About Me

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We have lived in Romania for 16 years now. We have 6 kids. The top photo of our family is the day we met the twins, just before their 4th birthday. We were granted custody of them on their 5th birthday.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Hard Things

Gina and I arrived in Greenville, S.C. on January 28, 2016. In February, I joined a gym and started working out, hard workouts, killer workouts, workouts that make you think before you shove another cookie in your mouth! At first, I thought, this is ridiculous, why am I doing this to myself. Then I realized it was a great stress relief. It was one hour each day my mind wasn't trying to find a solution or thinking about being away from my husband and boys or the stress of having a child with mental illness! Then, I started running. Now, let me tell you something, I have never been a runner. I could never even get the President's fitness award in high school because I could not run a mile in under 9 minutes! I ran a 5k in September of 2016 and  another one in December then I signed up for a half marathon! Yes, crazy is a good word to insert here. Running for me became about doing something that was very hard for me. It was a huge mental hurdle to get over, physical too yes, but mostly mental. I begin to run because God wants us to do hard things and if I could do this thing that seemed impossible to me then I could do other hard things. I wanted to show my kids that their mom could do something that seemed way beyond her ability. I wanted them to see that I understood they were in a hard situation and I was asking them to do something really hard, face their demons so to speak. Running became my way of supporting my kids and showing them I was behind them. It was my way of showing them we can do hard things, we can have courage, we can do all things through Christ. There were long runs during training that I thought I would never be able to complete 13.1 miles in May! I thought what am I doing! Once I got past running 7 miles the soreness would set in. I would run Saturday morning and then limp around the rest of the day all stiff and feeling old! I was determined though and my running buddy was fun to run with. Stephanie and I would run our Saturday long runs on the Swamp Rabbit Trail. I feel that God gives our bodies the ability to do amazing things if we can just get our minds on board! My exercise program has helped and is helping me to become more disciplined in other areas of my life to. Running has made the verse in Hebrews 12:1 come alive to me, let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. I've learned a lot about the endurance my body is capable of from running. Who knows, maybe someday I'll be crazy enough to train for a full marathon!!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Adoption Pt.3

In the previous post, I wrote about our daughter Gina. For the past two years she really has been the focus of my attention. Joey just kind of ran with the boys and a lot of his problems were over looked because of the severe nature of Gina's issues. When Joey was little, he was quiet and mischievous. You didn't want him to get bored or he would be destroying something, books, furniture, blankets, toys, anything he could get his hands on. We learned very quickly that all scissors and razors should be hidden! Joey is a charmer. He has a beautiful charming side that he puts on for others but as he hit puberty that charming side was only available for others, not for his family. One of his brothers started to notice this and asked me why Joey was so nice to him when they were at a friend's house but when they came home he was mean and grumpy.

We had him psychologically evaluated and we were told:" Psychologically, Joey is a very empty, depressed, lost and confused youth.  There is no question that he has had no formal attachment during his early formative years due to multiple developmental failures.  He is often fear based, bored, lost and confused as the world around him is too overwhelming and he tends to 'shut down' or comes out in an acting out manner.  This is very common in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and children who come from developmental failure backgrounds in which agitation, irritability or times that total 'shut down' tends to take over."
 It was very overwhelming to realize both of our children had severe issues due to their abandonment and lack of consistent care givers in their first 5 years of life. We began to realize how important bonding at an early age was. At first, I thought I would home-school him even while in the states. The psychologist gave us some curriculum ideas that he thought would be a help to Joey. Within the first 3 days of 5th grade, I told my husband to take Joey to the school that was 5 minutes away and enroll him, I couldn't do it. Homeschooling children with attachment issues is not the way to go. There is too much of a struggle between the child and adoptive mom. Joey wasn't willing to learn from me, he didn't think I had anything to offer him.

We put him in school  and his teachers loved him. He was a leader in the class and a good example for all the students who were on the wild side. He was socially awkward and didn't know how to behave in a classroom but he picked up on how to behave quickly. He was chosen by his teacher to be on student council, he was in art club, he was the best runner in the school. At home, he became more and more troubled. He wanted to be entertained at all times and if he got bored he would get into trouble. He is a great artist, natural God given ability to draw but he was easily bored with drawing. He didn't like to read, he didn't like to play computer games. He always wanted us to take him somewhere, he was happy as long as he was the center of attention and as long as he was doing something fun. We tried to start teaching him and training him that life isn't always fun, it's ok to be bored, you still need to make good choices even when you are bored. He began to argue with everything we asked of him. He didn't want help with his homework, he didn't have a teachable spirit, he already knew everything and whatever mom and dad have to stay is just plain stupid! We sought counseling for him. We also signed him up for a type of brain therapy as this was recommended to us by someone to help him with school. The purpose of the therapy was to start teaching him to think before he responds/acts. It was called NILD and Feuerstein therapy. Another problem with both our kids was, no matter the consequence no matter the reward if they got an idea in their head that they thought they needed to do, they were going to do it. Nothing could motivate them towards obedience. They were very obsessive compulsive, they had to do what was in their head to do even if there was a heavy consequence or great reward, no amount of reward charts worked. I think through all of this, he started to feel like an outsider. Our youngest son was more mature and more trust worthy than he was. He started to look at the family as us vs. him. He couldn't see we were trying to teach and train him and if he would just do what he was told he would earn the same privileges his younger brother had. He did not think he should have to do anything to earn privileges. He was a pathological liar. I am not sure he had the know how or ability to tell the truth. Lying was so natural to him. No matter how small or big his first response to any situation was to lie. "No, I didn't shave my eyebrows." As I'm staring at bald spots in his eyebrows. He would argue with me like I was crazy for thinking he shaved his eyebrows. I would finally take him to the mirror and say, "Joey, I can see that you shaved them, please stop lying." Then the story would finally come out, he thought they were too bushy and so even though we told him not to touch razors, if one was left out, he was going to take care of his eyebrows. I am currently reading a book called, "Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control." It is giving me great insight into the reason behind the lying. I want to quote a bit from the book: "Research in the field of neuro-science has shown that children who have experienced trauma react to stress out of a state of fear, from an unconscious level, as deep as the state memory. The fear receptor in the brain becomes overly triggered and, in this stress state, the traumatized child's perception of the situation at hand becomes distorted and exceptionally fearful. Children with trauma histories are living out of a primal state of survival. They literally lie from a place of life or death. Their survival is dependent on convincing you that they are telling the truth. In this distortion of their mind, the state level of memory drives them with the conviction that they must persist with this lie at all costs in order to survive. Simple events throughout the child's day can cause intense fear reactions...In order to understand this lying behavior, we must first acknowledge that the child is simply reacting from a state of fear. It is critical that we acknowledge that when children with trauma histories are triggered into their stress and confronted in a lie, they will continue to reinforce the lie. Thus, the awareness that the child's unconscious is saying, 'I have to convince you I'm telling the truth because my life depends on it' is necessary in order for the parent to respond from a place of love, instead of a place of fear and punishment."
This has really helped me understand where they are coming from when they lie. Unfortunately, I didn't respond in this way to the lying. It will drive you insane if you don't have an understanding of the why behind these ridiculous lies. They can have chocolate all over their face or you saw them to something with your own eyes and they will look at you and deny it over and over!

In January of this year, we started wondering what we could do to best help Joey. He did not want to go back to Romania. He did not want to home-school again. I did not want to home-school him. We started looking for other options. A family he could stay with  and continue with school and brain therapy. We looked and prayed and nothing opened up. We talked with the case worker at Watersprings just to see if she had any ideas and she told us if we wanted, they would take Joey too. By this time, Gina was making great progress and it seemed like since many of Joey's struggles were the same as hers, maybe this was the road we should choose. We prayed, we talked to his counselor and then in March we made the decision that at the end of the school year we would take him to live at the ranch for right now. The goals for him there are to find healing and the ability to move forward by him realizing his identity is found in Christ, not in his past, not in what happened to him, not even in his adoptive family. The other goal is for him to get up to grade level. He has struggled with school and it took a few years for them to get the English language down which put them behind. I was never able to gain their trust enough to help them catch up, we would barely get through that day;s assignments! We took him to Watersprings Ranch on Memorial Day weekend. He wasn't happy about going although he wanted to stay in the states, he just had a different idea of what that would look like. We also were glad the twins would get the chance to bond again. He gave us a very flat good-bye and as we (Baron, Andrew, Nate, and myself) pulled away we were all crying. You feel so bad that your adoptive child feels so bad. It feels bad that they feel bad and yet have no idea why they feel so bad. It hurts to know your child needs someone other than you to provide the help they need. It is natural to leave your child behind for college (even though it is hard), but they are ready to start moving on. Leaving your 13 year olds behind doesn't feel natural, it doesn't feel right but I know it was the right thing to do. I know that God is using others to work in their lives. Watersprings Ranch is located in Texarkansa, Arkansas. If you every feel led to donate to an organization that helps kids from difficult backgrounds, kids with attachment issues, kids who need someone other than adoptive parents to step in and guide them, then please donate to this organization. I have spoken with Joey once so far and he sounded really good on the phone. I'm looking forward to seeing what God is going to do in and through Joey.

For those who are walking this road, know that you are not alone. You need to know that even though you feel guilty for needing respite from your child, you do need respite at times. You also need to know that sending your child away to get help is not abandoning them again. It can feel like it but it is just doing what is best for them and your other children. I have been able to spend time with my other kids and see that some of them  have suffered due to my lack of being there for them the past few years. It's hard to make a decision like this but you have to look at the big picture and realize for your child or your other children to have a future sometimes drastic steps have to be taken. You can not worry about what people think, if someone has not walked this road they have no right to tell you that you are making a mistake and how could anyone send their child away, or I could never do that!! You have to make hard and difficult decisions and take everyone in your family into consideration when making this decision. We knew God wasn't finished with us in Romania, we knew that we didn't have the resources needed here to meet Gina and Joey's needs and we knew God had opened this door for them. If you need help please reach out. I don't have all the answers but I can listen and encourage you and let you know you aren't alone and remind you of God's promises to you. I can also provide you with a list of places/services that may be helpful to you.

These kids are not just "rebellious." Their behaviors are rooted in fear and a need to survive. It seems absurd to us that a child wouldn't feel safe and secure and loved with a family he has never been abused in and has had his or her every need met for the past 7 years but the first years of their life are so important. They did not form a bond with anyone in those first 5 years, they did not have a primary care giver to make them feel safe and this has affected their ability to attach to us and feel safe with us. At some point, yes, the sin has to be dealt with but until you can get to the root of the problem there is no way for the child to even see his sin because he is so sure he has to lie or disobey to survive that in he mind, he is justified to behave this way.  We learned this the hard way. Parenting these kids looks very different from parenting a child you had from birth. I encourage people who feel called to adopt to read. Here are some books I've read that I recommend:
1. "Detached" by Jessie Hogsett. Written from the perspective of a person with RAD.
2. "Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control" Very good information on what is going to cause some of the behaviors.
3. "The Connected Child" by Karyn Purvis.
I also recommend you find in your area a counselor that has specialized training with attachment disorder. Find a support group. Find people to support you after you bring the child/children home.

I will continue with a few more blog posts on what God has taught me through all of this and how He has sustained me even when there were times I felt like I was just falling and there was no end. God is good. He does provide at just the right time and I continue to learn to trust Him at all times. I still struggle with the fact that we had to make this decision. It is a daily battle to not give into self pity or wonder if we did the right thing. God's grace is sufficient for each day. Each day, He gives me the grace I need to get through that day. I look forward with hope, that our family will be reunited and that God will encourage and strengthen all my children as this has been a difficult road to walk for each of them.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Adoption Pt. 2

The story gets harder to write here. The pain is fresh although I don't know that it ever gets any easier to write about a painful event in your life. As the twins got older, their problems seemed to grow, especially Gina's. Looking back though, I don't think that Gina's problems were worse than Joey's, hers were just more aggressive and he got overlooked because of that, which didn't help him. It seems when they turned 11 and puberty hit, that Gina really started to lose it. The fall of 2015 we seemed to hit an all time low in being able to control her any longer. Our days were spent either trying to keep her busy and happy to avoid a fit of rage or trying to help her work through a fit of rage. All my time was poured into her and I struggled with keeping up with homeschooling the other children. Her fits of rage became not just about not getting her way, her fits of anger and rage become more directed towards us her parents. She would yell hateful words, she would scream, hit, and  growl. If she lost control and went into a rage, it was hours before she would calm down. It disrupted the whole family. I would look around and realize all the boys were gone, hiding somewhere, trying to find a quiet place. Normally they all 5 went upstairs to the oldest boys' room. Her fits were so bad that I did everything in my power to keep her from going into one, sometimes simply not doing school and entertaining her all day. We searched for counselors, we searched for psychologist. She didn't understand enough Romanian anymore to work with a Romanian psychologist. We were introduced to an American couple who are biblical counselors. They were very supportive of especially Baron and myself but it just seemed Gina was beyond anyone's reach. She had gotten to a point where the voices in her head were so loud that she couldn't calm herself enough to take counsel from anyone. She was saying crazy things, she was talking about people being hurt, she was talking about wishing we would be hurt. She wished the house would burn down with us in it. She cried out in her pain that she wished she was dead, she wished God had never created her. She actually said to us, "why did your God make me." I can't tell you how painful it is to watch your child be in this much pain and feel hopeless to do anything about it. Our counselor friends in Timisoara, Mark and Diane even made an emergency trip to our house on probably more than one occasion. Sometimes it seemed to help when someone else would come around to calm her down. Finally, on January 27, 2016 she was being so destructive, throwing things in her room, yelling and screaming, that for her safety we cleared everything out of her room except her bed. That's when Baron made the decision to buy Gina and I a ticket to the states for the very next day. We knew we couldn't live like this anymore. Baron couldn't minister to anyone else, he didn't have time to do anything because I was always calling him home to help me. We wondered how exactly she would respond and how I would get her on the plane but surprisingly, she seemed excited and immediately calmed down and started packing her bags. There was no amount of reward or consequences that helped, once the torch of anger was lit, nothing we said or did would calm her down. She was just so troubled and angry and she didn't know why and she was frustrated. It was time to seek help in America.

The three months we were in the states without Baron and the boys were extremely hard. I felt resentment in my heart towards Gina for taking me away from my husband and rest of my kids. She would have a really bad day, saying mean and hateful things, pushing me away, then the next day she would want a hug and wonder why I didn't respond warmly back to her. It just got to a point where I couldn't pretend anymore. She would have a really bad day and wake up the next day wondering why everyone was keeping their distance. She couldn't understand why we couldn't just pretend nothing had happened the day before. Our first 4 weeks in the states were calm. We stayed with my parents and she was enrolled in public school. I told them up front why we were there and they were very understanding and accepting. At first she was so calm I thought maybe it was just homeschooling setting her off. Maybe that was all it took but after 4 weeks, she no longer tried to hide it from my family, she went into her fits of rage again. This time even more fierce, she began to hit, bite, and kick me. While she was in school, I was making phone calls and visiting places and searching for help. I told her I was looking for somewhere to send her to get help. We found a counselor who was also a Christian. He advised me to seek outside care when she got violent to protect her and myself. One night we finally ended up in the ER. She was a danger to herself and others. I guess through all this I tried to find things to be thankful for. A lot of kids with Reactive Attachment Disorder can hide their behavior from others and only act out in front of the parents or mom. Gina could not hide her mental illness from others. She wouldn't necessarily rage in front of other people (except my family) but she would verify my story to the doctors in the ER as to her behavior which was helpful. They involuntarily admitted her to a psych hospital in Columbia, SC. Policemen came and transported her there, I couldn't even accompany her. It was heart wrenching. It didn't phase Gina. She acted like she was just going for a fun ride, she immediately started asking them questions as if they were going on a field trip. Obviously her 10 days in the psych ward did nothing to help her but it gave me time to re group and think. They put her on a couple of different medicines which didn't help her. One of the medicines had the side effect of suicidal thoughts which she was already having on her own. Within one month I took her off both of them. It got to an all time low again, she was raging constantly, I didn't know what to do.  I had an appointment with a psychologist in Virginia who specializes in children who had spent time in an institution but that wasn't until May. Baron was coming in May. Our life line family at our supporting church in Taylors, SC had taken Gina for weekends but now she offered to take her for the next 5 weeks until Baron arrived and we took her to Virginia. I pulled her out of school and she spent the next 5 weeks with our dear friends the Garzonys. I needed the respite care and that is exactly what our friends did for us, they offered a respite. I was also introduced to a woman who had dealt with families with troubled children for years and during this time she would spend time counseling me, listening to me, but not letting me stay in self pity mode. She would give me the truth, she would tell me this was hard, and then she would tell me I had to deal with my own heart issues. I couldn't fix Gina but I could deal with the bitterness that was growing in my own heart. Another respite for me was our church sent me to  Edisto Island for a few days. I was able to spend some time asking God for direction.

Fast forward 5 weeks. Baron arrives and we take the twins to Virginia to see this specialist. He gave us a really big discount. I even called and said I think it would be a waste to bring Gina, we are looking for a place to care for her, we don't want to waste the money. He told us to bring her, he would see her for free. We decided to get Joey evaluated too as we saw many signs and symptoms in him that were troubling, he just so often got overlooked because of the violent nature of Gina's outbursts. There was a day of testing for each child. We were advised that Gina needed professional help, that if we didn't get a respite from her we couldn't really help Joey at all. Her needs were really beyond what we could help her with. He did advise we try to find a psychiatrist in SC who would put her on Abilify.  We were seeing a psychiatrist in Greenville, after her discharge from the psych hospital we were required to see one. I asked him about Abilify, he didn't put her on it. Finally as Gina continued to rage and we had no control over her I went back to the psychiatrist and pleaded with him to try her on Abilify. He did and within 3 days her raging was more under control. I felt like now, she was in a place where she could maybe get help somewhere because the medicine had quieted her some. Long story short, we found a place in Illinois. It was expensive but we hoped they could help. We sent her there. I went to work, night shift taking care of a lady. Baron and the boys delivered yellow pages. Within 6 weeks, our insurance kicked her out. They said since she wasn't raging there, there was no need for her to be there. The institution fought to keep her there, they told our insurance it was not a good idea to send her home. We were worried but God was working. We were desperately making phone calls. The institution she was in was desperately fighting with our insurance company to keep her there. God provided a place called Watersprings Ranch. We called, they had a bed and said it sounded like she was a good fit for their program (we had interviewed at several other programs that felt she her level of need was greater than they could handle). Within 5 days we drove up to Illinois, picked her up and took her down to Arkansas. When we left Illinois Gina bawled. She had not cried in years. She had gotten attached to a boy. She became boy crazy, another dangerous issue, but the positive thing to me was she was attached enough to someone to cry and weep because she had to leave. My twins were without emotion really and this was a first positive step to her road to healing. This new place was a God send. They run on donations, we no longer had the burden of coming up with a big chunk of money each month to keep her there. The second HUGE blessing, was this place is completely Christ centered. They believe that the children find healing when they find their identity in Christ. When they are able to forgive the hurt the past has caused them, then they are able to start healing and moving forward.  I had difficulty believing that such a perfect environment had opened up for Gina. We moved her to Watersprings the first of September. They have house parents in each home. It is very family like, each house with 5 to 8 kids. They prepare and eat their meals at home, they have chores, they have a consistent set of house parents. It is hard for someone who has never dealt with a child with attachment issues to think of sending a child away as being the right thing to do. There was such a wall up between Gina and us that someone else had to help her. We assured her of our love, that we would always be her parents, and the goal was for her to come home again some day. I really can't tell you the pain of leaving a troubled child somewhere. I knew things couldn't continue to go as they were but I hated the option of sending her away. It seemed as though it was the best thing for her and the rest of our family. Through all this raging, she also became very interested in having a relationship with a boy. She was looking for love but didn't really know how to accept love. We were very worried for her but also worried if we kept her at home we were going to lose our other children as well. It took me longer to get to the place where I realized that sending her away was the right decision. Baron had reached that conclusion way back in January when he put her and I on a plane. My mother's heart just didn't want this to be the answer. I wanted to be able to stick this out and fix this but God showed me that was my pride and I had to step out of the way and get on board with what was best for Gina and the rest of the family.

Words can't adequately express the changes going on in Gina's life. The first few months I would talk to her on the phone and she was still tough, antagonizing, and looking for a fight. When I talked to her in December, she seemed different, softer. Then when I talked to her in January she told me with excitement that she had let Jesus come into her life and take control. I immediately planned a visit and went to see her in February. She had such a peace about her, she didn't have to constantly babble about nothing, she listened to counsel. It was a wonderful visit and I hated to leave her. She was able to express to me things I never thought I'd hear come from her mouth. She told me it was good that she moved from the first place, she told me she knew she was getting the help she needed, she didn't ask to come home but she did talk of coming home some day in the future. I left with a full heart seeing the change that was taking place in my daughter. In April, just before her 13th birthday, she had a set back. She exploded again. I was able to talk to her the next day and she was able to express the fact that she had been keeping some things inside and not sharing them with anyone. She had never been able to express things like this before. She would just explode and then it was over and she had nothing to say. We visited her in May and she has made such progress. She is like a different child. She told me she knew God had provided Watersprings Ranch and that she knew she was getting the help she needed. She was also able to tell me she was working on forgiving her birth mother for abandoning her and she was working on moving forward with her life. Please continue to pray for Gina Grace that she will focus on her relationship with Christ and not boys. That she will continue to listen to counsel. The goal is to eventually wean her off the medicine. We can't thank God enough for the work he is doing in her life. My next post will be a little more of Joey's story. We are so thankful that God provided a place like Watersprings Ranch and thankful for the change He is cultivating in Gina's life.