Monday, December 16, 2013

Add to the beauty

It's been a long time since I've had adoption fever. It's been an even longer time since I've had baby fever.

Today I had the privilege to visit with a friend who just came home a week ago with her newest BABY boy. This child was a doll. I held him, tickled him, played peek-a-boo, and snuggled for a glorious couple of hours. Oh, and I can't forget the part where I got to sing Jesus Loves me while rocking this sweet boy to sleep. Precious.

It was so amazing to sit and listen to the story of my friend. The grueling process of adoption never ceases to amaze me. It just shouldn't be THAT hard. But I love hearing how God shows up every.single.time to perform the miraculous. Her story was, in my opinion, as Norman Rockwell as it can get in the world of adoptions. The process was long, fraught with pain and hardship and trial, and ended with this chubby faced baby boy that you kinda just want to eat. (Who invented that phrase? It's kinda weird to think about eating a child because they are cute.....or at all....) Her story was .... in a nutshell....beautiful.

She proceeded to show me a couple of pictures of this darling girl who lived in the same home as her now son. Did I mention this baby girl is only 4 months old?? Um....HELLO!!! Call the social worker!!! As I left, the feelings of longing that I had for that baby girl, and even the feelings that were evoked in cuddling with HER baby (don't worry K, I'm not gonna steal your kid) left me a bit of a hot mess.

Two years into our "new normal", and our canvas feels anything but beautiful. Certainly not one that good ol' Norman would approve of. It's hard, messy, painful, and at times maybe feels a bit scarring even (for everyone), with threads of joy woven in between. Aaron and I were just talking last night about the differences in adopting babies vs. older children. And actually, the reality that some parents deal with even with bio kids. Parenting is just hard, no matter what cards you are dealt. But I can't help but find myself longing for it to not be THIS hard. Maybe it's because we never cuddled as a baby, maybe it's because she shouldn't have to get used to a new mom, maybe it's because we just haven't figured each other out yet, maybe it's because I'm not who she needs, or maybe it's just because this is OUR story.....but whatever the reason, I found myself longing to love and mother this little 4 month old girl across the sea more than I've longed to love and mother my own child most days lately. What a not beautiful feeling.

In this moment, God - as usual - met me where I was at. He brought home to my heart the end of me and Aaron's conversation last night - the remembrance that parenting isn't about our children loving us, or even liking us. Love isn't about a feeling of cuddles and roses - it's an action, one that requires choosing time and time again. Instead of longing for my friends beautiful story (which I somehow envisioned as mine were I to run off and adopt that squishy faced doll), God reminded me that even in the hard - our story is still beautiful. The pretty pictures that we paint in our mind of what family should look like is NOT where the beauty lies. It's in the story that God has for us and faithfully living that out. Every beautiful, hard step along the way.

Our adoption stories once felt beautiful to me. Life got in the way. Which means sin got in the way. So as a parent (adoptive or not), I'm reminded of my need to repent for my needy, emotional based parenting and limp my way back to the feet of Jesus where he sustains me in real life.

All our stories are beautiful. It's what we do with them that turns them ugly. Time to add to the beauty again.....

Monday, June 11, 2012


I haven't been around these parts for a while. Every time I try, nothing seems to come out right, so I stop. I will try again tonight.

Older child adoption is harder than I thought it would be. Which is funny, because going into this last adoption, I had read all the books, talked with other adoptive families, read all the blogs, etc.... and I KNEW it was going to be hard. I prepared for the worst, in fact. But living it? Huh. Living it is an entirely different thing. 

Kira is not the worst case scenario. In fact, she is far from it. She is amazing. She is adventurous, sweet-spirited, loving, generous, full of life, and she seems like she truly WANTS to be here. That is big, people, BIG. So why the hard then?

Adopting an infant, you are given a piece of paper (if you are lucky) detailing the facts known about your new child. Usually the report will include nothing more than date found, living family, POSSIBLY cause of death of parents (again, if you are lucky), and maybe the child's weight. (We didn't even have that!) You go into infant adoption anticipating "gotcha day" as this romantic encounter in which a cute child that looks vastly different than you is placed unknowingly into your arms and hopefully won't cry out of shear terror. You? You will be a sobbing mess as you welcome this precious little one into your life. You've dreamed of this moment. You've longed to feel that baby's hand around your finger, to look into their eyes as you feed them their bottle, to wipe their tears, to be their "savior" when they cry in the middle of the night. After all, they never had that. They deserve that. You will be that. And they will love you for it.....or at least you hope. 

Now we come to adopting the older child. You are given the same piece of paper documenting their history. Knowing their age, the information never seems to be enough. You long for the holes to be filled. You  know there is more to the story and wonder who is holding out on you. You still feel the same feelings of this child being "yours", and you can't wait to welcome them into your arms. But when the day actually arrives and you see them face to face, you realize the playing field is vastly different. This child is not an unknowing infant. No. You see this child coming toward you, this child with fear in his/her eyes. They've been told what is happening. They know their world is about to be turned upside down and inside out. They want to be excited because surely you will be better than what they have now, but they are scared to death all at the same time. You see their fear and realize in that moment how terrified you yourself are...and that they too see your fear. Your heart stops in this moment of complete awe and wonder over this beautiful child mixed with complete fear of the unknown. (This mixed feeling won't go away for a really long time.) Will I ever be enough for this child? They might not love me.

Fast forward to the homecoming and the months afterwards. The older child now has to learn an entirely different life. A new language, a new family, everyone looks different, the food is different, their friends are different, the sounds and smells are different....but mostly??? Mostly Mama (and sometimes Daddy) are different. And that is hard. See, because the older child has memories. Their story isn't just what the agency gave you on paper. Their story has been the years of their life leading up to you. Years of unknown. Years of joy and sorrow that had nothing to do with you. And that will, at times. feel very strange. Their story is locked up in their mind and soul. And it is up to them to trust you with their wonderful, amazing and hard story as they see fit. 

As the adult, you may have the tendency to see the way this little one responds, and you will psycho-analyze their every move. You will wonder if they are responding out of fear, grief, confusion, anger, manipulation, or purely the desire to appease you. You will do this every moment of every day until you exhaust yourself. It will only take about a month to exhaust yourself before you yourself go into "dis-regulated" mode. (Disclaimer, not every adult will do this...but moms??? Beware. You most likely will. It's what we do. We take it all on and think it is our fault, and gosh-darn-it, we WILL NOT screw up our kids, so we MUST get to the bottom of it.) It doesn't take long before your insane tendencies (remember folks, the definition of insane is, "doing the same things over and over again expecting different results"...AKA: parents. ha!) will drive your child into an an equally dis-regulated state of being and you will begin this odd dance with your child. 

Your child will long to trust you because it is what children do. You will long to have your child love you, because it is what parents do. But both of you know their is no guarantee. And both of you have your guard up most of the time. You are trying to teach new rules, and the child will be trying to decide if it is worth it to follow them. You will be trying to figure out how to love the child in the way they need it, and the child will be trying to decide if they will receive it. You will be asking for every detail of the story you can squeeze out of your new son/daughter, and the child will be trying to decide if they trust you enough with it....if it's worth trusting you. And most of the time - none of this will be pretty. You will take things personal, and your child will long for what was before they were "orphaned". Wouldn't you?

Pretty picture, huh? I know, maybe this all falls under the "worst-case-scenario" picture. But even in all the good that is, there is a level of truth to all that I just said - and that is hard. As parents, we aren't wired to undo harm. We're wired to protect from harm. As children, they aren't designed to fear the world around them, especially their story. They are wired to love and trust and belong. And when the wires are crossed, or even worse - broken...well, it's just hard. 

So here we are. Almost 9 months since we left for Uganda to meet Kira. Wow. 9 months? I keep telling people 6. Anyway... I won't lie. We've had our ups and downs. People will ask me if I've "bonded" with Kira. I tell them yes...but with the disclaimer that either I haven't bonded with any of my kids or I don't understand what bonding means...because my bonding isn't in a feeling. My "bonding" is in the choice I made when she became my daughter...before she became my daughter, really. I CHOSE to love her then, and every single day - in the hard days and in the good days - I CHOOSE to love her still. I also am often asked if she has bonded with us. To which I say yes, but with the disclaimer that she too must CHOOSE as much as any 7 year old can figure out how to choose to love us. Some days I do better than others, and some days so does she. As the adoptive parent, it is  up to me to put my fears aside, to deal with my shortcomings (which are many), to put aside what is "natural" to me in parenting in order to take a hold of what she needs. I'm not good at that. She's trusting us more and more with her story. And her story is hard. I feel ill-equipped to love her the way she needs to be loved with the hope of ever covering the pain she has had to endure. But maybe that is the thing - maybe I'm not supposed to love her enough to cover the pain. Maybe I'm just supposed to love her in her matter how she loves me in return, no matter what I do for her, no matter how deep her hurt goes, no matter how much I want her to love me, maybe I'm just supposed to love her.  Yup, that's probably it. Because as I recall, that's a small glimpse of how Jesus loves me. 

I wouldn't change this story for the world. Well...unless changing the story meant that Kira could be with her Mama still. Then I'd change it - because that was always plan "A". But as for plan "B"? I wouldn't change it. I'm so thankful she is here. I think that anyone considering adoption should consider older child adoption. It will be hard. It will mess up your world. There will be no normal anymore. You may or may not get anything in return. But this child who is wired to be a child and wired to feel the love of family and the security that comes through love - the children are worth it all. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

A little then and now

Posting about Kira's first day of school here in America, it dawned on me that I don't think I ever talked much about the school that she was in.

800 kids in once school. 80 kids per classroom. Uniforms. Kids walk 1 1/2-2 miles to get to the school. (Uphill both ways.... kidding....sort of.)

Now that you saw the "now" with the last post, here's the "then".

kira's classroom

random signs all over the walls. africa and their signs. :)

this was the attendance board for the entire school

kira saying good-bye to her teacher.


just taking it easy on the school grounds during lunch break.

First day of School!

Kira had attended school in Uganda, and had just started Primary 2 when we got there. (Primary 2 is about the equivalent of American first grade.) We were unsure what grade we would enroll her in here at home. We finally decided that because of the language barrier alone, and all that first graders know here (and especially because most first graders would be fairly solid readers half way through the year), we decided to place her in Kindergarten. We wanted her to be home for a while before sending her off to school, and we are thankful for that choice. It really helped her and us all connect with one another, and also prepare her a bit through language, security, and schedule before sending her off during the days.

The big day finally came! Kira was beyond excited. She tells us she enjoyed school in Uganda, and was very excited to go here. Her response was cute when we told her she would be in Kindergarten. She piped up and said, "I in P2"! She didn't hold too tightly to her previous grade level, she was just excited to go.  She is in afternoon kindergarten, and on her first day, all morning long kept asking if it was time to leave yet. We finally headed out the door and she could not stop grinning from ear to ear. She was skipping and singing and shooting me the happiest little glances I've ever seen her give. I stayed with her for about 15 minutes, and it was obvious that she was going to be more than okay, and that I was free to leave. There was one little girl who was so very welcoming to her, which I'm very thankful for. At the end of the day, she came running up to me with the same grin on her face. She had had a wonderful first day! YAY! And every day since, about 30 minutes after breakfast, she begins asking if it is lunch time ... she knows that school comes right after lunch. :)

I'm so thankful for yet another smooth transition for her here in this strange land. I'm thankful that she felt secure to leave our little nest and know we were returning for her. I'm thankful that she truly has a love of learning, and that adventurous spirit of hers.

Oh...and she's smart! We had received a list of 40 sight words that the kids had learned so far. We had Christmas break to begin studying them. (Remember, Kira is still learning all of our strange English words (like their, they're and there). She has not really begun to read yet. Some sounds here, especially vowel sounds, are very different to her.) They tested her on the sight words on her very first day. The teacher was impressed and proud to report to me that Kira got an 85% !

Anyway....enough story telling. The pictures, as always, tell a better story than I could!

so we begin the 15 minute walk to school. compared to the mile and a half she used to have to go to get to school, i think she didn't mind. :)

we got there early, so kira had plenty of time to try out the playground equipment.

sitting on the alphabet rug first thing. kira took her spot and joined right in on the topic of the day - Your favorite Christmas present! (She told the class about the new puzzle she got.)

"really mom, you don't have to stay." :)

the kids move from rug time to "movement". super cute. kira joined right in with the crazy dancing and motions!

after school she spotted Eden waiting for us. she ran to her sister with such joy.

walking home with the girls.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Kirabo Dorcas Linda BRITTON !!!

Today was our final step in the adoption process....our court date in the US to finalize the adoption of Kira. This was amazing on two fronts. One - the court squeezed us in today....3 days before the end of the year.  And two - the Court made an exception for our family to be seen before the 6 month mark that is normally required in the state of Colorado. (You adoption folks understand WHY this is amazing!)

It was such a great time. The Judge started by telling us the proceedings were very casual and informal. The kids got to sit in the Jury chairs the entire time. The Judge asked Kira and all the kids questions about if they are nice to each other (of which I am now using to remind them that they swore before a Judge to be nice, so they better not break the law!). Aaron and I were then asked a handful of questions about if we are able to provide for Kira. One of the questions was if we had the financial, emotional and mental ability to care for Kira ..."and the energy". To which I replied, "most days". :)  My favorite question though was when he asked if we realize that if he is to grant a favorable ruling - Kira will be our child AS IF BORN UNTO US ... "even when she's a teenager". YES! YES! and even then... YES! 

Upon giving our resounding yes - he stated that it was then his pleasure to grant our petition of adoption. Kira is now a US Citizen and legally a Britton !

When we were done, he asked the kids to take their seat at his bench. :) He began to interact on a personal level with us as well, telling us he has 3 Internationally adopted children, and 2 bio. We thanked him for allowing us to be seen today, to which he responded that it was his pleasure. And I kid you not - tears were in the kind Judge's eyes, and a few streaming down his cheek.

We know that none of this was coincidence. From the moment we asked for the Courts to make an exception to see us before the end of the year until we had the decree in our possession - we know the hand of God orchestrated this all. Even our Agency Director stated she had never seen them wave the 6 month rule, and told us we must have "special favor". I don't know about any special favor - but God certainly answered our prayers over the last year regarding the entire adoption process.... Some the way we asked, others the way He willed (of which we also asked). To God be all the glory!

This picture includes our amazing social worker and agency director. If you live in CO and need a good agency, CAC is the best!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Fall Dayz

After Malachi's haircut at Precision Kutz and Sytlz, I decided to always spell with a "z" instead of an "s". It just seems right.

Welcome to Colorado, Kira!  Cold, lots of blood work (I won't make you endure the picture again for those of you who saw it on Facebook, but basically imagine 15 viles of blood - yes, that was it), scary costumes and strange decorations, snow ..... oh wait .... a break in the snow! Quick! This is what we call "fall".

We weren't sure how to explain trick-or-treating to Kira, but hey, what kid doesn't enjoy playing dress up and walking around getting free candy. It was quite the delightful evening after all!

The Barber kept singing Lionel Richie songs. Nice.

Dinner at Chili's before trick-or-treating. (The treat was for the parents - kids ate free!)
All dressed up, so pretty in pink. Is she a fairy? A ballerina? A butterfly? (She has wings on the back)

Oh no! Here comes the Storm Trooper! ("Corn trooper" if you ask Malachi)

Kira would stand at the door before anyone answered saying trick-or-treat. It was really a bit funny...

"Many candies!", she would exclaim after every house. The final loot was more than enough.

Quick ... time to play in the leaves before it snows again!

Snowing leaves are as much fun as snowing snow.

Sweet joy - jumping in leaves for the first time ever.

Doesn't get much cuter....

Kira really liked the raking part when we were all done playing. Malachi decided to "help".