Wednesday, September 11, 2013

There's No Handbook, but Here's a Cheat Sheet!

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After my last post, I got some comments that made me terribly uncomfortable. I don't want people to feel sorry for us. Admitting that life with a child like Kirill is hard doesn't mean we don't love our life. We wouldn't trade it for another life...ever. So that being said, thank you so much for the support and please understand that we have a joy-filled life even if it is HARD sometimes. I mainly just wanted to open up dialogue among other adoptive parents of children with intensive special needs in a real, honest way. I hope that we will all begin to be more honest with ourselves and with each other so that we can help each other navigate through the hard times.

So how do you have joy when you're simultaneously being challenged to your breaking point at times? I can tell you what we do and I hope it will help. After writing the "There's No Handbook" post, I did some of these things myself. I was having a challenging day when I wrote that and I needed to feel some joy. So here's what we do...I hope these will also help you.

1. Focus on the Small Stuff. Last Thursday I took Kirill to the opthamologist. These annual appointments are always a good time to think back because there's a whole year between them and I can really contrast and compare Kirill's progress. Last year, I had to take Greg with me to handle both boys in the waiting room, with eye drops, etc. Two years ago it took me, Greg, and the assistant to get eye drops in Kirill's eyes and keep Kirill contained. This year, because Kirill has learned to use an iPad with some independence, I took them alone. Kirill sat in a chair for almost the entire wait, quietly listening to books on the iPad. When it came time for drops, I didn't even hold him. He sat in the chair and I helped hold his eyes open for the nurse. That was it! It was so much easier than the past two years.

2. Hire a babysitter. We have a tight budget. But one thing we do not sacrifice is paying for a babysitter. Once a month, we try to go out alone. We also try to take individual girl trips and guy trips with our friends just to give ourselves small breaks. This doesn't happen often enough and we need to do better about making sure we do our date nights. So note to self: schedule date night for September.

3. Ask for help. Ok, I'm HORRIBLE at this. But, I am getting better. I have started just asking people for a little help when I need it. Can't carry everything across the football field at Clayton's practice AND get Kirill to walk to the sidelines? I ask random people headed in the same direction to help me carry stuff. Can't push the grocery store shopping cart to the car and get Kirill to walk out of the store and to the car? I get a store employee to help. Laundry taking over your house? Ask the babysitter to stick around and help you fold clothes. Even though it's nothing big...just asking for a little assistance sometimes makes a HUGE difference in the situation. I've never had anyone who wasn't glad to do those little things. We don't live in a world with a eleventy gabillion other people for nothing. Of course, always pay it forward too! Look for opportunities to make life a little easier for other people when you can!

4. Talk to someone. Most people have at least one person they can talk to when the going gets tough. Even if you have to pay someone to talk to them (I'm talking professional help here...there's no shame in it...I used to be a therapist and I have been to a therapist). Taking an hour out of your week or month to just sit and process your emotions can really shift your perspective. Just getting all those thoughts and feelings outside of your head is 90% of the battle.

5. When all else fails, wine and chocolate. Do I need to elaborate on this one?

I have more, but I'm really wanting to hear from you. Plus Kirill just ran in here naked so I need to go. What do YOU do to make it through the tough days? Leave a comment and let's start writing that handbook! 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

There's No Handbook

I read this post by Jen Hatmaker yesterday and it resonated loudly with me and about eleventy billion other adoptive moms judging from my FB newsfeed. I love it when people are real and honest. I love it when they don't just blog about what a joy every bless-ed little thing is and admit that life often kicks their butts. 

I've had all these thoughts rolling around in my head for a while but I didn't really want to let them come out because I didn't want to scare people away from adoption. But I think it's more important to be honest because I know there MUST be others out there in the same boat. I'm here today to tell you that over two years into our adoption of Kirill, we are still barely day-to-day surviving. Yep, you read that right. Life is not what it appears on my Instagram account. You heard it here...first-hand.

Wanna know what real life looks like in the Davis fam? Here's a precious story for you...

Saturday night we watched the Alabama game with friends. Going to friends' houses with Kirill is stressful. No matter how welcoming and gracious the environment, it's still impossible to relax because of every single thing Kirill does Kirill's water obsession. We never know when he's going to wander off to the bathroom, strip naked, run water, and (if we're really lucky) poop in their tub. Or he might decide to walk around the house and dump every beverage onto himself and the floor. Or my personal favorite, he might dump water all over someone else because he loves the way it feels, so why wouldn't everyone like that feeling? 

Anyway, I took Kirill outside at halftime in hopes that he might burn off some energy, come inside, & watch a movie, so we could actually watch the second half of the game. Of course as soon as we went outside, the sprinklers came on and he made a beeline for them's water. Before I could catch him he was sitting on top of a sprinkler head, completely soaked, laughing hysterically. This resulted in Greg and I getting into an argument and leaving early. There's a lot of stuff I'm leaving out here, but just know that we have pretty gracious friends who love us in spite of how we behave around them. 

After we got home, put the kids to bed, and talked things out, Greg said the most profound thing. THERE'S NO HANDBOOK. Now I realize there's the Bible...and it's the handbook for life...but you know what I mean. There's no Karen Purvis-authored handbook outlining how to parent a post-institutionalized child from another country with Down Syndrome. There's nothing like that out there for us folks. I can assure you, I've done my research. I'd love to put together something for us...but I don't have time or energy because I'm cleaning poop out of bathtubs and trying NOT to turn to crack cocaine to make it through the day (this is sarcasm...please don't call CPS). 

I can't believe there's an Idiot's Guide to Adoption y'all.
One of my dear friends just moved to Tuscaloosa. She's one of the few people in my life that I feel this unexplainable spiritual connection with...she totally "gets" me and all my crazy. So on Sunday, I went over to   help her unpack   escape the asylum   sit on her couch and drink iced coffee for three hours. During that time, we start talking about life since Kirill came home. She looked and me and said, "Is there anyone that has gone through what you've gone through with Kirill? I mean, is there anyone that has adopted a child like him that you can just call or talk to when you need it?" It hit, there is not. 

If I'm being completely honest, these last two years have been lonely. I'd love to be able to call up a fellow adoptive mom and discuss how to parent my child. But I have no idea who I would call. It's not that other families haven't adopted children with complex special needs from hard places. I just don't hear a lot of them talking frankly about their struggles. Or if they do, they live in a land far, far away (like Kansas) and I can't just pop over to Starbucks and chat with them. Or maybe even if they lived right next door, we'd both be too busy cleaning poop to ever get away.

I know I'm not alone. So I want you to hear me right now. If you've adopted a child from a hard place with complex special needs...and you're wondering if it will EVER get better...YOU ARE NOT ALONE. I understand that it feels super duper lonely. It stinks that there's no Karen Purvis book for us. But, I still have hope. I still trust that God is sovereign in our lives and he's not left us alone. And we ARE surviving...even if it's barely surviving with thoughts of turning to crack cocaine (again, sarcasm...please do not call CPS). And maybe, someday, when our kids learn that poop belongs in the potty, we can write that handbook together.