Saturday, October 2, 2010

Adoption Party



A little over 19 months after they moved in, we celebrate our adoption surrounded by family and friends! We have already had our family legally recognized but I felt like it was important to include a ceremony to recognize the boys' entire family.


Mateo & Joaquin Walsh
Candlelight Ceremony
2010

Blessed are you, O Lord our God, Father to us all:
We thank you every day for the blessing of these children
& for this family that you have created through adoption.
Lend us your strength to build bonds of love unbreakable; Your wisdom to prepare these children for the path you have set before them; Your forgiveness for our imperfections as parents.
We ask that you watch over the birth parents of these children,
who by your guidance, helped bring this miracle to pass.
And for all your children still awaiting the blessing of adoption,
We pray you speed their journey to the loving arms of family,
Amen.

Just as many streams, known and unknown, contribute to a river's strength and course, Mateo and Joaquin's lives will be shaped, in part, by their many tributaries. Joaquin and Mateo are birth children; they are adopted children. They are Liberian and Mexican and they are Irish and Scottish. They are children of God.

They are the sons of A and G and the sons of Megan. Perhaps they will have A's intelligence and courage or G’s tenacity and selflessness. Maybe they will have Megan’s optimism, compassion and sense of humor. We hope they will be blessed with all of these things and more.

This first candle signifies Mateo and Joaquin's biological parents and their extended families. A, G and T are the people who gave them the gift of life. They gave them their beautiful brown eyes and skin, their ancestors and cultural heritage. A is the woman whose womb carried the boys, whose heartbeat soothed them and her arms held them in the moments after they entered this world. G chose to be a father to both children and made the painful decision to seek help when needed. A and G also made the difficult choice to give them the gift of this family.

The second candle represents the families that provided the boys with safety when necessary including, Jan and Bob, Geri and Marc and Brenda. They were the unforgettable interruption that allowed the boys to feel safe in moments of instability. This candle also represents the caseworkers, attorneys, foster families, researchers, therapists and judges who work tirelessly to benefit all the kids in care.

This third candle represents Mateo and Joaquin's adoptive parent, Megan and her extended family and friends. This candle represents the aunties, uncles, grandparents and cousins who surround this family with love, support and encouragement on a daily basis. This candle represents Megan, who is the person who reads their favorite stories thousands of times, tucks them in at night and feeds them when they are hungry. She is the person who teaches them right from wrong, who bandages their hurts, cheers their victories, dreams about their futures and provides for their spiritual, physical and emotional needs on a daily basis. She humbly accepts the responsibility of motherhood with hope, joy and unwavering commitment. We pray that God will grant her the gifts of kindness, patience, understanding and wisdom.

This fourth candle signifies Mateo and Joaquin’s future. Lives filled with the grace of God’s amazing plan for them, love of their birth family, their adoptive family and all of you here. Their potential to impact our world is limitless and will be largely affected by the unconditional love and acceptance in this room. This candle represents the light Joaquin and Mateo will be to the world and the promise in their young lives. God bless these children with wisdom, understanding, peace and the assurance of your love for them now and forever. Guide and protect them throughout their lives and bless them always with the knowledge of Your love and grace.


Please join me in reciting this Irish Blessing

We believe in living deeply,
laughing often and loving always.
We believe we were brought together
to support and care for each other.
We believe that everyone's feelings count
and that the uniqueness of each of us
strengthens all of us.
We believe in the power of forgiveness to heal
and the power of love to carry us through.
We believe in one another,
in this family.


I am proud to introduce to you,

Mateo Owen Perkins Walsh
&
Joaquin Lamont Armendariz Walsh

Monday, September 20, 2010

Introducing....


Mateo Owen Perkins Walsh and Joaquin Lamont Armendariz Walsh!

We were surrounded by a courtroom full (and I do mean full) of precious friends today as the Judge legally recognized our little family. You know it's good when the Judge and attorney are fighting back tears unsuccessfully throughout the proceedings. I woke up today thinking I didn't feel much different. But now, if it's possible, what I do feel is even more in love with the children God chose for me and more determined to honor their biological parents by providing them with a safe, stable, full childhood. A wonderful friend and fellow adoptive parent said it perfectly today, "you are mourning the loss in your babies' lives while rejoicing for being the chosen mommy". Exactly.

As I raced around the house trying to get the three of us ready this morning, my sweet little Joaquin brought to me a picture of my grandparents (the same grandmother that shares his middle name)and just handed it to me quietly. As I looked at the picture, I thought about the way that they loved our family. They weren't perfect but they loved us perfectly. As a child, I never ever doubted that I was loved by both my parents and my grandparents. I knew it through their words, their actions and the way they chose to spend time with me. I want that same legacy for my children. Some people say that our loved ones in heaven can see what happens here on earth. Today was the kind of day, I really hope that's true.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Inspired by My Boy...



My sweet lil M just hopped out of bed despite my threats to the contrary. I was about to lay into him about listening and following instructions when he said, "Mama, in a country on the other side of Earth, there was a lot of rain and it flooded in the street and the people had to carry the kids on their backs so that they wouldn't drown. And now, they can't find their houses!" He took a deep breath and stared at me to see my response. My frustration at his lack of "staying in bed" dissolved instantly. My wonderful, compassionate boy was cozy in his bed thinking about kids without homes thousands of miles away. I am so incredibly proud of him and it breaks my heart to think that just a couple years ago, he and his little brother would have fit that description.

His class at school has been talking about the needs of people around the world and the kids are encouraged to think of ways to help. I can't begin to express how thankful I am for his school, his genuine spirit and his sense of compassion for people who are hurting. It's so easy to forget those things when he's running wild, pushing his brother or not listening to directions. Sometimes the sheer volume of words that come from his mouth on a daily basis is exhausting but I need to be careful to hear him even at his most verbose. Even Jesus told his disciples to let the children come to him. He wanted to spend some time listening to them, blessing them and loving them. I sooooo want to learn from that.

I need to remember that listening is the most profound thing I can do for my kids. I was so close to raising my voice and firmly leading him back to bed without listening to the concerns of his heart. If I had done that, I would have missed such joy at the thought of who he is becoming. My prayer is that I will remember this lesson the next time I start to react before opening my heart and my ears to listen.

I think we'll spend some time tomorrow figuring out what we can do to help the families effected by the flood in Pakistan this summer.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Summer



How is it that August has just started and I feel like Summer is over? We've had a busy one, that is for sure! We drove to Seattle for a 10 day visit with my parents and our extended family. It was amazing. So much fun. I can't even begin to explain the joy I felt when I watched my boys play on the beach my grandparents purchased when my mother was a child. The boys absolutely loved taking walks on the beach, playing with their wonderful teenage cousins and watching for eagles, geese and huge ships. They enjoyed being the center of attention for my parents, old friends and incredible family. The boys were amazing travelers and we enjoyed spending so much time together this summer.

M starts Kindergarten at an amazing charter school a week from today! I'm so excited for him and for the richness the environment will bring to our family. I am so proud of M. He has come so far in the last 18 months. For example, he had been told that he could watch one show and then it was bed time. He just came out of the bedroom and said to me, "Mama, I'm sorry. The first show was over and I was trying to sneak another one. I know it's bedtime". All I could do was hug him and tell him how proud I am of how honest he is. He is resilient, brilliant and can express himself in ways that astound me.

J will have another year at preschool. He is changing and maturing every single day. I can't wait to see what the next year will bring for him. He is sweet, kind, thoughtful and more stubborn than you can even imagine. He sings and dances with passion in his face and is amazingly artistic. He also gives hugs that are filled with so much feeling it makes me tear up almost every time. J is helpful, so stinkin' funny and talented beyond belief.

I am at a point in my life where I feel like God has prepared me for this moment. When I was a child, he gave me amazing parents so that I could love my children with all my heart and soul. When I was a teenager, he gave me stable friendships so that I would have the support system I need to be a single mom. He gave me a heart that seeks to serve others so that I would find a career path that would provide me with the information, skills and resources to provide for my little family. He gave me a hunger for Him so that I would know that He alone is in control and has a plan for all of us. I am so thankful for that plan and for the wisdom that prepares us for it.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

They Didn't Notice!


I got my haircut a few days ago and my kids haven't noticed yet. Some people might be offended by that but I am thrilled. Absolutely thrilled. They are no longer constantly monitoring for a change in me. They are free to explore, learn and grow without watching carefully for even the tiniest of changes in my behavior or appearance. At first, I thought it was really cute when they would comment on whether I wore shorts or a dress, my hair was curly or straightened or whether I wore close-toed shoes or flip flops. Then I realized that in their short few years of life, they had had to protect themselves from rapidly shifting moods and drastic changes in behavior. They had learned to watch for subtle cues in order to be safe. Over Christmas time, I got my nails done (clearly a rare occurence)and it literally threw M into a tailspin. He got really agitated and kept saying, "I don't want you to get your nails done". It took exactly 18 months but today, we are celebrating their new found ability to NOT notice!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Grace



"Many times, when I was having a hard time with one of my children. God would always remind me that He was having a harder time with me than I was with them."
--Charlie "Tremendous" Jones

Tonight, as I was tucking M into bed he made the observation that the wind had calmed down outside. I agreed, kissed him on the forehead and started to walk out of the room. He continued, "maybe the mama wind told him to take a deep breath".

My boy is listening. He is attaching, incorporating my words and actions into his thoughts. It is beyond beautiful. We've had a rough couple of days. Lots of testing and backtalk from him and second guessing on my part. Am I too strict or too lenient? Do I make mountains out of molehills or do I let important things slide? Looking back, I can see that it's completely age appropriate and very circumstantially understandable but in that moment...not so much. I needed to hear his simple observation today. I needed to be encouraged that we are on the right track. God knew that and he used my sweet boy and the wind gusts to show me.

I wrote up this post once and it was accidentally deleted as I tried to post the quote above into it. As I wrote it out for the second time I realized that I do the same thing to God on a daily basis. He tells me things, I don't listen; I pretend I understand his commands without really taking time out to think and pray about what that means for my life. God is so gracious with me as I try, forget, stumble and try again. I want to use that thought to motivate myself to fill my parenting with grace. Instead of responding to my kids with frustration, irritation and impatience, let me turn toward them with a smile, soft eyes and encouragement. I want my home to be filled with grace. There will be mistakes, there will be regrets but I want my kids to know that no matter what, my love for them is secure, they have significance in this world and they can persevere in times of trouble.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

"Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children." Unknown






We had a fun weekend full of birthday parties, jumpy houses, swimming and soccer. In the middle of a birthday party today, midbite of birthday cake, my little J said to me, "Mama, I don't know if my balloon got to Mama A." ** He asked if our friend, J's balloon had gotten to his birth mom, T. I told him that I didn't know either, but that I was sure that our wishes for her had found her. He liked that idea a lot.

I was surprised at his timing but not surprised that he was thinking about it. When we tried to construct a time to honor our kids' birth moms on Mother's Day, my friend and I questioned ourselves quite a bit. Our kids are little. Would they really "get" what we were doing? My little J clearly "got" it at three years old. He knows he doesn't live with Mama A and he knows that he has a permanent place in my arms. He's not confused about his place in the world but that doesn't mean he doesn't think about his first family. I love that our simple little ceremony created a safe space for him to put words to the not so simple pieces of our story.


**On Mother's Day, we told the kids that we wanted to think about our feelings about and our wishes for their birth moms. We wrote down what they said and wrote down wishes of our own and tucked them in helium balloons. We released the balloons outside after saying a little prayer for the amazing women they sought.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Love... the Way It's Meant to Be...

Wow, what a wonderful day. I woke up to two sweet little voices asking if they could finally give me the presents they'd made at school. They were so proud of each item, it took my breath away. At church, the message was so good. It was focused on how to be the woman God created you to be. Awesome! Later, I found this in my email inbox...

"When you talk, do not say harmful things, but say what people need-words that will help others become stronger."
Ephesians 4:29 (NCV)

Just for today: Couldn't all words out of my mouth only be strengthening words? Words that nourish their bones and muscle their hearts?

What if I tried to change nothing in my children but I focused on only this: Let the tongue speak only the words that make souls stronger. Like Oxygen, couldn't just speaking strengthening-words change the whole atmosphere?



The two items tied together so well into exactly the kind of woman I want to be. I want to be remembered by my children as someone who loves them unconditionally, cheers their victories and quickly forgets their failures. Someone who sees their strengths and helps them build on their talents while teaching them that it's okay to have faults. I want them to know that mistakes will be made but can usually be rectified with a little hard work and some humility. I want them to become men whose lives are marked by generosity, tenacity and integrity. My prayer for the coming year is that God will give me the strength, grace and wisdom to be the Mom I need to be for my amazing little men.

Friday, April 30, 2010

What Makes a Mother...

The boys have been trying to keep a secret from me. They are trying really hard but it's not working very well. There have been many conversations that go like this... "Mom, guess what we did today...we made a present for you for Mother's Day!"..."Oops, Mom, we werent' supposed to tell you. Can you forget?"...It's hysterical. I love that they want to surprise me but I love even more that they want to tell me everything they are excited about. Mother's Day is just around the corner and it brings up so many complex feelings for me. I am the boys' mother in my heart and in theirs. I also know that I am their mother because another woman brought them into the world. She made some very difficult decisions and did the very best she could to give them happy, productive lives. Some people would say that she chose to not be in their lives on a daily basis and in some ways that is true but I heard a few quotes today that summed it all up for me...“Giving birth does not make a mother…. Placing a child for adoption does not make her less of one.” ~ Unknown. It takes more than physically bearing the child to become a mother but what more parental decision is there than to place your child's needs ahead of your heart? (“There are two different kinds of strength. There’s the strength to make a parenting plan and then there’s the strength to give that plan to another.” Unknown) As I get ready to celebrate my second Mother's Day, I will be thinking about A, I will be thanking her, loving her, worrying about and praying for her. We have her pictures in frames around the house and we talk about her frequently. Sometimes people question my approach with that but I really feel like the boys need to know that they came from amazing, wonderful, brave, selfless people that are worthy of being loved. Difficult circumstances, mistakes and painful experiences do not change that.

The Saturday before Mother's Day has been designated as "Birthmother's Day". I'm not sure how I feel about that although I do like that someone is recognizing mothers who entrust their children to adoptive families. I'm just not sure that we can't recognize everyone on Mother's Day. That's what we all are, afterall... It wouldn't minimize my motherhood to celebrate with my best friend, or my mom or my grandmother...so why would it to honor the woman who gave my kids their curly dark hair and beautiful smile?

Since we don't have contact with her right now, I'm designing a short little ceremony/activity to acknowledge her contribution to our lives. I'm thinking something with balloons, wishes, prayers etc. Any ideas?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Today was a good day...

Started out by realizing that I forgot to do a little project with the boys. Apparently a family in J's class is adopting a little girl from China and the school is trying to gather 100 wishes for the little girl and her new family. I asked the boys what they would want to tell a little girl who was moving into a new family just like they did a year ago. M thought for a minute and said, "I would tell her it's okay to be sad and cry at first but everything will be okay because your family really loves you". If I wasn't already a huge mush ball today, that did it. My sweet boy soooo gets it.

I picked the boys up from school early so that we could be home in time for the social worker to come over to sign the paperwork. As I walked in, J saw me and started running up and down the hallway telling every teacher that it was time for us to "go sign our family papers". At every stop he got a thrilled smile. Love their school!

As we signed the Adoptive Placement Agreement, LB (the worker) asked M if he knew what the papers meant. His immediate reply, "That mama gets to love us forever and ever".

I recieved text after text, call after call, email after email from supportive friends and family every hour of the day.

We ended the evening with dinner and lots of loud roughhousing at Erika and Steve's house. I loved to watch the boys completely at home and surrounded by people who adore them. As I sit here typing, I just looked up to see a vase of flowers and a balloon reading Congratulations.

Yes, today was a good day.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Tomorrow

Tomorrow is a big day for a few reasons. One year ago today, I got a phone call from CYFD asking if I could possibly take 2 little boys for 8 days of respite with a possibility of a longterm placement. The baby I had for 3 months had moved in with his adoptive family that morning and I was all set for a couple days of quiet, sleep and probably more than a bit of teariness. After securing promises of babysitting and lots of encouragement from friends, I agreed. I was terrified. I was excited. I was in completely over my head. I was gonna be outnumbered in my own house! That night, I was scheduled to attend a training on the Nurtured Heart Approach which ended up being extremely serendipitous. That approach combined with Love and Logic have become the foundation of my parenting choices.

The next morning, I went to the grocery store to shop for "kid food" with suggestions from friends written down in my purse. I bought Spiderman comforters, a couple toys and new pajamas. Got home and put some take and bake chocolate chip cookies in the oven to portray some sort of "cozy, I know what I'm doing as a Mom" vibe. I was on the phone with my friend, Erika, peering out my front window when the van pulled up and two of the cutest little guys I'd ever seen got out. They looked terrified. Their current foster mom and her daughter shepherded them up the walk and my doorbell rang. That was the first time my sons would walk through the doorway into our home. That was the beginning of so much. I had no idea what the future would hold that day but I'm so happy I walked through the unknown. These boys have changed my life in unimaginable ways and I honestly can't beleive it's only been a year. Tomorrow, I will sign the Adoptive Placement Agreement on the anniversary of our meeting. Tonight, I am awed, amazed, humbled and thrilled. Thank you is not enough.

You don't choose your family. They are God's gift to you, as you are to them. ~Desmond Tutu

What greater thing is there for human souls than to feel that they are joined for life - to be with each other in silent unspeakable memories. ~George Eliot

And thank you for a house full of people I love. Amen. ~Ward Elliot Hour

Monday, January 25, 2010

Things are moving along...

So, I found out today that the BIP (Best Interest Placement) is scheduled for Wednesday. That means on Wednesday, a group of social workers and attorneys will gather in a room and decide whether I am the right mom for the boys. Everyone is telling me that it is just a formality but that does little to remove my anxiety. They will likely review my homestudy and talk about whether or not I am able to meet all of their needs as a single parent. They will probably talk about whether a White (I prefer Irish/Scottish) single woman is able to provide for the cultural needs of two Liberian/Mexican boys. I have taken part in dozens of these meetings but I have never been the subject of one and I have to admit it is terrifying. All the whatifs are driving me crazy. I feel like I should be able to at least write a letter or have some sort of participation but I will try my best to be patient. I'd like to tell them that tonight as I was tucking M into bed he decided he wanted to play a new game...the rules are that I would tell him 1 thing I love about him and then he would tell me 1 thing he loves about me...for the record...I love when he shares his toys, his beautiful brown eyes and when he feeds the dogs without my asking. He loves my eyelashes, my face and when I pick him up from school.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Validation

I picked up my kids, drove them home listening to the latest preschool gossip, made dinner and was thrilled (for once) with wonderful table manners and lots of polite table talk. We all changed into comfortable jammies and snuggled up in the oversized recliner to watch an old episode of Popeye. They were thrilled that he ate spinach because they had just had that for dinner and cleaned their plates. "We are strong like Popeye too cause we ate our veggies!" After the show we read "Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King" and halfway through the book, the phone rang. It was their dad, "Papa". I watched while J spoke to him and giggled when he called him "mijo". For some reason,they think that term is beyond hysterical. M didn't get a chance to chat this time because J got a lil button happy and hung up before he could talk. After the phone call, we finished up the book and brushed teeth. J snuggled into my bed and M into his (if I put them down in the same room, they'll never get to sleep). I kissed them goodnight and tucked them in snuggly before settling down for some "me" time watching junky tv. A few minutes later, the phone rang again and it was the boys' dad again. He asked how they are doing in school and said they sounded so happy. We talked about the boys' mom and he expressed his love for her and his sadness that their relationship has been so difficult. He said he knows she has made mistakes but acknowledged that he has too. He said he has no words to thank me for being his children's mother. Told me I am everything to them.

Thank you. You have no idea how much your words meant to me tonight. These boys could not be any more my own. Part of that is because of my love for their mom and for you. How could I not love the people who brought them into the world? I love them with my very being and think of them with my every breath. It is beyond my understanding that their father could verbalize his approval and peaceful acceptance of our family. Humbled, Thankful and Amazed.