Friday, September 20, 2013

The New Normal

    We're still here, all adjusting to what life looks like as a family of 6.

Having a girl around has broadened the boys' horizons. Caroline is so enthusiastic about her purse that Walker went through a stage of carrying a "purse" too.

That is some decorative metal thing from my bathroom. Harris wants to be involved in anything happening, so he learned a new skill too.
 Hayes just wants to do everything the big kids do. Dress up, wash his hands, maybe even both at the same time.

Here is everyone dressed up. This makes me laugh because the boys are a mess and Caroline stayed focused on striking a pose.

Hayes went through a stage of insisting on using a fork like everyone else. It took roughly 20 hours for him to eat one meal.

I got to take Harris on a date to the Lego store. That sweet boy thanked me for taking him several times. He just looked and looked at all the lego creations and was so content, not asking for anything. I told him before we got there that we wouldn't but anything and he said ok, just to let him know if I changed my mind. :) The only thing he did request was a lego set he thought Walker might like for his birthday. I don't think anyone on the planet has a bigger heart than this boy.

We officially started homeschool. Here are my kindergartners!!

Oh my goodness, it was rough starting out. It's pretty common knowledge in adoption that there is a honeymoon period which is immediately followed by meltdowns of epic proportions. Our school year starting coincided with the honeymoon period ending. It was rough on all of us and I definitely wanted to throw in the towel. However, we got through this part. I think we came out stronger on the other side and doing school at home helped. I really have no idea how long we'll do this but for this year I definitely see the benefit for our situation and why we were called to it. It had nothing to do with Harris and everything to do with a child we didn't yet know was ours.

I went to an adoption conference recently and am enamored with Dr. Karyn Purvis. She is a Christian, but is secular and data-driven in her approach to healing children with trauma. She says nothing that isn't backed up by quantifiable data but also points out that there is nothing new under the sun. She says her research is just science catching up to God and that her methods are the heart of God. She doesn't even have to profess her faith because it oozes out her pores and her message is the gospel in its entirety, without ever quoting scripture. She is a developmental psychologist (or psychiatrist?) with 40+ years of experience. She has devoted her life to healing children "from hard places." Our girl is certainly from a hard place. I absolutely buy into the methods she advocates because I see the truth in our experience. However, her methods are so hard to implement. The information was encouraging in the message that no child is too old or has seen too much but sobering in the confirmation that this mess is deep and hard and long. I won't detail the specifics because they are google-able if you're interested. The take-away is that our God is in the business of redemptions and restoration and examines the methods He uses for that. What struck me over and over again was how God has abundantly provided for me, and our family, far more than I ever asked. It was put on my heart years ago to adopt and I've prayed for it for it all this time. I never once asked for support when we adopted. Not one time. I didn't even know we would need it. I have 4 close friends, that I can be real and authentic with, who are adoptive/foster parents. They DAILY encourage me. He's also given friends that support me in many other ways, who I love dearly. Shout out, Amanda, Megan, and Retta!!
Caroline has four younger biological siblings that were also adopted by families in San Antonio. These families are now my family and these women are my people. We have a running text message where anything goes. We meet for coffee and stay till midnight, laughing and crying and praying. I didn't know two of the moms when this got going but they let me (and my FOUR KIDS) come to their houses so Caroline could see where each child slept, because it mattered to her. It's inconceivable to me to imagine this journey without this amazing support group. Every person that spoke of their adoption story at this conference emphasized the importance of finding community because it's far too difficult to do alone. God gave us that in abundance and I never once asked.

I've been thinking through this verse lately. (Because it was in my Bible study that is awesome. Email me if you're interested!)
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God
John 1:12

We have been given the right to be adopted but it's on us what we choose to do with that right. I realize more than ever what a daily, minute by minute, decision that is to choose to be in a family. Caroline is ours. She is a Goolsby. She has a room in our house and a place at our table. She goes everywhere we go but we can never make her be in this family. We cannot make her choose us to be her people. She has to decide to participate in our activities and submit to our authority and embrace our ways. When I think about why she might want to do that, I think about how God wins our hearts. He wins our love with abundant, extravagant, overwhelming love and provision.

I didn't even know to ask for support in this journey because I was too ignorant to know I would need it. However, God provided it in astounding ways. Caroline doesn't know what to ask us for because she is a child that lived almost 6 years in a 2 room condo. She has no knowledge or perspective to know what she needs or would enjoy. It's on us to provide sacrificial love to her because that is what was given to us and we have a greater understanding of her needs than she does. The parallels of this situation are enough to knock me over, as I go through the day to day and see how challenging it all is when played out in this real world scenario.  Adoption is both beautiful and painful at precisely the same time. Caroline is choosing to be a part of our family but her heartbreak over what she has lost is almost a physical presence, it's so acute for her. It's hard for her to embrace the new while still grieving the old. While I'll never understand what she's going through, I do understand having a foot in two worlds. I yearn for the kingdom of heaven because I envision how much better it is but at the same time I hold so tightly to what is in this world. I am in no way comparing  being in our family to the kingdom of heaven. :) I just see that she has been freed from the difficulty of her past but there are things of her past that she wants to bring with her. Some are good, and we see her biological siblings as often as we can. I am so thankful that we can do that!! Some are not good, but they are all she knows and they're hers.

I guess what I want to say is that God relentlessly pursues us and gives us abundantly more than we would ever even know to ask him for. He takes the bad from us to give us the good, even though it feels like we're losing all that is precious. Adoption is difficult for everyone it touches but daily there are little (and sometimes big!) moments that can only be orchestrated by a loving, intimate, personal Father that meets us exactly where we are.

For example, Tom adores tomatoes. On our first date, he was nervous, I guess,  and went into a soliloquy about the greatness of tomatoes. It was a running joke with us. The first time we ever gave Caroline a tomato, she was equally as excited. Isn't that random!?!?!? Have you ever in your life heard people cheer tomatoes like they were cookies covered in ice cream? There are many other ways God has confirmed that Caroline is for us but that's one of my favorites.  I will always associate tomatoes with this situation. If we're having a rough day I give her a tomato to hear her go on about how much she loves them. :) God is in the details, for sure, and I'm so thankful. I write all this to remind myself what God has done for me and in turn what my response should be.

I'm worn thinner than I've ever been but at the same time I'm blown away with all that has so freely been given to me. Caroline and her 4 yr old sister point to things primarily with their middle finger. In honor of that, the adoptive families have named ourselves the Unicorns. :) Really, who wouldn't want to hang with this crew??
Go Unicorns!

For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land.” - Ezekial 36:25

Monday, September 16, 2013

Walker Goolsby is 4!

Walker, Walker, Walker.

I think this story sums you up right now. You were left unsupervised for a few minutes while Hayes was put down for a nap. You used that time to track down the wrapped birthday presents you'd seen, carry them all into your room, close the door, and rip into them! Only you!! I so wish we had a picture of the carnage!

You and Caroline had a joint party, so you were sitting in front of your cake while we sang to Caroline. You decided to lean forward and take a bite out of it while we were focused on singing to Caroline. Please notice your teeth are blue in the picture above. :)

These stories make me smile so much because last year you had no idea it was your birthday. You didn't care to open presents. We basically had to rip paper off for you, then chase you down and show you that there was something train related in there for you to be interested. Then, you didn't want anyone else to be involved in playing with your toys with you.  This last year, you've blossomed. Numerous times a day you ask me to come play with you. Or sit by you. When you want us to sit together you put our chairs so close they are touching. After you spent so much time wanting to be alone, I'll move mountains to sit down and play with you. :)

You are still you. Or maybe you are Batman. Either way, you have retained all the awesome qualities you had when you spent life in your own world. You are your own man. God instilled that independence in you and will use it for His glory. You do what you set your mind on, regardless of what everyone else is doing. There can be a mob mentality in this house at times, with 4 kids, close in age. You're above that. Everyone else might want to go outside, but if you don't, it doesn't bother you one bit to stay inside and go on about your business. I particularly love that about you. I still say our job as parents is to teach you to use your powers for good.
You are learning how to handle your needs. Too many people and too much action makes you crazy. Amen, brother, because it makes me crazy too. You have the good sense to start requesting ""POTTY, BOOK, BED!" because you know that means time alone in your room to unwind. As an adult, I still struggle with doing things that are fun but knowing I should really just go with potty, book, bed. It's a great life skill to develop at a young age to know when enough is enough.
Buddy, we were so, so worried about you. You developed on your own schedule. Well, on God's schedule but it didn't match what is "normal." You spent all of your 2's and probably half of your 3's in a world of your own making. You didn't invite anyone else there and didn't leave that world to be with the rest of us. You just built train tracks and wouldn't tolerate anyone else getting too close. The only reason you ever allowed us to read to you was because you knew it delayed bedtime. Then, you would repeat the story back EXACTLY the way we read it to you, but with absolutely no comprehension. You didn't smile in response to someone smiling at you. You only smiled if you were in motion or if someone fell down. Now, you just smile because you're happy. Or you smile because I smile at you. It warms my heart when you give me a big toothy grin that comes straight from your heart. There's nothing better than a "Walker Goolsby Smile." I put that in quotes because that is how you refer to your things. Your water bottle is "Walker Goolsby blue water." If I give you something you'll ask, "Is this for Walker Goolsby?" Someone helped Daddy take your presents to the car at your birthday party and you thought they were taking them away. You were devastated and said, "Those are WALKER GOOLSBY PRESENTS!"

 At 4, you are fully present, and ready to engage. And it is so much fun! You have an active imagination.  I love that you take me to all these fun places. You come out of your room each day and I'm never sure who I'm talking to. It might be Batman, Emperor Zurg, or Captain Hook. Or possibly Officer Goolsby. You have an affinity for bad guys but you also love to be the police.  Your innate sense of adventure is contagious. You are now the one leading the charge to "catch tick tock crock" or to "capture the bad guys." You have the rest of us sneaking around the yard and jumping out at things when you talk us through your vision.

A walk is never just a walk with you. It's always an adventure. :)  I still am in awe when you jump into games with your brother and sister. You NEVER would have done that at this time last year and I wondered if you ever would. Here you all are playing "vacation." I think you should call it "drag out everything you own," but vacation is fine, I guess.
I cannot believe you were physically capable of pushing these two beefcakes.

You've stopped napping every day but run out of steam before the day is done. Every time you yawn, you will now say, "I'm not tired! Of course I'm not," because when you proclaim that you aren't tired that's always my response. Little guy, you have no idea how funny you are.

You started preschool and are doing great. After spending the first four days playing alone in your own territory, you started interacting with the other kids. Your teacher called to tell me that you turned a corner in the way you approached the environment. You even gave a wink at the little girl sitting next to you. A wink!! I don't even know what to say about that.
My sweet boy, you have a unique personality. You are independent. You are smart. You're engaging and adventurous.  You love to play make believe but can build legos with the best of them. I've never met anyone quite like you. God has something set aside just for you and he gave you this special set of gifts to accomplish it.
Walker, I love you so much!! You make my days brighter and I'm so thankful to be your mommy! You bring joy and laughter to our whole family. I am so excited to see what this year holds for you, sweet boy!!
For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
Psalm 139:13-16