Friday, December 11, 2009

5 Months ago Today...

5 Monthes ago on this very day, Tony and I drove out of a gated Transition Home with two new children to add to Team Dragovich. In the adoption world, we call this "Gotcha Day". It is the day that you pick up your children and they become forever a part of your family. Your "forever family"-- another adoption phrase. To try and go back and thread out the emotions which were flashing in and out of my entire being is about impossible. Some days I look back and it seems like that was forever ago. Some days, it was only last week.

Now, here we are, 5 months later. Could I ever have imagined the impact this adoption and these children and our new "forever family" dynamic would make into the very center of my soul? Absolutely not. I'm still imagining it and being opened up to it and walking through each new fold that opens. There are some days in which I still feel like I am swimming in a fog-- less and less this is the case, but still sometimes. The funny thing is, I remember thinking that way BEFORE adoption! Now, I think-- Gee, Shari-- you sure did have it easy "back then"!!!

In five months I have experienced some amazing transformations in my children. Sam and JB are fast becoming inseparable. And Risa is usually in there somewhere. Wyatt and Isaac are working hard to be helpful, positive and interact with the kids in playful ways. The majority of their time together-- which is considerable since we homeschool!-- all 5 of them are playing contentedly and enjoying one another. One of my favorite things is to hear one of the big boys explain to a new friend or some confused child; "YES. We are ALL brothers and sister. We ALL belong to the same family. This is my brother and this is my brother and THIS is my brother and THIS is my sister!" There are soooo many other things they could say, "Yeah, this is my adopted brother," or "He is my brother, but he is adopted...", etc... but they don't. It never even comes close to being uttered from their mouths. They claim JB and Risa with certainty and conviction. You may think I am weird for thinking such things, or offering my praise to my bio kids for saying something that I would hope to goodness that they would say anyway... but I take nothing for granted. Of course, Tony and I have always taught them that GOD alone puts a family together and He has put OUR family together-- through birth and adoption and both are of equal, eternal value. No difference, in that regard. But THEY have to accept this truth within their own hearts. I cannot force them to believe it. So... to have them be so positive and proud to others about their new brother and sister... like I said, it is one of my favorite things.

The transformation within JB and Risa continues to work itself out. Now that they have been home 5 months, we can sort of see what behaviors are still lingering and what deeper issues such behaviors may be pointing to-- beyond just the trauma of moving them from their homeland and into our family. JB in particular, exhibits behaviors which directly point to a lack of emotional health. He is attaching more slowly-- though he desperately works for our attention and affection-- it is spastic (for lack of a better word), controlling and tense. I have been re-reading some of my adoption literature on attachment, especially in regards to emotional development-- phases of, milestones of each phase, reviewing checklists for emotional health of children at the end of each phase, etc. JB has some gaps. Though there are many emotionally healthy things that JB DOES do-- and even has begun to do since he has been home-- there are a few key things that he does NOT do which, I believe, if we do not address them directly, will cause his emotional "heart" to mature in a warped, unhealthy way.

What is challenging about the things that we are directly tackling is that they are things that any child raised in a safe, secure, loving environment from early on would naturally develop. For most of us, we don't even think about having to "teach" our children how to accept affection, allow us to comfort them or relax in our arms. We take for granted that when they are hurt they will tell us what is wrong and cuddle into our comforting arms. When our children are older, we USUALLY don't have to worry about them throwing a temper tantrum of a 2-3 year old EVERY time they are mad (which happens A LOT in a day)-- or become reduced to a fit of crying when one of their siblings does something they don't like, ESPECIALLY if what the sibling did was meant as a gesture of love-- like patting the child's back, or trying to put their arm around him like a buddy does.

This is where we are at. I have always known-- like that crazy mommy instinct-- that JB's "heart" seemed to have some holes in it-- holes that went beyond the normal trauma and attachment issues all families walk through with their kids who are adopted-- especially those who adopt older kids. I think it is a super great place to be, because it is a place of deeper understanding, concrete and direct interventions/strategies... but best of all, it is a place of being in total and utter dependence of My God who does NOT withhold any good thing from His children! I know that I am so out of my realm of human wisdom, savvy or strength. It is only by the daily, moment by moment grace (action) of God in and through Tony and myself that JB's heart will heal. God's gotta do it-- but we have been chosen to be His hands and feet.

The final piece of all this is my own health and well-being. For 5 months, I have been in a whirlwind of emotions, added workload, added needs, adjusting to 5 children who are in a constant clamor for my love, attention, help, etc... This has left me, well... Exhausted. Beyond the normal "I have 5 kids" exhausted. Strangely, this was a light bulb moment for me-- I know, I'm quick, aren't I? :) All the sudden it dawned on me that for as many strides as JB has and continues to make, and as much as I am working with him on specific emotional issues-- he leaves me sooooooo weary. I mean-- that boy WEARS ME OUT!!! If you have someone you love in your life who is depressed or emotionally unstable and they just seem to suck life OUT of you, then you know exactly what I am talking about. (Note: if you are thinking, "Well, YEAH, Shari! Just reading your BLOGS sucks the life out of me!!"-- kindly keep it to yourself!). Strangely, this "lightbulb" moment was somewhat of a final confirmation that we are dealing with some issues of woundedness in our youngest son. So, part of our strategies for helping Joshua Biruk also need to include strategies for allowing me to experience some way of finding respite and an outside interest to invest more creative energy towards-- even if it is just getting to pursue new running goals, study more about gardening... or... maybe... learn a new language --just kidding!

5 Months ago Tony and I drove out of a gated Transition Home with two new children we didn't know at all but we called them son and daughter. Today... I am still getting to know them; but one thing I DO know in the depths of my soul-- Joshua Biruk and Rebekah Selame Dragovich ARE my-- God given, God designed and God planned from before the beginning of time-- son and daughter.

Grace and Peace,

Friday, December 4, 2009

"The tyranny of the urgent"

My life is flashing before my eyes. I want this blog to be so much more exciting, more posted on, more effective for orphans... blah, blah, blah. Instead, all I can seem to do is post once in a blue moon and ramble on about my personal thoughts, emotional battles, crazy life experiences as a mom and a family who took the plunge into God's heart for adoption. And what a plunge it has been AND continues to be. :)

It is so fun to watch JB and Risa experience all these "firsts" in our family... first birthdays (although that one was a little traumatic for JB), first family trip-- again, traumatic, but so good for our family; first Thanksgiving-- which was NOT a traditional Team Dragovich Thanksgiving at all; first Christmas tree finding and trimming, first Advent season, etc. Last night, during our bedtime prayers, JB thanked God for "Mommy making Christmas so beautiful". My heart was stolen into his and again, I was jolted into a new "view" of their little lives-- and our life as a family.

My heart screams out for the lives of the millions and millions of children living day to day, not knowing the love of a mother and father. One thing that JB is continually commenting on, roll-playing or talking to me about, is how Tony and I interact with one another. He always wants to "show" me how Daddy gives me hugs and kisses when he comes home from work, or how Daddy holds my hand when we are driving in the "makina" (car), or how we make funny faces at or tease each other-- things I completely take for granted. For JB, it is fascinating. Sometimes, he will say, out of the blue... "Daddy and Mommy, no hit?" Or, if he is in one of his silly, confused, insecure, teasing moods, he will say, "Daddy and a Mommy-- hit, hit, hit... ha, ha, ha!", then pretend he is "daddy", hitting "mommy" in the face. Of course, I am so very quick to correct him and reinforce how much Daddy and I love each other and are kind to one another. We will NEVER hit one another. But, all the while my head is reeling with sick wonder at what he saw before us and my stomach knots when I imagine it.

In general, the boy is fixated with "hitting". He talks about it alot, accuses others of doing it to him alot (unfounded-- beyond the normal brother, boyish hands-on behavior), roll plays it a lot, etc. He is super-oversensitive about it all and cries at the drop of a hat. And when he cries, it is a high-pitched, screeching, nerve-wracking cry. You would think that the kid was having his limbs pulled from his body, one at a time. And then... he just stops. He gets over it and moves on. Where any of my other children who are annoyed at their sibling will just say, "knock it off", or tattle, have me ignore their tattling and move on-- JB screams, wails and then stops. I am JUST now starting to distinguish these cries and not over-react to them. And, for as affectionate he has become with me especially-- constant hugs, kisses, holding hands, stroking my face and words of endearment-- he refuses to be comforted when he truly is hurt. He becomes stiff as a board when I pick him up, rocks back and forth, stops crying and then says, "All done, no more JB owie". I am working through all these things with him, trying to teach him to relax in my arms and give lots and lots of "off the spot" loving. Most the time I think I am blundering through it all, but he is making progress and God is good.

Did I mention that my heart screams for the faces of those left behind? The statistics of the world-wide orphan crisis are staggering. Here again, I find the task of giving you the numbers myself to be one step outside my time to blog ability. So here is the link to one family who has a ton of great stats:

My Crazy Adoption

There are others. If you go visit many of the families from my blog roll you will find more great stats, personal stories and practical ways you can be the hands and feet of Jesus and fight for the widow and the orphan. Another family who has some EXCELLENT ways you can give while you shop this holiday season is the Steiger family. Here is the link to Lenka's blog:

The Steiger Clan

It is more than frustrating to me to be in such a season where the "tyranny of the urgent" seems to always win over the "vision focused living". I hate not being more organized, more of a champion for the cause of adoption. I want so badly to do so much more... but alas, I cannot even go to the bathroom without have 2-3 children crying out my name in "desparate" need of something--and none of them are infants. Even to post this morning, I was interrupted SEVERAL times, we are now behind in our school day... and if I wait for tonight to blog, my brain will be fried in to several unrecognizable pieces all over my living room floor. You would probably be either incredibly disturbed or offended to read what would end up on the page.

That is so dramatic, isn't it? :)

Hopefully, later this weekend, I will post pictures of our latest adventures. We traveled last week to Elizabeth City to play while Tony worked and had some pretty fun adventures-- but mostly just more time to "pressure cook" together as a family. It was a good thing :).

Grace and Peace to you... and thank you for listening...