Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

We wish you and your family a very blessed and merry Christmas from our house to yours...

In honor of all that God has done for us this past year, I would like to share with you the poem I wrote last year as we waited to bring Isaac and Jocelyn home. I hope you enjoy...

Our One Last Silent Night

It has been calm at the Organ's for the last 14 years...
Something we haven't held so dear
This year a blessing has come from our Savior who heard us speak...
Please Lord, give us the pitter patter of little feet
Who would have ever thought the answer would be two...
The God of the Universe that's who!

Preparations began from quilts and a painted room...
To tons of paperwork, oh there was so much to do
Now everything is complete...
Waiting for papers from Ethiopia is our next big feat
The hope of traveling in December has come and gone...
For a while disappointment ran long
Until we remembered our prayer to God...
To fill Isaac and Jocelyn full of His love
To keep them warm and safe...
Until that special date when we meet them face to face

His peace surrounds us as we sit and ponder...
When will that day be when we will see our little wonders?
January, February, oh how much longer?
Hurry Ethiopia we plead
For we long to see our babies....
So we can meet their every need
We pray for a miracle...
To travel a day real soon
Not just for us but all families longing for children to fill their homes too

Our prayer is the same, please Lord some day soon
Fill our home with the tune...
Of squeels and giggles
The sounds of joyous laughter...
And a happy ever after
Our prayer is the same, please Lord some day soon
Fill our home too...
With babies being rocked to sleep
The joy of God's love shared so deep...
Between us and our two little sweet peas

Yes, we sit and wait for that wonderful day...
When we receive notification of our travel date
Then with a joy filled sigh and a glimmer in our eye...
We will  know it will soon be our one last silent night.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tree of Tradition Part I

I absolutely love Christmas. I love everything about it. I love having a season to celebrate our Savior’s birth. I love the parties and spending time with friends and family. I love all the photos we get with updates from friends and family near and far. I love the sound of the Salvation Army bell ringers, a beautiful reminder to help those in need. I love our traditions like making the first batch of fudge the day after Thanksgiving. But by far my favorite traditions involve our Christmas tree.

Every year the weekend of Thanksgiving we head to our favorite tree farm to pick out our Christmas tree. Every year we go with my parents and pick out a tree for us, them and my Grandma. I love supporting local farms and we love the smell a fresh cut Christmas tree in our home.

Of course this year was made extra special because of our two sweet peas in tow. They were not sure what to think of the whole experience. They kept nodding at Grandma to take them for another spin in the radio flyer (thank goodness we remembered to bring it).

But everything changed when Daddy began cutting down our Christmas tree. They got very quiet and no longer wanted Grandma to take them for another ride. Our sweet peas sat and watched intently as the first tree fell. Jocelyn gave it an “ooooooh” while Isaac watched quietly. By the time Daddy began cutting down the third tree Jocelyn knew she was a pro at this and began instructing Daddy on how to cut the tree down. Her poor future husband, he doesn’t stand a chance. I can already see her telling him how to cut down their Christmas tree!

After cutting the trees down and setting them beside the road, we headed back to the barn to wait for the tractor to go get our trees.

Jocelyn loved the tree shaker. This is where they sit the tree on a base and the machine shakes the tree to get out all of the loose needles. She felt pretty confident after seeing one done and began instructing the workers on how to do their job.

We headed to Great Grandma’s house shortly after to unload her Christmas tree and give our sweet peas more time to run around while the sun was out. All in all it was a beautiful day. Below you will find more pictures from our great tree adventure.

Nothing like a little argument on which way to go

They weren't too sure what to think of sitting on the tractor with Daddy

The many faces of Isaac:


The many faces of Jocelyn:

Grandpa teaching them how to fist pump:

Merry Christmas everyone. May you enjoy celebrating our Savior's birth!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

I realize it has been well over a week since the last time I posted. And yes, there is a reason for my silence. When I created my blog, I wanted it to be about everything this side of heaven. Obviously with our life now centered on our children the blog has also centered on our children. I keep thinking one of these days I will watch the news or have a stimulating conversation that does not involve potty training and what type of vegetables our children will eat. Then I could blog about something important, controversial, and make you/me think. But I realize as our family has had some real struggles this week that my blog could still be about something important, controversial and make you/me think. It just won’t be about the war, our president or any other number of subjects that pricks the hairs on the back of people’s necks. Instead I will choose another subject that just so happens to be at the heart of my life right now.

I have contemplated about sharing my/our struggles this week with you. I have been afraid that I might offend someone or that my feelings will be too raw or personal for some. But then I look over my blog and remind myself of why I started it in the first place. I started it to share with others the journey of life. My goal has always been to be honest…even if that means we may not agree. Even if that means that all of my posts aren’t about sharing cute pictures or funny little stories. If life was that surreal there would be no need for the self help section at the local book store and all psychologists/psychiatrists would be without a job.

So…here I go. This post may or may not make you angry and it may or may not offend you but I will not apologize. This blog is my little corner of the blog world where I will freely share my feelings and views even if they are not shared by all. More than anything, I hope this post will give you a chance to think and maybe see things from a perspective you may or may not be familiar with.

Can I just tell you that parenting adopted children is NOT the same as parenting birth children? It is not the same, it is not the same, it is not the same! I know many of you are sitting there saying “how would you know? You don’t have any birth children.” I do not need to have any birth children to be able to see the difference. There are thousands of books out there that address parenting from the perspective of birth children. Reading them alone clues me in that there is a difference. But I also have the privilege of knowing many people (friends, family, etc…) who do have birth children. I have also babysat many of those same children. I have been preparing to be a mother (or so I thought I was) for many, many years. And it is NOT the same!

Do you hear the frustration in my words? Do you know tears well up in my eyes as I try to write this? Can you hear how tired am I? If you can’t let me just tell you I that am. I am so tired of so many things right now.

I am so tired of people being around my children for a few minutes and then saying “they have adjusted so well” or “see Kelli you have nothing to worry about they are just fine. They’re normal.” Really? How can anyone be in the presence of another person for a few minutes or maybe a half hour and evaluate their total being as adjusted or normal? It is so frustrating. And I am tired of trying to educate people as to why they are not just fine and that they have not completely adjusted.

These fragile little beings are not quick fixes. You can’t pick them up and dust off the last 20 months of abandonment/attachment issues and say “all better.” Do you know what it is like to try to get a toddler to understand they do not need to be afraid? Do you know how hard it is to try to help them understand they are safe, secure and they do not need to fear us leaving them?

Go anywhere online and take a minute to study the importance of the first 12 months of a child’s life and you will learn that a great deal of how a child gets wired happens in those first 12 months. In those first 12 months this child is wired (or learns) whether or not their needs will be met when they are hungry, when they are afraid, when they need to be changed, when they need love, etc… So why is this so important and makes such a difference? Because in a child who lives in a healthy environment with his/her birth parents all of that child’s needs are met. That child is wired to know he/she is safe, secure, fed, and cared for. There has been no traumatic experience (again in a healthy birth family) that would make this child question or fear their needs being met.

Many children who experience certain trauma and or conditions in the first 36 months of life can have attachment issues or what is also called Reactive Attachment Disorder. There are approximately 10 or so conditions that will leave a child ripe for attachment problems. Of these 10 or so conditions Isaac has experienced at least 5 and I believe Jocelyn has experienced 6. It is painful to admit. It is painful to know that all professionals in the field of early childhood development agree on this one thing…these event/conditions cause trauma. After reading an article the other night I also came to realize that Jocelyn’s clinging to me those first few days was not out of immediate attachment but out of sheer terror from Post Traumatic Stress. It is hard to swallow that one of the most wonderful days for Hubby and me was probably one of the most traumatizing things for our daughter.

I am tired of hearing that raising an adoptive child is no different than a birth child. It is NOT the same! How can anyone see the two the same? A child coming from a healthy birth family has had a completely different experience than a child that has been orphaned and adopted. I will stick to my sweet peas to explain. Our little ones lost their mother when they were 3 months old. As far as we know she loved them and never planned to give them up. The father who had no clean water to be able to feed them formula gave them to a missionary asking the missionary to find them a family. Within the first 3 months of life our beautiful precious sweet peas lost their mother and father.

They were sick with yellow fever and underweight from not having formula. The missionary cared for them until they were well enough to go to the orphanage. A month or so later they were transferred. After approximately 6 months at the orphanage they were transferred to another orphanage due to some unfortunate circumstances. They were then transferred to a transition orphanage just before we adopted them. Have you counted how many moves? Have you counted how many people they loved and began trusting and attaching to before they were moved once again?

5 moves in the first 20 months of life…this does not include the move to our home!

6 care givers in the first 20 months of life…before we ever met them

…5 times they went through being moved to a new place, new smells, new sounds where nothing was familiar to them.

….6 times they had to put their lives in the hands of someone they didn’t know. Six times they had to begin to trust again that the care giver would meet their needs.

How can anyone say raising them (or any other adopted child) would be the same as a child who has only known one set of parents who have been a constant in their lives?

An article by Jessica Gerard gives a tiny glimpse into why life is so different for a child who has faced trauma. For our sweet peas the trauma has been the loss of care givers, home, sickness, and other things I will choose to keep to myself. In her article Jessica states the following:
Professionals who deal with children with attachment, reactive attachment disorder and post traumatic disorder do not agree on much. But one thing they do agree on because there is so many studies/research to prove it is that children with these conditions in the first year of their life end up with brains that are completely wired different. Some studies state that if their brains are not re-wired by the age of 6, the damage is permanent.
"Because these children lack a loving family to mediate traumatic experiences, and because the traumatic experience may persists for weeks and months, they cause long-term changes in the brain. These early traumas remain stored in the brain, and they will experience the same traumatic arousal when a later situation reminds them of that first trauma. Because their brains are flooded once again with the stress chemicals, and they focus again on surviving the trauma, they are incapable of thinking or doing anything else."

You CAN NOT raise an adopted child the same. If the child has experienced abuse, spanking will most likely feel like abuse. If the child has experienced abandonment, shutting that child in their room for a time out will most like trigger fears of abandonment. I could go on and on with tons of scenarios but these are the easy ones.

What I am most tired of right now are the things that are so hard to information on like toddler specific issues. Do you know how hard it is to try and understand if you are dealing with a “normal” toddler issue or if you are dealing with a stress/trauma triggering issue? Last Sunday we saw such an awesome high with Jocelyn to only feel like we have plummeted back to when we first brought them home. Eating issues that have always been present have gone to a whole new level. I have reverted back to holding her while she eats and have started to “bottle” feed her at least once a day.

It is hard to understand what has happened. It is even more frustrating trying to find answers and help. What adds to the frustration is that those who specialize in this field can’t agree. Sometimes their recommendations are polar opposites. You will find many criticizing anyone who does not believe in their method. But as frustrating as it is for me it has to be 10 times more frustrating for Jocelyn. I can’t imagine what she must be going through and I fear that my inadequacies and inability to handle things well at times just adds to her stress. I am left to ponder many things. I wonder…maybe she is finally at a safe enough place to feel the emotions inside of her…maybe learning to trust us scares her…maybe she is afraid we will abandon her soon…maybe…maybe…maybe. No matter what, I long for her to be healed. I long to understand so I can meet her needs.

One last comment: If you see around town and you have read this post, don’t be surprised if you don’t see anything different in Jocelyn. Like most children with attachment issues, these issues come out while trying to connect with their primary care givers. It is why so many adoptive families feel the need to connect with each other. It is hard to get others to understand what they cannot see.

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