Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A hard week

It's been a hard week. I mentioned in my last post that our dog was not loving condo life. My son and I have loved the sense of community, kids to play with, friends to have movie nights with and hang out with everyday if we want to. I love not having yard work or the responsibility of home ownership, the cost of lawn care and having to do the pool chemicals myself. And having several other single moms on the street and taking turns watching each others kids. So regarding all that - we've loved it here so far. But our dog has not. And that has been very challenging and stressful for all of us.

At first it seemed ok. When we decided to move here, I had decided that I would make sure to take her every day to the dog park, no matter what. And I did exactly that. Our yard in TN was huge and she could run and chase squirrels and play. I thought when we bought the house here that the tiny yard would be a hard adjustment for her. It probably would have been if not for the dog park and the doggy door. We started going every day to the dog park so she could run and she had zero issues adjusting. She did great. She didn't destroy anything or seemed stressed when we left. No issues at all. The yard was fenced and she had a doggy door but the yard was tiny so she couldn't run or anything. But the dog park made it ok. And I think she really loved the doggy door and being able to go in and out whenever she wanted. Some days she'd go in and out like 50 times. I'd find her out there laying in the sun when I was working. Or chasing lizards. Or barking at squirrels. The dog park was only 5 blocks from our house so that was great too. When we sold the house and were looking to move to a condo, I truly underestimated how much the freedom of a doggy door and fenced yard had been for her. And I didn't even think about all the noises on the other sides of the walls and how that might freak her out. I thought it might at first but thought she'd get used to it. Just like she did with our loud neighbor at the last house who sometimes fired up his boat motor in the side yard. She got used to that pretty quickly. I work from home so I'm not gone that much. Our routine here in the condo was us all piling in the van every morning, dropping M off at school and then me and Elsa swinging by the dog park so she could run and chase squirrels and play while I walked laps with the other dog parents there. It was a routine. I would come home after that and work while she snoozed under my desk in her favorite little spot. I'd let her out for a walk a few times during the day and then I'd load her up in the van and take her with me to go get M from school. When she was home alone, which wasn't all that much, it was usually only for a few hours at the most. At first, she seemed ok when we were gone. But after about a week of living here, we came home to a chewed up bottom step. Our condo is on the 2nd floor so when you come in our private entrance you have a little landing at the bottom and then carpeted steps that go up. At first she was always waiting for us at the bottom of the steps and we had to be really careful cause she would try like crazy to slip out and run off anytime we went in or out. She got out a few times and had herself a little jog before returning back. She wasn't gone long and didn't go far. But I didn't want her to get loose like that for fear of her getting hit by a car or something. After that day she chewed the carpet, it just kept getting worse. I would load her kong up with peanut butter and treats so she'd have something to do. I got her a deer antler to chew on. She looked like she was preoccupied with the kongs when we left after a few weeks and sometimes didn't even come down to the bottom of the stairs to see us off. It looked like maybe she was adjusting. I was hopeful. She was focused on her peanut butter and seemed totally calm. But then we'd only be gone 45 min or so and would come home to chunks taken out of the door frame that you could tell she had been scratching at and my rug shredded or our shoes chewed up or more carpet destroyed. It was getting worse and worse. Even when I was home, she started acting anxious when she would hear noises. We got new neighbors upstairs next to us and they are pretty loud so I noticed an increase in the anxiety once they moved in.

When I first got Elsa, she was crate trained and liked the crate. I don't know what changed but at about 6 months old, she flipped out one day in the crate and completely chewed up the really hard plastic bottom of that thing which I didn't even know was possible and then chewed up the linoleum under that. I was shocked when I came home. The next time we left the house, we only left for like 20 minutes as a test and left her out of the crate. We came home to her lounging on the couch looking all content and we never crated her again. She never chewed anything up or destroyed anything or seemed stressed when we'd leave. Not at that house, not at the house in FL with the small yard, not the entire 3 years we've had her. Until this. After about 8 months in the house in FL, I started leaving the cover off the doggy door and then she had freedom to go in and out even when no one was home. She loved that and never tried to dig out or anything. But she loved that freedom.

Once all this stress and carpet chewing started happening here, I started trying to crate her again. I didn't want her to ingest any of what she was chewing and thought maybe she'd feel safer in the crate although I knew she didn't like it prior. I started out by putting it by my bed and putting her in there just at night. She wouldn't flip out if I was in the room with her but she would whine quite a bit and she would not lay down and relax. If I left the room, she'd panic and start barking and panting and scratching and trying to get out. High anxiety. I put her in there a few hours the first few nights and then did a whole night after that. She was next to my bed where I was sleeping but she did not lay down once the entire night to sleep. She was pretty quiet except for a little bit of whining off and on but was totally tired the next day due to zero sleep. She literally would not lay down in there. I didn't get much sleep either. I had to leave for 45 min that day so I tried crating her. I put a dark sheet over the top to make it den like and came home to it pulled through the crate and shredded. She was barking and panting and had high anxiety being in there. I imagine if I had left longer, I may have come home to a chewed up bottom again like years ago.

I tried something called Rescue Remedy - it's supposed to calm anxiety - you put a few drops on their treats or ears. I tried it both ways - it did nothing. I tried some chewable anxiety stuff prescribed by the vet that was quite expensive - it did nothing whatsoever. Over the course of 3 months, 3 entire steps were completely shredded, the door frame chewed and scratched up with chunks taken out, two rugs shredded, my shoes destroyed, my bedroom carpet chewed up and the sheet in the crate shredded.

I had been in touch with the organization I got her from for the past month or more communicating back and forth about all the things I was trying. It had gotten to the point where I was afraid to leave the house at all for fear of what I'd come home to and for not wanting her to be so stressed out every time we left. But we all know you have to leave the house sometimes and you can't take a dog with you everywhere you go.

Over the week of Christmas, after much prayer and thought about things I had tried or maybe could still try, I had the realization that this was not fair to Elsa and no amount of training was going to take away the noises on the other sides of the walls or the fact that she doesn't have a yard. She is a foxhound whippet mix - that's a hunter dog and a runner dog. She is not a condo dog. And we can't move right now. I made the very sad decision to take her back to TN to the rescue org to have them find her a new home. I should add that she had also lost 4 pounds over these 3 months. When I took her to the vet they let me know that. She was still eating normal so it was clearly stress. I don't want my sweet girl to be so stressed she's losing weight, and panicking whenever we leave. What kind of life is that for her? We love that dog. Mihretu adored her and she adored him. She was so great with him. I'd always find him hugging her or laying his head on her or her snuggling up next to him with her head on his lap. Other than when I was trying to crate her, she slept with me every night. She laid under my desk every day as I worked. She was the best dog. And was definitely happiest at the dog park where she was able to run and hunt and be free.

I thought we were going to drive her to TN this week but as it turned out one of the rescue organizations fosters was actually here in Sarasota and said she could take her for us. What a Godsend that was. That would have been a very long, depressing 12 hour drive. Plus Mihretu woke up Monday morning covered in itchy hives and a sore throat. I looked in there and he had white bumps all over so we headed to the clinic. He had scarlet fever - a strain of strep that can be pretty dangerous. So glad I took him in. He's on meds and has cream for the hives which are still itching off and on even a few days later. So very glad we did not have to drive 12 hours this week.

Yesterday was the day. We met up with the foster lady at 10 am and I gave her all of Elsa's treats and food and flea/tick meds and all her toys and every single thing of hers. They set up her crate in their SUV and put her blanket and pre-loaded kongs with treats and peanut butter that I had brought for her into the crate and then I hugged her tight and we both kissed her goodbye and she went in the crate and on her way to TN. She was licking peanut butter and looked content when we walked away. I sobbed like a baby. Mihretu wasn't sure what to even think of that. He was trying to be funny and just kept saying "you're STILL crying?" I couldn't stop. He hasn't cried but I know he is sad. There may be moments when it hits him and he cries. Last night, he kept saying "oh I just thought I saw Elsa." Or "I miss Elsa" or "it's weird without Elsa" or "I thought that Elsa was under that blanket". We had a sleepover with the neighbor kids here to try and make it a fun night and that helped a little but it's going to be weird and sad for awhile. Out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw her like 100 times. I went to get up from the table and looked down to make sure I wasn't going to step on her. The door bell rang and it was weird to not have her bark. It feels weird and wrong to not have her here.

That last night she slept with me and I woke up like 20 times to kiss her and pet her and tell her I loved her. I know dogs don't think the same way we do so I know she'll be ok. She will thrive in a home with a yard. She is not a condo dog. I wish I would have known that before we moved to one. I just didn't think it would be a big deal since I'd walk her and take her to the dog park and I work from home. I was wrong. We do really like it here but I certainly don't like that it resulted in this. It's so sad and I already miss her so much. It's going to take awhile to adjust for both of us.

In the meantime, the lady who took her has been so sweet and even sent me photos of her on the car ride and updating me on how she's doing. They made it safely last night to TN and she slept all night in the crate and did fine. It seems like the issue must have been more separation from us than the crate itself. But I don't really know. I'm just glad to hear she's doing well. I know the foster home will treat her well and that they'll find her an amazing permanent home and I'll be so happy to hear that she has a new family with a yard and she's doing well. I know she'll be ok. I know we'll be ok. I just miss her. Man I love that fur baby.

the first time we saw Elsa

Monday, December 12, 2016

The rest of the story

So it's been a few months since I last posted and that post was all about how I felt God was calling me to sell our house in Florida. I was NOT excited about this idea at all initially. I cried. More than once. But whenever I prayed about it, I felt very clearly that the Lord told me to sell it. So I didn't delay. I listed it right away and began getting it ready for photos and showings and all that important but not so fun stuff that involved putting money in for some fixes to things I knew needed fixed and so on. Meanwhile, as I mentioned, the mortgage had increased and my van was having issues and needing repairs left and right and finances were honestly tighter than ever. I prayed and prayed that the house would sell fast and the stress would be minimal. Well guess what? It went under contract after only 2 days of showing it. 2 days!!! Crazy awesome, right? I was so happy. And I got what I had hoped to get from it. Praise the Lord.

Now the next 30+ days were pretty stressful with some drama I won't mention during the selling process, a whole bunch of extra costs involved in repairs I ended up having to do and a delay in closing that meant me having to borrow money from several very awesome and generous sources to get through one more week without those funds. But people helped me and reminded me of how God blesses us with community and how humbling it is when that community comes alongside to hold one another up. I'm so thankful. And the house did finally close and praise the Lord I was able to pay off a ton of debt with the very nice profit I made off that house. So thankful.

The really cool part of the story is the part about finding us a new place to live. I'll try to keep it short but there's a lot of fun little details I don't want to leave out so here goes...

So right after the house went under contract and had passed inspection and we had agreed on repairs and stuff, I started my search for a place for us to move. One day I set up appointments at a bunch of condos in the area and set out to start looking. Several were decent but didn't really jump out at me. One I really, really loved but the price was crazy high. Prices here are high enough but some of these places for rent were insane. I came home discouraged and frustrated.

The next morning I got up early and went in the prayer closet. Through tears, I was asking God to show me and to help us find a place that I would like, that would be a good fit for us and most of all in a price range we could even afford cause I surely didn't want to end up right back in a tight spot after all that. After I finished praying, I hopped on to look again. I was reading listings and hiding ones I didn't like and searching some more. I kept zeroing in on the place where several of our friends live and refreshing the screen to look there. I also hopped on to other sites and cross checked to see if any other ones came up that weren't listed on the other sites. All of a sudden, when I hit refresh, a brand new listing popped up in the condos I was wanting and in the literally EXACT dollar amount I was hoping for but did not think we would find for a 3 bedroom condo. I picked up the phone and called right that moment. The lady who answered started laughing and said "I just posted that less than 2 minutes ago". Come to find out it was a 3 bedroom PLUS a loft. And the price was perfect. And it was in the same condo developments as two different friends of ours and that's where I was hoping to be all along. Especially since we already knew people and I already knew this place has a lot of families with kids and dogs.

So the story gets even crazier. I couldn't get in right away to see it cause the people still lived there. So it was going to be a few days and I was kind of worried someone else would snatch it up. I had come across a scam on craigslist - a place I had looked at the previous week was posted for way cheaper, using the same exact pictures but turns out it wasn't the owner at all. She was shocked when I told her I saw someone was using her pics and details to post on craigslist. When I did a test email to them to see what they said, of course they said someone had just backed out and I coudl be next on the list but had to fill out the online application and pay the deposit first. No way. I bet those people made a lot of money just doing that. Total scam. Anyway so I had just discovered that and didn't want to send any of my info through email or otherwise. But I wanted this leasing manager to know I was serious. I had her send me all the paperwork and was just going to bring it already filled out when I came to look at it. She mentioned she used to work at the main leasing office for these condos but now managed some of the units for individual owners. So I texted my friend Kait to see if she knew of her. Turns out she rents from her too. She totally knew her. She confirmed the email and phone number was indeed her and so I went ahead and sent her my stuff.

Monday I got to go see the place and loved it right away. Still can't believe it was the price it was. Total God thing and I know had I not been online at that exact moment it would have been taken cause it is awesome! This part of the story gets even more awesome - I'm serious!!!!

So I'm talking to the leasing manager and she says "I have to tell you - I wasn't so sure about you when I saw your application and it said you didn't have money in savings and you had debt and all that so I googled your name and I found your blog and read your story about selling your house and know I know the whole story and totally get it. And your faith is really inspiring." I'm standing there with my jaw down like "seriously!!! You read my blog and that cleared it all up and you're ok with renting to me because of that?" Wow, just wow. Talk about a God thing!!!! I'm still in shock about that. Just goes to show you never know who will read stuff you put on the internet - good or bad. Ha ha

Anyway, of course she also ran a credit check and all was good so we got the place. I felt the favor of the Lord over that whole thing and we were able to borrow some funds to get in here and then of course pay it back as soon as the house closed. We got moved in a few days before closing on the other house and other than our dog having a heck of a time adjusting which is a whole other story - we absolutely LOVE the place. And the part I love most is the sense of community. We literally hang out with my friend and her kids like 3 or more times every week. And through her we've met other people including another single mom with a little girl that we adore. And so we all 3 single moms and our kids hang out all the time. Our kids play outside. We take turns having each others kids over. It's something I've only ever dreamed of. I love, love, love it. Hopefully our fur baby will come around too cause she's not loving it just yet.

After all that and getting moved in and paying off debt - my van stranded us again. Actually on moving day - it was a crazy long, tiring day and I had picked m up from aftercare and the dog up from doggy daycare where she went during the day so she wouldn't run off in the move and our van died right there in the doggy place parking lot and we were the last ones there, even the workers had left. My friend from small group came to our rescue and sat with us in their car until the tow truck came which was like 9:20 at night. I think I was so exhausted and overheated because as we were sitting there, all of a sudden, I had to jump out of the car because I knew I was going to throw up. I sure did - like 10 times right there in the lawn of the doggy place on moving day with a dead van and waiting on a tow truck. That day was just crazy. But we got all moved and we got the van towed and I got it fixed the next week (and it wasn't cheap). Of course I found out a few weeks later that it needed another $1800 in repairs. Mind you, this van had stranded us at home twice and out away from home twice in the past 6 months (once in Tampa), was a 2002 with 180k miles and had begun having issue after issue and was literally worth hardly anything if I were to try and sell it. Finding out it needed another $1800 in repairs was the final straw. Thank God I sold the house and paid off all that debt or I would not have been able to get a different vehicle. But I had been obedient to what I felt like He told me today and so I was able to get a different vehicle. I got a used 2010 Dodge Caravan with 97,000 miles on it for a really great price at a place only a few miles away.

All that to say - I am SO glad I sold the house. I literally haven't even missed it. I've actually loved not having to take care of the pool or pay for the lawn to be mowed or worry about stuff breaking. And I LOVE the community we have here. Mihretu is doing amazing and loves it too. He has kids to play with whenever he wants and it's so lovely. And I'm thankful to be free from all that debt and to have been able to get a different vehicle. And that's the story on all that!!! God is good!!!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Open Hands and Letting Go

It's been 1 year and 3 months since we moved to Florida. We love living here. I especially love the year round sunshine, being near the beach, our church family and all the amazing friends we've made. I also really, really, really love our house. We have gotten much use of the guest room and the pool and all the closet space it has to offer. The location is great - close to his school and the dog park where we spend lots of our time. Close to the highway and most anything you could need. It has truly been a blessing and I'm so glad this is where we landed.

Here's something I didn't plan on though - putting the house up for sale less than 2 years into living here. But that's exactly what I'm doing. Why? Because sometimes God asks us to open our hands and let go of things, gently and lovingly reminding us that we need to trust Him and that He has a good plan. For me, I feel like that good plan is selling this house and paying off all of my debt and getting into a rental condo or house (will see what we find) and getting out from under the financial burden of owning a house. Sure owning a home can be a great investment but when something breaks like our AC did 3 months in or when you know the roof will need to be replaced in 2-3 years, and you just find yourself in over your head financially because you have debt and no savings toward those repairs, it's a good reminder that this so called American dream isn't really all it's cracked up to be. If you have savings and you can cover those kinds of things, great. But if you're like me and you don't - well I'm just in the place where quite frankly the stress of it all is not worth it. Because at the end of the day, we don't need to live here to be happy. We love this house but it's just a house. God will provide us a place to live. And if I can sell my house and make enough to pay off all my debt after owning it for only just over a year - sweet.  And oh the freedom that will come with that will be more than worth it. Being in this place financially is causing a lot of stress and that overflows into life at home too which isn't fair to my kiddo. Plus it limits us from what we can go do and I'm all about adventures with my boy. A few months ago our mortgage went up almost $200 a month. It's a fixed rate loan but the taxes and insurance are built into the escrow and the taxes had been estimated really, really badly for year 1 and when the actual tax bill hit my escrow, it wasn't enough so the escrow went in the negative so I have to catch that up plus you have to have a surplus too so thus the huge increase and so I'm paying almost $200 a month to catch up for that first year. Anyway, all that to say, it's been tighter than usual since that happened. And ever since my AC died, the hot water heater died, the pool timer broke, paying for lawn care and pool chemicals and utilities being way higher than I expected plus $1000 in van repairs last month too. It's just tighter than I planned on, especially with the increase monthly. So... this is what led to me to try and come up with ideas to bring in some extra funds. It was a fun idea to do airbnb and I actually have it rented out this weekend for 2 nights and have gotten a ton of interest - it's a sweet way to make a good amount amount in a short amount of time. But as I prayed and prayed about it all, I really just heard so loudly and so clearly from the Lord that I needed to sell the house.

I am sad, don't get me wrong. I've had a few cry fests honestly. I really love this house. But I hear God saying "do you trust me?" and asking me to let go. I'm sure I will cry a few more times. But at the same time, I am excited to see what He has next for us. We've gotten connected lately with some new friends who live in a condo development nearby and a lot of the condo owners rent them out. We're hoping we could get in there or the condo's right next to those. Mihretu has already made a bunch of friends who live over there. They have a ton of families with young kids too. If a place opens up to live over that way in our price range for rent, there's a really nice community pool and clubhouse, a playground, a workout room even and they do allow dogs too. I won't have to pay for or do yard work (oh how I hate yard work), or pool maintenance, or have the responsible of paying to fix things when they break. That sounds so lovely. As does just not being so financially burdened. It's a lot more expensive to live here than I was prepared for. So while I didn't expect to move out of this house this soon, the plan has changed. And I'm embracing the new plan.

Why am I sharing all of this with you in a blog? Because I just want to be real. I think sometimes our lives look so perfect and polished on facebook and we feel like we can't be honest. You've probably already figured out by now that that's not how I roll. I hope to be real and hopefully in doing so, an encouragement to others who may have to give up something they love or make a hard decision or whatever it may be. I was trying to come up with all kinds of alternatives to not selling this lovely home - like listing it on airbnb. Not a bad idea at all but at the end of the day, I just had to put all my ideas aside and ask the Lord what He wanted me to do. And when I got in my prayer closet and just listened, I heard very clearly that I was to sell this house and let go. And that God would have good plans for us. And that we needed to trust Him. I continued to pray about it for several days just to make sure I heard right. Peace came in that decision and I know that this is what He's leading me to do. When I know God is telling me something, I go for it. I signed all the contracts a few days ago, have photos scheduled this week and have been rearranging, cleaning and "staging" it to get ready. Once the airbnb renters leave on labor day monday, I'll come home and clean and we'll list it the next day. I'm praying the Lord would send the right buyers that first week and that this home would be a blessing to whoever buys it, just like it has been to us. We've certainly loved it well and taken full advantage of all of its potential this past 1 year and 3 months. I'm sure there are things I will miss. I'm sure I will sob like a baby a few more times but I'm also sure that God is good and that we will do great wherever we end up too. And maybe, just maybe, He will have some new blessings waiting for us there that we didn't have here. Like lots of kids to play with for my little man. And possibly even some new friendships that a year from now I'll look back and think "I can't believe I didn't know this friend 1 year ago." I don't know all that God has in store. But I am excited to see.

Is there anything in your life that God is asking you to lay down? It may be hard but if He's asking you to do so, there is surely a good reason. In our obedience, we not only can walk in peace and the comfort of knowing He is faithful - we are oftentimes freed up from a lot of stress and burden we were carrying around unnecessarily in the first place. If that's speaking to any of you right now, seek Him and I encourage you to keep your hands open. Don't be afraid to let Him take some things you love. He can be trusted with all things.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Prayer, missions and school - an August update

I don't know what happened specifically but I know the last really hard night with lots of tears and melting down - I did some serious praying and battling against the enemy on behalf of my sweet boy. Something broke that night. Never underestimate the power of prayer. It is our weapon in a battle field spiritually. The enemy seeks to steal, kill and destroy. But we serve a God who is victorious. And when we pray like it, it is powerful.

Shortly after that night, we went on a mission trip to the Bahamas. A church invited Mihretu and I to go and though it was kind of short notice (just enough notice to get his passport expedited), we jumped in and said yes. I was nervous about how he might do but excited to find out. Y'all he did AMAZING!!! Better than I ever dreamed. We did a lot of exhausting travel every day back and forth between 3 islands and it was hot there. Really hot. He did not complain at all. He loved getting to be with all the kids at the children's home on the island where 10 of our 40 people team was staying. He loved being part of the vbs camp too. Not one meltdown. Not one issue. My boy rocked it. I was blown away. He even fell asleep each night next to me on a mattress on the floor in a big room with the lights on and all the ladies talking and didn't even have any trouble falling asleep like that. Probably cause he was so tired but still, I did not know how that would go but he rocked it. I am so proud of him. We can't wait to go back and I'm actually leading a trip there next June and bringing him with me. It's a family focused trip so folks with kids 7 and up are welcome to join us, as are folks without kids:) It'll be a small team and we'll go spend time building relationships with the staff and kids at Zion Children's Home. It feels to us like we're going back to visit dear friends or family. They are absolutely precious and we can't wait to go back.


Another development or breakthrough has happened in the last few weeks. Mihretu started saying he missed school and actually wanted to go back. I was so happy because he didn't love it last year and I thought he'd be really sad to go back. So I was thrilled when he started saying he couldn't wait to go back. Last week was his first week. He did great. He said 2nd grade was easier than 1st grade and was so excited to get back into his "works" as they call them in Montessori school.

I'm so proud of my boy. The last 4-5 months he's just seemed to grow in maturity by leaps and bounds. He is such a helper too. He loves helping me clean or trim bushes or do yard or house work. Here's hoping that lasts into the teen years. It's really cool that he enjoys doing that kind of stuff and he does a really good job too. He helped me knock out some yard work this weekend in half the time. I hate yard work so I was all for that.

I'm so thankful I get to be his momma. He's a smart, funny, awesome kid. I can't imagine life without him.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Trauma meets Connection

We had a dear friend come visit and that was awesome but M also had one of the biggest meltdowns ever while she was here. She left Sunday but he's had a few more minor ones this week as well. I am happy to report that I have stayed calmed and focused on connecting for all of them, even the big one while my friend was here. This probably sounds weird but in a way it was nice to have someone else witness it cause most of the time it's just me and him and no one to understand what just happened or why that was so draining for both of us. Having another adult here was comforting. Knowing she was praying and texting encouragements to me from the guestroom she retreated to to give us space was so reassuring. I think doing moments like that alone is the hardest part about single parent adoption because it's very rare that someone else is there for that hard stuff. Even if she couldn't help, just knowing she was there and praying helped me so much.

I know I post about such meltdowns on facebook when they happen and I'm sure some people picture a type of meltdown like every single kid has. Sometimes it's exactly that. But other times it is kind of like that but way more. And it's not ever really about what it's about. It's deeper. It's trauma coming to the surface. It's that cry that sounds like a baby but it's a 7 year old. I can tell the difference between the regular I didn't get my way tantrum and the trauma meltdown and you probably could too if you had witnessed both. My adoptive parent friends know exactly what I'm talking about. It's just hard to explain until you experience it. It's not our children's fault. They are not being brats. You have to look beyond the surface of what it seems to be about and remind yourself of their early start in life and all they've been through and pull out all that you've learned - to walk with them and remember you are their advocate - you are for them, not against them. It is a process of healing and it is not easy. For our kids or for us as parents. I don't remember these things every single time but when it's the trauma meltdown, I tend to remember more because it's so obvious that it's that. And I find that I have a lot more grace and patience in those moments which is especially when my son needs it the most.

If you are reading this and you haven't adopted or fostered or worked with kids with trauma or been through that type of training or have experience helping kids through this kind of thing - please refrain from giving your adoptive parent friends advice on parenting, especially if they didn't ask you for such advice. It's just different. Be ok with that and be ok with knowing it's different and just being able to say "I'm praying for you" rather than trying to give advice or comparing it to your biological child or saying things like "that boy/girl just needs some good ole fashioned discipline". It's usually at home where our kids are most comfortable that these trauma meltdowns happen so you may never see one. But they do exist. And traditional parenting doesn't work. Please trust me on this one.

Having my friend here to watch that interaction between my son screaming and crying and me trying to get creative and try every form of distraction and connection I could even possibly think of and yet still watch the episode last 2 exhausting hours - reminded me that trauma is still there. I don't see it as much as I did in year 1 or 2, but it's still there. And I know all kids have meltdowns and all parenting is hard. But there is something about trauma that just wreaks havoc on our sweet kiddos and it's not a quick fix. You can't just love it away in a year or two or even 5. When a child goes without their basic needs met, it wires their brain a certain way and it takes a lot of time and connection to rewire it. When a child goes to bed hungry without food or water, it does something to their body. They may not remember it consciously but you better believe when they get the slightest bit hungry, their body remembers it. So when my kid wants a snack in the bed every single night and needs water next to the bed - you bet I put it there because the last thing he needs to worry about is if he'll get those basic needs met. There's just a lot you learn on this journey. And I'm still learning. I'm sure it's a never ending process of learning. So thankful for all the resources out there to help us along this journey. Ultimately my goal in sharing about it all - the good and the hard, is so that future adoptive parents won't be disillusioned about any of this. I don't feel that it does anybody - the families or the kids - any favors to sugar coat it. It's worth it 100% but it's still hard. And I want those future adoptive families to be ready for that and to have resources to arm yourselves with.

If you are praying about adopting or fostering - I highly recommend you learn the name Dr. Karyn Purvis and you dive into her research and teachings. I read Dr. Karyn Purvis' book "The Connected Child" and was able to attend the Empowered to Connect Conference based on those principles during my adoption process. I truly cannot imagine trying to parent my son without all that I've learned from this woman's teachings. They have video clips on the website and amazing resources. I cannot recommend these resources more. This woman and her teaching has been truly life giving. When I saw yesterday that she passed away at the young age of 66 after a valiant fight with cancer, I just couldn't help but cry. I didn't even personally know her or ever have the chance to meet her in person and yet I felt the depth of gratitude come over me in a wave of emotions for all the work this women did in her short life to encourage and equip adoptive families and to teach us that every child can heal.

I've always loved this quote from her:
"I've never once met a child who can't come to deep levels of healing if you understand what they need." - Dr. Karyn Purvis

This woman left a legacy. I picture her standing before Jesus and hearing "well done good and faithful servant" and seeing her looking over her life and getting a glimpse at just how many families she impacted with her work. I wonder if she really truly knew earthside just how life giving her life and work was. Surely she knows now. Profound to think about. This past weekend the Empowered to Connect conference went on without her and I wasn't able to attend but I saw my fb feed blow up with life giving nuggets of wisdom. She clearly had a great team that will continue to carry out her legacy. And adoptive and foster families will benefit from this amazing teaching for many years to come. This momma is grateful. Oh so grateful.

Sure I feel like I failed 9 times out of 10 that first year when trauma would rear it's head a good 4-5 times every single day. I tried to sound like Karyn Purvis in the things I said and did and the ways I tried to walk my son through these meltdowns. It's taken time and practice and commitment to keep trying and to rewire my own brain to do this whole connected parenting thing cause it isn't the kind of parenting that would even come naturally. But wow does it work. When I can do it and stay calm and connect with my son - it really really works. It's amazing. So weary parent, if you're reading this and you feel like you're failing miserably at this - keep trying. It gets easier. It really does. Our kids are so worth it. You've got this.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

A Valentine's Day update

I haven't really blogged that much this year. Life gets busy but I do love going back and reading all the blogs I wrote in that first year and reflecting on how far we've come. Every once in awhile we have a really hard day that reminds me to be extra thankful for how many smooth days we have now. That first year was a lot of hard days but I wouldn't trade it for anything. Very glad we are on this side of it now. We had a great Valentine's Day today. We went to church and then went out to lunch and to the park with a new friend who is also a single momma. Our kiddos played great together while we got to have grown up conversation:) After that, we came home and took the dog to the dog park so she could get her daily sprint in. This dog runs and jumps like a deer. And has just discovered she can jump our 4 ft fence like 2 weeks ago so I get to spend my tax refund on getting a 6 ft fence put in to replace the 4 ft section. Thankfully most of the yard is already 6 foot so I don't have to have the entire thing done. She jumps it like it's nothing and then takes off running all over the neighborhood. She always comes back and if I chase her she goes farther. If I get in the car and open the side door, she'll almost always jump back in. I'm not too worried about her running away but I am worried about her getting hit by a car. So I haven't been able to just let her outside these past few weeks which really bums her out. And means a lot more visits to the dog park for me. After the dog park, we played outside for a bit. Mihretu decided to get part of the way in the freezing cold pool with his jeans on. He thought that was so fun. He tried to talk me into it but one foot in and I was a no go. It is like ice cubes in that pool. I can't complain about the weather here though - even though the pool got really cold, the weather has been awesome. I like Florida winters! Today was sunny and 75. I had on flip flops and a tank top. Here's a pic of me and M from the park. 

After M went in the pool, he of course wanted a warm bath. Then we went for a walk and he rode his John Deere kid sized powered tractor while I walked the dog behind him. It makes for a noisy walk around the block but he loves it. Then he rode his bike and scooter up and down the driveway until dark. Then we came in and ate pizza while watching Star Wars Episode III and "staying up late" since there's no school tomorrow.  I wanted to empty the dishwasher and clean up the kitchen and Mihretu asked me if he could help and said "it'll be faster if we help together" so he washed the dishes in the sink while I unloaded the dishwasher. I hope his helpful side stays. It's pretty great that he loves to help with this kind of stuff. And I must say he washes dishes a lot better than some adults I know:) He's a cool kiddo. Here's him washing the dishes.

At church today, they gave all the ladies a rose. As a single momma, I especially loved that because it wasn't like I was getting roses today otherwise. We just watched Beauty and the Beast this past week and I commented in the car jokingly to M that the rose looked like the one in that movie and then said "do you think I'll meet my future husband before the last petal falls?" and Mihretu being so quick witted and always with perfect comedic timing said "I think so. But I hope he's not a beast." I cracked up.

He is so stinkin funny. And quick as the responses. I can't wait to see (well I can wait cause time is going by too fast already) what he'll be like when he's an adult. I just know God has big plans for him. He's so funny, outspoken, brave and bold. Sometimes some of those things can make for embarrassing moments like the other day when he followed people around at our garage sale asking them if they were going to buy anything and if they had kids, etc. He's certainly not shy. And he is a little bit obsessed with money. Which I can't quite figure out how to handle cause I'm certainly not. But he just loves money. I'm happy to say we're finally out of the "making fake money on little pieces of cut up paper every single day" stage. But he was all about making huge piles of his toys and books to try and make money at the garage sale. And he was super upset when by 10 am he had only made $15. I thought $15 was a lot as a kid. Apparently not the case these days. He actually started crying. We had to have a little talk about being grateful and thankful for what we have. By the end, he made $30 which was quite a lot for a kid and we went to target so he could pick out something with it. He's kind of into something called Shopkins right now. He's got a lot of friends at school who like these and that's where he first heard about it. So he bought two different sets with his money and had 6 cents to spare. He was super happy. All in all the garage sale wasn't as successful as we hoped and I'm not sure if this neighborhood is great for them or what the deal was but we didn't have all that many people. It was a gorgeous day though to be outside and having a garage sure made it easier. We were able to set up a few days in advance a little at a time and that helped make it a lot less stressful the morning of.

We've had a busy weekend - moreso than usual. Tomorrow is President's Day so it's a long weekend. Here's hoping little man sleeps in a bit. Lately he has been sleeping till 7:30 or 8 which is light years difference from the first year or so when he was quite the early bird. He cracks me up sometimes when I come in at 6:30 to wake him up from school and he said "ah man, I want to sleep longer". I think we're both still adjusting to being on Eastern time. I hadn't been on this time zone for 13 years. Amazing how much of a difference 1 hour can make. And then the time change thing - I'm always messed up for weeks after that. And oh goody, it's almost spring and we get to change it again. When are they ever going to just do away with the silliness that is "daylight savings time". I'm over it.

We get to go visit Nashville in March. I have to go for work cause we're having our annual leader training there since it's the best central location for leaders from all over. And we currently have 2 staff there, 2 of us in Florida and 1 in Alabama. I'm excited to go and see everyone, visit our old church and actually we're having the training in one of the buildings of that church. I am starting to prepare that this trip might be emotional for me and Mihretu. I had a really hard time with the whole missing our church thing for the first 6 months or so of being here. I didn't realize how much of an attachment I had to that place I had been part of for 12 years until I left. I miss all of my friends there too but I stay in touch with them and the last year and a half prior to moving, I had felt pretty disconnected and didn't see people nearly as much as I once did. It seemed like everyone's lives got crazy busy, a bunch of people who had always gone to that church left and I felt pretty isolated. In hindsight, I think it all helped prepare me to be able to leave and I'm thankful for that. But I've been surprised at how easy it has been to pick up life here and settle in. Especially once we found a church. I loved Nashville and literally never thought I'd ever ever leave. So the fact that I did leave and haven't been an emotional wreck about it has been a total God thing. However, I do think some emotion is going to hit me when I go back for the first time since leaving. And I suspect it will for M too. He's had weeks that have been hard and where he talks a lot about missing our other home and his old school and our old church and friends. He talks about the house the most and our friends bought it so we will actually go there when we visit which I am preparing will likely be hard for him but also hopefully provide closure as well. Praying for that especially. I think it makes sense that it would be hard on him since that was our first home together as a family and change is hard for kids anyway, especially kids who've experienced all he has in his short life. He's done amazingly well even though I know he's had some big feelings about the move. He does like it here and he really loved it when it was warm enough to swim every single day and go to the beach every weekend. It'll be back to those temps soon enough. He likes his school a lot now but at first he had a hard time cause 1st grade requires a lot more of him than K did and his teachers here expect a lot from him. He's doing great though and making tons of friends. Whenever we go to a birthday party or school function and I tell another parent who my child is - seriously every single time they say "oh Mihretu - my son/daughter talks about him all the time". He's that kid that makes everyone laugh and is a little social butterfly. The little girls especially love him. Who can blame them?

My best friend from high school moved here the same time we did and lives about an hour and a half away. We meet up with her family a lot at the beach or Busch Gardens and that has been a huge blessing and surprise. That wasn't even on the radar when we decided to move here so I've loved that. My friend Deb also lives about 45 min away and that's been nice. And I have a step grandma about 40 min away and some family friends about 25 min away so it's definitely nice to know you have people nearby that you already know and that was something I did not have when I first moved to Nashville in 2002 when I literally knew not even 1 person prior. I even just this past weekend got to know my neighbors a little bit more when they invited us over for the Super Bowl party. And that was a Godsend cause I was feeling really sad that day cause I didn't know anyone having one and always went to one in TN. So that was neat that they saw us outside and invited us over. I've started making some really great new friends here - ones that you can't imagine not knowing just a few short months ago. One of them is Jessica and she also now works with me. She's my friend I get to be silly with. Sometimes working for a non profit can be hard and laughter is the best medicine of all. Not everyone gets my dorky sense of humor but Jessica does and that's been really fun. And we started attending a small group right before Christmas that just resumed last week and I've been really enjoying getting to know these folks from church more. And have even gotten to know the pastor and his wife quite a bit already. I really love this church and just the genuineness of everyone there. Really great people that you just feel like really care and want to get to know you. You don't find that everywhere. I'm thankful. And Mihretu loves it and gets so excited everytime we go. He especially loves that two other little boys his age from Ethiopia are also there. I am grateful for how God is connecting us in our new location and looking forward to seeing what else He has for us here as time goes on.

Well, that's the update on us for now. I'm going to get to sleep just in case M doesn't sleep in tomorrow:)

LOVE our Ethiopian family

We just returned from Ethiopia and oh boy - my heart is completely wrecked. Mihretu and I traveled on our own last March (2018) over his ...