For some of you this may be an everyday thing, but for those of us who live in Texas especially the parts that never get snow, this is a big deal. It is a really big deal for our Ruskie and Ukie kids! It brings to mind another time, another life and memories I am sure.
I am home sick from work watching huge snowflakes descend on the landscape. It mesmerizes me as I see them coming down faster and faster. Each one so unique, although, unless you look at them under a mircoscope you can't really see the beauty of each flake individually, it is only when they are all one that you can truly appreciate the magnificent winter portrait that together they create.
This is what I tell my kids you are individually and wonderfully created, each one different from the rest, but it is only when you join together that you can truly do Gods work. Alone we are just that, unique individuals, but look at the tapestry that can be created if we work together.
We as a family are constantly working our tapestry. Sometimes we all weave together and sometimes the threads unravel and we have to redo. There are times when someone is making a beautiful pattern and others are weaving sloppily or not at all. The one thing that is clear it is always a work in the making. If we let God the master weaver guide our hands we will create something so much more significant than if we go it alone.
I will put some pictures on here later of our 4 youngest babies Zhenya, Alesa, Lena and Julia when they came home from school playing in the snow. They had so much fun! When they were done I had hot chocolate and a roaring fire waiting for them.
Kyle is doing better, they suspect mono, but they said it is not acting like mono so they want to run some more blood tests this week. Please keep praying for him.
In the past few months I have had several people ask me about the guarantees of success of adopting older children. I am going to share what we have learned take what you want and leave the rest.
First question would we do it again? Yes, yes, and yes! In fact we are wanting to do it again, and it hasn't all been easy but the rewards as in any endeavor worth doing has far outweighed the negatives.
What has worked for us? Let me share some thoughts with you.
If you are considering adopting an older child I would first examine yourself.
Are you adopting an older child because you want to save someone?
Are you adopting because you want to give to someone, but because they are older you naturally expect to receive gratitude in return.
Are you adopting hoping to receive a loving, smart, obedient, child or at the least to create a loving child?
Even if they aren't all those things are you hoping when you get them they will want to turn it around when they see how much you love them.
Do you build these children up in your mind beyond expectations that they can not meet?
Are you adopting because God has made your path very clear?
Are you adopting because you have so much love, time and patience to give or maybe you have only some and you want to share what you do have.
Do you ask yourself can we really do this and can we love an older child?
I ask these questions because they really are all OK to think, feel and wonder. We had some if not all of those thoughts, especially in our early adoptions. Let's be honest, unconditional love is hard. God can give it. I on the other hand do not have unconditional love. I try, but oh my, I fall so short!
Now let me give you our experiences and answers to what we have found.
Only God truly saves people through the blood of Jesus Christ. In this temporal home on earth what you will save these kids from is a possible/most likely life on the streets. You can give them the chance at a future they will probably never know in their home countries. You will give them a family they would never have had otherwise.
The giving part of adoption is so wonderful and fun. There is the joy of buying new clothes, or fixing up their room or buying the games they never had. There is the joy of just hugging and laughing on the couch. There is the contentment of creating mealtime together and teaching them about family. They are old enough to express gratitude and many times they do. Each child is different and not all express thanks in fact there are times when they seem to expect it. This becomes our job to teach them thankfulness. I have even thought, how can you be so ungrateful after all we have done? Then I have to think about how many times God could have thought that about me. Did I mention that through our adoptions I have learned so much about the goodness in my heart, but even more about the selfishness of my heart. Gratitude will be there just don't expect it to happen all the time. After all do we always show the Lord how grateful we are each day. Somedays I am just a spoiled child and I am too focused on my own needs to be as thankful as I should be.
Adopted children like biological children come with your perceived expectations and then reality comes right along behind them. I remember with each one of our biological children I would touch my rather large stomach and dream about what each baby would be like. I can assure you I never thought they would be learning challenged or just a pain in the patootee somedays, I never envisioned them back talking me. I mean I knew it could happen, but while I was dreaming about that particular child I had only good thoughts. When we saw the pictures of our first adopted children I just knew they were wonderful. In fact I even heard stories about how good, or smart or talented they were. The reality was they were some of these things, but they also brought the reality with them. They probably also had a reality check when they met us. They may have envisioned a beautiful, young, hip, talented mom who could run circles around, Leave it to Beavers mom and instead.. well just leave it at that :)
Love does wonders and I am not going to elaborate too much here. A family and love does not necessarily create change overnight it takes time. These children have been through a lot, give it time. I have wanted to give up a time or two trust me, but reach out to God, family, friends, a blog, it is OK to vent just make sure the people you vent to are not judgemental. I have not figured out why but believe it or not some people get satisfaction if they see you having trouble or failing. Find support with those who will understand.
Besides our bio children there is not one thing I have done in my life that has given me more joy and satisfaction than our adopted children. If you are being called do not hesistate you will grow, learn, love and yes be challenged, but it is all worth it and has truly been a blessing and a privilege.
I will give you what we consider some of our tried and true techniques that have worked for us most of the time. Each family is different this is just what works for us.
You will not bring home a 13/14 year old you will in actuality be bringing home about a 8-10 year old give or take a year or so. Some of the differences will be, how long they were with a family or in an orphanage. Their bodies wil tell you they are a teenager do not let that fool you. They are not the typical American teen and there are many good things about that fact.
We believe that the first thing that has to happen is that our kids have one job and that is learning to bond with us and the family. Therefore we do not encourage outside friendships at first. This usually takes care of itself because of the language barrier. As parents we naturally want them to find friends and have friendships. Think about it they have had plenty of peer influence at the orphanage and nothing but friends, they have not had a family, nor in most cases do they understand how a family functions or how to fit in to the family. We do not want friendships to become their source of bonding at this point. We had this issue with Lena, she came here completely focused on renewing ties with kids who lived near us who had been at her orphanage and as a result that was her only focus. We cut the ties off almost immediately when we saw what was happening. She then turned to school for friends and when that didn't work out she finally filled her need to bond with her family.
In the beginning we allow few if any spend the nights. We tried it and each time it turned out to be a bad decision. They come home distant and cranky so now it is a treat and only happens once in awhile.
We did not let them have cell phones upon arrival. It took Alesa over two years to get one and we finally got her one to keep up with her in sports . She has since lost the privilege of having it after only having it for 3 months. She can earn it back and hopefully will be more careful next time. Something about putting a cell phone in her hand just made her feel she was didn't quite have to listen to us. She is a wonderful girl and daughter but she is testing the waters a bit and that is OK because she is learning while she is at home where mom and dad are a support and safety net.
Facebook was not a good idea for ours, and they will never have one again. I didn't want them to have one to start with, but while we were gone to Ukraine to get Lena our oldest son set Alesa and Julia up with one. They were so excited and he was so proud of their bonding moment, that against my better judgement, I didn't have the heart to tell them to shut them down. Lets just say Julia made a video and sent it out into cyber space it was cute but nonetheless I didn't want that floating out there for who knows. Alesa misused hers by writing a letter to a boy who is three years older and her brothers friend, she had only met him once, she wrote this letter to him proclaiming her undying love forever and ever. A ten year old could have written the letter such was the social nuances of the content. I can not stress enough do not assume because they are teen agers that they understand how to function socially or can function socially until you have spent a lot of time teaching them.
Make-up is not allowed when they get here. The reason is because they want to glob it on. They can not wear any make-up until they are 15 and then only some mascara by that time they are grateful to wear anything and they are careful about not putting too much. It helps that they have older brothers who do not like a lot of make-up on girls and have no problem expressing their opinion.
We have found going with the less and stricter route especially in the beginning works better. Even to this day we find there are social skills that we expect older kids to have that some of ours still do not understand.
As I said everyone is different, every family is different, each child is unique and we are always learning. I pray everyday that God allows us the opportunity to bring Karina home to begin weaving her own pattern into the fabric of our family.