Wednesday, September 28, 2011 kid

Shu surprised us the other day with his new skill--standing up with absolutely no support.

Please excuse the cluttered mess showing in every picture.  I cropped the best I could, and I wish I had a fancy camera (and the know-how to use it) that would beautifully blur the backgrounds of photos.  Come to think of it, I wish my eyes...and my mind...worked that way.  Come on brain, focus in!  Blur everything else! 

Could his legs be any wider apart?  Not exactly the ideal stance, according to his physical therapist.  But it's a great start.  He'll work it out.

He's crazy proud of himself...can you tell?  In case you forgot, this is the child who could not (or would not) sit up when we met him four months ago.  The orphanage staff truly believed he might never walk.  {insert eye roll of incredulity}  In every instance where we've tried to help him learn something new, he has resisted us with irritation, at best, and rage, at worst.  Feeding himself Cheerios, tummy time, crawling, bearing weight on his legs, pulling up, pushing his baby walker.  Pretty frustrating, really.  But...give him a few days or a week...and he'll do it on his own, thankyouverymuch.  He gets in a pretty good hour each week with his physical therapist before he decides he's had enough of her telling him what to do, albeit in a gentle, playful way.  (She's great.)  And then he has an emotional meltdown.  All done!  (sign it with me)

The food anxieties are subsiding a bit as Shu realizes there's more and he can trust us.  He's now figured out there might be choices and that he may have preferences.  Of course, mommy is still in control of the food...he is only 16 months old, remember...and this is sometimes loathsome to our little guy.  This morning he staged a stand-off over the drinking of his milk.  He had finished his big bowl of cereal, and it was milk time.  He was ticked that there was no more cereal at that point, so he rejected his bottle.  Now you have to understand that his milk to him is like a narcotic to which he is heavily addicted.  And he had already eaten a large portion of cereal.  So his rejecting the milk was just a control thing, I think.  Do 16-month-olds really grasp that?  Mine seems to.  I put the milk away.  He sat on the floor and screamed.  I ignored his screaming.  An hour later he drank his milk.

He staged a similar fight today at lunch.  The kid wants what he wants, and I guess it's probably a good sign that he has a preference and can express it.  Doesn't mean he's gonna win, though.  There's always more food, but it isn't necessarily the food he wants.  So at lunch he threw food on the floor and was removed from his high chair.  Again with the screaming.  Again with the ignoring.  And later...he changed his mind and ate the rest of his lunch.

The moral of this story is that I have one stubborn, determined child.  He is a fighter.  And like me, he doesn't always pick the right fight.  I can often see the little gears turning in his head, as he decides whether or not to trust, to comply, to let mom and dad be in control.  Our gears are turning too...trying to figure out his needs vs. his best to show him that we love him and that we can be trusted.  He's learning.  We're learning. 

Can't help but be proud of him, stubborn determination and all.  In this way he may turn out to be a whole lot like his mama.  That and the brown hair, of course. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Sunday snapshot: {welcome, fall}

Around here, autumn isn't properly ushered in without a visit to the Red Barn Farm. The weather was splendid, my sis was off work, and I was armed with snacks! What could go wrong? Nothing that wasn't remedied by a little baby-wearing, I'm happy to report.



I love this last photo with all its "imperfection."  Jiushu is upset to be out of my arms; Princess Firecracker is doing her own thing, as usual; my sister is grinning her grin.  Just the stuff of my real life.  It's all good.  

Sunday Snapshot

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I will fight; love will win

Parenting turns ordinary folk into warriors.   My mom will attest that I was a very strong-willed, stubborn child.  That stubbornness serves me exceedingly well now as a mother.  It feels as though all I do some days is pit my will against the wills of my children…and yeah, sometimes I choose the wrong battle.  I’m still learning.  

Adopting our son has drawn us into warfare of a different magnitude.  And I will confess that I, naively, ignorantly, did not realize I was signing up for this.  I was not prepared for the intensity of the battle I am now engaged in.  I find myself having to choose daily, sometimes hourly, whether I am going to crumple in surrender or stand up and war.

The opponent?  Not my son, although it often feels that way.  Oh my, does it feel like that most days.  But I am fully aware there is an enemy who hates us both.  Who hates adoption and redemption.  Who would love to see our son continue to be tormented by fear and rage and anxiety.  Who fiercely opposes love and healing and wholeness of body, soul, and spirit, the very things we have been contending for.
For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.  Ephesians 6:12 (NLT)
So I fight them.  For the sake of all my children’s freedom and joy, and because my home will be a place where the Prince of Peace has total authority, I fight. 

I fight against other voices, the many one-size-fits-all opinions and ideologies about adoptive parenting, whose clamor weighs me down with unhealthy comparisons and self-scrutiny and tries to overpower the unique leadership of the Holy Spirit in my life. 
We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ.  2 Corinthians 10:5 (The Message)
I fight my own fear that I cannot do this, that I am ill-equipped, that this job is too difficult, that I do not have what it takes as a mother. 
God’s way is perfect.  All the Lord’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection. For who is God except the Lord?  Who but our God is a solid rock? God arms me with strength, and he makes my way perfect. He makes me as surefooted as a deer, enabling me to stand on mountain heights.  He trains my hands for battle; he strengthens my arm to draw a bronze bow.  You have given me your shield of victory.  Your right hand supports me; your help has made me great. You have made a wide path for my feet to keep them from slipping.  Psalm 18:30-36 (NLT)

And while I fight, somehow, miraculously, I rest.  Because I have a God who fights for me.  Who defends me.  Who desires my family’s peace and wholeness way more than I do, and is himself Peace and Wholeness.  When all is said and done, the battle is the Lord’s.

Each one of you will put to flight a thousand of the enemy, for the Lord your God fights for you, just as he has promised.  Joshua 23:10 (NLT)

The Lord is my strength and my song; he has given me victory.   This is my God, and I will praise him—my father’s God, and I will exalt him!   The Lord is a warrior;  Yahweh is his name!  Exodus 15:2-3 (NLT)

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.  2 Corinthians 2:14 (NASB)
Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love?  No…overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.  Romans 8:35-37 (NLT)
Of this I am convinced.




Saturday, September 17, 2011


Not that my days are all that different from one another, but at least the weekends bring about the all-day presence of my super duper partner/friend/husband!  

It's been a 3 steps forward, 2.75 steps back kind of week with Jiushu...and with a few of my other kids, actually.  Hummus Girl, where blood is drawn...her older brother, known here from now on as The Absent-Minded Professor.  And Princess Firecracker remains her usual self, wildly fluctuating between so-sweet-I-want-to-eat-her and a wee bit monstrous.  What in the world is happening here?!? 

With regards to Jiushu, I've been reaching out for advice, specifically about his food issues, and have received loads of suggestions and encouragement from been-there-done-that parents.  It's extremely comforting to know that behavior and emotions which seem, quite honestly, so bizarre and foreign to me are not at all abnormal in internationally adopted children.  One wise gal wrote this to me:
Our daughter struggled so much - I learned the hard way that I needed to lower my expectations with her. Some things I didn't realize even were expectations - like the eating issues, but because I also have bio kiddos - I knew what a 17 month old was "supposed" to do...that just isn't important in the grand scheme of things. So try to throw the developmental milestones out the window, and parent your sweet little guy where he is emotionally - home with you for 3 months - so emotionally he is like a 3 month old baby.
Hmmm.  It's true.  In many ways he really is.  OK.  So...patience.  Endurance.  Lowered expectations.  More naps?  Drawing great bucketfuls of wisdom from my wise Father.  And a ginormous hot fudge sundae is not out of the question. 

In the mean time, I'll keep using my highest, sing-songiest voice ever--'cause it totally convinces me that I can postpone the self-lobotomy 'til another day!!!--and I'll keep replenishing the circular "toasted whole grain oat cereal."  Heaven help us if I should happen to run out.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

3 months home

Sitting somewhere on my to-do list...not exactly at the top...has been the transferring of all our China photos from the laptop we traveled with to the hard drive on our desktop, with the hopes of actually doing something with them.  I mean, my kids still haven't even seen the video footage of the baby elephant who fell in a ditch at Safari Park while all the adult elephants stood around bellowing and trying to help until the zoo worker, dressed inexplicably like a rodeo clown, finally came to rescue the baby.  Pure entertainment, right?!?

But here's the honest truth:

I wasn't ready to look at them yet. 

Everyone tells you to "soak up the China experience and your child's culture," to "enjoy every minute of it" and so on.  That was certainly my intent.  And I enjoyed some of the minutes, yes I did.  But when you receive into your arms on day four of the trip a scared, grieving, angry, more-delayed-than-you'd-imagined child, soaking in the culture kind of takes a back seat to desperate attempts at parenting that child who neither knows how nor necessarily wants to be parented by you.  Nearly everything we did, everywhere we went, every experience in China was punctuated by our son's unhappiness, or was modified to somehow prevent it.  And so you won't think I'm being harsh and unfair, this is exactly why we don't vacation with any of our young children.  (OK, we don't actually vacation at all.)  But we did one time, during a lapse of rational thinking, take the three kids to Silver Dollar City, along with my sister who drove her own car.  Our car broke down outside of Branson, but come hell or high water, we were going to SDC!  So we crammed three adults and three children in car seats into my sis's smallish sedan (don't ask how we did it) and made it there.  It was hot.  The kids were big enough to go on about 1.5 rides.  And my youngest daughter was less than two months old and needed to be nursed about every 67 minutes.  Somebody...I don't remember who (it wasn't me)...cried for a good chunk of the way home.  

As I was saying...I was not really able to fully enjoy our experience in China the way I would have if I were not there to adopt.  That's the point.  The Adoption.  The Child.  Happy, sad, scared, nervous, rambunctious, grieving...he or she is the point.

So back to the photos.

Jiushu has been home three months now, many happy details of which have been written about in other posts.  Now that the trauma, felt by all of us, is subsiding, I feel ready to look at the pictures.  To remember the details of the early moments which rendered us a (bigger) family.  To soak up a bit more of Chinese culture, even from half a world away.  To laugh about the hilariously translated signage.  To show my family the videos of "gotcha day" and crazy traffic and an elephant in need of rescue and a few other sights and sounds of our son's birthplace.

Here's a look back.  If you're wondering why he's crying in nearly every photo, it's because...he was.  I didn't manipulatively select these to paint an overly negative picture.  This is simply an accurate portrayal of the majority of our trip.

Saying hello for the first time.
Jiangsu Civil Affairs...he's officially ours and we are his.
Bananas, apparently, do not bring cheer.
Making the best of Confucius Temple in Nanjing.
Doesn't everyone feel this way at Walmart, really?
Me with my game face on at the medical exam in GZ.

Finally, after six days together, some peace.
And then, at the end of our trip, a breakthrough.
And that was merely the tiniest hint of what could be.  Of the goodness yet to come.

Today marks exactly three months since we pulled into our driveway, home at last after a harrowing, everything-gone-horribly-awry return trip.  I did transfer the photos.  And I did look at them.  To be honest, they are mostly still tinged with sorrow for me.  How can I look at picture after picture of my grieving child without reliving the pain we felt at tearing him away from all he'd ever known and the acute fear that love and joy and contentment as a family would forever elude him and us?

I know now what I was not sure of then:  that love and joy and contentment as a family will be ours.  And I am sure that one day I will be able to see those photos through a more neutral lens, understanding that the sorrow was an inevitable part of our gaining a son and of providing a family to a small Chinese boy in need of one.  He never should have been in need of one.   But he was.  And as his name declares, God is redeeming it all. 

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn,  and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

They will be called oaks of righteousness, 
a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.  Isaiah 61:1-3  

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

mischief maker, food taker

I've written before about the scrapes Princess Firecracker gets herself into. Today, thankfully, there was no actual bodily harm or huge inconvenience. But still.

These are finger holes where she poked at the banana, trying to get to the inside.

This is the jar of pickles I found her eating out of. 

When I screwed the lid onto the jar, she then stole the pickles straight out of the not-yet-served sandwiches, hers and her sister's.  She tried to cover up her work by putting the bread back on.

I then discovered that she had tried to take a bite of a cheese, wrapper still on.

That's just today.  There was also the time she ate Jiushu's chicken nuggets which I had so carefully cut up into tiny pieces for him.  And his peaches.  And his oatmeal, left on the table.  Three entirely distinct events, mind you.  And the time she stuck her hand into my coffee, and tasted it too, and it was NOT kid-friendly coffee. 

She's keeping me on my toes, this one. 

WAGI again

Today, another of my earlier blog posts has been shared on We Are Grafted In, an encouraging, informative website for adoptive families!  I'm honored to "know" Kelly and to be in the company of so many wonderful men and women who are following after Jesus and honoring Him in their families.

Friday, September 2, 2011

preschool,'s all good

We decided, somewhat last minute, to enroll older daughter S in preschool.  (I wish I had some clever nickname for her like other bloggers have for their kids.  Anyone who knows us, feel free to offer suggestions!)  Anyhow...

Something had to give in order to relieve some of the pressure we'd been feeling around our house lately, and we'd been praying that God would guide us and that we'd know the right solution when we saw it.  Long story short...preschool three mornings a week, and she loves it!  I'm still home schooling the oldest kid, and intend to home school the rest.  But we're taking it one year at a time, and each of the littles might need to spend some time in preschool in order for this to work for us.  'Cause that's what it's about, right?  If mama ain't copin', then it's not workin', and something needs tweakin', right?  We're learning about flexibility and grace in this season.  Grace for the kids, grace for mom and dad.

My beauty-girl off to her first day of preschool
A couple of other kids who wanted in on the photo op
This morning was the year's first field trip with our home school coop.  We went to a local nature sanctuary for a good tromp through the woods, and survived with a minimum of crying from the two littles.  Thanks to my friends, Molly and Rachel, for their help with Princess Firecracker.  (I think that'll work as a nickname.)  

That is one cute Chinese kid, huh?
Creeks are awesome!

Every once in a while you have to beg someone to take your photo.
Creeks are even more awesome when you find a tiny frog.

Yep, she's on a leash.
Thanks, self-portrait setting!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

glimpses of normal

We went again to my parents' neighborhood pool last Saturday night to swim.  The two year old stayed back with her Mamie and didn't get to swim because she had refused to take a nap in the afternoon.  Must follow through with threats, right?  I came home and told my husband, who did his own thing that night, about our evening, which included a nice meal outside on their deck.  I was recounting the pleasant, fun moments interspersed with a good dose of crying and anxiety from Jiushu.  DH said, " doesn't actually sound like that much fun."


I laughed.  Because I could see his point.  But it was fun in its own way!  And right now, this is our "normal."  Stretches of peace and happiness interrupted by bursts of everything is still not quite OK.  The day I first started writing this post, J had spent at least a third of his day crying and screaming.  Screaming because I set his dish down for eight seconds to go get his milk.  Screaming because I can't play the "stand-up" game for 20 more minutes.  Screaming because I put his milk back in the fridge after he rejected it, throwing it aside.  Screaming because I put a bit of burrito, which he likes, on his tray and expected him to feed it to himself.  He would not.  (Food-related anxieties have emerged, and we are trying to figure out the root of them and how to alleviate them.  I did get the milk back out and he decided to drink it.  And after he spent some time calming down and playing in his crib, he also magically decided to feed himself the burrito.)  Somehow I have more grace and tolerance for this than I did even a few days ago.  I am learning to differentiate the reasons for his cries and screams...not that that makes them any less unpleasant, but a cry of separation anxiety because I climbed out of the pool for a minute, leaving J in the arms of his grandpa, can be dealt with differently than a cry because the cherry pie and ice cream is all gone and J wants more.  Oh, the injustice!  Not everything is adoption-related grief and trauma.  Not directly, anyway.  Some issues are just I'm ticked because I want what I want when I want it which is right now and you're not complying!  How normal is that?!? 

I promise, my point in this post is not to be negative, but simply to talk about how we're doing and what I'm learning.  I guess that's where the grace comes in...that I can write about (and experience, and endure) some of this unpleasantness without going to that dark place I've visited before.  A few days ago, Jiushu was playing on the kitchen floor with some toys.  He likes to fling them, but then they're beyond his reach and there's not much he can do about it.  No different this time.  He reached forward, sitting up, as far as he could, and then fell down on his tummy to reach a bit further.  He was within inches of the toy he wanted, but could not get to it.  I've tried to help him in the past, but my efforts are always met with anger.  So this time I just watched.  I had this strong sense that J was going to have to figure this out for himself without interference.  He screamed on his tummy.  Then he sat back up and screamed some more, waving his hand at the toy, as if he could teleport it to himself.  My heart breaks for him, as it's painful to watch a 15-month-old get as angry as he does.  A few minutes later, a calmer Jiushu managed to get himself to the desired toy...a plastic spoon, actually.  I ran over and celebrated with him, clapping and exclaiming in my best sing-songy voice!  He had to do it himself, and he obviously found motivation in his frustration. 

I wonder if his emotional progress will take the same course.  Not that we aren't doing what we can toward attachment.  We are holding.  We are loving.  We are playing.  We are feeding.  But snippets of fear, anxiety, and rage are still sometimes present, in spite of our best efforts.  I'm starting to think that the rest is up to God's healing work in Jiushu's soul, and time...time...much more time for all the underlying trauma to unravel.  It is unraveling...I can see that it is.  I see gears of understanding turning in J's mind.  I see him knowing what we're saying, and deciding what to do about it.  I see him starting, maybe, to believe that the food is plentiful and that it's OK to wait a minute for it.  I see him settling in and relaxing in our love.  I see glimpses of what "normal" can look and feel like.  And it's looking pretty good.