Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Home three some....and still only the beginning

We have officially been home with Eli for 3 months plus an extra week or so! Sometimes it still all feels unreal. When I look at Eli I know it's possible for faith and courage to take a dream and turn it into reality. He used to just be a thought that tugged on my heart. Today, he stands in my kitchen literally tugging on my arm saying, "Mommy, Eat!".

We are doing well at this point. Very, very tired (hey, 5 kids is ALOT!), but we are alive and well for sure. We are daily seeing God's strength being made perfect in our weakness...after all, our strength gave out months ago.

Because we were in the adoption process for almost 3 years (and because of how old and tired we feel), it's tempting to think we've been at this reality though...we know we are just getting started. I'm so thankful to get to say, it's been a very good start.

Eli was not old enough when placed in the care of the orphanage or when he was adopted to know what was happening to him. However, he was old enough to know that something was indeed happening to him. Most people do not give thought to the trauma a child experiences in this situation. Having been the adoptive parent in this case, what they go through seems overwhelming from my vantage point. God truly made these kid's to be some of the most resilent children on the planet.

Eli seems to be going through the bonding process with his new family very well. We have prioritized bonding as the most important issue on our plate concerning him. I still have a feeling that his attachment process is "fragile", but it's coming along well none-the-less. I don't mean "fragile" in the sense that I might make a mistake and ruin him forever. God didn't bless Eli with perfect parents. I mean that I believe Eli is learning to trust us -- which is good. It's great infact! Yet, at the same time, remnants of mistrust still obviously remain in his heart. I am praying that time, repetition of needs meet, and the Holy Spirit will continue to bring healing to him. We continue to work hard at reinforcing family relationships (whose who), proving that we can be trusted to meet his needs, putting him in an environment of praise & worship (and asking the Holy Spirit to knit our hearts together). I believe God said to us through His Word that He would "bring our son from afar" -- that means in his heart and emotions as well. I am claiming that as a promise. We continue touching, cuddling, playing and simply loving, loving, and loving in the ways an adoptive child needs to be loved. And...we are still only at the beginning.

Speaking of the beginning, I also believe that Eli is BEGINNING to feel safe and settled in our home -- which is wonderful! Again however, I sense that he is yet to feel COMPLETELY safe and settled. Thus, I give our current attachment and bonding situation a "fragile" description.

I'm certainly encouraged by the whole thing and can see how a year from now -- we could possibly look like a completely different family! Weekly, Eli changes. He has begun expressing true joy much more frequently. Not a laugh or smile because something acts on him from the outside...but a joy that comes from the inside...something he allows himself because he is indeed beginning to feel safe. Spontaneous smiles and laughter are a daily occurence.

His eye contact is improving. He more frequently rejects others outside of the family holding him and will avert his eyes and mumble when "strangers" try to have conversation with him. He may appear rude to others, but this is actually a good thing for him to do.

He willingly gives affection when it is asked for (as in "Eli, give me a hug!") -- at least to his family members. Occasionally, he is the initiator of the affection. He has opted to sit in my lap alot lately and will smile and rub my face. A good sign (and fun for me). I currently feel like he views me as a cross between what a mother might be -- and his favorite "nanny". Our social worker says I should expect this to be the case for a good while longer.

He is healthy and growing stonger. He sleeps very well. The peditrician puts his speech development at 20 - 22 months (which is excellent after only being in the country for 3 months). Physically, he is about a year behind -- but making great strides. I believe physical and occupational therapy would greatly benefit him, but bc of our efforts in the "Attachment" area -- we will put this off awhile longer and simply have him climb, jump, and run with all our other children. The Dr. sees no reason he will not "catch up" before Kindergarten (with or without therapy).

He has trouble holding a spoon/fork and feeding himself. Possibly because he had never seen an eating utensil before July. He holds his spoon like a chopstick as a matter of fact!

He wears pull-ups and will "go potty" as long as I remember to take him. A few times, he has told us when he had to go, but this is not the norm. We are resisting the temptation to focus on potty training at this time -- partly because we hate it, but mostly in an attempt to keep our forward momentum going in the bonding area and in the developmental areas he willing steps forward in.

His little googly eyes have become normal to us...even cute! Although, our children have already had to step inbetween Eli and the insensitive comments of some of their friends. I'm glad they are willing to do so! He is looking at at least a couple of surgeries (beginnging in December), patching and eye therapy...maybe even meds to bring down his high eye pressure. But all in all, he is not hindered by his sight.

We are surrounded by some of the best adoptive families in the country. Our friends and literally our next door neighbors work hard to keep us encouraged and supported. We have a sense that they won't let us fail if they can help it. We couldn't be the parents we've grown to be without these people. So thankful for them! They've saved me alot of money in therapy already!

And...believe it or not, Eli isn't all that's going on around here. Billy continues to work very hard at building a new cliental. He's as motivated and energized as I've ever seen him....purposeful...focused. After 15 years, it's still a blessing to be married to a Godly man...well, most of the time (who am I kidding?). I am teaching part-time and running our family with a passion. My teen daughters are beautiful blessings. They have grown into strong, mature, Godly young women -- surpassing anything we would have hoped for them. They have emerged as leaders in their school and youth group. Our choice to put them in the best spiritual environment that we were aware of has proven to be an AMAZING blessing. Our younger two are full of energy and learning to live with all their hearts -- and pointed in the right direction. For the most part, we love our home, our city, our church, and our relationships...and in the midst of intese, hard work -- we are simply enjoying the life God has given us.

So...there ya have it! A status report. A long, wonderful report card of how the Ramsdell's are really doing. As a matter of fact, I'd love to hear how your family is doing too! So -- give me a hollar when you can! As we begin the holiday season with a time of gratitude, know I'm so thankful for all of you!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Billy's Gratitude

From the statistics I have seen recently, nearly 40% of the people on the planet live on $1 or less a day of income. Then I consider America and the fact that even those in poverty levels live on much more than $1 a day. Then I consider my struggles over the past 20 years, both in family and finances and realize how petty they are in comparison. For me, I really do believe we are the most blessed nation on earth and that I am blessed more than I deserve. My home, my job, my amazing wife and wonderful kids. There is no way I could thank God enough, I mean really, I am totally and completely blessed and yes, Thankful.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Being Thankful

I say this to my friends every year, but it's so good it's worth mentioning again.

Billy and I hate unthankfulness, especially in our children. Of all the crimes you can commit in the Ramsdell household -- it is the one that will get you the swiftest, heaviest penalty. God hates it too. He dealt the children of Israel 40 years worth of punishment for the 'grumbling'. That's a stiff deal for something we might consider trite in America these days.

Barbara Rainey (whose husband Dennis hosts the Family Life Today radio broadcast) wrote a great book called Thanksgiving, A Time to Remember. The book chronicles the real life stories of the Pilgrims. It's an enjoyable read for school-age children, teens and adults alike. It also has short highlighted passages for those reading to preschoolers. It can be read in a 45 minute block of time OR it can be read over the corse of a few days in shorter time increments.

Finally, the book contains a journal for families to record from year to year those things that they are most thankful for. It's can become a great keepsake.

This is our 3rd year using this resource and I love it so much, I give it as a gift. Here are a few notes from our pages:

"I am thankful for a forgiving and unfailing Lord! Also, for the freedom of religion and for the gifts and talents to praise God with." Elizabeth age 12

"I'm thankful for my mommy cooking us dinner. And! I'm thankful no one died today!" :) Hosanna age 10

"I'm thankful that Shanna 'goes with me'. " Billy 2008

In November it's so natural to focus on gratitude. Here's too doing it deliberately!