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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Attachment

This week has been long and trying and difficult.  Some weeks are just like this as a mom.  Some weeks are better, but WOW I feel burnt out this week.  So it was refreshing to my soul this past weekend when I was privileged to go to an adoption/foster mom retreat.  I have been wanting to attend an event like this one for several years, and I finally made it!  I went knowing not a soul, but it didn't stop me from meeting new people, fully engaging and sitting on the front row at the opening session.
Many people have asked me how the retreat was, and how I liked it.  I have found it extremely difficult to put my experience into words.  It is difficult to describe what it was like to know no one, yet feel a commonality between 200 women.  It was a paradox.  So much thought, planning and work went into the weekend.  I was blessed and refreshed.
 One underlying theme that continued to be spoken on throughout the entire weekend was "attachment".  If you read anything about any type of adoption (domestic, international, foster adopt), you will eventually come to some type of discussion or explaination of the importance of attachment.  Many books have been written on this topic, and trainings given to help strengthen the bonds of attachment. 
I was explaining to some friends about how every type of adoption begins in loss.  Whether they are adopted from birth, age 2, or 14, loss is apart of adoption. It is not a comfortable topic to discuss as "loss" is difficult and the feelings associated with it messy.  But it is a critical part of adoption that cannot be "forgotten" or skipped over.   All of us have implicit memories from our early days, in utero and the first months of life.  My children spent nine months connected with their birth moms, they spent 13 months with another caretaker other than myself.  I grieve this loss of time with my babes.  I wasn't with them when they smiled for the first time, ate their first food, crawled and even took their first step.  I am not sure what their first words were.  And that grieves my heart.
God wired children's brains (our brains) for secure attachment.  When you disrupt the cycle of attachment it creates hurt, brokenness and insecurity.  It may be seen in a young child that has difficulty playing because of the fear to let their guard down, or the child that continually tests you, or plays each parent against each other.  Attachment is a difficult thing.  When we (as foster parents/parents/adoptive parents) choose to attach we choose to say "I am open to whatever pain and loss comes with that."  Having a child pushes all of our "vulnerability" buttons and all of our "not good enough" buttons.  I completely agree with my children having the power to push those buttons whether they intend to or not.  I have spent more time second guessing myself since having children, and feel the weight of the world and pressures when I need to make difficult decisions. 
One thing I learned this past weekend, is that God the Father struggles with attachment too, and I have never thought of it in these terms before.  But it was such an "ah-ha" moment for me.  The Word of God (Bible) is one of God's ways of attachment with us.  When things in life are going well...jobs are good, families good, house doesn't need repairs, everyone is healthy...God often gets second place.  When things are difficult..sickness, pain, hardship, loss, brokenness...we turn to God more readily because of our situations.  Sometimes we put our worth in people (I know I am really guilty of this).  If I am good enough, if people like me, if I make a difference, if my children are receptive to me...then I find my worth.  When we are "controlling" we are no longer in "attachment mode" we are in "changing/fixing mode."  And what happens?  The joy is gone, distance is created between us and God, we get side tracked...until we get hurt and come back to HIM. 
We need to have our strong attachment rooted in God.  We need to find our identity in HIM, our worth in HIM, our purpose in HIM.  As adoptive parents/foster parents/ bio parents we desire to see positive change in our children, and unless we see that change...we associate it with "we didn't do a good enough job".  Then everything becomes "all about me" and not "about them".  Attachment can't be what you do for me, but me meeting you where you are at.  Relationship is the key to attachment with our children, and attachment to our Savior.  HE saw me as I WAS...sinful, broken, hurting, depressed, anxious, full of fear, lacking trust, hopeless and HE chose to STAND by me just the way I was.  It was HIS perfect love, and HIS plan for me to be adopted into HIS family.    
Attachment is tough!  It is especially tough when you talk about it in terms of foster care.  I have been in many situations where I was handed a tiny, tiny baby and asked to care for them without knowing when they would leave me.  But again...being a foster parent isn't "all about me" it is "all about them."  They NEED you to attach to them.  They need the security of a trusting relationship with their needs being continually met. There was one baby in particular that I LOVED.  He captured Mark's and my heart right from the first minute.  He was 2 months old.  He was soft and melted into your arms.  He could suck down a bottle in just a few minutes.  He cooed and smiled and was a joy.  We truly could have kept him forever.  But just 2 months later, he returned home and my heart was broken.  I was happy he was going home, but oh.my.heart.  I remember driving down to the DCFS office, parking the Corolla and walking in with an infant seat and secured inside was the most beautiful 4 month old happy baby.  His family was waiting with open arms.  I handed him off and offered to make him a bottle since he was hungry.  I came back out and saw my empty infant car seat in the corner.  I handed them the bottle and went to grab his things.  I carried in 2 large clear totes of his baby things (he had come with a blanket and 2 outfits that he quickly outgrew).  I stole one last glance, kissed the top of his head and carried my empty baby seat out to the parking lot.  I sobbed all the way home. But then picked myself back up and in a few months would welcome a 14 month old in.
Attachment equals grief.  There is no way around it.  We see Jesus grieve in the New Testament.  He wept when Lazarus died.  Even in all His knowledge about the future, raising Lazarus from the dead and later dying on the cross (the ultimate plan for salvation), Jesus wept because of his sadness of hearing Lazarus was dead.  He wept because he had a relationship...he was attached.  The same way I weep for the loss of my father, or for the loss of foster children, or for the loss of relationships.  Attachment is grief. 
You might be wondering...why do it?  Why be a foster parent, or adoptive parent..etc?  Why ever say yes?  It sounds like a long, difficult, pain filled journey.  I would echo that it is a long, pain filled, difficult journey, but isn't that life too?  Our lives aren't without trial or pain.  But there is joy and love and success and triumph.  God has this way of breaking our hearts when we allow Him to change our lives.  There are millions of reasons to say "no" to God (too inconvenient, not enough money, not enough time, I'm too busy..etc).  But to say YES...to the sleepless nights, diapers, potty training, heartbreak, stretching the budget, risk.  There is something about our YES that God does when He takes it and uses it for HIS glory.  He is pleased with our obedience and He is in control of our outcome not us. 
Attachment and healing are a journey.  Children can come a long, long way. My Luke is a fascinating study about "Nature vs. Nurture."   I have doctors that are tracking his development on this topic.  I know that God isn't asking me to "fix" Luke or "heal" Luke.  He is asking me to be used as a tool to help Luke.  I have learned that with Luke's many health issues even when we are obedient to God we may not get the results that we want.  God may chose to heal Luke's eyes and God may not.   We do not determine who or how God heals our children.  We are NOT the healer God is!  We worship the HEALER not the healing.  It has allowed me to find freedom from these huge burdens I was carrying around.  I am learning to lay my burdens down and celebrate the fact my children are unique and created exactly the way God intended them to be.  I am not the "fixer" even though I want the world to be right and fair for my kids.  I think the most important thing I have taken away from learning about attachment is how important it is for me to stand beside my children just the way they are.
~"God is writing a story with our lives, and HE is the author- we are not."~ Lisa Qualls


Monday, November 17, 2014

Sleeping Bella...

Over the last year, I have had the fabulous of privilege of taking pictures of my sweet sleeping babe, who can apparently fall asleep in any position!
I have joked about creating a "Sleeping Bella Calendar".  I think however I am few pictures short of 12.
Asleep in Daddy's truck!
Chillin on the couch.
Sleeping on a stuffed animal!
Sleeping halfway sitting up!
Sleeping with headbands in and all!
Sleeping sitting up!
Passed out!
One of my favorites with the sunglasses!  I love the joy that children bring and that we can stop and appreciate the smiles they bring!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Disneyland's Mickey's Halloween Party

One of the biggest highlights of our recent vacation to Disneyland, was attending Mickey's Halloween Party.  I have been wanting to attend this event since I first read about it nearly 4 years ago.  So we planned our family vacation around Halloween Time at Disneyland.
The event is heavily advertised in Southern California.  We saw multiple boards that announced the Halloween Party.  We found this one in Hunnington Beach, California.

Mickey's Halloween Party is a "special event ticket", meaning that it requires an additional ticket to attend the party and not included with regular admission.  The party is offered on 14 selected nights during September and October.  The closer the dates are to Halloween the more expensive the tickets are with Halloween night being the most expensive party ticket.  Our date in September was one of the least expensive nights.  Our tickets also came with free parking (which is a $17 value).  Also, if you happen to be an annual passholder you qualify for additional discounts on the Mickey's Halloween Party tickets (sadly we are not annual passholders).  Even with the tickets being expensive we purchased ours the first day they went on sale.  All of the Mickey's Halloween Parties for the 2014 season sold out.
When entering Disneyland on Mickey's Halloween Party night, you enter through a separate entrance labeled "Special Event Tickets". Uncle D and Aunt Katie met us there  as they had purchased their tickets to join us.  I knew it was going to be a special night and experience! The cast members at the gate took our printed computer tickets and transferred them to a "hard" ticket so we would be able to use the Fastpass system if we chose too.  For anyone wondering the cost of Mickey's Halloween Party, it was $62 per person.  No discount given to for children's tickets, but this did include a small advanced purchase discount.
We were allowed to enter the park 3 hours prior to the beginning of Mickey's Halloween Party.  Since the party was scheduled to begin at 7pm, we were able to enter at 4pm.  After we had our tickets scanned, each of us was given a special event bracelet with the date of the party on it.  I assume each additional night of the parties would be a different color with a different date printed on them.  Even Bella got her bracelet put on.  The Cast Members were dressed in festive outfits for the party!
After the bracelets were securely in place, we all picked out a trick-or-treat bag for collecting all our candy. Our party night bag focused on Maleficent.  A special park map was issued for the party night outlining all the trick or treat paths and the nights events.
This is what our bracelets looked like on Friday, September 26th.  The were sparkly green and had the party and date listed on them.  This was also the first Halloween Party of the 2014 season at Disneyland.
Since we had time before the party officially began we decided to head over to the French Market for dinner.  We enjoyed chicken, mashed potatoes, salad and even a special Halloween dessert.  We were so happy to be with Aunt Katie and Uncle D.  The kiddos were talking a mile a minute and it was so, so, so good to be in their company!
After dinner we headed over to the attraction Haunted Mansion Holiday.  It is amazing how they transform the ride into a spectacular Nightmare before Christmas extravaganza.  It is a delicate perfect balance of what it would truly look like if Halloween and Christmas collided into one holiday.  
The kids were decked out in their costumes and we also saw some amazing costumes too as this is the one time adults are allowed to wear costumes into the park. Rest assured that there are guidelines that must be followed regarding scary costumes and masks.  We saw a pretty amazing Mary Poppins and Bert.  Several wicked stepsisters and the mother, an Incredible's family and not as many Anna's as Elsa's.  As you can see, we had two Elsa's representing from the Dahl Family.  
The inside is amazing and while this picture doesn't do it justice, you can see how different the loading area is during the holiday season.
More fun decorations...you can spy the jack-o-lantern wearing a Santa Claus hat. :)
My kiddos were in heaven with Uncle D and Aunt Katie in tow.  There was much discussion about who was going to get to ride with whom?  We took advantage of some ride time before the party began.
The closer it became to 7pm, the Cast Members began setting up wristband check points.  If you had a wristband you were good, if not they pointed you in the direction of Main Street and the exit.  The crowds began to thin down at this point.  There were 10 trick-or-treating paths all throughout Disneyland park.  You were greeted by a ghost Mickey at the entrance to each trick-or-treat path.  You would walk through specially designed "paths" and along the way the Cast members were set up with candy stations.  There were 5-7 candy stations on each path.
Disney handed out great candy.  M+M's, Reeces, Kit-Kats. Skittles,etc.  I also thought it was awesome that they had non-candy and non sugar items at each path (potato chips, craisins, dried fruit). 
Our bags were filled full after just a couple of paths.  In fact we did about 4 paths, and decided to enjoy some rides (with NO lines), the small parade and some shopping.
There were many great photo opportunities.  There were also MANY characters out and about and some that were in designated areas (outlined on the park map).
This little one was VERY happy with her chocolate!
The attention to detail at Disneyland is amazing.  Nothing is too small.  The pumpkin carving is amazing and the painting was beautiful.
This was an amazing pumpkin carving!
The one request of my 4 year old was to ride Dumbo with Auntie Katie.  She got her wish!
Luke as Captain Jack Sparrow!
Gracie as Queen Elsa!
We had fun watching the cute cavalcade.  A cavalcade is a mini parade.  There were only three floats and most of the characters walked.
Cute cowboy Mickey.
Uncle D trying out a Yoda backpack in the Star Trader where we "hid" from the fireworks.  Bella rode everything and loved it, but the fireworks caused her to freak out!
Overall, Mickey's Halloween Party was amazing!  I would highly recommend it.  We enjoyed all the events, received tons of candy, and celebrated in style.  The kids are still talking about it. If you ever find yourself going to Disneyland in the fall be sure to check out Mickey's Halloween Party.
Great fun was had by all...including us big kids!


Happy Halloween!!!
XOXO
The Dahl Kids







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