Part of parenting any child is celebrating their firsts: first time taking steps, losing a tooth, riding a bike, and so on. With adopting two older children (one being very much older) our firsts look...different. So far, we've had their first trip on a plane, first snowfall, and first time seeing deer in the yard. We would like to share with you a huge first for our Claudia.
You see, tomorrow is Claudia's first day of school. And in a lot of ways it's her very first, first day of school. While she has been to school a bit in the past, it was never with anyone who tried to communicate with her. So it was a place to go but not a place to learn.
Claudia is attending the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf in Faribault. This is a school especially equipped to help her to learn and grow, and that lets her be a part of the Deaf community. This is the school that we took ASL classes as a family last year (and will continue to now that we've settled in a bit). She will be bussed there every day, which we know is a far way, but we are incredibly thankful for the opportunity. Claudia is more excited than ever. In fact, most of the times we've talked to her leading up to her start she has immediately hugged us. It didn't even really matter what we were saying about it; first we got a hug.
We've explained before that for most of her life she has been without a language. If you really stop and take the time to think that through, it is an incredibly humbling thing to do. As with many things in our lives, it is easy to take communication for granted. Just over a year ago, a small group of amazing women in Costa Rica went above and beyond to get her started on her language journey. She started learning LESCO, which is Costa Rican Sign Language. LESCO is different than ASL, but we've found there to be much more commonality than we were expecting. Now, of course, we use ASL with her, but we still all have a lot to learn.
Being without a language for 16 years is a lot more complex than simply not having words. The effect this has had on her is her Special Need. It's not nearly as much her deafness, but her lack of language for most of her life (and everything that comes along with that) that is her need. It is what we have taken on with her and for her. Most of the details around this we will keep private.
Above is a picture of Claudia at the Academy on Friday, which was a "shadow day" for her. She was able to meet her teachers and classmates, see everything around the school, and get a glimpse of what her days will look like. Tomorrow is her first official day. We invite you to cover her in prayer this week as she makes yet another huge adjustment in her life. She met more people in her first hour on Friday who could communicate with her than she's ever met in her life. This is a whole different world for her and while she is exceptionally excited, there is a lot of anxiety as well. Please join us in praying her through this week.
A frequent question that we are asked is "how is bonding going?" Honestly, it's a hard question to answer because there are so many dynamics to bonding as an adoptive family. Every family and every story is unique, and every bond made within the family is unique, too.
Bonding with Claudia and Jefferson are very different experiences. Things are happening at different paces and in different forms. They are two different people, so naturally, it's going to look very different. In a lot of ways it's very simple: it's just spending time together and meeting needs. And in a lot of ways it's very complicated: it's spending time together and meeting needs.
Thank you all for allowing us the time to be together and meet their needs. Not just Claudia and Jefferson, but all of the kids. This is a very precious time and we are choosing to try our best to be present in it.
So today, on November 4th, we bonded while carving pumpkins. Because it's still Halloween, if you round...
Last year, Brian wrote this post about birthdays. Last year, we had this weird experience of celebrating Jefferson’s birthday without him. We didn’t do presents or cake or anything like that but we chose to honor him in our own ways that day. It was a day filled with a lot of emotions: excitement for our boy (who didn’t even know about us yet), hopefulness that he was having a good day, sadness for our inability to celebrate with him, anticipation for the huge changes coming in our family, and complete wonder about how it was all going to come together. By the end of the day we kind of just wanted it over. It did, however, leave us with more drive and more fight to bring them home as soon as we could.
Last week, we were able to celebrate - all together - Jefferson turning 6. This year there were presents and cake and a very happy little boy to enjoy the day with!
The only expectation that Jefferson shared with us about his birthday was that there would be cake and candles. He actually didn’t seem to have any sense that there would be gifts (although he was more than happy to accept them once he learned that was part of the day!).
Funny story about the cake. The morning of his birthday he and I made the cake together. This was a very new experience for him and it was an absolute joy to do together. My favorite part was when I pulled the eggs out of the refrigerator, to which he gave me this dumbfounded look and said, “WHAT?!?!? There’s eggs in my cake?!?!”
Yes, my sweet boy, there are eggs in your cake. And you know what else? All of the work of this past year was absolutely worth it to celebrate with you on this day!
One line from last year's post said this: " [We] look forward to next year when, hopefully and God-willing, he will be blowing candles out at our kitchen table."
And here he is.
Apparently, eggs are good in cake.
It’s been a bit quiet from us here on the inter-webs.
We hope you understand. There has been a lot of important and time-consuming work here at home. It is good work, and work that is a privilege to do, but it is work.
The task list, however, is loud.
There are more appointments. More paperwork. More hoops to jump through. More correspondence with the government. Catching up on things around the house, at work, in life. Finding new rhythms with five (5!) children in the house, all who have needs and wants and desires. Navigating new family dynamics. Communicating in three languages.
Let’s be honest: the house is louder, too. There’s a lot of activity and not a lot of quiet spaces or moments.
But God is speaking loudly. He is using the time, and the tasks, and the new, to show us who we really are. Some things, He is affirming in us. Other things, He is politely confronting us on in the quiet of our hearts, inviting us to change, and using these circumstances to make us more like Him.
Sometimes we feel like we have gotten really, really far already. Sometimes, we’re reminded of how far we have to go. But we’ve only been back in the U.S. for about six weeks, and while some days are better than others, every day feels like slow, steady, quiet progress. And that’s really all that we can ask for. To be honest, we feel like it is going really well. That doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges. It just means our family is feeling more connected every day.
We are so thankful for all the continued support, prayer, and love we have felt since being home.
Life is good. In the quiet, and in the loud.
P.S. Here is a photo of Jefferson meeting snow for the first time. Claudia was less enthusiastic about the introduction...
By the end of this week we should all be home!!!
As much as visiting the rainforest was absolutely spectacular, home is sounding very good right now. Pray with us in this transitional time!
This picture is one that I will always treasure. It shows a glimpse of this special time in my relationship with my new son. We are getting to know one another and establishing our roles. It is an honor to do so.
But as with all of us, there is always more going on than just the look in the photograph. I would like to take this opportunity to give you a glimpse into this time in ours lives. We are doing well, I think, but doing well does not mean it’s easy. And it certainly does not mean that we are all smiles. But we work for those smiles and they are more and more natural each and every day.
On meeting day, Jefferson didn’t actually speak for the first twenty minutes or so. Understandably, he was shy and although he was interacting, we didn’t hear his voice right away. But, once he started speaking, he pretty much hasn’t stopped since. And more than any other word or phrase used, he has this amazing ability to enter the word “Papa” into everything!
Jefferson follows Brian around pretty much all day long. So if Brian is in the bathroom, Jefferson is waiting outside the door yelling (because why talk when you can yell?) “Papa! Papa! Papa!” no less than twenty times. We are on the fifth floor in our hotel and if Jefferson and Brian have left or are just downstairs, I often hear Jefferson when they start up the stairs. He even calls out to Brian in his sleep. Seriously. His desire to be in Brian’s presence is strong and powerful.
With that, he and I are bonding in our own ways. Every day he comes to me more for help with something or just to play. I’m not even sure how it all started but we are laundry buddies. It’s a very sweet time that is usually just he and I. We practice English as we walk down the stairs, through the lobby and down into the laundry room. You can often hear us saying “I love you” back and forth dozens of times because he loves it and so do I. We also practice his new name, counting, and other simple phrases. It’s really great.
Saturday evening at 8pm we received a note under our hotel door that there would be no water available in the hotel the following day from 8am-5pm. We weren’t expecting this, obviously, but knew we needed a plan right away. Our days are long, even the really good ones and we believed that a day without use of water would be even longer. And the whole neighborhood’s water was turned off so we couldn’t just walk next door to use the restroom for example. We had already said goodnight and this is when we usually go through the plans for the following day. So this was definitely going to throw us off.
We decided to go to Parque Diversiones which is the local amusement park. Lesley Simons, a former student (turned into great friend) is actually here at our same hotel for a week to give the bio kids a bit of a break. Her and I took the younger four to the kids area of the park and Brian and Claudia headed off to the big rides. Jefferson was hesitant to leave his Papa but we explained it was just for a while. We went on some rides and all of the kids did great! There were many funny moments, including Kennedy getting out of her bumper car just before the start because Silas was not buckled right. Yes, Silas went on the bumper cars. It was hilarious!
So things were going well...and then Jefferson happened to see Brian and Claudia walking in the distance in a totally different part of the park. I’m telling you, this boy loves his Papa! Needless to say he started yelling and then screaming his name. Which of course turned into a full-on fight against me. He instantly was over a fence and doing everything he could to get to Papa. Everything I did or said was responded to with “No!”. To be honest I am not even really sure how long it took or what I did that convinced him to come with me. This was not an isolated incident so they are kind of all running together.
However long later, we are back to the rides and Jefferson wanted to go on a spinning ride. No one else wanted to because, well, no one else likes spinning rides. I told him I would go with him even though I cannot stand spinning rides. Or really any rides for that matter. I used to love them but ever since having babies they make me sick. Even the easy ones.
So we get on the ride and it is quickly understood that Jefferson is the one doing the spinning, not me. Every time I try to help or talk to him about it, I get the standard “No!”. So I pulled my arms back and chose to just watch my boy in his glory. He loved it and he allowed me to do it with him. On his terms, perhaps, but we were together.
Lesley happened to get this great picture of us enjoying it together. Like I mentioned, I will always treasure this photo because it’s a glimpse of this time in our relationship. In our story. Part of our story is the backstory. Water service being turned off. Seeing Papa in the distance. Full on fit in the amusement park. Going on a spinning ride with my new son.
Please know there is not an ounce of complaint in this post. Or a bit of thinking we are doing it all right. We simply wanted to take an opportunity to share with you in a real way. Much of their stories we will keep private because it is theirs to tell but we felt as though this was okay to share.
We would like to introduce our Forever Family to you!
Today is a beautiful day! Today is our Gotcha Day! Celebrate with us!
(Can you tell that Silas does not like getting his picture taken?)
It’s been radio silence on our end for a while. We hope that you understand that our focus has needed to be on the many details of this process and on spending time with our changing family.
The obvious question is “how’s it going?” Well, that answer changes day by day and hour by hour of course, but overall, things are going really well. Have we had some significant challenges? Definitely! These are kids from a difficult past and the issues are complex and substantial. But our expectation is and was that these challenges would be there. We are choosing to count the wins instead of the challenges, and at this point, we feel we are making progress. We are learning to communicate better, we are building trust, and we are finding our rhythms.
Those who are at home helping out in a multitude of ways (with our house, at work, and more) have made it possible to simply focus on what we are doing here. Thank you to all of you – you know who you are!
Please pray for us as the next 24 hours are critical in the process. Pray especially for patience, understanding, and peace for all of us.
Brian and Ann
Over the past 13 months, our life has felt a bit like a really, really long hurdles race. You remember doing this as a kid, right? The hurdles event is unique compared to other races because it’s not just raw speed that counts, but also precision and timing that matter. As we have progressed through this process, there has been one hurdle after another: another piece of paper to sign, another training to complete, another class to attend, another book to read. Day after day has required another hurdle to jump over, hopefully with the right timing.
Well, we are happy to report that after a lot of running and a lot of hurdles, we have finally jumped over our last major one! As of this week, we have immigration paperwork in hand. We have plane tickets. We have accommodations in-country. And, thanks to a very successful Both Hands Project, to which many of you gave generously, and two generous organizations awarding us grants in the last couple of weeks, we now have enough money to travel. There are no more hurdles between us and meeting C and J!
A hurdles race is not won or lost on any single hurdle. Every single hurdle has to be jumped over in order to complete the race successfully. So while each one felt good, having gotten through all the legal, organizational, and “official” pieces is a huge relief.
Now of course - and to continue the metaphor - we are not done running yet. There are still challenges of in-country processes, legal proceedings, language barriers, and the dynamics of changing family relationships that lie ahead. To be honest, it feels a little like finishing a hurdles race and then getting on the starting line for a marathon. But in a process this long, we've got to celebrate these little victories with you.
Finally, we'd like to bring clarity to our financial status. As it currently stands, we have all the money we need to travel. Praise God! However, for those who are still interested in supporting us through donations, there are still several post-adoption processes and costs (including reports, other adoption legal documents, etc.) that are not yet covered through our fundraising efforts. Any money received up to $4000-$5000 from this point on will go directly to those costs.
Thank you for all your love and support!
WE LEAVE IN NINE DAYS!!!
-Brian and Ann
This process has had many milestones - some big and some small. But, we have reached the most tangible milestone to date in the process: we have a meeting date! We will meet the kids on July 30. Therefore, we plan to leave for Costa Rica on July 28.
We hope to get our plane tickets in the next couple of days.
Only 20 days until we leave!
-Brian and Ann
We are Brian, Ann, Kennedy, Rowyn, and Silas. (For now!) We're on a journey to adopt. You can follow along through this blog as we share our hearts and our tales of the process.