Saturday, August 18, 2012

Typical is Something to Celebrate

Last night after all the kiddos were finally asleep, Bryan and I were talking and began to take a walk down memory lane....well, the last 16 and a half month lane anyway. Sometimes he can be quite a comedian and last night was one of those nights! He presented the facts and situations of our life as though he was a stand-up comedian and I was laughing so hard the tears were rolling and my belly hurt! It was great! It truly would have made great material for a true comedian, but the most awkward part is the fact that the material isn't made REALLY has been our life!

Before bedtime Bryan was reading bedtime stories to Selah. I walked in to show Bryan the jeans I had bought him at Sam's Club (fancy, I know!) along with the pair I had bought for myself. Selah LOVES jeans and wanted a pair, too. She wanted mine, in fact. I showed her they were much too big and this upset her. But, she was not to be deterred. She ran to her closet saying "Me, Selah jeans, to new school!" I tried to ever so gently explain to my little fashion diva that jeans, especially with bling on them, are not allowed at school. Sadly, she is stuck with the uniform situation...and for a blingtastic little girl, uniforms just do not make the grade! To this she replied by slamming her bedroom door in my face (I had been sitting right at the edge of the room in the hallway). Not a good move on her part, but impulse control is not a strong suit right now....YET,and I claim that "YET" in faith!  Daddy makes sure she opens the door and apologizes as he explains that it is not Mommy's fault because Mommy LOVES (too much) buying fun clothes for her. She wasn't really buying into his story and kept up the pouty face with crossed arms. I have a photo of that pose about a year ago on this blog. It hasn't changed. Eventually, though, she caved and climbed into my lap for a big old cry about jeans...and we bonded. It may sound strange, but I actually enjoyed it, because it felt "typical". Little six-year-old girls do have tears over things like pretty clothes, jewelry and such. Typical things are just not so common around here so therefore,  typical things are celebrated because it gives us glimpses of who she is deep inside. The little someone that we know God created her to be. Often we are caught up in episode after episode of chipmunked food, refusal to potty, raging tantrums, refusal to dress, refusal to play, and refusals to cooperate with just about anything. So when we have real tears and emotions about things that any little girl may get emotional about, it is something to celebrate!

This summer was a hot one (and still is...yuck) so we tried to get away as much as we could. We spent some long weekends up north at our cabin. When it is 110* here in Phoenix, it is about 80* up there. It is only 2 1/2-3 hours away and is like a completely different world. We love it and are so thankful for the opportunity to get away from the city and the heat and let our kids be kids! They get to run, play, hunt lizards, fish, and get super dirty. Those things are not possible here in the desert for the most part. What was really cool was that this summer with Selah was a completely different story compared to last summer! Last summer she didn't do very well. Her sensory impairments caused her to struggle with walking anywhere that wasn't a smooth surface such as indoors or sidewalks. Up north, it is rough terrain! We had to spend hours just holding her hand and literally forcing her to walk around our lot until she would stop screaming and realize that it really would be okay! This year? Well, little Miss goes on family hikes and says "Look, Mom! Look, Dad!" at least 150 times as she jumps from a log or a rock or balances next to a tree of some sort. It is pretty awesome! It sure beats the nonstop screams of a year ago!

We were also able to head south to our favorite vacation spot in the world! We call it our little piece of paradise! Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. We have spent time down there for years, but haven't gone the last couple of years. We were a little nervous about all the media we have heard about the drug cartel problems in Mexico, but felt pretty confidant that it hadn't impacted Cabo like it had other parts of Mexico. Still, we were a little nervous. I am happy to report that Cabo is still Cabo and still takes my breath away with its beauty! We felt absolutely safe and it is obvious that the government has taken extra measures to make sure that Cabo stays a safe tourist destination.

The beach was amazing and it was so good for our family.

The trip was filled with highs and lows. Selah did struggle and we saw a lot of anger that makes it difficult to relax and enjoy the days, but what we have all learned along this journey of attachment issues, is how to keep our emotions from entangling into her anger. The less we react and the more we make controlled choices to remain unmoved by the drama, the quicker she is able to move on. The dance of attachment is a tricky one and it can be so frustrating on a daily basis, but even more so when you are trying so hard to have the "beautiful family vacation"! And again, on the backside of it all, Bryan had me in tears of laughter thinking about what other people must have thought as they witnessed some of our best "family moments"! The benefits, though, of the vacation were so much greater than any of those "moments". I think that each time we go away and come home again, it reassures Selah that we always come home and that her home is her home and it will always be there. Each time opens her eyes and mind a little more to the world around her and a little more joy seeps into her heart. She finds out that yes, we will still love her and cherish her even after she had great dramatics in very public places! We become stronger as a family and our skin gets a little thicker and thicker with each situation. Our ability to laugh together on the backside of the drama rather than squabble with each other becomes strengthened. And we just keep molding into the family we are meant to be...rather than fighting it and trying to be what we are not.

Here is the video of Selah on the of those moments where that joy seeped into her heart just a little deeper! Remember last summer's beach adventure. It is HERE.   What a change a year makes!

And then before we knew it, it was back to school! We are a year-round school district so the kiddos went back on July 23rd this year.

 I have felt so incredibly blessed (and relieved...and a little FREE!) by the transition into the 5th and 2nd grades for the boys, and for Selah's start to Kindergarten! What a difference a year makes. Not only are the boys super peaceful and loving school, Selah is getting on a bus and doing all-day Kindergarten. She seems to like it a lot and never complains about going. She is giving her teachers a run for their money...but she is in a place where they can handle it. I can't be more thankful for her placement right now! Last spring I sat down with our school counselor and psychologist. I had worked with our psychologist years ago when I was still teaching and our school counselor has known our family and followed our story of adoption since the beginning. I was thankful to have such a level of comfort when sitting down to discuss a plan for Selah. We talked about mainstream education with assistance and then we talked about a self-contained situation. There was a program in the district that I hadn't been aware of, but when I learned about it and got the opportunity to observe, I immediately knew it was an environment in which Selah would thrive. I had such a sense of peace. The program is for emotionally disabled children, has 8-10 children with one teacher and two aides, and is a K-2 classroom. The design is perfect for Selah because the focus is on behaviors that obstruct the ability to learn. Selah's neuropsychological testing showed varying results, but what definitely was noted was that she does have a decent IQ and cognitive ability. Her behaviors get in the way of her learning, though. She is so intensely focused on being in control - being oppositional - that she cannot cooperate enough to take in what is being taught. I really believe, though, that now with the opportunity for her to have this level of consistency between school and home, we will see great progress. She is still in her fight mode, but I see that breaking...soon. She moved through the first two of her three phases of strategy quite quickly and is hanging out in the third one right now. We consistently see Selah work through the first of her phases we call "Charm". Random affection and sweet charming behaviors include batting eyelashes and shy giggles. For those people who come in and out of life for short term bits such as delivery people, store clerks, and other random people, this phase works well and she captivates them. (Like, who wouldn't turn to mush with this little beauty?)

When Phase I doesn't work because the person is present for a little longer and may be in her life a little more frequently (Think personal friends of mine stopping over for a visit, one of her many doctors, extended family visiting, etc.), that cute little button very creatively pulls out Phase II. That would the phase I call "Helplessness". All of a sudden, little Miss becomes unable to do, complete, or say anything without help. Again, this often works well because who can say "no" to the pleas of help from the princess above?

BUT, for for those of us in Selah's life on a constant basis, she resorts to the harshest of all the phases...the one we all dread, but have adjusted to living with. Phase III is simply referred to as "Naughtiness". If she can't be the center of attention and run the show through charm or helplessness, she darn will by sheer naughtiness - whatever it takes. Sigh. You can imagine...she is one tough cookie and doesn't give up easy. But, she hasn't fully comprehended how tough this family is and how we are not giving up on her....ever. We see improvement. It is not in great big strides, but it is improvement and I still hold on to the faith that time, hard work, and God's healing love for our daughter will eventually bring her to a place of healing. Healing enough to be a happy, healthy, independent young woman someday.

Not every story of adoption is the same. Not every story involves attachment issues or Reactive Attachment Disorder. But, some (I could be bold to say many) do. It is not something we can wrap our heads around before it is a part of our lives. I believe a family can start out being educated as to the possibilities, but somewhere deep in our hearts we say, "Not us....our story will be different".

Then when you face the reality that your story isn't different, survival mode kicks in and says, "MY faith, determination, tenacity, and love WILL make this all better."  

And then somewhere along the way you take a deep breath (or gulp) and realize the true reality. It is a reality where God says, "Not right now." Doctors say, "One step at a time...time will tell...wait." And the chains of brokenness say, "I am not letting go that easily."

So, you grieve. But you do get through the grief and you come to acceptance and you live life a new way. It is not easy...but it is do-able. And joy does come.

...Weeping may endure for a night,
but Joy Comes in The Morning.
Psalm 30:5


  1. Your post is eye opening- as we are hoping to soon begin our 2nd adoption. Our first adoption was pretty easy- I am aware we were lucky- and am trying to prepare for the what if's- of attachment etc. Good Luck to you and your family- you are an inspiration and I hope that your little girls healing continues day by day- God Bless You-

  2. Lori
    Thanks for updating us – it is always good to hear how well everyone is doing – life is a journey and always room for a good laugh – it’s great when we can have a good laugh about ourselves. We also love Cabo San Lucas – we really want to go back there soon - your picures are great. Thanks for sharing with us your experiences and the things that are working for Selah – your knowledge is priceless. Take care – hope there are many more laughs.

  3. Lori,

    I am always uplifted by your posts and I so know what you mean by celebrating the typical. Your family is one of the few that I know who, like us, has faced far more obstacles after bringing their child home than they expected or could have ever imagined. Our journeys are different than many in adoption, but not any less beautiful or worthwhile or inspiring. You are doing a wonderful job with Selah and I say that as someone who understands what the job (and the reward) truly is.



  4. I'm so glad to see Shelah growing and doing well even though there is a long road ahead. And thank you for writing about attachment and other issues. Its nice not to feel alone and know that while everyone else thinks we are crazy for saying these things there are others that know just how it is! We have one that sounds just like Shelah and our other two that have their own variations. May God bless your post adoption journey and find some healing for little Miss Shelah!

  5. SO good to see this update...maybe I missed a few...I'm a little distracted;). You guys are exactly who Selah needs...I see that more and more as you write. God KNEW Lori, he KNEW you were the BEST family for her..hang on to that...HE'S got this, even when things feel out of control. SO thankful for all of your wisdom and honesty! SO.VERY.THANKFUL! Love to you my friend!:)

  6. I love your candor and I am so encouraged by your recognition of just how far your sweet girl has come. Thank you for the reminder to rejoice in the "regular" stuff and to laugh whenever possible.