Friday, December 30, 2011

20 + 11 things for which I am thankful

1.  Shu now signs more, milk, all done, and open.
2.  He will eat absolutely anything:  tabbouleh, chili, brussels sprouts, clementines.  His food obsession/anxiety has been no barrel of laughs, but at least he's not picky. 
3.  My parents have been generous in their love and care for our children, allowing me and Dr. Husband to spend some much-needed time alone. 
4.  Hummus Girl loves preschool.  So thankful for the Lord's leading in that regard.
5.  our park right down the street
6.  popcorn and Hot Tamales
7.  Princess Firecracker's hilarious little voice begging me not to spank her "princess bottom"
8.  Dr. Husband who loves me like every woman should be loved, who makes me laugh, who makes me a better everything, and who points me to Jesus, every time.
9.  Dr. Husband's job, which he enjoys
10.  fellow adoptive mommy friends--real life, or the bloggy kind--who help to bear my burdens
11.  a healthy body
12.  two sisters who are also dear friends
13.  a normal, healed heart for Shu
14.  My flesh and my heart my fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.  Psalm 73:26
15.  three kids who are more resilient and compassionate than I could have imagined
16.  Target
17.  Shu is walking.
18.  the International House of Prayer, especially the free Prayer Room webstream
19.  a great washing machine
20.  LEGOs...they're seriously wonderful.
21.  The Hunger Games series...very well-written, very entertaining.
22.  our local library--a place to go where everybody knows our names
23.  every "no," intervention, or "all done" that does not result in a tantrum 
24.  Israel Houghton
25.  Redbox movies with my love after all the kids are in bed
26.  Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  Lamentations 3:22-23
27.  online shopping, especially Amazon
28.  that we adopted Shu before China's new homestudy and post-placement requirements went into effect  
29.  low cost physical and speech therapy through our state
30.  two beautiful daughters and two handsome sons
31.  that my Father God adopted me and is teaching me how to love

I'm not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don't get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back.                                          Philippians 3:13-14 (The Message)

Goodbye, 2011! 

Friday, December 23, 2011

mission accomplished!


Merry Christmas!!! 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

consider this our "Christmas newsletter"

I confess I have not sent out Christmas cards since I was the mother of only one child.  Love to receive them, but sending them has fallen way (way) to the bottom of the to-do list.  This will have to suffice. 

My sweet Hummus Girl had her preschool Christmas program a few nights ago.  Standard fare, but it was a joy to watch her earnest little face and hear the songs she's been practicing for weeks now in her clear, lovely, perfectly-in-tune voice.  The girls next to her were a bit distracted throughout--I could see one mom in the audience glaring--so I was proud of HG's ability to focus.  We are so thankful that she adores preschool and her teacher.  It was just the solution we needed to bring some relief as we adjusted to a new family member. 


Shu continues to make progress in the area of communication, a breakthrough we are praising God for.  He was evaluated by a speech therapist last week, and I assume he will begin receiving speech therapy after the new year.  He now signs "more" and "all done" in the appropriate contexts, and today let me teach him "open."  It took six months to get him to sign "more"...we strongly suspect refusal rather than inability...and we wonder now if the floodgates of language will begin to open.  He can point to his nose and mouth when asked, and seems to understand the majority of what we say.  Now that he can ask for more, he does so all day long, even after he's just eaten.  I want to make sure I reward his efforts while not letting him stuff himself.  It's been tricky to navigate the food anxieties, but we see them gradually subsiding, and Shu's new openness to communication will help tremendously. We look forward to decreased frustration, his and ours, and increased enjoyment of our relationship!

Princess Firecracker is getting sweeter, cuddlier, and more verbal--hilariously so--by the day, though her nickname is still plenty apt.  Last night she tripped, fell onto the edge of her toddler bed, and split open her eyebrow.  Her older brother has cut open his forehead twice, so we are somewhat unfazed at this point.  I have to say, I think she cried less than he did.  She's a tough one.  We decided it didn't require a trip to urgent care.


The Absent Minded Professor continues to thrive as a home schooler, despite the pervading chaos in our house.  He turned seven two months ago, and is handily doing 5th grade math with all the requisite complaints and groans. It's just like when I taught high school math, except without the paycheck.  And now I can threaten him with no computer time.  Works like a charm.  He's a great big brother, and I really enjoy spending my days with him. 

Doctor Husband continues to be loving, funny, supportive, and my best friend.  He got a bit of a promotion this year at work, and published his first article, as "lead author," in a nursing research journal.  If you work in academia, a publication record can be key for continued success.  So I'm very proud of his hard work.


Here's our attempt at a Christmas photo of the kids, requested by my mom.  Shu protested vehemently, to put it mildly, so you can just imagine his cute, smiling Chinese face to the left.  Perhaps we'll try once more in the coming days. 

And that kind of sums it up, doesn't it?  Trying for picture perfect often ends in disappointment.  We're learning to manage our expectations in this season and to focus in on the true essentials.  I can't say we've been extra-ordinarily-spiritual this Christmas.  We get six days behind on our nativity calendar before we remember to catch up.  Scripture reading or family sing-alongs are often fraught with interruptions.  Shu cannot make it through a church service, nor is he ready to attend the nursery.  That said, our kids know exactly what Christmas is about, know that our first instinct upon losing the brackets for the bathroom mirror or coming down with a sore throat is to talk to God about it, and know that nothing in this life matters more than loving Jesus, worshiping Jesus, knowing Jesus.  At Christmas, and every other day.  So we're not doing crafts this year, not baking beautiful sprinkle-topped cookies, not hiding elves, not even filling shoeboxes for kids in need...not leaving the house much, really...'cause the truth is many of our days just feel like survival.  But we are building.  We are creating.  We are teaching.  We are giving.  We are showing our children how to love, even when it's hard work, and we are living our ordinary, imperfect, desperateforJesusandneedhismercyeverysinglesecond lives in front of them.  Every day. We can always bring out the glitter and sprinkles next year. 

It will be a lovely holiday.  I'm excited for my family to see what I picked out for them.  Happy for Shu to experience his first Christmas, even though he won't understand.  (Why is there a tree in our house, mama?  and why is it so dang cold?)  Looking forward to extra time with my husband and his family.  And above all, thankful that God came near in such a humbling, unexpected way.  I leave you with a literal translation (from the French) of one of my favorite carols, O Holy Night.  I rather prefer these words:
Midnight, Christians, it is the solemn hour,
When God-man descended to us
To erase the stain of original sin
And to end the wrath of His Father.
The entire world thrills with hope
On this night that gives it a Savior.
People kneel down, wait for your deliverance.
Christmas, Christmas, here is the Redeemer,
Christmas, Christmas, here is the Redeemer!
The Redeemer has overcome every obstacle:
The Earth is free, and Heaven is open.
He sees a brother where there was only a slave,
Love unites those that iron had chained.
Who will tell Him of our gratitude,
For all of us He is born, He suffers and dies.
People stand up! Sing of your deliverance,
Christmas, Christmas, sing of the Redeemer,
Christmas, Christmas, sing of the Redeemer!

Monday, December 19, 2011

for Janet and all the other "Janet"s

Here's what my friend wrote me this morning:
You are not a negative Nellie.  :)  You are not dumping your crap on me.  Even if you were, which you're NOT, I'd gladly take it.  That's what friends do -- we lighten the burden.  Have you ever noticed that we're rarely both having a really bad day?  Do you think that's coincidence?  I don't!  I think that our crappy days and our good days were known in advance.  I think that the lengths to which God has gone to make sure that we would both have support will never cease to amaze me.  I am so thankful, every day, for the gift He gave me in you.  Seriously, we live, what?  200 miles apart?  But we never would have met had we not been in China, and we would not have needed each other if not for China.  It's a crazy, exhausting, infuriating, blessed life we're living.  I cannot imagine how I would get through this without you. (side note -- Jer [her husband] said to me a few days ago, "She really makes you feel like you're not alone, doesn't she?" Ummm, duh? :) )

I love this woman, home schooling mother of three children by birth and one by adoption, just like me.  We "met" on our agency's forum, and then met in real life in the chaos of O'Hare airport, waiting to fly to Beijing.  She and her husband had been there a day already, their previous day's flight having been canceled which caused them to miss their Great Wall tour.  Janet approached me, tears of stress and exhaustion running down her face.  She recognized me from my blog.  We hugged.  Our meeting under those circumstances was a harbinger of our friendship--initiated by our shared experience adopting our children in China, and then cemented via email once we returned home.  We still have plans to meet again in person sometime...someday...soon. 

Janet and I need each other.  Our adoption experiences have fallen on the "very challenging" end of the continuum, and our precious children--her girl and my boy--are still grieving and resisting and tantruming their way into family life.  She and I both know the pain and the longing and confusion that comes seven months in, when most others have stopped blogging or talking about the difficult transition, while we still find ourselves searching (sometimes in vain) for the few minutes each day that resemble "normal."  We know the discomfort of being asked how's it going? and not knowing how to answer honestly.  The constant scrutiny of our own hearts and behaviors and parenting strategies and emotions (especially those) as we wonder what we're doing wrong.  The paralyzing fear of being harshly judged if we do reveal the daily unpleasantness.  The real love we have for our kids and the powerlessness we feel to make them happy.  The genuine desire not to deter others from adoption, believing it to be a beautiful part of God's redemptive plan even though we deem it, bar none, the hardest thing either of us has ever done.  Ever. 

So for any other "Janet"s out there...yeah, even if you're a dude reading this:  you are not alone.  If your kiddo hasn't stopped crying yet...or doesn't fit the composite scenario in the adoptive parenting books...is more delayed than you expected...has a surprise special need...is struggling to attach...or you simply don't yet feel in your heart what you thought you'd be feeling by now.  It's OK.  You are not the only one. 

As for me (and the real Janet, too), I am relying on this promise from the Lord:
I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;  I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth.  These are the things I will do;  I will not forsake them.       Isaiah 42:16
There's the real truth.  I am not alone, not forsaken, not without hope.  There's a wonderful, abundant future ahead for my son and for my entire family.  I believe that, deep down, despite the present challenges.  I won't quit, and love will win.  I'm crazy thankful God saw fit to give me a real flesh-and-blood friend who fills my inbox weekly with reminders of just that. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

breakthroughs

This morning's physical therapy session with Shu was the best one in weeks, maybe months.  When I say "best" I mean minimal screaming and tantruming, and plenty of happy cooperation.  Princess Firecracker (9.5 months older) was present for the entire session, and I think that was a big motivating factor.  Might have to keep her around!

And the most exciting part?

He signed "more"! 

I've mentioned to some of you that we've been working on "more" for six months now.  So during their play, the physical therapist encouraged him (as she has for many weeks) to sign "more"...and surprise...he did...several times!  Big victory.

After she left, Shu finished his breakfast milk, and I figured he wanted more to eat.  When I asked him to tell me "more," he began his usual crying and fussing.  I got him down from his highchair, and he walked over to me for some cuddling.  I looked down to find him signing more.  I said, shocked, "More?  More bread?  You want more food?"  And he kept doing it.  So...yeah...that's good enough for me! 

He also tried something in therapy today (stepping up onto a low platform) that provoked weeping and gnashing of teeth last week.  Whew.  We continue to live in the three steps forward two steps back zone, but that's still progress, baby.

I'm incredibly thankful for a much better start to my week, for these small breakthroughs we've been praying about, and for a Father who cares about every big and small thing that weighs on my heart.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

my me morning

Gigantic thanks to my mom, dad, and sister who sacrificed their time today to give this mama a much-desired few hours alone.  My parents kept the littles at their house, even fed them breakfast and lunch, while my sister took the bigs to lunch and a movie.  Pretty big deal since this is Hummus Girl's very first theater experience! 

So would you like to hear what I did with myself?  You'll either want to live vicariously through me, or more likely, shake your head and ask that's all you could come up with, girl? 

After dropping off the kids, I went to the local Social Security office to apply for a new card for Shu.  Waited about 25 minutes, then stood at the window for another 20 minutes, but it went off without a hitch, and we'll have the card in two weeks!   So glad I didn't have the struggles some of my fellow adoptive parents have had. 

Then to JCPenney to use a $10 off a $10 purchase coupon.  On the way, a little Sara Groves in the CD player...no fighting or beat-boxing from the backseat...good for my soul.  Side note:  Sara and I sang in concert choir together in college. 

Next, the library.  Ah, sweet, nourishing library...to be there sans children...what bliss.  The librarians hardly recognized me, I think.  I filled a sack full of books.  Books for me, thank you very much. 

On to China Wok for the $4.95 lunch special.  Kung Pao Chicken while I read one of my new books. 

Finally, a quick breeze through Old Navy to find Shu a winter coat.  The Absent Minded Professor's old one seems to have disappeared. 

And then I picked up my littles and brought them back home for naps. 

I am thankful and refreshed. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

my call to the SSA

Six months home and our son still has no social security card.  I called the toll-free number this morning (because, of course, there's no local number to call) to find out what to do.  Here's how that went down. 

Me:  OK, kids.  Mom has to make a phone call.  Quiet please. 
SSA:  Please state the reason for your call. 
Me:  Social security card.
SSA:  OK.  I can help you with that.  To learn how to obtain forms, please press...
Me:  {shouting at the kids coming in and out of the deck door and letting in freezing cold air}  SHUT THE DOOR! 
SSA: ...I'm sorry.  I didn't understand you.  Please choose from the following options. 
Me:  {listening to options}  Shh...Mom's on the phone. 
SSA:  I'm having trouble understanding you.  Please wait while I connect to you an agent.  Your current wait time is 10 minutes. 
Me:  ARGH.  {hanging up} 

Me:  {calling back and following the initial prompts}  New card. 
SSA:  I'm sorry.  Please state which type of card you need. 
Me:  Social security card. 
SSA:  OK....blah, blah, blah, etc.  To hear the list of supporting documents you will need, say "documents." 
Me:  {Shutting myself into the hall bathroom so I can hear} 
SSA:  {Hearing the door slam}  I'm sorry.  I didn't understand you. 
Me:  {silently, to myself} argh.  {aloud}  DOCUMENTS! 

And so on.  You get the point.  Apparently a soundproof room is a necessity when responding to a government agency's voice prompts.  I hope dealing with the local office in person is less frustrating. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

testimony 'bout jesus

First...a song to get you in the mood! 



OK, now my turn.

On Tuesday evening, one of our city's well-loved television meteorologists, only 41 years old, took his own life, leaving behind a wife and young daughter.  Turns out he had been struggling for many years with depression, and needless to say many are heartbroken over his tragic decision.

This hits home for me.  For a decade or so my husband fought serious depression and took anti-depressants to help him function.  He was still taking them when we married in 2002.

As of today?  He has been medication-free and depression-free...and simply FREE...for nine years.  God healed him.  Completely. 
I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.  He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in him.    Psalm 40

While my heart is heavy for Don's widow and child, I am rejoicing today that my family can now sing a new song of God's faithfulness.  It's been a good nine years!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

changed my mind

Remember when I said I was OK with the mess

Well, my house is currently a disaster, and I am NOT OK with it today.  Are you wondering why I'm blogging instead of cleaning?  Hmmm.  Let's just call it a tiny break. 

This person showed up yesterday to help with the silverware. 




I wonder if she changes diapers. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

'tis the season

And the kiddos are already in the mood!  Thanks to Aunt Gayle for the cookie tree kit, and to my mom for being willing to be covered in flour and green food coloring.  Better her than me.




I toyed with the idea of being a big ole scrooge, at least when it comes to decorating, but I have embraced my inner Martha and am now just waiting to see if the tree will survive the small Chinese explorer who has come to live at my house.  My "no"s are not exactly being met with joyful compliance, if you catch my drift.  So we'll see.  But we were happy to add one new ornament this year.


I'm also a little concerned about the welfare of my nativity set.  Things are already askew.


I do love my scrappy, $10 Target tree.  She cleans up pretty good. 


May our days leading up to the celebration of the birth of Christ be full of joy, new memories, and attention to all the things which really matter. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

OK with the mess

I've decided this is my new slogan for this season.  I'm gonna settle down with a cup of coffee and just get comfortable with the mess.  The emotional mess.  And the literal, physical, tripping-over-stuff mess that is my life.  Some messes you can conquer in a day; some you can't.  So occasionally you just grab your camera, literally and figuratively, and capture the happy (or not so happy, as I documented here) chaos of the moment.  Even if the floor is littered with K'nex and there's unfolded laundry spilling onto the floor. 


A spontaneous game of laundry basket ball, inspired by the hand-me-down kid's uniform in the dress-up box.


She's a surprisingly good shot.  And she's wearing her brother's clothes.


Can't always clean everything up all nice and pretty.  You just might see some of my junk--both literal and metaphorical, a fact which keeps me humble. 


The Absent Minded Professor designed increasingly harder levels for Hummus Girl.


Princess Firecracker is hiding under that blanket.  And Shu flashed the camera a rare and beautiful spontaneous grin!

She emerges from the blanket.   See the scar on her chin?  She burned it by putting her face on a hot skillet.  That's what she does when she's not eating blue crayons or putting Cajun seasoning in my coffee. 


And then she gets attacked by a tiny Chinese dude.


Shu decides he wants in on the basketball action.


The A.M. Professor is a fantastic older brother.  I'm so proud of him. 




On this day before Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for kids who, when no one is crying, whining, or being injured, delight in playing together.  I'm thankful for God's mercy.  And I pray He continues to open my eyes to the beauty and joy inherent in the mess. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

sunday snapshot: {good for a laugh}


I'm a little bit scared of him. 



Sunday Snapshot

Thursday, November 17, 2011

holding

We've been practicing some "holding therapy" at our house lately.  Holding therapy has its critics, so let me add the disclaimer that I am writing only as a a parent to whom this came somewhat intuitively.  For us it simply means that I hold Shu tightly, only in specific appropriate contexts, rather than letting him cry or tantrum on the floor or alone in his room.  To put it mildly, he isn't a big fan.  (He isn't a big fan of a lot of things, such as doing what his physical therapist asks him to do or going to bed when he'd rather play, so he's not getting a vote on this one.)

I held him earlier today during one such episode.  There was a time not so long ago when I absolutely did not have the grace to do so, certainly not without internalizing much of his emotion in a very negative way.  As God is perfecting his love in me, I am increasingly able to pour it out on my son with fresh grace and with authenticity.  In other words, if given the choice, I'd rather not "fake it 'til I make it," you know?

Twenty-some minutes later, the screams and cries became the gasping, hiccupy breaths of a post-tantrum child, his head resting on my chest.  With a face still dripping with tears, he raised his eyes to mine and smiled.

Lather, rinse, repeat eight minutes later when my telling him no, you may not claw at mommy's mouth like that triggered more crying and more holding, but the calm and the smile came much more quickly this time. 

So it's working, I'd say...teaching a child who has known nothing of a parent/child relationship and who spent the first thirteen months of his life comforting himself that he can express his emotions safely in mom or dad's arms.  More importantly, I am communicating to him I will NOT let you go.  Cry it out.  Scream in my ear if you must...I can take it.  You are no longer solely responsible for soothing yourself.  You are mine forever, and you are safe and loved here.  Sometimes I pray or sing over him; other times I try my best to carry on with whatever I was doing previously, which today was an American History lesson with my oldest son. 

All the while I am learning more about my Abba Father who invites me into his lap to bring him my sin, my ugly thoughts, my pain, my fear, my hopes, my desires...myself.
He reached down from on high and took hold of me...Psalm 18:16
He never pushes me away.  He is not undone by my fleshly rantings, my unbelief, or my tears.  He welcomes me and I come.  The abiding there is up to me.
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.  Now remain in my love.  John 15:9
I'm learning about holding from the master.  

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sunday snapshot: {Joy comes in the evening}

Tonight we took the three oldest kids to a farmstead for the anniversary celebration of a local house of prayer...not our church, but friends who are dear to us.  We missed the hayride (as Princess Firecracker reminded us the entire drive home..."Missed the hayride!  Missed the hayride!"), but nonetheless had a lovely time eating soup, chatting with friends, chasing kids in the dark, and roasting various things over the fire.






And that wasn't all.  Picked up Shu from my parents' house where he reveled in the one-on-one attention.  We've had two really good days in a row...thank you, seriously, to those of you who pray for us.  Shared some quality time together before putting the kids to bed, and there was JOY in our home and in the heart of one little Chinese boy!  More, Lord!



Sunday Snapshot

Saturday, November 12, 2011

100%

Today's stats, so far:

27% happy.  73% anything but.

This morning, a brief burst of sunshine before the storm resumed.  Things are not OK right now (reminds me of this song), but occasional glimpses of his precious dimpled face, relaxed and at peace, fill me with hope for a future when those stats are reversed. 


I've been playing the comparison game.  You know, the insidious one that only makes you feel sorry for yourself.  Why is my child taking so much longer to adjust than so-and-so's kid?  Why is writing a blog post oozing with affection and adoration the absolute last thing I would ever dream of doing at this point?  Why can I not imagine wanting to do this again, ever?  Why is this a gazillion times harder than I thought it would be...still?  

Those questions are increasingly fruitless, as Dr. Husband frequently reminds me.  I am not parenting any one of the thousands; I am parenting the child God led us to.  All that he is now.  All that he will become on our watch.  I am his mom; there is no other.  And I cannot today transform myself into the mom I will be a year from now.  Cannot change myself at all, really, outside of the mercy and grace and relentless love of my Savior. 

A friend who is walking a similar road shared this nugget yesterday:  I'm learning that the culture of instant gratification we are surrounded by has affected me too, and that waiting in faith is a big part of being a mature Christian.

Yep.  She's right.  Some things don't come without a fight, or a long wait, or a good bit of sacrifice. 

Many years ago I said yes to Jesus.  Yes to the easy.  Yes to the hard.  Yes to his love.  Last fall I said yes to adoption, in complete naivete, but in full obedience.  Isn't that usually the way?  A lot fewer of us would do anything difficult...let's be honest...if we knew in advance all that it would cost.
Then [Jesus] told them what they could expect for themselves: "Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You're not in the driver's seat—I am. Don't run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I'll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way..."                   Luke 9:23    The Message
I'm glad I didn't know.  I might not have said yes.  That's just the plain, ugly truth.  In becoming Shu's mother, I have made myself a literal intercessor, placing myself between him and the enemy who had very different plans for my son.  Not necessarily the most comfortable spot if you'd rather not be a target for fiery darts.  But here we are in that spot, following Jesus.  Committed.   Whether attachment--and all the feelings of love and joy that accompany it--takes six more months, or six more years.  We said yes to our son.  Yes to the happy moments.  Yes to the tantrums.  Yes to healing his deep wounds even when I feel there's nothing left in me to give and I am tempted to run away to an easier life.  King David said he would not offer to the Lord a sacrifice which cost him nothing.  Neither will I.  Yes to the 27% and to the rest.  That's 100%.  I'm in.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

He sings over me

The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves.  He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.  Zephaniah 3:17 


Thursday, November 3, 2011

we're crying...we're crying...we're walking!

Yesterday ran the gamut from exasperation to exhilaration.  Dear Shu, who will turn 18 months old tomorrow, has learned to walk!  We are thrilled at his new achievement, and thankful for the Father's hand upon his little life, long before we ever knew him. 






Later, mom!  I'm off to see the world kitchen!