Perfect Love

Raine is absolutely in love with horses. Before ever having ridden one, she’d already planned her life around having one. Everywhere we go, despite my discouragement, she asks people how much they get paid for the work they do. She’s gathering information to select a career that will give her enough money to own a horse (and buy me an electric car – but that’s another story).

When a friend told me she was putting her 3 foster children in horseback riding daycamp, I decided to send Raine as well. I was sure she’d have the time of her life.

heading to camp Monday morning

heading to camp Monday morning

Monday went ok. But Tuesday was a disaster. She refused to listen to the teachers – repeatedly running away from her group into a small cluster of trees. My friends girls went after her. That didn’t help. When my friend’s husband arrived to pick the kids up, Raine was completely out of sorts – telling people to leave her alone and shut up. There’s a lot of power in her verbal punches.

At home, I sat Raine down to talk to her. She dished out more of the same attitude telling me it was none of my business what she did at camp.

Instead of being happy about camp,  Raine took it as an act of rejection on my part. She thought I was pushing her away when in reality I was giving her an amazing opportunity.

The more I talked the more hostile Raine became.

“If you keep acting this way at camp, you won’t be able to go back,” I said.

Apparently, the camp instructor had been completely overwhelmed by Raine. I know how forceful she can be. I thought her love of horses would prevent any major upsets. Clearly, I was wrong.

Raine’s attitude stopped when I told her she wasn’t going the next day. Suddenly she relaxed. Then we could talk about the real problem.

“It’s too long to be away from you,” she explained.

“She needs to get used to it,” I’ve been told before by friends and social workers.

It’s true. At 6 1/2yrs this type of separation anxiety isn’t natural nor is it healthy. Before the adoption, when Raine was my foster child, she did really well at daycare two days a week. There were never any issues. But something happened with the adoption. It introduced a deep rooted fear in Raine. Likely because she was completely cut off from her first mother she worries about loosing me. She knows it’s possible. At the age of 4 1/2 Raine found out parents can change. You can be disconnected from one family and attached to another. Staying with me soothes some of the fears.

So she stayed home on Wednesday. Maybe I should have pushed her. I don’t know. Were she plagued with a physical illness, no one would think anything of me deciding camp turned out to be too much for her. Wounds of the heart are not so easily forgiven.

Our time of being together on Wednesday wasn’t pretty. Raine unloaded all of her anger. She was down right furious that I’d sent her to camp for two days. I wasn’t much help, feeling like a failure. After all this time together, my daughter should be doing better. At least I think she should. I want her to because I can see how the fear cripples her. I know my God is capable of instant miracles. That’s what I want for Raine – a miraculous healing of her heart.

After a few hours of lamenting the state we were in, I realized in many ways we’re ahead instead of behind. Attaching to adoptive parents can be difficult for children – especially in the case of older child adoption. The fact that Raine values our connection so much she’s afraid to loose it is a good thing. Fear isn’t helpful, but the valuing is incredibly significant. She really loves me and wants to be with me. As we move through our day, Raine intentionally imitates me. So much of her pursuits mirror my own interests – gardening, cooking, sewing, and so on. She wants to be like me and wants to be with me. Those are healthy signs of attachment. Maybe we’re not doing as poorly as I thought.

Yes, Raine’s behaviour is completely unacceptable. I’m not excusing the outbursts at camp. In speaking to her about it, Raine reminded me, “I live in fear.” We prayed together. I prayed breaking off fear of rejection.

Thursday Raine was ready to go back to camp. She managed without incident.

Friday, we got to watch her and the other children perform their new found skills.

I wish, for Raine’s sake, the week had gone better. I hate that fear holds her back.

“How do I get it out of me?” she asked.

“The Bible says: perfect love pushes fear out,” I answered. “You need more love.”

“From Jesus.”

“Yes.”

love fear

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Games We Play

Lately my girls have been playing “I’m a New Foster Kid”. The game goes like this: one of them pretends to be a foster child who has just arrived at our home. The other shows them around and explains our life. This past weekend it was Raine’s turn to be “our special guest” (which is how I refer to the foster children who come to us). She decided to call herself Kara. Most of the game was spent correcting Athena who was forever calling her Kiera. During dinner on Saturday, Raine – pretending to be Kara – said, “When I go to my grandma’s tomorrow, I won’t be coming back. I’m going to live there. That’s what happens with some foster kids.”

“You can play that in the game,” I permitted. “But in real life you’re living here.”

“I know,” she answered. “I’m not a foster child.”

This declaration is a small miracle. It’s taken time for Raine to see herself as adopted and a permanent resident here. There are still times she threatens to leave, but most often she’s happy to stay. Never again will Raine or Athena be a new foster child in someone’s home. That is a really big miracle.

in families

Beauty for Ashes

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.

Isaiah 61:1-3

Adoption is an opportunity for the Lord to bring beauty for ashes. It can be difficult and messy, but there’s a distinct beauty as lives are woven together.

I have a friend who passionately advocates for international adoption. Her heart goes out to special needs children discarded because of their conditions. A great deal of factors go into that decision. It’s not as clear cut as you might think. Some families are unable to meet the financial requirements of medical care. With heavy hearts, they relinquish their child to an orphanage able to cover the costs. Whatever the reason, I don’t expect the decision is an easy one.

This week I became aware of an infant in my own country needing to be adopted. Because of his special needs, his family are unable to care for him. Canada has an exceptional government funded medical system. So it’s not the cost of medical care that’s brought these parents to this point.

Raising a child with special needs costs more than most people realize. For each family and situation the requirements vary to some degree. But without a doubt, it’s not an easy task. Perhaps this family is more realistic than most – recognizing their own limitations and reaching for something better on behalf of their child.

After a bit of investigation into the matter, I realize I’m not the parent for Male hands with babythis baby. I’m praying for the family the Lord has prepared for him. I pray their paths cross quickly and effortlessly. I pray the Lord will bind up the broken hearts of his birth family. I pray he and his adoptive family are knit together – making true, lasting connections. I pray that he is loved and able to accomplish everything the Lord has planned for him. I pray he encounters the joy of the Father who created him. Praying he is clothed in beauty as he journeys through life.

 

Perseverance

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You may have noticed I’ve been posting on Sunday & Wednesday lately. This week I’m a day late. I’ve been busy getting ready for a mom 2 mom sale this weekend. I have a little coffee & tea business (www.believebistro.com) but that’s a whole other story.

Today I’m back to talking about Raine – who used to go by Sloane in this space. Since the pretense with Athena’s name has ended (Saying Her Name), I thought I might reveal my other daughter’s true name as well.

About a month after the adoption, we started seeing the girls’ birth grandparents. I knew them from visits when Raine & Athena were still foster children. If you want all the details on our situation you can review Open Adoption Part 1 & Part 2.

In the greater scheme of things, I know our connection is immensely valuable. In practicality it’s been challenging. Raine is generally very wild during the visit. And afterwards we endure several days of tantrums lasting hours on end. She screams about how much she hates me and wishes she could be with her birth mother again. The encounters bring to the surface intense emotions generally bubbling under the surface.

At times I’ve considered putting the visits on pause – offering Raine more time to come to terms with her situation. But she is immensely eager to see them. So instead my mom and I have collaborated on things to pray. And I’ve added my own parents to our get togethers. The two couples get along famously. My goal was to show Raine that she has one family who love her. So the past few times we’ve been one big happy family – all of us except Raine that is. She remained agitated during and distraught afterwards.

In an unrelated moment of frustration, I asked Raine, “What can I do to help you?”

“You need to pray a lot more,” she quickly answered.

For the most part she’s resistant to me praying with her. But after that statement we began praying before she went to bed. And I started having her list three things she’s happy about at the end of each day.

This past Saturday we celebrated Raine’s birthday with her birth grandparents (a little late, but their schedules are quite busy). My parents weren’t able to make it but I trust my mom was praying for us.

During the visit Raine was relatively calm. Even her grandmother noticed a big difference. Afterwards I was ready for the onslaught of anger. Instead we sat together looking at the gifts she’d gotten. When bedtime came around we made the list of what she was grateful for. “That you love me every day,” Raine exclaimed. The distance that normally crept between us after visits with birth family wasn’t there.

There haven’t been any outbursts or meltdowns. Raine’s continued to be content and emotionally stable.

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.

Hebrews 10:35-36

Raising my girls can be challenging. There are times my confidence fails me. But in this area I’m glad to have persevered so that Raine, Athena, and I can receive the benefits of their grandparents love for us.

 

Saying Her Name

As mentioned before, I began blogging when my girls were still foster children. As such, their identities had to be protected. I used alternate names in my blog and have continued to do so. But it gets a little confusing since lots of friends read the blog. In fact when dedicating the girls at church our pastor used the blog name. He quickly corrected himself. I found it funny, but can see how this is getting old. So, tonight’s the big night. I’m going to reveal Elise*’s real name! But you’ll have to read the story to find out.
Once upon a time, in reality, on June 2011 a 21mth old little girl came to me. Her 3yr old sister had arrived 3mths earlier. I had lots of experience

birth picture (courtesy of birth grandmother)

birth picture (courtesy of birth grandmother)

with older special needs children but none with babies. And that’s what she was. The little girl didn’t trust me or anyone else. I’d never seen a child so sad all the time.
For some reason I decided to put mirrors all around her room. Nearly every spot she looked at from the crib showed her reflection. Much later I read somewhere that looking in mirrors helps increase children’s self-esteem. At first she’d cower and turn away whenever she spotted herself. Slowly, over time, she began intentionally looking.

One of the biggest issues was her delayed speech. She could say, “No!” very well but not much else. The previous foster parents had been taking her to speech therapy. I continued with this. During our first appointment, two months after she came to me, I said something very stupid to the therapist.

“I hope she’ll just catch up,” I commented.
“At this point that can’t happen. It will take prolonged, intentional intervention. Even then she may not catch up,” was the gentle answer I received.
My little girl snuggled in my lap, her face hidden from the therapist. Our appointments became monthly. Nothing the therapist did lured her from my arms. I tried really hard to get her to sit at the table and interact with the woman. She wouldn’t. She only wanted my arms around her. I was frustrated, but the therapist rejoiced.
“She used to run around and couldn’t sit for more than 10 seconds,” the woman exclaimed. “There didn’t seem to be much of a connection with the other foster mom.”
I’d worked hard to connect. For the first couple of months she pushed me away continually. I’d just smile and talk. I talked constantly to her, fully expecting her to one day answer.

It became apparent, she understood. When I’d say, “Go get your shoes,” she’d do just that.

In October she began daycare. After a few weeks, the teacher moved her up to the older group where her sister was.

“It’s clear she understands,” the teacher explained. “And she can keep up with the other kids.”

I worried, but it did give her more time with more people talking to her and expecting her to answer. The three year olds wanted much more interaction than the 1 ½-2yrs old she should have been with.

The words came in complete sentences. There was no baby talk. She simply began talking. 9mths after her arrival, she could speak wonderfully. The only thing she wouldn’t say was her name. The speech therapist considered this to be very unusual.

When I spoke her name, it seemed to pain the child. So I called her by nick names that came unintentionally as I made up songs at bedtime. The boo-ka boo baby and beaubeana is what I called her. Her sister didn’t like it, but the other kids joined in.

By the spring of 2012 she was nothing like the baby who arrived in June. Her laughter echoed through the house. She smiled at me and the other kids. Her speech was excellent. Still she wouldn’t say her name.

July 2012 - confident & happy

July 2012 – confident & happy

I prayed off any trauma associated with it. I declared over her the meaning of her name and the verses I’d found connected to that meaning. Still she wouldn’t say it.

Easter Sunday, as we walked into church, a lady I knew stopped to say hello. She knelt down to my little girls and introduced herself then asked their names.

“I’m Athena,” my shy little one blurted out. Immediately her hand shot up to cover her mouth. In absolute shock, Athena looked at me. That was the first time she’d ever said her name. It was completely by accident and made me laugh. In so many ways the Lord had caught this little girl off guard – nudging her into health and wholeness.

In June, a year after Athena came to me, the speech therapist was finally able to complete a formal assessment. In every area Athena tested above average. The therapist was thrilled and completely amazed. “The credit goes to you,” she told me. “You brought this about.”

Jan 2014 - vintage thrift store find

Jan 2014 – modeling her vintage thrift store find

The words she spoke at our first meeting had stayed with me. The prognosis was so dismal – especially since Athena wouldn’t work with the therapist. The prolonged, intentional intervention was me talking to her as though she were an adult. I’ve never been much for baby talk. I do try to speak in age appropriate terms. Since I wasn’t sure at first if Athena understood, I talked to her like an adult. We’d have long conversations at the thrift store. Bear with me for one more story. This was when I caught a glimpse of Athena’s consciousness.

When she’d been with me for two months, I came across these amazing vintage shoes (which I had pictures of but lost when my computer crashed a while ago). I was so excited when I tried them and they fit Athena. Up until that point she’d refused to keep any shoes on. When I attempted to take these off, Athena let out a horrible scream. “Mine,” she shouted. For days she’d only remove the shoes to bath. She even slept with them on. Seems I’d finally found her style – vintage. Just like me!

*name changed

 

Sept 2012 - out for lunch (Athena's favourite activity) shortly after adoption

Sept 2012 – out for lunch (Athena’s favourite activity) shortly after adoption