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First Week of Middle School

Maria started school on Monday.  It was a big day for her because it was a new school, and because this year will be the first year she is ready and able to participate fully in her school day.

She has come a long way in two years, worked very hard, especially this sumer, but more than the facts she has learned, the connections in her mind–layer building upon layer, a drip sandcastle on the shore, each brown orb precariously gripping the last, the skills of processing building over time, the overarching ability we see playing the biggest role is her confidence, hard fought, hard won, and still very new in it’s early completeness.

Early on, she would greet a new task with a smile, maybe splintered, but soon,

I can’t, I can’t!!”  And the couldn’t.

She would realize and the only word I can use to describe her frame of mind is a dark spiral.  She spiraled down into a shadowy place, “I can’t, I can’t…and if I don’t I won’t be good enough, and if I am not good enough… they won’t like me anymore, and if they don’t like me anymore, I won’t survive.”

For most of her life, she was never a daughter.  Someone loved just for being.  Just for existing.  She was a servant, “If I work hard enough, please long enough, I will survive this day.”  Her life depended on it, and she came to us an emaciated, small, shaking child who sucked her thumb at night to calm herself down after a day of surviving.  Failure and mistakes weighed on her, ropes deep within the sea grabbing her and sinking her into the depths where she was sure she couldn’t breath, water just above her mouth in waves.

Primarily for our job as parents, sometimes we felt wise and confident in what to to, until we didn’t, which was often.  Looking back, so many times trying to build her confidence felt like emptying the ocean with a thimble, and she often looked more disheveled than before we tried.

“Time,” we told ourselves, “just give it time…or maybe not…” we wondered as we sometimes contemplated building an apartment on top of the garage one day in the future.   Our faith seemed pretty feeble at times, “Grace!” we would declare.  It worked for God, right?  “It’s ok, everything is ok…”  then wondered, “But….maybe something better is needed here, or what?  I don’t know, someone tell me…”

“You can,” we told her.

“It’s ok to make mistakes.”

“Did you know we learn the best when we make mistakes?”

No–yes to grace.  Yes, grace would it be, over and over again, that actually would be the answer.  Grace, we know, both of us, meets us right where we are, in our fear and mess, and that is what moves us to the next stage.  It really is grace.  Just what we don’t deserve is exactly the only thing that ever works.  Or maybe we are nuts.

“Maria, did you know, even if you did something really, really bad, and really wrong, we would still really love you.  No matter what.”  She laughed wildly at the thought.  We laughed too, “Even if you called us dumb, or broken everything, or went to jail.  We’d still just love you, and then come visit you.”  Trying to cut the ropes, toughened and thick, calcified over time, 10 full years within an orphanage.  She grew solemn and didn’t say much else.  Tossed the thimble, threw out the round, buoyant life-saver again, Grace.  Grace can be water wings, the thing that gets us free, and moving, unstuck.  You can’t solve everyone’s problems with your skills, you can really only just love people.  What an incredible, life changing, humbling bummer.  I mean, I went to school to be a teacher of all things.

This summer we did a lot of homeschool, reading and art, writing and math.  We focused on reading carefully and thinking things through, taking the time to think, and then proceed.  She sort of became a different person.  Holding her life saver, she allowed her mind to shift towards the process of thought from debilitating fear. We hold up her two pieces of art, one she scribbled out to please us, “DONE!”   The next after we explained thinking, pausing, contemplating, enjoyment, noticing detail and responding.  The two images stared back at us, the one where she tried shocking us all, it was beyond incredible.

One day, towards the end of August, she approached me and told me, “You know, it actually kind of hurts my feelings when you _____” and told me about how daddy wakes her up kindly, and I shout through the door.  I had never been so proud of her in my life.  I then looked at her with new eyes, this young lady, confidence in waves to write an essay, to try new math, to bring up feelings to one of the people on whom she depends.  Did she realize this was a life changing day.  She had no fear when she told me.

“Thank you for telling me,” I told her, almost giddy, “I’ll try to wake you more quietly.”

“Thank you!” she told me, and went about her business.

This week she has her first day of school.



Did I mention about the school?  How it’s amazing and it’s totally random how we found it?  Last year for growth group, my prayer was to find the right middle school for Maria, my kind friend said, “AGAIN!?” since it was my request for a few weeks, but I mean, the local middle school is rough, I was hearing.   But those ingrates prayed anyways, and the next day we got an unprompted call from a friend who we became connected with because they were hosting an orphan that summer, and she told me all about the school which sounded too good to be true, so I wasn’t sure, but she had made an appointment with the principal for us that Monday, which we learned was also the last day to register for the next year, and Andrew and Maria did, and the more we learned about it, the more we fell in love.  Then we found out that our actual real friends were going to be there too, Maria’s friends from church, and they learn an instrument and wear uniforms and take school seriously, and every child is gifted, they say.

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So, after the first day, we picked her up and she burst in, “I loved it.  My teacher is so nice, and she is nice to everybody.  And all the kids have good manners.  And….”

She looked at me, knowing this next one was big.

“There were two girls sitting at lunch and I went up to them and said, ‘Hi, I’m Maria can I sit with you,’ and I did!”


“WHAT!?!?!” I asked.  We had worked all summer on making friends, social skills, she had found a book about making friends and made question flash cards all on her own on how to initiate conversation,  not being shy or afraid (Which made me proud and broke my heart in the same instant).   And she did it.  She tells me of all the friends who talk to her, the ones from camp, or orphan hosting BBQs, our friends’ kind neighbor.  She beams each day home from school, it’s contagious)

Now the school is all batty with waiting lists and all.  I was thinking how cool it is our boys will be able to go there because big sis is there.  Turns out adopting out of birth order isn’t the worst thing.  I digress…


The boys have been taking full advantage of Maria’s school days.  They have claimed her bitty baby I got for her at our thrift store a couple weeks ago as their own.  Who would have thought that would be the thing.

I’m not sure if I am much help as far as privacy of possessions go since I helped fasten the baby carrier with her scarf too while she was gone.  Note: How could I not?

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This kid.  Needs his own personal growth post one day.  What a tender love.  I feel like every word out of my mouth is to praise him in such a flagrant manner.  I can’t help myself, he is everything you’d just like.

So anyways, we played like baby was trapped in a fiery house, and only big strong fire fighters could save her.  Which they did every time.  So brave.




Made to be a nurturer

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What a hero, helping those in trouble

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Maria has been so in love with school, busy with piano and homework to notice too much that Mae Amelia, as she named her after her favorite book, is much dustier than normal.


The other day I was ‘brave’ and invited people over to talk about oils.  Andrew and I woke up early and cleaned up the tools from the yard since a bunch of kids were coming that hadn’t been here before.

What has started as a fundraiser to help us pay the bills for our littlest to come home, has turned into something I feel happy and eager and excited to share with people because it helps them so much.  They help us so much.  As parents, we want no harm for our kids, we want to help them in a way that is safe and natural and more effective and less expensive than the synthetic stuff we buy at stores.  That we can’t overdose on or get addicted to.

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So we had a mommy play date where we talked oils, dusted off my lone white table cloth, and we shared and they tried them and tired mamas came with their little ones and Kelly and I told them everything we knew.  “This gets our kids to sleep.  And when my littlest finally started really sleeping and resting, his behavior was better, and he has a huge burst in his language, because he was resting,” I told them all my stuff, all our stories with the oils I knew.  Kelly is a doula and knew all the tricks to help the tiniest infants and the mamas who want them feeling good.

The most popular oils from yesterday were Serenity for sleep, because…

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Elevation for moods, Balance for tantrums and wild emotions, it’s a grounding blend and brings a lot of peace, Breathe for sickness (Which people have been telling me they have used to treat severe asthma and even Cystic Fibrosis!  See my instagram), OnGuard and Peppermint for sickness, and DigestZen for tummy problems and reflux.  Nothing beats helping mommies and babies and children feel their best, what an amazing morning it was–that also smelled fantastic.

If you are an oils person, will you share your story with me?  I want to share with others the power in their simplicity.  I know there is interest and people wanting to try them for themselves.  One thing that I always think about is how products often advertise, “Made with real grape and ginger extract,” and then because of that people buy it and think it must work because of that.  Like deep down we know natural properties are the most useful and best for you, even if those products only have less than 1% of the actual natural components in them.  With oils, it’s all of it, 100%.  All the synthetic drugs are only effective because they try to mimic the natural components in nature, then add fillers, and it’s those fillers our bodies don’t recognize and have the bad reactions too.

I email with people each evening about their children, themselves, what they have going on and help them pick oils from the sea of oil selections, I would love to chat with you too.  Email me anytime: amy@tinygreenelephants.com  And you can shop for them here: http://www.mydoterra.com/tinygreenelephants/  Although I initially wrote and share them as a fundraiser, my focus is less on that aspect and more on connecting families with the oils that will suit them and change their lives.


Now it’s night, this afternoon Andrew and Maria rode bikes to piano lessons for the first time.  Came back for dinner just in time for dinner huffing, puffing, smiling, Maria talking about stickers on her songs.

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Oh, and don’t think I forgot about the boys while we were at the thrift store.  We were just dropping things off and happened upon these babies.  Thrift store success.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Crystal September 25, 2014, 5:24 am

    Maria could totally be a school uniform model for French Toast or one of those other companies! Love it!

  • Isi September 25, 2014, 5:40 am

    I love the uniform!

  • K D September 25, 2014, 12:09 pm

    I love all the pictures of your kids, each one is so precious. What a wonderful family you have.

    I’m glad things are going do well, I know you have put in the work to get to this point.