The month that Levi turned two...

April. Oh, April. Where did you go?

Still, I welcome May with open arms, with all its inherent sunshine and green things and outdoor activities.

Besides disappearing in the landslide known as "tax season", April was notable for two major events in our house: Levi's second birthday, and an adoption shower thrown for us by our church.

At just past a year, it seemed a good time to reflect on the changes our family has gone through in the last year, and the way we have grown because of it.

At Levi's first birthday, we had had him in our home for less than two weeks. His attachment to us was still very weak, but to the Stanleys, it was very strong. He was confused about what was going on, and often unhappy. When the Stanleys came over to see him (which was very often in the first month), he got confused on how to behave, and acted out in ways he wouldn't normally do to see if he could draw the attention of his Nana and Papa, and see whether they would correct him.

At the party, I felt like an outsider, since Levi didn't really see me as his mother, and he craved the attention of his previous caregivers. Not only that, they missed the little man terribly, and unintentionally contributed to my feelings of imposition by usurping roles that the parents would normally play at their child's birthday party... but at that point, was he really "our child", yet? No, not emotionally. Not in any way but verbal agreement between the caregivers concerned. Emotionally, we were just the babysitters who had planned the party.

The adults involved were feeling a wide range of emotions that were common to us all--guilt, fear, regret, sadness, grief, uncertainty. We were trying to redefine our relationships to each other and to this precious boy that bound us all together beyond what our previous friendship ever had. There were other emotions that accompanied grief that had to be dealt with. Relationships had been torn, and needed to be mended in a shape different than how they had begun.

The process was painful, and felt interminably slow, but as time went on, and steps were made, healing has continued. The new shape of our family tree may be slightly unconventional, but the ugly scars are starting to heal and fade, and the overall beauty of the design is beginning to be seen.

Levi is still very attached to his brother Quinton (whom he calls "Tintin"), his birth mother Jenn (whom he calls "Nen"), and his Papa and Nana (Jennifer's parents). But, he is also most definitely Levi Winters, now, and Jason and I are "Dad" and "Mom", and Jude, Noah, and Jabin ("Ju", "Wa-wa" and "Dabin") are some of his favourite people, too.

After some hard turns on the road of our friendship, the adults have regained firm footing in where we stand with each other--and maybe a new level of love and respect. Jenn and I have gotten to know each other, now, and I just so appreciate how respectful she has been of me as Levi's new mom. She may be more like the "cool aunt" in his life, but she still loves him dearly, and I am glad that he will continue to have a relationship with her as he grows. Perhaps he can avoid the issues of abandonment that so many adopted children face, because everyone who loved him is still a part of his life.

Pictures from the birthday party:

Levi gives his brother Quinton a cuddle.

Chocolate cake--a Winters Family birthday tradition.

Musta been good!

Happy birthday to you!

Grandpa Mike can't help but tease the boys. Grandma Laurel helps me serve dessert.

Despite the many environmentally-conscious and fiscally-responsible adults at this party, it so happened (because of schedules, etc.) that each person there brought their own vehicle. It was so funny to see so many cars in our yard for such a small party, I had to take a photo.

Papa and Nana (Brian and Laverna) Stanley

Opening presents with Jenn. The little hat was one of her gifts.

Surrounded by brotherly love--and help, too! :-)

The following Saturday, First Baptist Church put on an adoption shower, organized by my good friends Larrissa and Cheryl, with help from another lady I am just getting to know, Joanna. I was delighted when I got there to see the "Moustache Party" theme, with adorable bow-tie napkins, and moustaches everywhere. (Larrissa and Joanna have a real flair for decorating.) Sadly, I did not think to take photos until just before clean up commenced, so I did not capture it in all its glory. (Being the centre of attention has a way of making you forget about taking photographs.)

Jenn and Laverna both attended the shower, and it was such a blessing to be able to share with my church family about how this change has brought our families closer, and how much courage I believe it took Jenn to make the decision she did. It was an even greater blessing later on to hear how that day brought some  healing between Jenn and Laverna.

When Levi first came to us, I read a very excellent book called "Attachment in Adoption" by Deborah Gray. I was surprised when I read that everyone involved in an adoption grieves--the birth parent or caregivers for what they have lost, and the adopting parents for what the child has lost, and in our case, we were also grieving for what our friends had lost. For the child, they grieve many things, depending on the situation. I believe Levi grieved (in his own way) losing daily contact with a mother and grandparents and brother that were his whole world, and being put into a new situation where he felt very insecure for months before strong attachments began to form.

For the adopting parent, there may also be a period of grief if they discover their child has some special needs, as they will then grieve over the hopes and expectations they had of their child and their own family's future that will never come to be. While Levi does not have any special needs, Jason, in particular, had a period of grief over having our family go back to having such a little guy around--while there is much joy in having a little one, there are many restrictions that he was sure we were beyond.

But God gives grief a beautiful function--to heal. If we allow the process to continue, and do not get "stuck", time will heal the wound that caused the grief in the first place. In the process, he remolds our ideas and beliefs and values, and if we allow it, brings them more in line with his.

Over a year after Levi joined our family, I believe that all those involved are either in the final stages, or have moved beyond grief to focus on the joy and blessings to be found in the new configuration of things. I am thankful that the Lord has allowed us to grow in these ways. As I shared at the shower, "When an artist is making a sculpture, he has to make many cuts into the marble to reveal the beautiful image beneath. The cuts are painful, but without them, the final sculpture will never be seen."

I am so thankful for the beautiful sculpture I am beginning to see. Lord, continue your work in me.

"Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:6 (NIV)