Monday, May 6, 2013

I Love Homeschooling Because...........

This picture is a perfect example of one of the big reasons I love homeschooling! 

Last night was Connection Sunday, our church's monthly small group get together.  This year, our family is hosting a (not so small) group, which meant 36 people at our house for an evening of fellowship, praying for each other, talking through what we've been learning from God's Word, dinner together, and lots more visiting.  By the time the last friends have left, the house is tidied up, and the kids finally get their showers, Connection Sunday inevitably means a later-than-normal bedtime for kids who have had a busier-than-normal Sunday, which leads to a sleepier-than-normal Monday morning.

As it was, because we homeschool, I was able to let them have an extra hour of sleep and then have an hour of quiet play upstairs while they came around.  Instead of tired, not-really-ready-to-learn kids who were forced out of the house early, I now have well-rested children who are refreshed, thrilled to have built their best train track ever, and ready to tackle some slightly more "formal" learning. 

Homeschooling gives me the freedom to embrace what is really important, opening up our home for hospitality and fellowship without worrying about the time on the clock, knowing that I can adjust the schedule to ensure that the kids will still get the rest they need to be at their best for learning. 

Having 2 very able students who need to be pushed and challenged and 1 struggling learner who requires almost constant interaction and supervision means there never seem to be enough hours to get in all of the "learning" written into my lesson plans.  I don't always do a good job at  relaxing and choosing relationship over schedules, but when I do, it is such a blessing! 

As we finish up this school year and I begin drawing up plans for the 2013-2014 school year, one of the challenges I have set for myself is to more fully take advantage of the freedoms that a "homeschooling lifestyle" offers, like the blessing of not having to choose between hospitality/ relationships and well-rested/well-educated children.

Disclaimer:  The fact that I (usually) love homeschooling and occasionally blog about why I love it and how it blesses our family in no way means that I believe that everyone has to homeschool their children or that you are not acting in your child's/family's best interests if you choose not to, so please don't send me nasty e-mails or post snarky facebook comments about us "judgmental" homeschoolers :-) 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Anniversary, Honesty, Psychology

This week we mark the 4th anniversary of Rosie becoming part of our family. I had a really hard time not choking on the word "celebrate" this year when I asked Rosie how she wanted to celebrate her "Gotcha Day". When we adopted Rosie, we added a beautiful, funny, spirited little girl to our family. And for those who know our family best, it is also no secret that we added a little girl who bears the wounds of an early life marked by death, loss, and upheaval. In the 12 months between when Rosie's birthmother surrendered her for adoption and we brought her to the States, Rosie was moved 4 times. The last 2 moves were into orphanages/a new home where she didn't speak the same language and couldn't have explained to her what was happening or why. Even for an adult, this would be pretty traumatic; Rosie lived it as a toddler, when she should have been busy forming healthy, permanent attachments to her parents.

Adoption is a beautiful thing. It is a wonderful picture of God's grace and redemption, and adding Rosie to our family has brought a whole new understanding of just how much my Heavenly Father loves me and pursues a relationship with me.

If you look at adoption brochures and blogs, you will often see the beautiful, happy side of adoption.

What you don't see as often is the reality that adoption is born out of loss and pain and heartache. But the truth is, that before Rosie could become our daughter, another family had to lose their daughter. Before Rosie was 2, her birthfather would die, and before the age of 3, her birthmother would have to admit that she, too, was dying and could no longer care for her daughter. Before Rosie could experience the joy of life in a family, she had to experience the upheaval of losing her first family and everything she knew. This painful, ugly side of adoption is part of the picture of redemption, too. Were it not for the pain, heartache, and separation that sin brings, I would have no need of redemption. If I came bearing no scars and wounds, with no sin and struggle, I would have no need of grace.

The first year that Rosie was with us was hard. Much of what we dealt with went unseen by others. In public, Rosie presented a completely different side to the one we saw at home. On several occasions when people would ask how it was going, if I was honest, I was told that I "just didn't understand kids" or "well, remember, you signed up for this". Hearing family tell us that “if they had Rosie, they thought she’d do just fine” was infuriating.  Watching Rosie cling to everyone else, being sweet and funny and affectionate with complete strangers, while at home she was creating complete upheaval was difficult. Rosie perfected the art of projectile vomiting at will and used it as her personal weapon any time life didn't go exactly her way. She channeled most of her insecurity at Nathan and worked hard to get him into trouble, ensuring that our happy, easygoing little boy became sullen, withdrawn, and angry. Before she even had enough English to form complete sentences she accused Gareth of beating her and twisting her arms by miming the actions (accompanied by sobs and tears) to a choir teacher. Admitting that she wasn't forming appropriate attachments to us was hard. I cried, A LOT. If you ask Gareth about that first year, he will tell you that there were many evenings when he would walk through the door and I would say to him, "Honey, I'm sorry. Supper's on the table. I have to get out of here. I will be back. I promise." And, I would quite literally flee the house. (Bless him. My husband is truly a prince among men, and he always let me go, telling me to take as long as I needed, just to be sure I was parked somewhere safe if I was going to cry.)

We put Nathan and Rosie in Mother's Day Out in separate classrooms to give everyone a break. I stopped letting Rosie be in a room with the boys if I couldn't see them. I read every book I could find on the subject of attachment. We had Rosie put on a medication that stopped her reflux and removed her ability to projectile vomit at will. And, slowly, we made some progress. But, there were still cracks in the beautiful picture. The days when Rosie would hug someone she barely knew and say to them, "I wish I live with you. I wish you be my Daddy", the moments when she didn't get what she wanted at the store and would literally leap out of the cart to try to hug whichever stranger was closest while she screamed and sobbed, the frustration of watching her turn into a completely different, adorable, obedient child when we were at church, the concern that came over watching her shed no tears while the rest of the family cried when our cat died, the incessant chatter and attempts to constantly create an atmosphere of upheaval in our home, the guilt that came from knowing that I had "done this" to our boys, and the need to guard carefully how honest we were when most people asked how things were going were constant companions.

Knowing that you are in the center of God's will makes things bearable and worthwhile, it doesn't always make them easy to swallow, though! And yes, I know that statement marks me out as less than perfect, without a perfect faith, but it's the truth. It is part of what God has been teaching me, to rest in His will and accept EVERYTHING that He allows into my life as part of His perfect plan, sifted through the fingers of a loving God for my good and for His glory. Not that I always manage to approach life this way (see previous statement about not feeling like celebrating Rosie's 4th Gotcha Day).

Much has changed. Rosie has grown. She has begun to trust. It's been almost two years since she told someone else that she wished they were her parents, we have seen her shed genuine tears several times, she and her brothers enjoy a fairly typical sibling relationship, and on several occasions she has said, "I love you" and offered hugs without seeing her brothers do it first.

But, the reality is, that there are still cracks in our beautiful picture. Rosie has grown so much, but we still have so much work to do. Now in 1st grade, the effect that Rosie’s difficulty in fully trusting us is having on her anxiety level and her ability to homeschool effectively with me is very evident.  And, we don't have all of the answers. To this end, we marked Rosie's 4th anniversary home by beginning work with a child psychologist who specializes in working with children dealing with reactive attachment disorder. We are very grateful that there is a doctor in our home town who is not only a specialist in this rare field, but also an adoptive parent himself. We don't have a full picture yet, but his encouragement to us today was that Rosie had begun to form a healthy attachment to us and that we were early enough in the game that we should be able to work together to make lots of progress.

It would have been easier not to write this post. It isn't always popular to admit that you are seeking help from a psychologist, and, to a certain extent, I get that. I don't like labels, and I do think that it is far easier to medicate away our problems instead of doing the hard, messy work of dealing with the underlying issues.  It is certainly far too popular to give bad behavior the name of an "illness" instead of calling it for what it is: sin.

In the Christian community, psychologists can be especially unpopular. After all, surely if we just sought God and trusted Him completely He could and would heal the broken places in Rosie's heart. And, if we were parenting her in a godly way, surely we wouldn't have these problems. Besides, what if the psychologist fills our head with all sorts of ungodly psychological mumbo jumbo???  This view, too, has some truth to it. Ultimately, complete healing will only come from the Great Physician. We do need God's wisdom in parenting all of our children. And, it would certainly be easy to find plenty of ungodly mumbo jumbo if we listened to every psychologist/psychiatrist/counselor/therapist that came along.

So, why bother putting this out here for all the world to see? Because it's the truth. Because those of you that know and love Rosie will be hopefully be spurred to pray more fervently for her (and for us) knowing the truth. Because there shouldn't be shame in admitting that we are seeking psychological help for Rosie, and hiding it away perpetuates the idea that we (or she) should somehow be ashamed or embarrassed. Because I don't ever want to be guilty of presenting only the beautiful, happy side of adoption--This can be the reality, and it does a great disservice to those considering adoption to not tell the whole truth about what can sometimes happen. Because I believe that it is possible to trust fully in the Great Physician to work in my daughter's heart and life, and I believe that He can use a psychologist as part of the process. Because I am working on embracing Reactive Attachment Disorder as a part of God's plan for Rosie- a gift to draw her to Himself and show her His unchanging, unfailing love for her and a part of His plan for me-a gift given by a loving Heavenly Father who is refining my character, smoothing off the rough edges, purging the selfishness and sinful inclinations, and working all things for my good.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Everything's Funnier in Your Underwear

The boys' room has had the same decorations since we moved back to the States right after Nathan was born.  It was really cute, but 8 years on is looking more than a little well-worn.  They've been talking about what theme they'd like a new bedroom to have, so for Nathan's birthday, we decided to let Nathan pick a theme and get all of the paint, bedding, and decor to give them a "big boy" bedroom. 

He chose an outer space theme, and we picked out some great navy and white star bedding, a planet mobile, some glow-in-the-dark stars for the ceiling, a spaceship for his chest of drawers, and an alien throw-pillow that just really amused Nate for some reason.

Today, we took advantage of a free Saturday and went to pick out paint.  Having picked out three different shades of blue, we came home, and the boys decided that they really needed to be full particpants in what they have dubbed :  Operation Bedroom Redecoration (spoken in dramatic voices, right before they high fived each other). 

I was somewhat dubious about getting a nine-year old and eight-year old involved in any indoor project that involves paint in a carpeted room.  In the end, though, I decided that it was a skill they did need to learn and that it would be a chance to spend some fun, quality time together.  They had fun helping me lay plastic and tape around skirting boards and light fixtures on the test wall.

As we got ready to open the sample jars, I let my nerves get the better of me and insisted that the boy strip down to their skivvies before helping actually apply paint.  This was, apparently, the highlight of their day!  There was much laughter, dancing, and goofy grinning as they stripped down and then helped put up the test samples.  They've been grinning about it ever since.  When I came out to wash up paint brushes, I told their Daddy about it, and he was amused that I didn't automatically know that if you're a boy then everything is automatically funnier if done wearing only your underwear. 

In the end, I didn't take any pictures, as it probably isn't really kosher to post photos of your kids in their underpants on the web.  I'll get some pictures up of the room once we've got it done, though!

So much fun to be Mom to boys, especially these two! 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Noah's Thoughts on Grandparenting

Noah's journal assignment this week asked him if he had ever thought that he might be a grandparent one day and what kind of grandpaent he would like to be.  Here is his entry:

Dear Mom and Dad,
I have never thought about being a grandparent.  I think I would like to be a Grandfather who would be there for my grandchildren.  I would also like to be someone who would take my grandchildren on campouts.  I would be able to use things in nature to tell them about Jesus.  Have you ever thought that maybe you would be grandparents?

No parent is ever going to parent perfectly, and I'm so very aware of how often I fail.  Journal entries like this encourage me, though, as I get insights into how Noah thinks about the world and his future.  I sometimes miss the sweet little toddler that he was, but I love to see God at work in his life and am so proud of the young man he is becoming (often in spite of his imperfect parents).  I can't wait to see what his future holds, and if the world lsts that long, I think he's probably going to be a pretty amazing Grandpa!