Sunday, May 27, 2012

One year

One year ago yesterday we boarded a plane to China.  And on May 30, 2011, we met our son for the first time. And he met us.  Life forever changed, for all of us.

It's no secret:  this has been a year of sowing in tears, not one of which went unnoticed.
You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.  Psalm 56:8
And a year of reaping, oh so gradually, in joy.
 Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy.  Psalm 126:5

I've captured plenty of smiles on camera over the past year.  I'm not saying most of them weren't genuine on some level.  But there's a certain smile you get from your child when you walk into the room--not coaxed, not the result of acting goofy or tickling, not the same smile the story time lady gets, but a smile that comes out of a place of contentment and happiness and belonging, one that speaks Oh, hey mama (my mama), it's you.  I'm really glad to see you right now!  You know when you see it the emotion that lies beneath.  That's the kind of smile I got this morning.  In fact, I've seen a bunch of them lately...and I have reason to believe they're gonna keep on coming.

We have survived one year together.  All of us.  And yeah, there have been a lot of days where simply making it to bedtime was a sweet victory.  It feels like a finish line of sorts, emotionally speaking, but really we're just beginning.  One year of healing behind us, one year of fear-busting, one year of therapy, one year of grace and mercy to cover a multitude of mistakes, one year of hard, hard, HARD, one year of love and growth and learning how to belong to each other.  We now begin the next leg of our journey in which the scales tip ever further away from fear and sorrow and loss, and ever toward love and and joy, restoration and hope.  We know the best is yet to come!

I'll close by sharing this prophetic song by Misty Edwards.  A message straight from Father's heart to me, specifically for this first year with Shu, these words have been carved like an epitaph on my soul.  

I knew what I was getting into when called you.
I knew what I was getting into when I said your name, but I said it just the same.
I knew what I was getting into and I still want you.
I knew what I was getting into.

I knew what I was getting into and I still chose you.
I knew what I was getting into and I still want you.
I knew what I was getting into and I still said your name, I said it just the same.
I knew what I was getting into.

And I am not shocked by your weakness.
And I am not shocked even by your sin.
And I am not shocked by your brokenness.

Because only I can see the end from the beginning.
And only I can see where this is going.
And only I can see the end from the beginning.
And I see in you the seeds of love.
And I see in you strength when all you see is your failure, and all you feel is shame.
I can see deeper than that.
I know you better than that.

You’re only at the beginning.
You've only just begun, and I know where you are going.
And all you can see in the moment is that you’re hurting.
And all you can see in the moment is that you’re aching.

I knew what I was getting into when I called you.
I knew what I was getting into and I still want you.
I knew what I was getting into and I still like you.
I knew what I was getting into when I called you.

So don't give up.
And don't give in.
If you don't quit, you'll win, you'll win.

Everything is in My hands.
It's going to be alright.
Everything is in My hands.
It's going to be alright.
It's going to be okay.

And you don't have to pretend to be something or someone you’re not.
Because I know you better than that, even better, even better than that.
Listen my Beloved...

Just don't give up.
And don't give in.
If you don't quit, you'll win, you'll win.

Monday, May 21, 2012

sprinkler fun (and not)

Got out the sprinkler for the first time this season.  Not sure why this hasn't been one of our regular go-to activities; sometimes I think I wasn't given the Mom Manual, you know, the one which discusses Lunchables and Gymnastics and Bitty Soccer and Disney Princesses and Pat-a-Cake and Sponge Bob and Chuck E. Cheese and all the other things my children are blithely unaware of. 

To no one's surprise, 75% of the kids were delirious with enjoyment.

Unfortunately for Shu, the sprinkler fell into the Things of Which I Am Absolutely Terrified category. 

He calmed down pretty quickly once he understood the water could no longer reach him, and when he flashed the camera his trademark "smile," I knew he was fine.  As long as he stayed far, far away from the yard.  Oh well.  We have all summer to warm up. 

Was happy to get a few beautiful shots of my Hummus Girl (who graduates from preschool tomorrow...pass the tissues, please).  Beautiful because she is...not because of my photography. 


Friday, May 18, 2012

"you can't say no to babies"

That's what Dr. Husband tells me.  Often he's joking.  Sometimes not. 

This time he wasn't, and we said yes...or more accurately, "Let's see what happens."  Last night we shared the good news with our kiddos that they'd be getting a new sibling come October!  After the initial burst of excitement, questions, and incredulity (from Absent Minded Prof.), Hummus Girl asked, "So where is this one coming from?  Like, from China?"  Uh, no sweetie, this one is from my tummy, just like you.  S/he'll probably be blonde too, flying in the face of my possibly sketchy knowledge of genetics.  Shu may be my only dark-haired child.

Once you tell children of a certain age about a new baby, you pretty much have to announce it to the world, or risk the awkward announcement MY MOMMY IS PREGNANT! which actually happened this afternoon (Hummus Girl).  Fortunately I had informed my friend just hours before.  How's that for foresight? 

I had no reason to think the kids wouldn't be happy at our news, but I was surprised and overwhelmed by their unadulterated JOY...I'm teary just thinking about it now.

They don't know that five is "too many" kids.  Not that I have anything on the Duggars or NiHaoY'all or a bunch of other families I know of.  But In (my) Real Life, five is more than most people have.  

They didn't respond selfishly or with worry about sharing mom and dad, their stuff, their rooms, etc.  That may come, but it wasn't their initial response.

It doesn't occur to them that mom and dad can't handle one more child.  Why wouldn't God provide?  Why wouldn't he equip with every necessary resource?  Oh, to have such a fully trusting heart!  

These are kids who don't really grasp how difficult this past year has been...a blessing in itself, that grace has so insulated them.  They only know that they and Shu are loved, that siblings are a treasure, that having playmates is awesome, that there is more than enough of the good stuff to go around.  And they're totally right.

The Father knows how to give good gifts, even gifts we don't specifically ask for.  He knows our hearts that well.  Not only has he has given the tremendous gift of new life, he also gave to this mama's heart the gift of knowing my kids are happy and secure in our why not make it bigger?  I guess our hands really weren't full yet.  You can ask me again in October. 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

love in the shape of beanbags

While navigating some of Shu's sensory issues, I've done some reading about "heavy work" (great explanation here) and its therapeutic value.  He seems to enjoy and seek out activities that involve pushing and pulling and climbing, so I got to thinking about what else I could incorporate.  I mentioned several weeks ago to my friend Janet that heavy beanbags would be fun.

I had barely clicked "send" on the email when she replied "I sew!  I'd love to make you some!"

So guess what came in the mail yesterday?

Twenty-five of the most beautiful beanbag covers you've ever seen! 

She sewed them all, leaving a small velcro opening.  I depleted the store of 50 pounds of rice--sorry to the rice-lovers who shopped after I did--and we filled those bags.  FYI, if you're curious, they weigh two pounds each.  Therapeutically heavy, but still manageable for a toddler.

And I immediately put someone to work...ahem...I mean, PLAY!  

At one point I sat on the floor, a myriad of textures, colors, patterns surrounding me...this precious gift from my friend...and I began to cry.  I told the kids This is love. This is what my friend did for me because she cares about us.  (They've grown accustomed to their crazy, weepy mom.)  Pretty simple, right?  But I don't sew.  I could never have done this on my own, let alone make them so attractive!  I mean, really...have you ever seen such gorgeous beanbags???

My friend, with her own four children, one of whom is every ounce as challenging right now as mine, sacrificed her time and her gifts to minister to us in a very practical, tangible way.  A giant pile of love that suspiciously resembles beanbags.  May the Lord reveal daily to me and you the unique-to-us ways we can do the same...sewing not required!  Whew!

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: "What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”  --C.S. Lewis
A friend loves at all times, and a [sister] is born for a time of adversity.   Proverbs 17:17

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


Here, a few fears we've conquered in the past few weeks...things that initially struck absolute terror in the heart of this little boy.   

There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear.         1 John 4:18 (MSG)

Saturday, May 5, 2012


Last night we celebrated Shu's second birthday, his first with us as a family.  Chinese take-out, a few presents, cake...very low key, and just right.  A good time was had by all, and I am now the proud mama of TWO two year olds!  

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Let's talk apraxia, part 2

The other day I found a helpful list of characteristics (in bold) of children who have Apraxia of Speech.  I then added specific examples of how that characteristic manifests in Shu's speech. 

Your child may say the same word four different ways. Sound errors are significantly inconsistent!!!
Shu examples:  putting D in front of "up" sometimes, but not every time.  Now he is sometimes able to say UP with the P connected to the word, instead of UH-PUH.  But he'll say UH-PUH 20 times for every 1 time that he says it correctly.  The correct version does not stay embedded in his brain the way it does for typically developing children.  Shu was correctly saying BUBBLE for weeks, even months.  Then all of a sudden he started saying UH-BLE, and could not say bubble correctly unless prompted several times to put the B at the beginning.

Saying things incorrectly but different each time is a classic symptom of apraxia.  Today OPEN came out as OH-DUH, then OH-MUH, then OH-BUH.  That is totally different from a typical toddler learning to speak--they make consistent errors.  Yellow is always "lellow" or they always substitute a D for a G (my son, for many months, went around singing "I Am a Dend of Dod!" [friend of God]), until they learn to do it correctly.  Shu's errors are inconsistent, and even though he's been saying something for months, he will suddenly begin saying it wrong with NO idea that he's doing so.  We literally have to teach him every single vowel sound and every single consonant, and then get him to repeat them a bajillion times over many months in order for them to remain a permanent part of his vocabulary.

Your child adds vowel sounds to the end of words that finish with a consonant (Up-pa).
See previous.  Shu typically says UP-PUH, but if prompted, can say UP.  

Apraxic children may be able to produce sounds in imitation, which they do not use in connected speech.
Shu examples:  Shu may try to say words, in speech therapy for instance (when he's not mad and refusing to comply), but he can use maybe only 1% of those words in spontaneous speech.  He has fewer than 10 spontaneous words, and only a couple of these might actually be intelligible to an outsider.  The rest are missing significant pieces--like one or both consonants, or the correct vowel sound.  By contrast, many typically developing children by the time they turn two can say around 50 words.  Shu can make consonant sounds in isolation (such as T, P, H), but cannot pair them with any other sound. 

Your child tends to mix-up consonants within a word. Sound swapping errors are common (efelant vs elephant).
Shu once tried to say WATER with both syllables.  It came out as "doh-wah."  Today we pulled into the driveway and said loudly, "We're HOME."  Shu said "MO."  When we've worked on "down", saying first "dow" and then, after a long pause "Nuh" (which he can make in isolation), putting them together resulted in "DAH-DOH" and then "DOPE-DUH."  Out of nowhere, he said DOPE-DUH instead of "down" for about two weeks.  Then suddenly DOPE-DUH disappeared and it was back to his regular sound for "down":  DUH, or occasionally DOW.  Attempts to say POWDER come out "dow-uh." 

Your child may drop final consonants in single syllable words (omission errors) simplifying their speech unit to contain consonant-vowel pairs in short strings. “Cat come home” = “Ca co hoe”.
This is all Shu does, except with only word at a time.  Occasionally he can put the P on the end of UP.  That is the only final consonant he can produce so far. 

Your child may use only /b/, /m/, /d/, /g/, /z/ with simple vowels like /uh/, /ah/, /oh/, but not /p/, /t/, /k/, or long vowels /ay/, /ee/, /i/ or /ow/. Voicing errors, nasal resonance errors, and lengthening vowels before omitted consonants are present.
Shu can make the sounds ah, oh, uh, and eye.  He can say BAH (ball) and MAMA and DAH (dog), but he cannot usually say BYE or DIE or MOH.  He can say something that sounds a bit like TEE (for teeth), but cannot put any other consonant in front of the EEE sound.  Cannot say ME, or BEE, or PEE; cannot say AY or OOO at all, let alone paired with anything.  "Happy" comes out as "addy."  "Bee" comes out as "buh" no matter how many times I say it or how closely he watches my mouth.    HI comes out "eye" with no H sound at the beginning. HOT is pronounced "ah" (no H, no T).  EAT is pronounced "ee" (no T).  If I emphasize the T at the end, his vowel sound changes from EE and comes out something like AH-DUH. 

Your child has difficulty repeating two different consonant +  vowel pairs over and over again.

A big discrepancy between the child’s ability to move their lips, tongue and jaw for eating or non-speech activities and the use of these parts during speech on command. 
Shu has no trouble using his mouth to eat, but he is still unable to lick his lips (with any functional purpose), or perhaps is completely unaware of the sensation of food on his lips.  He still drools often and rarely closes his mouth, possibly due to low motor tone in his mouth and/or limited awareness of the sensation of spit running out of his mouth.  He still blows (very weakly) by making a PUH sound, rather than blowing a stream of air out of his mouth. 

Hope all that detail is helpful to a few of you.  It's been really helpful for me to carefully document my son's progress.  He's been in speech therapy only about six weeks, and though apraxia is definitely not a "quick fix" disorder, we're all pleased with the growth in his language in that short time.  And yeah, it's exhausting.  For Shu and for his parents.  We're going to do all we can to help him, and we're also trusting in a great big God who loves to heal and restore.  Nothing is too hard for Him!