It's been awhile. As a matter of fact, it has been so long I reached the point of not even feeling guilty about not blogging (and that's a first for me!). I have composed a million blog posts in my head, but I am learning in this season of life to really weigh my words and think carefully about what I am willing to put out there for public consumption. These past few weeks and months have been a time of tremendous transition - some joyful and welcome, with a few others disappointing and sad. I think I needed to walk through much of it alone in my heart and mind before coming here and processing things too transparently. While I want to be honest and open about all aspects of my life, there is a fine line that is being redrawn through our adoption process, and I am learning to discern what is helpful for me to share and what needs to stay between Mark, my family, and God.
Now all of that sounds like there is some big traumatic soap opera secret going on here, but that isn't the case at all. Much of life is still "normal" - although since getting their new sister, the boys have learned to live life actually wearing pants. (See? Joyful and welcome transition.) We are all doing really well. There aren't words to explain how Alina has infiltrated this mother's heart. :) She is a JOY and a DELIGHT, and most days I can't remember life before her! Phrases like "my daughter" or "I have a 13 year old" seem almost second nature to me now, and I have been reintroduced to the pink toy aisle at Walmart. How I've missed that feminine turf!
Alina is doing so well all in all. She is a very funny, witty, loving girl who occasionally has moments of sadness and adjustment pains. Even though we "knew" in our heads that this would be a huge adjustment for any child (new family, new culture, new language, new...everything), I can look back now with an even greater amount of respect for the courage of my daughter. I give her all the credit in the world, because she has been "all in" through the process of forming our new family. I am learning a greater understanding of what brings her joy, when she needs a hug, and when she needs some peace and quiet. She is doing a great job of opening up to us more and more about her past, her fears, her needs, and her frustrations. I'm just so thankful for this girl and the unexplainable blessing she is in our lives.
Of course, I feel like I have to be honest and say some days are harder than others. Another amazing Latvian adoptive mom said it best: "All days are good. Some days are better." I don't want to go through all the details of a good-as-compared-to-better day, but I find myself navigating a weird path. More than anything I want us to be viewed as a normal family (as opposed to the family who adopted a teen girl from oversees), but the reality is that in many ways we are so far from normal it would make your head spin (but at least not even in the pants optional way anymore). I am so thankful for a close knit online adoption community where I can speak with complete transparency and not suffer a "setback" in the pursuit of a semi-normal IRL perception. It isn't hard to know who wants an honest answer to "How are you?" (everyone wants to know all the details), but I have trouble sometimes discerning who can actually handle the honest answer to that question. Am I happy? Beyond. Is our family doing OK? Yes. We really are. Is it hard? You. Have. No. Idea. Would I do this again? WITHOUT A MOMENT'S HESITATION. Alina is a gift directly from the hand of God.
We've added homeschooling to the list of changes in our lives, and I think it has been a fabulous decision for us. Believe it or not, I am so thankful for all the time I get with the kids. I don't have that many days when I feel "peopled" out, even after doing school with them during the day, and then picking up and running to karate, making dinner, and doing all the other "mom" stuff. Sometimes it is hard to know whether they need me to be their mom/greatest cheerleader OR their teacher/here's a swift kick in the pants, now go reach your full potential voice. I love that the kids are really becoming the best of friends. For the most part, the kids seem to like it, too. Alina is ready for some closer friend relationships, and we have been blessed to have some girls step up and initiate a friendship with her. She is starting to attend a youth group on Wednesday nights, she has been fully embraced by our karate family, and she's connected with other homeschooled teens. We even have some fun Bingo friends who we play Bingo with at our public library! It is a balancing act - getting Alina the socialization she needs and wants while still understanding her need for a not-so-busy lifestyle. Most every day she rates the day - "Mommy, today very busy!" (That's usually not good.) or "Mommy, today was nice. Not so busy!" (Said with a smile.)
Some things I struggle with a little bit each day. I feel like there is an unspoken...pressure???...expectation???...anticipation??? from the very pro-adoption Christian community to announce Alina's dramatic profession of faith, so this adoption can be considered a true "success" story of redemption. Don't get me wrong - I pray every single day for her to know and fall in love more and more with Jesus, but when I read some blogs or posts on Facebook (often by folks who haven't adopted, but promote the idea of Christians adopting) I feel like there is this...I don't know....assumption that if you bring a child to the U.S.A. and place them in a Christian family they will instantly become a walking testimony. I LOVE teaching Bible to Alina. She has no born and bred Bible Belt filter on her thoughts and feelings, and once I got used to that, I find it an amazing blessing that she is honest about her curiosity and questions about God and faith and grace. But our family is not her Savior, and nothing we've done will result in that. God is definitely wooing her, and it is beautiful to watch, but sometimes I feel like there is this spiritual, slightly impatient foot tapping from "religious" people who want the immediate gratification of the "big red bow on top" adoption story. I am learning that most everything in life is a marathon, not a sprint.
I also struggle with feeling like I am not enough for her. I don't think this is necessarily an "adoption" thing, because I have days of maternal insecurity with the boys, too. But just like with the boys, I want to be exactly who and what they need every moment. I am learning that I can't make anything up to Alina with regards to her past, and I can't be the perfect mom to any of my kids all of the time. Leaning on God has been more like throwing myself down before Him in panicked desperation sometimes. (How's that for a visual to inspire confidence?)
I struggle with how consuming my family is right now. Not that I mind it - honestly, I am finding great joy in being so inward focused - but I feel like every conversation with a friend should start with an apology for being off the radar so much. There isn't enough of me right now, and the guilt I sometimes feel about that can be nearly paralyzing. I miss some of my friends deeply. But Mark needs me, and my kids need me, and I need them. If there is one thing that the ups and downs of 2011 have taught me it is this - in the end, family is everything. But I hope my relationships can weather this season.
Tomorrow Alina and Mark leave for our third and final trip for this adoption. I haven't been apart from Alina overnight since April 15th, and I am feeling weepy about this week. But I love that Mark and Alina have some special daddy/daughter time together. Seeing their relationship blossom has been one of the greatest joys of my life. He is such a great daddy-of-a-daughter. He is so smitten with her and fiercely protective of her. It is beautiful. While they're gone, the boys and I are going to do some special mom/son stuff...we're going to catch a basketball game at Vandy, spend lots of time practicing martial arts, and I may even let them run around in their underwear one day. (Maybe...)
So our life is settling down and yet still full of change. It is beautiful. It is a journey. And I can honestly say there aren't four other people in this world I'd rather walk this out with.