Tara Anderson

Grafting: Complete

I would like to be able to say that we always have a very happy, harmonious family. But that just ain’t the truth. Now, before Caden came along I probably could have gotten away with that statement a little bit easier. My older three kids all get along really well together and there’s very little arguing between them. That relationship does apply to Caden and the oldest two. They have formed the sweetest bonds, and Chloe is like a little Mama to Caden. And Eli is just a wonderful big brother all around.

But Caden and Eva…that’s another story. There has been a rivalry there almost since the beginning. My mother-in-law attributes it to the fact that Caden replaced Eva as the “baby” of the family. I think it’s a whole lot more simple, though. Caden and Eva are both pretty good at dealing out their share of crap, and neither of them has much patience for anyone’s crap but their own. Eli and Chloe are two of the sweetest, most laid back children you will ever meet. Eva and Caden are both impatient and want to call the shots. They are perfectly happy as long as they’re getting their way…but if one of them’s not, then there is a problem. And truth be told, if one of them isn’t getting their way the other is usually to blame. When it was just the older three, Eva could dominate a little bit more and the others just went with it. And Caden always gets his way where the oldest two are concerned. But Eva can’t dominate Caden, and she doesn’t give in to him. :)

The relationship between Eva and Caden is the one I worry about the most. For example, awhile back Eva said to Chloe, “You can have Caden and Cora will be mine when she comes home.” Chloe did put her foot down on that one and insist that Cora gets to be her sister too. And Mama explained that a family doesn’t work that way.

Last night, we went to a party thrown by some adoption friends of ours. There was SO much to entertain the kids that Mama could send them on their way and talk adoption with the other ladies. Andrew had to work all day…and into the evening…yesterday doing inventory at work, but I didn’t sweat it. We were on a few acres with hayrides, bounce houses, zip lines, a rock wall, one of those bungee/trampoline things, and all the hotdogs and smores a person could ask for. Our hosts had even hired some people to help manage things.

I was chatting with another mother of five about Cora’s adoption, when all of a sudden Eva ran up to me in tears. I could tell by her demeanor (and lack of drama) that whatever this was, it was serious. I didn’t even have a chance to ask her what the problem was when she sobbed out, “Caden’s in the bounce house and it’s going down.” I looked up, and sure enough…the bounce house that Eva and Caden had been playing in while Eli was on the zip line and Chloe was doing the bungee thing had TOTALLY collapsed. With my baby trapped inside. The generator providing it with air had run out of gasoline. I took off running, and the woman I was chatting with followed right behind me. We climbed into the bounce house, both of us searching for Caden. There was no sign of him.

I stuck my head outside and asked Eva if she was SURE that Caden was in there. She assured me that he had been playing by the slide. Sure enough, in the back corner there was a huge pile of plastic that had once been the inflatable slide. By this time, the crowd had been alerted and others were trying to help. The “staff” was trying to get the compressor going again so that the bounce house could be aired up, while some men and I were on the outside of the bounce house trying to manually pull up the plastic Caden was trapped under. Finally my new friend (who was still inside the bounce house searching) saw Caden’s foot and grabbed hold of it, pulling him out from the pounds of plastic that were smothering him.

As soon as he was loose, I ran back in the bounce house to get him. There was just enough air inside by that point to remind you of a deflated waterbed or air mattress, but with some of the men holding the top of the bounce house up for us, we were able to get out. And right there…waiting for us when we came out of the bounce house…was a still hysterical Eva, and her slightly less hysterical older siblings.

In that moment, I knew the grafting was complete. My worries had been in vain. There may be rivalry. There may be disagreements and drama. But Eva’s heaving sobs last night communicated something to me…my little BROTHER is in danger, and I’m upset about it. She didn’t want to trade him in for someone else, and she certainly didn’t want anything bad to happen to him. He was a part of her, and she was a part of him.

Until…of course…a little “squall” erupted between them this afternoon. :)

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Tara Anderson

Tara Anderson began a journey of grace over 20 years ago when she walked the aisle of a little country church and gave her heart to Jesus. She is a stay-at-home mother of four, the youngest of whom was adopted through the China Waiting Child Program in November 2010, and they are waiting to bring home Cora who is currently at New Day Foster Home. Not too long ago, Tara knew exactly who she was and exactly what she wanted out of life…but now she’s just trying to figure out who God intends her to be, and what He wants from her. You can get better acquainted with Tara on her personal blog, Following Our Leader.

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Fighting Stance

Isn’t that the way it always works? Once you think you’re really making progress, there’s a flare-up that lets you know you’re not out of the woods yet.

Just yesterday, I bragged on how well Caden is adjusting. I’ve been seeing it time after time again. And, last night, he blew me away with his increasing vocabulary…not only by identifying Yoda as “Tar War” but by repeating the majority of the alphabet after Chloe.

Then, today it happened. For the first time in months, Caden took his fighting stance. Along with tantrums, eating nonstop and his separation anxiety issues…all of which are GREATLY improving…it’s the only negative result of his orphanage upbringing that we’ve seen. It’s hard to know exactly what will set him off, but it almost always happens if you take a toy away from him. Therefore, I’ve trained the kids not to do that. But, this afternoon, I promised them the treat of an “On Demand” movie if they cleaned up the tornado aftermath mess upstairs. They’ve had a very “creative” morning, and I wanted it taken care of prior to dinner.

I had assigned Eva the task of collecting the Barbies (and their accessories) and putting them back in their plastic tote. So, in the clean-up process, she tried to take the plastic Barbie horse away from Caden…and then it happened. I was in their room helping Chloe pick up, and I saw it. But, I wasn’t fast enough. Caden rocked back on his legs, raised his hand, and swung the horse right across Eva’s face. He reminded me of a spider about to attack its predator…as he always does when he takes his fighting stance. I grabbed his arm immediately after he made contact and said in a firm loud voice, “No. You cannot hit your sister!” I continued holding onto his arm while I took away the horse and put it where it belonged. As soon as I let go, Caden ran off crying. I took a quick look at Eva’s face and gave her a kiss on her “boo boo,” then I took off after him.

I found Caden in my closet, sobbing a heartbreaking sob that always takes me back to Gotcha Day. I grabbed him up and snuggled him close. Through his sobs, I gave him gentle kisses that created another scenario very reminiscent of Gotcha Day. Finally, I got him calmed down, and I switched him from “snuggling position” to “cradling position”. Then, I looked down into those brown eyes I fell in love with in a referral picture over a year ago and said, “Mommy loves you.” He shook his head no. So I told him over and over and over again…kissing and snuggling more as I progressed.

I know this is perfectly normal for adoptive families. And I’ve had that point reiterated through the 12 hours of online Hague training I finished this morning…in addition to the 10 hours that I took for Caden’s adoption. I know. It’s been drilled into my brain.

My baby boy fell asleep in my arms sitting on the floor of my dark walk-in closet. And, the tears began to flow. I was crying because he doubted my love…even for a second. I cried because a 2-year-old should not even know how to defend themselves like a wild animal under attack. I cried because I can’t make the damage done during his 21 months in the orphanage go away. I cried because there was a time when he wouldn’t fall asleep in my arms. And, I cried because soon I’ll have another wounded soul calling me Mama.

We stayed true to our original plan…GOD’s original plan, rather…and are pursuing a little girl with a congenital heart defect. Her heart will be broken in ways that the cardiologists won’t be able to fix…or even stabilize with medication. Her heart will be broken in ways that Mama can’t make go away no matter how hard she tries. And that scares me as much as the complications that can arise from complex CHD.

When you adopt a child, their pain becomes your pain. It’s no different than your biological children…but the relationship is. The bonds are harder to form…and easier to damage. It’s a battle establishing a good, solid relationship with them. And it’s a battle helping them overcome the baggage from their past. You can’t be a bystander…you have to be proactive. It takes hard work to get through the issues adoptive families face. It’s not easy meeting the needs of a child who has been hurt emotionally.

As an adoptive parent, you have to develop your own fighting stance.

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Tara Anderson

Tara Anderson began a journey of grace over 20 years ago when she walked the aisle of a little country church and gave her heart to Jesus. She is a stay-at-home mother of four, the youngest of whom was adopted through the China Waiting Child Program in November 2010. Not too long ago, Tara knew exactly who she was and exactly what she wanted out of life…but now she’s just trying to figure out who God intends her to be, and what He wants from her. You can get better acquainted with Tara on her personal blog, Following Our Leader.

Blessed Assurance

One of my favorite things about Sunday afternoons is that they tend to be pretty lazy for our family. After church, a trip to the grocery store, lunch, and Skype with Andrew, we settled in upstairs.  This particular Sunday, the kids opted to watch classic cartoons from my childhood, and I curled up in bed with my Kindle.

Caden

After about half an hour or so of “chill time,” I heard Caden calling for me, and it sounded like it was coming from downstairs. His “Mom-moy” is pretty unmistakeable. I walked through the playroom where the older three kids were watching TV and asked if one of them had put Caden in his seat. Big sisters can be known to sneak snacks to cute little brothers, you know. But, they all said they hadn’t.

I ventured downstairs anyway, and sure enough…no sign of Caden in our dining area. He wasn’t in the living room or the office, either. I thought maybe he was in Eli’s room since it’s in the far opposite corner of the upstairs from my room, but he wasn’t there either. I looked in all the other bedrooms and found no trace of my boy.

Then I head it again…his call for me. I knew it was coming from downstairs, so I went on the hunt. Sure enough, this time I noticed something was different–the door to our pantry was closed. I usually leave it open so that we can get the natural sunlight from the pantry window rather than using the flourescent lights in the kitchen.

As I approached the pantry, I called “Caden?” and I heard a giggle followed by a very excited, “Mom-moy”! I opened the door to find a happy, smiling boy waiting on me…and was amazed. In the past 7+ months since his adoption, Caden has struggled with abandonment issues. He did not trust me not to leave him. Slowly…over time…I began to see progress. But today, when my little stinker accidentally locked himself in the pantry to hide the fact that he was ripping open a new box of fruit snacks, I knew we had reached that place. My precious little boy has learned that all he has to do is call for his “Mom-moy,” and she will come to him. The fear is gone.

My precious little boy also ventured out of the nursery and into the 2-year-old class at church this morning. When I picked him up, he was sitting at the table coloring a picture with a little paper cup full of Cheerios close at hand…and he looked WAY too grown up. But, he did great. No signs of anxiety at all. I did get a little misty-eyed at the sight, but the same thing happened when I opened the door to the pantry and saw those bright eyes looking up at me. Something about his progress just hits me at the absolute core of my heart…in the best way possible. Knowing that he knows I’ll always come back for him is a blessing beyond words.

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Tara Anderson

Tara Anderson began a journey of grace over 20 years ago when she walked the aisle of a little country church and gave her heart to Jesus. She is a stay-at-home mother of four, the youngest of whom was adopted through the China Waiting Child Program in November 2010. Not too long ago, Tara knew exactly who she was and exactly what she wanted out of life…but now she’s just trying to figure out who God intends her to be, and what He wants from her. You can get better acquainted with Tara on her personal blog, Following Our Leader.

Newer Everyday

Originally published on her blog February 22, 2011…

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Today is Caden’s second birthday…and his first birthday at home. I feel like I should write a post commemorating the occasion, but I’m really torn on how to do that. Birthdays are a celebration. Hats, streamers, noise makers, cake, and confetti. But, today, I have tears.

Becoming Caden’s mother changed me in a way that I never expected. While he is such a joy and delight…truly a person to celebrate…I find myself grieving. I grieve the 21 months that I wasn’t his Mommy. I grieve the fact that I don’t know what happened two years ago today. There is an entire story surrounding his birth that I’m not privy to. I didn’t hear his first cries, and I didn’t feel the wonder a mother feels when she looks at her newborn child for the first time. I grieve that “loss.” And I grieve for the woman who DID hear his first cries, but gave him up four days later in an act of desperation that I can’t even begin to wrap my mind around. I grieve that Andrew wasn’t there for “Gotcha” and won’t meet his son until three months after homecoming. I grieve that Caden is losing his ties to the Chinese culture.

And yet…I rejoice in my son in a way I never expected. Already having three children, I expected #4 to be pretty much routine. It’s anything but. Everyday, I stand in awe of the work God did when he brought Caden into our family. I still can’t grasp the wonder of it. Everytime he hugs my neck or reaches his little arms out for me to hold him, I am filled with a million emotions and worry that my heart can’t contain them all. While the joy and sheer radiance of the moment fills me to the brim, I also feel very sorry for the “unknown Chinese mother” that’s missing out on those sweet moments. I don’t know the circumstances surrounding Caden’s birth, and I know nothing of his birth family other than their basic geographic location. But I love the woman who brought my son into this world. I’m thankful for her sacrifice. I wish I could swing by and pick her up on our way to lunch today…celebrating in the miracle of our son with his favorite steamed dumplings.

I expected to board a plane bound for the US and leave China…only my heart never did. Part of it remains with a family in a rural part of China’s most populated province. Part of it remains in an orphanage not too far from that rural location. Part of it remains with the college student I met while attending church in Guangzhou. I have Chinese artwork in my home, a Chinese bracelet on my wrist, and a Chinese boy on my lap. And I don’t know what to do with it all. Pieces of China here, part of my heart there. Dreams of bringing more Chinese children into our home, dreams of being the hands and feet of Christ to the people of China.

When I left the US bound for China, I knew exactly who I was and exactly what I wanted. The only part of China my heart was longing and aching for was supposed to come home with me on an IH3 visa. But I can’t love him without loving the land of his birth…the people of his birth country…and the children waiting just like he once was. And I’m learning that loving a once-orphan from a foreign land brings with it a heaviness that I don’t know how to manage. So many of my priorities have changed, and yet so many haven’t.

Two years ago, a little boy was born in China. Four days later he became an orphan. Just over two months ago, he became a beloved son. He is now a US Citizen with a great belly laugh that is developing a fluency in English. Becoming his Mommy shattered my heart and turned my world upside down in the most incredible way possible, and now I’m experiencing a rebirth of my own….

We turn not older with years, but newer every day.
–Emily Dickinson

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Tara Anderson

Tara Anderson began a journey of grace over 20 years ago when she walked the aisle of a little country church and gave her heart to Jesus. She is a stay-at-home mother of four, the youngest of whom was adopted through the China Waiting Child Program in November 2010. Not too long ago, Tara knew exactly who she was and exactly what she wanted out of life…but now she’s just trying to figure out who God intends her to be, and what He wants from her. You can get better acquainted with Tara on her personal blog, Following Our Leader.

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