Masthead header

The things I missed… {the heart of adoption}

Getting the email from my adoption agency to send them my son’s Certificate of Citizenship meant heading to “the sacred file”. The file, us adoption moms, store in safety boxes, in sacred places–jammed full with millions of papers it took to get our child home–and important papers with shiny stickers saying here is their new…forever.

Going through “the sacred file”–is never fast.

You start flipping…looking for that one document…and pictures fall out.

Tiny pieces of their stories.

With so many gaps in between.

I sit there reading the reports…”the” newspaper clipping that you want to hide–the last hope to find the one who brought this little miracle to the world–flipping through these papers that are just pieces of loss after loss. Their life changed forever…and yours too when you felt in your heart your family was to grow through adoption.

I rub my finger on that little first picture.

And I’m mad.

I’m mad that the FIRST picture (or rather–the first picture I have…they were able to document) was taken far longer than a momma ever would.

Yet I’m thankful. Thankful to have a handful of pictures from a few weeks to 2 years before he was in my arms. But just a few pictures–of two years…and so much I missed.

If I’d only known–I would’ve flown around the world to hold him–I would have moved us there…anything to have the gaps filled. And yet–there is still so much I still miss.

And what I miss–is what I know he will miss. And they are the things I can’t ever…”unmiss”…or fill.

I’m a mom to children both by birth and adoption. And there are things that DO feel differently–things I will always miss…that they will miss…and maybe always long for.

A dear friend asked me a deep, hard question about the difference a momma feels when children are brought through adoption, birth, foster…these are things our family has experienced. And the LOVE. The love for them–truly is no different. I’m a momma bear when it comes to all my babies. Even the ones that no longer live with us because it was temporary to begin with (hosting/foster). Each connection different and unique…just as my connection to each of my parents or grandparents are each so different. But my love for all my babies is fierce…as a momma’s love should be.

But the differences…they are still there.

And they break me and make me long over and over and over again.

I have sweet memories of every moment for my first children. Feeling their kicks inside me for 9 months. Imagining what they’d look like as we compared ultrasound pictures. Any mom who has experienced birth can’t deny the unbelievable, powerful connection she feels the moment that first cry is heard. All of the sudden–your heart is outside your body being held by this doctor…and so desperately you want the words to come out, “GIVE HIM TO ME!” as if you won’t be able to breath without this new one in your arms. And then the weight of 8 pounds rests…and you can breath again–and the world stands still.

This.

This I missed with my 4th and 5th.

These babies by birth–they learned to drop their head on my chest. They knew my voice. I was their safe place. From first boo-boos and falls–I could pick them up and the crying would stop…which some times made daddy absolutely crazy.

We’d nap together following the wise words “sleep when the baby sleeps”…and connections were made that first year through many a nap–and cheering behind the camera at every funny face and milestone.

I knew the funny faces.

And oh MY–some times…in pictures–we’d compare my baby pictures or Richard’s and squeal with delight at little expressions that were similar.

All the while–deeper connections were made. Reminders of us at their age. Not only in these moments for baby–as every baby loves to be cheered for. But in these moments connections were also being made for me–as mom.

I shake myself out of the wishing and wondering.

Yes–yes…yes, I know it’s late. I need to just run upstairs and scan this “Certificate of Citizenship” for this lady and go to bed.

But right now–I can’t. It’s not always that simple. Before life moves on, some times I just have to be still in this place instead.

I sit there.

And I grieve.

I grieve the not being there.

I grieve how much I want to be an instant safe place. Wishing it came more naturally–because I know and feel the difference…and how I’m still working on being that for them.

It’s not his fault that it isn’t always easy. Or mine…that we have to work harder and have more to work through.

I grieve that there are so many expressions and faces…and his toes–his quirky little, sweet toes–I’ll never know whose they resemble.

I catch my breath and the tears just fall. Because some times. It just doesn’t feel fair. Mostly for him. But can I say–for me too? I wish I knew. I wish I had been there. I wish I had the stories for all the gaps.

I wish the hard medical things that happen in the brain when a child enters flight or fight because they have been abandoned or removed from a biological mom didn’t happen…and here we spend hour upon hour in our daily working through sensory things–that are so important…and that also drive me crazy as a mom too…because I don’t know why or always understand why they are there. (Coming from a mom with a biological child with sensory stuff–I get this in a different way–because for these boys…the grief is present when the sensory is often present…making the dailies often just feel harder wanting to be so sensitive and hoping–just hoping I’m doing it right.)

The boo boos are different…and I have to teach them a momma can be the one to run to. A momma can help kiss them and rock and make things just a little bit better…if you let them. But the letting us–that’s the thing we know that can take weeks or even years (and some times never) to happen.

I know the things I miss–will one day be the things my boys will also miss and long for themselves…and right now it just doesn’t make sense as they learn to be deeply cared for. Having a little one who will fall in your arms and naturally trust you is a million times different than building the trust with one that doesn’t even know it’s okay at first to cry.

So yes…it is different. But my love for all my loves—is true.

I learn how to love my husband deeply who isn’t biologically related to me–but our hearts are deeply connected. And I’m deeply committed to him and all of my children no matter how the Lord let them become mine.

I just wish I had the moments.

I wish could fill the gaps.

I wish I could have been there to let that little head that didn’t have the strength to be held up on it’s own just fall on my chest…and learn trust from the beginning.

And I march upstairs with that certificate in my hand.

I scan it.

And I send it to her.

The hoops now–are just hoops.

And I’m just thankful he is home.

And he is mine.

I may have missed the beginning, but I’m here for the rest of forever. And If I could only have one–I’d choose forever every time.

After July 4th {Blogging is so yesterday. BUT. I’m about to start writing again.}

OH MY. It’s been awhile. 4 weeks since I blogged. BUT. I think I’m going to start blogging again. Yes. I know it’s out;). Who blogs any more? But I’m a writer and I miss it–and it’s a good way for this momma to process AND it’s a good way for me to document our crazy…so I think I may be back y’all. Or you. Thinking there may be just 1 or 2 that happen upon this as blogs aren’t read much these days.

BUT. Little “a-ha”‘s keep happening. Those things I grow from. And I love to document those. So–I think I’m going to start writing again. At least a few times a week!! For myself at least!!

So. July 4th has passed—but we decided to take the kids to Stone Mountain Park today. They have the same firework show on July 3, 4 AND 5th. SO–we while we have a LONG list of “to-do’s” at the farm–we decided to drop the list and take off. So glad we did.

We got there at 11am–and left at 11pm. Oh my. Thought we’d be home for dinner. BUT we decided to stay for the final fireworks show. I told Rich we needed to make the most of it as he was asking should we go home for dinner or stay until dark. (It’s an hour drive to the farmhouse from this park by the way.) I said, “We might as well!! Live for the moment. Live today to the fullest…we won’t ever have this day back.” (Because really–we knew we had a million things we needed to get back for!! Feeding the chickens;). Finish painting Parker’s room. Oh the list goes on. And he laughed and said, “You have been saying that EVERY DAY for the last 11 years Andrea since we got married. When have we NOT lived a day to the fullest?” Oh my. So of course we stayed:).

And today was so much fun.

And this. This is the part I had to document. The fireworks. I had this mommy moment.

The laser light show had just finished—a 30 minute spectacular show…full of history and lots of music—and a full 30 minutes of watching Zeke dance. For EVERY sone he would turn around and say, “MOMMA! Dis is my favorite song!” And then dance something that looked like interpretive dance to it. Oh how I could gobble him up!! (Lest you think things are perfect–they aren’t always. He had his 2nd wind and I gave him candy. Some times after 2 meltdowns on a hot day–candy works. It did tonight thankfully as well;)

My sweet crew…

At the end of the show and before the fireworks began, they asked the crowd to stand to sing the National Anthem. I didn’t expect to be speechless. But I was.

I was holding Zeke. He was playing with my pony tail. And I was singing about freedom. Here this bundle of joy and miracle was in my arms–most likely because of a lack of freedom. (With China’s 1 child policy–many children who are in orphanages are there because they were abandoned due to the 1 child policy.) His head dropped to my shoulder–and the music played. And the words would no longer come out of my mouth. Instead. Tears fell. I can have more than 1 child. And he is my child–because he is from a country where that freedom doesn’t quite exist. I’m going to be SO TIRED tomorrow–I thought. Because we are out late. And church. Oh my–I’ll sleep through church. BUT. I can go. Or not. And I won’t get arrested.

The music played on–and freedom took on a deeper meaning for this momma. Tonight. I’m just thankful. Thankful the Lord is growing our family the way He is. The way He uses us–and loves us–and works through us. So many things to be thankful for tonight. But tonight–our freedom is one of the highlights for me.

And that. I just had to document. A mommy moment that I will always treasure.

Now off to crash! Or else…I’ll really sleep through church tomorrow;)

xoxo.

Andrea

Celebrating 1 Year Home! Happy Forever Family Day Zeke!

I can’t believe it has been a YEAR since we held our sweet boy in our arms for the first time!! It’s been a sweet year…and I always make a video for all my kiddos after their 1st year with us–so here is Zeke’s! The pictures sure are more eventful when you bring home a toddler verses a newborn…100 pictures of a baby smiling verses trips to the space center, swimming and beach for our first year with Zeke! It has honestly been easier than I expected!! People always say “terrible twos” are tough–so you would think bringing home a 2 year old that speaks a different language would be super tough (especially for him!)–but miracles happen…and this guy connected to us so quickly even in China a year ago! So thankful for all the Lord has done!! We love you Zeke…and are so blessed to have forever with YOU!

The Bunkroom {custom bunk beds by Custom Cabinetry of Middle Georgia}

We’ve officially been in our new place for over a month now–and we’ve been working away. We’ve had the house painted (most of it by mama Young:), bought antiques to fit the front porch and furniture for the family room–and little odds and ends like “farm art” and such. Zeke had his 3rd birthday this weekend–which was the FIRST one our family got to celebrate with him as he’s been home from China for 11 months–and it was such fun celebrating his birthday for the first time together!! (Okay-so this post is about the bunk room…but I have to give a sweet sneak peak or 5 of his special day!) So we invited his 30 best friends (hey–when you miss out on celebrating the first 2–you have a bigger party friends:) and it was SUCH fun. My grandmother and great aunt even came to town for the fun!!

Happy 3rd birthday to our Zeke baby! Sooooo…now that he is 3, of course he needs a big boy room. He is STILL our baby but the little man is climbing out of his crib and he has been asking for a big boy bed (his language skills in just 11 months are AMAZING!) For now, we are keeping his crib in his room (he likes to nap in it)–and momma is having a hard time packing it up after 10 years of having a crib up!! SO–to make this big move to a big boy bed special AND now that we’ve finally found our farmhouse that we plan to stay in, we decided to call about the amazing Kenny Johnston a builder out of Macon, Georgia to design and build the boys a BUNKROOM!

So for those of you who don’t know us and just landed here–we have FOUR boys and 1 princess. The two youngest boys want to share a room–but in our last house we found that they all often ended up in the SAME room with sleeping bags surrounding our oldest son’s bed. We said when we found our farmhouse, we’d build a bunk room–2 boys could share the room but as I guessed…for now you find them all in there at night. (SWEETNESS seeing your littles all just want to be together!!)

Here’s the finished product!

You could easily have drawers in the bunks too! We decided not to do drawers for now and to wait and maybe add those later! Not having drawers now does add for a little more space for the kiddos underneath the bunks too.

Still have some details to add to their “hero” room. Zeke and Isaac asked for HEROS–and oh my heart…they get heroes! These two youngest boys of mine are MY heroes for all the changes they have bravely made–and they are loving their new room. They all take turns who gets to sleep on the TOP bunk–so we are currently on a rotation system so everyone gets their turn;)

OKAY. FIRST–you may be wondering HOW Kenny a MACON builder built these for me in ATLANTA. Well, he built them IN MACON–and then put them together here at our home. I sent him all my favorite Pinterest pictures, pictures of the space I wanted them in and exact measurements of every corner and turn in the room. He created 3D design computer images–we made a few tweaks to make it appear those bunks were always there and he even added a wall to divide them (trust me…with littles you need division at night;). The computer designs he would send me in the design process looked like this…

Kenny had awesome ideas along the way–and I realllllly wanted to add old panels on the back wall–but in the end we needed to cut some corners and Kenny was awesome about that too giving us ideas to keep the project in our budget without sacrifices quality. These bunks are so well made–and I’m sure some could cut corners–but where my littles are concerned…momma wants quality. They are sturdy and safe–I even slept on a top bunk last night with Isaac who got scared in the wee hours of the night:).

Kenny does travel–and his business in AMAZING when you learn how he reaches out to his community and through his business disciples those he employs. The stories are draw dropping–but Kenny is humble and just salt of the Earth kinda guy. We actually met Kenny and his family through the adoption community when they grew after adopting 2 more to their family of 5 making 7. Later I watched as they temporarily housed a precious sibling group–trying to find the perfect family for them…only to watch them pray for them–and adopt them themselves as they had fallen in love with these girls while advocating for them. Just great folks–and we knew Kenny was the kind of person you want to do business with. Although he’s in Macon–if you live in the Georgia area–give him a call if you are thinking of doing a remodel, kitchen updates or even a custom bunk room like ours. You can find him on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/CustomCabinetryOfMiddleGa or to start the quote process you can give him a buzz at 478-361-6518 and tell him I sent you;).

I snagged a few pictures of some of his other current work. He does complete home remodels as well as smaller projects like ours!

A bathroom remodel…

A kitchen in process…

ALRIGHT…so that’s it for the BUNKROOM!! I’ll start posting more of our farmhouse pictures here in the next few days and weeks for you to see how it’s coming together!! We’ve gained a dog (Oreo), caught opossums from under our porch, broken up a fight between a group of turkeys and Rico’s truck, opened up the pool for summer fun, bought a ginormous lawn mower to cut our acreage–and we’re about to build a chicken coop! Goodness…I really need to start blogging again y’all because this will be entertaining and I know I’ll crack up one day how clueless we were (are now!!).

So…stay tuned for some crazy chicken and goat action…and also farm house pictures:) Can’t wait to share our sweet “new” old place with you all:)

Blessings!

Andrea

Reading, Phonic and Spelling {my fav program…a treasure to share!}

As a former language arts teacher in the public schools (and YEARS of paying for tutors for one with dyslexia)–I have a true appreciation for this spelling and reading program. (No more tutors needed here!) When reading and spelling programs overlap–there will always be more gain for the student, and I can’t say enough about All About Reading and All About Spelling (published by All About Learning Press) which is Orton Gillingham based.

At first, it may feel like a lot of hands on as it’s multi sensory learning (NO WORKSHEETS/WORKBOOKS!)–but it’s so worth it!! Here’s a great article about these two programs, their differences and why doing these together is so beneficial: http://blog.allaboutlearningpress.com/whats-the-difference-aar-aas/

If you are looking for a strong OG program for your kiddo–regardless if your child has a special reading need or is a strong reader (I have both and they both benefit greatly from this program)—and I’m so glad I found it!! (I wish they taught this in college to language arts/reading teachers–it took me 3 years of homeschooling to learn how to really teach phonics to my kiddos, and I wasn’t confident enough to fill the gaps myself so I went to OG tutors despite having a teaching degree in reading as they don’t teach OG in college–which I think is hands down the best phonics approach.

BUT if you just follow the prompts in this program–it is truly amazing how it will strengthen their reading and spelling skills! Many kids miss phonics, memorize words and you don’t realize this until 3rd or 4th grade when their brains can no longer retain as many difficult words. If they start to struggle in 3rd or 4th grade–taking them back is so important…and catching the phonic weakness in 1st or 2nd is even better. (JUST a little treasure I couldn’t help but share!!)

And y’all. I promise they didn’t ask me to write this;). Although I wish they did so they’d hook me up with the next set–HA! Seriously. If you don’t know where to start or it seems overwhelming–here’s the low down.

1. Go to this page and go to “Choose a Level”: https://www.allaboutlearningpress.com/all-about-reading/

2. Print off the placement test to see where your child should start. They give clear directions on how to give the test for you to follow.

3. If your child completes Level 4 easily–begin with Level 4. If they miss a few in another level–you can remediate just that area or simply start on that level. (I have one that was older that needed to start on Level 2—and another that could whizz through Level 4–so I actually chose to do Level 2 with BOTH. It will only help a child to review phonics no matter how basic they may seem. You may even realize you memorize words yourself and don’t have a solid foundation of phonics also.

4. What spelling level should you start on? You should start on Level 1 if your child hasn’t been in a phonics program before. If he/she has–then they recommend going straight to Level 2. (You can see sample lessons on the website. Level 2 will have words like: hinge, sweet, sweat, dentist. He/she will have dictation sentences to hear and correctly write like: The loud truck when into town.) If your child isn’t reading and writing yet, there is a Pre-Reading Program and Level 1 Spelling would be the place to start:).

Hope this helps! It may seem very simple and basic at first. I have discovered most kids have missed a solid phonics program in schools. If you aren’t sure if your child’s school has a strong phonics program–just ask! Ask what phonics method program the teacher implements in the room. If you get a blank stare–take on teaching your child phonics yourself. If the teacher quickly answers The Wilson Method, Orton Gillingham, the Barton System, etc–then you are good. Just ask how you can reinforce at home. If the teacher says the alphabet, phonic workbooks, etc–you might want to supplement at home. It’s much easier to take a 1st or 2nd grader back to basic phonics than a struggling 5th or 6th grader–so covering this ground early and filling in gaps is definitely a benefit to everyone!!

Happy reading and spelling!!

O r p h a n   C a r e
A d o p t i o n   C a r e