Guest Author: Fighting for Their Healing

Today’s guest post is written by my friend, Jillian. She is an amazing, remarkable, strong woman. Her husband is a Marine who has been deployed more times than I knew was possible. I’ve learned a lot about life as a military wife from Jillian and I’m thankful for the sacrifices families like theirs make to keep families like mine safe and free. You can read about her life, and her incredible adoption journey at Rooted in Love.

His deep African accent let my mind ease slightly as I began to share our concerns about Morgan Yisak’s behaviors over the past year. His accent alone told me I would not have to explain “where he had been” and how it effects “where we are now.” It was my first indication that we would be heard and not judged, it had nothing to do with his degrees or education that made him a neuro psychologist.

However, it was something else that allowed me to let my guard down and speak frankly of the situations we had experienced. The aggressiveness, the poop smears, the self inflicted pain and punishments, the 2 hour tantrums, the name calling, the stealing, the lying, the crying meltdowns, and the security measures we had taken for everyone to be safe could be heard here without judgment. It was his eyes.

His eyes reminded me of Morgan Yisak’s eyes, although they physically did not look the same. His eyes told stories of pain and sorrow, of innocence lost young. His eyes told of memories that haunted and untold stories held within. His eyes cried for people he knew and people he knew nothing of- except their current living situation. Eyes that were worn and weary yet full of hope and life. His eyes were full of empathy, compassion, understanding and knowledge that did not come from a book.

“Severe PTSD and excessive defiance” was not stated coldly or casually. It was thoughtfully expressed and explained as he also added his relief that we had not used an escort but traveled to Africa ourselves and “saw it” first hand.

People have asked how our trip was, and I have 1/2 joked that I could have PTSD from our short week stay in a nice guesthouse with many amenities. To watch as people are dying on the streets in front of you, begging for food from those that have none, to know you can’t use the bathroom for hours because the only restroom is a hole in the ground already full of old feces and urine, in a dark unlit, no vent, closet of a room, with no privacy, and this is their normal everyday experience. I am so grateful for the experience. My heart has been so burdened with that short week stay.

“Severe PTSD and excessive defiance” was truly to be expected. Morgan Yisak lived these truths for years, ones I had only been exposed to for moments. The smell of the ‘fresh air’ alone here could send him into a realization of how far away he was from everything he knew, but also how deep some of his friends remained in it. It is the kind of truth that can take a playful, soccer loving, 8 year old from comfort and family, to meltdown and thievery with no notice.

Many people marvel at us, especially at me as we have dealt with this while my husband was deployed for 7 months and I pregnant. They are amazed that we have “hung in there” and have kept our head above water through it all. They ask how we manage and get everything done: homeschooling, 4 children, pregnancy, deployed spouse, 3 weekly speech therapy appointments, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and the regulars like dentists and orthodontist. People ask “what keeps you going?”

I marvel at my sons. I marvel at their people and their homeland. I marvel at their sheer will to live. I marvel at their broken souls fighting to heal and trust. I marvel at what they are teaching us, our friends, our family, our community.

What keeps me going is nothing short of having a peek of where they have been and knowing I could not have survived it. I fight for them, their healing, their journey as if it were my own-because it is. Ethiopia has 4 million orphans, the world has over 140 million. I look into the face of two everyday and see the left behind and the dying. I marvel that God has allowed us to see the face of Jesus in this personal way, and I press on, better for it. Grateful for it.

Deborah Gray: Help for the Holidays

Deborah Gray
(one of my heroes) has written a great resource:

Holiday Help for Your Family

[note: I apologize for the broken link! I think it is fixed now.]

Deborah has so much wisdom and when I saw this handout, I knew it would benefit some of you, maybe even most of you.

My favorite tip is, “Anxious children like to know what their part is in any new event.”

This is very true with my little ones. If she gets too anxious, Dimples will literally say, “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do.” Our children who have suffered trauma need us to guide them and show them just what they can do in a new situation. Sometimes they miss the point, and don’t know when an event is just plain fun, because they are so busy scanning the situation trying to figure out their role and what is going to happen next.

I hope you find some tips from Deborah that make your holiday season a little bit happier for you and your children. As with Karyn Purvis‘ book, which I mentioned earlier this week, Deborah’s books are two of my most used resources. They sit on my desk next to The Connected Child: Bring hope and healing to your adoptive family, and other great books that I find helpful or have good intentions of reading “soon”.

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Tuesday’s Answers: And Sometimes We Fail

Last week’s Tuesday Topic was a tough one for me. Dianna asked how other adoptive parents have managed to protect the best interests of their younger children as a newly adopted older child joined the family. This is a question I needed to tackle, but I was also cut to the heart as I have failed in this area.

[This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.]

I am a hopeful person by nature, so when I read books like Attaching in Adoption by Deborah Gray, I thought to myself, “Wow, that is so hard and so sad. Those families and children really have a tough road.” Did I ever think to myself that we might become one of those families? No. Did I, in my wildest dreams, think that I would ever find myself not only reading Deborah’s words, but applying her principles as I pursued my child’s healing? No, but thank you God that I am not on this journey alone.

When I read the hard books (before my children came home), there were some tiny flickers of caution and fear, but I was optimistic and didn’t let myself do some of the deep thinking recommended in yesterday’s post. I didn’t ask myself, “What will I do if my child struggles with___?” or “How would I handle a child who does___?” I didn’t let myself think that way. Afterall, Russ and I were following God’s leading, and if we were in the center of His will, what could go wrong?”

Nothing “went wrong”, because I believe we are still in the very center of God’s will. However, Russ and I would both say that we did not prepare ourselves for the challenges we faced when Dimples arrived home. We were so hopeful and eager to love our new children, to be their Mommy and Daddy, that we neglected to protect our other children. Surely lots of love, security, hope, prayer, and thoughtful parenting would be enough. Right?

I am deeply grateful that we were not facing any issues of sexual abuse. I personally know families who are grappling with that right now. Their older adopted child was abusing younger children in the family; a true nightmare for the family that has led them to seek a new family for their child from the “hard places”.

But did I do all that I could to protect my little ones from the tumult in their lives? No, I didn’t.
A traumatized and attachment-challenged child can produce an environment that is full of stress and dysregulation. The healthy siblings will not have the skills to cope with this and need to be shielded from it as much as possible while the child from the hard places begins to heal.

My best advice is:

1. Prepare yourself that adopting an older child will be very challenging. Read the hard books. I have a list of them in this post. If you have a smooth and easy adjustment, give thanks to God, and remember that the education you gained might help one of your friends in the future.

2. Prepare your home: simplify, simplify, simplify. Put baby monitors on other floors. Have rules about open doors and what kind of play is acceptable. We decided that “playing dead” probably wasn’t beneficial to anyone.

3. Give your other children tools they can use to deflect problems and listen to them when they come to you for help. This was one of my greatest failings. I was so concerned with helping Dimples attach to me and to the family, that I failed to see the suffering of my other children, whose lives had been turned upside down.

4. Create a “team” of friends and family members who will support you and be willing to come to your aid at any moment. Russ and I did not do this and when life began to spiral downward we leaned so heavily on each other, that we could hardly bear up under the weight of our struggles. When we finally acknowledged that we needed help, we found three friends who made themselves completely available to help me when I needed them. On one particularly trying day, a friend needed to drive to a city nearly two hours away. She picked Dimples up and took her along, including a stop for dinner. Dimples had a lovely time and it was much needed respite for me.

5. Plan regular breaks for your other children. Initially you will not be able to leave your new child, so plan times for your other little ones to go play with a friend, have special time with the other parent, visit a special adult, or do a fun activity with a babysitter. This will give you time with your new child while your children take a deep breath from the stresses of the new life they are now living. I was so concerned with making Dimples feel loved and accepted, that I put too much energy into “fairness”. What I should have been thinking was, “Dimples has different needs from Boo and Ladybug, and I need to parent her differently. They can do___, but that doesn’t mean Dimples can. Just because something is possible does not mean it is beneficial.”

The good thing about failing is that it leaves lots of room for improvement. We have made many changes for the good of all of our children. Our home is happier, calmer, and a better place to be. We have learned that we cannot parent all of our children the same way. Techniques that work well for some of our children do not work at all for our little ones who are healing from trauma. We don’t want to be “fair” parents, we want to be really fantastic, loving parents who have all of our children’s best interests at heart.

If you have a question for a Tuesday Topic, please email it to me at:


And don’t forget to take a moment to answer this week’s Tuesday Topic which is:

Which adoption agency did you use, and would you recommend them?

Thank you for learning along with me.


Menus for Large Families

My monthly spaghetti sauce project

There are some great things about blogs, the best being that it brings me in contact with many wonderful women who are somewhere along the path I am walking as a wife and mother. In a recent Tuesday Topic, we were discussing feeding our large families. Becky was kind enough to type up her monthly menu and let me share it with you. She has 13 children, with nine still at home. On Sundays all of her children and grandchildren gather together for dinner – my dream for the future. This is what she sent to me:

One on the Mom’s on your blog mentioned wanting to see our monthly menu chart, so this is it. I do substitute different meals sometimes, but generally we stick fairly close to this. We have 5 children playing soccer right now, so sometimes I shake up the day of the week a meal is served to match a quicker meal with a busier day of the week. I’ll say up front that there is nothing too exciting here :-), but they are meals that most all of my children will eat. I buy large quantities of hamburger when I find a good price, and cook it all up at once, then freeze it in meal size amounts. Then any meal requiring cooked hamburger is very quick to put together. I do the same with chicken. I have only put the main dish of each meal. We almost always have some sort of bread, and fruit, vegetables or both with our meals.

Breakfasts: These are the same rotation each week.

Mon. – Oatmeal
Tues. – Hash brown potatoes with ham and cheese on top

Wed. – Scrambled eggs

Thurs. -Granola
Fri. – Peanut butter muffins

Sat. – Pancakes

Sun. – Cereal

Lunch: These are the same rotation each week with a few substitutions thrown in here or there.

Mon. – Tacos
Tues. – Tuna sandwiches or Mac and Cheese
Weds. Peanut butter sandwiches

Thurs. – Burritos or nachos

Fri. – Turkey or ham sandwiches

Sat. – Leftovers or sandwiches

Sun. – Mac and cheese or something else simple, as we always have a big meal for Sunday evening dinner

Dinner: These rotate on a monthly basis

Mon. – Chili
Tues – Spaghetti

Weds – Chicken burritos – this filling I make in a large batch and freeze in meal size containers

Thurs – Chinese chicken and rice
Fri – Twisters – burrito shell with chicken chunks, lettuce, tomatoes, green pepper, a little mayo, sprinkling of pepper, and bar-b-que sauce.

Sat – Hamburgers

Sun – Crock pot bar-b-que chicken, potato casserole

Mon – Calico beans – crock pot
Tues – Beef potato bake

Weds – Lasagna

Thurs – Beef stew

Fri – Tuna pile-up – cooked rice topped with tuna, shredded carrots, green peppers, pineapple, and thinned cream of chicken soup, or a
homemade version which is what we use, if I have time to make it.
Sat. – Homemade pizza

Sun – Roast, potatoes and gravy

Mon. – Taco soup – crock pot
Tues. – Spaghetti

Weds. – Baked potato bar

Thurs. – Tuna rice casserole

Fri. – Twisters

Sat. – Hamburgers

Sun. – Dad’s hearty fried rice

Mon. – Potato soup – crock pot
Tues. – Hamburger rice casserole

Weds. – Chicken enchilada casserole – the filling for this is made in triple amount, and then frozen for future use

Thurs. – Hamburger stroganoff – simple version or regular stroganoff.

Fri. – Chicken pile-up – same as Tuna pile-up, only with chicken chunks instead of tuna

Sat. – Homemade pizza

Sun. – Salisbury steak using hamburger patties , baked potatoes

This would have been even more fun if we were sitting around my family room sipping coffee, watching our kids play, and talking about menu ideas, but this is pretty good too!

A very special thank you to Becky. If you have menu ideas or recipes to share, I hope to have a page devoted to this topic on my “new and improved” blog – one of these days. Please email them to me at:

thankfulmom [at]gmail[dot]com

Also, if you have anything to add to the current Tuesday Topic about educating newly adopted older children, please send it my way.

Learning along with you,


Tuesday Topics: Education for Newly Adopted Older Children

Dimples doing school shortly after arriving home

I’m back from Seattle where we had a great time visiting Sweet Pea and then a good therapy appointment. I am so proud of Dimples for the hard work she did, but Deborah and I agreed that a month is far too long to go between appointments. I hope to consistently take Dimples every other Monday until the snow hits Snoqualmie Pass; then we’ll probably have to cut back to once a month when Russ can travel with us.

It is always challenging to jump into the week when I am one day behind. This morning I got the laundry going, dinner in the Slow Cooker (soup), and the house headed toward tidiness. We’ve also gotten a decent amount of schoolwork done. After lunch we took a walk on our new path through the pasture. Russ mowed a track for us to walk and run on and I am so excited to enjoy it with the kids. Eby and Little Man had fun picking apples off the wild trees at the bottom of the pasture. The apples are a little small, but they have a nice flavor.

Today is Tuesday, which means we have a Tuesday Topic to explore. This week’s question is:

How old were your internationally adopted children when they came home? We are a homeschooling family, so when our kids come home, they’ll have lots of time to get adjusted. But what did you do with them when they first got home as far as “schooling”? How much down time did you give them to adjust before you started with the learning of things like letters, sounds, all kinds of direct teaching? I’m just wondering if too much too fast causing them to shut down with overload?

This is a great question and I would love to see answers from people who have chosen all sorts of different educational options for their children. I will post your responses at the end of the week, so feel free to jump in anytime. Don’t be shy – your contributions make Tuesday Topics interesting. Please email your responses to me, or post them in the comments section.

If you have a topic that you would like feedback on, please email it to me at:

Thankfulmom [at] gmail [dot]com

Please put Tuesday Topic in the subject line.

I look forward to lots of interesting answers!


Tuesday's Answers: Feeding Large Families – Menu Planning

My Special Friend

The best way for me to successfully feed my family is to plan ahead. My day is nearly doomed if I wake up thinking, “What will I make for dinner?” The thought keeps coming back until I finally figure out the answer, but on occasion, the day is so full that an answer does not come and my family is resigned to having quesadillas for dinner. I much prefer to glance at my menu the night before and do a bit of advance planning. […]