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 more delayed than you expected...has a surprise special 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


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 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 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!