Thank you for those who have sent messages with encouragement and concern. We are still here!
It has been a jumbled season of searching and waiting, rejoicing and grieving. I have stopped trying to sort out what may be because of our Brooke leaving and what is just this season of life. I have spent time wrestling with my Savior - "Is this the path You would have us continue on?" "We haven't missed a turn in the road, have we?" "You are still leading and guiding us, right Lord?" I have just needed His loving confirmation that we are indeed still walking with Him. The wrestling takes a lot out of me emotionally. When I have confidence, I can cling to Him and continue running. When I start to question, I begin to stumble and fall as my eyes turn every direction but onto His face. I let all the whispers around me distract and derail me.
Yes, I am sure some of this is because the path has led us in places I never wanted to go. I thought Brooke would be in awe of the Christmas lights and licking frosting from Christmas cookies off her hands. We had already bought her Christmas dress as all the "little" girls have the same type of dress this year. What do I do with that dress? It seems like a little question, but it really is not....I can't bear to give it away, but I can't bear to keep it either.
My days will be busy and full of joyful Christmas things and then something - like an email from the funeral home saying that her grave marker has finally been set in place - pops up and it brings the joyful noise to an instant silence in my heart. I need to remind myself that my precious daughter is not spending her Christmas in a graveyard - she is rejoicing with the very Savior we are celebrating! But emotions can be very hard to reign in and redirect at times. Some days the grief seems quieter and then I feel guilty - other days the grief is roaring and I just can't find any relief.
We have also been wrestling over adding a second child to Lucy's adoption. It would be so easy - emotionally, financially, logistically - to just get Lucy this time. But our heart cries, "How can you leave one behind?" We had several times settled on a child but then found out that child had a family coming - which is a cause for rejoicing!!! But then we must wrestle again. We know each time that happens, it means that God has another child for us. We are completely and utterly confident of that. But the wrestling in prayer can be a wearing thing. We have submitted LOI (Letter of Intent) to adopt for a precious pumpkin that has been on our "list" for long time. When we hear back from the country, I will post a picture and some information. We will hopefully know by Monday.
We had the final post-placement visit with the caseworker on Tuesday for Hope and Serenity. It is always a cause for reflection as we tell her what has happened over the past months. She felt that Hope was a completely different little girl than when she first met it. From one point of view, I can see that. But my heart is always broken by the depth of damage that was done to her over her first years of life. How would she be different if she had been in our family since birth? I think seeing Jillian thrive in even the first few months she is here just emphasizes that. But it is so much easier to think about "what ifs" and so much harder to answer the "what now?". Hope is just such a complex tangle of hurt and missing connections and unknowns. The other day, we did have a break-through with Hope. My mom had her at the school table with the other kids and through a great deal of prompting, was finally able to get Hope to drop a little colored bear in a bucket. This is the first time we have EVER seen her to this. If she is just playing on the floor, she will pick up an item - but I have never seen her put an item in a bucket, box, purse, etc. It is one of the "basics" of play. She will put toys in her mouth or scratch on them or spin a part - but she doesn't put them in and out. I was thrilled and sad all at the same time. I purposely kept out of her sight because she seems to not be willing to do anything if I am watching. I was reading a wonderful post by Susanna at The Blessing of Verity. She was discussing Katie, a little girl they adopted from a situation even worse than Hope's, and she used the phrase "learned helplessness". This just brought clarity to my struggles with Hope. She won't even try to do things, like feed herself or pull herself up or pick up a toy, because she has learned to just sit and wait for it to be done for her. Even worse, she has learned in the past that she will be punished if she does try. How do you even begin to repair that type of damage? Only through prayer and patience....and more prayer and patience. Hope spends her days playing on the floor and scooting around the house in search of another item that she can scratch or bang on to make noise. She does spend more and more time observing what others around her are doing and that is very good. She gets very excited when new people come and she wants to interact, but she has not learned how to do so appropriately. She does what we call the "octopus" in that she scoots very close and wraps her legs around the person. It is very disconcerting to other small children and even to adults that are not familiar to her situation. We are really working to help her with this, but without much avail at this point. She ends up completely overstimulated and we have to remove her from them - which is very sad. She is sleeping well finally. I do still have to hand feed her all her food. Occasionally, usually when there has been some kind of change to her routine, she will fight me on the food - but she has plumped up and is growing taller.
So what are my hopes and dreams for her over the next year? I would love for her to start to feed herself - like small pieces of graham cracker or Cherrios or something of the sort. I would love to see her learn to interact with people on a more "typical" level so they can see how amazing this little fighter is - how far she has come - rather than the oddity of her behavior. I would also love to see her begin to interact with her environment - such has putting toys "in and out" of something, stacking, etc. I am still praying over how to begin with each of these things.
Serenity has changed so much over the last two years. Physically, she has grown a great deal - plus the skull surgeries have altered her looks. She now has glasses and her hearing aids are in process. We finally were able to get her sedated hearing test done and she does have significant hearing loss. Again, I am on pins and needles to see what differences the hearing aids make. I am hoping it will begin to open up meaningful speech from her. Right now, she has a few words that we recognize, but others may not and a lot of pointing and gesturing, with a few words in sign language. She gets frustrated - we get frustrated....really praying for a breakthrough.
We are finally seeing some progress with the potty-training! I am so very relieved. I had spent so much time praying over this and really felt it was an important part of her maturing. I think if Hope has "learned helplessness", Serenity at times has "desired helplessness". She still wants to be treated like a baby - but on her terms. She doesn't want to have to use the potty - but she gets very angry if we don't change her messy diaper RIGHT NOW. We still have a long way to go, but I feel like she is finally getting the idea.
I have so many hopes and dreams for her. They have changed as she has been home and we can see that there is more damage cognitively than we had originally thought - due to pressure on her brain and lack of oxygen at night. But I know there is more to her future than searching from one mess to make to another. She is just beginning to pick up books and look at them (probably due to the glasses) and she is beginning to try puzzles though she has a very short attention span. As we have not been letting her be a "baby" with the Chipmunks (Jillian and Little Man), she has switched to being very bossy older sister and telling them "Mo!" (her version of "no") on most things. But then she gleefully joins into their mischeivousness in the bathrooms and out of mom's sight.
For her this next year, I am praying that the hearing aids make a huge difference in her attention span and her desires to learn. I can't even imagine the frustration of only hearing bits and pieces. She is doing better in her interactions with others, but we still have to work pretty hard to get her to keep her hands to herself. She wants to run them through people's hair, on their necks, and even under their shirts....soooo not "okay".
Jillian is thriving. She has a very strong personality - not a surprise - so when she is happy she is very happy. When she is cranky, she is very, very cranky!!! She and Little Man get into all kinds of mischief. We call her the mastermind and he covers the PR once they get caught! They are the dynamic duo! She did have some abnormal blood work results as far as clotting as they prepare for her surgery in January, so waiting to see what that means. But overall "thriving", "mischieveous" and "adorable" sums her up.
Grace is just being her beautiful, happy self but we are now planning for a surgery with growth rods for her scoliosis. There have been some amazing changes in the technology and this will mean no more chest brace for 18 hours a day - which we could never accomplish anyway. I am assuming this surgery will be Feb or March - hopefully before we go to get Lucy.
My kiddos are straggling out, so I am going to enjoy this quiet Saturday morning with them. Will try to snap some pictures today, but here was our best attempt at a family picture the other day. Yes, Romeo DID deliberately hide most of his face behind his brother and he may or may not have had to run a few laps for his choice to mess up the family picture after very specific warnings. Keepin' it real here folks.
Until He comes, we will rejoice in both His birth and His death and resurrection to save us from our sins. To Him be all glory, honor, and praise!