The Longest Week

We've been home now as a family of 7 for 2 weeks.  In many ways, it has felt like 2 months. Up until yesterday, I wasn't sure if I would even be able to blog about any of our first days home.  They were filled with so much grief and exhaustion.  There were so, so many tears.  But God is good, and He didn't call us to this for nothing.  This is a redemption story, and in this broken world, redemption doesn't come without some serious battles. 

Our fiercest enemy in this stage of the process has been expectation.  Our training was thorough.  We learned what to expect and how to face the worst case scenarios head-on.  And we have expected 95% of what we've faced.  In theory, our expectations about what we would face were completely realistic. The problem has been our own human emotions. The problem is that we never expected to feel the way that we do about living and walking through all of these issues 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  It's one thing to know in your head what you will make a prepare.  It's another thing to live through see your efforts fail realize that all your organization and color coding is for naught if you never have a hot second to complete a single watch your children fall apart hour after regroup and try again...and again...and again.  And when all of your emotionally energy is completely zapped, to sit down and cry every night after the kids are in bed and wonder how anything in life will ever feel "normal" again. I didn't expect to feel this awful. 

The first week was so very long.  Transitions. New spaces. Adjustments. Cabin fever. New routines. Clogged toilets. Arguing. Tons of complaining. Way too much wrestling on the floor. No boundaries vs. new boundaries. Grief. Bedwetting. Jealousy. Tattle-taling all the livelong blessed day. Testing limits. Snow. Loss. Regression. Acceptance. Too many voices at once...all the time. I swear I can't remember half of it. It just felt like it would never end. There were never enough hours in the day.  Never enough hands to complete the never-ending list of tasks.  At any given second, each child needed 3 different things from 3 different parts of the house...all at once.  Everyone was fighting for attention every moment.  I didn't have a single second to myself.  And to top it off, Michael had to go back to work right away. So I was on my own that first week. 

We homeschool, and since Costa Rica's school year ended in November, I had planned a break for our Ticos until January. However, being the highly motivated students they are, they all 3 begged for "tarea" and "escuelita."  (Actually...they just want to do whatever Asher and Landyn get to do. I wish they were highly motivated students.) And when I realized that unstructured time with 5 siblings in this stage of the adoption process is about as much fun as lighting oneself on fire, I opted to start school right away. So we do school in both languages. Totally exhausting. I have just enough Spanish-speaking abilities to get by and translate stories on the fly. I never thought I'd say this, but I cannot wait for them to learn English!

The structure has helped. A lot. I was never one for intense structure before we adopted. I'd rather be a free spirit and fly by the seat of my pants.  I raised my first kids in that flexible environment. We were spontaneous. For the foreseeable future, those days are gone. I feel like I'm running a military school for small, sassy, attention-seeking people these days. It's not my all...but it's working. It's keeping us from all losing our minds, so we'll stick with it for now.

And that shift in atmosphere is one of the things my first kids have struggled with the most. They don't need that structure. And during that first week, I could tell they felt smothered by all the new rules and boundaries. Their home became a place they didn't recognize, and that brought out a lot of grief and frustration. It was incredibly difficult to walk through that with them, but I do feel like we're on the other side of it. They now see that it's working for their new siblings, and they understand that someday we will be able to relax a little.

I expected my first kids to struggle with all of that. But I did not expect to feel the way that I did about it. I knew they would struggle with sharing, and they have.  I expected them to struggle with the decrease in the attention they get, and they have.  I figured they would grieve the loss of our comfy, spontaneous life, and they have.  What I didn't expect was the resentment and regret that I felt.  Watching them struggle through all of that was much harder to experience in real life.  But as gut-wrenchingly hard and frustrating as it was to walk through that with them, I can see that they are learning how to rejoice in the good that is happening to their new siblings...even though very little about it feels good to them.  They are learning how to look to the interests of others first.  

For their part, our Ticos have actually done amazingly well adjusting to a totally new life with near-strangers in a foreign land where no one speaks their language fluently.  I'm seriously impressed.  And it is only by the grace of God, because, well, if you could have seen these 3 when we first brought them to live with us in CR, you'd understand.  I don't ever want to dishonor them by divulging too much of their stories, but suffice it to say, if you knew exactly what they've lived through, you'd be surprised that they came out on this side in one piece.  We still have lots of healing to work through, but the progress that we've seen in these past 7 weeks leaves me breathless.  They are learning to trust.  Learning what it means to be in a family.  Learning how to develop healthy friendships and relationships.  Learning boundaries. Oh sweet Jesus, the boundaries were totally not there at all. They are not at all the same people we met on November 5. Everyday, they are a few steps closer to wholeness...and it no longer feels like we are doing the "one step forward, two steps back" thing anymore. 

In fact, the second week has gone so well that we tried a few outings...and by  "a few," I mean 4. The cocooning thing--where we are supposed to stay home for months alone...yeah, it almost killed me. I was a total wreck by Friday of the first week. Michael had to go into work late so I could have some time alone to regroup. So we decided to start adding in some regular activities to see how the kids handled it. We visited the grandparents on both sides (some pre-Christmas tours so they understand what a "normal" visit looks like as opposed to a Christmas visit when they go home with a bunch of stuff we don't have space for). And we took them to a kids' game night at church, where Wagner made friends with one of my favorite children's min kids ever. And I took them to the myself after school on Thursday. This week, there has been so much less tension and arguing and attention seeking. Fewer squabbles and scoldings. More organization. I have charts for chores and meals so I don't lose my mind. And we are totally color coded up in here. The teacher part of me is in Heaven. The spontaneous mom part of me kinda hate it, but is getting over it...because it's totally working. 

Our color coded magnetic meal choice board. Now they don't have to all yell at me 17 times, "I want huevos!!!"

Our re-vamped bilingual, color-coded chore system. I'm not gonna lie--my house is cleaner now than it was with only 2 kids. Those blue "boletos" are like gold in this house. 

And our color-coded towels. In the words of my favorite adoption blogger, Jen Hatmaker, "bless it." (I've always wanted to say that...)

We are glad to have survived the first 2 weeks home. We got a lot of sweet, well-wishes during that week, which we appreciated, but couldn't resonate with during those initial days. It felt like a lot of people hoped or assumed that our lives would be complete now that everybody's home together...and that was not the case. Honestly, I could find very little to be happy or hopeful about. I wondered how we would ever figure out how to make a life with these little complicated strangers. But we are steadily climbing out of that dark place...together. And we know that the prayers of our family and friends and church family are moving mountains. We are so grateful for our "village," and even though most of you still haven't met the kids yet, you are impacting their lives in so many ways. We are ao thankful for the meals and clothes and encouraging letters...both to us and to our kids. Thanks for helping us survive the longest week. 


  • Designed by Dawn Nicole | December 21, 2013 at 8:13 AM

    Big hugs to you all, Audie!

    “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” ― Maya Angelou

    Praying all these changes achieve that beauty for you (and if know God and your family like I think I do...they well!).

    Love you so much and hope you have a very Merry Christmas!


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