Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Airick Leonard West: On a Bike in the Car Lane - A Glimpse Through Your Child's Eyes

During the upcoming retreat my sister Meri (a white woman) and I (a black man) will, in part, discuss our childhood and how it informs our thinking about raising children in multi-racial, multi-ethnic, and multi-cultural households. Her four (1 Taiwanese, 2 Haitian, and 1 birthed) and my five (4 African-American and 1 Vietnamese) are reflective of those values and lessons -- often hard won. I'm looking forward to gathering with you all and to the sharing that will take place.
But for this contribution to the conversation, I want to take a moment to honor three things my sister does for me today as an adult that are extraordinarily relevant to the topic and that offer sage insights into what culturally competent parenting looks like.

1. She's Able To Use "White Privilege" In A Sentence Without Freaking OutA dear friend of mine is white, married a black woman, and now has two intelligent little bi-racial sons. While the first was still gestating, I asked him how he was preparing himself to raise a child that wasn't white. He seemed genuinely surprised by the notion that society might receive his soon-to-be son any differently than it had received him. 

Meri's ability to effectively articulate the concept of white privilege -- whether using those words or not -- creates a safe place for my experiences to be accepted and interpreted gently. She understands the difference between oppression and discrimination. She's taken the time to educate herself on contemporary matters of race and ethnicity. She's not naive to the rampant forms of racism and ethnocentrism that continue to harm children of color in our nation in ways that often remain invisible to even the most well-intentioned white parents.

2. She's Prepared To Abandon Her Friends/Family If NecessaryAnother dear friend of mine brought his soon-to-be spouse home to meet the parents for the first time. In short: it didn't go so well and the parents effectively offered an "us or them" style ultimatum. He left and didn't return for several years -- until his parents came to grips with the reality that the world is a more diverse place than the one they grew up in.

Meri hasn't had to face this conversation from our side of the family; our parents are two of the most welcoming and caring people I've ever known. But as a child and as an adult she has had to draw the line with people who were not raised in the same enlightened manner. Her willingness to immediately stop spending time with any friends or family who might in any way be unaccepting of or whose behavior marginalizes her children because of their race qualifies her as both an amazing sister and a loving mom. She surrounds herself and her children with as many wonderful people of color as she is able. She protects them against racial violence (verbal, emotional, and physical) the same as she did me.

3. She Asks For My Perspectives And Listens To Them When I ShareConsistent with being the person who invited me to partner with her at this retreat, Meri has often sought me out as a discussion partner in her and Brian's child rearing. Her interest in seeking the point of view my journey provides demonstrates an understanding that her view of the world is fundamentally insufficient to prepare her for raising children who will likely experience a dramatically different view from either of ours. At the same time that her reaching out meets her need to best support her children, it meets my needs for validation and trust.

I am incredibly grateful for the gift that is my sister. She has been my tormentor, my protector, my confidant, my mentor, and most importantly, my friend. I am excited to share more of our story and ideas with you all next weekend.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Nikki Pauls DeSimone: Sharing their Stories

When I started working in adoption in 2004, the adoption community was sort of in an odd place. We were coming off decades of a thick veil of secrecy in adoption. Being a kid of the 90’s, I knew kids who were adopted, but we sure didn’t talk about it. If they celebrated “Family Day” in their own homes, nobody was sharing that information at school on Monday. And that was even more progressive than the previous decades of maternity homes (aka. spending the summer with Aunt Ida in Iowa), parents not telling their kids they were adopted until they were adults, and sealed adoption records. So when the 2000’s came, we were like “hey, that’s clearly not a good and some kids are really struggling as adults. Let’s just do, well, I guess the opposite.” So we did. And then we had people telling their 3-year-olds everything known about their birthmoms, sexual assault, how babies are made, their own fertility struggles, China’s one child policy, poverty, and a host of other topics clearly inappropriate for a child who was also learning how to pee in the potty.

So rather than going too far back again, some of us have come up with a brilliant idea to bring it more into the middle. Let’s talk and be honest, but let’s be age appropriate about things too.  For some of our children, the stories are all they are ever going to have. As such, we must covet and cultivate our children's stories for them until they are ready. In this breakout session, we will cover how and when to share our children's stories with them, find creative ways to share, and examine the importance of being age appropriate when talking with children about their stories. This session will also touch on what is appropriate to share with others and how to equip our children to answer those hard questions that are inevitable with children who have been adopted.


Nikki, MSW, is an adoption social worker, turned adoptive momma, who resides in Prairie Village, Kansas with her husband Brian and daughter Yiyi. Nikki also serves as an Assistant Professor of Social Work at Avila University in Kansas City, Missouri. 

Read More About the Retreat Sessions here

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Nikki Pauls DeSimone: Grief and Loss {with something special just for you!}

As of late, I’ve taken a little look at myself and some of my main (non-family) loves. Here are my top 3.

#1 – I love going on job interviews. I job interview for hobby with no intention of taking the job. It makes me feel good about myself. It’s sick, I know. This is how I end up with 6 jobs – not exaggerating.

#2 – I love falling asleep on the couch. It’s like a little treat for me. My bed is so comfy and I love my husband, but there’s still nothing better than the occasional “Nikki night.” I was older when I got married, so I still appreciate a night sleeping alone here and there.

#3 – I love talking about grief and loss. It is absolutely my favorite topic during home study interviews. Perhaps life in general. Always has been. But now after adopting my own child, I am obsessed with the subject matter. Home study families and dinner party guests of the future, get ready.

So when I was asked to present one of my three main loves at Joy in the Journey retreat, I was all too happy. You’ll have to come to the session to find out if I’m giving job interview pointers, extolling the virtues of a night alone, or talking about grief and loss.

In my grief and loss session we will examine the common theme of grief and loss as it pertains to your adopted children. In this session we will see how grief and loss issues can manifest themselves in your child though sleeping issues, eating issues, self-confidence issues, maturity, and their educational journey. We will look at trigger events and see how grief and loss issues will be lifelong.  I will pepper you with stories from older adult adoptees so we can really see how your child will never “outgrow” these issues, We will also take a look at our own grief and loss issues and see that by dealing with them proactively we may be able to avoid the common Post-Adoption Blues phenomenon. Come to this session with an open mind, ready to learn, perhaps put some pieces of your child's puzzle together, and examine the importance of doing some work on you before, during, and after your adoption. 


I have worked in adoption for the past 11 years, but my love for adoption began long before that. As a young child, I begged for my mom buy to me a Cabbage Patch doll that looked nothing like me. I treasured that adoption certificate with my life. As a teenager, I befriended all the exchange students at school and babysat almost exclusively for children who were adopted. When I was in college, I began sharing my plans for adopting my own children. It was around that same time that I figured out that I could also make a career out of it. Six weeks before graduation with a Spanish degree, I chose MSW programs that didn’t require the GRE, applied quickly and got accepted days before I graduated. While in graduate school, I made no bones about the fact that I had no desire to do anything in social work that didn’t relate to adoption. Much to the chagrin of my professors (of which, for the first time, I was not a faculty favorite…can’t imagine why) I landed my own practicum at the international adoption agency where I have worked for the past 11 years. My love for adoption grew in 2008 when I also began working in the field of domestic adoption and then in 2014 when I adopted my own child from China. I am so excited to be attending and speaking at Joy in the Journey this year. I’ve never attended a women’s adoption retreat before and am eager to get to spend a couple of days with old and new friends. 

Read More About the Retreat Sessions here

Friday, March 6, 2015

Jen Decker: One of THOSE Days

Ok…I’ll admit it…today was one of those days…you know the ones.  The one where every single second I was needed;  #1 slammed her finger in a door, #2 feels lonely, #3 throws a fit and antagonizes everyone else.  My husband has had it, with the finances, the kids and probably me.   I have lost tickets to a show that came in the mail and have a million emails to return.  It is 10 degrees outside and we are all stuck in this house and I may or may not have just snapped.  To be honest we are all out of ideas for togetherness, and at one point I look up from my laptop, my husband is on his iPhone, my daughter is watching a show, one son is playing the Xbox and the other is playing a game on the iPad.  Connected Parenting at its finest folks.  

I have to be honest, my typical response to this would be own all of it as if I am expected to be the fix for all of it.  I must cure the injured finger, fix the loneliness, stop the antagonistic behavior and make sure my husband is happy, organize the papers (OH MY WORD, the PAPERS), respond to the emails in some magical time warp. Then create warm family experiences with hot apple cider, fresh baking bread, pajama bottoms and board games full of laughter and zero accusations of cheating.   Suddenly, the picture in my head of what I am supposed to be is a long way from the picture of what is…so then I start down this road of self-talk…  

  • This is happening because I don’t pray enough for everyone.
  • If only I were more creative about activities.
  • If only I had paid more attention to the budget.
  • My kids are reacting to chemicals in processed foods, everyone feels bad because I don’t prepare healthy enough meals.
  • If only I were more organized.
  • You brought this on yourself…you are supposed to make adoption look fun to others.
  • Why have I said would volunteer for all these things?
  • I feel fat.
  • Tammy isn’t like this…she is always organized and efficient.
So then what do I do?  I make a new PLAN.  Yep, in my new world order I will be efficient and organized.  I run to the Christian book store where I am sure to find some books on how to do this better.  I will now be able to pray better for my family, create efficient time management systems.  In this new world I am mentally creating, I will know where the ice pack is right away when the finger gets slammed. I will invest in my middle child daily for 20 minutes so that his nagging loneliness doesn’t eat his tender heart alive.   (This type of investment means feigning interest in Ninjago and Chima play by play stories, but I will do it and he will feel so loved!)  I will make sure I create constructive opportunities for my littlest to engage without being an antagonist.  My new paper system will ensure that no paper ever goes missing again. And because I am now so efficient, in my new fantasy world I will surely lose weight because I will have more time in this new system to plan and prepare healthy meals prepared with vegetables out of my own garden.  Also, my sweet husband will not have to come to the end of his capacity because I will efficiently run things so he doesn’t have to be troubled with all of this.  I will be more fun and exciting for him.

Here is the problem with MY NEW WORLD ORDER…ME.  I am the problem because I have put myself at the center of this new world order (and the last one, which need I remind you, is imperfect).  I behave as if God was waiting for me to read the right book to whip things into shape, and is powerless until I pray the right words enough and get organized!   Why do I do this?  Why do I take all of this on?  Where did I get the idea that it was my job?

Honestly those questions are not that important. The TRUTH I have been learning (notice I am still in process here) is that Jesus’ invitation to me is so simple…there are no books, but there is one book…no strategies, but there is His plan…no amount of checklists, but plenty of grace.

28Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry.”  Matthew 11:28 & 29

Well, this is awkward…because I have made being a godly woman about my performance as a wife and as a mother and if my husband is stressed out and my children are unhappy, uncomfortable or struggling I have put that on me but God doesn’t.  His yoke is easy…his burden his light.   If that is true, then I need to behave as if it is and THAT, my friends, is what FAITH is.  This journey we are on, requires faith.  And, when I look at my children, my marriage, my life I must believe that God has a plan for this CHAOS that does not require me to put myself in the center of the solution.  

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, being convinced of what we do not see. For by it the people of old received God’s commendation. By faith we understand that the worlds were set in order at God’s command, so that the visible has its origin in the invisible.  Hebrews 11:1-3

Talking about faith, buying cute necklaces about faith, and shabby chic wall art professing faith are WAY different than walking in faith daily.  But if the promise is true…if what I cannot see right now (the invisible) is working to produce fruit that I WILL SEE (the visible) then I must step out of the way. I have a long ways to go…but I am confident that God will complete what he started and I don’t want to miss it and I don’t want you to miss it either. 


Jen hasn’t sat still in 38 years.  It’s a problem.  She is learning to sit at her Savior’s feet and that “doing” is not nearly as important as “being” his dearly loved daughter.  This is a hard lesson for this busy and driven mama of 3, but it is proving to be the most important one yet.   Growing up in an adoptive family herself, God gave Jen a passion for supporting and equipping adoptive families.  She, and her husband Loren, are Empowered to Connect trainers in Kansas City, where Jen is the director of an area foster and adoption ministry.  

Read More About the Retreat Sessions here

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Gearing up for Joy in the Journey Retreat 2015

March 2015 will bring the Joy in the Journey Inc. ministry's second annual Retreat for adoptive and foster mamas.  The Joy team is so excited to gear up for this annual event geared at connecting and encouraging retreat attendees as well as sharing what God's been laying on our hearts in the last year. 

This year's retreat theme is based around the journey found in Hebrews 12:1-2 and is centered around the idea of Intentionally living out a life that constantly looks to the Lord for guidance.  Our "tag line" is Walk the Hard, Celebrate the Joy.

This month, our posts will come from our amazing retreat speakers.  If you are attending the retreat, please allow these posts to encourage you as you prepare your hearts for all God has to offer through the retreat.

If you are unable to join us this year, please open your hearts to these posts as well.  Our prayer is that you will be encouraged, energized and ready to take your next step, whatever your journey, through the writings of our talented presenters.

Thank you for loving and being a part of this ministry.  May God bless you as you Intentionally seek His will!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Resource Review: iMOM

This months resource is a web site that I have used numerous times. It has many assorted helpful resources and I'm positive that you will find it to be a favorite "go to" web site. The website is www.iMOM.com

When you visit iMOM, make plans to spend some time exploring.  The creators of this site allow you to print off their hundreds of ideas for FREE!  I finally got smart and bought a 3" three ring binder with dividers so I could organize the different categories I found useful.  

The topics of my dividers (and, yes, they have many charts, examples, and ideas for these topics) are: Chore Charts, Reward Charts & Games for Behavior, Behavior Consequences & Discipline Ideas, Lunchbox / Love Notes, Dating (including family conversation starters & worksheets), Lessons for Good Behavior and Activities for Boredom. Again, these are just my topics. They have several more!!  

In the very front of my notebook, I placed a sheet labeled, "10 Simple Rules for When You're HOME ALONE" so it can be pulled out in a hurry.  Finally, to help remind me what a "Good Mom" looks like, I placed "The A, B, C's of Good Moms" in the clear outside cover; it helps me memorize them as I walk past my handy binder!  My only warnings are.....

1. make sure you have TIME to explore on this site, because it's hard to leave it!2. make sure you have plenty of paper and ink for your printer because you're going to find some amazing things to print off for your benefit.

Happy Exploring!  


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Confessions of a Waiting Mama: My Love

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I wanted to take some time to brag on my curly-headed, basketball-loving, guitar-playing husband. There’s no one else in the world I would rather walk this beautiful/gut-wrenching/joyful/heart-breaking/amazing road of adoption with than him, and there are so many reasons why. We’re new to the world of adoptive parents, but you would think Isaac had been preparing for it his whole life (and sometimes I doubt that God has been orchestrating this forever WHY?). Here is a list of things that prove why my baby daddy is the best ever.

-He didn’t flip out when I first mentioned adopting before trying to have biological kids. In fact, he was totally on board. I was prepared for him to shut me down immediately but he did no such thing. He was all in from the get-go.

-He’s basically the calmest person ever. I freak out about anything even remotely bad or remotely good in life. Anything above or below completely neutral causes an extreme reaction in me. He is my constant.

-I have spent my entire life coming up with baby names (I’m a girl, it’s what we do). I had list upon list upon list of names that I’ve doodled on notebooks since elementary school and was 100% sure we would use. Then one day out of the blue, he suggested a boy’s name and I melted. Completely melted. It was perfect. It was so completely us. My entire life had been devoted to naming our future children and in one instant he completed the task. Whether we use that name for Caribaby, a belly baby, or a goldfish, it’s perfect.

-He is SO excited to be a dad. Before we decided to adopt, I questioned whether or not he even wanted to be a father. Not because he ever expressed that, but because (again, remember who I am) I am 100% expressive about EVERY TINY DETAIL and he is calm about EVERY TINY DETAIL. He expresses his excitement different than I do, and I love him for it.

-When the emotional roller coaster of being on a waiting list was too much for me, he took over. He became the one to communicate with our agency and to check in when the time was right. He worked on the US Embassy issues and faxed every document imaginable to the Caribbean.

-He tells me often what a great mother he thinks I will be. Whenever I doubt my ability to handle whatever is to come in our future as parents, he reminds me that it’s not up to us to succeed, its up to us to let Jesus be the center and let him restore and reconcile all things back to himself in the most perfect way.

I love you, Schade. Thanks for being my favorite part of every day.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A Minute With Nikki - Therapy

Generally speaking, I work with two kinds of people. Tell me what camp you find yourselves in.

Camp A: Certain your adoption will chain you to a lifetime of weekly meetings with the therapist, so why waste time? Get off the plane, or out of court, and head immediately to the therapists office.

Camp B: Every day is a struggle. You feel alone. You turn to God and cry out for help and still the feelings of being overwhelmed are present every single day. You find that even though you said you knew that the phrase “love is enough” wasn’t true; perhaps you really hoped it would be for your family. But, it wasn’t.  

Readers who know me at all should know that I was Camp A. We had our first meeting with our therapist before our daughter was even home. We met with her a few weeks before we left for China to get some good bonding activities to plan and toys to bring with us. It was extremely helpful and we had a lot of very simple, terrific fun times while we were in country.

After we got home, we kept in touch with the therapist through emails and texts. We waited to meet with her again until the time came that our daughter’s language and development seemed appropriate for our first family meeting. We presented it to our daughter like it was something for our whole family to get to understand one another better. Rainbows and kittens. And that worked for like a second until she told us that she knew that it was primarily just for her and basically described what therapy is. Busted.

But we preserved. We went. Someone had a bad attitude. She told us the therapist had a lot of internal anger and rage and that she didn’t think we should go back to talk with someone like that. But, it was 50 minutes well spent. And I will say that the goals we were working on and the negative behaviors dramatically improved even after just one session. Whenever regression would find us (as it inevitably did) we would just say “Hey, little one, isn’t this one of the things we’re working on with Miss _____?” And the sigh would follow, and the answer would be yes, we would talk, and improvement began.

We had a second session a few weeks after. This one was better. Someone agreed that perhaps she misread the therapist and perhaps her anger and rage wasn’t actually anger and rage. And maybe she was a little nice, just a little. Perhaps her hair was pretty. And maybe she did really want to help our family. And maybe there were things we all should be working on.

As we prepare for session three, we are all planning our goals together. I think everyone has a good attitude going into #3. This therapeutic process truly is a blessing for our family. I can’t say enough good things about it. It is absolutely worth every penny that our very frugal family is paying. We really are growing together, with some help that many of us need.

Just think about it. Consider it. Make lots of calls until you find the right person to help your family. But the important thing is that you see the value in having someone else on your side to help. Sometimes that’s the most helpful thing you can have on a tough day.

Nikki has been working as an adoption social worker for the past 10 years.  The consummate single gal was married in 2012 and started an adoption process to adopt a 10-year-old with special needs from China soon after.  Nikki loves writing home studies in the Western Missouri area and preparing families for the realities of adoption.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

My Story: Being Held Captive

If there were one piece of advice which I could give to encourage my fellow sisters who are in the long wait for their children, it would be this: you are not captive to the journey.

My husband Butch and I had always known that we would welcome children into our family through adoption.  We began the journey in the summer of 2011 and felt the Lord calling us to pursue international adoption from Taiwan.  Most adoption processes during that time took less than 1 year to complete which is unheard of in international adoption!  So, we eagerly dreamed and planned to have our child home by the next summer.  We applied to, and were accepted by, a home in Taiwan who just loved orphans and provided a temporary home for them until they could be with their forever families.

However, unbeknownst to us at the time, Taiwan was changing their adoption laws.  The country began slowing down adoptions and halting some until the new laws came into effect.  One year passed until the home we were working with asked if we wanted to remain on the waiting list because they couldn’t guarantee us a child.  We had to make a choice to continue on the list or leave the program. 

This was such a heavy time.  That’s the only way to describe the heartbreak and disappointment.  We felt like we were thrown several steps backwards.  We didn’t want to start the process over by pursuing a different country’s program.  We weren’t handling it well.  My husband struggled with anger, but I obsessed about the what-ifs.  I monitored other families’ movement within the process.  I organized and reorganized our adoption files.  I distanced myself from most friends and some family.  In hindsight, my life had become captive to the journey.

During this time, I was reading the book of Jeremiah, which the Lord really used to minister to my heart. 

Jeremiah 29: 4-7 says,

“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon, ‘Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce.  Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease.  Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.’

The Israelites were exiles in a foreign land.  They were legitimate captives to the Babylonians.  I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be held against my will by strangers.  Yet here I was allowing my thoughts and circumstances to hold me captive from life.  What really caught my attention in this passage was that the Lord tells us to live our lives, to show up and be present, and that we will benefit when we seek the welfare of others.  I can’t worry or obsess when I’m intent on living for God and serving Him.  This passage really convicted and encouraged my husband and I because it really helped us to move beyond ourselves.

We asked the home if we could take some time to pray about  our decision and waited for one month to see how the Lord would guide us.  So many loved ones prayed for us too!  And you know what?  The Lord heard our petitions!  Through confirmation of God’s word, we decided to continue on the list, which was the best decision we’ve ever made!  Taiwan started approving adoptions again a few months afterwards.  Six months later in November of 2012, we were matched with our almost 3-month-old son! We named him Silas Lin, and he was beautiful and healthy!  It was love at first sight!

The home told us that he would probably come home within 6-8 months after we were submitted to court, but this didn’t happen.  Instead, months passed without news of progress, and my husband and I were trying so hard to see the good in the journey and not be so confined by the process.  When April arrived, we heard that the courts rejected our case because more paperwork was needed from the birth family.  We understood, though, that the necessary paperwork had been received, and we had been resubmitted to court in May.  

So, now we were eagerly anticipating having Silas home sometime in the fall.  Months passed again without progress.  When August arrived, we received the devastating news that our case was again rejected because the courts wanted specific paperwork from the birth family that still hadn’t been submitted.  The home now had the arduous task of tracking down our son’s birth family to get them to complete more paperwork. 

We desperately worked hard to not be miserable and impatient.  I decided to lead a women’s prayer group at my church, which was a great opportunity to care for others and share about adoption with them.  The Lord also encouraged me through many other adoptive Mamas.   A dear friend of mine who adopted her daughter from the same home encouraged me with these words:

“Our God is our Redeemer.  He not only redeems us from our sins, but I believe that He can redeem lost time with our children too.  Those milestones you’ve missed, He’s going to make it seem as if you were never absent.”

And you know what?  She was right.  About 3 months later (almost 1 year from the time we were matched with him), we got the call to come for our first visit to meet our son.  This was such a precious time to finally meet and love on Silas.  We were able to see his beautiful country and learn more about his birth culture.  It was amazing for our family of 3 to finally be together even if it was for 2 short weeks.  I pray that God strengthens all of you Mamas out there who will have to do it in the future because it’s heartbreaking and really hard.  We chose to trust in God’s protection over Silas and our case.

Two months later, we received the best Christmas gift ever!  Taiwan officially decreed Silas as our child that day, and we were invited to come over on New Year’s to bring him home!  Finally!  Silas was coming home!

We were in the adoption process for 3 years.  It took us 14 long months to bring Silas home.  All of us who have experienced adoption know that the paperwork alone isn’t for the faint-hearted.  It can be easy to feel robbed of one of the most joyful times of your life wading through those piles, fearing the what-ifs, or dealing with the stress of it all. When you just don’t know if you can get one more paper notarized, the hope for your child is an amazing motivator!  And that’s what a captive needs: to hope in the Lord who alone can liberate and provide the most amazing miracles in our lives. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Our Story: Bonding

We are nearly six years into the in writing of our adoption story. Most days that doesn’t seem to be the focus of our lives. We are just like every other family living the daily grind of work, bloody noses, owies, laughter, dishes, brushing doll hair and hanging with friends. The creating of our family took a slightly different recipe: foster-care then adoption. But it affects how we parent, whether consciously or sub-consciously, because how we bond and attach with our children, and how they attach with others, is affected because of their loss.

When my husband and I took our foster care and adoption classes, I didn’t have six years into the future on my radar. For me the feeling of being a mom in six years was like looking into the future when I had graduated high school. I knew eventually I would graduate college and have to be an adult. But that seemed to play out in front of me like a Hollywood movie.  It was something I could visualize, but would never actually act out.  

But here I am. Here we are. We are a family six years after. And we are still attaching and bonding. We are still trying to navigate this road to healing and make a house of love. What has been a conundrum is that the bonding has been harder for me and my daughter than for me and my son. She was older when she became our daughter and I’m sure that is part of it, but gender, I think plays a roll, too. As we have walked this journey, I’ve had to do a lot of educating and re-educating myself beyond the classes and books from the beginning of our journey.

What I want to share are four things that have been a help and comfort to our family when we are in the trenches of working to strengthen attachment and bonding with our kiddos.  These four things keep us sane and keep us loving through the circumstances that sometimes seem to be isolated only to our family.

When we worked to start new attachments where there were none, beginning with trust can be a great option.  In our case, I was able to use the attachment our children had for each other to gain trust.  When Allyson, our daughter, began to trust me to take care of Aaron, her brother and our son, she learned she could trust me to take care of her, too.  She could depend on me and an attachment began to form.  This took small consistent steps in everything I did for them.  It began with having their cups and breakfast ready the minute they woke from bed and nap, to being there to kiss their scratches and bumps, and playing with toys after meal times each day.  While it sounds simple, I can attest that six years into our journey, my daughter still needs that reassurance that Mommy and Daddy are still watching her and that she can know her schedule each day.  She still needs to know that her mealtime and her bedtime will be consistent, that morning time will come and we will be there.  Those first two and a half years without a meal time and an adult who could protect and take care of her made a lasting impact.  She will test my husband and me, so before that testing comes, I MUST set my mind and heart to know that it IS NOT PERSONAL. 

Here we are in our journey about to celebrate SIX years of my children’s journey in our family. But the biggest surprise for me that I feel is (again) not talked about in the adoption books or classes we’ve taken: six years later we are still fixing and working on the attachment, especially with Allyson. Who knew that six years would not be enough to heal not having a parental attachment for over two years from infancy? Most days require me to step back and assess her words, the rules broken, to see if it is typical eight-year-old testing or if it is an attachment testing. Sure we’ve been told about the bonding process taking time.  Realistically could it take years?  Would that feeling in your heart of finally you being the mom or dad and her really being your child take a year? Two? Four? To really solidify? When we shift our thinking about this and open up to the time it could take to heal and enable ourselves to speak openly about the situation with our kiddos, we can freely have the safety to love openly without hurt. We also must know that there is more than just a feeling of being a mom or a dad. That it is being there consistently, time and time again, to kiss the boo-boos and to provide love unconditionally.

The bonding and attachment has been different simply based on gender, geography and genes and how we relate as daughter /mother and son / mother or daughter/father and son/father.  These attachments are taken for granted that first moment when you lay eyes on your child and portrayed in our media as magical moments. But as foster and adoptive parents, we walk in with guarded hearts prepared for loss in a way because of the realities we’ve been educated about. Based on our histories of who we are as an individual, our gender, geography and genetics play into how we will bond as a parent. In the book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open-Adoption by Lori Hold and Crystal Hass, the authors speak about a mind shift in the way we think about adopting.  It is not the birth family versus the adoptive family, whether you are having a closed adoption or an open one.  When we think this way you end up creating a split person in both biology and biography.  I think we can all agree we are striving to create whole little people.  The point the authors make is on being open with our children and encouraging them it is okay to love their biological parents, too. “…we acknowledge that parents are capable of loving multiple children. So why not allow—encourage—children to do the same with multiple parents?”  When we think about it this way, we can allow ourselves to open up in love, too.  Allowing for the attachment to overtake the hurt, neglect and histories that can get in the way. If we allow ourselves to open up this way, we can take out much of the history of ourselves and help heal the history/hurts of our children without taking things personally and allowing the child to open up to attachment and bonding.

Take a step back and prioritize your goals. Are you looking ahead too much at the future?  We all need incremental goals.  We all have hopes and dreams for our children.  Those will change shape and form as their God-given gifts morph and emerge throughout their lifetime, but what about today and living in the moment today?  Add to the mix our relationships with our own parents growing up, and our “parent glasses” we wear become quite foggy when relating to our kids. Taking a step back to notice I can handle this moment right now; that this is all I need to get through is this tiny moment will make the task of bonding seem much easier to take. One moment at a time.

Remember to breathe. Don’t  take it personally. Hopefully you found some encouragement in knowing that it takes time. Six years into our story, we are still tying up all of our attachment strings. Take the time, rethink your goals, step back and look at your history and that of your child and build trust. It is so worth the investment to stay focused.

But above all else, love.   

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Resource Review: Small Town, Big Miracle

Friday, January 16, 2015

I’ve always known a mother’s heartbeat is crucial, even in the womb.  The baby soothes to it.  They even make machines to mimic it. As a mother by adoption, “mother’s heartbeat” jolted me.  Rossi didn’t hear my heartbeat before she was brought into this world.  I learned quickly that MY HEARTBEAT matters to her…her Momma.  So, I wrote a book about it…

Tara Whitmer is wife, a mother, a teacher, UK fan, and an author.  She writes..."God’s plan and timing is perfect.  I needed this lesson and to learn that I don’t have control.  After 12 years of miscarriages, IVF, heartache, etc…my Rossi Quinn was born on the other side of the world.  She healed my soul, my heart.  I’d do it all again, over and over, for her."

We are so excited for this giveaway.  
The winner of this giveaway will win a free copy of the book "My Momma's Heartbeat"
THREE people will win!
To enter:
2. Share about this giveaway on your personal FB page
3.  Then comment "Liked and Shared" under the post on FB to be entered to win!
Winners will be announced Sunday, Jan. 18 at 9:00pm CST

Rossi Quinn Whitmer

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Confessions of a Waiting Mommy: I am the Lord, your God.

I am the Lord, your God.

In the fall of 2012, we built a house. Let’s be real, we didn’t actually build it ourselves. If that were the case we would be homeless at this point. Neither my husband nor I have much skill in the carpentry/electrical/plumbing/really anything remotely resembling construction area. I remember going to build houses in Mexico with my youth group in high school and it was always quite an interesting experience. My friends and I would help as much as we could but we usually ended up playing with the neighborhood kids. I think the homeowners were thankful when they saw us put our hammers and saws down in exchange for soccer balls and baby dolls.

Anyway, back to my original point. When we built our house, our amazing builders gave us a family Bible and encouraged us to read through the entire Bible in a year. We thought this would be a fun challenge and something really beneficial to us and our ministries, so we decided to do it through the year 2013.

I’m a pastor. My husband is a pastor. The Bible is kind of a big deal for us. But we had NO idea how impactful reading the Bible as an entire story would be for us as individuals, us as a couple, and us as adoptive parents. To see the gospel laid out from beginning (like legit Adam and Eve beginning) to end was incredible. We felt like we, for the first time, were reading a narrative instead of just bits and pieces of wisdom here and there.

One of the most influential aspects of scripture was a theme running through the Old Testament. After Moses frees the Israelite slaves from their captivity in Egypt and they begin wandering the desert, there are SO many times the Israelites panic and complain and question whether or not God is actually going to lead them to the Promised Land. They doubt his faithfulness because they cannot see the full plan laid out in front of them.

Pause here. THIS IS SO ME. I am all about following the Lord’s leading on things. I love stepping out in faith and taking risks that God has called me to take. I’m a little bit of a spontaneity-junkie so this kind of thing is right up my alley. HOWEVER, I am not all about walking in faith. I want to see the plan. I want to see the itinerary. I want to know what adventure is coming next. I want to see the destination and keep my eyes focused on it. The Israelites were all in when Moses said “It’s go time, grab that unleavened bread and peace out.” However, when they started wandering the wilderness and didn’t have the end in sight, they panicked and questioned God’s faithfulness.

When God said, “Hey Maggie & Isaac, it’s go time. Adopt a child. Start that paperwork. The time is now.” - we were all in. It wasn’t a long drawn out process of us going back and forth asking if we should or shouldn’t. We literally had one conversation about it and were so confident in God’s leading that we knew adoption was what we needed to do. I don’t say this to brag or to say “look how faithful we are,” because that is the furthest thing from the truth. As willing as I was to step out and begin the process, I was even more unwilling to trust him through it.

Throughout the Old Testament, we see the Israelites begging God for answers, questioning his plan, and demanding to know the destination. Each time this happens, God simply says “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt.” He is referring them back to his greatest act of faithfulness in their lives. He is saying, “You are doubting that I know what I’m doing BUT remember who I am. I am the one who rescued you from slavery. I am the one who gave you freedom. I am the one who began this journey in the first place. I AM.”

When our adoption journey took turns that we weren’t prepared for, we were reminded of these passages, and reminded of God’s previous faithfulness. Every time something fell through, God referred us back to the times when he made a way out of something impossible. Every time we felt defeated, God referred us back to a time when he claimed victory. Every time we doubted that adoption was for us, God referred us back to the very moment when he opened our hearts to it.

We’re slow learners so we knew if we weren’t constantly reminded of the ways God was faithful, that we would lose sight of them. We put up a chalkboard in our house that we have to look at every time we walk into our bedroom. We started listing ways that God showed his unbelievable power and mercy throughout our process. Every day we are reminded of his faithfulness in our adoption journey. I want to never lose sight of that or forget those moments when he made a way for the impossible.

“I am the Lord your God who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.” Psalm 81.10

Friday, January 9, 2015

Our Story: Nothing Like We Planned. But Perfect.

“It will happen in time.”  “Don’t worry so much about it, it will happen as soon as you stop trying.”  We even had one person tell us “Well, some people just may not be meant to be parents.”  REALLY!  Who says that to someone!  (Rude people is who!  OOOPS, did I write that??)

We are a couple of “infertility.”  Wow---how terrible for us.  How did we ever find the strength to go on?  How did we function and get out of bed every morning knowing we were a barren couple?  Might as well sign up for a life of lonely sorrow now. 

Luckily we were not that kind of couple.  Yes we had some times we were mad and many more times we were sad.  But we truly did chose to not let this define us.  Our story is unconventional, unexpected, and has two amazingly perfect surprises.   Let me tell you our story.

My hubby, B, and I met in high school.  He was a year older and he was VERY different than my other boyfriends.  But it was truly the start of our not-so-perfect, absolutely hard, wonderful, crazy, at-times-frustrating-but-always-filled-with-love life.  We married in 1999 after dating for 5 years.  We were just 22 years old.  We definitely weren’t thinking about having children yet. 

Fast forward another 2 years.  Some friends started having kids.  Boy, that looks like fun we thought.  Let’s just see what happens we said.  We only told a few friends we were throwing caution to the wind.  We didn’t tell our families because we were still so young, everyone kept saying we had plenty of time and we needed to wait.  Pick a reason and we were given it: 1) to buy our first house, 2) to be older, 3) to have more stable, higher paying jobs, or 4) any other reason in the world that crossed anyone’s mind ever.

A few more years go by.  Nothing has happened yet.  Alright—now some people are starting to ask.  “Hey, when you two having kids?”  “How long have you been married?  5 years?  Wow---no kids yet , huh?”  We started thinking maybe I should just mention to the doctor at my next appointment that we are a little concerned it is taking so long. 

At my next appointment my doctor decides to have me try Clomid.  This will surely do it he says.  You are young, you just need a little help. 

Nothing happens. Month after month I take the Clomid, wait, not pregnant.  Back to doctor for ultrasound, new prescription, do it again.  I do this for 5 months.  I start wondering what is wrong with us?  The doctor decides to do some more testing.  We hear the news.  To have a child we will most likely have to do in-vitro fertilization.  We are referred to the nearest Fertility Clinic—2 ½ hours away.  We go, we pay the $500.00 consult fee (which to us then was a FORTUNE) and we spend 3 hours being tested.  I get my cervix biopsied on the exam table while thinking I was just getting a quick exam.  “This will just sting a little” they said---WHAT EVER!  It hurt!  Poor B is put in some room with poor lighting and some “magazines” and told to do his thing like that is the most natural place and thing in the world.  We are told again that In-Vitro is our only chance.  We cringe at the dollar amounts it will take and drive home trying to think how we will ever save that much money to then spend on a “chance” to get pregnant.  We start talking about adoption.  But how could we do that?  Won’t the child one day want their “real parents” and leave us?  Would we love the child the same as if we had one of our “own?” 

I get a promotion and we move over an hour away from home.  We settle in our new house and new city.  Then good news!  At open season for insurance enrollment and changes at my work I find insurance that COVERS INFERTILITY----EVEN IVF!!!!!!!!  Are you kidding me?  This is the answer to our prayers.  Now it is just a matter of time til we have a baby.  Simple, right? 

We meet with one of a very few doctors covered under our plan. He is 4 hours away.  But we are lucky because he partners with a local gynecologist in our town so we can do almost everything in town except for the egg retrieval and the transfers.  How did we get so lucky!  We paid a fairly small deposit to cover any out of pocket expenses and got to work!  I went to appointments and ordered the shots to start our first round of IVF.   I started the injections, at one point 4 per day.  My stomach bruised.  My insides felt like they were jiggling around every time I walked, moved, etc.  I cried at nothing.  My feelings were hurt if B even left a sock on the floor as somehow I thought it was a personal attack on me.  It was hard.  But it was temporary and would be over soon and I would be pregnant as I was sure I would be pregnant the first time around---this is the help we needed and our doctor’s success rate on live births was great. 

11 eggs were retrieved.  6 fertilized.  4 became blastocysts.   2 were transferred and the other 2 frozen for storage and for our next baby of course. 

We waited.  People asked what we would do if we had twins.  My response was always “Well, we will feed them and love them.  We do not know what 1 is like let alone 2 so we will not know any different.” 

Negative.  The test was negative.  WHAT?  What do you mean?  I cried.  I left work and went home to lay on my bed and cried. 

As time passed we decided to wait to transfer the other 2 embryos as we were going to be moving back to our hometown.  Once settled we went to our local doctor who agreed to work with the fertility doctor for the 2nd transfer so that we would not have to drive the now 5 hour drive except for the consult and the transfer.  This worked out great.  We were so happy.  This is definitely it!  We are back home around our family, we found a house and have gotten settled, we are both happy at our jobs.  
This is definitely it.  And our hometown doctor was so great and we felt very positive to do the 2nd transfer. 

We went up the night before the transfer and settled into the hotel we had booked for 3 nights.  I know, I know they say you can go back to normal pretty much the day after the transfer but heck no!  I wasn’t chancing anything by driving 5 hours back home the day after.  I was gonna lay my behind on that bed in the hotel room with no distractions or responsibilities and let these little babies get nice and comfy! 

The morning of the transfer we were up early and left early.  We drove around before heading to the clinic.  We parked and went in and headed up to have these babies transferred!  We met with the nurse, we saw the pictures of our “babies” on the computer screen, I got undressed and put on the gown and laid on the table.  The doctor came in and explained that this time he was going to thread the catheter that held the embryos into a “tubing” to hold it more steady while he inserted it past my cervix because last time there was a little trouble getting it past my cervix and he wanted to decrease the small amount of “trauma” that had caused.  I held B’s hand and we felt even more positive as surely this was definitely going to ensure it worked this time.  That was obviously the problem with the last transfer. 

The little door in the wall between the exam room and the lab opened and I saw the catheter being passed through.  The lights in the room were off except for the bright light down at the end of the table where the doctor was.  I relaxed and exhaled. I was ready.

“Clang!!”  I heard a clattering noise.  I looked up.  I saw my nurses face go white.  I heard mumbling.  I held B’s hand.  I heard someone say “How long till more will be ready?”  I then heard “That was all she had.”  Huh?  Are they out of the tubing the catheter was to be put into?  That must be it.  Oh well, I am sure they will figure something out. 

Some additional lights came on.  “I’m so sorry.  I am not sure what to say but when I was threading the catheter into the tubing it fell.  With the catheter.  I’m so sorry, the embryos are gone.”

What in the world?  Are you kidding me?  That is what was going through my mind.  I heard B mumble nervously that everything was ok.  I remember smiling at first nervously.  Then I started to cry.  

The doctor patted my knee and said “Stay the night tonight.  You two go to dinner.  Send me the bills.  We will discuss later how to go forward.”  He left the room.  I started to get up.  I was still sobbing.  The nurse had me lay back down.  She said take your time.  Do you need something to help you sleep tonight?  I shook my head no.  She said “I am so sorry.  This happens sometimes but not often.  I am so sorry and take your time getting dressed.”  She left the room.  I tried to get up. B had me sit back down.  

I sobbed for several more minutes before getting up and getting dressed.  I will never forget walking out of that room and the nurses and staff trying not to stare as I walked out and my nurses both coming up and hugging me and saying they would talk to me soon.  My doctor did not come out. 

We got into the car in silence.  We looked at each other and half-laughed and half-cried “Did this just happen?”  B asked if I wanted to go home or stay the night. I said stay the night.  We drove back to the hotel and I started texting our friends and family.  We drove into the parking garage at the hotel.

BAMMM!  A huge jolt.  B just ran our truck into a concrete pillar in the parking garage.  I start to laugh as tears also run down my face.  He gets out and goes to the edge of parking garage and screams a four letter word that may or may not rhyme with truck.  He gets back into the truck, which is very smashed but still drive able. He says we are going home. I said Ok.

The next few days and weeks are somewhat a blur.  We were devastated.  What would we do?  The nurses called to check on me.  I didn’t answer the phone.  (The doctor called me several weeks later, I never called him back.) 

We decided no more treatments. No more talking about treatments for a while.  We were taking a break. 

Little did we know after all of this that there was a wonderful turn coming in our lives. 

When we met our daughter, now 5 years old, she was only 16 months old.  We met her the day after my husband’s birthday on June 26, 2010.  I always thought if we adopted that we had to adopt a newborn.  But when we saw her we just knew she was ours.  I had tears in my eyes.  It was her.  We both felt it from the first time we met her. 

Our child, T, was a foster placement with her grandparents.  We thought for sure that we would just be able to sweep in and adopt her.  Not so much.  After about 1 billion discussions and late night texting we came to the conclusion we could not simply adopt her but that her grandparents would and we would just be a positive influence in her life.  We would be God parents to her and take her if anything ever happened to the grandparents.  We were sad at first but knew we would have a fantastic relationship with her regardless and were thankful for that.  We celebrated the adoption by the grandparents.  We threw a celebration party for them.  We were thrilled.  We did not know that 6 short months later things would significantly change. 

A few months before T’s 3rd birthday her grandfather started suffering some serious health issues.  After many more discussions the decision was made that we would have T live with us.  We all agreed that we would get guardianship of her until his health improved. They would still see her several times a week and even have her overnight weekly. 

Then the diagnosis came.  ALS.  A horrible disease.  Again we had many discussions and all agreed that this little girl should stay with us.  Then cancer was found.  We started talking about the fact that she was only 3 and maybe it would be best to have her be with us permanently.  Have a mom and dad.  Make it all official before she was older and things may get harder.  We all decided at that time we would adopt her.

On 10/3/2012 we adopted our 3 ½ year old beautiful girl.  We were all over the moon.  And little did we know there was another huge blessing in store for us.

We had started some more treatments prior to the finalization of T’s adoption.  We still wanted to have another child and for T to have a sibling.  She was 3 and the timing seemed great.  We tried IUI several times with some new techniques with no success.  After another test it was discovered I had some significant blockage and surgery would be required and IVF needed to be reconsidered.  I said I would consider it.  With my doctor and the mid-wife at the office in the room with me I looked at them both, they are both also personal friends of ours and our family, I said to them “I will consider IVF again if you make me a promise.  If there is anyone who comes to you and wants to adopt out a baby, please keep us in mind.”  They both knew we had recently adopted T and that our homestudy was still current and we were basically “ready to go” if the opportunity presented itself.  This was November 2012.

On February 6, 2013 my doctor called my cell phone.  “We have a baby.  I need to know now if you are still interested.  We have to have an answer for the person tonight.  I don’t know all the details yet except the baby is due March 3.”  (THREE WEEKS!  A Newborn baby!!!)  While on the phone I ran to tell my husband.  I whispered to him while at the same time telling my doctor “YES!” 

The next three weeks went by in a blur.  The biggest two things I remember were extreme feelings of excitement and joy but also extreme feelings of anxiety and fear.  Would the mother go through with it?  Could we come up with the expenses to cover this so quickly?  Could all the paperwork be done this fast?  We had nothing for a baby as T was older when she came to live with us. We started asking all of our friends if they had things we could borrow so that we didn’t buy anything until after the baby came in case things fell through. On Friday March 1st we received the call that the birth mother was being induced that Sunday March 3rd.  We were to be at the hospital at 5am and would have a room as well.  This was a closed adoption and we were not meeting the birth family. 

And then it was Sunday at 5:00am.  

Besides backing into my mother-in-laws car in the parking lot as we left for the hospital (I did this!  Even with back up cameras and sensors.  But sheesh I was getting ready to have a baby!)  everything worked exactly as we could have imagined.  We waited anxiously for the baby to be born.  We observed visitors going in and out of the birth mother’s room.  The day ticked away as we tried to pass time by registering for things online for the baby and keeping our family in the waiting room updated.  
At 3:00pm my doctor came into the room and said “It’s time. Are you ready?”  She told us they were ready for the birth mother to start pushing and the baby would be there any minute. 

Our son (P) was born at 3:40pm.  He was 8.3 lbs and 21 inches long.  He had a head full of strawberry blonde hair.  And he was amazing!!!!!!  He was bathed in our room.  We stared at him amazed.  Then B went out to the waiting room to bring back our son’s first visitor.  His sister.  With her Big Sister shirt on she charged through the door with her Daddy and bee-lined for her new baby brother.  Our family was now complete.  We felt the completeness. 

I always tell people that our children are the same children we would have had regardless of who actually gave birth to them.  We truly feel that.  The infertility, the heart ache, the doubts and frustrations and every feeling we experienced led us to our children, just not in the way we, as young newlyweds, had originally envisioned.  The path we took was long and at times the legal paperwork and hoops to go through were overwhelming, expensive, and frustrating. 

Our original thoughts of if we could love an adopted child as much as one of “our own?”  Well, hmmmmm.  I’m really not sure how to answer that anymore.  We have two children of our own.  Yes, they were adopted, but they are our “own” children.