From Delight to Crap

Recently, we took the whole crew to the human trough, also known as Golden Corral. Our oldest was busy, but we also had our married daughter, her husband, and baby, so eleven of us.

This visit, I decided to let Bo (9yo with Ds/ASD) come with me to fix his plate so he could make his own choices. He was ecstatic and delighted in carefully making selections of all the foods he loves. I noticed, like our neurotypical kids, his plate of food was all in the same color family…from beige to bright orange which made me smile. He wasn’t a fan of the fried shrimp he chose, but he loved the sweet potato casserole for which we got seconds.

Like all kids, dessert is where his true passion lies and he was in heaven with all the choices. After looking the selection over carefully, he finally landed on a chocolate cupcake with pink frosting which he quickly devoured and was rewarded with another one. After he finished that one, he noticed his brother, Eon, had just returned to the table with an exact duplicate. He very excitedly pointed and showed everyone around that Eon had a cupcake. At first, I thought he wanted Eon’s, but it soon became clear that he was just excited someone else was going to enjoy the thing he loved. He mimicked each bite his brother took with excited clapping in between. If he could speak, it was so obvious he would’ve been saying, “Isn’t it amazing? That frosting is so good! Don’t you love it?”

As empathy is a skill he has not yet mastered, we were delighted with his delight for his brother. We were all smiling and laughing. I winked at my husband and when I looked back over to Bo, his whole hand was suddenly covered in poop. It took a second before we comprehended what we were seeing. Then, the whole table erupted with cries of, “EW, ICK!” from the younger kids. I dove for my purse that had the wipes in it and hastily wiped it all off, while my dear husband prepared to scoop him off to the van for a change of pull-up.

Immediately, I was horrified and embarrassed, although I tend to roll with these things pretty well and it didn’t take me too long to laugh it off.

I share this story because it is so typical of our life with disability. We have very high highs, followed a split second later by very low lows. Usually, as in this case, we have a great sense of humor and are able to bounce back pretty quickly. But sometimes, it’s a lot and more than a little overwhelming. I know that we are not alone in this experience (okay, maybe we are in this particular experience, but I’m speaking more generally.) I know of many great families who are currently dealing with the “lot” part of parenting kids with disabilities.

I don’t have answers on how to live in daily bliss with these types of challenges. I’m not great at keeping my cool when a child is knocking over chairs and threatening to upend the dining room table. I could use some work on how to calmly endure backseat spitting when a sibling is losing their shit over it. I definitely need some tips on how to keep my sanity when the one thing that calms Bo is his favorite youtube videos of children shrieking and behaving badly.

The only thing I do know is that this life has given me a new lens. I see the world differently. I see people as more valuable. I am more convinced of Imgago Dei in everyone, regardless of ability, class, education, choices, behavior, or status.

I recognize that everyone has a story to which I’m not privy. I can and should withhold judgment, always. Acceptance, inclusion, and unconditional love are key. I have a much deeper understanding of grace and now recognize that everyone needs it including, maybe especially, myself.

Delight and crap seem to be the two speeds of my life right now and, as always, there is grace for that.

A Full Heart

BochairThis guy turns six-years-old today. My heart can hardly stand it. He’s been ours nearly as long as he wasn’t and I still well up to think about what that means. The magnitude of adoption leaves me breathless even as the mundane of it makes me shake my head. How can something so life changing, so utterly profound, be in reality, so completely ordinary?

As always, I remember with prayer his birth mama. May she be well today and know he’s loved.

I remember with huge smiles and much love and gratitude his foster mama today, too. I’ll never forget her showing us pictures of his third birthday. BobootsA picture of a cake flashed on the screen. Puzzled, I looked at Shawn, “Is that cake shaped like a shoe?” Clearly, I did not yet know my boy. But she did. And cared enough to make him a cake shaped like the one thing he loves best in all the world. I have no words.

He has overcome so much and continues to amaze and bless us each and every day. His new fabulousness is calling Shawn from the other room with, “Dad? Daaaaad!” And my personal favorite response to each request with, “Okay,” even as he fails to actually comply with said request.

BobusHe loves kindergarten and is thrilled to don his backpack and trot out to the bus every morning. He returns every afternoon with a huge smile. I think he was actually offended when we let him play hooky last week and took him to the state fair with the rest of the family. He would’ve much preferred to go to school.

We finally found the right meds for sleeping and he is thriving with a full night’s sleep (as are his parents). He has not had any recurrence of ear issues since February. Probably due to both of those, he no longer has negative behaviors that plagued him for so long, either. My arms are bruise-free, and the house has been mostly free from flying objects for quite awhile. BomouthHe’s still a little guy, but a recent growth spurt has him now wearing size 4T and looking quite the little boy versus the toddler he seemed for so long.

His therapists confide that he’s their favorite which shouldn’t shock me, but knowing the lengths we came to get here, really does surprise and delight me. BoarmThe boy who once avoided all interaction, who averted eyes from contact, who ignored all attempts at connection is now charming strangers with his sweet smile and knuckle bumps and it’s amazing.

I share our story in hopes that it might encourage someone out there to realize that maybe adoption is not the giant, terrifying leap you once thought. Maybe it’s just a conscious choice toward an incredible, yet ordinary life.

And maybe, without you, a child doesn’t have a prayer of experiencing a life like that. 


I’m Tired of Holland and I Want to Go Home`

One of the first things presented to us after the birth of Eon was Emily Perl Kingsley’s famed essay, Welcome to Holland. I was touched by the sentiment, but never a huge fan of the piece. Basically, it likens having a baby with special needs to planning a special trip to Italy, and then being diverted to Holland forever. It acknowledges the grief associated with the change in plans, but points out that Holland, while not Italy, has its own unique beauty.

I hadn’t thought about the Holland analogy in years until a friend who’s getting ready to adopt a baby with Down syndrome re-posted it in her blog. It, of course, caused me to reflect.

Eon was healthy. He’s also number six of our eight children, so we were pretty seasoned as parents. We didn’t really experience the grief so many do when they embark on this journey. We entered Holland and immediately moved to the peaceful and beautiful countryside to skip among the tulips. Sure, there was the occasional language or cultural barrier to navigate, but it wasn’t anything we couldn’t handle and I was more than prepared to take it all head on.

Fast forward a few years and we added Bo into the mix. Still dealing with the known Down syndrome, but also tacking on autism, chronic health problems, and adoption issues. And, with Eon getting older, we now have to fight the IEP battles to make sure his educational needs are being met. Also, did you know that mothers of children with autism have stress levels equivalent to soldiers in combat? 

I feel as if we moved from the placid countryside of Holland into the capital city and right into the heart of gang wars. (My apologies to the actual country of Holland. I have no idea if you even have gangs.)

I’m tired. No, scratch that. I’m exhausted. I don’t want to learn more of the language, or suffer from the loneliness of not fitting in, or eat foods foreign to me. I don’t want to walk about and listen to people jabbering in another tongue. I don’t want to shield my children from enemy fire. I don’t want to duck and run for cover or cower every time I hear a loud noise.

I’m tired of Holland and I want to go home.

I long for the familiar, the comfortable, the easy. I miss the days of doing things without thought. I want to take my boys to normalcy.

bogradI hate that I have to know the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in its entirety just to make sure my sons are afforded the educational environment that is lawfully due them. It frustrates me to have to spend hours in research prepping for a new specialist appointment to ensure the doctor orders the correct tests and medications or to point him in the right direction of the likely diagnosis. The adrenaline surge experienced every time an older child exits the house and the alarm sounds leaves me in a constant state of high alert, terrified that this may be the time Bo escapes with tragic results.

I wish I could trust anyone besides his ever-busy oldest siblings to watch the Serb, and even then, I wish it were for longer than an hour or two if during waking hours. (And still my constant checking in drives them batty.) I, selfishly I suppose, want to go to weddings and parties with my handsome husband instead of the carefully planned divide and conquer routine we’ve orchestrated for social engagements. I’m tired of packing a diaper bag when my youngest is a typically-developing, fully potty-trained four-year-old.

I hate that I freak out over every green snotty nose wondering if my weekend plans are safe or if I should go ahead and pack a hospital bag, just in case. I’m frustrated when my son tries five times to tell me something and I hear the same unintelligible sound five times and I just don’t understand and he gives up and whatever was important to him at the time stays with him and our moment to connect is lost.

But mostly, I’m tired of interpreting our world to others who don’t live here. It literally pains me to feel my boys have been devalued, either by a stupid social media comment, rude stare at the grocery, or casual remark by a close friend. I hate feeling like I have to be positive all the time or someone may not understand that, while my life is hard, I would choose these boys a hundred times over. eonpool

Holland sucks, sometimes. Yes, Emily Pearl Kingsley, it does have windmills, but where do you find the time to look up and enjoy them?

I have a choice to make. Sometimes daily, sometimes just when I hear the bullets flying and I find myself ducking for cover, longing for the good old days of home. I can wallow in the hard. I can live in the frustration and the difficult, becoming bitter.

Or I can embrace the adventure of a life uncommonly lived. I can relish in my daily opportunities for growth and new experiences. I can be overwhelmed with the beauty of relationships I have that others pass by. There is community among the ex-pats of metaphorical Holland. The marginalized have a camaraderie all our own.

If I hadn’t landed here, I would still be living in my fishbowl of sameness, loving all the people who live and think like me. I would never have learned the stories of my fellow sojourners, come to value their perspectives, share their pain. I’ve found that it’s not just the parents of kids with special needs who land here. This Holland is a home to not just those with a physical or intellectual disability, but also people of color, or those with mental illness, even the LGBT community, any of us who are different than the accepted masses.

Because there is a place for us here. 

So, in the middle of my longing for normalcy, for what I remember home to feel like, do I really want to give up all I’ve gained, all I’ve learned, all I’ve become?

Not really. For I’ve discovered the true melting pot is Holland and here there is grace for us all.


A year ago, I walked into Eon’s kindergarten transition (IEP) meeting loaded for bear. We wanted full inclusion for our son and we weren’t leaving until we got it. We didn’t realize until near the end of the meeting that inclusion was the plan and had been their plan for him all along. I left the meeting like a deflated balloon, slightly dazed and confused, but relieved.

It was a great year. My biggest fear was that his teacher would resent having him in her classroom and be harsh with him or, conversely, she would love him, but have low expectations for him and treat him like a mascot. Neither happened. His teacher was amazing and just perfect for him! She treated him as she did all the other kids in her classroom and expected him to behave as such, and he did. She adored him, but was immune to his charms when he attempted to manipulate her to get out of doing hard work. In short, she had his number. Eonbeach

He thrived. He is a beginning reader (reading!), is doing simple addition and subtraction problems, knows all his shapes, can tell us all the parts of a story, etc. He got himself off the bus and to his class like a boss, hung his backpack, circled his lunch menu, put his folder in the teacher’s basket, and started his seat work every morning.

We received nothing but good reports. So this year, I was a relaxed mama walking into the IEP meeting. And for forty-five minutes we heard about all the progress he made toward his IEP goals, how well he fit in with his typical classmates, how good his behavior was, what a joy he was to teach, etc. After every member of the team said their piece and filed out, I was stunned to hear the recommendation from the mild special education teacher who was running the meeting.

“So, we want to pull him out for the reading and math blocks next year and take him to the resource room so he can focus on his goals in there.” She continued talking and, as she added up the time with therapies pulling out, she divulged he would be gone from the general education classroom about 50% of his day.

What the what?

I sat there like a deer in headlights with a phony-try-not-to-cry smile pasted on my face. I managed to ask what the reasoning was and it was basically because “First grade is intense and moves really fast. He won’t be able to keep up or stay on grade level. This way, he’ll be able to focus on his goals in a small group setting.”

I did not object. I felt bushwhacked and completely unprepared. We were not asked to sign it because PT still needed to complete her goals. I would not have anyway. That much I knew. I cried the rest of the day.

And then I got busy and brushed up on my knowledge of IDEA. Turns out, a child cannot be moved to a more restricted environment (aka, resource room or self-contained classroom) solely based on his inability to maintain grade level. He doesn’t have to maintain grade level. That’s why he has an IEP! He only has to make progress toward those goals. Which he clearly was…in an inclusive setting.

I called the mild special ed teacher the following week. I apologized for not speaking up in the meeting and told her about our misgivings. I laid out our vision for Eon and inclusion. I told her about the law and asked that we reconvene. I asked to observe the first grade classroom prior to the meeting. She agreed to all of it but again told me she thought he’d do “better working on his goals in the resource room.” I asked her for research to back up claims that children make more progress in self-contained classrooms or resource rooms. On the face of it, it sounds good and seems to make sense, but I’m only seeing research that supports inclusion for desired outcomes. She is a new teacher and told me that she actually did a whole research project/paper last year supporting inclusion and didn’t have anything to give me to contradict it.

I continued to cry much of the week (my singular response to stress of any kind) and continued to research and make sure I knew his rights under the law. I was frustrated that I needed to know all that, frankly. Good golly, we’ve got enough on our plates, for crying out loud, without having to school the school system on their legal responsibilities toward educating our child.

I agonized over whether this was the right decision for Eon. I know the research supports inclusion for the outcomes we desire for him – increased independence as an adult, improved odds for secondary education, increased chance for meaningful work as an adult – but if this school doesn’t really believe in inclusion, the school year could be a disaster.

Basically, I pushed and then second-guessed myself for pushing the rest of the week. By the time I went to observe the first grade class, I was an emotional basket case. Thankfully, when I waffled on my inclusive resolve to the mild special ed teacher, she wouldn’t hear of it. She reminded me, “He can always go into more restrictive if he needs to, but there’s no reason to start his year there.” Eon’s first grade teacher for next year was equally as wonderful and fully supportive. She’s a firm believer in peer-modeling and reminds me a lot of his kindergarten teacher.

The next day, we reconvened the IEP. I was very clear this time in sharing our vision that Eon be included throughout his school career. I reminded them that in our current culture, a person can be successful in life if they get along well with others, even if they’re not the sharpest tool in the shed. The major way Eon is going to learn to read people, to experience community, to develop empathy, to reciprocate socially is by being with his peers. Everyone was on the same inclusive page. We added in supports to ensure his success. We discussed plans to modify his curriculum and tests. We discussed ways we plan to communicate and trouble-shoot issues as they arise. His team was wonderful! It was very positive and affirming.  And I breathed a big sigh of relief…and didn’t cry.

I want to emphasize that while I am a huge believer that inclusion is absolutely the right placement for EON, I am a bigger believer that every parent and team needs to decide the right placement for their individual child. I am amazed and appalled at the internal bickering I see among those in our Down syndrome community, especially when other parents want to use their own choice as a blanket decision for all children with Down syndrome. We are talking about Individual Education Plans. 

I have two boys with Down syndrome who are as different in personality, preference, and ability as night and day. The only things they have in common are a last name and an extra chromosome. Eon will be attending first grade, fully included, in a general education classroom next year. BobeachHis brother, Bo, will be attend kindergarten in another elementary school in a self-contained classroom. Those are the right placements for both boys and they will excel in their own ways. We couldn’t be more proud of each of them. To put either child in the other setting would be a grave mistake and such a disservice to that child.

We need to trust each other as parents that we’re doing the best we can for our kids. We need to recognize that none of us has a crystal ball but each of us would kill for one to know the best decision in every situation for our precious kids. If someone seeks your knowledge or advice, they are not giving you decisive power into their lives. Don’t take it personally if they choose to make a different decision. You don’t have all the information and you certainly don’t have the relationship, the love, and the guilt they do in parenting that child.

For those of you facing the IEP, you can do it. There is grace for that.

Coveting Freedom

I turned off the computer and went to bed, completely green with envy. Sleep wouldn’t come. One of my friends was jetting off to an exotic land on a missions trip with her daughter, and another on a tropical romantic get-away with her husband. Proof in pictures for both displayed on Facebook. I couldn’t stand to think about it, but could think of nothing else.

My discontent had been brewing for weeks.

While I adore these children God has entrusted me with, there is no denying that the special needs life can be trying. I had been focusing only on the trials.

Recently, the radio station I listen to has been encouraging listeners to call in to win a trip. Always up for a contest, I reached for my phone the first time it was announced. As I punched in the number, I suddenly stopped as awareness swept over me. I hit end call, instead. Even if we won a trip, we couldn’t go. There is no one who could watch Bo for an extended time.

The realization was a bitter pill. I felt stuck.

I ruminated on it every time the contest was announced. Discontent breeds discontent and soon I was wallowing in other frustrations.

I’ve long been a critic of how the majority of churches handle disability and special needs. Mostly my sense of justice wells up for other families as we’ve managed to figure it out in our own. How we’ve made it work lately is the “divide and conquer” method, meaning, I attend church (usually alone) on Saturday nights and then stay home with Bo while UpcycleDaddy takes the rest of the crew on Sunday mornings. I feel isolated with this system, but at least not spiritually shriveled like I did when I just stayed home all the time, so it works. Except when I am sick or injured and can’t watch Bo, like yesterday, and the entire family has to miss church, all because there is no place there for our son with special needs. Then I get angry and frustrated all over again.

Then there’s the driver and the aide on the special needs school bus who feel the need to tell me every single time they see me that my son’s behavior is less than stellar and sometimes he spits or throws his hat to the back of the bus, as if I have any control whatsoever over his behavior when he is not in my presence. “Frankly, ladies, I can’t keep him from spitting when he’s in my own car! I have no clue what you expect me to do about it,” I want to scream at them, but instead I smile sweetly and say, “Yep. He can be a stinker.”

Or what about the family vacation planned that is getting nearer? Unlike last year, I’m determined to limit panic attacks and to increase sleep. To that end, I’m shopping for a pup tent for Bo to sleep in to keep him contained as he wandered the house at all hours last year. He couldn’t figure out the lock to escape to the beach, but we didn’t know if the skill would suddenly emerge and whenever I did fall asleep, I had nightmares of him being claimed by the waves. We are also investing in stick-on door alarms. The entire family is looking forward to this trip with the lone exception of me, who can only conjure up fear of the dark hours, not knowing if my tricks to keep him safe will work.

So glimpsing the apparent carefree travel of my friends was my undoing. Watching them just fly away unfettered and pursue adventure, left me dealing with the sin of covetousness. I called it what it was there in the dark as I was trying to sleep. I knew perfectly well that I was breaking one of the Ten Commandments with my envy. But I didn’t know how not to covet in that moment. So I whispered:

God, this is not who I want to be. I want to be the encourager, the one who rejoices when her friends rejoice. Your Word says that you will make a way of escape when we are tempted. Forgive me for being covetous of their freedom and their opportunities. Show me a way out of this. Change my heart.

And then I slept.

Until about 2:30 a.m. when the incessant banging of the boy woke both of us up. Have I mentioned that Bo doesn’t sleep much? He slept the first two months of this year and then resumed old habits. We don’t know why he started sleeping and we don’t know why he stopped. It’s maddening. He thumps much of the night. We know him well and can interpret the thumping. There’s the soft, rhythmic thud, thud, thud that tells us he’s rocking his “Moochie cow” and banging his head on the padding we have covering the walls around his bed, and would be irritated if we interrupted. This wasn’t that. This was the loud, insistent kicking the wall between the padding letting us know that he needed something. This time it was a drink. After UpcycleDaddy got him a cup and went back to sleep, I listened to him settle into the other thump he does so well, the “I-don’t-need-anything-but-I’m-awake-and-you-should-be-too” banging. I let it go for about an hour. Finally, I brought him into bed with me. No reason everyone should be awake.

As soon as I climbed into bed after him, he snuggled in close, with his head on my chest and his leg around my middle. He started grinding his teeth, so I lightly stroked his face and he stopped. Soon his breathing deepened and he was sound asleep.

There, in the quiet of the night, listening to him breathe, I was overwhelmed with emotion – love, certainly, for this little one who accepts me so fully as his own; sadness, a little, that I wasn’t there to do this for him those early years, that no one was; but mostly gratitude, that this is the life I was given. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I prayed again, this time with thankfulness and joy. I get to mother this boy. I was sent to do this! What an adventure I am living just in that!

I’m so happy for my friends. Given the opportunity, I would totally jet off to a romantic island or a mission adventure. But that is not my life right now. And my life is good! I so needed the reminder.

And tears of gratitude, too, that even in my ugliness, in my jealousy and self-pity, there is sweetness and gentle redemption. God draws near, gives me eyes to see, and changes my heart. He shows me there is grace even for that.

Two Years My Son

Two years ago, we did what, at the time, seemed like the bravest, craziest, scariest thing. We left our seven children in the care of various people, flew across the world to a strange land, and claimed an unknown orphan as our own.


We look at that act now and think, “Duh. Of course we did. How else could we have gotten our Bo?”

Funny thing about the unknown. It always looks bigger than reality. It makes me wonder what things I have missed out on, dismissed out of hand because they looked too big, too scary. How many times have I let fear win and missed the “duh”? But, this time, I didn’t. I tear up just thinking about all the times I almost walked away.

It didn’t make any sense. We already had seven children, two of them still in diapers. We were packed into this tiny house like sardines as it was, with no financial plans or means to move anytime soon. I’m not terribly organized and it was a lot of paperwork to pull together and a lot of deadlines to meet. It was also a lot of money we didn’t have.

Through all of that, the one moment where I felt the most vulnerable to throwing in the towel was in Chicago O’Hare, ten minutes before boarding our flight to Frankfurt where we would board the plane to our final destination, Belgrade. After a terribly bumpy flight from Indy and a ridiculously long layover, I sat in the tiny waiting area listening to my fellow passengers speak languages foreign to me, and became suddenly aware of how foolish this all seemed. I felt very small and afraid. I checked Facebook one more time and saw my dear friend, Melody, had commented this:

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:2

It was a balm to my soul and just what I needed to get me on that plane. Oh, I’m so glad I did!

firstmeetWhile I loved him instantly upon meeting him, it was a protective, only-because-he’s-mine kind of love. I was worried about his health from his noisy wheezing, and I was so grieved for everything he’d already lost and was about to lose by becoming ours. While great gain, adoption is loss, first. We were delighted that we were able to be his Plan B, but I was heartbroken that he needed one.

bodadinsquareHe bonded to UpcycleDaddy very quickly. I think the tall, bald, gentle giant made him feel safe. I had less to offer given that I became ill with kidney stones and infection soon after we gained custody and hospitalized upon our return home. He didn’t sleep for the entire twenty-four hours of travel to Chicago, and finally slumped over on the small plane to Indy, completely missing the triumphant homecoming, two years ago today.

Sometimes, adoption is spoken of in fairy tale terms with rescues and heroes and happily ever afters.

I bought into that. The need of the orphan spoke to me. It speaks to me still, truth be told. I cannot abide by children without – without the love, support, care of a mother, without medical intervention, without anyone on their side. 

Reading blogs of other families who’ve walked a similar road set me up for some expectations. I saw how those former-orphans, now beloved sons and daughters seemed to thrive with the love of a family, making great strides. I saw the milestones and firsts celebrated in cyberland.

And I wanted that.

I wrote this last year to a fellow adoptive mom whose journey more closely mirrored my own:

Although I fell in love with our little guy instantly, I had high hopes that with the love of family and some therapy, he would make great gains. He has not. He still functions very much as a young toddler at four-years-old. I foolishly thought we could love him out of behaviors that are deeply ingrained and written somewhere in his brain. I follow the adoption journey of others and see the joyful pronouncements on Facebook of all the firsts and gains and, in trying moments, I have whispered in the dark, “We got a broken one.”

I did not have the grief or depression after Eon’s birth and Down syndrome diagnosis that you dealt with after [her daughter’s]. So imagine my surprise when all that hit after bringing home a child that I chose. This is not the child I imagined. He was what I expected initially, but I thought I could change him. Sigh. It always boils down to expectations, does it not?

I know from what you’ve shared that your adoption journey has been similar in some ways…moments of sweet breakthrough, followed by dark distance. No one has said the word, “autism” aloud, but I think it’s just a matter of time. Autism was the one thing I knew I couldn’t handle. Ha! I know you understand all this. I would go back tomorrow and bring him home again. But it has been far from the journey I anticipated it to be.

My expectations colored everything. They interfered with my ability to love the child I was given as I so desperately tried to push him to be the child I imagined.

It was, as is so much of my life, all about me.

I did so many things wrong over the last two years, I am amazed God ever allowed me to be his mother, in the first place. He deserved better. But slowly, He’s changed me. He’s helping me get over myself. Two years of very little sleep has taught me sacrifice. The first year, caring for a child that returned loving care with bruising pinches and pulled hair taught me the beauty of loving without expectation. Accepting the autism diagnosis that we finally did get, taught me how much prejudice I had toward disabilities that were outside my realm and that all lives have intrinsic value, no matter what labels are attached to them. Watching him struggle and then graciously accept unpleasant medical interventions, is teaching me acceptance of my own circumstances and to relinquish control to the One who knows better.

When people speak of adoption being redemption, I always thought they were referring to the child. But God’s cool like that. He knew which one of us really needed rescue.

bosnugglesHe helped me let go of the orphan child of my imagination and embrace Bo. I literally taught him to embrace me back and to snuggle and now it’s our favorite thing. He has truly become the child of my heart. And I love him with all of it, not the fantasy, not the ideal, not the expectation, but my Bo. (And I can say that with certainty as I had to interrupt the writing of this post to clean up a ginormous craptastrophe he painted while I thought he was napping, and still I wrote flowery words. Our life is so glam.)

There is no fairy tale or happily ever after in our story. There is only redemption (mine), beauty from ashes, and love.

And grace. It was grace that propelled me forward in the face of unbelievable fear and grace that changed my heart through my unimagined boy.

He’s my greatest “duh” and I can’t imagine life without him. He’s shown me that even when life goes against all expectations, there is grace for that. 


Asking Why

I wrote this post, When Knowledge Is Fear, a few days ago expressing my utter fear as Bo, our beloved Serb, was facing another surgery. This time, I was terrified. My primary fear, albeit unexpressed, was that something would go terribly awry and we would lose him. I’ve seen it happen too many times to too many other mothers. It’s one of the graces and the curses of social media. It’s a grace that we can support each other and have people in our circle that may actually live across the globe, but tragedy seems to knock more frequently when our world literally becomes the world, rather than just a corner of it.

When your prayer list includes grieving adoptive mothers of children who had Down syndrome, it’s hard not to imagine yourself in their number, in attempt to steel yourself for the possibility, as if such preparation were possible.

The surgery did turn out unexpectedly. But not in a negative way.

Pre-op, his surgeon, who we adore, came in listing again all the possible things he may need to do and reiterating several times, “Bo just has really, really serious ear disease.” He prepared for a four-hour surgery, but the nurse told us to expect up to five and a half. We knew we would be staying at least one night, but the surgeon reminded us he may need to stay two.

When he returned, just over an hour later, we were stunned to hear him report that everything “looked great.” All he needed to do was thoroughly clean the mastoid cavity. Bo needed no reconstruction and there was no tumor regrowth. In fact, he wouldn’t even need to stay the night. The surgeon, himself looked rather sheepish as he reported all this to us and told us the recent problems Bo had been experiencing must have just been “bad luck.”

Bo came out of anesthesia like a champ, just sweet and sleepy, and very worried about the soft support around his leg protecting the IV. He kept holding his leg up to me, wanting me to kiss it and remove the support. He drank his juice immediately and, within an hour, the nurse removed the IV and he was discharged without any additional medications or even ear drops.

serbianphoenixThe Ramonda Serbica, or Serbian Phoenix, strikes again. There is a flower in Serbia that can be completely dry and just a few drops of water will return it to life. This child has such strength and fortitude, he reminds me of that flower. As a matter of fact, a few months ago, I added the flower to my tattoo. It reminds me of my little Serb who, once an orphan, has survived so much. It also reminds me that, with God’s grace, redemption is always possible, even for me. 20150208_155036

We drove home just amazed. In all of our pre-surgery consultations, and even my neurotic follow-up conversations with the nurse practitioner, this outcome was never presented as an option. Ever. I found myself examining it from all sides, like a precious gem. I was so dumbfounded and grateful.

And, I found myself asking, “Why?”

Why do we get to keep him? Why do we get more time? Why do we get to escape the hard, this time?

We, as humans, want everything to make sense. I admit that I wanted to find some reason, some formula, for why this worked so well so I could employ it again. So I could pull it out of my back pocket for next time. I also wanted to feel like I did something to make it happen, like I have any measure of control in any of this. Of course, I don’t. None of us do.

Most people ask why when something awful happens, the worst. I don’t know what it is about me that makes me question the good, as well.

I realize that I’m so hesitant to even say thank you because I don’t want to sound presumptuous in the face of someone else’s pain. I hear people say the most inane things that make me cringe. The worst is when I hear myself say them. So I swing the other way and fail to give God the glory He is due for the good in my life.

I’ve watched these other mothers that I’m praying for who have lost children, and I see them, even in their blinding pain, praise God’s name. I’d like to think that I would join them. That, like Job, I would lift my voice and say, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

But if I fail to praise Him when He gives, how likely is it that I will bless Him should He take away?

So, I choose to praise Him that the Serb is fine. I delight that he seemed to be most offended by the band-aid he was given where the IV was removed, to the extent that he refused to bear any weight on that leg for a brief period, and it was hilarious. I am beyond grateful that the child who never sleeps has rested exceptionally well the two nights since his procedure. I am so thankful for all the people who took the time to read my last post and whisper a prayer, post a comment to Facebook, and/or send me a text.

God is good and faithful. And He is near. And He loves us so much, that even when we ridiculously insist on asking why about the good in our lives…there is grace for that.