Adoptive Families Camp.

You guys, I had the most amazing time last week at the Encompass Adoptive Family Camp. It was amazing in so many ways and for so many reasons and I’ve been feeling renewed and restored since returning home — how often can you say that after a family vacation?So anyways, if you’re an adoptive family then you simply must come to this camp next year — or find an opportunity near you for one. Here’s why:EnrichmentOh my goodness did I learn a lot. We had three workshops that focused on various things that I’m hoping to blog a bit more about in the coming weeks. The first session was with Dr. Stephen Mandler from Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch — an adoptee and psychiatrist. He talked about the affects of trauma, malnutrition, etc. on the brain (even in utero) and gave us ideas for how to help our children. Honestly, I could have listened to him for days. There was SUCH important information that he gave. When people hear about things I do at home in regards to nutrition or attachment with Baby Boy, I often get questioning looks or the dismissive, “Well, he was adopted as a baby so I’m sure he’ll be fine.” This was a reminder to me to trust what I know, and to remember that grief that comes with adoption is lifelong. I need to be my son’s partner in that, no matter what others may think.The second day’s session was with the Hatmakers, and that was awesome and raw and funny. Oh how I loved being able to unload some of the grief and exhaustion in a safe place, and to hear about others going through similar situations was so helpful. I cried, I laughed and I grew through their session.

The final day’s session was with Tara Bradford, my good friend and mentor who is the founder of Encompass, an adoptee, and an adoptive parent. Phew. She shared amazing insight about things she feels adoptive parents should know from an adoptee’s perspective. Again — cried, laughed, grew.

Respite

Every parent needs a break, and especially adoptive parents. I don’t think I really realized how exhausted I was until we pulled into camp. But this week was actually RESTFUL. Besides bringing Baby Boy’s breast milk on dry ice, I didn’t have to pack cooking utensils or food options because someone prepared all the food during the week. Joel and I enjoyed our first date night since Baby Boy came home because we have amazing friends who we know and trust that were there to take care of the kids (okay, it did take me one cosmo to relax me because I was so worried about leaving Baby Boy). And each afternoon, we had a “family companion” who sat with Baby Boy in our cabin while he napped so we were able to take Yaya to do things. There was plenty of down time during the week where our family was able to rest and relax, meaning neither child was in meltdown mode (and neither were their parents!).

Cost

You guys, this camp was an amazing deal. Tara is Superwoman and got incredible sponsors, meaning we just paid a little bit for food and lodging — and were able to do so in three installments so it didn’t leave us high and dry.

The price for camp included baby-sitting in the afternoon and on date night, a dinner out at a local restaurant for families, all kinds of sweet activities for families (horseback riding, ziplining, rock climbing, hiking, skeet shooting, fishing, swimming, kayaking and art projects.) Not to mention that they did things like leave a jar of local honey and a note at your cabin doorstep while you were out socializing at night. The price of food not only included three meals but two snacks and the goods for s’mores.

It was a bargain.

Jen Hatmaker

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Umm, yeah…so that’s Jen Hatmaker and me. My friend Mia totally owned that she was in love with her while I tried to just BE COOL. And if you know me at all, you know that I’m too lame to do that. I did creepy stalker-ish things like mention my love of Downton Abbey — since I know from FB she’s a fan — but act like I was surprised when she told me she watched the series in two days flat. But she, unlike me, was so cool. You know how  she is sarcastic and witty and brilliant and humble and real in her writing? Well she’s actually like that in person, too. When I was in her cabin (yup, I was in her cabin) picking up the pillows and sleeping bag she borrowed from us (yup, Jen Hatmaker slept on my pillow), she mentioned what a fabulous time she had and said “Count us in for next year.”So if that’s not reason enough for you to come next year, then I don’t know what is.FriendshipsI knew several families prior to going to camp. They walked the adoption journey with me, prayed over me when we almost lost our son and have been my support system since he came home.But I came out of camp feeling an incredible bond with every family who was there — even the ones I had only known for a few days. Adoption changes you and it is hard to describe what it does to the depths of your heart. These people get it. It was safe to break down weeping in someone’s arms that you barely knew. It was a gift to hear someone else point out a Scripture verse you hadn’t thought of that helped build you up. Our last night of camp, I sat at the feet of two moms — much more experienced than I — and garnered so much wisdom and practical advice and hope for nutritional issues and brain development.

And for our kids! Oh, the friendships that we got to see develop!  Watching the teens form their own tribe as they played basketball or volleyball together or stayed up late at night playing card games and giggling.

My own daughter — just four years old — is beginning to realize that our family is different. It was brought up after we returned home from a family reunion because of conversations she heard, and — always the protective big sister — she is concerned for her brother. It gave me such peace and joy to see her hang out with families who look like ours. She could be herself. We could all be ourselves. I know that will mean so much to Baby Boy once he is older, too. Yaya said at the end of the week, “Mom — can we come here every year? And probably for longer next time, too. Or, we could just move here — wouldn’t that be a good idea?”

So, if you can’t tell — I’m still riding high from this gift of a week.

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