Tuesday, January 31, 2012

7 things of (questionable) interest

This little "award" has been circulating in blogland recently, and was passed along to me by E at Every Day the Wonderful Happens--a fellow adoptive mama whose witty musings I've been enjoying lately! 

The rules of the award:  1) thank the person who gave you this award.  2) list 7 things people may not know about you.  3) pass it along to a few other bloggers. 

  1. My husband and I met in college, in a band that toured doing ministry/PR for the school, but didn’t become more than friends until six years post-graduation.  I think we surprised a few folks!  He claims it took that long to wear me down, but I know full well he was “keeping his options” open, even when he emailed me again out of the blue.  Sometimes we wish we'd have known we'd end up together.  Who knows, we might have 11 kids by now!  But both of us were varying degrees of hot mess back then, and needed to work through some things first.  For those of you who know Dr. Husband and would like a tidbit you didn’t know about him:  he was sporting a ponytail when we first began dating.  A ponytail!  I’ll just let you mull that one over. 
  2. I am a serious cuticle picker.  So serious that I frequently make myself bleed.  And I cannot stop.  Once a guy I was dating called me on it.  Told me he thought it signified emotional distress or whatnot.  That was ironic coming from him.  But he seems to have turned out alright.  And of course I am in prime emotional health, so it's all good.
  3. I graduated from college with a degree in vocal music education.  But then I sort of chickened out and didn't look for a music position.  I took a job in the accounting department of an advertising agency (and later worked on the Hallmark account) where I stayed for two years while I accrued an additional 30 credit hours to become math teacher-certified.  I wound up teaching high school math for five years--middle school for one year--and have never taught music other than voluntarily or to my kids.  But certainly the music background has been helpful to me as a worship leader.
  4. I have a huge pet peeve regarding billboards.  I think most of them are unreadable while traveling down the highway at 70 miles an hour, and therefore a waste of advertising money.  Hard to see colors, too many words, too small font.  I often wish someone would hire me to be his billboard consultant.  I have ideas, people! 
  5. I love to read, and do read voraciously, but the writing has to be good.  I sometimes wish Christian fiction authors would hone their craft a bit more; I find some writing so trite and clunky I just can’t stand it, no matter how compelling the actual story might be.  Historical fiction comes across more believable than contemporary.  I’ve read some books thinking the entire time, “No!  No one I know speaks that way, not unless they’re trying way too hard!”  And please, stop dating the book by naming which inspirational CD your character just popped into the player.  We don't care.  Especially 11 years later.  And there’s my brief rant.  But give me a well-written book--"Christian" or not--and I will lock myself in the bathroom, ignoring my kids and husband, if necessary, to feed that habit. 
  6. I once sang Celine Dion’s “Because You Loved Me” at a high school Sweetheart Assembly.  I was a math teacher at the time.  Now I can’t believe I sang such a colossally cheesy song, or that I had the guts to do so in front of 1500 teenagers.  Remarkably, I was not laughed off the stage. 
  7. I am a bit of a candy/sweets snob, and my kids’ Halloween, Easter, Valentine’s, etc. candy usually does not tempt me in the slightest.  Great news for my girlish figure, right?!?  But I do have a continually replenished Hot Tamales stash in the cupboard.  Hands off, family.  And I just bought two tubs of clearance frosting.  Peppermint!  75 cents!  It's really good on brownies.  Or on a knife inserted directly into my mouth.  
"Tag, you're it" to the following bloggy friends...and if you choose not to participate, no biggie!  The pyramid won't crumble or anything.

Amy at Learning to Fly with Chopsticks
Johanna at Stop and Smell the Flowers
Jennifer at Brown Eyes and Bare Feet
Lindsay at Griff, Em & Rowan Growing
Anna at Anything but LoKEY
Rita at At the End of the Thread  
Jennifer at The Magic Brush, inc.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

sunday snapshot: {baby love}

It seems Shu has found a new friend...oh, the sweetness.

I think I see some Asian baby doll shopping in my future.

Sunday Snapshot

Friday, January 27, 2012

no idea what i'm doing

There's something about dealing with a challenging child--challenging for any reason whatsoever--that hurtles a perfectly competent, even experienced, parent down the Path of Self-Doubt and General Craziness.

Shu has been a Cranky Pants the past few days.

I wish I understood more reliably what sets him off.  Really, REALLY wish he could tell me.  Like, I get the food issue, or being told no.  Check.  This bath episode?  Not a clue.  

Today after lunch we went outside to play.  He was ticked from the beginning.  Weird issues with stepping down (or up), crossing over barriers, even while holding my hand...in addition to all the other bees in his bonnet.  He wigged out about stepping off the porch.  Holding my hand, mind you.  I wasn't shoving him over a precipice.  I know that I could have acted in grace and compassion, lifting him gently and lovingly down over the step.  Instead I said Nope.  Stand up.  We're doing this.  So he's crying, snot dripping, tears pooling in the flat place between his eyes, and I am physically forcing his feet and legs where they need to go.

OK.  Fine.  Not the first time, and won't be the last.

There's a step down from the garage floor onto our driveway--a one inch difference.  Shu has been scared to cross it, to walk out onto the driveway.  So we've practiced in the past, me holding his hand.  I'm not trying to traumatize him, but come on...this is a very manageable task, I think, for a 20 month old who is walking very steadily. 

I looked up from my leaf raking (and by "raking" I mean using our deep snow shovel...brilliant!...to dump leaves in bags, arguably the biggest time suck ever) to see Shu walking alone, back and forth, in and out of the garage.  An activity that looked at casual glance like nothing at all, but actually reveals much about Shu, his personality and the way he learns.

Amazing.  This look of studied concentration on his face, like I am so totally going to conquer this today.  And I'm sure he was also thinking I'm really regretting all the grief I've given mom about it in the past 'cause now I fully grasp that she is just trying to help me learn and grow and so maybe I'll stop throwing a tantrum every time she wants me to try a new task.

Yeah.  Right.

So what's my point?  Something about trying to figure out what makes our kids tick and how hard and when to push them, when to back off.  Something about knowing them.  It's a huge part of parenting, right?  I give Absent-Minded Professor piano lessons (and every other lesson since I home school him), and I know precisely how hard I need to push him--pretty dang hard!--to get the best out of him.  And it works!  He simply would not perform as well for any other teacher right now. 

But with Shu I have this constant nagging feeling that

I. Do. Not. Know. Him.

What's scary and sad and profound to me is that no one else knows him any better than I do.  He lived in an orphanage for 13 months, longer than he's been my son, but how deep is one's knowledge of a child who spent the majority of his days lying on his back in a crib?  Could they possibly have known how strong-willed he is, or how playful, or curious?  I know they didn't have any idea how physically strong he would become. 

But I did.  So I often decide to press through the tantrum...his, mine, whatever...to push him to do what I believe he's capable of, what will actually make him a happier child.  Not so much with his speech delays.  That's going to require way more back off than push for the time being.  See!  Look at me, figuring that out!!! 

I'm learning.  I'm winging it.  I'm failing forward in my quest to know and grow my son and his heart.  I'm trusting that God gives wisdom generously so that at least some of my thoughts are actually His thoughts.  What sweet relief.

If you don't know what you're doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You'll get his help, and won't be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought.                    James 1:5 (MSG)

Okey-doke.  Maybe I'm getting it right more often than I realize.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Happy Chinese new year!

It almost went entirely ignored, due to...you know...life.  But with some help from my mama who loves her Chinese grandson a whole bunch, and a sudden burst of ambition on my part, we did our part.

Started out with a little bit of this, which you'd presume would sufficiently wear out Princess Firecracker enough for her to nap.  But alas.  No nap, second day in a row.  Shu didn't do any leaping off the windowsill.  I just included him 'cause he's cute.  The Chinese silks (and by "silks," I mean polyester)...perfect for vigorous activity...until Hummus Girl ripped a huge section of her hem.  Dangit.   

Here's what's for dinner.  Ain't no shame in it, especially since I already showed you my dining room table. Thanks, Tai Pei.  I also made a huge pan of homemade fried rice. 

And for dessert?  Some would go this route.

We kept it simple this year.  Mama knows her limitations. 

Got some decent pics of all four kids in their Chinese outfits (someone's legs are looking positively chunky!), and my lovely sis-in-law who joined us for dinner took one of us all.  Please excuse Dr. Husband's lack of appropriate dress.  Did some of you find outfits for dad on Shamian or elsewhere?  We didn't.

So, a valiant effort.  Yay, us!  We might check out a CNY event this weekend at a city museum.  New traditions...new experiences...small ways to honor the culture of our son's birth.  恭禧發財! 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

almost wordless wednesday: {to make you feel better}

I'm inviting you to view the shame that is my dining room table with the full expectation that you will pat yourself on the back and say with a sigh of relief good heavens, my house isn't nearly so messy as that! 

I wish I could claim it's a hideous fluke, a one-off, as the Brits would say.  It's not.

You're welcome.  

Monday, January 16, 2012

missing pieces

I hate them.

The girls and I did a puzzle this afternoon.  I started along the top--the sky, which awesomely glows in the dark.  After a few minutes of work there were two big gaps where top edge pieces should be.  Missing.

So we filled in the middle and some of the sides.  I groaned.  There are at least four or five pieces lost!  Where could they have gone?  And seriously, why does it bug me so much?  There's no way we'll finish this, and now I'm going to want to turn the house upside down searching.  Like I have time for that.  Why can't the kids just keep track of their stuff???

We kept working.  Closer to finished.

Suddenly I realized one of the top pieces was in the wrong place--a close fit, but not quite right--which released the "missing" two to their correct spots.  Top edge complete!

And then all the rest fell into place.

I was absolutely 100% certain we did not have all the pieces.  I would have bet money.  I was so annoyed and frustrated, thinking there would be holes in our picture.  But everything we needed was right there.  I just couldn't see it while we were working.


And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.                                   2 Corinthians 9:8 

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.        2 Peter 1:3

Friday, January 13, 2012

new game at my house

The latest pretend scenario at our house involves a "criminal" and a "prison."   

The perpetrator in her cell.  No one could tell me her crime.  But if you're guessing assault and battery, you're probably correct.

It seems she's being treated quite civilly.  She even gets tea.  Perhaps it's a London prison.

And look, some visitors.

I think he came to break her out. Which is odd, considering he's the likely victim.  Theirs is an evolving relationship. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

thursday tidbits

What I'm listening to today:

For the girls, who love anything pink and princessy.

Sonny Rollins...legit jazz.  It's hard not to feel light-hearted when it's on, and Hummus Girl likes to shake her hips to it.

Israel Houghton...also good for the pre-bedtime living room dance party.

 Bryan and Katie Torwalt, part of the amazingness that is Jesus Culture music.

What I'm reading today:

A compilation of teachings from eight beautiful women, including Beni Johnson and Heidi Baker.  This one's gonna be good for me, I know it. 

Yes, please to Jane Austen...or any fictional extrapolation on her work.

I'm finally reading something from these inspiring friends of God.

What else I'm doing today:

Bundling up my winter princesses.  Yep, that's just about the right amount of snow for me.

Breaking up fights.  Sweet mother of pearl, can't anyone get along today?  How do I keep Princess Firecracker from smacking Shu in the head with Thomas the Tank Engine?  Sometimes he deserves it, I'm sure, but her aggression seems like something I should discourage.  I wouldn't even call them "virtual twins," but this two toddlers thing is tricky! 

Trying to make speech therapy "fun."  Ish.  

Encouraging straw drinking...good for improving oral muscle tone.  He's doing great with it.

Facilitating a little post-lunch craft/treat (thanks for the idea, Angie).

And...some hugging, some holding, some schooling, some Facebook, some bathing, some nap enforcement, some golf (the card game) with my eldest, some cleaning, some wondering what the heck is for dinner and who's going to make it, some lowering of my expectations, some praying, some smiling at the days to come.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

birthday thanks

My husband hijacked my blog this morning and surprised me with an honest and loving tribute, one of which I feel hardly worthy.  More on that later.

On your birthday people wish you a wonderful, blessed day, a day of celebration, maybe relaxation...a day "all about you."  We mamas know the work doesn't let up just because it's the anniversary of my birth.  Was it a day of rest?  No.  Did my kids make me breakfast in bed, stop pooping in their diapers for a day, give me a pedicure?  Nah.

It was a regular, vanilla day in most regards.  We started with physical therapy for Shu (a pretty good session), returned some library books (a contrived errand to get us out of the house), drove through the Wendy's drive-thru (gift to myself = not fixing pb&j for lunch, again), and had a picnic on our deck.  After naps, we rode bikes, scooters, and ride-ons in the driveway until Aunt Gena arrived to babysit so Dr. Husband and I could have dinner out...plus a brief stop at Target for milk.

It was a crazy 60+ degrees today, a beautiful day to breathe in deep draughts of fresh air and fresh grace.  An ordinary, tiring day, but not without joy and hope.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all who responded to my husband's post, whether here or on Facebook.  Many of you brought me to tears with your words, tangible expressions of the Father's love for me and our family that I so badly needed to hear.  (And don't we all?)  I am overwhelmed by God's goodness and the kindness of friends, both of whom perceive the "true me" a heck of a lot more accurately than I see myself.  I'm thankful for my life, my husband, children like olive plants around my table (loud, insatiable olive plants), even thankful for Facebook reminding us all of each other's birthdays.  So helpful! 

It's been a very good birthday!  Even if I am almost 40.

In Honor of My Wife on Her Birthday

Unauthorized guest/hijacker post by Vince

"An excellent wife, who can find?"

Regular readers of this blog know that this adoption has been very difficult for us—the hardest thing we’ve ever done.  When you adopt, you eat someone else’s trauma.  That sounds noble in theory, but like the crucifixion, it’s been ugly and gut-wrenching and profoundly disturbing in practice.  The thought of a broken, shattered little human arouses sympathy from a distance, but the scars and symptoms of trauma can be frightening and maddening up close.  

There is something primal about uninterrupted screaming that elicits a visceral, flight-or-fight response.  And something about defiance and rejection from someone you’ve sacrificed dearly to love that can cut through the fairy tale prettiness of the happy family adoption photos to a vulnerable place of raw, unsanctified emotion, revealing just how weak your love really is.     

For me, what’s been hardest about this is watching someone I love dearly—my wife—suffer and cry and fight to hang on to hope.  I remember the conversation at Panera Bread when we decided to start this journey, and the God-given hope and longing in her heart to adopt a little boy.  There was love in her heart for him before they ever met, and she desperately wanted to be his mama.  

But he wasn’t ready for a mama—had no idea what a mother was.  In fact he seems to have no grid at all for the give and take of human relationship.  He has little use for cuddling, as he evidently never experienced it.  He knows when he wants to eat, knows that he’s been hungry before, and would be content having a machine hand food to him regularly here.  We want him to trust us and interact, but he just wants to be in control.  Until recently he would forego an offer of additional sweets rather than give in to relationship and sign ‘more’—this from a child who will eat until he’s distended unless someone stops him.  When he doesn’t get his way, the default is to throw himself back, bang his head on the (carpeted) floor, and scream.  Or just lay there on his back (which we don’t let him do because his head is misshapen from spending most of his first year in that position) and stare at us in defiance with dead eyes.  

There are happy moments, too, and he’s making slow progress.  There's more smiling, more laughter, and less screaming week by week.  But that’s not the point of this post.  

What most readers don’t know is that Jerusha suffers chronic pain from scoliosis and arthritis in her back.  She begins each day in pain, and until recently Shu began most days throwing a tantrum as soon as she laid him down for a diaper change.  Most days his diaper leaked—on a good day it was just urine—so she had to strip and bathe him, which invariably meant him screaming and crying with every ounce of his being.  When we tell him “all done” after a snack or a meal, he throws a fit.  Put him down before he’s ready to put down, he throws a fit.  At bedtime, he throws a fit.  This begins to take its toll.     

My back doesn’t hurt, and I get to go to work every day and sit in my quiet office.  She stays home all day with four kids 7 and younger because she believes it’s best for them.  I’ve suggested finding day care for Shu to provide her some relief, but she refuses because she doesn’t want to put him through something he’s not ready for.   
So, for seven months I’ve watched my wife deal with the disappointment of wanting to love a little boy who’s unable or unwilling to love her in return.  I’ve watched her struggle with an unrelenting chorus of voices in her head telling her she’s inadequate and cannot do this.  She hears the heart-warming stories of adopted children who immediately bonded with mom and wonders what’s wrong with her.  She hears the voices of those who say an adopted child should be always indulged and never disciplined, “timed in” instead of timed out, and wonders if she’s cruel because she believes Shu must have consistently enforced boundaries.  (Thank God for the Christian pediatrician who, after seeing one of Shu’s tantrums, told her she was doing a great job and to continue her efforts to keep him from becoming a tyrant.)  And she hears the voice of the enemy whispering that she doesn’t love this child because his whining, crying, screaming, defiance, and resistance to relationship haven’t left her with the same warm, fuzzy feelings she has for our other kids.        
And yet, in the face of all this, she never quits.  She seldom complains.  She gets up every morning and does the mundane, frustrating tasks in front of her.  Despair nips at her heels but never grabs hold of her for long.  She finds reasons to be thankful during this darkest season of her life.  She tells of the faithfulness of God.  She’s a source of strength to others when she has no strength herself.   

In short, she's a super hero, and I know God is bursting with pride in his little fighter.   

We didn't sense God saying much before we left for China, but I did feel like he told me, "This will be your finest hour."  That sounded about right.  We would swoop in to rescue the little orphan, having emptied our bank accounts in noble sacrifice, and bring him home to Utopia, U.S.A., where we would get back to the familiar job of raising happy kids.  Mission accomplished.  Will they mail our medal for heroism or do we need to pick it up somewhere? 

Silly me. 

I mentioned this "finest hour" idea to Jerusha the other night and she started to cry.  This season hasn't felt "fine" at all.  But then Jesus' finest hour didn't feel so great, either. 

So here's to my wife, a super hero, in her finest hour.  You are an oak of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.  Immovable.  Unbreakable.  Yours is the fragrance of a life broken and poured out, a life laid down daily for others in living sacrifice.        

Someday you will look back on this and laugh in triumph, and one day your children will rise up and bless you.  But for now, I bless you.  What you’ve done for the least of these, you’ve done for Jesus.  May the joy of the Lord be your strength, may his peace guard your heart and mind, and may his hope sustain you until his promises become present reality.  

And happy birthday.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

a long way, baby

Hummus Girl returned to preschool today with a heart full of excitement and hugs for every thing that moves.  For months now, all five of us have schlepped into the building to pick her up (daddy drops her off), me wearing Shu in the hip carrier, a life-saver loan from a friend who adopted from China way back when.  Right before Thanksgiving, I made the mistake of thinking I could set him down on the floor next to me, rather than wear him.  The waiting area for the parents is very small and not at all crowded.  Shu went nuclear.  Blood-curdling, ear-piercing, cat being murdered...whatever descriptor best conveys the most ghastly screaming sound you can imagine.  I was embarrassed.  I was angry.  And yes, I also felt awful that Shu still felt so unsafe and I didn't know it.  After he thrashed around on the floor a bit, I finally picked him up, though he didn't really stop crying.  It was one of those low, low parenting moments where you wonder just what kind of desperate horror is evident on your face, and are sending out silent pleas like radio waves--don't judge me, don't judge me.

Fast forward to today. 

Shu wanted down.  He wanted to walk.  Into the building, down the hallway, even right into Hummus Girl's classroom.  Weaving his way through small children and their parents, not holding my hand, happy as a clam at high tide.  (Yeah, that's the full phrase...which makes sense, right?  Why else would clams be so happy?) 

You've come a long way, baby boy.
As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. We pray that you'll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us.        Colossians 1:10-12 (The Message) 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Sunday snapshot: {metaphor for the new year}

See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19

"I know the end of the story; I come up from the wilderness, leaning on my Beloved."  (song written by Jon Thurlow, from Song of Solomon 8:5)

Sunday Snapshot