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.