Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Magical Moments: Lessons from Disney World

We're home!!! I'm sorry I wasn't able to update from Orlando. Our hotel charged by the day for internet service. When I finally agreed to pay for 24 hours of contact with the outside world, I discovered that our signal was weak making our service as slow as the lines for Space Mountain. It would have taken a week to post one pic (I felt like I was back in Guatemala). But now that we're home and the passports and Mickey ears are in storage (for a long, long time), I promise to post more regularly.

Happy belated new year!!! I have finally come to terms with the fact that Christmas is officially over (I let out a big sigh when removing the Christmas tunes from my playlist). We've had such a sweet holiday homecoming that I just don't want it to end. But we will be celebrating God's gifts all year. We wish you and your families a blessed 2010.

This pic is proof that Disney World didn't eat us alive.

Many have called or e-mailed wondering how our trip went. I'm guessing our friends who have adopted older children placed bets on how things would go and they want to know who wins the pot. Some friends predicted a "bloodbath." They weren't being mean . . . they simply know that taking a newly adopted child to meet Mickey during one of the busiest times of the year might be a bit, ummm, ambitious.

I wholeheartedly agree that I wouldn't recommend taking a newly adopted child to Disney--we had to be there for the girls' competition, otherwise we would have planned such a trip several months from now. Thus we went with realistic expectations and I'm thrilled to report that it went much better than we had anticipated. In spite of the fact that the odds were stacked against us, we had a truly special time. However, it wasn't always easy--less "bloodbath" and more like pressure washing.

We certainly felt hosed down a few times. I will be honest on my blog for anyone considering adopting an older child or is knee deep in the challenges of raising children (bio or adopted, parenting is hard no matter how God gave them to you). Not every minute was a Kodak moment in front of the castle. Brad and I would look at each other and laugh that we were certainly not going to be living in Fantasy Land. Nope, closer to Frontier Land. "Yo, ho, ho, ho, a pirate's life for me!" Fortunately, no one walked the plank.

Our challenges have been small. Most issues dealt with Daniel not understanding the rules of our family and the world he now lives in. He is very sensitive and any correction (although always done gently) would often result in tears--and by tears I mean loud moaning, hundreds of people staring at us kinds of episodes. (Which I might add, his tween sister Olivia would usually take a few steps away from all of us and pretend to be part of someone else's family. Bless her heart.) But soon he realized that we didn't want him running 20 feet ahead of us into a sea of thousands of people because we love him and don't want to lose him. He eventually understood that if we tell him no, it's not because we don't love him, only that we don't want him to have ice cream before dinner or that when we say he can choose a souvenir we were thinking something cheaper than the $200 Darth Vadar costume. He now understands that it's not appropriate to eat off someone else's plate without permission, press the emergency button in the hotel elevator, or put the pepper shaker up your nose.

By Saturday, we had no tears and he is making great progress in calmly verbalizing his fears and frustrations instead of acting out and making us play detective as to why he's upset. In fact, his behavior was better than many other kids around us who were not coming from such difficult circumstances.

It's funny that so many life lessons can be gleaned from a place that can make a rational person pay $3.50 for a bottle of water. For example, Daniel had a tendency to find a favorite food, or ride, or article of clothing, and then not want anything else. He rode the Buzz Lightyear ride and announced that's all he wanted to do for "infinity and beyond."

We tried to explain that there were other rides he would certainly enjoy and had to coax a pouting boy on a second ride. He would, of course, love that one, too, then he would announce he would only do the Buzz ride and the teacups (and on and on). How often do we do that with God? We get so comfortable in our safe and familiar surroundings that we resist His call to anything else--from reaching out to someone new at church, to going on a mission trip to another country, to adopting a child. But, oh, what we miss out on when we refuse to ride anything else.

One of Daniel's favorite rides was the race cars.

It was a great ride for him because it enabled him to steer, yet because his legs were a bit too short to reach the pedals, I was able to control the gas and brake (thus not causing whiplash to the guy in front of us). It is also on a track so it's not possible for him to move into someone else's lane or go in the wrong direction.

Once he got frustrated with me because the car wasn't moving fast enough. I explained that I was pushing the gas as much as I could but asked if he would like to try. He said yes and for about 2 seconds pushed the pedal then agreed that it was harder than he thought and understood that we were going as fast as we could. I will certainly be reminding him of this ride in the future. There will be many opportunities for him to steer, but mom and dad will control the gas and the brake. (And I'll remind him that often our job looks much easier than it actually is and we are truly going as fast as we can.) And God sets the track that directs our path. It's freeing to know that the course before us has already been perfectly planned.

Another thing Daniel loved was the 3-D movies.

I don't think he fully understood that the items coming toward him weren't real and unfortunately the people sitting in front of him would sometimes get whacked in the head as he tried to grab the items that seemed to be within arms reach. (After the first movie we made sure he was sitting behind a short child for future 3-D adventures.) But it is a good analogy for our family as we try to understand each other. We need to take the time to wear each other's 3-D glasses. We need Daniel to see that we love him as if he has always been our son. We need him to understand that correction is often an outpouring of that love. We need him to see that our love is unconditional. And we, in turn, need to wear his glasses. We need to see through his eyes how overwhelming this all is. We need to see that he is often not acting selfishly but out of a need for security. We need to remember that he comes with scars that aren't visible without his glasses and we need to be patient while he heals.

But most of all, we need to remember that for every moment like this (he turned into the Grumpy dwarf for a minute when asked to pose for another pic) . . .

There many more moments like this.

From watching parades . . .

To light show displays.

I'm so very grateful . . .

for each smile . . .

for each laugh . . .

for each hug . . .

for each "I love you."

We cherished every giddy beginning . . .

And grand finale.

But I think our greatest lesson from Disney World is that all you really need for a happily ever after is . . . love!

Still Smiling,


More than a Mom said...

I love the analogy you used with the race car on the track and you managing the speed. I love it in regards to parenting and God. Very well written. Thanks for sharing!

tinacd said...

What a beautiful family!
Looks like everyone had a fun time.

sierrasmom said...

Welcome Home...Beautiufl post...can't wait for our trip to Disney in Dec!!!!!

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The Girl Next Door Grows Up said...

Love your blog design - the colors are super! What a cool site!! I love it :-) I am following you from MBC!

Stockpiling Mom said...

Following you from MBC! I too have a precious son born in Guatemala! Would love for you to come check out our site!