Parenting by Grace

I don’t have parenting down. I make more mistakes than I make right decisions. Heck, my oldest child is 6, I have YEARS ahead of me of more bad decisions, but I’ve found a game changer.

Recently I was having a conversation with a group of adoptive moms about the challenge of parenting children who have never had parents. I was reminded of a time when Sweet Girl had just been home 3 or 4 months and we were having our first post placement visit with our social worker. The conversation turned into how well Sweet Girl was apparently adjusting. I said that my challenge was determining when to enforce boundaries and when to give in. When to be hard and when to be soft. Basically, she was having meltdowns. It could be over small or large things. For example, if I told her no more chocolate, she would turn into a heap of crying red curls on the floor. Since I didn’t have the benefit of history with this child, I was unsure which parenting choice to go with.

1. Do I ignore the crying and say that it’s for manipulation for more chocolate?

Or, 2, do I get down on her level and comfort the crying and offer support in her sadness, even though she still wasn’t getting more chocolate.

The immediate result is the same in either case, she gets no more chocolate. But, I was so afraid to make her into a spoiled child who could manipulate me with her emotions. I was afraid that by giving in to the emotion, I was creating a child who would take a mile if I gave an inch.

The social worker, an adoptive mother herself, changed my life with her words. She said, “I wish, when the presented the chance, I would have always given grace. Give grace.”

gracechangeseverything

For our simple scenario with sweet girl that meant picking her up and taking her to our favorite chair and rocking and rubbing her hair and whispering to her that I was sorry she was sad. Sometimes she would be angry and resist the comfort. I would give her grace to be upset. Sometimes she’d yell “more chocolate” at me. I would give her grace to not like my answer all over again. Sometimes she would steal more chocolate the next minute. I would give her grace when she was caught. Two hours later, when she would come up and ask nicely for chocolate, I would give grace AND chocolate. When she would apologize for her anger I would give grace. If she never apologized, I would give grace.

Sometimes the scenario is more challenging and someone has hit or kicked or broken a toy on purpose. Sometimes it’s in the car when the logistics make dealing with it properly impossible.

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This concept of giving grace has taken on many forms with Sweet Girl, but it’s also going into the rest of my life. When my whole being is screaming at me to throw up the walls. To stand my ground. To be strong. Don’t give in. I’m learning instead, that by giving grace, I am released. You see, giving grace isn’t about the other person, it’s about allowing me to be free. I’m allowing my children to mess up. I’m allowing myself to comfort them. I’m allowing them, and myself to be weak. And through my weakness, I am free.

I no longer have to be perfect, I just get to give grace.
I no longer have to feel guilty for yelling, I just get to give grace.
I no longer have to wonder if my children know how much I love them, I just get to give grace.

grace copy

So, since God has a sense of humor, I’m expecting my three tiny loves to lose it tonight and me to be tested on this giving grace business. Since I fail 98% of the time, I’m sure I will fail. I’m encouraged that the amount of grace I will be given is limitless. I am free.

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Cam Newton Needs Ankle Surgery

In proving that I am all over the place with my interests, this article was as much interest to me today as the local weather (we are under a Winter Storm Advisory in NC)!

 

I love the Panthers and NFL football in general. I’m trying to get my 3 girls into it because their daddy is most definitely not interested. Sweet Girl will attempt to watch games with me. I can get her to say “Go Carolina!” and “Touchdown!” but watching full game is a little much for her. When I get tired of watching Doc McStuffins or Frozen though and ask if mommy can watch something she likes, she always says, “Let’s watch some fooseball mama!”. I had to explain to her that right now there is no fooseball and she wanted to know if it made me sad. Yes it makes me sad, but right now NASCAR is in season so at least there is that. Go Junior!

Moving on over!

I imported all my old posts on Blogger over here! Yay! I thought that would be the hard part. It’s not, going through all those posts and tagging and categorizing them and wiping them clean of identifying information is a little harder. Be on the lookout for tons of new old posts soon! I’m not sure how they will show up yet, so I appreciate the patience!

In other news, I did the dishes last night. It was major. Even the husband said, “Are you okay? You are doing the dishes?”

Why should Americans care about Crimea?

I love Russia. I love the landscape. I love the people. I love the little villages and the amazing churches. Russian history is long and fraught with turmoil and war and often times poverty. I am mama to a small Russian-American.

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I do not love the oppression that has left the Russian people without a voice, without the means to support themselves, without help from their government. I do not love the government that has left hundreds of thousands of orphans without the hope of a family. They are forever locked in cold dark rooms without a warm touch because of the Russian government.

I am not an expert on Russian politics, but what I do know is that Russian President Putin is more concerned with leaving a legacy to his name than with acting in the best interests of his people.

Currently, Russia is occupying Crimea. This is very confusing for most people. Crimea is a region in Ukraine (don’t call it the Ukraine, it’s offensive to Ukranians). What makes Crimea different from the rest of Ukraine is that a large portion of it’s citizens are ethnic Russians. I compare this to south Texas. A large portion of the citizens of south Texas are from South America.

The dispute comes down to this: Crimea has apparently voted to succeed from Ukraine and be annexed by Russia. Whether Russia wants Crimea is another topic – of course they do or they wouldn’t occupy it. The the international statement Putin is presenting says he doesn’t want Crimea. But, Ukraine and the rest of the Western world says that the occupation of any of it’s sovereign borders is a hostile movement.

I talk about this today because I don’t think that most American’s understand the impact this could have on us.

Some facts from wikipedia.com:

-Russia is the largest country in the world and Russia has the 9th largest population in the world
-“As one of five permanent members of the UN Security Council, Russia plays a major role in maintaining international peace and security.”
-” Russia is a member of the G8 industrialized nations.” – The G8 represents the most wealthy 8 developed countries in the world. 
-” In 2006, the military had 1.037 million personnel on active duty.”
-“Russia has the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons in the world. It has the second largest fleet of ballistic missile submarines and is the only country apart from the United States with a modern strategic bomber  force. Russia’s tank force is the largest in the world, its surface navy and air force are among the largest ones.”
-“The country has the world’s largest natural gas reserves, the 8th largest oil reserves, and the second largest coal reserves. Russia is the world’s leading natural gas exporter and second largest natural gas producer, while also the largest oil exporter and the largest oil producer.”

So, while we sit in our offices or on our couches today, just imagine what happens if Russia takes Ukraine. What then? Where would they stop? What would the backlash be if the UN or US tried to stop them?

Here are some links to some excellent articles on the Crimea Crisis for more of an analyst perspective:

President Putin’s Fiction: 10 False Claims About Ukraine (from our own State Department)

Putin Doesn’t Know What He Wants in Ukraine (written by an independent Russian journalist)

Crimea’s Parliament Decides to Secede to Russia (note this is a Russian Government run media source)

I would love to hear what other Americans, Europeans, and Russians think of what’s happening? I don’t want to start a debate, I am just curious if anyone else is as concerned about this as I am.

No labels

I have always used Blogger for blogging until I started hearing more and more internet chatter about this place called WordPress. Since I’m loyal and my blogs had like 5 followers, I never investigated. Then the chatter increased.

The chatter coincided with my desire to blog, but not about one of the topics I’d filed myself under with the other blogs. I’ve decided to start blogging on WordPress as a means to have a voice for all the randomness that might come along. It’s interesting learning a new interface, but my favorite way to learn things is to dive right in. Worst case the whole world sees my mistakes.

Eventually, I hope to move my content over from my other blogs to WordPress too so that there will be one place that defines me.

That’s why soholdfast will officially be a place that has no labels. I don’t label myself so there is no defined content here and the posts are going to be about everything that matters to me. I will likely take a more anonymous approach as well where I begin to use code names for family and friends. I hope you will come along for the ride!

And as a teaser, here’s the things I haven’t found a home for yet:

-DIY projects
-Real Estate flipping and investing
-Musings
-Career aspirations

To everyone who’s hurting..

(title is the first line of the lyrics of “Hold Fast”, the song this blog was named after)
My secret confession is that I dreamed that in 3 years he and I would get on a plane and make the long flight to Vladimir again. I dreamed of Vita and Ilya picking us up at the airport and driving all the way to that sweet hilltop town that gave me my daughter. I dreamed that we’d perhaps go to the baby house she spent her first 18 months at and find the last piece of our puzzle. I imagine him having dark hair and big dark eyes – maybe a little Roma in him since his own country would reject him for that. His eyes would hold the same despair with the same hint of sparkle that Sweet Girl’s did. I had selfish hopes that he’d be very young, 12 months or so, so I could cuddle a little squishy again. I tossed around names for him –  imagining what his Russian name might be. Would he be a Max? Or a Sasha? We have been so blessed with how well Sweet Girl has adapted to being loved and to being in a family that my heart ached to show this love to another child. To have the last missing piece of our hearts in our arms.
Then, on January 1, 2013, the unspeakable happened. Russia has banned US adoptions. For over 6 weeks I have cried with my friends who were in process, and those who already had little Ruski’s home about the tragedy of this decision. All those sad little eyes in all those pictures are now lost. Some of these mommies and daddies met these babies and held them in their arms. They whispered prayers for easy transitions and whispered love and hope into those little faces. They cried ugly tears at having to leaving knowing a court date could be months away. I know those ugly tears. These families are now grieving the child they have lost while simultaneously praying for a miracle. I don’t know that pain.
For other mommies and daddies it’s a different kind of pain. The looked into the eyes of a picture and dropped everything to gather the paperwork and raise the money. Some were days away from finally getting to hold these sweet babies in their arms. I know that longing. Now, they are left with pictures of a child they never got to meet.  I don’t know that pain. I mourn for them. I mourn that they won’t get to see the light glisten in their little Russian’s eyes when they know they are loved.
My dream was so far off that it almost seemed selfish to think about it when for so many others the pain was so current, so now, so fierce. I am mourning the loss of a dream, they are mourning the loss of a child. So, for 6 weeks people have said to me, “I’m so thankful you got her out because look what happened now!” I instantly imagine my brave little Russian trusting these two strangers with her whole heart. I imagine her climbing into that car with us and driving off into the dark night while the only family she’s ever known lay sleeping in their rows of beds. I still don’t know what to say. I usually mumble something about being very blessed while also mentioning the thousands of children left behind. It is impossible to celebrate her getting out while not also imaging the little faces who won’t.
I don’t even know how to advocate anymore for orphans. I know there are millions of them around the world in other countries, but my heart is still in Russia. I can’t show you pictures of these little faces and ask for help with their ransoms. I can’t encourage my friends to start this journey. I can’t scour the blogs new families travelling to our region and relive it through them. I can’t even think about the other lives affected without losing it. Our sweet Vita now has no job. Our trusty Ilya is left looking for other work rather than ferry American families around Vladimir. The people at the agencies, the people at the embassy’s, the social workers – there are so many lives and families affected.
So please don’t tell me how lucky we are. We have a sweet little red headed light who brings us so much joy, but we are grieving and mourning all the other little faces that might never come home. My friends, my sisters, are grieving the loss of their children. I am grieving the loss of the dream of my little boy. Nothing about this is lucky. Nothing about this is fair. Nothing about this feels like God’s plan.
Once you have seen, you cannot unsee.
These are pictures of some of the babies my friends are mourning right now. Please keep these families in your prayers. There are hundreds of other babies who don’t have families fighting for them either who are now lost.
and this sweet little one shares a Russian name with our sweet girl 🙂
To address some comments I’m likely to get.
– We are still fervently praying that Russia will reverse the ban. This will not be enough for the children who will die from lack of care in orphanages and age out of the system due to the time we have lost. There are also hoards of people giving up on these kids and giving up on Russia who might never go back for them
– I know there are plenty of other kids available for adoption. Once you have adopted one, then you can tell me or them to just pick another kid. Until then, let us grieve.

Friends wanted!

How can you put into words what this journey has done for us? It’s made me stronger than I ever knew possible while making me fall to my knees in weakness. It’s broken my heart and my soul for every child that I can’t save. It’s made tears fall from my eyes when I watch my sweet girls play because I know there are so many millions of children who will never know what it’s like.

I tell myself, “Can I stop with just Sweet Girl?” Can I tell God that we don’t have enough money or enough room at the table?

Imagine Sweet Girl being a sweet girl, playing her harmonica, drinking her juice box and looking at pictures of HER family. (Imagine the “non-brushed” hair day he talked about in his post.)

There is so much evil in the world. Even within my small adoptive community, I see satan attacking at every turn. Sometimes it’s obvious – sweet precious children pass away while they wait for their mama and papa to come, crises with jobs or houses while parents try to fight to bring home their kids, kids who wait YEARS AND YEARS for their family to find them. Other times it’s not obvious – something another adoptive mom does annoys you and puts a bitterness in your heart or I choose to buy a fancy lunch out when I know what $10 would mean for these kids.

Today, I read a post about a lady who was culling her friends list. She said something like if you read this and don’t plan on praying for orphans, adopting orphans or donating to orphans, then delete me as your friend. At first, I was inclined to agree and shout, “Yes, this is SO IMPORTANT! If you aren’t with me, then you must be against me and if you are against me then I don’t want to be your friend!” But I quickly realized I didn’t mean that.

Do I think that this journey has been so awesome and the reward so great that I think everyone should do it? Yes! But don’t all “new parents” say that? Once you had your first or third child, didn’t you try to tell all your friends that they need to stop waiting and just have kids or another kid now! We all meant it with the best of hearts though. But do I truly judge my friends who choose not to have kids? No, not at all. That is their journey and their choice. I just want to support them on whatever decisions they make and watch God work in their lives. I know that sometimes this means that I will cry with them and be heartbroken with them.

Back to adoption.. so even though I encourage everyone to adopt now, do I truly think it’s for everyone? No, I don’t! Do I think donating to families/children waiting for adoption is for everyone? Nope! I’d hope that you could at least pray for them, but will I really unfriend people who aren’t believers because they don’t believe in prayer? That’s ridiculous. What I do want my friends to do is search their souls and look around them to see where they can help and HELP SOMEHOW. I do think that everyone needs to follow the Bible when God tells us to care for the orphans and widows in their distress, but if that means that you support meal programs for orphans or a work assistance program for widows, then I am so excited for you! And it’s exciting to know that where I’m not called to help specifically, God has called others to help! We are all working towards the same goal!

It’s such a rewarding experience to follow what I think God has called us to do. I get wrapped up in the details of life and get frustrated by it all too, but the reward at the end of this journey wrapped up in a little red headed ball of fire is my light. She makes this worth doing.

What I’m trying to say is, I don’t care if God leads you down a different path or if you don’t think God leads you at all – you are still my friend and I cherish our relationship.

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I was going to stop this here, but throughout this whole post, the theme of redemption has been front and center in my mind. I can’t find an eloquent way to bring the two topics together, but just pretend that a great writer whisked his or her way in here and added a paragraph that combines these two topics.

There is a quote from a man, Derek Loux (http://louxfamilyblog.com/), about Redemption. He wrote this in his blog regarding the adoption of his boys from EE:

On the drive home that night, the Lord whispered in my ear, “This is Redemption. Derek, do you know how far I travelled to get you and bring you back? I had to be separated from my Son, in order to get you, just like you are separated from your children in order to get these boys. Do you know how expensive it was for Me to purchase you? It cost me everything. Do you know how broken, sick, damaged, twisted, dirty, smelly, and hopeless you were? And at the end of it all, you had nothing to give me or add to me. I did it for you. I emptied myself and became nothing so that you could have it all. This is redemption.

 

My friends, adoption is redemption. It’s costly, exhausting, expensive, and outrageous. Buying back lives costs so much. When God set out to redeem us, it killed Him. And when He redeems us, we can’t even really appreciate or comprehend it, just like Dimitri will never comprehend or fully appreciate what is about to happen to him … but … he will live in the fruit of it. As his Daddy, I will never expect him to understand all of this or even to thank me. I just want to watch him live in the benefits of my love and experience the joys of being an heir in my family. This is how our heavenly “Papa” feels towards us.

 

Today, settle your busy heart down and rest in the benefits of redemption. Enjoy the fruits of His goodness, and stop trying to “pay Him back”. You’ll never get close you goofy little kid.

Derek went to be with Jesus a year after he wrote that which makes it even more powerful. It makes me realize that my blessing is that I don’t have to be strong and I don’t have to do it all, I just need to do the best I can. God has already redeemed me and Sweet Girl, I don’t need to do it again. But I do want to watch her “live with the benefit of my love and experience the joys of being an heir in my family”.

We think we get to go get our sweet sweet baby mine in two weeks 🙂

10 Tidbits

Sometimes I think of things or take a picture and mean to post it somewhere and never do.Or maybe, something in itself isn’t enough for a blog post or I just don’t have time so it hides on my phone. Here are 10 tidbits, inspired by the pictures on my phone.10. This morning it was raining and I hit traffic again. I have no clue why in the middle of this road, traffic always stops. I wanted to share this picture with the quote, “At least it’s not Monday anymore!”

9. For LAOKV’s birthday the other week, we went and saw Sister Hazel at Ziggy’s. I knew I was old for 4 reasons. 1) By the time we were done with dinner, I was ready for bed 2) I had a glass of wine with dinner and said that was enough for the whole night. 3) I wore flats and my feet were still killing me after standing on concrete for 3 hours. 4) The old guy dancing behind us was more endearing than embarrassing.

8. I’m addicted to shopping at Goodwill for sweet girl. I have such a hard time paying full or even half price for kids clothes. For the twins I buy a lot of their stuff used from a multiples resale group because the prices are so good. And I still match them and that’s hard to do at Goodwill. But for Sweet Girl, I can find awesome things in singles at Goodwill and I don’t feel bad about it. Yes, she has 11 Christmas shirts, but when you consider I paid $2 each for them so the whole lot is retail for one, who cares! And of course a 4 year old needs 3 bathing suits when she’s coming home in October! I posted this on my facebook, but here’s a recent Goodwill steal – RL Polo Sweater (maybe slightly big, but we’ll roll the sleeves back, Cream Cherokee LS top, Children’s Place Jeans and Target brown boots in excellent condition. $9.50!

7. Cranky loves shoes. She wants them on and off and on and off and on and off all day. Or socks. She can easily get them off herself, but can just now, get her sandals back on again. The other day, she saw her shoes on the floor in the living room on the way to the kitchen for dinner. She insisted (when she insists, we usually say ok, it’s a matter of picking battles) that the shoes come with her. Then she proceeded to use them as bowls for the pretzels she didn’t get to yet.

6. I saw this picture on my phone and didn’t recall what it was or why I took it. Then I remembered – this is the Delta terminal at JFK. There was a pigeon just walking around. Why not! Welcome to America!

5. Also in Eastern Europe, I found Nascar on the TV one day, but the announcers were speaking Russian. It was better than the alternative TV choices!

4.The twins LOVE to eat cereal in a bowl with milk and a spoon. They are SUPRISINGLY accurate with the milk filled spoons for 18 months!

3. The twins have developed in unison, a love for baby dolls. They have two sweet babies they keep in their cribs that Gregory gave them – sometimes they can’t stand to leave baby alone all day and have to go grab her through the rails. They also have two bigger babies that G-ma gave them for their birthday they drag around by the hair. We are practicing loving the babies, being gentle to the babies, feeding the babies, putting diapers on the babies, etc. Just when I think they understand gentle, they decide it’s hilarious to whack the baby over the head.

2. My big girls can now climb up stairs to go down big slides all by themselves. Cranky usually is too lazy to go up the stairs and instead asks that you just put her at the top of the slide.

1.You didn’t think I could go an entire post without discussing adoption or advocacy did you?!? I read this blog post this morning and was in tears. Everyone we have directly spoken to about adoption has been completely supportive, and I haven’t gotten rude comments yet, but I know they are out there, especially for my friends as they willingly adopt children with more severe special needs. This blog post summed it up PERFECTLY.  Click here: Into the Flames. I know it’s another link, but please read it. And then know.. I’m not asking you to go into the building the first time, much less go back into the building. I’m the one going into the building and I just might go back into that building again one day. What I ask you to do, is hold me up when I get out of the building and help me polish the treasure I’ve just drug out of the building who may be covered in soot and grime and be burned in a few places. Can I do it without you? Yup. But, it’s certainly nice to see everyone when we get out!

[T]heir mumbling grows to shouting. They say that they could understand you feeling like you needed to save one -as they glance cautiously at the little one that you just risked your life for….that you were willing to GIVE your life for……but they really can’t understand why you would go for another. Haven’t you sacrificed enough? Some are even saying that you are selfish! They are saying that when you race into that house, it makes them uncomfortable. It distracts them from the things that they have to think about that day. You try to reason with them, but their faces are full of pity for you! Pity that you have obviously lost all common sense. That you have stepped out of where God would want you to be….

Bonus: While I was wrapping up this post, I went to Goodwill for my lunch break. I found this coat for $3. Baby Gap 3T. I previously bought sweet girl a coat, but it’s a 5/6. I was nervous it wouldn’t fit and I was nervous about the weather in October in Eastern Europe if the coat didn’t fit. I hear we might see lots of snow. For the price, it’s worth the risk. I need to borrow my favorite 4 year old soon so I can try it out to see whether to pack it or pass it on to someone else’s littler sweet girl.

Registration Update and Nighttime

I wanted to write a happy post today, something uplifting for this holiday weekend, but the fact of the matter is that life isn’t happy for millions of orphans. As I drifted off to sleep last night, I couldn’t help but think about how sweet girl’s nights might go.


For my own girls, it’s pretty simple. We get in pj’s, read a couple of books (or just throw them), get some snuggles in, sing Jesus Loves Me and then it’s off to dream land with their seahorses. Sometimes, after bath, we read without PJ’s too. They love it. 



 And, well, sometimes it’s off to sleep before we make it upstairs too.


But then I think about sweet girl. How does her nighttime routine go? Does she get any individual attention? My heart hopes so, but my brain knows better. Does she cry herself to sleep or rock to sleep? Does she suck her thumb? Then, what if she has a bad dream, or can’t sleep, or doesn’t feel well? Do the staff care enough to go sit with her or rub her back so she can get back to sleep? Does she get yelled at or punished for waking up or getting out of bed?  Almost certainly the staff is minimal overnight; and it seems that most of the orphanages are under-staffed as is. I don’t know what they can do, if there are only one or two adults and several children happen to wake up at the same time. (And in one big room, probably when one kid cries they all wake up). She been there 4 years now, it’s all she knows, but does that make it okay? What if she has an accident at night? Do they go change her & her bedding — if so, are they rough about it & angry with her? Is she lucky enough to get a hug, to be told it’s ok, no big deal, we’ll get cleaned up and tell a story while you go back to sleep? (The last, I suppose, is unlikely.) What if she’s hungry, or thirsty? Can she get a snack or a drink of water? 


She deserves so much more than this. We are racing to get her because every night I spare her from that place is worth it.


We got an update from our agency, it wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I wanted to hear, you’ve been submitted. Or, at the very least, you’re being submitted next week. Instead, it was you won’t be submitted until June 12. That’s more than 2 more weeks. The probability of June travel is pretty much out, although I will still pray for it because who am I to keep my God from performing a miracle.