Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Navigating This New World

Driving from Orlando to Atlanta today, with four children who were EXTRA amazing!  (And I can NOT always say that!) gave way to many hours of thinking.   I alluded to another struggle from our trip in my last post about Christmas. While I'm still not sure any of my thoughts are going to come out in a coherent bundle, I'm going to try.

It seems we're beginning to live in a new world.  A world I'm not at all ready to become a part of.  A world that I as a parent am struggling to comprehend.  A world where hypervigilance becomes commonplace and suspicion has tendency to reign.

But I don't WANT to live in this world.

On Friday, December 25 we went as a family to Downtown Disney (ok, so it's Disney Springs now... but it's going to be Downtown Disney to me for a LONG time to come.)  When we go to places like this, we usually go right when they open.  We do this not because I want to be early everywhere, but because it's the time when there are usually the least amount of people, which helps tremendously when you have kids with anxiety.  Also, we can get a parking space without searching forever, and close enough that we don't have to walk far.   But, on Christmas day, we were not rushing through gifts.  We planned to go to a movie at Downtown Disney, but we didn't plan a time, it was more of a "wait and see when we're done."  So we didn't get there when they opened, or when the first showing of Star Wars began.  Instead we arrived at 1:00 for the 2:15pm show.  My mom waited in line while the kids and I went to a few of the new stores.  I was looking forward to checking out the new Ganachery they opened! 

We were able to go to the Marvel and Star Wars stores (so fun!) and saw the Ganachery.  But, as the shop is quite small, they only allow about 6 patrons at a time and there was a line outside.  No time for that with kids, some of whom were on the verge with their anxiety with the heat and crowd already!  So we headed back and found out that our 2:15 show was sold out.  Grandma had gotten tickets for the 6:00 show but since we were already struggling, we returned the tickets and went to another theater which was not packed.  (side note - we LOVED Star Wars!!!)

That night, after Liam and Macy were asleep, Olivia and I went back to Downtown Disney.  We hoped to get to the Ganachery and a few other places before going back the next day with the family.  Grandma had given the kids Disney money and they were planning on going to the other side to hit up the toy stores.  (I did not know at the time that with all the construction the only way in currently is where we came in for the movies.  We had planned to park at the other side near those stores.)

We walked and stopped at a shop where I found some new sandals and then FINALLY got to the Ganachery!  Such an amazing place!!!  Just after that our night completely changed.

There was a cute kiosk outside between the Ganachery and TRex and I stopped to look at some picture frames.  As Olivia and I were in the store, I noticed a man call sternly to each of his three daughters.  They seemed very perplexed as to why he was calling them out, but I didn't understand what he said since it was in a different language.   I turned and saw a few other families acting similarly.  I still didn't know what was happening.  All of a sudden things were happening quickly.  I heard someone say "shots fired",  I saw people hurrying away from the way we had come, my pulse quickened, my fear spiked.  Looking back I think one of the worst parts was that this was not a surprise.  It wasn't something I or others dismissed.  It was pure fear immediately that this. was. happening.  And we knew "what" it was... whether an act of terrorism or someone with unbridled rage, it was a shooter situation and we needed to take action.  Never a question.

I took Olivia and started toward TRex.  She still didn't understand but was growing more and more scared as she saw others.  We went in the front portion of TRex to get out of the path.  Downtown Disney is honestly a perfect place for something like this to happen.  It's one main path, MANY MANY people (way more than were there at 1 this afternoon), and with all the construction there are very few exits.

Inside TRex others were standing around wondering what was happening as we were.  It was still somewhat calm, subdued.  All of a sudden people were RUNNING full on as a mob into TRex where we were.  The group we were in all went in and around the corner to go out into a front section of the restaurant.  We were starting to panic.  Olivia and I were crouched against the front wall of the restaurant with a "wall" of maybe six or seven people deep in front of us all crouching down and trying to hide.  People were crying, praying, holding their families.  My thoughts were that we were either getting shot or watching others get shot and with all the people in front of us I thought gruesomely that we would most likely be ok but those in front of us would not.  It was not even a question, I thought it was happening.

With Olivia's history of trauma, she reacts physically to major stressors.  This was not an exception.  She was shaking and her legs went paralyzed.  She couldn't feel them or move.  After what felt like a long time but was most likely not long at all people began getting up and moving into the restaurant.  We followed.  Employees shut and locked all doors while we waited to see what was going on.  Olivia and I moved toward the back.  We paid attention to where the back exit was.  We talked about what to do if something else happened.  I worked at calming Olivia down.  I asked for water and the employees were nice enough to get some for Olivia.  I kicked myself for letting my phone battery run so low as I was texting a friend to keep in contact with someone.  Three times I almost texted her my mom's number "just in case" but kept deleting it.  I just couldn't go there.

Finally they opened back up and told us all that there was an all clear.  We slowly got up and ready to leave.  We had to go back the way we came to get to the garage.  Back the way the incident happened.  The whole way I talked to Olivia calmly but also talked about some of the things I learned recently in an article I read about active shooter situations.  About paying attention to exits wherever you are.  About running in a zig zag pattern to get away from anything happening.  As we made our way back we passed a woman throwing up on the side.  A security officer walking by on his walkie talkie.  The section of shops with the Ganachery with all of their fire alarms going off.  Two officers in bullet proof vests with guns drawn and on walkies with the words "shots fired" coming in loud and clear.  Making it to our van we saw officers walking the garage looking for ????  We waited a LONG time before even moving since so many were leaving at once.  The whole way home Olivia jumped at every sound, every light.  She slept that night, and has every night since, with the door open.  She came out after 20 minutes asking me to never leave to go anywhere without letting her know.

How did THIS become our world?

How did we begin thinking of shooter situations as "normal".

And why aren't we more shocked at this.

It looks like, after reading what I could online, that what actually happened was a brawl at a nightspot, shattering glass that sounded like shots, and people who took this sound as fact and ran with it.  As far away from us as this was, I can't imagine what the chaos was like closer to the point of beginning since it was so hard as far away as we were.

I'm so grateful we hadn't brought Braeden with us.  But my girl, with the trauma background, now has more trauma to deal with.

I did go the next day back to Downtown Disney.  But I went by myself with the two boys.  Olivia could NOT go back.  But I needed to go back.  I needed to wrap my head around this and see it by the light of day.  And the boys would have a very hard time not following through with the plan to go and use their gifts.  It was actually harder than I thought it would be parking in the same garage, walking the same paths.  Olivia texted me quite a few times while I was gone asking if all was ok.  Asking when we were coming back. 

It infuriates me that such a night tainted a place that has always been such a happy memory for myself and the kids.

But I also kick myself for not having a stronger faith.  I think if I had been in that situation alone I may have reacted differently, but being there as a parent and working to keep Olivia calm and ok overrode everything else in those moments.  I prayed with Olivia during this time.  I talked to her about God having us and being in control.  But how steadfast was I in this belief?  Why didn't I rely more heavily on Him.  I let emotion take over.  I need to remember that no matter what happens in this world, that He is still the almighty.   Time and again I fail at this.

Proverbs 3:5

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding

We are good.  We are safe.  

But since then I have held my kids closer.  I have thought about friends and cherish them just a bit more.  I have planned some letters I hope to send once we're home.

Maybe this was an eye opener for me.  Maybe through this God has planted other seeds.  Maybe it will be used in ways yet to be revealed.


All That Christmas Stuff

Christmas was great this year... as it always is.  One of my favorite seasons for so many reasons and this year was no exception.  It was made especially sweet with it being Macy's first Christmas at home with us.  She had so much fun with all of the hoopla and was one of the loudest singers when we sang Happy Birthday to Jesus!

This year we went to Florida to spend time with Grandma.  Almost everything we did was "free" thanks to Disney reward dollars and getting to go to our home away from home at Give Kids the World Village.  Otherwise it was money for gas and food.  And we all had so much fun!  Don't get me wrong, there were a couple rough spots... like day one which is ALWAYS hard for Braeden as his anxiety over change gets regulated... and day two was better but still off.  But really the rest of our trip went along swimmingly with very few "typical" struggles.

There were two HUGE struggles that we did maneuver through in the midst however, but luckily they were overshadowed.  On the way to Florida, we had stopped in Atlanta an extra day with the idea of using our Six Flags season passes.  During the first night Macy began running high fevers and when she was still spiking them, on meds, the next day and I was about to take her to an urgent care location, Olivia began having trouble with her chest where she couldn't even get out of bed.  I had no choice but to call the ambulance.  At the same time because of all of this, Braeden's anxiety took over and Liam began having a panic attack.  He stalled in walking across the room and just shook, saying "What is happening to me?  I don't know what is happening?!!!"  It was a LOW to say the least and I struggled big time through it all just trying to hold everyone together.  (Texting a couple of special friends has been the glue to hold me together especially in these rough times of late!!!)

The ambulance deposited the girls in the ER waiting room where we waited quite a while to be seen.  Olivia began feeling better and Macy was finally diagnosed with a double ear infection and given a prescription for antibiotics.  They ran an EKG and XRay on Olivia but her heart and chest looked good.  They said they attributed her pain to growing.  I was emailing with her doctor in Chicago and they don't agree.  We will look into it more at her next appointment in January.  (The second struggle I am processing and will hopefully complete a second post about it.)

But as I said... the struggles were definitely overshadowed by the great trip we had!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


It must be the holidays. I'm not sure what else it could be at this point. What brings about some major hard feelings and incredible vulnerability.

If you're in the adoption community, if you've adopted or have friends who have adopted maybe you know what holidays sometimes bring in our kids from hard places.  We don't always view a lot of that around here, or at least haven't for a while, and for that I'm glad. But when it cones it hits hard and fast. And coming the two nights following the night I had Monday with Macy's revelation... Man, I'm ready for a break. Of every kind. 

I joke with friends about how there should be an ice cream truck that comes around after kids are in bed. For adults only. Maybe it will have a special frequency that is picked up by just our cell phones so children don't wake from their slumber!! How amazing!!! I think I would've gained fifty pounds though these three nights. 

Last night my 14 year old and I had a huge falling out. Huge. To the point where we were both a mess. She went to bed highly upset, I could barely sleep, and I felt myself slipping over the abyss of not being good enough. I was believing a lot of the ugly she spewed at me. I was not in a good place and I'm sure she wasn't either.

This morning we were pleasant, even nice and the day got off ok. Tonight... I can't even describe it. And I won't share details because it's her story and not mine. Suffice it to say we had an amazing conversation. First about last night. Then about so much more. So very much more. 

She shared things with me that I had no clue of. Things she's never spoken of before. Things from before she came to live with me - details I had not before heard. Things you wouldn't believe. Things she deals with to this day that she's never mentioned. Daily thoughts, fears, where a lot of her anxiety comes from, and so much more. 

I treasure this. I'm blessed she opened up to me. Isn't this how things often happen. We go through rough patches, come out on the other side and are stronger for it. The lows of last night have given way to clarity.

A clarity I wish wasn't needed. 
I wish beyond all, that my children never had to go through what they have, and that I could take all the hurt from them. 
I wish I could 'make it all better.' 

But I can listen. 
I can be there to hear it: the good, the bad, the downright ugly, the confessions, the celebrations. 
And that's where I need to focus.

My heart grieves all she's lost.
But where last night I wallowed in self doubt, tonight I grieve for my child.

She is so very strong. I look up to her more than any other person I know. 
All she's endured. And yet her faith is solid. Her morals unwavering. I fall short of who she herself strives to be. She will do mighty things in her lifetime.
Monday, December 14, 2015

The Hard

Tonight was a hard night. Not hard the way some nights are hard, with high anxiety running rampant in one of my kiddos causing extreme stress and impulsive anger and frustration. Not hard with children having horrible, scary, unexplained seizures. Not hard like finding your child unconscious on the floor of their room, though those and more have and will continue to happen. 

Hard. As in adoptive family heartbreak hard. Hard enough to break a heart into a million shattered pieces. Where you as the parent, the stable force you are supposed to be, have to fight to keep your composure. And try in any way possible not to break in front of them. 

Macy continues to be an amazing force in our lives. She pushes five year old boundaries and knows where her brothers' buttons are weakest. But beyond this, these normal mile markers of youth, she is thriving. She remains 'all in' in every way. Macy's infectious smile permeates the day.  

As we were listening to music on my phone this evening in the kitchen while working on dinner, a song I listened to often during her adoption came on. 

I told Macy how I listened to that song a lot while we waited for her to come live with us. That we thought about her and prayed for her, that we missed and loved her, that it was so hard to wait sometimes. 

She smiled and said "It was a long time!" I said yes and thought we were having a great conversation and then she says... "I didn't want to come here." I said, "You didn't?" She said no and I was thinking... ok you didn't, you were scared, that's normal. 

Then I asked are you glad you're here now? Do you want to be here now? She said no. Nope, she doesn't want to be here, as she's smiling. And don't think she doesn't know what I was asking. She did. She does. She said she wants to live with her house mom.

Believe me, I get it. I do. I'm incredibly grateful she was so well loved. She owes me nothing. I pulled her out of a loving home. The one she has always known, always loved, always counted on. I know she loves us. I know. But my heart is hurting.  My heart has loved her longer than she ever even knew of us. We have been with her six months this week. Such a short time in her five years.  And hearts are incredibly weak aren't they? Easily broken. With long memories. They like to loop conversations such as these over and over in your head.

So so hard.  

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About Me

I am a single mom to four amazing kids; each of whom just happen to have been adopted. The first three were adopted through foster care, and we just completed an international adoption from Haiti. Our family has grown through adoption and I am all the more blessed to know each of my children. I worship a mighty God, teach Special Ed, love bargains, and am inspired by Pinterest... come along with us for the ride!

Olivia - 14

Olivia - 14

Braeden - 11

Braeden - 11

Liam - 9

Liam - 9

Macy - 5

Macy - 5

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What you should know about HIV

-HIV can NOT be spread through casual/household contact. HIV is not spread through hugging, kissing, shaking hands, sharing toys, sneezing, coughing, sharing food, sharing drinks, bathing, swimming or any other casual way. It has been proven that HIV and AIDS can only be spread through sexual contact, birth, breastfeeding and blood to blood contact (such as sharing needles). - HIV is now considered a chronic but manageable disease. With treatment, people who are HIV+ can live indefinitely without developing AIDS and can live long and full lives. - People who are HIV+ deserve to be treated with love, respect, support and acceptance as all people do. Additional information on transmission of HIV can be found on the Center for Disease Control website: http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/resources

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Orphan Crisis

• 147 million orphans in the world
• 50 million orphans in Africa 
• Every 14 seconds a child is orphaned by AIDS
• 16,000,000 have been orphaned by AIDS
• Every week, AIDS claims as many lives as American fatalities in the Vietnam War
• 854 million people do not have enough to eat
• Malnutrition is associated with the deaths of 5 million children under the age of five
• Every 2 seconds an orphan dies from malnutrition

Hence the title of my blog

Little Did I Know

Little did I know that the road would be so rocky
Little did I know that the trip would take so long
Little did I know that my heart could hurt so much
Little did I know that God is never wrong

Little did I know that love could be so powerful
Little did I know that a dream so far could go
Little did I know that God would place the right ones
Little did I know that my heart, so large, could grow

Little did I know that a dream has it’s own timing
Little did I know that this day would finally come
Little did I know that four souls would be sent to guide me
Little did I know that they would choose to call me mom

But God knew all along and He had a plan to follow
God knew all along that my dream would soon come true
God knew all along that we five should be together
God knew all along that I’d share it all with you