One Year as a Family of Four
November 23, 2012

Hi, I’m Tristen. 

Safe Precious Heard is a place where you will find hope and healing on your journey of raising children with relational trauma backgrounds.

Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles. Isaiah 40:31


We got home from Rwanda with Jonathan on Oct. 30, 2011- a little  over a year ago. I remember those first  few months, the days seemed so long and hard as we all learned how to adjust. Jonathan was learning how to navigate his new world (things like not running in the street, not to touch the stove, how to use a toilet), how to relate to people outside the social system of an orphanage (this is an on going process) and learning a new language. Gaven, was learning how to be a sibling  after being an only child for almost 10 years. Max and I were learning how to best connect with Jonathan. I was exhausted everyday. I used every ounce of energy (mentally, physically and spiritually). There were times I wondered how I was going to make it another day. A dear friend of mine who has 3 adopted kiddos from Rwanda of her own told me things would settle down and seem “normal” in about a year. A year seemed so far away… Amazing how the year flew by! I wished I journaled and documented more but I did the best I could and took lots of pictures and videos. My friend was right on with everything. She said the first few months would seem like a blur and my son would probably forget most of it- both are true. She said he would learn English in about 3-4 months- he did. She said 6 months would be a turning point of sorts- it was, life started to get a little easier. Now at a year it seems like we’ve always had Jonathan in our lives . None of us can imagine life without him- to quote Gaven, “life would be boring.”
Our Re-Adoption Day in California!! 
Jonathan adds so much to all our lives. He has stretched us in ways we never would’ve otherwise been stretched and grown. Adopting a toddler truly causes you to lay down your life, pick up your cross and rely on God. Your weaknesses will come to the forefront of life and demand to be dealt with- which is not easy to do in the midst of everything else going on. Life’s blessings will also become much richer and you will understand God’s unconditional love and sacrifices much deeper and personal way. And when you connect with another adoptive family walking down the same path as you, the bonding is immediate as you relate to each other’s stories.
Hiking at Red Rocks, NV – Nov. 2012
Jonathan’s transformation has been amazing to witness. Not only seeing how fast he has learned to navigate his new world but also seeing his “true” self emerge as his brain literally rewires itself from survival mode to trust and safety in everyday relations. I would love to write more about what that has looked like another time.
At Grandpa & Grandma’s house – Nov. 2012
Jonathan loves his family. He snuggles with me and his dad. He has a really sweet, nurturing side- he will stroke my face and say how pretty I am or sit in my lap and pet my hair.He likes the feel of skin so he rubs my arms when I’m holding him. He also adores his big brother, Gaven. Gaven has been amazing with him. Gaven has more patience than any kid or adult I know! Gaven has taught Jonathan about giving and playing better than anyone. Jonathan has also gone from being scared of the dog to wanting to have him sit on his lap and pet him when on the couch. Jonathan has settled down so much. He can actually sit still now and has an attention span. This list of changes that have happened over the year is endless. We have worked very slow and patiently with him- introducing him to things very slowly and at his pace. We’ve allowed him plenty of space to grow (not reacting to his intense reactions), realizing he is sensitive to stressors of any kind and trying to be proactive about accounting for those needs. We could not do this without the support and encouragement of our family and friends. It truly has taken a village.
Preschool Thanksgiving Party – Nov. 2012
My Simplified, Best Advice if You Have Adopted
Find a support group of other adoptive families, don’t be shy about asking for help from family or friends (you need time away, even if for an hour), educate yourself about raising a child with past trauma (even a stressful pregnancy and delivery can alter the brain’s stress chemicals and is a risk factor for behavioral problems).
My Simplified, Best Advice if You Know Someone Who Has Adopted
Don’t wait for them to ask you for help, freely offer it! And don’t just offer help- schedule it! Say “I want to come over Friday night so you can your spouse can go out. What time should I come over?”… or something like that. The first year, especially the first months are so hard that trying to ask or accept help can seem too overwhelming to coordinate. Bring a meal (that can be frozen) or bag of snacks. Reach out over the phone (to listen, not judge or give advise), send emails (that don’t require the person to respond to), send cards- anything to provide encouragement. It can be so draining and isolating (especially for the stay at home mom) that anything you can do to uplift the family or individuals in the family (don’t forget about the siblings!)  is well appreciated.
Additional Amazing facts about Jonathan:
September 2011 height & weight- 39.5 inches & 34.5 pounds
November 2012 height & weight- 45 inches & 43.5 pounds

In this past year, he’s grown over 5 inches & gained almost 10 pounds!