Sunday, February 24, 2013

walking lessons

About two weeks ago, Joshua started trying to take steps.  He took two steps towards me twice and then did not do anything for another week and a half.  I was not surprised, sometimes he discovers something he can do and then does not try it again for a long time.  At 6 months he pulled himself up to a stand 3 times, and then did not do it again for 2 weeks.  He always gets back to discovering things when he is ready.

On Tuesday, he started taking 2 steps and then body slamming me when I was on the floor.  It was very exciting and at times painful. The next day he started taking 2-4 steps and the following day 4-8 steps. He definitely has a long way to go before walking is his primary mode of transportation but the learning has begun. I am sure it won't take that long to get there.

While I have watched this process this week I have had a lot of different thoughts. When he attempts to walk, whether it is a success or a failure, I clap and cheer for him (which might be why his favorite thing is to walk to my legs and scream in excitement). As the cheering throughout the day has increased, I wonder if it is ever going to get old watching him learn how to do new things.  There are so many more things to learn throughout his life.

I decided I want to always be excited by his learning process and celebrate attempts even if they result in failures as well as successes.  I want to not get sick of celebrating new things.  I want to be excited when he learns how to drive a car.

Then I wondered if God is always excited by us trying new things. I wonder if it never gets old to celebrate with us. I wondered if my Father stands around clapping when I take a risk and try something new. I wonder if He is proud that I am trying and is okay that I fall. I wonder if while I am learning new things if He wants me to walk to His feet,  scream in delight and get picked up...especially when I fall.

Joshua is learning to walk...I am learning to see God in new ways.  We are both on an adventure.

Thursday, February 14, 2013


The Weiss family has hit a milestone today and it has nothing to do with Valentine's Day.  Today marks the day that Joshua has been with us longer than all his other caregivers combined.  This is huge for us, we fight so hard to gain his trust and now we have time working in our favor.  I can't come up with words to express how I feel, so here are some pictures over the last 5 months.

Gotcha Day in Ethiopia -  We shared a last name but not much more.

Taking a nap in the Atlanta airport.

Hanging out in the carrier.  

6 months old 

I can stand holding on to anything...this garbage can is awesome!  7.5 months old 

Just making a mess...good thing mom has not made me start cleaning up after myself.

I can stand anywhere - 10 months old

We are incredibly blessed this little guy is our son!

Friday, February 1, 2013

sleeping update

If you know anything about our adoption journey with the little guy you know that sleep has been a major struggle. I have tried hard to not complain but have definitely failed.  Sleep struggles can be normal for adopted children, they don't know how to process everything that has happened and it just comes out in their sleep. But then you have to face another question: what sleep struggles are adoption related and what is normal baby struggles?

Attachment parenting, what you do with adopted children, has very strong opinions on how to handle sleep problems. You are suppose to rock your child to sleep for 6-12 months to help with the attachment process. I understand the reasons why but Leland and I had to face the difficult question, is this best for our family? Can we keep waking up 5-12 times a night to put him back to sleep? Can we love each other and him well if we keep not sleeping? What is best for the family?

I am so grateful for the Holy Spirit who is our Counselor. I was praying through these things and I felt like God said it was okay to start sleep training.  We came up with a plan and started to prepare him for the process.  Within the first day, we realized that our plan to help him was not actually helping him achieve the goal of falling asleep, so we axed our plan.  We came up with a new plan and stuck with it.  It was incredibly difficult for me but I knew it was best for the family...I knew that God would meet us in the process.

It was hard to listen to him cry as he learned to fall asleep on his own.  It was hard to know that he had needs but I needed to let him learn how to sooth himself.  It was hard to know that the best long term decision was not easy in the short term.  

It was amazing to see how God worked and answered prayers.  The first night, the same child that would wake up 5-12 times, woke up once.  Within 4 days, he was sleeping through the night.  Within one week, we could see that our completely sleep deprived boy (pre sleep training) has been transformed to a well rested baby.  He was happier and had an easier time engaging the world around him.  He is actually showing better attachment than before.  It was what he needed!  

I know that adoptive mothers all over would looking down upon our decision but I know it was the right decision for our son.  I am so grateful for the freedom to listen to the Holy Spirit and do what is best for our son.  Within the first month of being in the states, God told me that I don’t have to be the perfect adopted mother, I need to be HIS mother.  

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

the front lines

When you adopt internationally, your life is investigated, you discuss your plans with social workers, you take classes, and read books...but nothing prepares you for what is ahead. I am realizing that adoption can feel a little bit like the trenches, you are fighting on the front lines for this child. The long term is beautiful but at times it can be incredibly difficult and truly feel like a war zone.

I think it really is a battle for the child.

When the parents become the final caregiver, why should the child trust that you are actually different? Why should they trust that you won't leave like other people or caregivers have? Why should they entrust their heart to you? It does not matter the age of the child, they are cautious, sad, confused, and hesitant.

The battle for the child's trust begins. Each child is different. Each families experience looks different. Some battles are primarily at night; the child struggles sleeping and continually needs attention. Others have children that sleep away the nights but the daytimes are nightmares. The child openly rejects a parent or violently acts out towards parents.

As parents you are always concerned if they are attaching. Some of the simple parenting decisions turn into a very complex and emotional decision. You so desperately desire for your child to be doing well and for God to heal their heart. Some adopted children have experienced more loss and trauma than most adults, and no universal tools for how to work through it.

This battlefield for the child is hard and the home is the front line.

Unfortunately for some adoptive families, this is not the only battle field. A lot of family and friends don't understand what is happening because parents are making abnormal decisions, so this can become a secondary challenge.

I encourage you to pray for and love on families that are adopting in whatever way possible. Ask them what they might need, they are engaging on a front line battle for the child and it lasts a lot longer than you think. Cook for them. Go grocery shopping for them. Be creative in finding ways to meet their needs. They have prayed more than you can imagine. They have cried more than you know. This battle lasts longer than anyone imagines.

I just wanted to share a perspective on adoption, this has not all been our personal experience but we have been definitely engaging in a battle for our son's heart, trust, and attachment. He has experienced wounds that only God can heal. The hand of God has been upon his life since he was in his birthmothers womb, but he has also experienced great loss as well. His story is a beautiful one of redemption.

Adoption truly is a redemption story, but like all good stories it has its ups and downs.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

home 2+ months

We are definitely long overdue for a blog update but it has been a challenging one to write.  We have had many joys over the last two months as a family but have also faced many challenges.  Through the adoption process I have often felt that people only want to hear the happy parts, so we choose to edit what information we give people.  Life has challenges and too often we are scared to be honest with them.

The past two months have been a unique combination of the little guy flourishing as well as having epic sleeping problems.  We have learned that if the baby is not sleeping, no one is really that happy.  When the sleeping challenges began we did not know if it was normal baby problems x10 or reflective of his grief and developing attachment.  So we did all the right attachment things to try to help him sleep.

For two weeks he took all of his naps on me in the carrier...just trying to help him feel secure so he can sleep better.  As the time progressed, I realized he was sleeping worse.  His naps were more restless and the nights kept getting worse.  Jesus used a conversation with a friend and a hot shower (amazing bonus for moms) to speak a powerful word to me.  I realized that I did not need to be the perfect adoption mother, I just needed to be his mother.  So if the standard attachment solutions to his problems weren't working, I should try something different.  Naps in the carrier went away and there was much rejoicing by everyone.

We still have a son who had epic sleep problems but we are at least now trying to figure out what helps him...not what 'standard' right answer is the magic bullet solution.  Around this time, our family had another monkey wrench thrown into the mix as I re-injured my tennis elbow.  Over two years ago, I got a severe case of tennis elbow in both arms and then it came back.  The last time this happened, we had to make some dramatic changes including a new car for me to drive.  Now with it back, it can basically hurt to do anything.

This meant that Leland became the primary caregiver during the evening hours because my arms could not handle the squirming boy (he really, really fought sleep).  When you add an injury on top of a child that would wake up anywhere between 7-14 times a could say that things were challenging in our home.  I have never cried so much in my life.  I have also never been so dependent upon Jesus.

Leland and I came to the realization quickly that we can't make the little guy sleep.  Often times when a child his age would have sleep problems, the only recommendation would be to simply let them cry it out...we knew that we could not do that.  So Jesus became our only answer.  This meant there were nights that Leland was taking care of him and I was on my knees praying.

I would love to say that we are in the clear and the little guy is sleeping through the night...but that is not the case.  We have seen God do significant miracles in the last 3 weeks, unfortunately when I share them people don't seem to be too impressed.  I guess you have to walk through the dark nights, to see the significant work He is doing.

For now we rejoice with a little guy:
  • who can go down for a nap without a bottle
  • can sleep at times in 3-4 hour chunks
  • who Jesus has been able to help him transition sleep cycles ... yes there were nights he woke up almost every transition
  • whose periods of awake restlessness are decreasing ... it has been a little while since Leland has spent 2 hours fighting him back to sleep
  • whose naps normally lasting longer

This may not seem significant to you....and we definitely have a long way to go...but we are rejoicing in the victory Jesus is taking.  I am rejoicing in a marriage that has gotten stronger through the obstacles.  I am rejoicing that God answers prayers and does not leave us alone.

Sorry it has taken so long for us to give any update...we just felt that people did not really want to hear the unhappy parts of adoption.  Sometimes it seems like people just want to see the end of the movie, instead of the whole thing.  I am incredibly grateful for the ability to participate in the entire movie, it just means that there are seasons that are incredibly challenging as well as joyful.

I said earlier that little guy was flourishing and it is true.  It is amazing to see the difference a family can make.

This picture is his Gotcha Day in Ethiopia, he just turned 5 months old.
This is the first week in the states.  Right after this picture was taken, he rolled over from his tummy to back.  That evening he rolled from his back to tummy.
Once he learned crawling position, he quickly learned to move backwards.  It took a couple of weeks to master moving forwards.  He is off and running now.
Sitting and proud.
He can now pull himself up to a stand on almost anything.

Another thing he will do now is crawl to us and ask to be picked up.  It is amazing to watch him want and ask for attention.

We have seen victory as well as many challenges over the past few months.  We are incredibly grateful for a God that cares enough to answer prayers and looks after us all.

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Plans I Have for You

In life things can change so quickly.  Our plans can change course by a simple phone call or appointment.  Last week, our plans for September quickly started to change after a phone call.

We found out that the birth family appointment at the Embassy got moved up almost three weeks.  It is unheard of to have an Embassy appointment moved up, so it took me a while to process what was happening.  We are in the busy season of college ministry, so I was not expecting this surprise at all.  Our original Embassy appointment guaranteed we would be in the country for welcome week and the first two weeks of the school year.  Through one phone call, we learned we could be leaving the country before school even starts.  Needless to say, last week was insane preparing both for a potential trip as well as the Chi Alpha events with me potentially being gone.

Now, we are in the waiting stage of the adoption that at any time, we can learn that we are leaving the country quickly to bring the little guy to the states.  Generally the birth family interview is the last component before the Embassy clears adopting families for travel.  You never know how long it will take the Embassy to clear we are just waiting.

I think this stage could be one of the hardest stages of the adoption for me.  The complete unpredictability is challenging.  I just want to have a little control and be able to plan and prepare for our trip.  I want to help the student staff know what to expect.  I want to let the guest speakers for the ministry know the dates I need their help.  I want to understand what is happening around me.

In the midst of the unknown, I have to place my trust in the unchanging God.  We have to know that God knows what is best and is orchestrating a plan where He will be glorified.

The other challenging part of this stage is that we are so close but yet so far away.  It is a season that I feel should be full of joy, everyone around us is so excited.  We have joy but we also have pain.  There is such a desire to be a family but yet it is not here.  We long to be with the little guy but yet, it is still not the time.

Yesterday, while I was praying through this feeling of longing, all the while knowing it is not yet time, I had a realization.  I thought about how God feels when people are close to putting their trust in Him and entering a relationship but still have obstacles in the way.  I just started to cry thinking about the pain that God feels when people are not with Him yet...the longing He has.  The desire God has to be family with us, since the Bible expresses that people in relationship with God are adopted by God.

I want this stage to end quickly.  I want Embassy approval for travel.  But I also want to gain a greater understanding of God's heart.  I don't want to wish a season away just because I don't want to experience the pain...especially if that pain can help me know God better.

So for now we wait.  We don't know how long we will be waiting but our hearts must rest because God is truly in control while we wait.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

1st Trip to Ethiopia

We have been back in Ruston for over a week and we have so many mixed emotions.  They say that adoption is an emotional roller coaster but nothing prepares you for it.  I have never felt so much joy and tragedy through the same experience. 

In life, sometimes we don't like to see the pain.  We like to forget the tragedy involved with life.  We choose to shelter ourselves from the pain.  We just like to be happy.  I haven't updated our blog for a while because of this - I did not know how to write an update without also including the challenges involved with adoption.

We had a great trip to Ethiopia, it is a beautiful country with amazing people.  Our time with the little guy was great, we love him dearly.  We spent a lot of time with him.  Holding him.  Feeding him.  Bathed him.  Putting him to sleep.  Everything you do with a baby.

The time at Hannah's Hope was awesome, it was impressive to see the love poured out on the children.  It did not matter what job title someone had at Hannah's Hope, you could see anyone changing diapers and happily holding a baby.  Whenever we spent time with someone, I asked them what is their favorite part of they job, everyone said the kids.  It did not matter if they were the person who drove us around town or processed paperwork...everyone who worked at Hannah's Hope loved the children.  The love poured out on children made it a lot easier when we had to get on a plane and leave our son in Ethiopia. 

There is so much joy in adoption but there is also so much tragedy.  We like to ignore the pain but when we were in Ethiopia, it was hard not to recognize both sides of the story.  The date we passed court, there was also a birth family driving with us to approve the other side of an adoption.  I did not know what emotion to feel when we drove to court...should I feel the joy about potentially getting court approval?  Or should I feel sadness for how a birth family can feel?

Nothing can prepare you for the mixed emotions:  nothing prepares you for the pain and nothing prepares you for the joy.

It is sometimes hard to reconcile these things with our new son, whom we love dearly and recognize as a good gift from God.  He is beautiful and amazing but has also experienced tragedy because there is brokenness in the world.  We just know one story and their are 4.3 million orphans in Ethiopia.  In many ways this experience solidifies our conviction invest long term in orphan care.

We had a great trip and were so grateful for the opportunity.  It was great to see the city, taste the food, and learn about the culture.  We are the most grateful that met our beautiful son.  God blessed us with a smooth trip and court approval in country.  With all the ups and downs of adoption, I am grateful for every part of it.  I would not want to take any part out of the experience.