Friday, October 19, 2012

Trauma & The "Well Adjusted Child"

As I am getting mentally prepared to welcome two more boys into our family, I have been contemplating the early days of Colin and Cameron being in our family.
It's been awhile since I've posted about the boys' transitions.  And I also realized that, for the most part, it has been Colin that I have shared about the most.
For the past few weeks, it is Cameron that has been on my heart.
To recap a bit, Cameron was the child that we advocated heavily for when we got home with Colin in September of 2011. 
This was the picture that captivated us from the other side of the world.  Just look at those EYES!
We were told time and again that we could not possibly adopt him, so with the help of several friends and advocates, and with his age out date approaching, we all set out to find his family.
Fast forward through a LOT of details and we find we are indeed his family and we race back to China to get him. So, in December, he became a Rylands.
I don't know what I expected, except that I found myself surprised whenever Cameron was "different" than his new, older brother.
It was clear to us that he was much younger than his legal age, and so we did expect there to be maturity differences.
As I remember back to the early days, one big difference was Cameron's expectations.  When he saw something he wanted, he took it. I remember even in the hotels while still in country, I felt the need to begin teaching him to ask for things. (Note here:  for children who perhaps had a difficult infancy/toddler years, it is important to develop a bond of trust by meeting their needs often and consistently.  It is also valuable to be able to say yes a LOT!)
So, I was intentional about setting up situations where I knew I was going to be able to say yes.  Stocking the hotel room with healthy snacks allowed me to say yes everytime he remembered to ask for a snack.  Instead of grabbing a banana, I required him to ask.  This opened up the lines of communication (with me instead of Colin) and allowed me to be the one to give him what he wanted/needed).
Other differences?  Colin would help me with anything and everything (even when I wasn't looking to be helped!).  Cameron?
Well, our dear, sweet, pretty Cameron was perfectly content to be served. 

Now, in case you were to think that he was not an obedient or respectful child, let me pause to say that was not the case.  When we asked Cameron to come help us with something, or hold the door, or clear the table etc..he was compliant.  However, if he was not asked, jumping up to help someone do something would never have crossed his mind!
You see, our pretty boy was quite a popular young lad in his home country and I suspect was not pushed hard to do anything he didn't want to do.  He had the "puppy dog eyes" down pat!
I want to warn prospective adoptive parents and those recently home with older children that the appearance of a good transition is not always what is appears to be.  Would that it were that easy.
With Cameron, he would hide his pain behind a smile.  Often even giggles.  When we had to have the difficult conversation with him that he was not really 14, he laughed. (While tears welled up in his eyes).  Had we not been hyper vigilant to observe the "hidden signs", we surely would have missed the pain that this news caused him.
If you have raised boys, you know how important things like age, height, weight, strength..are to the male species!  Telling Cameron that he was 4 YEARS youger than he thought was a HARD thing to handle.
We who have grown up with parents who raised us from birth take for granted that our birthday really IS the day we were born.  Those who have a different story, can't rely on that.  Our birthdate and the stories we are told as children about our early years are integral parts of our core identity.  Here we were telling this precious child that what he thought about his identity was not true.  So, while some of you might be tempted to challenge the "age" or "birthdate" that your adopted child comes with, I would caution you to pray over that decision carefully.  If the gap for Cameron had not been quite so dramatic, I am not convinced we would have made the change for him.
If you are a PAP (prospective adoptive parent) or newly home, be on guard to look for other signs that your child might be grieving the loss involved in their adoption.
For our boys, while they were older and more able to articulate their hurts and needs than younger children, they didn't necessarily share them with us.  At least not right away.
Realize that this reluctance is not just because of the language barrier.  In fact, I believe that the language barrier can be a protective layer over their hearts while they begin the tough work of healing.  For Cameron, being 4 years younger than Colin, he has less control over his emotional responses to things. 
But, eventually, and with a lot of affirmation, they do eventually begin to trust.  With Cameron, it was July before he started to open up about his memories.
 Once afternoon, while Cameron and I were alone in the car heading home from a Doctor's appointment, he says, "I remember taking a train ride with my mama".  Maybe it was the train tracks that we drove by that triggered this memory.  Saying nothing, but looking his way, I silently gave him permission to continue if he wanted.
And he did.  The conversation that followed was one that I shall never forget.  One that ripped my heart to pieces as I fought with all my might to stay focused on the highway, listen intently, and NOT cry for fear that he would be upset by that.
My precious, beautiful boy shared with me, in painfully accurate detail, the days and moments that led to his mama making the decision to abandon her son.
While he could not remember where his home was, he did remember riding on a train for 2 days with his mother.  Then, he shared about the day they were on a city bus and he fell asleep beside her in the seat.  When he awoke from his nap, he was alone in the seat, surrounded by strangers, unable to find his mama.  All I could think of in that moment was to say, "Honey, were you scared?"  He looked me right in the eyes and said, "Yes, mama. I was really scared." 
Oh my heart! 
All these thoughts raced through my mind at such speed...
"I need to show him I love him."
"I need to tell him that his mama loved him."
"I need to somehow make this ok."
So, what did I actually say?
I told him that as a mama, I knew what a very difficult thing it must have been for her to do.  I told him that she loved him so much that she was willing to let someone else be his mama so that he could get his clubbed feet fixed and have more opportunities for a happy life. 
He said that this was what he felt was true also.
I realize that I might never know the exact circumstances that drove his Mother to this choice.  I can only assume that his special need played heavily into her decision as well as the expense of surgery and therapy.
What I know for sure is that she will always have my compassion and respect.  I can not even imagine being in that place.  Being in a situation where I had to sacrifice my child for his own good.  Whatever the details, I will do everything I can, with God's help, to be there for Cameron as he heals from this rough start.
He has overcome so much in his life.  And his defense mechanisms are still there, deep inside.  And they do surface from time to time.  The tears come, he withdraws and diverts his eyes away from you, and it takes him some time to recover and bounce back.  But, after 10 months with our family, we are making progress. He is healing, little by little and his smile is becoming brighter each and every day.
He is much quicker to share his experiences in the orphanage, share happy memories about his younger years along with the sad ones, and trust that we are here to stay.
Of all my boys, Cameron is the most excited about welcoming Connor and Cooper into our family.  I can't wait to see how God is going to use him to love these two new boys into our home!
One thing that hasn't changed?
He still has the most killer gorgeous eyes ever!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Goat Milk Soap Fundraiser

Goat Milk Soap

Our current fundraiser will assist us with raising the $16,000 that we still need to bring home Connor, 13 & Cooper, 9 from China!  Thank you for supporting us as we work to bring home these two older boys!  To learn more about our family, click the home page and you can meet our other three sons, two of whom were adopted as older children also.  Once they reach 14, they can no longer be adopted and forever lose their chance at a family! 

If you would like to order some soap, please email me at letting me know which scents you want and how many.  I will email you back with your shipping totals. Payment can be made on our donate button through paypal.
Many of you may be familiar with the Jonas family of  Goat Milk Stuff, LLC.
They make ahhh---mazing soaps and other items from Goats!
Tom still can't understand how they get those goats to smell so good!
Anyway, this family owned business allows adopting families to order their products at wholesale in order to support their fundraising efforts!
They were featured on the TV show:
The Doctors
To see this amazing family in action, check out this video clip:
The Jonas Family of Goat Milk Stuff 
So, we have placed an order and hope to get lots of orders in to support our efforts to bring Connor and Cooper home soon.
Here is a bar of their sweet smelling Lavender soap:
 Available Scents:
(Click each scent for more detailed info)
For a list of ingredients in each scent, please click here and then select the scent you desire for more detailed info...
Each bar weighs between 4.5 & 5,5 ounces and sell for $6 each.
If you would like to have some bars shipped to you,
please add $3/bar. (Happy to combine shipping where I can.)
Tom and I have used the Oatmeal, Milk & Honey scent and we love it!  This soap is so nice and does not dry out our skin like many soaps do.
There are a multitude of benefits for your skin, so check out the FAQ page on their website to learn more!
Thanks all!


More Pottery Necklaces

As I mentioned in a previous post (which you can read here) we met an artist at the Together for Adoption conference who's main goal was to assist fundraising families in their quest to fund their adoptions so that one more child can come home to the love of a family and hear about the gospel of Christ.
They GAVE (that's right, gave) each fundraising family a starter pack of these gorgeous handmade pottery necklaces to sell. Well, as many of you know, they did not last long, so I requested more.

This week, when traveling to Birmingham for work, I was able to get 40 more! (And ya'll, this batch was even more amazing than the first!)

That would explain why they didn't last long. I sold over 30 to my awesome Lifeline co-workers! But, I do have some great ones left and many more to come. (She is sending me 60 more designs next week, so stay tuned!)

These below are currently available. Each one costs $24 and $3 extra if you need it shipped to you. (We get to keep $12 from each necklace, so think CHRISTMAS GIFTS!)

Each one has a scripture reference etched into the back and they are all handmade! Great quality and they look so much greater when you hold one in your hands!

Choose your favorite quickly. They don't last long. All the chords are approx. 8 inches from clasp to top of pendant. Nice length.

2. No scripture on back
Approx. 1 2/16 inches in diameter

4. Jeremiah 29:11--SOLD
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Approx. 1.5" x 1" (at bottom)
5.  Ephesians 3:20--SOLD
Now to him who is able to do more than all we ask or imagine,
to Him be the glory in the church throughout all generations for ever and ever. Amen.

6. Ephesians 3:20--SOLD
Now to him who is able to do more than all we ask or imagine,
to Him be the glory in the church throughout all generations for ever and ever. Amen.

7. Jeremiah 29:11--SOLD
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

9. 1 Peter 5:7 --SOLD
Cast all your cares on Him because he cares for you.
Approx. 1 inch square

11.  I Peter 5:7---SOLD
Cast all your cares on Him because he cares for you.

16. Jeremiah 29:11 ---SOLD
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,
 “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

17. Ephesians 3:20 --SOLD
Now to him who is able to do more than all we ask or imagine,
to Him be the glory in the church throughout all generations for ever and ever. Amen.

18. James 1:27---SOLD
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:
to look after orphans and widows in their distress and keep oneself
from being polluted by the world.

19.  I Peter 5:7--SOLD
Cast all your cares on Him because he cares for you.

24. Deutoronomy 31:6--SOLD
Be strong and courageous.
Do not be afraid or terrified because of them,
for the Lord your God goes with you;
he will never leave you nor forsake you

25. Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

26. Proverbs 3:5-6 --SOLD
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths.
27. Lamentations 3:22-23----SOLD
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

29.  Matthew 11:28--SOLD
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
30.  Deutoronomy 31:6--SOLD
Be strong and courageous.
Do not be afraid or terrified because of them,
for the Lord your God goes with you;
he will never leave you nor forsake you

32. Proverbs 3:5-6 --SOLD
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths.

34. Ecclesiastes. 3:11--SOLD
He has made everything beautiful in its time.
He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet
they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

38. 1 Peter 5:7--SOLD
 Cast all your cares on Him because he cares for you.

40. Ephesians 3:20--SOLD
Now to him who is able to do more than all we ask or imagine,
to Him be the glory in the church throughout all generations for ever and ever. Amen. 

Thanks to each one of you who has supported our fundraising efforts. We have a very long way to go, but we are fully confident that God will provide!

Tom & Angie 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Introducing Connor!

Well, I know that many of you have been waiting to hear all about our newest son, Connor! 
Connor- 13
This very special boy is 13 years old and as many of you know, that means his time to be adopted is running short. Couldn't you just eat him up?  I truly don't know how we keep ending up with these crazy handsome boys, but oh my!
Many know sweet Connor as "Chad".  Our sweet friends Annie and Kim have both advocated tirelessly for this child and his friend Chaz, who still needs a family and is aging out soon!
So, here is some of the "back story". 
A couple of weeks ago, my friend Kim, who is in LOVE with this child, called the house and apparently told Tom all about him and how much she wanted him to have a family.
When I returned home that night, Tom says, "So, tell me about 'Chad'".
After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I pulled his file and videos and showed Tom this sweet boy.  Because it was SOOO strange that Tom even bothered to ask me about him, I also emailed some co-workers, who JUST SO HAPPENED to be at his orphanage that very day IN CH*NA!  I knew that my other advocate friends would want to get updated pics/video of him also, so I sent off a few questions and asked them to see him since they were AT HIS ORPHANAGE! 
Well, just as quickly as the inquiry came, Tom announces that he is a very nice boy, but we are only bringing home one! (Anyone else ever had their hubby say that???? Heehee)
Thing is, I actually believed him, so when the team came back from the orphanage in Ch*na, I didn't even ask for the update that I had requested. 

Several days later, my sweet co-worker, Logan,

 asked if I wanted to see the responses he gave.  Of course, I said yes.

This was Friday night when the email came through, right before I was hopping into the car to take Colin and Tommy to the high school football game.

Colin, being the super nosey teenager that he is, just had to take a look at the pictures that I pulled up on my laptop.  (ok, cutting him some slack here, 'cause let's face it, seeing a chinese boy his age is a rare thing in these parts!)

With little time left to get to the game, I didn't have much time to look over what was sent to me. So, off we went.  What I wasn't expecting was that Colin would be the one to ask about him on the way to the game.

We were rushed and I was thinking about rush hour traffic while God was pressing on Colin's heart!

In a nutshell, he asked about who that boy was.  I told him.  He asked how old he was.  I told him.  Then....he started having this rhetorical conversation with himself, out loud, about all the reasons that our bunks were full and how we couldn't be the ones to bring him home. 

But, just as quickly as the logical reasons flowed, so did the solutions.  It was something I wish I could have videotaped!

Here he is talking to himself, sort-of, and he begins to solve each problem he had just listed.

Knowing that adoption is not like getting a puppy, I felt it necessary to point out all the sacrificies that would have to be made in order for us to ever consider ANOTHER child.

Then it happened!

That beautiful, caring boy...

the boy who just one short year ago WAS the waiting boy around the world,
looked me in the eye and said,

"It's true, Mama.  We would have to lose a little, but He...he would get a LOT!"

Now, I want that to sink in for a moment.  Everyone of you who has a teenager, or who has ever raised one, just think about that.

This 15 year old boy, who now has more than he has ever had before in his life, was willing, with virtually no thought whatsoever, to give up the chance at more because he knew what it would mean for someone else.

Really, what does one say to that?  Is there any amount of selfishness that can exist in the face of that pure and giving spirit?

I could not think of one single material thing that mattered to me more in that moment than what we had the opportunity to offer this child.

Later that night, after the game, Colin was headed upstairs to bed when he stopped halfway and whispered down to me, "Mama, talk to Dad!"

Now, those who know Colin, know that by whisper, I do not mean quietly! So, of course, Tom overheard that.

Once Colin was up and out of sight, Tom asked what that was all about.  I simply said that Colin wanted me to talk to him about "Chad".  He looked surprised, but I did not go any further.

I went to sleep that night and was very restless. So, I prayed that if God was intending for us to be doing something with all this that He would use Tom because I was resolute that I was not going to push another child into our home.  This was going to have to be a clear calling from God. 

The next morning it happened.  Tom got up early to cook a wonderful breakfast for the kids and me.  For some strange reason, the boys raced through their food that morning and rushed off to start their chores, leaving Tom and me ALONE at the table with our coffee.
(A side note here:  THIS NEVER HAPPENS!  Did you catch that we were alone???)

Suddenly, Tom says, "Tell me more about your conversation with Colin last night."

So, I then proceeded to share with him exactly what I shared above with you all.  Then, as if it were an episode of "Freaky Friday", Tom begins to have the same conversation with himself, that Colin had in the car the night before.  And, just like Colin, it took no time at all before he began to verbally solve those same "problems" excuses for himself.  Before I knew it, statements like, "If we brought home another would mean..." turned into "When we bring him home, we will need to..." 

Realizing that the tide had suddenly turned, I asked him, "Do you hear yourself?  Are you actually considering this?"

His response? 

"This child looks like a Rylands, and I believe God wants us to bring him home".

Isn't God good? 

We agreed together that this was our son and called the boys down to discuss it with them.  We had an immediate concensus, so we sent off the email to lock his file.

Of course, there is still a tremendous amount of work to be done and much money to raise in order to fulfill this calling, but we believe in our hearts that this child was called to our family by God himself, just like Colin, Cameron and Cooper were and we rejoice that He will provide the resources we need to accomplish this goal!

There are several fundraising efforts in the works, so please check back often if you want to financially support us in this journey.

If you feel the Lord leading you to give, you can donate via paypal, or you can give a tax-free donation through Journey Together Ministries.

This local non-profit organization has approved our family as a "Hope Fund" family and will accept donations on our behalf.  You can read more about "JTM" and our family on their website here and here.

Together, we can all help these sweet boys come home to a family that loves them.

Many thanks,
Tom, Angie, Colin, Connor, Cameron, Cooper and Tommy! 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

I have been not-so-patiently waiting to finally publish this post.
Our family has undergone some major changes in the past 18 months.  It is hard to imagine that it was only 18 short months ago that God laid adoption on our hearts for the first time!
Since then, we have been to China twice and, as most of you already know, we are headed there again....
We are super excited to meet Cooper and bring him home to be a Rylands!
But, what you may NOT know.....