Archive for Adoption

10 Do’s and Don’ts for Welcoming an Adoptive Family Home

Welcome Home Sign

We have friends who will be traveling out of the country soon to meet and bring home the newest addition to their family. Thinking of what lies ahead of them prompted me to make a list of Do’s and Don’ts which might be helpful for those of us anticipating their return.



1. DO be sure to stock their refrigerator and pantry with necessities that they will need upon arriving home. This may be a task best saved for the closest relatives or friends, but it should not be neglected. No one wants to be burdened with an immediate trip to the grocery store when you’re physically and emotionally exhausted and trying to get acclimated to home life again.

2. DON’T overwhelm them at the airport. Other than immediate family, or their ride home, no one else needs to show up because, realistically, who is in the mood for partying when you are suffering from jet-lag, have a completely overwhelmed child and haven’t seen a bed in over 24 hours? Party another time when everyone can really enjoy it.

3. DO welcome them home with a simple sign. Both times that we returned home with our children, my heart was warmed to find a “Welcome Home” sign in our front yard. It was such a great feeling to finally pull up to our house and see it there, like a warm hug. It caught me off guard each time, but brought a big smile to my face and made me feel loved, remembered and encouraged.

4. DO work with family and friends to coordinate some meals for the returning family. A hot meal delivered to their door the first few days they are home will allow them to concentrate on other things–like sleeping, unpacking, laundry, catching up on mail and scheduling doctor appointments for the newest member of their family.

5. DON’T forget to send a congratulatory card. Parents who welcome a child into their family through adoption deserve to be congratulated just the same as those welcoming a biological newborn. If these cards are collected and stored in a scrapbook, they will be good reminders to the child in later years of how much his arrival was anticipated and celebrated.

Now here’s the hardest thing:

6.  DO leave them alone. I realize that every situation is different, but for many families, the best thing you can do, after assisting them in meeting their immediate physical needs, is to leave them alone for a while and let them bond as a family. They will step out, or invite you over, when they are ready to introduce their child to more people in their world. This may take days, weeks, or even a month or more. Every family is different. Give them the time they need, but don’t get offended, or pressure them to get out before they are ready.

7. DON’T try to hold or hug their child once the family does venture out. You’ll get your turn, but for now, the parents and siblings (and other close relatives of their choice) really need to be the only ones doing this. A lot of bonding needs to take place and keeping that between the immediate family members creates less confusion for the newest addition to the family. Save hugs, kisses and cuddles for later. The family has waited for this child for so long, now you need to respectfully wait too. The time for all of that will come before you know it.

8. DO offer to spend some special time with other kids in the family, if there are any. Offer to have them over or take them somewhere so they can receive some special attention, giving Mom and Dad some focused one-on-one time with the newest member of their family.

9. DO offer to throw them a shower or help them plan a welcoming party once things slow down a bit and a routine is established. Some families might feel more comfortable with this than others, so leave it up to them. Honestly, if this is not their first child, they might not need any more toys, clothes, or baby gear, but a gas card or gift card to their local grocery store would most likely be much appreciated considering they have probably been saving every last penny in an attempt to complete this adoption.*

And one last thing:

10.  DON’T remind a child that they are lucky, or should be grateful, that they have been adopted. Try to realize and remember that adoption is not possible without great loss, and the child will feel that loss no matter how wonderful his new family happens to be. Just let them be a regular kid and enjoy them for who they are.

And, aside from the first three, these suggestions are also helpful for families who didn’t travel to adopt their children. No matter the situation, adoptive families need time, support and understanding as they adjust to their new normal.

Do you have any other suggestions that you think should be added to this list? Please let me know in the comments.

Welcome Home Kids

*Adoptions can be very expensive. Not because we “pay for our children” but because it takes social workers, adoption agencies, attorneys, doctors and others to complete the necessary paperwork, and they all need to be paid. Plus there are many governmental forms that need to be processed, and you can imagine what the fees are for that. Add traveling across the world…well, I think you get the picture.

So Thankful

I don’t know about you, but I often imagine parts of my life set to music. Is that weird? For my wedding, I used nontraditional music to set the ambiance and did my best to have the wedding party enter onto the scene at the appropriate time to coincide with the crescendos of the music. I thought it was moving.

In my head I have envisioned various other pieces of my life set to music. For years I have wanted to actually make some of this happen, but didn’t know where to start. This past week I spent some time creating a simple little picture montage–capturing some monumental moments in my life as a parent, set to music. It epitomizes a couple of things I am incredibly thankful for, so I figured it was the perfect time of year to share it.

May we remember to be thankful every day, not just today.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Remembering Birthmothers

After my last post on National Adoption Day, I thought of a couple of things that I wish I would have mentioned.

I saw that a friend, who is a foster parent, had Liked my post on Facebook and immediately realized I needed to change my summary paragraph. I had neglected to add “foster parents” to my list of people who could use some encouragement–so I went back and added that immediately.

Later that day, as I was driving to an appointment, I turned on the radio to hear a woman speaking of the son whom she chose to place for adoption, and I immediately realized my next oversight.

The words “birth mother” or “birth parent(s)” can be hard words to utter in the beginning stages of adoptive parenting–especially amongst parents who have adopted internationally, I believe. But once we got over that hurdle and just started saying the words and using them with our children, it became easier and more commonplace. I feel that it’s a very important thing to do, right from the beginning, so our children can begin to process who they are. It also encourages trust and open communication, so our kids know that there is no subject that they need to fear broaching with us.

Although many of us may never know what circumstances led to our kids being left without parents or placed for adoption, we can all agree that, regardless of what other choices they made in their lives, birth mothers chose to give birth to their/our babies, rather than ending their lives in utero, and for that choice, we will always be grateful beyond words.

First moments with my new daughter.

First moments with my new daughter.

So with that in mind, may we also remember birth mothers during this National Adoption Month, and be supportive of the many young women who are making the choice to carry and birth their babies, and place them in the waiting arms of others, when they could have been swayed to do otherwise. That is an incredibly brave and selfless choice–worthy of much respect and gratitude.

 

National Adoption Awareness Month

Our boy on his re-adoption day in Chicago.

Our boy on his re-adoption day in Chicago.

Did you know that November is National Adoption Month or National Adoption Awareness Month?

National Adoption Day is traditionally observed on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, with thousands of domestic adoptions being finalized simultaneously in courtrooms across the country.

I sincerely appreciate the efforts that are made on a national level to help promote awareness of adoption. It does seem, however, that those of us directly connected to adoption can often be the most effective tools in promoting positive perceptions of adoption and debunking myths and stereotypes that often go hand-in-hand with adoption ”stories.”

As an adoption advocate, I celebrate adoption as a positive way to build families and I strive to draw attention to the many thousands of children, nationally and world-wide, who are in need of permanent families. It can be heartbreaking and overwhelming to consider, but lives are changed one at a time and we can all make a difference, in one way or another.

The first glimpse of our daughter.

Here’s the first picture we saw of our little girl—which came to us in an email on November 22, 2010—three years to the date of my typing this. Sure am glad we opened that email!

As an adoptive parent, I have been blessed with two incredible children, and friends and relatives who have wholeheartedly embraced my family and encouraged us every step of the way. I am so incredibly thankful for that!

On the other hand, I have also been asked quite a few insensitive questions and have had to endure inappropriate comments and discouraging stories. I’m sure I haven’t experienced the last of this, but I am learning to extend more grace—realizing that most people don’t mean any harm, they’re just curious or revealing what little they know about the adoption process. I have personally regretted how I’ve worded things at times, so I know how easy it is to stumble over your words when speaking of adoption. I need to remember that others are going to do the same and I don’t have to catch them on every single slip-up. But, if it’s a matter of someone repeatedly stating something offensive or hurtful, or if I feel I can use the opportunity to educate them on more appropriate terms, or a better way of seeing a situation from a different perspective, I will often do so, with all due respect.

My biggest tip that I would like to share here: I would encourage people to stop and think before they ask an adoption-related question or share their opinion on adoption if my kids are within ear shot. If someone makes a remark that is going to make my kids feel devalued or like oddities, I will strongly attempt to redirect or leave the conversation.

So now I will ask, have you considered adopting, or are you wondering how you can positively change the life of an orphaned child or a child in the foster system? Or how about encouraging an adoptive or foster family, or a family in the process of adoption? Feel free to ask me any {appropriate} questions you might have.  I would be thrilled to share with you what I have learned.

Duck Dynasty and Adoption

I just came across this video and thought I’d share it here. Always happy to see someone speak highly of adoption and lead by example. I appreciate these guys even more now and agree with the other comments he made as well. Duck Dynasty and adoption, a couple of my favorite things.

Twice Adopted

Today my heart is filled with joy!

Last night Ken and I had the wonderful privilege of leading our children in prayer to accept Jesus into their hearts. As Christian parents, there is no greater joy. Of course, we don’t know what the future holds. We don’t know if our kids will wander away from their faith or always cling to it tightly, but we can pray that now that they have taken this step, they will grow in their understanding of the gospel of Christ and grow stronger and more knowledgeable in their faith. Having a strong foundation will be just what they need when faced with big decisions, as well as all of the smaller choices along their journey of life. I look forward to teaching them and growing along with them. No question will be off the table. The more you question your faith and find it true, the stronger it becomes. Ken and I won’t always have the answer, but God does and we can ask in earnest for His discernment as we strive to raise our kids in this world where I think it will be more challenging to be a Christian than when I was growing up.

Yesterday morning, I had no idea that by bedtime our kids would have both agreed that they wanted to make this commitment to Christ. We went to church and they were taught about Zacchaeus in Sunday School. Then during the afternoon we popped in the dvd  “Buck Denver asks…What’s in the Bible?” I cannot recommend these movies enough. They are by Phil Vischer, the creator of Veggie Tales, and they take on powerful Biblical truths and explain them. They are humorous but full of skits that help kids AND adults understand the Bible. I think I learn something every time I watch one.

That, along with other circumstances of the day, led the kids to ask questions about God and heaven and one thing lead to another. We had talked about a lot of these things before, but yesterday both kids seemed eager to learn more. Our pastor had read from Psalm 139 during his message and I felt led to read that to the kids, as a confidence booster and encourager, especially with them being adopted. I want them to know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God knew them before they were born and had a special plan for their lives. They were not an accident. God thinks about them and doesn’t leave them, even during the night as they sleep or during tough times. They were loved before they were even created, as were we all!

I remembered an article in the Clubhouse Jr. magazine that we just received that talked about finding the Treasure of Jesus. Ken read the article to them and asked if they wanted to pray to ask Jesus to be their Savior. They both said yes, and to make it more memorable and to show our humble respect, we all knelt at the couch and prayed. Of course, our son first did a summersault and then tried to stand on his head {because he’s a 7-year-old boy} but he eventually got to a kneeling position and prayed. We told them how proud we were of them and that this was only the beginning. The magazine article had a certificate that they could fill in with their name and the date so I made a copy of that and they excitedly filled it in.

We let them know that now that they had started a personal relationship with Jesus, they could take communion at church. This raised a lot of other questions and we read about the about Lord’s Supper before bedtime.  I’m really anticipating the Easter season now that they will hopefully have more insight into the significance of it all.

Today I picked up a couple of inexpensive picture frames for them to decorate, which will hold their certificates, as a reminder of their decision. Our church has communion on the first Sunday of the month—which will be this coming Sunday–and we will continue to prepare them for participation in that. I think we’ll head out for a special lunch afterwards.

Meanwhile, a lot of life will go on as usual, with the usual disagreements and complaining, but I hope that we will now be able to speak to them on a little different level. They have been twice adopted–not only into our family, but now also into the family of God, and the Holy Spirit dwells within them, encouraging, comforting and guiding them to make wise choices. They now have an inward “holy compass” that will direct them on the paths of righteousness, should they choose to listen to it. How I will pray to the end of my days that they will.

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!    1 John 3:1

But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.    Galatians 4:4-6

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”    Romans 8:14-16

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Presidential Discussions

Last night the subject of US Presidents came up around the dinner table. The kids had been talking about them at school since it was just recently Presidents’ Day. They said that they were able to vote for classmates for President and divulged to us for whom they had voted. We laughed and talked about how their friends would make good presidents.

Then came the serious look from Ken and we both knew what the other was thinking. I didn’t know if we should broach the subject now or wait, but Ken took the initiative and explained to the kids how they would never actually be able to be President of the United States. It was one of those unique situations that international adoption poses and a reminder that, as I mentioned in one of my first posts, our family is different.  As our kids grow up, we know they will be exposed to situations that may confuse them and undermine their significance. We don’t want to discourage them with hard truths, but we also want to be the ones to introduce them to these things so that we can discuss them and make sure they are getting a correct and healthy perspective.

Ken stated basically, that because they were not born in the United States, they were not eligible to be President. Then, to our surprise and amusement, our son announced, “Well Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States and he’s President.” We chuckled at the irony of what he said and asked why he said it. He said it was because President Obama was African American. That allowed us to explain what that meant and to inform him that the President was born in Hawaii, which is part of the United States of America.

Then I noticed tears in my son’s eyes and my daughter’s head was down and she had a big frown on her face.  Our boy quickly recovered and the conversation continued as we talked about how there had been no women Presidents yet, but that there might be someday. We talked about how they could be Senators or do a number of other great things. But our poor little girl was heartbroken. She just sat with a frown and a blank stare.  My heart ached for her, but at the same time, I was so encouraged that she {and her brother} are so confident that they don’t see the Presidency as being out of their reach.

Seeing how distraught she was, we continued to name great people whom they could inspire to emulate, and her spirits lifted. I can only pray that their confidence continues to grow and that we can guide them appropriately so they can indeed go on to achieve great things in this world and for eternity.

Ohio Road Trip-Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad

The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad engine.

The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad engine.

This past weekend our family of four traveled to the Cleveland area to visit some dear friends. This was the longest driving trip that the four of us have made together—and it was successful! So that’s encouraging news. We hope to travel the country more as the kids get older, but they have not been the best of travelers up to this point. They were entertained with movies on our portable dvd player on this trip, along with occasional playing on the iPod and our new iPad. I also bought them each a little tablet of construction and drawing paper for Valentine’s Day which kept them occupied from time to time. No naps were taken—to my surprise—although I think Ken was ready to doze off a few times {and yes, he WAS the driver, so I made sure that didn’t happen}. Of course the great thing about the kids not napping  was that they were both out like lights once they were in bed. And that’s nothing to complain about!

This was our fourth visit to our friends’ home, according to our best calculations. Ken and I are always so impressed with the great things they plan for us to do.  Maybe it’s just because it is a new area that we are unfamiliar with, but it seems that there are many free or low-cost activities to partake in. We have been to a kiddie amusement park and walked on beautiful forest paths, spent a day at the beach and the zoo and visited a very kid-friendly nature center, to name a few.

Our kids are so easily entertained just playing with toys inside, or outside in the back yard, so we don’t over-plan our visit. This time, we went cosmic bowling Saturday afternoon, followed by dinner at Chick-Fil-A, where the kids had a blast in the play area while we adults chatted. On Sunday we headed to the Rockside Station where we boarded the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad passenger train for a lovely 45 minute ride into Peninsula. We practically had the train car to ourselves each way. The kids enjoyed hot chocolate and popcorn while watching the snow-covered landscape go by. The snow had just fallen on Saturday, so everything looked fresh and clean against the bright blue sky—it could not have been more beautiful. The Conductor even said that he thought it was the most peaceful day of the season so far. We saw several groups of deer, along with an eagle on her nest while another was perched in a nearby tree. Awesome!

We had a couple of hours in Peninsula to eat lunch and stroll around. My kids had $10 of their own money that was burning a hole in their pockets, so they each bought a stuffed animal—one raccoon and one skunk. They played hide and seek with them and each other on the train ride back and really got to move around and enjoy the trip in a way that would never have been possible if it had been during the busy summertime. The day was nearly perfect.

The crew was so friendly and full of interesting information. They even let the kids punch their own tickets.

The crew was so friendly and full of interesting information. They even let the kids punch their own tickets.

 

 

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The four of us adults originally met each other in the Marriott Tverskaya hotel in Moscow in December of 2005 and had no idea that our lives would become so intertwined and what a bond would form between us. In short, both of us couples were in Russia for adoption purposes. Our first attempts in the city of Ulyanovsk ended in heartache and we each lost the children that we hoped to adopt. After much striving and paperwork, we were all able to return to Russia twice in 2007. We stayed for an entire month on the second trip and finally completed our adoptions in Astrakhan, Russia. Their daughter and our son are two months apart and have been the best of friends. We introduced our daughter into the mix in 2011 and fortunately, the three of them play and get along with each other great. We all wish we lived closer to each other, but that will probably never happen. Our son announced last night, as we were pulling into our driveway, home from the trip, that if we ever tell him we’re going to be driving to visit them again, he will be very excited. So again, this road trip was a huge success. Now, maybe we can someday make it all the way to New York to visit my sister and her family! That might be our next driving goal!

A Valentine’s Day Thankful Thursday

It’s Thursday, and I’m thankful.

I’m thankful that both of my kids went to school today. They have each missed 2 days due to illness in the last week.

I’m thankful that I will be joining them in a bit to assist in their Valentine’s Day Party.

I’m thankful that we finished all of their classmates’ Valentines early and with much less complaining than last year—whew!

I’m thankful that my daughter has so many beautiful hand-me-down clothes to wear. She’s worn a different Valentine’s themed shirt to school every day this week! How fun is that?!

I am thankful for great friends, some of whom we will be seeing this weekend, who have walked through some of our lowest lows with us.

I am thankful that our time together this weekend will, Lord willing, be full of joy and not sorrow.

I am thankful for the luxury of being able to relax and enjoy laughter with friends.

I’m thankful that it’s not February 14th of last year, because frankly, that wasn’t a very good day. I was fasting for an upcoming surgical procedure so I was unable to enjoy a Valentine’s Day meal . As my family gathered around the table for dinner, I went into the parlor to make a fire and enjoy it by myself where I wouldn’t be so easily tempted by food. In my fire-lighting inexperience and hunger-clouded mind, I neglected to open the flue on our gas fireplace and as I introduced a spark to the now-gas-filled-air, my head and upper body were immediately engulfed in flame. Suffice it to say that…

I am thankful for eyebrows and eyelashes that grow back.

I am thankful for skin that recovers and wounds that heal, both physically and emotionally.

I am thankful for my husband’s presence on that evening and his quick thinking to get my melting fleece jacket off of me.

I am thankful for my hairdresser who was able to work me in the next morning to cut off a good portion of my singed and stinking hair.

And I am ever so grateful that my injuries were not much worse.

In retrospect, I can say that I am actually thankful for such experiences that remind me that life can change in a heartbeat, and the last words I’ve spoken to the people around me could indeed be my last words.

I am so thankful for my husband and the wonderful companion he is on this journey of life.

I am also reminded of this day in 2007, when Ken and I found ourselves on our knees with our faces buried in a dusty old couch in a Russian hotel room, praying for God’s wisdom and grace as we sought His will and intervention in our lives. We would be asking the Russian officials for another chance at meeting an orphaned child whom we might be able to adopt. Time was running out and we would be leaving the city the following day, yet we prayed that we would be leaving with the hope of returning for a child to whom we were yet to be introduced. It’s a long story, but God showed us His favor and on February 15th, 2007, we met the little boy who is now our precious son. And life has never been the same.

And for that, I am thankful.

The day we met.

February 15, 2007–The day we met our son.

We’re the Grohs, and we do things differently.

We’re all different. No doubt about that. Sometimes we want people to sit up and notice our differences, how special we are, and other times we want to blend in with everyone else and just be “normal.”

My husband is about 6’ 4”. That’s different, and sometimes he stands out in a crowd.

I’m {a little bit} older than him. That’s different and sometimes I catch myself wondering if people notice. If they do, at this point in my life, I don’t think I care THAT much, but on occasion, it bothers me.

I have strawberry-blond hair. That has always been different, and as a child I couldn’t stand being called a redhead. It wasn’t until I was nearing 30 that I began to love and appreciate the color of my hair. I think it was because my hairdresser repeatedly told me that I’d be rich if I could bottle my color and sell it to everyone who paid big money to turn their hair the color that mine was naturally. Now that I finally embrace my strawberry-blondness, it’s becoming, ah-hem, “highlighted” shall we say, with a lot of white hair and I’m clinging to my natural color more than ever before, not ready to let go of it. How come I didn’t learn to love it sooner?

Both of our kids are adopted. My son was born in Russia and my daughter was born in China. That’s different. I volunteer in their first grade classroom and children have approached me to ask if my kids are adopted. I say yes, and when they inquire further I suggest they ask my kids about it so they can divulge whatever details they feel comfortable sharing. Sometimes these questions embarrass my son.  My husband and I LOVE the way that we built our family, but it’s different. And sometimes that hurts, especially when we already see our kids being pointed out by their peers as being different in their most vulnerable of areas—their identity, the very core of who they are and where they come from.

But different can be good.  We have a saying that we are using more and more with our kids. It was a take-away from my cousin Dennis’ memorial service. If his kids wanted to do something that others were doing, but would not represent God well, Dennis would say, “we’re the Pratts, and we do things differently” and that was the final answer. I loved that, as did Ken, and we began implementing it with our kids almost immediately–both as a way to honor the memory of my cousin who left this world much sooner than we ever thought he would, and as a family statement that the kids can cling to and repeat to their friends as an explanation of why they’re not going along with the crowd. We would love for it to be a tool that our kids can use as a way out when needed, and we pray that they can feel confident in knowing that it’s ok to be different, because sometimes that is what we are called to be. Plain and simple.

Sometimes being different isn’t an option. It just is. And sometimes being different is a choice that we need to make. Lord, grant us the courage to be different.