Wednesday, April 16, 2014

He's a Fighter

There are days where all I can think about is the time Kirill spent in the orphanage. He's been with us for almost three years now. He will be 8 years old in two weeks. I often think about the years before he joined our family-especially around his birthday.

I wonder if he remembers the orphanage? Since he's nonverbal he can't tell us these things. Once, his teacher told me they were reading a story about a child in an orphanage in the library. Kirill started screaming and crying (which he almost NEVER does) out of nowhere as if he was hurt. I am sure it was just a coincidence, but it made us all wonder if he understood what the librarian was talking about and somehow made the connection. Who knows...we may never know what he remembers. I pray he doesn't remember anything before he came into our family, but I know he probably does. Even if he doesn't, the scars of spending five years in a crib with little or no outside contact with humans are obvious. They're slowly fading, but still obvious.

One thing I do know: Kirill is the strongest person I've ever met. These days when all I can do is linger on the hell of his first five years, I remember when we walked out of the orphanage after meeting him for the first time. Greg and I knew we were walking away from him for months (which would later stretch into almost a year). From our arms, we were sending him back into a cold, isolated existence. I wondered out loud to Greg if he would live until we were allowed to come back for him. Greg held my hand and said, "Tesney, he's going to be ok. He's going to make it. He's a fighter. I can tell."

I still don't know if Greg really believed that or if he was just trying to make his heartbroken wife feel more confident. I do know that it proved to be the truth. Kirill is a fighter. He doesn't give up. His persistence is amazing. Even after all he lived through, his spirit is joyful and he has the best smile you've ever seen.

I guess I'm writing this just to encourage you. I know we all have bad days; bad months, years, and lives even. However, I can promise you that if Kirill lived through his first 1, 871 days, you can find the strength to keep going. He's my daily reminder that Jesus sustains even when our world is not full of rainbows and unicorns. He's a fighter.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Not Impressed

Rescue those unjustly sentenced to die. Don't hesitate to step in and help. If you say, "Hey, that's none of my business." Will that get you off the hook? God knows what you know. He's not impressed with weak excuses. -Proverbs 24:11-12, NLT & The Message mash-up

Since God first wrecked our lives in a most excellent (and most difficult) way through adoption, I've gone back and forth, to and from extremes. At first I was all "full throttle ahead, everyone should adopt, and why aren't they" with my approach. 

Then I felt The Lord pressing me to be a little more graceful. I felt him nudging me to be quiet for a while, to listen, offer support, and to let him change hearts. I started learning more about adoption. I visited other countries and saw first-hand how family preservation is so much better IF it's feasible. I got in touch with Kirill's birth mom, learned his birth story from her perspective, and realized that family of origin is always the best option. But it isn't always an available option. 

For Kirill, and most orphaned children with intensive special needs, adoption is probably the only solution. This is where my passion has been re-ignited over the past few months. I've felt God telling me it's time to speak up again. Maybe a little more boldly than ever on behalf of orphaned children with special needs. 

Orphaned children with special needs. Let's talk about that. Let's allow the reality of their situations to sink in for a moment. A child with special needs with a loving, nurturing family will have some obstacles to overcome. A child with special needs without a family...well, their obstacles are almost insurmountable. Depending on the country, they are turned out onto the streets, placed in mental institutions, or turned over to nursing homes...obstacles that are impossible to overcome because they don't have a voice or a family to advocate for them.

Now, think about this for a moment. God tells us repeatedly that the least of these are our responsibility as Jesus-followers. WE are the ones sentencing them to an unfair death by doing nothing. 

It is our business. 

God is not impressed with weak excuses. 

Now, let's all together say our excuses for not doing something out loud. I will start. 

Our plate is full with Kirill. (Feel free to insert your own plate-filling child's name).

Well, it is pretty full. I work. Greg works. We have two kids and one of them has intensive special needs. But the reality is I work primarily from home so I have 6 hours a day alone while my children are at school. We have an extra bedroom. We have food to spare. Honestly, there is room for more from us. Imagine telling Jesus your weak excuse. Would he be impressed? For us, it has become clear that cannot check "special needs adoption" off a list and rest on our laurels for the rest of our lives. 

Frankly speaking, it's not about us. When we shift our focus to the children who need families, and we make it about their needs, everything changes. Our excuses are LAME-O. 

So today, on Orphan Sunday, let's all do better. Let's start examining excuses. Pray your excuses to God and see how he answers. Adoption is one answer...and for many it is the only answer. But there are eleventy billion other answers he may give you. The 90-year old home bound grandmother may be moved to pray for adopting families and their children. The tween aged crowd may organize a fundraiser for sponsoring a family preservation program. The young married couple may offer respite care for tired adoptive parents. He may tell you to mentor teen moms. We can probably all think of a family in our own community who needs help staying together. Why don't we come alongside those families and support them instead of judging them? There is plenty we can all do together. Let's just do something and stop with the excuses. God isn't impressed. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

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

Image via

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. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


After 2 years, hundreds of documents, thousands of tears, and millions of prayers, I can finally say...OUR ADOPTION OF KIRILL IS COMPLETE!

We feel incredibly blessed by God's addition of Kirill to our family. 

We understand God's love for us more fully because of this difficult road we travelled to bring Kirill home. 

We realize we could not have done it alone.

We are SO THANKFUL for the outpouring of support through words, thoughts, acts of kindness, and most importantly, PRAYER.

If you've followed our journey from the beginning, you know that we have grown increasingly passionate about orphan care during our adoption process.

I can think of no better way to end this blog than to put out a plea for the millions of other children just like Kirill that do not have most basic human right...the love of a family.

As we were saying good-bye to our wonderful Russian staff on Kirill's gotcha day, I will never forget our facilitator's parting words to us. With tears in her eyes she said, "You have a blog. Please put on your blog that there are other children here who need families."

This request was humbling and amazing to us. Our Russian staff had been working so hard on our behalf. They lost sleep and put in long hours to help us fight for our precious son. I know their jobs were so very difficult. Yet they want to keep fighting for these children who are not valued by their society to have famlies. I cannot tell you how much these people mean to us. They are truly the Rosa Parks of their society, fighting for the rights of those that cannot fight for themselves.

And they are winning.


I am fully convinced that Satan tries to keep people from adopting orphans because he KNOWS that through adoption, you will come to know God's love for you more fully than you have ever known his love before. I can also tell you that when you choose to adopt, God will teach you things that he cannot teach you any other way than through the adoption process.

So don't miss out.


There are 147 million chances waiting to show you the love that God has for you.

And if you are afraid or if you have excuses, tell them to God and then listen for his reply. Search scripture. Ask him to help you understand his heart. Then remember his promises...

Joshua 1:9
"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged. For the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."

Phil 1:6
"For I am certain of this very thing, that he by whom the good work was started in you will make it COMPLETE until the day Christ returns."

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Decisions, Decisions

Now that Kirill's adoption is complete, I'm having a hard time deciding what to do with this blog. I had always intended to just stop posting here and post more on our family blog once Kirill was home. But I never really expected to have so many readers either! My other blog, the one I started 6 years ago (Minivans and Mom should check it out!) has been woefully neglected since we started the adoption process two years ago. But, I love that blog because it's got so much of our family history on it AND it's where I did more creative writing for so long. Our Eyes Opened has a more serious tone. I'm thinking I can combine the two and share both philosophical posts AND the hilarious & exaggerated stories of our family life.

I do not have time to keep up two blogs. (Who am I kidding? I haven't been keeping up two blogs as it is!)

I don't really want to close Minivans.

But most of you all started reading here.

Will you follow me if I stop posting here?

What to do?

I'm going to leave it up to you!

There's a poll if you look to the right--->

Cast your vote! Because I'm not good with decisions. And my brain is full right now. So tell me what to do!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Adjustment & Attachment

Below you will find a letter we had prepared to send out to family & friends back in March when we thought we were bringing Kirill home. After we were denied his adoption in his regional court, we didn't send out the letter. Since we were all a little caught off guard by his homecoming after our supreme court hearing, we are just now sharing this with everyone. It is very apparent now more than ever that the plans we had for Kirill's adjustment be followed. We are all doing fine, but we just cannot have a lot of excitement right now. Quiet and calm are our friends. :) I will share on here our day to day, so I hope you will follow along and understand if I don't respond to every email, phone call, or comment right now. I do read them and appreciate them more than you will ever know. But if I responded to everything, I would not have any time for Clayton and Kirill. Things will settle down eventually and I hope to be able to be more responsive after we are all adjusted to the big changes in our lives! Thank you again so much for your continued prayers and support. 

Dear Family and Friends,

As we get ready to embark on one of the most exciting events in our lives, we are thinking a lot about the people around us and how much our lives are going to change. Family and friends are so very important to us and we cannot wait for Kirill to share in the blessing of a relationship with each one of you. We feel that God has worked through you all to give us love, support, and encouragement during our adoption process. You have prayed, cried, and shared in our excitement; truly you have been Christ to us. We appreciate you more than we can ever express in words.

We’re thrilled about bringing Kirill home! We’ve done a lot of reading, research, and asked a lot of other adoptive parents about this process and we feel as prepared as we can be to help Kirill become a member of our family and community.

There are some things about adoptive parenting that are the same as parenting a biological child. There are also quite a few areas that we have learned are different. Through our adoption agency, the UAB International Adoption Clinic, books, other adoptive parents, adoption social workers, psychologists and more, we have learned that Kirill needs a specific type of environment and parenting when he first comes home in order to feel safe & secure and to learn how to live successfully in our family.

While we know that every child is different, we also understand that there are many possible things that will impact Kirill’s beliefs and behavior when he gets home. These include how much nurturing Kirill received, if there was abuse or neglect, the amount and quality of the food he received, illnesses, the quality of care and his unique temperament and personality. The result of these variables can include behavioral issues, emotional disorders and a sense of grief and loss from being separated from the only home and caregivers Kirill has ever known. Adoption is a traumatic and scary event for a child, whether they are newborn or 10 years old. Kirill is being removed from all of his routines and familiar surroundings. If you have children, you can imagine plucking them out of your family and into a totally different home in a different country. Anyone would feel grief and sadness at an event like this. So in order to help Kirill feel safe and learn that we are his parents, we will be creating the type of environment that will help promote security for him during this stressful time.

When Kirill gets home, at the recommendation of the experienced adoption professionals with whom we have been working, we need to implement specific parenting approaches to help encourage a strong, attached, emotionally healthy bond. Kirill needs to learn that we are the parents. He needs to feel nurtured and safe. He will not be used to having parents to love and care for him.

Here are some things we will be doing for Kirill based on research and experience with other adopted children. We will be living a very quiet life with limited trips out and few visitors in for a little while. Social workers and psychologists tell us that when children are first brought into the adoptive home, they often feel overwhelmed, scared, and nervous. By keeping our lives very boring at first, we will be helping Kirill feel safe. This does NOT mean we do not want visitors coming to meet Kirill for the first time. We will just have to limit it a little so that it is not overwhelming. Please feel free to call us and ask to come visit! We just want you to understand that if we have to limit visitors it is not because we want you to stay away. On the contrary, we need your support and encouragement during this time!

I know a number of people are planning to meet us at the airport when we arrive home. That will be wonderful and touching for us to see so many familiar and supportive faces when we arrive. We do not want family and friends to stay away from us. We just can’t pass Kirill around for everyone to hold a lot and we will have to be mindful of overloading him with new things and people. We know you will want to hug, kiss, and help spoil Kirill, but it is recommended that we be the only ones to do that at first to improve his chances of attaching strongly to us. Until we feel that Kirill has attached and clearly knows that we are his parents, we will need to feed, change, and take care of him. We know that it may feel disappointing to some of you because you have shared in our excitement of meeting Kirill. I bet you’re especially disappointed about missing out on the diaper changes. Have no fear; there will be many more once he becomes comfortable at home. J

As strange as it may seem, adopted children who act very outgoing and affectionate with strangers is not a healthy thing. It is called “indiscriminate affection” and can mean that they haven’t really attached to anyone. It would not be a good sign that Kirill is attached to us if during his first months home he will let just anyone take him and hold him without searching for us. For certain, it going to be a weird and wonderful experience for us. We are so excited and we can’t wait to bring Kirill home so you can all see him and get to know him. Things are just a little different when you are adopting a child rather than having a biological child. He will be adapting to a lot of new things…new parents, new brother, new home, new foods, new time zone (totally opposite of everything he is used to). That’s a lot to swallow at one time. Although we cannot predict how long it will take Kirill to adjust to our home, we feel confident that by implementing some specific parenting approaches it will happen more quickly than if we did not implement those approaches.

We appreciate your time and understanding in reading this. We are giving you this letter because you are very important to us, and we know you will be to Kirill as well. We want you to understand how dedicated and committed we are to helping Kirill adjust and adapt as smoothly as possible during this stressful time in his life. We feel confident that everything will smooth out quickly and we will be on a more normal schedule! Thank you again for your continued prayers, love, and encouragement.

In Him,

Greg & Tesney