Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Pressing On

Life with an adopted 3 year old is the same as life with a bio 3 year old most days. We have our good days, bad days, joyous days, and difficult days. The kisses and hugs are sweet, and discipline is still given even though it looks different from the way Daniel and I received it as kids. The thing one might not expect from watching our family is the intensity of our life.

We don't broadcast the hard times as often anymore, because we are entering into the phase of discovering aspects of Paisley's history. No, we don't have many facts or details about Paisley's early life in China. However, her actions and moods are giving us clues to what her life could have been like and the different experiences she lived through. Though we may never know for sure what her life was like before becoming a Todd, we will always lean towards being overly cautious, loving, and compassionate towards her even during her misbehaviors. We are working closely with doctors and professionals who have experience in evaluating and helping adopted kids and their families overcome hard times and learning to heal from prior events. Their expertise is helping us interpret Paisley's behaviors compared to other kids who have gone through certain situations and shown signs of similar behaviors. As her parents, we will always protect "her story" and will support her as she grows in making sure she feels comfortable in sharing with us first and then, if she chooses, with others.

In light of this new information, I must admit some days I have no idea why God chose me to be Paisley's mom. I feel unworthy of the task and incapable of being the parent she deserves. I grow impatient easily, frustrated quickly, and force myself to show her love and compassion when times get hard. Frankly, my heart breaks for her early years, and sometimes I can't control my tears. It's all I can do to not build a fortress around her to shield her from any more hurt or pain. For me the hardest part is feeling helpless during the hard times. That's when my doubts scream the loudest, and I feel like I am not helping her but opening her wounds even more. It's a constant struggle within myself and a lie from the pit of hell itself, but it's a lie that I hear often.

Nevertheless I must press on just as Paul writes in Philippians 3 towards a goal for which God has called me.

Do I stop loving her? Not at all. Is my bond to her strong enough to fight through my doubts? Yes, but it's still hard. We are still building that connection and bond with her as our daughter. Even though part of our bond has come naturally, there is still a side that struggles. Paisley is still learning to trust us.

From what I can see, Paisley knows who we are and what it means to have us as her parents. She feels safe with us and does trust us to a certain extent. Where her trust with us is lacking is when she experiences things for the first time. In fact, it might not even be us at all. New experiences might be a trigger for her and since her trust with us is still new (having only been with us for 7 months instead of her whole life of 3 years), it might seem like she doesn't trust us. It's still a lot for her to process, but she is getting settled as a daughter quite beautifully. It's like she was destined to be a daughter, our daughter.

If we may still ask for your prayers, we covet them. As we have mentioned throughout our entire adoption, the hard part is now. As hard as the waiting part was, now is the time where we are faced with questions and unknowns. As time goes by, these questions and unknowns will be answered and revealed; however, new questions and unknowns will appear. It can be a vicious cycle, but we trust God to already be present in those times waiting for us to get there. He has already world out the hard times in order to reveal His glory. He has redeemed an orphan and transformed her into a daughter, His daughter.

Thank you to each of you for the continued support and prayers over the past 2 years. Prayer works, because we are a living testimony!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Paisley's First Birthday Home

Parents throw their kids their first birthday parties all the time.  In some ways, it's also a celebration for the parents for making it a whole year in their new role as parents and trusting they are on the right path to nurture, love, discipline, and care for their chip.  To me, this "first" birthday is more than just a kid turning another year older.  it's about an orphan turned daughter who never has to spend another birthday without her family.  It's about celebrating life beginning at conception and continuing with loved ones.  It's about a mother who gave life and a few days later abandoned that liffle girl's life for a hope of a great future.  Ultimately, it's about a promise being met by our Heavenly Father for our caught to be him before her 3rd birthday.  And He did just that.

I'm not sure I'll ever able to fully express all of the emotions of what her 3rd birthday held. Furthermore I might not be able to tell completely every last detail of our journey to bring Paisley home to her.  What I do know is that over the course of 16 months there were a lot of prayers, tears, and moments of desperation as we longed to have Paisley home with us.  I leaned on His promise He made to us on September 5, 2014.  It was Paisley's 2nd birthday, and she was spending it, her final birthday as an orphan, in China.  My heart yearned to have her home so we could throw her a party to celebrate her beautiful life.  It was a hard day as you can imagine.  My daughter spent 2.5 years of her life away from me.  I haven't seen a lot of her "very firsts":  words, laughs, visits to certain places, baths, etc.  However, God has given us plenty of "our firsts" with Paisley:  English words, genuine smiles and laughs, new foods, her own room, etc.  And this year He gave Paisley her first birthday home.

Saturday, September 5, 2015 was a day filled with 57 different emotions for me.  In true mom-like fashion, I was stressed, worried, and hopeful things would happen easily, which they did.  Beautifully at that.  Not only was I in "birthday mom" mode, but I was an emotional basket-case.  My daughter was experiencing a birthday like she had never experienced before.  Her 3rd birthday was her first birthday as a daughter.  Just knowing and trying to imagine what life was like for her before us sends me into a good ugly cry.  Then I think about how God never went back on His promise and here she is.  Our little miracle!

Paisley's theme for her party was "All-American" theme to celebrate her life as a new American.  She loves America....well, at least we think she does since she love to thank God for America every times she prays.  I thought that a red, white, and blue themed party was appropriate.  Besides how many more years do I have to decide the party theme for her before we have character parties?

It was a beautiful (and hot) day at the park under the pavilion, where we had the party.  We invited those people who Paisley had already been around before.  This way we were not introducing new faces to her at the party.  So we kept it relatively small.  I believe she had a great birthday!  She was a trooper in the heat for so long and never had a meltdown or any other negative behavior for that matter.  She loved to open presents so she could find that one special gift to catch her attention.  This birthday's "attention grabbing"  toy was a toy Dodge Viper car.  A huge shoutout to my aunt for making that purchase.  Paisley LOVES that car!

I'm so grateful for the opportunity and the privilege that God has given me to be this little girl's mom.  She is truly a gift from above.  A gift from her birth parents (mom) that we could never repay.  

Happy 3rd birthday, Paisley!

Happy birthday, Paisley!

The delicious and beautiful cake that Nana made especially for Paisley.

With our little 3 year old

"This is 2 year old Baby Paisley."

Our "Best Friend" shirts from Aunt Sissy and Uncle Josh

The Dodge Viper that Aunt Jane gave to Paisley.   I'm trying to hide my true feelings about this loud and bright toy by acting excited for Paisley.  I get the impression that Paisley doesn't care what I think either way.

Paisley playing catch with Uncle Josh.  He is one of her favs.

Friday, July 24, 2015

forming that forever bond

Every day life with Paisley is anything but ordinary.  We continue to build that trust and felt safety with her so she will know that her years of abandonment are over.  We constantly do things that are the opposite to how we think parenting "should be".

There are a lot of varying opinions about kids sleeping in their parents' bed, but Daniel and I have to remember that the way we parent is to build an everlasting bond with Paisley.  Outside of the adoption world, I am not a huge proponent of kids sleeping with their parents although there are exceptions to every rule.  All kids crave love, affection, trust, and felt safety through touch and being next to their parents.  It is in our being to feel these things.  The question to myself is this:  Why am I denying a child (bio or adopted) these important building blocks for years to come just because I am not a fan or it isn't convenient for me?  Part of being a parent is about sacrifice and raising children who are upstanding people who can make a difference in this world.

Every day I am faced with the real truth and challenge that there was a broken bond between Paisley and her birth mother.  As natural as I would like for it to be, our Momma-Paisley bond will never be as strong as the bond she was supposed to have with her bio mom.  Paisley spent (we only can assume at this point) roughly 9 months living and growing inside her bio mom.  Those are 9 crucial months I will never experience with Paisley.  However, I will spend the rest of my lifetime forming a relationship with Paisley as her Momma where she feels loved, protected, cared for, provided for, safe, wanted, appreciated, adored, cherished, and remembered.  And why is letting Paisley fall asleep in our bed a huge, big deal again?

the littlest Sleeping Beauty in her momma and baba's bed

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

4 months home

Last night I watched some video of Paisley just a few days after getting her in China.  I cried while smiling thinking back to those first days with her.  We were excited, happy, terrified, unsure of ourselves, anxious, exhausted, and blessed all wrapped up in one.  Let me try to convey the 57 different emotions that I felt while watching these priceless times.

As we were living in the early days in China, I knew that Paisley was more advanced than we thought she would be.  I remember thinking just how smart and curious she was with her surroundings always wanting to know how things worked.  She even took an pen completely apart and put it back together while we were in Hong Kong.  Yes!  I sat and watched her do it.  Amazing what her little brain can do!

Paisley in our hotel room in Tianjin
March 11, 2015

As much as I hoped it wouldn't be, the language barrier was a huge obstacle!  Most of the time she would be unresponsive to what we were saying due to the fact that she couldn't understand us.  And she would meltdown because we couldn't understand her.  However, her little voice was precious.  It reminded me of a baby talking for the first time.  You thought her voice is precious now.  You should hear it during our time in China.

Even though she was 2.5 years old at that time, she was super tiny.  I remember just how small she was...and still is for that matter.  She barely fit into size 12 month clothing.  She looked malnourished in a way with her super thin limbs and her huge belly.  It's evident by the way she would eat that she was stuffing her face, because she was scared that she might not eat for a while.  She was very "in tune" to her food while she ate.  She would quickly chew her food and begin stuffing her face soon after swallowing the previous bite.

Now as I watch I can't believe the progress!  Today she is more like a 2 year old in the way she communicates.  Scratch that.  The way she is putting together complexed sentences is like she is older than 2 years old.  We are still working on answering questions when others ask.  Simple "yes/no" questions along with questions like "how was your day" or "what did you do today" still get a blank stare or a simple repeat, but that will come in time.

She obviously is able to interact with us more than she did while in China.  Instead of walking around like she is in her own little world, she is able to carry a conversation as we stroll through the house or swim in the pool.  The relief in knowing that she understands me and I can understand her is huge!

It's the smallest of things that parents with bio kids take for granted.  Having your child know 100% that you are their parent and you will do anything to keep them safe is a HUGE relief for a child.  However when a child is unsure about who their new parents are and exactly what is the circumstance for this new relationship, it makes life for all parties EXTREMELY difficult and stressful.  To some extent, I know that Paisley knows today that she is loved, cared for, and kept safe by us, but there are those moments when her insecurities show.  In those moments, it takes everything Daniel and I have to show and tell her we are here to stay, she is here to stay....forever.

As we reflect back on Paisley being home 4 months today, I am so humbled to say that Daniel and I are the ones who are blessed by Paisley.  She is a living testament that God is real and alive.  He continues to perform miracles, because I experience these miracles on a daily basis.  I still can't believe that He chose me to be her momma.  It's an honor I am undeserving of.

Monday, July 20, 2015

summertime lessons

As a parent, I'm learning what it means to put my selfish wants aside for the good of Paisley's learning and growth.  Today was a day that I very much wanted to do what I wanted since it was so hot.  I do not do well in the heat.

Welcome to summers in the south where you can't breathe when you step outside and sweat started pouring down your back and off your brow.  Apparently children, at least my child, is immune to this stifling heat.  She loves being outside, which is a blessing, but also a curse.  Bugs love to eat her up, because let's face it.  She is too sweet.

Today we went swimming, which was lovely.  After we swam, she wanted to walk around the patio for a bit, and I decided that it would be a good time to water a few plants.  Paisley is a very good helper and naturally she wanted to help too.  My instinct was to tell her "no" since the hose was dirty.  Then I thought about what that teaches her:
-That I don't need her help.
-That I don't think she is capable enough to help.
-That I don't value her willingness to help.
Yes, she is only 2, but I try to think long term with her and how telling her "no" now will shape her into the adult she will become.  I also try to talk to her like she isn't a toddler. I am not a fan of "baby" talk and feel like for Paisley's sake she isn't developing like she needs to if we are always talking to her like a little baby.  This could be the reason why she is advancing so quickly, because she doesn't feel like a little baby.

So I decided that she could hold the hose while the pitcher filled up with water.  And she loved it!  She is so patient when it comes to helping me around the house and listens better than any other child, including myself, I've ever known.  I'd like to think we are "out of the woods" with Paisley feeling like she needs to constantly please us with the fear of leaving us making her following instructions as her natural behavior.  Orphans tend to obey every word their new parents tell them with the fear of leaving their new home or not being accepted into the family if they refuse to obey.  It's completely heart-breaking to think that Paisley could ever feel this way.

Paisley holding the hose in the pitcher as the water runs so Momma could water the plants.

After watering the plants, it was time for lunch.  We still give Paisley two choices throughout the day to help with her decision-making skills.  She is really advancing in being able to make decisions even though she repeats her choices several times before telling us her choice.  Today's "two choices" consisted of either #1 Sitting inside at the table to eat lunch or #2 Sitting at the table outside under the umbrella to eat lunch.  After repeating the choices a couple of times, she decided on #2 Sitting outside.

Ugh.  Yep, my thoughts exactly.  Why did I give her the outside choice in the first place?  I KNEW that she would pick eating outside in the 100 degree heat index weather, because she loves being outside.  Enough pouting, Leslie.  Suck it up and just eat outside.  In the late July heat.  While sweat is rolling down your face.  Flies are swarming all around.  Paisley is eating the slowest she has ever eaten before.

In fact, she was having a good ol' time with her ketchup.  Yes, Paisley, please stick all five fingers in your ketchup.  Proceed to laugh hysterically with the ketchup still on your fingers and start touching everything within your reach with your ketchup hand.

Again.  Another reminder, Leslie, to let her be a kid and play in the ketchup.  Clean up will come later.  For now, look at that sweet, smiling face.

Paisley and her ketchup fingers.

I've fought with myself more times than I would like when it comes to letting Paisley do things that I don't necessarily think are "fun" or "appropriate" behaviors.  It's a constant reminder that she is learning and exploring new things that she might not have been able to do prior to meeting us.  As long as she isn't in danger or putting other people's lives in danger, then why not let your 2 year old daughter help water plants and stick her fingers in ketchup?  The sense of accomplishment she will feel after helping and the smile on her face as big as Texas will be worth my stepping out of my comfort zone.

Leslie, have you ever seen a more beautiful or happy child?

Sunday, July 12, 2015

"We're going to church."

For 3.5 months our lives have differed drastically from the day in and day out.  Besides the fact that we have added a 2 year old to the family, we aren't as "free" to venture out into the world as many suspect.  After 20 weeks of spending Sunday mornings at home, we made it back to church this morning!  Everyone say "Amen" together.  AMEN!  Paisley's first time at church was a unique experience and looks very different from the "typical" child's first Sunday at church.

Because Paisley is not accustomed to just "going with the flow" and able to experience various events and gatherings without complete meltdowns after the fact, we prepare Paisley days in advance for anything that is outside of her everyday routine.  This is why we aren't able to plan things at the last minute and need a few days' notice beforehand so we can prep her.

You may ask what is Paisley's everyday routine?  For the most part, we spend our days at home.  Paisley has grown very fond of being at "Paisley's house".  In fact, she feels so safe and secure being at home that she acts like a completely different child when she is out than when she is at home.  She is quite the chatterbox and busy body at home.  She has learned that Momma and Baba aren't leaving her so she doesn't have to follow us around the house even if there is something on TV or a toy that has captured her attention that she has to abandon to see where we have gone.  When we do go out to run errands, we spend the morning prepping her about where we are going and hopefully I can give her the order of the places we are going so she knows what's next.  When we are out in public, we make sure to fully engage with her so she knows we aren't leaving her.  We don't stay out for more than a few hours at a time for these reasons plus nap time is important too.

How do we prepare her exactly for the events outside of our everyday routine?  Communicate, communicate, and communicate!  We tell her a few of the following things:
-What we are doing.
-Where we are going.
-Who is going to be there.  We make sure to repeatedly remind her of the people's names of who we will see.  She still has a hard time identifying who certain people are and will mix up names of people.  When she does call people the wrong name, there is no need to be upset or concerned.  Paisley is still learning English and trying to remember a multitude of new names along with faces.  Prior to Gotcha Day, my guess is that she knew maybe a total of 10 people (including adults and children) her entire life.
-What we will eat.
-What we are not going to do.  This is especially important if there are animals (we will not hit the animals, but we will gently pet them), a new store, new people, new activities, etc.
The more we can tell her the better.  The more frequent we can tell her these things the smoother it goes.  She is even able to repeat our routine if she has heard it a few times, which has helped her tremendously.

What about those times that things come up and can't be planned?  We go with the flow as best as we can.  Luckily, Paisley is easy to adjust to those things that come up without prior knowledge as long as we can get back on schedule soon after that.  We haven't experienced meltdowns in the moment due to unplanned things coming up, but that doesn't mean we are exempt from it either.  And it doesn't mean that she doesn't show some negative behavior due to those times after coming home.  We plan the best we can and help her through the unexpected things as smooth as possible.  Then we start "damage control" as soon as we can.

We started talking to Paisley about going to church yesterday morning.  We told her what we would be doing, who would be there, and how long we would stay.  Since we are still in the cocooning stage (more to come about that later), we felt that she needed to be in the service with us instead of going to Highlands Kids without us.  Going to a new place is confusing enough and adding the "Momma and Baba will be right back" factor wouldn't benefit her and make her want to go back.  While she was eating breakfast this morning, Daniel turned on the 9AM service so Paisley would know what was coming when we got to church.  She was mesmorized by the music and lights as she watched it online.

Daniel has done a great job at introducing her to praise and worship music since returning home from China.  We have worship in our living room while jumping on the trampoline at various times during the week.  She loves to "praise Jesus" as she says by lifting her hands, clapping, jumping, and dancing.

And then it was "go" time.  She held both of our hands while walking into church and she kept saying, "We're going to church." as we made our way inside.  I honestly believe she loved being there.  The lights.  The music.  The clapping.  The worship team on stage.  Paisley clapped and raised her hands. We left shortly after the message started for obvious reasons, but honestly, it didn't matter. Today was a success!

At every church service since beginning our adoption, I always imagined her being with us as we sang and worshipped.  Today was the day my daydreaming came true.  It took every ounce of strength to hold back the tears as I watched her little hands clap and her face light up with pure joy as we sang about the One who brought her to us.  It was the most beautiful sight.  I kept thinking that just over 4 short months ago, this little girl had never heard the name of Jesus and His unfailing love.  Today she attended church where she experienced the freedom to worship and learn more about Jesus.  One day she will learn the full depth of His love and purpose for her, but today it was the beginning of that journey.  Today she gathered with other believers in her new country with her forever parents.  Her life continues to bless others as her story draws others towards Him.  I am blessed to experience it firsthand everyday.

Today Paisley went to church and another chapter in her life started.

Paisley was excited about going to church.  Sadly, Jake and Izzy could not go inside too.

A rare selfie where Paisley is smiling and not wanting to grab and hold my phone.
Momma and Paisley selfie at its finest.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Let's get down to the nitty gritty


These are a few things that are gained when you go through life's experiences.  It doesn't mean that you become a master at any said topic of experience.  However, you are able to weed through the muck and see the experience for what it really is.  The lesson learned can be used to equip and educate others.

So that is what I plan to do.

It has taken me a few months to realize how to best use this new calling upon our lives.  We have transitioned from a couple who was waiting and completing mounds of paperwork for our daughter to a family who is trying to figure out how to function.

The adoption world is an unknown abyss.  It might be one of the most best kept secrets as far as the ins and outs of what is required to adopt and how much sacrifice is required once the adoption has taken place and a new family member is added.  Quite honestly if I knew back in November 2013 everything that I have come to know now, I'm not sure I would be as calm and sane as I was during our journey to bring Paisley home.  God has transformed me from the inside out to be the mother Paisley needs me to be for her sake.  Is He finished with me yet?  Of course not!  Are there more things for me to learn and experience?  You better believe it!  The great part is that He is right here, guiding my every step.

As part of our calling to help families who are currently adopting, I personally feel led to continue to share how our life continues to unfold now that we have Paisley.  I'm not looking to sugarcoat any of my experiences, because that doesn't help anyone.  Frankly, I would be a liar if I didn't share the raw and hard moments as we have become a family of 3.  Nothing about bringing a child with a traumatic past into your home is an easy task.  It is hard work, constant work, tiring work, painful work, overwhelming work, but oh so rewarding work.

As you read future blog posts, please keep in mind the following things:

1.  I am human.  I make mistakes, and I've had to learn to show myself grace more than anyone else.  We are our own biggest critics, right?  Just like any new or seasoned parent, we don't always see the best choice until after the opportunity has past.  Hey, we live and learn.
2.  I love Paisley dearly.  I would make 20 more trips to China and back if that meant that she would be mine.  There is nothing that I wouldn't do for that precious little girl.  Sometimes I forget that she isn't from my flesh.  When I look at her, I don't see a Chinese little girl.  I see my daughter, and we don't have physical differences.  Plus she is the most beautiful and loving little girl I've ever known.  I'm only slightly biased in my opinion with that last statement.  ;)
3.  As easy as it is to make comparisons between bio kids and adopted kids, please know there are BIG differences in the way that I parent my child vs how you parent your child.  We have gone through extensive training about how to parent, discipline, love, care for, and help an adopted child transition into her new role as a daughter within society.  Though our experiences with our children sound similar, the way we love Paisley through difficult situations will look a lot different from what our gut as parents tells us to do.  Some look at adopted parents as liberal/free-spirited/hippy/relaxed/weird parents.  Trust me.  We are anything BUT these things.  We are very much in control of every situation (at least we are fighting with every ounce of our being to be in control) even though our helicopter parent techniques look vastly opposite to your techniques.  Again, we aren't experts with being parents to an adopted child, but we were trained by the professionals.
4.  Keep an open mind and heart when reading my posts.  I assure you that you at some point you will disagree with my logic.  I am not above differing opinions, but let's keep our discussions civil.
5.  I will ALWAYS speak from my heart.  I will promise you that I will hold nothing back.

It's time to get real and raw.  It's time to get to the nitty gritty and take a look at the "secret" world of adoption.

Disclaimer:  Just like every child is different, every family is different.  The way we interact and help Paisley is not necessarily the way that every adopted child is raised by his/her parents.  We are applying our training knowledge to fit Paisley's needs during each moment.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

the good, the bad, the ugly

Because adoption is such a unique and fragile time in a child's life, there are times that go unmentioned.  There are dark moments that carry over into days that go unmentioned not because we, as adoptive parents, are ashamed of these hard times, but they are just that.  Hard times.  And we don't like to keep reliving them over and over again especially with people who only see the good and wonderful times.  Adoptive parents are quick to post a happy time, an achievement, and growth with our new child, because we have overcome a hard time with a good time.  Of course, the smallest things are HUGE for us and our child.  "My child just gave me a hug when I asked and she didn't push me away or hit me."  "My child held my finger while crossing the road inside of kicking me."  "My child came running to me when something scared him/her."  All excellent milestones for adopted kids to overcome.

As abundant as the good times seem, I'm here to say there will always be hard times with a child who has experienced such great loss at an early age.  Are our dark times behind us?  No.  Do we continue to experience hard times?  Yes.  Are the hard times becoming fewer as the days go by?  Yes and no.  Will she outgrow the hard times?  No.  She has a lot to process when she grows older and we share her story with her.  How would you react?  How would you cope if you were her?

So what do these hard times look like?  The worst meltdowns and tantrums that one can imagine, and nothing makes it better.  No toy.  No food.  No tv show.  No game.  No story.  Nothing.  In fact the only thing that will help is time.  Time to sort it out.  Time to cry it out.  Time to hit, punch, kick, scratch, slap, yell, scream, push, cry.  And then it starts all over again.  The hell of living through a toddler grieving, feeling alone, and afraid of losing again.  The cry of an adopted child who is grieving is the most horrifying cry that has ever been heard.  There is a difference between the grief cry and a "regular" 2 year old cry.  So does that mean that Paisley still experiences grief crying and hellish tantrums?  Yes.  Who does she hit, slap, kick, scratch?  It's mainly me who receives most of the physical abuse when she is upset, but she also causes physical harm to herself.

Shocking?  It can be for those who aren't educated in the adoption world.  Now you see why we don't talk about the bad times.  They are hard.  When you have a child who is becoming fluent in speaking and understanding English, it is especially hard.  Won't she outgrow these tantrums and learn that she has a great life now?  Maybe, but probably not.  Paisley has a unknown past where she may have experienced abuse and neglect.  The sad part is that she may not ever remember these things happening to her, but she will just know that certain things and situations may trigger a bad memory or past experience.

How do you help her in those dark moments?  First thing is to always be present and never leave her. As hard as it is to listen to that cry and take the physical abuse, it will be 10 times worse to leave her...alone.  Isolation is not the key for adopted kids.  They have been alone their entire lives.  Feeling isolated only fuels bad behavior and does not help resolve the reason for their crying.  Second, we try to focus her abuse towards something else such as a pillow, the couch, a chair, a stuffed animal.  If she is going to hit, we want her to learn to not hit people or animals, but to hit other things if that helps her.  She is 2 so what physical damage will she do to a pillow that she hits?  None.  She is aware that she does not need to hit people or animals and has even repeated me when I tell her that.  However, in the heat of the moment, it's hard to remember that and her initial reaction is to hit.

Third, we encourage her to use her words so physical abuse will not be her "go to" every time she is upset.  We will always encourage her to express her emotions whether she is mad, sad, frustrated, or anxious while using her words and to always be respectful when voicing her opinion.  Would it be wrong for her to say that she is mad because she wanted watch another episode of cartoons rather than go to bed and does not agree with our decision?  No.  When she starts saying that we are bad parents, then we have a problem.  No child should feel like their opinion is wrong if that is how they feel and they are voicing their opinions.  Too many times as parents we feel children should always be submissive and obey everything we tell them while keeping their mouths shut.  How will that help the child in the future to voice their opinion and discuss their beliefs and what they feel is right?  It's not about being controlling as parents; we must guide them to the right while listening to what they have to say so we can help them sort their thinking. We have a long way to go before Paisley will start voicing her feelings to us when she is upset, but we like to let her know that it is the better option rather than hitting.

What happens when she isn't crying and she starts hitting?  We show her a lot of grace.  More grace that you would think a child should be shown.  Why grace?  Because we were first shown grace and shouldn't our children?

Our very last resort in order to get her attention is "time in".  "Time in" is similar to "time out" but it involves the parent(s) to be present while the child is thinking about what they've done.  Our "time in" consists of 5 minutes of sitting on the ottoman and talking about what was bad and how it should have been handled.  We focus on the "redo" and making her redo her actions so they are the correct way for how she should have acted. This helps rewire her brain to know the right way to handle things. Again still showing a lot of grace as we patiently wait for her to get the "redo" right.  Isn't 5 minutes a long time for a 2 year old to sit in "time in"?  Not when it takes 2-3 of those minutes to get her attention and look in our eyes.  Our focus with "time in" is turning everything around us "off" so we can focus on her and how to best held her recognize right and wrong behavior while figuring out of her trigger was an adopted behavior or regular 2 year old behavior.

We will NEVER spank Paisley since we don't know if she experienced physical abuse, and we do not want to surface any bad memories of physical abuse with her.  That would completely devastate her and undo all of our progress of making her feel safe, loved, and to trust us.  Are we against spanking our kids?  No, but a spanking to her could feel like abuse rather than discipline.  It breaks my heart at the thought that someone could have touched her in an unloving way.  We always want her to associate her parents with a loving and safe touch.

So why share these hard times about adoption with the world?  It's important to share these times, because it isn't always great and wonderful.  Paisley still doesn't know that her new life as a Todd is the best thing to happen to her.  Is she happy?  Yes.  Does she express love?  Yes.  Does she love her new parents?  I'd like to think so, but it's hard to say.  We have to teach her love and how to love others.  This is why cocooning is so important in the beginning stages of bringing a child home.  If the child's relationship with his/her new parents is not solid, then that child will have a hard time forming healthy relationships outside of the home.  This isn't a new concept because parents teach their bio kids the same thing.  It is just harder and requires more focus and time to teach a former orphan how to love when that child has never received love.  I can't imagine families who bring home their new kids and immediately start the loving process with any and everyone who the child comes in contact with.  That teaches the child that all people love and care for the child and to not be cautious of strangers.  This can fuel dangerous behaviors in kids as they reach adolescence as well with seeking out love from the wrong people in the wrong ways.  We do NOT want Paisley to seek out indiscriminate affection.  She has a mom and dad who love her and will do anything for her.  We want her to seek us out for affection first, and other relationships will fall into place when the time is right.

I understand that our way of parenting is not widely understood or received, and that's okay.  Adoption might not be your calling, but it is ours.  We've sat through hours of training by professionals who have researched and observed experiences and situations from adoptive families who have lived through it all.  We were prepared for the hard and dark times that we are still living in and will continue to experience in the future.  We are ready for that and know Who is protecting her. Does that make us experts in adoption parenting?  No.  Will we always do and act the way that we should for Paisley's sake?  No, because we are human, and make mistakes.  However, we will always make what we feel to be the best decisions for her at that time even if it means pulling her close and staying at home for a few days.  When those times happen, we ask that family and friends to not be offended or their feelings hurt.  It isn't personal; we are doing what we have been called to do:  care and make sure that Paisley can live the best and balanced life.  Somehow our parenting has been working, and she continues to thrive in the best way possible.  All praise to Him for her progress!  We are so blessed with Paisley and truly the good far outweigh the bad.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The First of Many to Come (Mother's Day Edition)

Mother's Day

It's hard to put into words all of the emotion I'm feeling for my first official Mother's Day. I'm beyond blessed to have a daughter of my own to love and care for this year and several years to come. However, I can't help but think of 2 other women who played significant roles in Paisley's life before she became my daughter. Even though I may never meet Paisley's biological and foster mothers, on May 10 and every year to come we will honor both of these women who made selfless decisions for the greater good for Paisley. In the years to follow, I look forward to sharing their love for Paisley with her.

Love comes wrapped up in varying packages, and I refuse to let myself believe that Paisley's bio mom did not love her. She loved her so much that she parted with her and made sure she would be found in order to have a great future. She is a strong and courageous woman who committed a selfless act of letting her little girl have the opportunity for someone else to love and care for her daughter. And to Paisley's bio mom:  thank you for doing just that. Entrusting complete strangers, foreigners at that, to provide for your little girl. Words will never be enough to "thank you" for this little miracle and blessing wrapped up in one who is changing some many lives with her infectious smile and laugh. Thank you for choosing LIFE rather than death. Because of Paisley, I will forever stand as a pro-lifer, spreading the word about the other choice, the only choice: life through adoption. Paisley's mom chose life so I could have my daughter. Thank you!

To Paisley's foster mom:  I can't imagine caring and loving on this precious little girl for as long as you did and having to say good-bye. It's apparent that you taught her so much within the short time that she lived with you. You fed, bathed, dressed, loved, cared, nurtured, and changed our little girl during her most crucial years. You taught her about her forever Momma and Baba who would soon arrive to take her home. She learned about us from you. Again, there are no words that will be sufficient to express how truly grateful we are for you. Thank you for being her Momma while her forever Momma was experiencing 16 long months of waiting for my daughter. Knowing she was living in your home while we continued on our journey to her gave me a piece of mind that I could never explain. We are eternally grateful to you for welcoming Paisley into your home like you did. I hope one day we will be able to meet you so I can hug your neck for keeping her safe for us. Thank you for your sacrifice!

As Paisley's "forever momma", it's hard to think that Paisley lost these women early in her life. However, I trust that through these losses there will be a great healing. A life is being redeemed! A story has begun! God's glory is shinning through this little girl! As hard as it can be at times, I wouldn't trade this experience of becoming Paisley's momma for a minute.

(And now a note to myself) Happy first Mother's Day, Leslie! May you soak up every minute with your firstborn!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

the waiting game and its torture

The hardest part about adoption is waiting. Waiting for the next step, next approval, to see a child's file, to know your child's face, travel approval, to hold your child in your arms. The thought of knowing your child is in a place that isn't his/her permanent home is enough to make you crazy with wanting him/her now. Knowing that your child very well could not be receiving the love and attention he/she deserves is the realization for every orphan. Knowing that your child is on the other side of the world on a different continent will drive someone to stay awake at night wondering how she is doing.

I must say that I have dealt with the waiting part of this journey fairly well. Maybe it was due to the fact that there were still so many steps left before travel approval and my focus had to be on the "now". Well, now it's time to focus on the travel, and the emotion of it all is really getting to me. Knowing that my child is in a place that isn't her home, where she belongs, is killing me. I feel like there is a part of me that is missing. She isn't here and something feels wrong about that.

Time will quickly pass over the next few days before we board a plane and make the trek halfway around the world to bring Paisley home. We have several things left on our "To Do" list that will help distract us from the pure fact Paisley is not here. However, as we get closer to travel the truth of the matter is that it will get harder to be without her. Knowing that she will soon be In our arms is the only thing keeping me going.

If I'm going to be real about it, I broke down today. For me the hardest part is having a closet full of clothes and not having someone to wear them. It sounds petty, I know, that out of all of the things I want is for her to be here so she can wear
clothes. But have you seen your child in clothes that are too big? Have you seen your child in clothes that he/she has worn for possibly several days in a row due to the fact that is the only thing for him/her to wear? The clothes in her room were bought and given to us with Paisley in mind. The simple act of dressing her in her precious little outfits is something that I am really looking forward to and knowing she doesn't have to wear the same thing every day (if she doesn't want to). My child has options. Now whether or not we will actually go anywhere in her gajillion different outfits is a different story, but she needs these clothes. She needs to be here. She has been without us for too long. She has been an orphan for too long.

Until the time comes when I will hold her in my arms for the first time, I will continue to dream of dressing her in her little outfits, running errands, having play dates, working through meltdowns, reading bedtime stories, refilling her juice, watching Disney movies, making crafts, taking walks around the neighborhood. These are the moments I am looking forward to the most.

Monday, February 16, 2015


As we inch closer to meeting our daughter for the first time, I am reminded of how drastically different her life will be.  She will go from being an orphan without a family especially a mom and dad to leaving everything she has ever known to live as our firstborn in America.  She will have a mom and a dad who will love her forever.  We won't leave her.  In fact, we will take a vow in China promising to love, protect, and care for her.  On some level, we have already done that on paper that was submitted with our Letter of Intent.

But Paisley...
Oh, Paisley...

I think about how brave she is.  She is the bravest person I know.  I can't imagine being just 2 years old without a family.  Granted she has been taken care of while living in both the orphanage and foster care, but it isn't the same as being with a forever family.  I'm overwhelmed at the thought of everything she has been through.  Then I am overwhelmed at the thought of her world being rocked to the core.  She doesn't know what is coming and that makes me scared for her.  In fact, I don't fully know what is coming as far as how it will all play out, but I know that it will be good.  And she will be good.  She will be cared for.

And me.

I am scared.  Scared in a good way though.  I don't think I would be normal if I didn't have some sense of feeling scared.  Then I am reminded that He doesn't give us a spirit of fear.  In fact, being scared about our adoption should be over.  As soon as we submitted our application to adopt from China, that is when the fear should have left my body.  It has been a constant journey, walking like the blind, with adoption.  As wonderful as our agency is (and they truly are), it's hard to know exactly what all is in store.  I can't believe we have made it 15 months.  15 months of paperwork, training, questions, answers, unknowns, delays, tears, excitement, and finding our little girl.

Has it been worth it?  Yes!

Ask me again when I finally have my little girl in my arms.  My answer will be a resounding yes.

You Make Me Brave by Bethel Music

And she has my heart already....
Paisley January 2015

Friday, January 2, 2015

2015: The Real Deal

2015:  The Year of Paisley.

At least that is what it feels like at our home at the moment.  Midnight struck NYE.  Daniel and I looked at each other and said, "This is the year that we bring our daughter home." 

And cue the chills.

With every new year brings new challenges, controversies, and learning moments.  This year will be no exception as welcome a little girl into our home whose title of "orphan" will quickly change to many:  daughter, granddaughter, niece, great-granddaughter, cousin.

Every January our church starts the year with 21 Days of Prayer.  During this time, you are asked to focus solely on God and His plan for the upcoming year.  It is a powerful time within our church, and many life-changing things have happened during these seasons of prayer.  Yesterday I read a status posted by Church of the Highlands that said:

"As we come up on #21daysofprayer, we encourage you to pray about your objective for the fast, for example:  healing, guidance, reconciliation, renewal, hope...What are you believing for in 2015?"

That last sentence:  What are you, Leslie, believing for in 2015?  It was like someone dumped a bucket of ice water on me.  It had my attention and I started thinking....What am I believing to happen in 2015?  It's dumb to say "to bring my daughter home safely", because, duh, that is a given.  "For Paisley to be healthy and her medical reports to be good."  Duh, again.  We pray for that daily.  "To provide for our family financially during my 3-month leave from work when we are leaning solely on Daniel's paycheck."  As important as that is, it is still a "duh" request.

So it got me to thinking....What do I want to happen in 2015 more than anything?  What is something that is deep within my soul that is troubling me?  Then it hit me.  As glorious, wonderful, life-changing as 2015 will be, it will be the hardest year of my life to date.  How do I know this?  Why am I so "negative" already?  I've heard stories about it.  I've seen other adoptive families live it.  The struggles are real, but the pay-off is greater!  However, 2015 will not be the pay-off year.  It will be a building year. 

I am believing and praying for in 2015 (with all of my mind, body, soul, and heart) that life as a family of 3 will transition as seamless and beautiful as possible.  I believe the new life Paisley will receive will be the missing piece of the foundation to the start of her life's purpose.  As selfish as I would like to be with my request and only asking God to care for me during the next year (which I am doing by the way), there is someone whose entire world is turning upside down and inside out.  She won't know that these pale white, funny-looking strangers are there to bring her to another country for the chance at a great life. As far as she knows, her life is good as it is.  That will be my prayer in years to come:  that she will see, believe, and trust that what Daniel and I did was for the good and she would never resent us for following our hearts.

2015 is turning into a year of "Let's be real, Leslie".  So let's be real.  As wonderful, exciting, life-changing, beautiful, tearful (happy tears) as 2015 will be, I'm bracing for a year of heartache, hurt, pain, unknowns, stress, and sleepless nights.  What I am believing and praying for this year is that God will take those rough times and turn them into something redemptive.  I believe He knows those circumstances already and is beginning His work to quickly resolve any hard times that will come our way.  Praise God for always knowing what's to come before we get there!