In fact, it’s the same camp up in the mountains that I went to when I was her age and even counseled at when I was older–it’s wonderful. Beautiful, filled with trees and more outdoor activities than you can imagine. Kids come up maybe not knowing each other, and become best friends over milkshakes, blackberry hikes and A-ha personal growth moments as they read their bibles together under the stars.
When Andrew and I first heard about camp, we initially wondered if she was ready to go. We talked with her about it, prayed about it, and when it seemed like the perfect fit, we started making preparations for Maria, big and small.
First was the sleeping bag. All the kids had to test it out to make sure it was the right fit.
She got a new bathing suit and board shorts. I pulled out my travel bag, first time since Russia finding mini shampoos and soaps, piling them on her bed.
“Wow, mama!” she squealed excitedly. “So cool, so many cool things for me for camp! So cool stuff!” Haha, I love her zeal for life, her appreciation for the smallest, (literally), things.
“What Maria do at camp?” and we pulled out the list, three columns wide of all the activities.
“SO EXCITING!” She would beam. “And, what is polar bearing?”
“Do it!” we told her.
We talked about how she would sleep there for 5 nights in a cabin with a bunch of girls her age, and when she was done, Mommy and Daddy would be waiting so excited to pick her up. We’d ask her,
“Are you excited for camp?”
“SO EXCITING!! And also, maybe sad?” she wondered.
We’ve been working on feeling words, and working on talking about feelings, totally new to her, and a new style of parenting for us. “Why maybe sad?”
“Maybe Maria miss mama and papa?”
“Yes. And that’s ok. If you feel lonely or sad, you can pray and Jesus is right there with you. Plus, you’ll be so busy with all of your friends!” We were particularly emphasizing the friends.
We spent the day before as a family with special moments, and a special dinner. “Papa, I want you play dolls with me, please?”
“Oooooooooo-kay,” he smiled, as he won the parent of the year award. In fact, he does that often.
He was even the one to carefully research the best way to quit thumb sucking for older kids a couple months before camp, and found the three tried and tested reasons to tell your kids. “Yeah, plus you might get a snaggle tooth,” I added after he had just worked his magic. He shot me a look, “That’s not one of the reasons to bring up,” he told me gently, “You have to make it only positive…”
“Oh, whoops! Just kidding, listen to papa about that…” ( My husband seriously is so awesome. I love that he knew, and really took the time to know. Our adoption has proved to show so many of his hidden talents.) She quit cold turkey, and was so excited about it.
We had a pre-camp dinner of roasted hot dogs and picked strawberries before we made s’mores which was awesome because there were no dishes after so we could finish packing.
We played with the kids on the amazing playset Andrew brought back to life from someone’s side yard (thank you Owens!)
And the next morning was the day of camp!
The boys are very attached to Maria, so they gave her big squeezes before she left.
“Bye Mawea, I wuv you. I go a camp wif you too…” He said, matter-of-factly, and then I died of cute. And she giggled, knowing it was just for big girls.
|“Um, hey guys, can I please exit first?” -Elijah|
Maria’s super cute counselor made all the girls matching shirts with their names and hearts and flowers puff painted all over them, and they all piled in the bus together. Maria usually gets really shy with kids her own age, but has recently expressed a desire to have some closer friends, while before she was focused on mommy and daddy only.
And when we saw them all sitting, a bunch of girls welcoming and inviting to her, her sweet, young counselor ready to show the girls so much love, it was a very rewarding experience, in fact, a moment we couldn’t even quite believe we were experiencing.
“Look at her…” we said. A little girl, once so frail and shy. Once not able to sit though a church service without us, couldn’t sit in school without sucking her thumb, didn’t want friends her own age, only mama and papa and brothers, now confident enough for the first time, confident in the parents who love her to pieces to have her first ever time at camp, to grow, have fun, make friends and live life.
Please pray for Maria to learn so much while at camp, to have the very best time like all the other family kids up there, to learn so much about the God who loves her more than we could ever fathom and to make some great, life long friends.
Seriously, so cool.
Because, if imma be honest, if there was anything that would have kept us from adopting, it would have been this very subject, which is why i bring it up, because no fear could have been so far off base for us 🙂
Praying for Maria to have a wonderful time (and the rest of you not to miss her too much)! Lovin’ the sweet picks of brothers jumping and laughing! Thank you!
Oh my goodness! So exciting!!!!!
Is it Forest Home?? That’s a place dear to my heart full of so many precious memories and the source of some of my closest friends still decades later – though we’re scattered across the globe now! From time there as a camper, to going “for a week” (that turned into two entire summers – I just didn’t really come home! Ha!) as a CCA for families at family camp, to going up to serve when they needed help with kids with special needs or someone to sign, I just love it!
Wherever it is I’m confident God is going to do amazing things in Maria’s life this week, as well as the other campers (and counselors)! What a tremendous step for her – and you guys – to take.
I can’t wait to hear more!
Oh, and I hope she takes your advice and does the polar bear plunge…such a camp rite of passage! Ha!
I’ve said it before and I will say it again…oh how I *heart* your beautiful family. Reading your blog spoon feeds my soul. Would love to have an update re Camp when Maria returns hope.
Squishy hugs to you all!
Sweet, sweet Maria, it is so wonderful that she loves and trusts you both so much. She is confident that if Mama and Papa thinks it’s going to be a good thing to do she is happy to do it. I love her beaming smile as she looks out of the bus window.
Oh, Maria! You are so BRAVE to go to camp! Your mama is right that Jesus will be there, too.
Amy, I do have a question about bio kids/ older child adoption. I am extremely uncomfortable bringing this up, but since you asked…
We have a young son, and my husband’s #1 reservation about older child adoption is the possibility of sexual abuse. He works at a state prison and deals with sexual offenders on a daily basis. To be honest, it has made him a bit paranoid, and he has said “absolutely not” to adopting an older boy for this reason. I cannot argue with his desire and responsibility to keep our son safe, but I still feel like we should be open to whatever child the Lord leads us to.
Did this factor into your decision to adopt an older girl instead of a boy? How would you respond to those with the same concerns my husband has expressed. Please don’t feel obligated to answer.
Praying for Maria this week! How wonderful!
Personally, I would love to read a blog about the effects of adoption on biological children. We have one bio son and just adopted our younger son in January, but are feeling called to adopt older children so we are starting the process again. During the first adoption the only condition I had was that we maintain birth order….I know now that it was necessary in order for us to bring the child God wanted for us home, but God has since shown me that this is not necessary. I guess I still have fears, and would love to know how no longer being the oldest child may affect a little one….although from reading your posts it seems only positive! Let me just say reading your blog has been a huge encouragement and help in opening my heart!
Very, very touching. What a lovely family.
Oh yes, I am very interested in it. I would really like to read about the effects of adoption on biological childs.
One question I have is: Is it to prefer to adopt children when your biological children are still young (0-3years)? (so the biological child(ren) can grow up together with the adopted).
Would it be more difficult for the biological children (when they are for example already 7 years old) to accept that there is suddenly an other child that gets the same attention, love,… and that says also mam and dad?
I am from Belgium, and I really love it to read your blog. When I read it, I feel through your words the love and joy of God flow. It touches my heart.
I will certainly pray for Maria this week!
Would love to read a blog on that topic!!
praying for Maria while she is at camp. also for the troops at home. you’ll all miss each other. such a sweet reminder of your bonds of love. trusting God to bless. so precious how you tried to prepare her for being away from home and what all she would experience at camp. special that mom went to the same camp when she was a young girl. =) like mama, like daughter.
Oh, my heart. Oh, sweet Maria. Have a wonderful time at camp! Come home with so many stories of your new friends and new adventures. I know your Mommy and Daddy and brothers are going to miss you so much, and you’ll miss them–but you’ll come home so much bigger and braver and even more amazing than you already are. Your smile really lights up the world.
I hope Maria has a great time at camp–sounds like you picked a wonderful place for her first camp experience.
Interesting topic, effects on bio kids of adoption. Our adopted daughter is three years older than our bio daughter, and has been with us since before our bio daughter was born, but because it’s an open adoption through foster care we have (relatively) a lot of contact with bio parents, bio half siblings, and bio grandparents. The bio grandparents send cards to both our girls, etc. Our bio daughter is now almost 4 and does struggle some with what this means. In the past several months I’ve realized that she was worried that she might move to a new family, because she realizes that her sister had a prior family who is still around. For example, when I reprimanded her once, she asked, “are you going to sell me away to a different family?” It’s hard to explain at that age that your family is forever when she sees that is not the case for everyone, especially hard as her sister’s bio parents are (separately) raising younger bio sibs so it’s even more complicated. But of course the overall effect is positive, as she has a big sister who is her constant companion and teacher.
I have to second – or by now is it third, fourth or fifth – the comments about how sweet your family is and how touching I find every post. Such love and joy! I pray that more children will be able to feel this love. The picture of your husband – didn’t he always imagine how great it would be to have kids – to have cook outs and build swing sets and…. play dolls… so sweetly precious! 🙂 looking forward to the next family installment.
My only child (age 3-4ish) is adopted from Ethiopia. I’d love to adopt again, but I’m a single mama and the saving is very slow going. However, I don’t want my daughter to be an only so I’m considering having a biological child or adopting from foster care. I’m worried about how she would respond to these things, though. Is it the right thing for her to potentially see children come into our home and then maybe leave again? Will she feel displaced if I have a biological child? So many questions, and truthfully, fears. I know this isn’t your situation exactly, but it kind of fits with your question. I’m trusting it will work out. Clearly it has for you!
As I read your entry just now, the song “A Picture of Grace” by the Gaither Vocal Band came up through iTunes shuffle. It made me pause as I saw the picture of Elijah hugging Maria…
Where once was a portrait of gloom and despair
This masterpiece hangs in it’s place
It’s signed with his blood and it’s framed with his glory
This beautiful picture of grace
These sweet darlings are now united with you and Finley by His love and grace. I know I’m an outsider looking in, but your joy-filled posts make me think that your family’s blessings have been exponentially increased by adding Maria and Elijah. What a precious and personal Lord we serve that knows what our hearts need. It just hit me as I feel isolated and unconnected–God knows what’s next and down the road, what matches me like a twin, what compliments my soul. Thank you for sharing your lives in this blog!!