Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Hands Full, Heart Full: Month TWELVE...ONE Year!

     As of TODAY, Josiah has been a Murray for an entire year. In many ways, it's hard to believe it's been that long. And yet, in some ways, it's hard to believe that it's only been 365 days.
     If I'm being honest, it's been an incredibly hard year. Incredibly hard. And also incredibly broken. And even so, incredibly, incredibly blessed. We've been asked on more than one occasion if adoption has been as hard as we imagined. And truthfully, my answer falls short of clear and concise...because my answer is yes and no. When you prepare for adoption with training and reading, and more reading, and more training, you know the great risks you take when you embark on this journey. You've heard the horror stories. You prepare for the worst-case scenario. But until you're in the thick of it, you just simply don't. know. 
     I vividly remember the day we met Josiah. I remember the smells, the sounds, the feelings. I remember walking into the room and looking at him for the first time and thinking how scared he must be...how his whole life was about to change. For the good? I wasn't so sure. I picked him up and he began to cry. I attempted to comfort, but I needed to distract. He didn't care who I was and what I said. Why would he? But, I remember opening up our bag and grabbing the cookies and the stacking cups. His crying stopped. He didn't really want to eat the cookies. But he held them. First just one cookie, then a second, then a third. We played with stacking cups and his crying still ceased. Then a fourth cookie. Then a fifth. All while holding his stacking cups. The time seemed to go by rather quickly and when it was time to leave, he left with little emotion. My heart broken into a million pieces. This didn't feel "good" to me. And yet, there we were...a Mommy and Daddy once again.

I remember getting back to the hotel and sitting him down on the bed. Eric left quickly with our guide to get some things at the local Wal-Mart. This wasn't my first rodeo as a Mama and yet it was...I was so nervous to be left alone with him. What if he didn't like me? What if he cried the whole time Eric was gone? Could I do this? I didn't really know. And then, a simple game brought a smile. That smile...within the first couple of minutes...it saved me. It let me know that we'd be alright. 

     The rest of the trip was filled with firsts. First kiss. First crying fit. First bowel movement. (We've never been so happy about a poopy diaper!) First hug. First vomit. First solid food. First refused bottle. First nap. It was quick and slow all at the same time. But I was so thankful for that time to learn about our little boy. Eric and I will celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary in December. And to this date, I can say, that our time together in China was my most favorite experience with him yet. Odd? Maybe. But spending two weeks in a country where English is lacking and comfortability is hard to come by means that you're completely dependent on one another to get by...and it was so good for my soul.

     Since we've been home, the firsts have continued. First mumbles of Mommy, first shots, first scooter rides, first time being barefoot on grass, first sentence, and we can't forget the first sensory meltdown (and the second, and the third, and the fourth). The list goes on. These firsts are often good and often bad. But we learn and change and try...over and over...until something clicks. Until we click. Until he clicks. What I've learned is that it largely depends on me. How is my attitude? How is my heart? What is my body language? Because it matters. It always does. And not just with Josiah. But with Sydney and Landon and Emmaline. And man, I've messed up a lot. I used to describe myself as patient and compassionate. But golly gee, there have been more times than I'd like to admit that I've been anything but patient or compassionate. However, if I'm aligned with God...then it all aligns. He works all the mess and uses it for good. God has remained faithful and continues to fill in my holes with His grace. So many imperfect holes made whole through Him. And I wouldn't be here...a year later...without any of it. I'm far from perfect...but I'm His.
    Today, we spent time celebrating Josiah...our fun-loving, smiley, full-of-energy, passionate, stubborn, BOY. It seemed fitting to take him to experience SkyZone for the first time. And we were not surprised that he LOVED it!

     Adoption allows God to reveal so many wonderful things...redemption, love, grace, faithfulness, goodness...to name a a few. But adoption can also reveal the darkest parts of your heart...the parts where you're challenged and defeated and left with uncertainty and despair and brokenness beyond all comprehension...and if you're not willing to see those things and feel those things...then maybe adoption isn't for you. Adoption requires a complete surrender. Surrender of that "perfect family" image. Surrender of everything you thought you once knew or understood. Adoption requires a complete surrender to Him. There is nothing that we've done to bless Josiah's life...anything that has been "good" has been the complete intervention of God through us as Josiah's family. And our biggest prayer is that Josiah will grow up to know how loved he is truly is...not just by us...but by God.
     We love you, Josiah Bug! We're so happy to have you in our lives forever. Happy Family Day!


Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Hands Full, Heart Full: Month EIGHT & NINE


     Month EIGHT snuck up on me last month- hence no post! And here we are...already in month numero NINE!? Wowza! Can I just admit that ever since January 1...the entire 2018 year is zooming by at lightning speed? Blazing fast over here, blazing fast. So much has happened and it's been encouraging to look back at how far we've come with our Josiah Bug. As I've mentioned before, it's often hard to see growth in its fullest extent when you're living the day-by-day grind. Isn't that often the case? As a Kindergarten teacher, March is one of my most favorite months. I call it the "lightbulb" month because so many of my kiddos start to have this enormous "CLICK" and all.the.things start falling into place. The growth I see each school year is one of my most treasured memories with each class! We can say the same thing as parents during those first few months and years of life as our little ones change and develop in both big and little ways. Sometimes we can't always see it in the day to day...but when we reflect back upon a larger period of time...we're astounded at what we see. Without further ado, here's what we've been up to in our neck of the woods!
     Month EIGHT brought Josiah's 2nd birthday! Of course, we were so grateful to celebrate such a big "first" with our boy. We even had the opportunity to celebrate his birthday on the day of his actual birthday! Yay! It was so fun to sing to him and watch him soak all of the attention up. And let me tell you...this boy LOVES the attention a birthday brings! I have pictures to prove it. All presents were rightfully "his" and the action of sharing was something that was not easily practiced for weeks following his special day. At one point, we actually had to hide some of his gifts because he was struggling too much with the whole concept. He'd be happily playing with a toy and then Emmaline would walk in and play with one of his other "gifts" and BOOM! Hello holy meltdowns! Hiding the objects for a period of time seemed to help quite a bit. Now we don't have those issues as much and meltdowns seem to be more age-appropriate.

     All good things must come to an end...as seen in the picture below. Too.much.birthday. Ha! Also, it's fun to add that we literally took the first several pictures without Emmaline. Apparently, we're not a well-oiled machine as a family of SIX yet. Oops!

     We also had the chance to celebrate our "first" Chinese New Year during month EIGHT. This was unchartered territory for us so we kept things simple. It was fun to think about how we can incorporate Josiah's culture into our own family. Oranges are a symbol of good luck and fortune! I was able to celebrate with my class at school too which was SO FUN. I think we'll add a few ways for Sydney and Landon to celebrate at school next year. Oranges are a simple and fun way to tie in CNY.

These pictures were some of my favorite! He was NOT keen on the idea of changing into his outfit we had purchased from China...but with a few Oreos...he'd do anything! And he was even OK with keeping the outfit on for a while. Ha! We also went to our local Chinese restaurant to celebrate. That's a tradition we're all looking forward to next year!

     Month NINE brought some more fun for our Josiah Bug. We celebrated his sister's SECOND birthday (26 days flies when you're planning parties!) and we also enjoyed our first family Easter together. Egg hunts and Easter buckets are a lot of fun for this boy!

     Another HUGE "first" this month was moving our boy into HIS OWN TODDLER BED. Mommy and Daddy's bedroom has never looked bigger. Ha! This was a huge blessing on so.many.levels. Emmaline was not handling the fact that he was going into our room and laying on his bed...while she was going into her room and laying in her crib. They'd often lay with each other on Josiah's mattress so this seemed like a solution we were ALL ready for with the bed situation. Annnd he loves it. He's really doing well! Emmaline started off strong and has been a bit of a stinker with the concept, but having her right beside Josiah does a lot of good for the transition. Their relationship has become such a sweet thing. Don't get me wrong...we have PLENTY of tantrums, antagonizing, physical altercations, and the like. But it's mostly good and their "twinship" is becoming a beautiful process of learning and growth. Also...Twin Mamas...you're the REAL DEAL. I applaud you!

     Overall we've seen a lot of success with behavior and eating. Josiah is often a member of the CPC and can be found licking his plate after meals. If there is juice left over (from veggies, fruit, etc.) he WILL lick it or drink it any way he can. So silly. He and Emmaline love sitting at the counter for breakfast and snack time. And yes...my toddlers eat Fruity Pebbles. It's fine.


     The behavior area has been a harder thing to navigate. His tantrums have lessened, but he still gets into "no" fits where all he says is "NO" on repeat as he shakes his head. Getting him to come out of these tantrums can be really difficult- no matter the distraction, no matter the ignoring, no matter the holding/hugging. We compare it to a child that is upset and kicking and screaming. Josiah used to do this a lot more...but now he mostly just says "No" over and over and over (as he shakes his head in a very exaggerated way) to let us know he is NOT happy. Trust me, buddy, we know! We have had to be really firm with him on behavior in the past couple of months. Basically, he was learning to throw fits about EVERYTHING that didn't go his way. We had to put an end to it. And since we've been firm...the behavior has drastically improved. Kids love boundaries. They NEED boundaries. Josiah is no different. Sometimes parenting a child who has joined your family in such a way as Josiah can paralyze your own natural parenting instincts. You're told to read books about this, that, and the other. You parent with "kid gloves" and feel trapped in what you can do or say. Parenting kids who come from "trauma" is different. I agree. I'm also a teacher so I definitely understand that in more ways than just being Josiah's Mama. But, I also have to admit that feeling "trapped" by this logic was a huge {negative} factor in parenting Josiah these first several months. Was this behavior age-related? Was this behavior adoption-related? Trauma-related? Normal? Abnormal? Cause for concern? We were dizzy over trying to organize everything and oftentimes only looked at things through an "adoption" lens. And as a result, our smiley son was turning into a little boy who was very upset and hard to love. It's hard to model and work on appropriate responses when you're being screamed at with an ear-piercing shrill. So we began parenting in a more similar way to how we have parented all of our other children...and we have definitely seen the fruits of such a decision. I'd say this may be uncharacteristic for adoptive families and what we are instructed to do in training...but it has worked for us and has been a blessing for our family. There are other factors that were considered when we began implementing "consequences" too...like the fact that our boy is SUPER SMART and has very good receptive language. He is really beginning to flourish and for that...we are so excited and grateful!
     One of the biggest things I'm grateful for during these last several months is the opportunity that God has placed before me...to share our journey with others. Not only do I feel led to write about it...but I've been approached through social media and other ways about families who have been feeling a nudge to potentially pursue a journey of their own. And that is my biggest hope and prayer in sharing our story! While Eric and I don't know what God will allow our family to look like in a few years...we would love to come alongside other families who feel ready to step out in faith and begin a new chapter themselves. Praise God! Thanks for reading and praying and asking how we're doing. It all helps make this messy, hard, and redeeming process a worthwhile one.


Sunday, February 4, 2018

Hands Full, Heart Full: Month SEVEN


     This is the second month that has seemed to go by a little less quickly...and I'm so grateful for that feeling. If I had to pick a month where I've felt like life was a little more "normal"...this month would be it! Admittedly, I have felt more like myself as a mom. The preceding months were largely a blur with numerous appointments, sicknesses, procedures, and behaviors...and all on little to no sleep. I never want to make light of the blessing that adoption is to our family...but this journey has also been full of the most challenging and frustrating moments in my journey as a parent. Adoption is HARD stuff. I am constantly working to be more patient (and trust me, I am presented with plenty of opportunities to succeed and FAIL at this each day) and give more grace without completely losing sight of how far we've come...because we have come a LONG way since July!
     Yesterday, we had our six month check-up with the IAC at Nationwide. In speaking with the team there, we realized just how well Josiah truly is doing since he's been home. Like re-reading this blog, we were able to reflect on all the growth we're continuing to make together. One of our biggest challenges has been behavior and discipline. Our little boy has quite the IQ (read: smarty pants!) and we've felt a bit trapped in how we can effectively teach him appropriate consequences. But the doctors were in complete agreement with some of the strategies we've used and they seem to be helping Josiah understand how to interact appropriately in daily tasks. For example, we had a stand-off in the church bathroom this morning where he basically screamed and hit me for an extended period of time. Basically, we continue to remind him that hands are for "nice touches" and until he signs "All done" and says "Sorry" we don't move an inch. He also has to ask to be held during this time. He refuses to communicate during his tantrums so we're working hard to fix that response. This boy is stubborn...but so is his Mama! Overall, I feel like this consistency is definitely working! It doesn't make the situation less frustrating or less exhausting...but we're seeing positive change. Whew! Here's a quick recap of our SEVENTH month with Josiah Bug!

     These two cuties are still banana-lovin' fools! In fact, they officially have adopted this word in their vocabularies. Their versions of "banana" are quite different from each other though. Learning two toddler dialects is quite interesting!

     At any given time, these two can be found holding hands, hugging, or  kissing. They are rather affectionate towards each other which melts my Mama heart. They are also more than capable of hitting, antagonizing, teasing, and stealing toys. We've even had a couple biting experiences which is a first for our family! Yowza! I have loved watching their relationship grow. They have such different personalities but they truly compliment one another.

     We tried our hand at some snow-painting! Josiah LOVED it. We've yet to take him out in his snowsuit yet. I hear we may have a chance to try that this week in Ohio!? We shall see. I think he'd enjoy it. 

     Another new trick this month was "snapping" with Mama. This was just the cutest thing. I was snapping to some music in the kitchen one day and I thought my snaps sounded a little louder than usual. I looked over to find Josiah sitting on the chair...moving his fingers...and clicking his mouth. I couldn't believe it. It was precious!

     Josiah basically eats anything we put in front of him now. There are definitely still days of picky-eating but we are so pleased with how well he has adjusted. He's such a copycat so I think he's more willing to try things now. One of his newest favorites...tomatoes! Cooked or fresh! It doesn't matter! He's definitely my first baby to willingly eat these.

He loves wearing Daddy's hat...and buckets.


     And we're having some success at using the potty! It's not something I'm trying to push by any means...but I think he'll be ready in the next couple months! M&Ms are this little boy's love language! His sister might need a bit more convincing.

     I can't wait to celebrate Josiah's SECOND birthday at the end of this month! I know he'll love a day where it's all about HIM. Ha! Who can blame him? We are definitely going to celebrate this special day with a lot of FUN. That is for sure. Thanks for reading, friends!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Hands Full, Heart Full: Month SIX

     I have to say...this felt like a slow month- for me at least- but in all of the best ways! We've officially held our boy for half of a YEAR! That fact alone seems crazy to think about...but here we are again with a quick recap of Josiah's SIXTH month as a Murray.
     My favorite accomplishment for Josiah this month was the word "MAMA!" Selfish of me? Yes. :-) He has never used or been able to repeat this word when we've tried. The m sound is tricky for him and I don't think he was connecting it all together...but this month...he figured it out! I'm his MAMA! And he even calls for me- which totally melts my heart.
     Also, we made yet another change in the sleep department this month. But it's been such a positive one! We took Josiah's crib mattress OUT of his crib and moved it into our bedroom. He now sleeps on his mattress...on the floor...beside his Mama. And bedtime is no longer dreaded each and every night. He loves it. He even naps there with some consistency! We're still dealing with some pretty intense night terrors and/or tantrums in the middle of the night...usually from 2:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m...but overall, it's been a big improvement. It's so encouraging how this change has positively impacted his eating too. We have far less trouble at mealtime now. Yay!

Josiah tried footy-jammies for the first time (Thanks, Grandma!) and seems to like them. He's our first kiddo that hasn't had to shed them in the middle of the night due to overheating. His other siblings are giant hotboxes so we could never put them in these kind of jams. Ha! So cute! It's really made Emmaline want to try on some of Sydney's old footies. But she can never make it the entire night. Sooooo we skip them. 

Josiah LOVES helping with the laundry. He also enjoys being in just a diaper and thinks he is pretty hilarious running around the house in such attire.

He's still good for at least one high chair nap and one floor nap per month. Haha!


He now eats an entire banana by himself! Huge sensory victory!!!

     A BIG set of firsts for our Josiah were Christmas Eve, Christmas morning, and three family Christmases. Oh my! Here he is at Christmas Eve service with his big bro. Josiah is still pretty cooperative with smiling for pictures. His younger sis...not.so.much.

Christmas morning started out extremely rough for our little guy. He was breaking a pair of sunglasses so I had to take them away...which triggered a complete meltdown. Eventually, we could distract him and he got to enjoy opening his presents wrapped in the cutest panda wrapping paper! It was the first Christmas we've had in a long time where we haven't had to leave the house for another get-together. Such a BIG blessing for our family this year!

This boy LOVES putting things into containers so this popcorn set was right up his alley!

     Another FIRST this month was a professional hair cut. I know. Finally, right?! He did really well! Of course he sat on my lap, but I expected that...the cut almost put him to sleep! It was very relaxing for him. Here he is showing me his "good" side. 

Just ordinary shenanigans with his siblings...

We were so, so grateful to have a vacation from work and school this Christmas season so that we could spend quality time together as a family. It was much needed in the rush of life as of late! We also started "warm fuzzy" jars for Sydney and Landon as a way to notice all of the positive things they do each day. It's been a tough transition for them and tensions can be pretty high with all of the attention and care Josiah (or Emmaline) needs. Both big sibs filled their jar so Eric and I took them out on a movie date! And we stopped at their favorite place in the world...Barnes & Noble. Cookies, hot chocolate, and a new chapter book made for two HAPPY kids! P.s. If you haven't seen Ferdinand...go. It's completely adorable.

We are looking forward to the New Year and expect 2018 to brings its challenges and setbacks. But we're looking forward to coming out on the other side with new perspectives, changed attitudes, and overall growth for the better! I also expect this to be the year of "potty training." Oye. Our babes are going to be TWO in February and March. HOW!? Celebrating our two, 2 year olds will be quite the adventure! I'm already seeing plenty of toddler tantrums these days. Actually, make that double the tantrums. I did choose a word for 2018 though...and that word is patience! Suits me just right...don't ya think?! This Mama is going to need a whole lotta patience. And coffee. Ha! Thanks for following along, friends!