Sunday, July 21, 2013

Reflections Upon The Occasion of a Summer Picnic

See this laughing person in a pink princess dress with her face painted like a tiger?

Eighteen months ago I stepped off an airplane into crisp snow with her in my arms, asleep. Eighteen months have been spent bonding, learning a new language, eating new foods, having surgeries, growing her hair out, learning to zip a zipper, watching Sesame Street, jumping on the trampoline, learning to swim, and best of all, discovering that she has a family. Forever. 

Do you know why eighteen months are important? According to our training, for every two months of institutional care, one month needs to be spent healing, bonding, and getting as much love and consistent met needs as possible. Abi entered care (as far as we know) at age 8 months. She came home to our family at 45 months of age. So she spent 37 months in care, or more than three years. That makes eighteen months the magic milestone. The day we've been looking toward. To reach today, and then look forward into tomorrow. 

During that 37 months, she was uprooted twice to move to a different orphanage, usually due to lack of funding. She had already lost her mother at birth, and then her grandmother, who had been her primary care giver at age 8 months. She did not know what a family was. She didn't know how to have a mom. She didn't understand the word "forever." All she knew was how to survive. She knew how to be charming so that the next adult who took her with them would be kind to her. 

Now she's learned to love, learned to begin to trust. She may always struggle to trust, to attach completely, but that's okay. Even healing leaves some scars. 

Last year at the Summer Picnic, she couldn't speak English, and didn't understand what was going on. Last year, we were hurtling like an express train toward the next surgery, the one in Portland. Last year, I had to literally hold her hand lest she find some friendly middle-aged women and try to convince the poor ladies to take her home with them. By the end of the afternoon I was absolutely exhausted from the tension. 

This year, she has friends that she loves, and she ran around confidently with the other kids. This year, she bombed me with a water balloon. 

This year, she played in the creek while I painted kids' faces. 

This year, Bean was big enough to play without me worrying that he'd drown in the creek. Oh, what fun he had this year!!! He ran and shouted and got absolutely filthy dirty and had a marvelous time. 

Curly, in spite of a nosebleed, also had a ball. She built sand castles, enjoyed her friends, threw herself into the water balloon fight heart and soul, and very nearly missed dinner. 

Mister, reluctant to smile for the camera due to just having been pegged on the right ear with a water balloon, still had a wonderful time.  He finished his evening by finding a "dirt slide" and coming home with half the hillside on his clothes. 

Hubby rotated around the park, keeping a quiet eye on each kid, and chatting with friends as the opportunity arose. He and I both agreed that having Bean be a year older and Abi a year closer to us took much of the strain off. 

Meanwhile, I painted horses...

And dragons...

And horses...

And lions...


And horses...

And giraffes...

And horses...

And a purple cat...

And more horses. 

And every single child, upon seeing the picture of themselves with their face painted smiled a huge smile. Made my day. 

Now, at the end of the day, as I reflect back on the last eighteen months, I'm blown away by how far we've come, at the new love that has grown where it seemed no love could ever grow. I'm excited now to enter the years ahead, rather than fearing or dreading them. I'm thankful, most of all. Thankful for my beautiful children and my incredible Hubby. 

Life is good.



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