adoption finalization – five years later

Around 2am this morning, Luke called for me, as he does most nights. He wanted to move to “daddy’s bed” – weeks where Ian works the late shift make this boy crave extra time with his daddy. So I settled him with Ian and crept off to the guest room to get more sleep.

As I lay awake in the middle of the night, I thought back to this day five years ago: Luke’s adoption finalization. I was up at the same time, feeding Luke a bottle. After he finished, I jumped in the shower and got ready for the day. Luke was born a few hours south of here, so that was where we had to go to finalize his adoption. It was an early morning for sure, but an exciting one.

I remember being nervous about how Luke would do – putting him in the car so early, and having to stop on the way for another feeding. We pulled into a McDonald’s parking lot and fed him in the car. He was so super smiley and happy – it’s one of those moments that I’ve tucked away in my heart for forever. I remember his soft jammies and his fuzzy bib. His gurgly smile and bright eyes. I remember thinking that no matter if he screamed in the courtroom, this was our happy boy, giving us the gift of a perfect family moment.

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Now that baby is five. I was never sure how or if we would celebrate his finalization anniversary each year. We have always been open with Luke about his adoption, but thus far he hasn’t been super interested. And that’s fine. We’ll keep bringing it up now and then, so if/when he is ready to explore that part of his story, he’ll know that he can ask us.

So today I remembered that special day on my own, and thought about how far we have come. How we know our boy so much better than we did back then, and how we’ve grown into parenthood with him. Often friends or family say something like “God knew you were the just the right parents for him.” So often I feel unsure of how to parent our bright, spirited boy that their statement feels untrue. But I do trust that God wanted to call us to grow into the parents that Luke and Gracie need us to be. The promises that we made in the courtroom five years were just the beginning of this calling, but it was a day that will always be tucked away in my heart.

 

 

farewell, summer

20160824_162705My facebook feed has been flooded with back-to-school photos for weeks, my son starts back at preschool next week, and we’re a good week+ into September. I admit that I was not ready to end our summer, but it seems that the weather turned cool and fall-ish the moment we switched the calendar to September, so now I feel more ready. But what a summer it’s been.

We didn’t doing anything especially cool or unique – no family trip (we had an awesome trip to Maui last January), no big events – just lots of full, rich summer days. I admit that last spring I felt a lot of trepidation heading into a summer with no preschool and lots of days that were blank slates. My sweet boy is pretty much the exact opposite of myself when it comes to social needs. Since he was around 18 months old, he wakes up every morning asking “Who are we seeing today? Where are we going? Is anyone coming over?” While I don’t relate, I recognize his need to be with people, and I have done my best to meet those needs (for everyone’s sake) as he’s grown up. Preschool has been a great way for him to connect with friends and have some independence from me. Last spring, it seemed like his social needs were increasing, and I worried how our summer would go. I prayed and I plotted, and what I came up with was the weekly calendar:

20160826_190034A sheet of dry-erase poster board that hangs on the kids’ door with a full view of the week ahead. Each Sunday morning, the new week is revealed, and Luke has been known to ask about it as early as 2am in the morning. With our highly spirited boy, you just never know how an idea like this will go over. We’ve done visual schedules in the past, but he’s never fully embraced them. But this one was a winner. And it has greatly reduced the number of meltdowns regarding “What are we doing?! I don’t want to stay home! Who can come over?!” Now he can see the mix of outings and friend time and time at home, and is more accepting of the big picture. Which is not to say that I never heard him complain about wanting more social time, or asking “Is this a ‘down day,’ mom?” with a sarcastic tone (gotta admit, I feel a glimmer of pride that I can almost hear his use of air quotes – soon I’ll teach him my signature eye roll) – but overall, it has been a great success for both of us.

And we were busy. So many fun outings and playdates. Parks, berry picking, hikes, zoo days, riding the bus, spray parks, camping locally with my parents in their camper, the marine life center, and tons of picnics – just lots of fun enjoying our lovely PNW weather.

These two kiddos are at such a fun age for all these little adventures, it was really a blast.

And when we were home, I tried to sprinkle in some “scheduled” activities, which made Luke feel better. I’m a big fan of open, self-directed play (especially now that Luke and Gracie are such awesome playmates), but mentally Luke likes more structure. Often, he would get so caught up in playing that he would forget about what was on the calendar, so we would just skip it. If the kids were having a hard time playing together, it was nice to already have a planned activity to whip out and turn everyone’s attitudes around.

Mostly we did “craft time” and “school time.” Crafts were easy – the kids love painting, so we’d do that a lot. Chalk paint was a big hit for everyone. School time was my way of sneaking in extra OT work for Luke. They would each get ~15 minutes of tablet time with the ABC Mouse program, which was super exciting for them because they didn’t even know we owned a Kindle. While one was working on that, I worked with the other one on a hands-on project. I got so many great ideas from my friend Stacie’s Fine Motor ABC book, and the kids usually loved getting to do this part of school time. It was fun to come up with different activities (like the awesome 50 cent lacing cards I found at a garage sale!) and surprise them with it.

And can I just say? My boy has come so far in the last 6 months! It’s probably a post for another day, but I am just so thankful for our time in occupational therapy. Not many people know about Luke’s challenges because they are so easily masked by his super energetic and social personality. But he has to work so hard in a lot of areas – most fine motor tasks like writing and cutting are really challenging for him, as well as some gross motor planning (he wasn’t even able to pedal a tricycle or use a balance bike until a couple months before his 5th birthday, which I’m sure would be super surprising to a lot of people). I am so proud of how far he’s come, and how hard he has worked. “School time” was a big breakthrough for us, because previously he had been unwilling to work on these often frustrating tasks while at home with me.

Overall, it has been a great summer. I love cozy weather, so moving into fall is not too sad for me, though I will miss this particular season – the sweet sounds of my 2.5 and 5 year old playing together, and finding delight in the simplest activities. So long, sweet summer.

sIt WIISave

we have a five year-old

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How this boy got to be five years old, I don’t know. He was SO excited about his birthday this year. He had his first “kid party” with some of his friends from preschool and church. We had a “wild animal” theme (no surprise with this kiddo), and everyone had a blast. It was just Ian and I leading a dozen kiddos through animal activities, so I didn’t have time to take any photos!

We made him a lycra hammock for his swingset, because he loves the ones at his OT sessions. He and Gracie love it and have already spent a lot of time hanging out in there.

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On facebook I posted this on his birthday:

5 years old! I don’t know what is crazier – how much you have learned and grown into the boy that you are now, or how much I have learned and grown over the last 5 years in being a mother to you. You are a flame that burns brightly – sometimes it’s a flame that dances joyfully and lights up the world all around you; other times the power of that flame overwhelms you. My own flame tends to remain pretty steady, and you’ve challenged me as we’ve learned how to tend to your fire; rejoicing in your zest for life and your love for others while learning when and how to quiet the flame when it grows too large for your little body and mind to handle. We are in this together, and we learn more together every day. Happy birthday!

It’s a work in progress, learning to parent this little boy who is so different from myself. The day after I wrote this, he had his party. His party that he had been counting down to for a month, and talking about even prior to that. His party that he had planned and wished for and was SO excited for. And I think it was close to everything he imagined. He was so happy to be surrounded by all his friends.

His pure joy is electric, his smile is contagious, and his giggle is one of my favorite sounds. His highs are so high; they are thrilling. And of course the flip-side is that his lows can be pretty low. We knew he would come down pretty hard from his party, and he did. There wasn’t even much sugar involved, but the excitement of it all took a toll on our sweet boy, and the rest of the day was one big roller coaster of emotions. No amount of hammock time or running on the track or reading on mom’s lap could make it right. The day finally ended with him laying in bed, a cool washcloth on his forehead, surrendering to sleep as Ian sang “Trust in the Lord,” the song we’ve sang to him at bedtime since he was an infant.

This last year of him being 4 was hard. 3 was hard. 2 was hard. His feelings are so big, and sometimes his body sends him mixed signals about things. We are learning alongside of him how to regulate these feelings and sensations. I am thankful for his occupational therapist, and the great insight she has into what may be going on inside his little body. And immensely thankful for the grace that Jesus has granted me as his mama, and for the work that he has done in my own life amidst these challenges.

I do see so much growth, and so much potential – I feel like we may be at a turning point in his development. Or soon, anyways.  I feel relieved that he can do one more year of preschool; I want him to go into kindergarten feeling confident of the skills he will need there. Most of his classmates wrote on the cards they included with their presents – seeing their wobbly handwriting made my mama heart sink a little bit. Not because I’m sad that Luke isn’t there yet, but because I know that he notices that they can write their letters. He told me one day that he knew he couldn’t go to kindergarten because he didn’t know how to write his name (I know, not true – clearly something that another kid told him) and he said it with such sadness. I’m glad that he’ll have another year to practice skills like this that seem so difficult for him.

Our boy is so exuberant and social that most people don’t realize his own personal challenges. As his parents, we get to see the full spectrum, of course. Over the last few years, I’ve seen a change in how I view his behaviors and emotions. For so long my internal reaction was often, “why can’t he just…” whereas now I often – not always, I’m not perfect! – feel empathy towards him and think, “it looks like he needs…” Instead of wanting to shut down and distance myself from him, my mantra is “get closer.” And it has really paid off in our relationship.

So here’s to this next year of parenting a 5-year old. May we grow more, reach new stages, and find meaning and joy in this season.

these days

This is a lovely season for me, this mostly stay-at-home-mom season. Of course there are days that I wish I could escape to a full-time job, and usually my one full office day each week feels like a mini-vacation. But even in the midst of tending to the endless needs of tiny ones and the messes they create, I feel content and happy in this season.

Sometimes I go through days where it feels like nothing has been accomplished, and I’ve had no personal space to breathe. But other days – like yesterday – it is a perfect mix of all the things that bring me joy.

Yesterday morning, while Luke was at preschool, Gracie took a long nap (she prefers to nap while he’s gone – I think that she likes knowing that she won’t miss out on any fun! And it’s a win for me, since it means an easier bedtime later.) – and I had a blissful time to myself. I listened to Sara Groves while getting my “real job” work done, then I had time to finish up an order for my Etsy shop. Productive, quiet, life-giving time. I was so thankful.

I admit that during that time, I wondered what my afternoon would hold – sometimes God gives me those glorious pockets of alone time or an unexpected nap, and it turns out that I really needed that gift in order to survive the challenging day ahead. But you know what? The afternoon was pretty blissful too; the sun was beautiful and we were out in the yard all day. I accomplished so much weeding and yard work while the kids happily entertained themselves. All the “Mommy! Look what I can do! Watch this!” and “Worm! Biiiiiig! Daddy worm!” were sweet little reminders to look up from the task at hand.

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Those beautiful, perfect days have a way of nestling themselves right in my heart so that I can revisit them on the tough days. I am so thankful for this season in our family.

april

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Every April I get all the feelings.

In April 2011, our adoption homestudy was completed and we were officially “waiting” for a baby. I started readying my heart and home for a baby – it was such a unique season of anticipating and waiting with such uncertainty as to when we would become parents. I made this adorable little stork for our future baby’s bedroom.

Every April, I revisit those feelings and stand in awe at all that has happened since then. That April, I didn’t know that we would have a son two months later. And that two years after that, I’d be longing for another baby – not yet knowing that I was newly pregnant.

And this year? These two are no longer babies, but we are in a sweet season. They are best friends, and my heart is so full.

 

a room for little ones

I’ve been meaning to post photos of the kiddos’ room since, oh… November of 2013? I figured I better take some photos since inevitably Gracie will move to a toddler bed in the next while.

I feel very sentimental towards their tiny little bedroom, and I know it will be a sad day to me when we move them to the slightly larger guest room. And while their room is never as tidy as it is in these photos, this is how I choose to picture it in my mind’s eye.

I love how the light floods in the window in the morning.

IMG_1199Luke’s corner, complete with the birth announcement that my mom made; Ian’s badges from his boy scout and eagle scout days; the quilt that I miraculously made for him when he moved into his bed; and the IKEA wall pockets that he has ignored or knocked off the wall since we got them. Yes, I could take them down… but then I’d have to fill in the holes in the wall. 🙂IMG_1200I love this cheerful little spot, and someday I will miss seeing the cloth diapers all stacked and ready.IMG_1203

IMG_1204Gracie’s corner is sweet – I made the little trio of woodland animals before Luke was even born, and I convinced my mom to embroider another lovely birth announcement for our girl.IMG_1206And the stork that I made – it has been plucked from the sky many times by curious little hands, yet still survives.  IMG_1210I love our IKEA Expedit systems (we have 3 throughout the house). IMG_1212And the room wouldn’t be complete without some amazing family photos from Evantide Photography.IMG_1213I still have the Noah’s ark hanging that my mom made for me – it was over my closet growing up, and now it’s over my kids’ closet. Next to it are two baby bibs that my oma embroidered – the bottom one was mine, and the top one was given to my mom’s best friend when she had a son. My mom’s friend was so kind to give it to me when I had Luke (and yes, I totally cried when she gave it to me). IMG_1225

So that’s their room at the moment. I know they won’t be little forever, but I sure am treasuring this time while they fit perfectly in this tiny little room together.