A Letter to My Children

 

Recently our country has erupted with news stories, staggering across the bottom of our tv screens, and finding their way into our news feeds, police brutality, another shooting of an unarmed black man or woman, Black Lives Matter rallies, violence against police. And my children have begun asking questions.

My eight year-old son Demetrius keeps asking me “ Mama, are they going to start segregation again?”

I have avoided his question for a long time. And I think the reason I’ve avoided it is because if I want to be honest, I have to answer him, “It never actually ended bud.”

 

And how do I begin to explain that dark history? How do I begin to explain that what they’ve taught him in school is not the whole story, or even an accurate portrayal of part of the story?

 

I feel super inadequate as a white woman, trying to communicate to my Black and American Indian son that the history of our country is full of darkness and oppression for his people.

 

Yet my avoiding his question, my unwillingness to feel uncomfortable and inadequate is problematic in this goal I’ve set to be a stone catcher. It speaks volumes of my privilege. So I am starting today, while sitting on the airport floor in Chicago, after binge listening to my hero Bryan Stevenson, I am feeling like I have to begin somewhere. So here is my letter to you Demetrius, and to all of my children:

 

D-D,
You know how we’ve been talking about what is going on in America, about why police have been shooting black people who didn’t have guns? You know how I’ve talked to you about how you need to act around police? You know how sometimes I yell at you when you loose your cool, and I start crying and I usually say something like, “Demetrius! If you act like that out there, you will get shot! You have got to learn NOW how to be respectful, because you don’t have the luxuries that Tre has.” And you always scream back at me, “That’s not fair!”

 

And you’re right!

It’s not fair.

 

And yet it is still true.

 

D-D, you keep asking me if they are going to start segregation again. But I want to tell you something. Something that th
ey haven’t told you in school, something that makes people uncomfortable. D-D, segregation hasn’t really gone away. We can call it different things now, it looks different than water fountains and schools. And yet it doesn’t at all. Because black people still don’t get the same water (Flint, Michigan) or the same access to education (http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/data-mine/2015/01/28/us-education-still-separate-and-unequal ). And although we don’t have signs that hang outside of restaurants any more, we still have restaurants where you wouldn’t be served, just based on the color of your skin.

It’s awful. Really really awful.

 

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Here’s what I haven’t told you:

 

  1. There is a politics of fear and anger in America. Our leaders have fought to keep us afraid and angry for a long time. And when people are afraid and angry they will tolerate injustice, abuse, and cruelty. I don’t want you to be afraid and angry. I as your mom want to make sure you are a man full of hope. Because where there is hope, there is no longer a place for fear and anger. And then truth can reign. It is important that you, even as a little boy, begin to understand that identifying the ‘bad guy’ isn’t as clear as the news, our president, or your teacher makes it out to be. If we become afraid of a group of people, we will begin to make decisions that don’t represent our God.
  2. All people are equal. They aren’t treated equally though. And that is not what God wants. In my opinion, the worst part of slavery was that white people acted as if they were different than, better than, and superior to, black people. And we aren’t. And unfortunately that hasn’t much changed. The slaves were freed, but white people in America have continued to treat Black people as if they are inferior. It looks different than indentured servitude these days, usually, but it isn’t.
  3. Terrorism isn’t new. Terrorism has been occurring in the United States since the very beginning, it began with white people committing acts of terror on your American Indian ancestors. Terrorism didn’t strike in America for the first time on 9-11. Terrorism has been woven into the history that blankets our land. And without us being honest about what we, as white people have done, our country can never heal. The lynchings of black men, women, and children were acts of terror that infiltrated our country since the end of the Reconstruction in 1877 up until the 1950s. Muslim’s aren’t the first terrorists on this dirt. We are.

 

Buddy, I know that when we talk about these things you cry. I don’t ever want you to loose that. I want you to forever feel how awful this is. I want you to forever feel the weight of injustice. I pray that your dad and I can encourage you to not run away from what feels hard. I pray that we will teach you through our own broken paths, that you, D-D Luke, were made to do hard and holy things. Please be brave brave brave.

 

I love you to the moon Bub.

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(This letter was spurred after listening to a talk given by Bryan Stevenson at All Saints Church in Pasadena, California.)

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How A Trip to Disney Restored our Family

I hinted earlier at the surprise we were giving our kids for their 3rd Homeavirsary and now it’s time to spill the beans.

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We surprised our kids with a family vacation to Disney Land. When we told them, they were mostly excited, but also little confused. We told them we were leaving in 7 weeks, but Vaughn thought we were going FOR 7 weeks. Other than the 7 week mix up, they were pretty thrilled.

We’ve been back for a few days and as I’ve processed our trip, I realized something amazing about this little family trip: it restored us. We became a family again instead of five people living together. We had the most wonderful time. We bonded, we connected, we figured out hard things together and no one ever got lost at Disney. Since we have been back there has been more peace and understanding in our home than there was before.

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First of all- about “vacation”: we’ve been together for three years as a family and we’ve gone out of town lots of times. We’ve traveled together lots of times, but we’ve never gone on an actual vacation that did not involve staying with someone or visiting family or friends. This was our first true family vacation where we went away together with the sole purpose of being together as a family. Let me tell you- there is a major difference between going to visit people who live somewhere else and taking a family vacation.

Here’s what I saw in my family in the few days we were on vacation:

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Vaughn held our hands more during 3 days at Disney Land than he has ever held our hands in his entire life with us (I am not exaggerating). He wanted to be close. We were safety for him when the world of Disney was too big and that is exactly what Vaughn needed to remember. And it was what Andy and I needed to remember about Vaughn- that even though he appears to be able to take care of himself, he is a little boy who is sometimes very afraid. Vaughn actually took a nap- again I am not exaggerating when I tell you that it has been years since he slept during the day. Vaughn laughed and smiled the whole time we were together. He loved our vacation and he can’t wait to do it again!IMG_3069

 

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Eloise is a ridiculous delight. She loved Disney, but she loved the parade the best, but even though we only went once, she never whined or cried to go again. We were supposed to go to the beach one morning, but decided to postpone it for another day and she never faltered. Just went with the flow that we were swimming in the pool instead. She laughed and rode “scary” rides, ate lots of candy and held fast to us.

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You guys. There is something about this kid that I do not understand. Six day vacation- late nights, early mornings, short naps, sensory overload and this 2 1/2 year old kid had literally one breakdown. One! He went with the flow in every situation. He loved Disney, he loved sleeping in a closet at the condo, he loved riding in a big boy booster. He loved the pool, he loved the beach. He was amazing and a wonderful traveler.

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This vacation also restored something in our marriage that needed to be restored. Andy and I love date nights, they make us feel alive and connected and while we did have one date night, it was with my cousins so we never really got the chance to actually connect (which is much different than hanging out together). When it came to one of the last nights, we finally talked. Like really talked- about how we were doing- and we realized that maybe we (as a couple) had had a couple rough days because we missed the small connections. 12789740_1127059493992572_1925362906_oWe missed the chance to tag each other out when managing Avett was too much. BUT, by the end of our vacation- WE GOT IT. And we brought it home. We’ve been connecting for just 5 minutes every night since we returned and it has healed us. Helped us see where the other one is living and how we can enter their world. While the vacation maybe wasn’t about “us” for the first time in our lives together, it was actually about the bigger “US” and we loved it.

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Sunsets and sand….also something we needed to remember that everything is going to be OK.

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In short, we will be doing this again. And we can’t wait. Vacation was just what we needed to reconnect and restore the brokenness that everyday life brings.

 

 

 

 

 

XO,

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*If you want the travel deets: we managed to book this trip relatively inexpensively. We were originally going to drive, but a wise friend of Andy’s suggested we try and fly. We booked all 5 of our tickets for $56 because we used airline miles. So, driving was no longer an option.Flying gave us a whole extra day in California and two days I didn’t have to spend in the car….

We used AirBnB and booked a 2 bedroom condo close to Disney for less than $1000 (I cannot recommend Air BNB enough- our experience was amazing!). We prepared most of our own food in the kitchen and only ate out a few times. We rented a car and other than that our expenses were the 3 days at Disney, the parking ($$) and the amazing dinner with horrible service we had at the Cliffs in Laguna Beach.

 

Road to Congo:Our Adoption Story Part 4

Welcome back! This is the final part of our adoption story- if you’ve been following along, then you know I’ve covered most of the big questions about our adoption. The “best for last” part is where we actually get to our destination and hold our children in our arms. This part of the story actually intertwines with everything else I’ve shared, but I’ve saved it for it’s own section.

We filed all of our adoption paperwork in February of 2011. I mailed all the application paperwork to both of our agencies and by tIMG_1954he end of that month, we were in the system and starting the process.

There are two  things that happened simultaneously once we filed applications. One, the Home Study which is where our domestic agency worked to make sure we were qualified to adopt with in person meetings, phone screens and background checks. Secondly, the international agency put us on the wait list for a referral.

Because I have a double triple dose of GSD (Get Shit Done), our Home Study went pretty quickly. I set up all the necessary meetings, got all the finger prints and background checks completed and prepared to move on. Only we didn’t. The nine months our international agency said it would take to complete the adoption turned into a year and a half of waiting for just a referral.

Finally in April of 2012 that we got our referral. Two boys. Their names were Ephraim and Elysee and I loved them completely. Ephraim was 9 months old and Elysee was 3.IMG_1825We were completely over the moon. Our agency said that it would probably be 6-12 months before we could pick up our boys. By now, however, we realized that maybe, just maybe, our agency wasn’t super intelligent when it came to timelines, so we figured it would be longer.

However, in July we got a call from our caseworker telling us that the boys we planned to adopt had been picked up from the orphanage by their birth mom. The story she told us didn’t sit right with us and by now, between the extended wait time and the other BS, I had had enough. So much was happening here- I was in contact with several families who were being completely jerked around by this agency, we found out that there was a 3rd brother in the orphanage who we knew nothing about and lots of conflicting information was moving around. It was scary and it left us not trusting an agency who had thousands of our hard earned dollars. (Remember the international adoption horror stories we didn’t hear ignored? By now we’d heard plenty!)

When we lost our referral, I just went into something like “You’re done f*&*# with me” mode and I started to push for reform. I think our agency had lost a few clients because of all of the crap they doled out (they have since closed due to fraud…imagine that) and they didn’t want to lose anymore so when I came around they decided they better just give me what I wanted (the more likely scenario is that Holy Spirit did everything and I got to see the miracles happen).

I called them up and said, “if you don’t give us a new referral in the next 24 hours, we’re dropping you”.  (Which actually would have been a huge financial loss to us and I’m not sure I was serious, but it got the ball rolling). We did give serious consideration to whether we were just in some kind never-ending trap with a fraudulent agency and several times, we almost gave up. You know when something in your life is super hard and you can’t decide if God is opposing you or if you are on the right track and that’s why it’s so hard? We kept asking, “Is this the time where you press in to God or is this the time where you jump ship because you are not even supposed to be on this roller coaster?”  That’s the adoption process. WHY IS THIS SO DAMN HARD? SHOULD WE QUIT? OR ARE ALL GOOD THINGS SUPPOSED TO BE THIS HARD? That was us for months. And months. And months.

Anyway, the next day, we got a new referral. These are the first photos we ever saw of our children. August 2012 was the first time we laid eyes on these two kids.

Honestly, this time, I was terrified. I was terrified to fall in love and lose again and I was terrified of Eloise (seriously. look at her). Let’s not even discuss the fact that these children are clearly not “2” and “5”. But when you are in the fire you make compromises to get out of it, so it was with some trepidation that we said “yes”.

Again, it was supposed to be “6-12” months before we could finally pick up our kids. And honestly, I didn’t have “6-12” more months in me. I had 2. maybe 3. So, again, I contacted our organization.

Through research I figured out that there were two ways to complete a Congolese adoption. One way was the way our agency was doing it, which was for them to file all the paperwork in the DRC. The second way was for the adoptive family to file all necessary documents in country and stay in the Congo until the documents are processed. Way #2 was known to be faster because the government in Congo was processing these documents quicker. To compare: way #1 was taking 3-6 months and way #2 was taking 3-5 weeks. So, being the professional that I am, I wrote a business proposal to our agency asking them for special consideration for us to be able to file our paperwork in country. It was an absolute miracle that they said “yes”.

What this meant was that we needed to be there for 3-5 weeks in order to file papers. This wouldn’t work for us, so we compromised and had Andy go to Congo alone to meet the kids and file the paperwork. It meant he would come home without the kids and then I would go and pick up the kids once that paperwork made it’s way through the system. This worked for us because Andy couldn’t get that much time off work and I didn’t think I could manage weeks alone in the Congo with two kids (after spending 10 days there when I went to pick up the kids, I am confident I couldn’t have managed).

In early December, our agency called to let us know that the rest of the steps were complete and Andy could travel. When Andy called me from Congo, he said, “I feel like two years of crap (the adoption process) has transformed into two beautiful kids.” (He was right, by the way, I’d do that two year sentence any day for these kids).

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He came home after meeting the kids and filing our paperwork and again, we waited. This was maybe the hardest waiting [just kidding, it was all hard] because now we knew the kids. Now we had invested everything and Andy had held the hands of our children. Just like everything else in this journey the unpredictability was very scary for me. We didn’t know when or if we’d be able to go back. Everything was so tenuous.

On Christmas day we still hadn’t heard that the paperwork was complete and so we still didn’t know if and when we could travel back. I sat on our couch on Christmas day and cried and cried. I was so afraid that our dreams were just out of reach and we would never have the kids we wanted so desperately.

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Our last Christmas together. A hike in the woods and me crying on the couch.

As it happened, just days after Christmas we were cleared to travel. We were so excited! I booked our tickets on Friday, December 30 and started to prepare for travel in early January. [On Saturday, December 31 I took that first pregnancy test that confirmed, that we were now expecting 3 kids in 2012- another miracle!].

Andy’s sister, Betsy (who had been working in the Congo previously) agreed to go with me so I wouldn’t have to travel alone. She speaks some French (the main language in Congo) and has traveled extensively internationally. So in early January, we left for DRC.

Our in country experience was…hot, scary, nerve-wracking, and tough. Congo is a war-torn country, so it can be very dangerous. We stayed in a hostel-type place (where the cook hated us, but everyone else was mostly nice) that was gated off and as we were advised, we hardly left and we never left without a Congolese friend. On the second or third day (it was to be a 10-day trip), the orphanage workers brought the kids to us.

Meeting Vaughn and Eloise is indescribable. It was every dream I ever had fulfilled. But it was really hard! I just longed for Andy to be there with me the whole time! Once we met them, the kids were ours and I got to have them stay with me until we were granted exit. Eloise had malaria and though Vaughn talked a lot I had no idea about anything he was saying. If it was hard for me, I can’t even imagine what it was like for them…but someday they will tell you their stories.P1000260

We got to visit the orphanage while we were there and I am so glad we did. It was eye-opening. What shocked me the most was how these two kids followed me everywhere at that orphanage. As if to say, “Lady, I may not know you at all, but you aren’t leaving me here!”. P1000543

Anyway, now that we were together, we had just one more document to obtain and that was the famous exit letter. If you have kept up with adoption news at all you know this is the big thing*!

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So much of our story could not have happened without the man on the right. While I don’t truly know, in my heart I think he was one of the good ones. He served us well and I trusted him. Mr. Claude, wherever you are- thank you!

We were granted our exit letter and as fast as we could, we packed our bags and got the hell out of there. Travel home was a nightmare. Eloise had never been strapped into anything in her life and I lied to the stewardesses on the plane about her age just so I could hold her and she would stop screaming. It wasn’t the first time someone lied about her

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age…Vaughn was obsessed with the TVs and after dozing off I woke up one time to find him watching Blood Diamond (a movie about diamond trafficking in the Congo). He cried when I made him turn it off. He almost vomited on a stranger and I couldn’t wake him up (or carry him!) at one point when we had to move because he was so jet lagged. It was rough, but we were headed home!

Our entire family met us in Washington, DC to meet the kids. It was a beautiful moment that I will never forget. The most fun was on Day 2 when we announced that we were pregnant. It was fun to see the shock on everyone’s faces.

 

So there it is. The complete story of our adoption- miracle after miracle. Now here we are 3 years home and it is still a beautiful mess. But at least I am not waiting for anything…

XO,

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*DRC Exit letter- Just a few weeks since our departure from Congo in January of 2012, the Congolese government suspended the issuance of exit letters. Almost no children have left the country legally since then. Many families are living in Congo with their children and have no idea when they will be able to come home. Children have died waiting for exit letters to be issued. What this means for us is that if our agency had not granted us the ability to file in country, we would not have our children today. There were people who got referrals at the same time I did, and they are still NOT HOME. Please pray for these families and children and that the government in Congo will release them!

 

 

 

 

 

Road to Congo: Our Adoption Story Part 2

Now that we had decided we would adopt internationally to add to our family, we had to decide where to adopt from. There are probably hundreds of places that you can adopt from, but we knew only about China, Russia, and Africa. Truly at the beginning of this process we were totally open to wherever God would have us adopt from.
One thing we knew all along was that “God knew”.  We knew we had to ask the questions, but we also knew that God knew where our children would be from.

We started to think about all the places where there were children who needed families and suddenly, it became totally overwhelming. We were paralyzed with indecision about where we should adopt from.

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Because we knew there was no time for fear and indecision (I had already waited 2 years, people!), we decided to decide and to decide once and for all where we were going to adopt from. Once we settled on that, Congo was actually an easy decision. Congo was our introduction to this whole international adoption thing and it just made sense. At the time adoptions began in Congo, adoption agencies were boasting (falsely) a 9 month start to finish adoption process, the US government was offering a massive tax credit for adoptive parents, and we had a Congolese connection with Andy’s sister. So, we decided: Congo.

Now that we decided, we selected our agencies (we needed two- one for the domestic side and one for the international side) and we started the whole paperwork process. I’m not going to bore you with this, suffice to say- everything you’ve heard about the paperwork involved for adoption is true. If you plan to adopt, buy yourself a new pack of pens and plan on spending many waking hours filling out paperwork. Luckily, I am organized and driven so I dove right in. For someone like me, the paperwork was a breeze. My favorite game as a child was to play “office” so this was all fun for me. I planned date nights for Andy and I to just fill out paperwork and I actually loved every minute of it.

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Once we were signed on with agencies and filling out paperwork, we knew the next thing that would happen was a whole hell of a lot of waiting. So we decided to get to know what we didn’t know. I knew of two adoptive families through my job at Compassion, so I called them up, told them we were adopting and invited ourselves over to dinner at their homes. That was one of the best things I did during our wait. These families were open and honest about adoption- the good, the amazing, the bad, and the awful and it was just what we needed to hear. Like everything in my life, I had an unrealistic set of expectations about what adoption would be like. (Honestly, this is one of the biggest struggles with prospective adoptive parents- unrealistic expectations.) So meeting with families who were 2, 3, 5 years into the process and had their children home was really helpful. It enabled us to lower the bar and set realistic standards.

We decided early on to adopt siblings instead of just one child. The cost was much lower to adopt two children at once, rather than to adopt twice, and we knew we wanted more than one child, so it was easy to just do it all at once. We figured we didn’t know what we didn’t know about just having one kid, so we dove in (Andy and I tend to do this a lot..!).

Someone told us to “get the youngest kids you can” and that is sound advise (but it doesn’t address the fact that trauma impacts the brain even in utero). But getting younger kids can make the attachment and bonding processes easier, so there is that. We figured since we wanted two kids we would need to up our age limit a bit so we would have a better chance of getting a referral sooner, so we decided any gender, two siblings under 5 years old and that was our criteria.

Now that we had the big decisions made, paperwork underway and the waiting began we needed money. And lots of it. In the next part I’ll share how we raised funds for our international adoption.

XO,

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Road to Congo: Our Adoption Story Part 1

We get a lot of questions about our adoption. From why we chose the Congo, to how much it cost to adopt. In this four- part series, I’ll be sharing about our adoption process and answering the most frequently asked questions. For those of you in the process of adopting or considering adoption, this will be interesting. For those of you stalking me (exactly zero people) this will be good information for your crazy wall and for those of you completely uninterested in this, I’m sorry. I hope Amanda posts something soon….come back 4 blogs from now. We’ll be here.

The truth is, like many good things in life, we didn’t sign up for this adventure, but adventure is what we got!

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As you know, it was after two years of trying to conceive that Andy and I finally decided we needed a new Plan A.

The main goal of Plan A was to grow our family by adding children. We figured if we couldn’t get pregnant or it took us exceptionally long (and for me 2 years was already a lifetime!), we had better start taking steps toward the goal of having kids. I want to state something clearly here because people make assumptions: my motivation for adopting was to add children to our family. There are many wonderful people whose motivation for adopting is to help children, but we are not those people. We are the people who wanted kids and adoption was our route to getting them.

Backing up in our story here: we found that if you can’t conceive your own children, there are a couple of ways to grow your family. 1. You can adopt. 2. You can pursue any number of fertility treatment options or 3. You can decide you’ll be OK without kids. Option 3 was not an option for us and while option 2 was, it just seemed to us like there was the possibility of dumping thousands of dollars into something that in the end might not work- we didn’t have an explanation for our infertility, so we couldn’t justify the expense. Adoption seemed like the best and most surefire way to add kids to our family.

Flag_of_the_Democratic_Republic_of_the_Congo.svgIt was about the time we decided that adoption was the route to purse that Andy’s sister was working in the Democratic Republic of Congo with an international aid organization. She had a friend from college who had just adopted three children from DRC and was keeping a blog about it. Somehow that blog made it’s way to us and both Andy and I read it. It impacted us both and got us both thinking about what was next for us.

Also, at the time I was working for Compassion International which is a non-profit dedicated to eradicating poverty in the developing world through sponsorship by assisting children and their families. Because of my work, I had some idea about life in the developing world, infant mortality, children in poverty, the orphan crisis due to AIDS, famine and other major issues our worldwide neighbors face. And so it was because of the blog and my work at Compassion, we pretty quickly decided that international adoption would be the way to go. We knew that foster care and domestic adoption were options, too, but to us (at the time) it seemed like *foster care was too unpredictable (horror stories about people loving children and then losing them) and domestic adoption was just too much of a crap shoot (horror stories about paying for all the birth mother’s costs and building a relationship with her only to have her decide to keep her baby), so nix those two. Now we are down to this: adopt internationally. (Apparently we never heard horror stories about international adoption !!???? Seems fishy….).

We knew very little about adoption, though. I knew there was paperwork involved. I knew that lots of adoptions failed and I knew that the world of international adoption was murky water.

Next: Looking into that murky water.

XO,

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*Foster Care side note. If you ask me today about adoption the very first thing I would tell you is that your best option is foster care. I was very uneducated about this and I know a lot more today. Whether you want to help kids or want to add to your family- my unsolicited advise is this- start with foster care.

Three things I’ve learned in three years as an adoptive mom

This weekend, our family celebrates our 3rd “Home-Avirsary”. What that means is that three years ago this weekend, we became a family. I traveled to Africa with my sister-in-law to pick up our kids and when we landed in Dulles, we were officially all together and finally “Home”. 32185_10200408424883191_915257598_n To me, home is where your Love is. On Andy’s first wedding ring (he’s only on his second- which is actually amazing), I inscribed the message, “Welcome Home”, because to us- being married was “home”, being together was “home”. And now the same is true for our made up celebration. Being together is like we are all finally, “Home”.

But if you’ve ever celebrated anything as wonderful as adoption, a new job,  marriage or childbirth, you know that Day 1 is nothing like what the rest of the days will be like. Day 1 is a celebration full of excitement and anticipation- the rest of the days are filled with a measure of love, anger, pain, joy, madness, excitement, frustration, celebration, elation, and any other emotion you can think of. The same is true for us.

Today, as we celebrate three years together with our adopted children, I’m sharing three lessons on being an adoptive mom that I’ve learned in those three years. Don’t get me wrong, these are not the same lessons for everyone, but they ring true to me as I look back on this time. Also, I’d like to say, I’ve learned 333333 lessons about life  and 33333333 lessons about myself in these three years, but since lots of you are come for the adoption stories, I thought I’d focus on that aspect.

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At our Three Year Home-Avirsary

Lesson 1: Parenting adopted children can not be done without support. I might even go as far as to say that “parenting any children can not be done without support”, but I said this would be about being an adoptive mom, so I’ll leave that out. Or not, I already said it, so just take my word.

One day, for whatever reason, I went to the local nail salon in my new-ish town. Next to me was seated a chatty, young and pretty girl. Having no friends in town myself, I bravely started to chat with that girl next to me. All I can say is this- thank GOD for my bravery and her

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kindness. If it wasn’t for that- this journey for us would have looked much different. God brought Amanda to me at just exactly the right time. Our friendship has led to more friendships and more support than I could have ever asked for.

I have a tendency to isolate especially when life is challenging or hard. It’s just easier for me to duke it out by myself than it is to let people in (though, that is changing with my emotional growth- thank you Brene Brown, I love you!). So when we brought our kids home and our world crumbled (see Andy and I crying hysterically on day 2 questioning whether we made a major mistake and if it wasn’t too late to return the goods), I would have been at it alone. And alone is no place to be when your world is crumbling. As much as our kids were a dream come true for us, becoming parents to children born to another rocked our world. We were in no way prepared for what that kind of life change was going to look like. But my friend Amanda knew. She not only knew the science of what our brains were going through, she knew how much our lives would change and she walked beside us every step of the way. My parents moved here just months after our kids arrived and as challenging as that was in many aspects, we couldn’t have done it without them here. 101313_0008From babysitting on date nights to doing our dishes, my parents saved our sanity. We didn’t know we’d need grandparents, friends and support groups for this journey, but God did and he sent them all just when we needed them. Whether you are going through a divorce, adopting a child or starting a diet- let me say this: you need supportive and loving friends. And your mom, you probably need your mom.

Lesson 2: Love is not the same as attachment and love is not enough. I am no expert on attachment and bonding, but my friend Amanda is. From reading books to picking her brain, I’ve learned a thing or two. The main thing I’ve learned is this: I can have enough love to save the whole world, but if my children don’t attach to me in a healthy way, love won’t help. I can say that I absolutely love my children- all of them- but I am working on bonding with one of them in particular and it is hard work. Once I am bonded, I am safe and that child can attach to me. Not like love isn’t hard, but comparatively, love is actually easy-breezy. Love= I would die for you. Attachment= you trust me to die for you. Being able to die for someone is easy. If there is a fire, I will save you even if means I die. Helping someone to trust you is not so easy. If the fire alarm goes off, all the traumatized wires in their brain go off, too, and they have no idea whether I will save them or not. Love alone does not save children from hard places. Children from hard places need love, but whatever measure of love I have to give is never going to be enough. It’s filling a bucket with a hole in it if attachment doesn’t get addressed. Love is wonderful and I thank God for His love for me which gives me a blueprint for loving others, but the brain has it’s own response to trauma and attachment and bonding are the answer that traumatized children need.

Lesson 3: It takes a year to have your first day. David Purvis said  this to me a while back and I just sat there and processed the truth of it all. Whether you are starting a job or starting a life with someone, it will be a good year before you really get the hang of what’s going on (and even then…). When we’d been home with our children a mere 8 months, I had a baby. So our ‘year’ basically started all over. Andy and I had just about made it a year with our new family when we pushed the reset on the “Your Life Completely Changed” button by having a baby and we went back without passing go or collecting our $200. Honestly (and I’ve said this before) as joyful and amazing as everything about this is- it was hell. Having a newborn, having 2 kids I barely knew and couldn’t understand half the time, and suddenly having 7 people in my house- it rocked me.

IMG_4824 2When Avett was about 1, my “first day” had been had and that’s when the proverbial shit hit the fan. For that 19 months of being a new mom, I hadn’t lived at all; I had merely survived. And survival is hard and traumatic work (just ask your adopted kids..). I realize now that I was traumatized by these changes and upheaval and I realize even more so now that my response to trauma is try really damn hard to survive and if that doesn’t work- smoke. After indulging my addictions for a while, I woke up one day and realized that this response wasn’t helping either, so I stopped. I stopped everything and I just processed it all. I joined a group of people who were processing their own hard places and I duked it out in the company of sinners and saints. I processed the year, the first day, the year I spent smoking and the whole thing. I rediscovered reality and I started to live in the life I had been given. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been so, so good.

In the past three years, I’ve learned so, so much from my children, my ever-patient and loving husband, my friends, my supporters and the people who’ve stayed beside me. I wouldn’t trade this time, these lessons or this family for anything in the world. Being a mom- adoptive or otherwise is tough work.  I’ve got a lot more to learn, but I’m getting there. I’m studying attachment together with my husband and we’re continuing to build our support network. The ‘first day’ is finally done and we’re moving on…

XO,

CELINA - signature

We’re on the Edge

So a few weekends back we ran away to the mountains. And I got to share a cabin with my three favorite friends of all time. It was like I was in heaven for a few days. Have you ever been in the Rockies during fall? It is EXACTLY how I imagine heaven. I was surrounded by my favorite women, I was surrounded by God’s brilliance and beauty, we sang worship songs multiple times a day, and ate good food and drank good drinks. We laughed so hard we cried, we cried so much we laughed (at ourselves). We met God in each other and in His presence. It really was one of the best weekends I’ve had in a long long time.

And then we all had to go home. I could feel the anxiety creeping up my throat as we got closer to home… It all seemed so clear up there on the mountain. All of the things God was asking us to do. The big and scary things, the little and mundane things, it all seems so succinct and easy on the mountain. It’s attainable when you’re on the mountain top, right?!

But Celina just kept driving. And as we got closer and closer to home, and where rubber meets the road, as we got closer to reality- I was freaking out! Have you ever been in that place where God speaks, where you know that you know, but then it’s time for you to actually DO it.

I was scared.

I still am scared.

My friend Melanie made this sign for us years ago. It has been on our mantle ever since. I love it. Reading it. I love READING it. Living it is another thing.

‘Come to the edge.’ He said. 12141582_10153201593367081_6728393715807884258_n

They said, ‘We are afraid.’

‘Come to the edge.’ He said.

They came.

He pushed them.

And they flew.

-Apollinaire

We’re at the edge. As a family. He called us here. I know.

I have to thank God I have a husband who thinks I am capable and brave. And friends who will stick with me through crazy scary things, that don’t make sense to any of us.

Sometimes God asks us to step out and do crazy things. We’re doing that at our house. It feels so scary and so ridiculous. But it also reminds me of what amazing people I have who journey with us as a family. And that God has shown up every time. He has never let His promises return void.