Comptons '17

Comptons '17

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

All rules are not created the same.

One year ago we intentionally set out to ruin our lives. Or so some would say. There are a handful of unwritten rules in the adoption world and we were about to break them all. Our plane tickets had been purchased and our bags were packed. All we had to do was step on a plane to seal our fate.

Rule #1: Don't adopt out of birth order.
We were warned that adopting a child who is older than any children already in the home could cause unnecessary difficulties with attachment and jealousy. Children are more accepting of a new sibling if they join the family as the youngest child. Made perfect sense. Absolutely.

Problem was- God placed a starving 4 year old boy in front of us and said "go".

Rule #2: Don't adopt more than one child at a time. This one is a no brainer. Obviously, if you are going to adopt (especially if you are already breaking rule #1) you would have to be a fool to bring ANOTHER child into the mess you are creating for yourself. We agreed. Wholeheartedly.

Problem was- God placed another boy in front of us, one whose needs were largely unknown, and said "go to him also".

Rule #3: Don't create artificial "twins". Meaning, do not adopt children who are the same age as other children already in the home. Children need some way to maintain individuality (particularly when you are already breaking rules #1 AND 2). Totally reasonable. Completely rational.

Problem was- God either overlooked that detail or somehow thought it didn't matter when he placed both boys in front of us, at the same ages as two of our other children, and said "go anyway".

Rule #4: Don't adopt within a year of a new birth. Adoption is hard. New babies are hard. During the transition of adoption (especially when you are already breaking rules #1, 2 AND 3!!!) the last thing any reasonable person would do is bring a newborn into the mix. Of course. So obvious. That would be pure insanity.

Problem was- God laughed and said "hold my staff."

It seemed almost as if God operated under a completely different set of rules.
And so at 6 weeks pregnant we boarded the plane to China and brought home two very sick and broken little boys.

And do you know what happened?

We survived.

They thrived.

And we were perfectly ruined in every wonderful way.

Who are we to say no when He says "go"?
Who are we to tell our creator that our wisdom is greater than His?
Will He not provide where He leads?

Friday, June 16, 2017

Now is not the time for Pinterest: practical meausures in times of panic.

Everyone has seasons of difficulties. It's part of living in a beautiful, yet fallen world. What do you do when you find yourself in the midst of the hard? When your sea of to-dos is so vast that each morning you have to ask yourself: which of these critically important things do I chose to fail at today? I may not have a PhD behind my name but I have lived through periods of serious pressure. Here are the things that help me.

Talk to someone. The right someone. Someone who has walked the path before you with success. I have heard it said that everyone likes to be a swimming coach from the safety of the life raft but no one wants to get wet. When the ship is sinking and you're in the water you don't need a bystander critiquing your backstroke. Turn to the person who is in the water with you and gives you something to hold onto.

Make a list. When your mind is a swirl of thoughts, plans, details and worries it is easy to become so overwhelmed that you don't even know where to begin. Write it all down then triage your time. I typically have running lists for appointments, menus, chores, projects and shopping. Seeing it all on paper helps to prioritize and allows my people an opportunity to help out. If they don't know what needs to be accomplished then they can not help.

Purge. When life feels out of control gain control of what you can. It's easy to let stuff accumulate and become another drain on limited resources. Whether we realize it or not, stuff = time. The more stuff we have the more time we spend managing it. Cleaning house room by room and removing everything that doesn't add to our health or happiness always makes daily life feel more manageable.

Say no. Prioritize time demands and ask yourself if each opportunity is a necessary thing, a good thing or a great thing. Often, our schedules are so overloaded with necessary and good things that we end up with a schedule that is not necessarily good. My necessary things include: household chores, grocery shopping, doctors appointments, paperwork, meal prep. Good things: decorating projects, music lessons, homeschool co-op, play dates, helping neighbors, community involvement. Great things: quiet time to read and pray, cuddling with a lap full of babies, listening to a teen share their heart, making cookies, smelling the rain, chasing fireflies. Great things are easily overcome by the necessary and good. Protect the great things by saying no to some, much (or all) of the good.

Add music. It's amazing how easily music can change your mood. When your personal string quartet is unavailable, Pandora, CDs or an old fashioned radio will do.

Laugh. It really is the best medicine and always a better choice over tears. Humor, even if it's dark, can lighten every burden.

Go outside. Fresh air. Walk, run, play. It all helps.
And of course: hug, hold, pray. Self explanatory.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Attachment Ouchies

We are inching ever closer to the one year mark of being home. Life has been incredibly busy and the blog has rightly been placed in the backseat behind caring for the ones I write about. If you are my facebook friend you have gotten the highlights and victory reports. There have been MANY! If you haven't yet heard... Philip is walking!

While there has been much to celebrate in the last several months, there have also been difficulties. Valleys between the mountain tops. I don't broadcast the valleys because they are only temporary setbacks along a journey that requires patient endurance. At the same time though, I don't want to give a false impression of reality. For those considering adoption, it's not fair to tell only part of the story. Bringing children out of brokenness is as difficult as anyone can imagine but it is always, always, always WORTH IT!

Kids from hard places bring invisible baggage. They come to us empty handed yet carry the weight of the world. For a time they can put on an act, fooling everyone into believing that they are superhuman and those years of abusive neglect didn't really hurt at all. Sooner or later though the facade begins to crack and break away. It's a painful part of the healing process. It's where we find ourselves right now and it's hard. In this case though, hard doesn't = bad or wrong. Hard is necessary. Hard is what we signed up for.

The attachment process with children from trauma is a gradual ebb and flow of hope and hurts. Just when you think a particular struggle is behind you it reappears or a new one takes it's place. Literally anything can cause a setback: sickness, holidays, visitors or even no reason at all. From past experience we have a general idea of what to expect and we know that this is all within the realm of "normal". The hard times shall pass but it takes years of hour by hour, day by day deliberate building and rebuilding.

Our first months home with the boys were the typical honeymoon period. We spent time getting to know each other and familiarizing them with the English language. There were sleep issues at first but those are mostly resolved now. Philip was the first to begin testing authority. Once we knew he understood what we were saying we began with simple requests such as "come here" or "say please". Cue the tantrums and crocodile tears. He became resentful and defiant.

It was almost as if he had never been expected to follow instructions.

Probably because he had never been expected to follow instructions.

He had developed an entire arsenal of avoidance tactics such as smiling and waving, giving hugs, starring off into space and pretending he couldn't hear. When he used those- and we waved, said "hi", hugged him back and still dared to ask him to do something then he deployed the drop to your knees and scream tactic.

The testing is necessary and so not fun.
When special needs are involved there is an added layer to the equation.
If he doesn't obey is it because he CAN'T do it or because he WON'T do it?
This question causes a lot of self doubt and second guessing.

Fortunately, Arthur came to us with a warning label. His medical file said this:

 They weren't wrong.

Arthur is very cute, joyful and loving except when he doesn't get what he wants. Then it's like the world as we know it is ending. Screaming fits of rage happen daily and can sometimes last hours. Thankfully, so far, they only happen at home. In fact I'm sure many people reading this who have met him will have a hard time believing it.

Arthur attached strongly to our son Curtis for the first several months. I moved higher up on his list of preferred people after a couple hospital stays. We obviously don't seek out time in the hospital but the extended hours of one on one is great for attachment.

In January our precious new baby was born but instead of spending 24 hours in the hospital as planned we ended up staying a week in the NICU.

When we came home Arthur was obviously very angry with me. He wouldn't look at me. He began to throw fits when I even tried changing his diaper. He obviously felt betrayed. Most likely in his mind I had just proven to be like all the other mamas in his life- one that eventually leaves.  It has been slow rebuilding since then. In a way it's been a blessing to have this brought to the surface now rather than later. Kids who have only known trust to be followed by abandonment operate from the safety of distance. The fight response we're seeing in Arthur means that he let us in. That alone is a victory. The struggle now is how we earn our way back in.

Our boys don't need another temporary friend or playmate. They've had a lifetime of those. Right now they might prefer people who remain safely distanced from their hearts but that's not what they need. What they need first and foremost is a father and a mother. They need the people who are willing to set temporary happiness aside for the sake of growing them into mature, confident and respectable men. No one else on Earth has accepted this privilege. If we don't parent them, no one will. If we don't pursue their hearts in ways that currently feel unsafe to them they will have lives filled with partial-truth and phony-love. We can't accept that for them. We won't. Love doesn't see you on the floor and leave you there. Love says no. Love tells you to get up.


 Because love wants more.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Memories Captured

A local group of very talented ladies recently blessed our family with a photo session. Everyone got up early on a Saturday morning and met at our dear friends' farm in Kentucky. Sarah Feinstein brought a gorgeous wardrobe for our girls and Hey Belle Boutique in Springfield,TN gave me two beautiful dresses for picture day. I can't begin to say what a kind and generous gesture this was. With all of our daily busyness, gathering a wardrobe for 15 would have taken months.

Getting everyone up, dressed and ready to go on time took careful planning. It was close, but we made it. There was one small oopsie when a certain child forgot to drop their knickers before using the loo just moments before the first shutter snap. I won't say who, or if there is/isn't a child going commando in all these beautiful photos because that's life with kids. You just never know. :)

After having done many family self-portraits it was a real treat to be able to step back and let creative minds work. Getting a group like ours organized is best left to professionals and these ladies were more than up for the task!

The set up:

I loved every moment of the experience and here are the results.
Mackenzie Camille Photography
Joan of Art Photography
Saved By Grace Photography
Sarah Feinstein Photography
The above four shots are the same but from the eye of different photographers. They are all so uniquely beautiful and show what a difference individual styles of shooting and editing can make!
They even did individual portraits. Here are the boys:
Trevor, 20

Curtis, 17

Tommy, 15

Mitchell, 12

Bennett, 10

Russell, 6
Philip, 5

Arthur, 2

The girls:
Alyssa, 15
Camille, 8

Sophia, 4

Caroline, 2

Alexandra, 3 months
 Dollcake dresses were provided by Sarah Feinstein as a special treat for the girls. They twirled to their hearts' content and felt like absolute princesses. Meanwhile the boys happily ran off to change into shorts and T-shirts and explore the farm.

and of course this one:
"You have turned my mourning into dancing; You have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with JOY"
Psalm 30:11
Photographs capture a moment in time that can never be gotten back or reproduced. Our children are our greatest treasures. Joan, Christina, Mackenzie, Sarah and Jac... you have blessed us beyond measure by capturing these moments.
Thank you!!