adapting.. not that it was without effort, grumpiness, not speaking to us, I think there were tears…  but we didn’t budge and now it is much better.  She has cereal w/skim milk every morning for breakfast (I wasn’t sure if she would go for this—she wasn’t a cereal person before)… she has pbj or a lunchmeat sandwich with 2 fruits and a snack during the day, another snack when she gets home.. and with dinners, we have made it clear that all kids eat vegetables.  She doesn’t “LOVE” some of them.. but she will eat them.  She likes sweet potatoes, soft/steamed broccoli, she will eat green beans, she will eat some salad (and I always leave one food at dinners that I know she wants and they don’t “get that” until the veggies are done, no matter what…. She likes corn, she has eaten tomatoes, so really I cannot complain at all on this end!  YES!!!
She has gotten so much better on her “space” issue—needing to be on top of us….. literally with her face within MILLIMETERS of our faces… so now she still likes to cuddle, but she will accept when I tell her that she needs to give one/some of us more space to “GET AIR!”  (yes, it is THAT close!)
I cannot believe she did the science fair at school, and did so well.  She seems to have made some friends in school, and she says hello and enjoys being with other kids on the soccer field/playground/recess, etc. 
There have been so many FUNNY FUNNY things also… I should have written them down.. I  mean DAILY things… words she gets confused (just found out that she thought “rockstar” which I will say they are when they are doing really well at cleaning their room or homework or something…. She thought I was saying “walk on star”,
*she apparently struck up a conversation with Phoebe’s teacher while she was in the bathroom.. Verlande takes FORE VER when she has to go poop, and literally will be in there 10-20 minutes… and apparently she knew it was Phoebe’s teacher, so she said hello and was asking her questions and having a conversation with her.  Too funny.  It is partially just a personality thing with her of being happy, friendly and easy to talk with, but also it is definitely a function of overattaching and over- needing attention (and overTALKING, haha!)
IT IS ALL SO GOOD, even when there are times it is not good… I know that it really IS good (does that make sense)!  As long as it does to me!  We are a very blessed family and happy to be together, working together  to do our best each day, adjust together, and be familyJ

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Two weeks home!


And today marks two weeks that Verlande has been home.
Two great, hard, fun, scary, and FULL weeks! 
We have had tears and crying and pouting (really from all of us).. but we have so had love.  I have looked out  my window to see my three kids jumping and flipping on the trampoline, I have run on the treadmill while looking at Phoebe, Forrest and Verlande playing in front of me, I have gone in to check on 3 sleeping children.  I have been amazed.  I have watched Phoebe share her dolls, room, really her LIFE… her friends, her time.  I have never been so proud.
I have watched Forrest struggle so much, but also have seen him ask for one on one time, climb on my lap for hugs and kisses, and know that we are there for him.  He knows we will spend those extra times with him, and has seen that we have made extra one on one time for him, with extra books, games, lego building, etc.
I have watched Verlande gracefully (more than I would most likely being in her situation) learn our life:  polite ways of speaking, how to give people some space, how to share knowing that there will be a more and that there will be a later.  I have seen her break down because a store was too much, I have seen her try to lie and manipulate a bit, but I have seen her recover,  having her first glimpses that she can fall and get back up, that she can start over and be loved just as much as she was before,  that she… like all of us…. Will be given grace…

It has broken my heart to see her stomach huge with giardia, to see her skin erupt in rash/welts, and to hold her tight (hold  her DOWN and still more like it) while she gets her first vaccines and blood tests.  It makes me look up to her so much as she showed us pictures- the only ones we have seen- of her birth mother, and listened to Verlande explain her family situation, who is and who is not her brother, (we are still not sure), listen to her explain how she was told her mom died, who she thinks she lived with at certain times during her life, how she came to the orphanage.  She has joined our family so well, accepted us and I can see her working to adapt to us.
I am so lucky to have had Ryan’s support these past two weeks in our critical stages of bonding, establishing family rules and a general sense of what we do.  He has been firm with her, which I worried about him being able to do, and of course loving.
We’ve been on our first grocery shopping trips, daily bike rides and dog walks, visited schools, teachers and met her new class, gone to a few playgrounds, had family dance parties, game nights, my first race that she was home for, snowdays, church pictures, to the farm.  We have made bunny bait for Easter, planned fun stuff that the kids wanted to do on spring break, watched her first movie with us, and we have really tried to have a good combination of busy and just “down” (for all involved!!!!). Oh, and she helped me plant my indoor seeds which I will transplant, and all the kids painted a bird feeder this spring break!!

We see airplanes going overhead, and it amazes me that I am no longer dreaming that I was on that plane, going to bring her home.  It amazes me that the phone rings and I have no thoughts of, “is this it”….. I’ve been so busy that I regret so much that I hadn’t messaged my “adopting from Haiti” facebook group until today—they were my lifeline, and every day I had intended to message them…  But I’ve been so busy, and really hate that excuse.
I don’t mean to  make any of this seem like we have it under control more than we do!!!  Ii am sure we do not!! Haha!  But I also feel like the ridiculousness of the wait, the struggle, the TERROR of these years, has simply just diminished (for the moment at least) my frustrations with any of the hard stuff that comes up.. I am reveling in it.. I can do hard right now!! Yes please!  She is here, so yes please! I will work hard and be thankful for that!  And again, I don’t mean to seem like I am all happy, sunshine and unicorns here.. nope, I’ve been tired, and I write this on the day that Ryan is taking off so that I am essentially ON  MY OWN for most of the day (except for planned special times with each of the kids), but just doing computer work, exercise, and yes I just had a nap!  Because no, I doubt, I question, I worry that I am too tired to be a fun mom, I question why I am being too strict with Verlande?  Or is that right?  I am treating her just like P and F, is that right or wrong, are my expectations too high? Etc etc.. so I am working also, and never quite sure except that I am doing my best!  

And what I have learned over 2.5 years

As I am thinking over the past few days about how much I have to learn in the next months and years as Verlande becomes part of our family, I think back to the past 2.5 years.  They’ve been tough.  And I’ve learned a lot.  More than I’ve wanted to at times, but I don’t doubt there was good in all of it.
And what I have learned…..
1.        “Stuff” doesn’t matter…… there is very little in life that I actually need.
I learned this lesson partially from the first trip to Haiti, in which I was inside of a Haitian “home” and saw how little they had.  I saw people living under a tarp with basically nothing.  I saw people whose belongings/home were perched on the MEDIAN of the street—and these were the lucky ones because the water when it rained would drain down out of their stuff into the muddy, gravely, rubble and filthy street.  And then I came back to my home and felt sick with STUFF.   I have never been one to buy much, however, this took a drastic change even FURTHER when we started the adoption process.  Literally I did not buy myself a single item for 1.5 years, I haven’t gotten my hair cut in 2.5 years, I would still look through catalogs, since I think this is relaxing, but I would just recycle them—I would realize, “I already have shirts”.. I realized- I have enough clothes.. honestly, unless you are OUT of clothes, I figure now, why would I need more?  One of our favorite things as a family has always been to go out for dinner once/week.  We love eatingJ  We tried to continue going out, but to a lesser degree, we would go out maybe 1-2x/month and it would be to very inexpensive places that we also had coupons for (Cici’s pizza- did you know you can feed a family of 4 A LOT of food for $12.. (this is with a coupon, everyone getting water, and this is a buffet, so we let the kids go crazy since we weren’t going out very often!!!  We now love cici’s pizza!)  All of these changes were definitely conscious changes.  I noticed them yes.  But what I also really noticed was – the times that we DID go eat somewhere felt like HEAVEN.  I appreciated going and sitting somewhere and the food tasted FANTASTIC… I was so much more appreciative.  And I have survived with most of the same clothes. For crying out loud, I still have jeans from high school, so I’ll be fine!

2.       People are full of surprises; both good and bad.  Oh, this one breaks my heart.  Let me start with the heartbreaking stuff.  People are not always out to do the right thing in life.  Adoption is not set up to help children.  And that is all I can say about this.  On many regards, we have seen some bad stuff that is terrible to come to grips with… it is terrible and unfathomable that this IS REALITY for kids in this world.    BUT OH THE GOOD:  people CAME.  Love came..  Love poured in.  I never in my life have realized what DEEP and wonderful friends I am blessed with.

3.       I like my naïve head… and I want to keep it.  I have always been naïve.  I realize I am.. but I just love it.. I sometimes want to think things are fair and good and for the good of all.  Oh, bless this naïve heart.  On days when I see the realness of some things, I just become so affected.  I am sad to see people judge others so much.  It really breaks my heart.

4.       I can actually let go of selfish ways… I am always learning.  Before I went to Haiti, I had so many things I wanted to do… and I still do… but I am now acutely aware that my end all be all is not myself.

5.       You can feel your heart hurting (I already knew that)… you can also FEEL God’s presence (I hadn’t ever felt that).

6.       Social networking/facebook is my friend.  Quite simply, I do not know where I would be without my “adopting from Haiti” facebook group.  Yes, I have friends now who I have never met face to face, but who I truly consider my friends each day…  I don’t know if that is weird,, or just a sign of our times, but.. I NEVER thought it would be this way for me!

7.       It will be what it will be.  I love the book “Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle, and it taught me, or introduced me to something I desperately need to have tattooed on my brain:  if you are full of anxiety, you are not thinking of the now.  You are thinking of the past or the future.  If you are only thinking of now, then you know you are ok, and so there should be no anxiety.  This is tough.

8.       I do believe in a PLAN that is set for our lives… yes we alter it and still need to work… but it is pretty neat to look back and realize… all of this happened for a reason… so that I could be where I was at that one moment.

9.       I’m weaker than I thought.  I have cried more, not been able to get out of bed, and been at the bottom.  I’ve wondered how in the world I can carry on.  I am maybe even more sensitive than ever… is that even possible?  Why do I carry other’s pain so much, and why is  mine so deep.

10.   I’m stronger than I thought.   I’ve stood for what I knew was right, and it wasn’t easy ever.  But  I never ever ever gave up.  How can my heart be so so weak and strong at the same time?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Planning for VERLANDE's first day/month/s at home!

So, we have waited two years to be able to plan to bring Verlande home.
We’ve read books.  Stopped reading books when it got frustrating to be planning and hoping with no real movement or results.  We’ve read blogs, we have watched other families bring kids home from Haiti as well as other countries.  And we have talked much about what is right for US.  As we have learned, it will be important to be confident in our choices, to not second guess ourselves…. And we need to share that with you.
So… how will it even look when Verlande comes home?
  YES.. we will want to have an airport “party”.. of course not “party” to overwhelm or scare Verlande,  but a gathering… just come see us, see Verlande, celebrate Verlande meeting Phoebe and Forrest, celebrate Verlande coming to America ..     We are aware that some people are for these airport gatherings, some against them, so here are our reasons that yes… we invite you to be there.  First of all, you have all been part of this.  So many of you have made this happen.  Phoebe and Forrest deserve this also.  They deserve to have some excitement and see that this process that they have lived through was REAL.  They have been patient and so eager to welcome their sister home.
HOWEVER, as much as we will celebrate this day, we are very aware that this day is a day of one of the biggest losses of Verlande’s 8.5  years.  Everything she knows is gone.  And of course there will be some degree of being overwhelmed.  But we also think that she is a very happy girl, that she will be happy to see balloons, and that she deserves to see that she was prayed for, celebrated, and so so so so so important to the world… Please be aware and accepting that maybe she will not smile like you have seen in pictures, you may think she looks sad, we have no idea how she will look.  But I do think it will mean so much to her to see that she is “a star” and people are celebrating her.   
So, you are invited, we want you there.  That being said, please know that other than Phoebe and Forrest and Ryan and I, we won’t be able to let her hug anyone else. (PLEASE see below  as her attachment to her mom, dad, brother and sister is of ULTIMATE importance from the beginning,  she needs to learn what FAMILY is for the first time).  Our focus will need to be on Verlande and bringing her to Phoebe and Forrest and to her new home.  Soooo..  we won’t be able to stay to talk to you individually possibly, etc.  We will just do what is best for our kids as we see how they are reacting.  Please if you are coming to the airport, bring cameras and video….  And some tissues….
 BEING HOME:    The first week, there will be medical/dental/school assessments  and vaccinations that she will need to go to.  She may be sick from new water that she is not used to, parasites that are being treated, etc.  She may even need some extra time to get used to two big, furry, tail wagging, tongue licking bundles of dogJ  Please know that we won’t be doing too much in the first month socially.  I will be taking off of work, the kids won’t be able to do as many playdates, although we still want them to be able to get OUT and be themselves and carry on with some sense of normalcy… But the majority of time, we will be together as a family of 5, allowing Verlande to learn about family life.  We won’t be having anyone else in our home during this time for sure, as we have read about adjusting and attaching issues, and will follow the guidance of the blend of information we have taken in. 
Verlande has lived 8 years so far, really learning to survive.  She has lived in someone’s house for the past year and a half, but she is used to her caregivers changing, as well as depending on caregivers in an orphanage setting.  She will be learning what a Mom and Dad do, that she goes to Mom and Dad for all of her needs, and that we will meet them.  She also needs to learn boundaries, time to see examples set by Phoebe and Forrest, how to ask for help and also how to be loved.  Of course each child is different and she may adjust easily, or not.  We will have no expectations of her, and will meet her where she is.
We know at the beginning, family and friends will want to hold her, let her sit on their laps, etc, and Verlande will even be reaching out to you to do this---- MORE THAN SHE SHOULD.   This is a survival behavior she has learned  in order to  get food, get attention from people on mission trips (me).  But I have to ask you to not do this, and instead direct her to Mommy and Daddy for holding, for help, for getting her a glass down, if she is hungry, thirsty, needs a tissue, has a question.  She must learn that we meet those needs for her, and that manipulation is not part of the way we live.  As a friend or family member, probably the best  thing you could ever do for us is to speak well of us to Verlande, to show her that we are supported and loved by you, and to redirect her to us.  That may be hard at times, but it honestly could be the most helpful thing you could ever do for us- is to find an opportunity to direct her to her mom or dad…. And help her learn what this relationship is all about.
Of course this won’t last forever, and we cannot wait until the day when we see a very healthy connection, response, and understanding of family and boundaries, but please don’t take our time getting there personally.  We will have to constantly be reminding ourselves to not doubt our decisions.  It will be a great and huge help to us in this learning stage if there are opportunities that arise where you can direct her back to her Mom and Dad.
Also, something we have learned in preparing for Verlande to come home, is that traditional parenting advice often-times  runs OPPOSITE of traditional parenting advice. Some well-meaning family members will tell a new mother not to pick the child up every time she cries because it will spoil him. A child who is at-risk or who suffers from attachment issues must be picked up every single time she cries. She needs consistent reinforcement that this mommy/daddy will always take care of her and always keep her safe.   Another example is “time outs.”  While Phoebe and Forrest have… AHEM.. had their fair share of timeouts… a time out with a child who has been abandoned is simply another abandonment and proof in their minds that they don’t deserve… that they are less than…. They are not wanted.  We will be using “time in’s” and other strategies we have learned.  All in all…. Please know that we are working 100% as hard as we can to be the best parents to our 3 kids, and advice and strategies that is not geared towards older adopted children is most oftenly not recommended.  (yes, oftenly is a new word).
GIFTS:   We already have the biggest gifts- the reality of bringing Verlande home.  We don’t need anything else, except your continued friendship… And at this point, Verlande will be SOOO overwhelmed—the toys and books that we already  have in our house are already going to be more than enough to overwhelm her, so we must ask that you please do not bring any gifts for Verlande or Phoebe or Forrest.  We want to continue our efforts to live as “non-stuff” people—and we don’t want to build an incorrect expectation to Verlande about receiving gifts, or that these new people in her life are for “things”…. 
Of course, in my dreams, Verlande comes home to a magical home, where there is an open and clear kitchen table, then a warm meal comes out of the oven, there is glorious music playing, there is sunlight cascading through our windows, there is no dog fur all over our floors, the kids are just preciously playing and loving on each other….   And then I wake up.  We KNOW:  there will be days… just as there are now…. days when stuff is just not good.  When I am tired.  When she is tired of us.    There will be REAL LIFE happening here, and it is ok.. it is more than ok… we are so so lucky.  There will be days of ups and downs, and we are thankful for them all.   If I need to vent, please let me vent for a minute.  Please do not tell me of YOUR worries about our situation, and other people’s horror stories (don’t worry, people have already shared these with us.. we know.. thank you much!)  And please don’t tell me that “this is what I asked for” if I am having a hard day.  Please just let me have a friend in you to vent with and tell that we need a breath, we are simply   just having a day… just like we have days NOW without verlande… Just all the more REALNESS, which is what we are so grateful for!  Thanks to all of those who have already asked how they can help- honestly, this is it—just being our friends and just being there for us even on hard days… Please be my friend… and please maybe bring me a coffee somedayJ
This will be the beginning of the REST of the JOURNEY!!  We are so blessed!  We are so blessed to be given the gift of finding Verlande and forever being her family.  Thanks for all that you have done by being there through these years.

DETAILS:  IF you can come, no pressure, we know it is in the middle of workday/school, etc….
Thursday, MARCH 14, AA flight 1946 Miami to IAD/Dulles:  ARRIVING 1:45PM  *meet at the appropriate baggage claim area (as I believe that is the farthest in you can come).  IF flights need to be changed, we will email this email list, or I will post on facebook!!!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

February.... random thoughts from.. almost there?


So people had mentioned back in November that this last part was the hardest part of the adoption… because you are soooo close.  I’ll admit, I kind of got mad to hear that.  Annoyed.  Even HURT.  Why would someone tell me that, after all that I had been through.   After being at the BOTTOM of despair, seriously.  I’ve got this, thank you. 
Crap.  They were right, and I cannot believe I have to say that.  I literally WAS expecting joy, continued relief, even redemption of the journey.   And I find I’ve hit the bottom again.
Yes, I am here today.  Oh God, again.  Why is our daughter not home.  Am I really asking that.  It is February.  I’m sad and missing my daughter.  Yes, I’m busy with Phoebe and Forrest, busy with life, work, everything.   But busy is different than not waiting. 
I never dreamed, and I would have judged.  I never dreamed that a Mom’s heart could so passionately love without carrying inside of me.   I would have judged that it couldn’t be so hard…. If it never has been right?  She has never BEEN HERE.  We’ve never known life WITH our daughter in her home, how can I “miss her.”  I would have judged.  I only know now because here I am… and I am struggling.
I grieve for the years that she has lost having a family.  I grieve for her heart that knows she was left and abandoned, and for her heart that questions if we are really ever coming… and when we do for the lack of trust if we are staying… if she is deserving…   I grieve for time that has been taken from us together by what I see as excess “investigations” throughout these years.  Seriously.  I grieve for the simple days that we will never have because time has gone by… even though I praise God that I KNOW she WILL come home.. I miss the days that she has missed here.  Picnics that she has missed with us, summer days at the pool, playing on the swingset, nighttime books, afterschool snacks, walking with the dogs, church, grocery shopping….. I love these things with  my children… I just watch them and see MIRACLES and am so thoroughly thankful for what I HAVE…that I miss what we have NOT had with Verlande.

I woke up today, after two days of beginning to feel  myself seeping back into panic mode, anxiety, when will this ever end…  what do I say to Phoebe and Forrest, who have been expecting their sister, praying for their sister… I woke up with my heart tearing, and literally with a huge BOULDER on my lungs… it amazes me how my body can literally feel these things.  But I made a conscious choice to CHOOSE my day .  I have a choice to be overcome with heaviness, or I can live TODAY and be glorious and joyful.  Verlande will not come home any sooner if I wallow in sadness, so live TODAY.  Right? I tried.  And then I hit the bottom of what I could do.
Tears streaming down my face, headache that has been pounding since last night (maybe I am just sick and that is why my emotions are overcoming me?)…. I had to lie in bed and just let myself cry, and I am not out at the ice skating rink with school ice skating night tonight.. (although I love going ice skating) I just know I cannot continue to live today in a way that is not genuine.  I hate it that I cannot fake things.  It simply depletes me.  I have no energy for fakeness. I am who I am.  I feel things, I am passionate,  I struggle with anxiety and depression, and  I am simply desperate for our daughter to come home.
Yesterday, on the way home from work in the AM, it was pouring rain, still dark outside (6:45AM) and I got to an intersection and there was a woman walking in the rain.  She had on a huge coat, and was carrying a teeny flashlight.  My thoughts were negative towards her, I’ll admit…. I was  thinking, “seriously lady, get a real flashlight and why the heck are you walking NOT on the side of the road with a sidewalk (this was Reston parkway, so a busy road, and she was walking by this corner that has NO edge on the road—super dangerous area to walk even in daylight)… so I was kind of just watching her slightly, then my thoughts drifted to… what IS she doing?  Why is she out there- does she maybe NEED something?  And then it happened.  She just stopped walking and stood by my car, looking in at me.. through the darkness, through the rain… and I am looking back at her.. and yes, she is looking right at me… she is looking right INTO my eyes… and I am questioning if I am really seeing this right, is she really looking right at me… and WHAT DOES SHE NEED?  Do I ask her if she is okay, can I drive her somewhere, she is still staring at me.. I haven’t put my window down, DO I HELP HER????? I am still looking at her, and she is still looking at me.  THE LIGHT TURNS GREEN.  And I DROVE OFF.  I freaking drove off.  And that kind of rocked my world.  I drove off.
(and you are wondering how this relates to Verlande)…  well….Through the adoption, I have had the question asked a few times, “why we wanted to adopt since we already have our “own” children.”  And it boggles my mind that people even ASK me this…  First of all  *WHY NOT?

But mostly…. It brings me back to August/September 2010, after meeting Verlande.  I had a childs eyes, beautiful eyes….. on my heart…. And I didn’t know what to do… but I knew I would not drive off on this child… who I knew was my child… and no matter how  much these years  may have rocked my world, driving off would have been incomprehensible to me.  (so yes… I am still slightly rocked by the woman in the rain… who was she… was that REAL?  And… why… why did I drive off).

Anyway.  I sometimes wonder and worry that something horrible is going to be happening in my life that is going to require this huge strength and faith in order for me to survive…  why else am I being asked to build these foundations… that is just me being nervous nelly though, I suppose.
Bottom line… I’m struggling, I miss Verlande, and we could not be more ready for her to come home.  I envision her sitting next to me on that plane, lifting off, flying through the beautiful sky, coming home.  Forever.  
(this helped me to write this all out, so thank you if you are still reading and didn’t mind reading itJ!)
Xoxo, sharon

“A person who lives in faith must proceed on incomplete evidence, trusting in advance what will only make sense in reverse.”  - Philip Yancey