Monday, June 22, 2015

Why do we have so many adoption experts and still so many orphans?

As I was walking around the camp today in Ecuador the question hit me: why do we have so many "adoption specialist" and still so many orphans?

There are 154 million orphans.  Every day children age out of the system....and their futures are bleak at best.  Every day children feel abandoned, unloved and worthless because no one wants them as part of their family.

James 1:27- Religon that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

God calls us to take care of the orphan.

Preston and I prayed for 2 years before we started the adoption process.  We knew God called us to adoption. We spent countless hours filling out paperwork, having our fingers printed, saving thousands upon thousands of dollars, learning Russian, reading adoption books, attending pre-adoption educational weekends, reading all The Hague regulations, etc.

God led us specifically to our daughter.  She had a really tough past.  She is very emotionally traumatized and wounded.  We attend therapy with her twice a week and took her to Colorado to see the best experts in the world to help her.  We have learned so much on how to care for our daughter and give her the best environment for healing.  We have no guarantee that she will be able to progress past her wounds, but Preston and I are called to do our very best to help her.

The hardest part for us right now is all the "adoption specialists" we encounter multiple times a day. These "adoption specialists" have not attended a single adoption class or read a single adoption book, they did not save rigorously for a year, learn a new language, travel halfway around the world to a country that was experiencing war. They have not sat with my daughter in countless therapy sessions or held her when she was crying.  They did not give up weeks of their other kids' school, baseball games, gymnastics and art exhibitions, graduation and birthday parties to go with her to intense therapy in Colorado. They don't know her past or the best thing to do for her future.

I ask that if you don't know every detail of our daughter's life and have not attended our therapy sessions to learn the best way to parent her, then please respect our parenting techniques by trusting the uniqueness of it.  It looks different from typical parenting, we know, but we are willing to look different for her future.  We have compassion for her past but do not pity her.  She WAS an orphan but now she has a loving family who is committed to help her overcome her past and flourish into a great young lady.  So, please do not have pity on her because she WAS an orphan.  Rather, in compassion, join us in helping her grow past the survival games that worked for her in her previous situations, but aren't helpful for her to grow in a healthy family. She deserves attention, just like every child, but always ask yourself if the kind of attention you are giving her is consistent with what you would give to a healthy nine-year-old, or if it is enabling her to continue her past patterns that don't work well for her anymore.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015


Friday late morning we started our month long journey in Ecuador.  We flew from Atlanta to Quito.

Our first two nights we stayed at a hacienda that was built in the 1700s.  It was a beautiful place.  Our room had three bunk beds, a twin bed and a loft bed.  Logan immediately claimed the loft and loved how it was so much taller than the others.

We enjoyed a delicious pizza lunch.  Logan loved sitting with Nathalie and Anna.

We had the neat opportunity to take a boat ride on a lake that is in the crater if an active volcano.  The volcano blew itself apart several years ago.  All the snow from the top made a lake approx 600 feet deep.

After the lake we headed to Camp Chacauco, where we will be doing all our work this month.  It is so great to be back here after 12 1/2 years.
(This is Preston and his students - in front of the building they spent the last semester designing the renovations.)

That evening Preston was asked to share the story of our family.  Logan and Nathan also made it up on to the stage.

We are working this week on demolishing the old interior of the colecium.

As I am blogging, this is my view.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Entering into life with a RAD child

RAD...what is that...never heard of it before....

RAD is reactive attachment disorder.  It is a very serious, all consuming disorder that affects a small population of children and can stay with them into adulthood. RAD is categorized by markedly disturbed and developmentally inappropriate ways of relating socially in most contexts.

RAD can occur when failure to form and recieve proper attachment/bonding relationships in infancy.  Such failure could result from severe early experiences of neglect, abuse and abrupt separation from caregivers.  RAD is also more common in Eastern Europoean countries.  Karis is a classic candidate for RAD...and has it.

There is a list of common traits/symptoms of people with RAD. Here are the ones we deal with on a daily basis.
Physically self-destructive....self harming
Aggression towards others
Abnormal eating habits
Inappropriate sexual attitude
Learning disability... Knows more than they let on in order to control parents and teachers
Not affectionate on parents terms (hugging in public and nothing in private)
Flat, listless, lethargic
Inappropriate emotional responses
Superficially charming and engaging
Indiscriminate affection with strangers
Lack of peer relationships
Blames others for her own mistakes
Victimizes others
Exploitative, manipulative, controlling
Poor hygiene
Accident prone
High pain tolerance/overreaction to minor injury
Lack of remorse/consequences

Our time in Ukraine with Karis was great along with our first month or two at home.  Things began going down hill in November and by Christmas they were bad.  We thought we hit an all time low.  Unfortunately since then things have continued to worsen.  We are amazed that things can actually get worse and worse, but they are.  In January Karis began seeing a therapist weekly.  We have increased these therapy sessions to 3x/week.  Our therapist here also suggested for Karis and our family to travel to Evergreen, Colorado to the Evergreen Psychotherapy Center for a 2 week intense psychotherapy intervention.  We spoke with the doctors there and they feel she has a severe case of RAD and she will only get worse until she has intense intervention.  We will travel to Evergreen May 2-17.  We are really hoping this intervention will work for Karis.  This is not the most opportune time for our family to be gone.  Preston will miss the last two weeks of the semester along with graduation.  Logan will miss two weeks of school along with his art show and gymnastics exhibition. Nathan and Owen will miss two weeks of school and their last baseball game of the season.  However, it is important for our family to function, heal and become whole.

Long, Overdue Update

It has been almost a month since my last post.  I figure it is time for some updates.

Logan: is doing great.  He is venturing into the world of orthodontics on Tuesday.  It is our consult appointment, so I am not sure what the path will be...but he needs some work done.  He is still enjoying his extra curricular activities very much and is looking forward to swim team this summer.  He is enjoying writing his book series, now on book 18.

Nathan: loves anything electronic.  His absolute favorite thing to do is sit on his bench and play the iPad.  He loves Starfall and will spend an hour plus working on the math equations, reading the books, listening to different composers, etc.  He is also doing really well with his talking computer.  He is constructing sentences and is able to communicate exactly what he wants and needs.  He has two new devices for his right arm.  He is still getting used to them and we are getting some adjustments made to them this week.  He is also starting a few power wheelchair trials this month to see if this is a possibility for the near future.  Nathan also loves jumping on the trampoline and swinging in the backyard. He is definitely an outdoor kid.

Owen: is really starting to come back around.  He is becoming more and more proficient with his eye gaze, along with his talking.  He is going to be looking at a new wheelchair on Monday.  He loves spending time outside too and loves when get out the bubble gun and he gets to pop lots of bubbles.  He is really enjoying playing baseball!  I am so glad he and Nathan are finally old enough to be on th team.

Karis: her transition into the family is still really, really ROUGH.  She is receiving 3 appointments a week of psychotherapy.  She also has 4 appointments a week of in-home speech therapy.  This is a busy week for her.  Tuesday morning we have a pre-op pediatrician appointment and Thursday she is having a dental procedure at Children's South....lots of cavities filled at one time so she is getting anesthesia.

Our family was honored to be asked to be the feature family for the National UCP Fundraising Campaign.  A letter and accompanying brochure about our family's story was sent to donors/prospective donors all over the US.  Logan was so excited because he felt very famous.

Spring break was just a few weeks ago.  We started off with a fun trip to the Space and Rocket Center with our friends, The Schwartings.  Brian and Evan were also able to meet us there for a little bit.  Sunday we enjoyed an Easter Egg Hunt at Samford with Ranae and Cooper and a big family dinner at my parents house.  Monday was a trip to the Zoo with Ranae and Cooper.  On Tuesday we crammed in tons of appointments and Wednesday we packed the car and headed to Texas.  We spent several days visiting our friends, The Cooks and then headed back to Birmingham.  It was a great week!

Monday, March 16, 2015

First Baseball Game

The boys enjoyed their first baseball game.  Nathan and Owen are playing for the Grasshoppers in the Miracle League.  We all had such an amazing time.  Logan is the Grasshoppers unofficial mascot. 
 Boys before the game.
 Owen getting ready.
Nathan enjoying watching.

 Karis at the game.
 Our kids with the Tolbert kids.  Makala made signs for everyone.
 In the dugout.
 The Grasshopper doing all of his mascot moves.

 Nathan at bat.
 Nathan on 2nd.
 Nathan at home plate.
 Owen at bat.
 Owen headed for first.
 Mason going up to bat.
 Nathan at bat, the second time.
 Nathan finishing his home run.
 Nathan's fans greeting him at the fence.
 Owen hitting the ball off the tee.
 Owen headed for home.
 Mason headed for home.
 Owen talking to Miss Katie after the game.
 Our crowd.  We were so proud of the boys.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Fun Saturday

We spent a funfilled day on Saturday in Tuscaloosa with our friends, the Moons.