Thursday, August 15, 2013

take a moment

Currently one of my favorite songs, it's also a good admonition and something I'm trying to do today.

It's so easy to just barrel through life, onto the next thing (sometimes you have no choice), but I want to press pause, reflect on the past two years of hard work, and take a moment to celebrate this giant milestone:  sending Shu off to preschool for the first time.

On Tuesday he had his final speech therapy session.  Can't recall the exact date off the top of my head, but I figure we've spent the last 20 months doing weekly speech therapy.  Whew.  That's a chunk o' time.

I know we'll see his SLP again, because she's a dear friend and sister in Jesus--no coincidence there--and I cannot wait to dine with her in real chairs, sans children, as we discuss something other than how Shu talks.  She has witnessed the transformation from a child who cried through every single session and literally could not combine one consonant with any other vowel sound to a loud, happy, chatty boy who still has a few delays, but who is READY for the fun and challenge of school.  After only one day I feel assured that Shu is in capable, caring hands there.  I'm excited to see how he'll mature and thrive under someone else's teaching and guidance.

God promised me, as we prepared to transition out of early invention, that He would not leave me without help, and He has not.  He's so good like that.

OK.  Unpause.  Carry on.

Monday, June 10, 2013

they had fun; he did not

Today was just another event among dozens that I could describe exactly the same way:  they/we had fun; he did not.  We took a long walk (he rode in the stroller at least half the time) to a nearby spray ground.  Sunscreened, swim-suited, sunglassed...everything was fine for a while.  

Then, for the third summer in a row, Shu stood 20 feet away from the fountains, staring morosely at the other children--not just his siblings, but toddlers at least half his age--running and splashing with glee.  He did come near at one point, got a few drips of water on his head, screamed, and then had a mini-tantrum only slightly muffled by the noise of the water.  Walking home he slammed his head into a metal sign, and later tripped and fell on the sidewalk, also a common occurrence.  


Like I said, not the first time.  This describes almost every single park and pool outing for the last two summers.  We seem to be doing OK with parks now; I haven't taken him swimming yet.  And maybe I just won't.  Can you blame me?

It's so difficult to try to create fun experiences for my family, to stand there watching most of my children running and playing and savoring life, knowing that one isn't.  Knowing that the first twelve months of his life, whatever they entailed, wired him unable to enjoy what typical children enjoy, or at least, to require a two year warm-up period.  Trying to focus on the joy most of us are feeling without feeling overly responsible for the misery one child is feeling.  

These are the moments I question that we were the right family for Shu.  Maybe he deserved a family--a one child family--who could (or would) just keep him in his safe bubble for as many months or years as necessary without having to juggle constantly the needs and desires of other children in the family.  Other times I feel thrilled that he came to a family with three older siblings, and now gets to be a big brother himself!  I know in my heart that we ARE the right family.  But boy, days like this are exhausting.  

"...follow the example of those who are going to inherit God's promises because of their faith and endurance."  (NLT)  Hebrews 6:12  

Friday, May 31, 2013

two years

fear busting
anxiety soothing
sowing in tears
reaping in joy
celebrating small successes, and big ones, too
acknowledging deep disappointment and cavernous negative emotions
tantrum management
refining by fire
building trust
intentionally thinking on what is lovely
food anxiety
control issues, and letting go of control
uncovering the child beneath the trauma
teaching him that he CAN 
learning to love and enjoy each other
strategizing and re-strategizing, and then scrapping that and starting over
unexpected moments of delight and triumph
clinging to hope
God's relentless faithfulness and grace  

Two years ago today he both became our son and began his journey toward becoming our son.  We too began our journey of becoming the parents he needs us to be.  In my early blog posts I clearly thought there was some magical "corner" to be turned.  Any day now, I thought...any week now...maybe when he's been home with us as long as he wasn't.  That allegedly significant day came and went with zero recognition; I wasn't even aware it had passed until many months later.

I now know there is no corner, only a barely perceptible curve.  I laugh a bit at adoption stories which reference those "rough early days"--and they mean weeks or a few months, at most.  Our "rough early days" lasted well over 18 months, and there are still painfully reminiscent moments.  We are very much in process.  I wish we had a love-at-first-sight story.  I don't believe I dishonor my son by saying that is not and will never be our story.

Rather, ours has been a tale of binding up wounds (and realizing that God is responsible for 95% of that work), of slow, slow, agonizingly slow progress, of love as a verb, the kind that refuses to give up, of great endurance and patience, of mistakes and forgiveness, of the high cost of redemption.

This has actually been the hardest two years of my life, mine and likely our son's, too.  Despite that...because of we celebrate and give thanks for our brave, handsome boy and all that we are becoming together.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

apraxia awareness day

It's today, apparently.  I saw some posts about it and felt an urge to briefly recap our story, especially since its adoption twist is unique.  It's good to look back and see how far we've come.

We adopted Shu from China in May 2011.  He was 13 months old.

At 17 months old, he said something resembling "peekaboo"...and then never said it again.  We had been trying, almost from the beginning, to teach him some sign language, starting with "more."  It took six months.  (Later we realized this was evidence of a motor plan problem, which affected other fine and gross motor skills, not just speech.)  We never bothered with any other signs.  Shu had been receiving physical therapy, and at this point it became clear he also needed help with speech.  Our wonderful SLP suggested he might have apraxia.  He was very young, but had all the classic earmarks of apraxia.

At 21 months old he made these sounds:
Uh for up
Duh for up (yes, I know that makes no sense)
Oh (distorted vowel) for open
Dow (distorted vowel) for down
Mmmm for more or milk.  He could not add any vowel to this M consonant.
B, occasionally, but more often came out as V or Duh.

No mama, dada, hi, bye...or almost any other typical word you'd expect from a 21 month old.

He was in twice-weekly speech therapy by this point.

At 25 months we had these kinds of struggles, also very "classic apraxia":
Water (if I tried to get him to say both syllables, instead of Wah) came out Doh-Wah.
Trying to get him to put the N on "down" resulted in weeks of him saying Dah-Doh, and then Dope-Duh.  He said Dope-Duh for the next two weeks.
Could  not make OO, EE, or AY sounds at all.

By 27 months, he had made great progress.  The SLP assessed his expressive language in the 15-18 month range.

Shu turned three recently, and still has speech therapy once a week.  The school district assessed his speech at the bottom end of "normal," (wow!) so although he will be attending their preschool in the fall with an IEP, he will not be receiving speech services.  Some of the apraxia descriptors listed on the website fit Shu perfectly, particularly the anxiety and trouble with word order and recall:
  • Makes inconsistent sound errors that are not the result of immaturity
  • Can understand language much better than he or she can talk
  • Imitated speech is more clear than spontaneous speech
  • May appear to be groping when attempting to produce sounds or to coordinate the lips, tongue, and jaw for purposeful movement
  • Has more difficulty saying longer words or phrases clearly than shorter ones
  • Appears to have more difficulty when he or she is anxious
  • Is hard to understand, especially for an unfamiliar listener
  • Sounds choppy, monotonous, or stresses the wrong syllable or word
  • Other expressive language problems like word order confusions and word recall
I'll be interested to see how he progresses in a daily school setting with his peers.

That's our apraxia journey, to date, in a nutshell.  What would be difficult no matter what has been infinitely more challenging because of adoption and attachment.  The catch-22 is that helping Shu to communicate has both hindered and bolstered our relationship.  Having a conversation with him is now one of my favorite things, maybe because we've had to fight so hard to be able to do so.  

I'm proud of the way he hasn't given up, even though I know he wanted to.  I'm proud of myself for the same reason.  

Monday, April 15, 2013

so thankful. and it's not even november.

This morning my child, who has struggled with sensory issues, including exaggerated pain responses, for almost two years now not only asked me to suck out his stuffy nose with the bulb syringe, but actually lay there bravely and happily while I did it.  Then he wanted to see all the snot I sucked out.  This is very nearly a miracle, folks.

I am thankful for a good start to our day.

Then I packed up 4/5 of my children for a trip downtown to our children's hospital so Shu could get measured for new, bigger orthotics for his feet.  It could not have gone more smoothly--good music in the van, kids gazing curiously out the window at the river, a train, the tall downtown buildings, fabulous behavior and attitudes while we waited, conversation and no tears or anxiety from a certain aforementioned boy.  (September's visit to get his first pair included major tears and anxiety.)

I am thankful for God's grace and strength equipping me for every task, for growing me up gradually into this calling of motherhood with all its challenges and joys.  That I could wrangle four young kids through a hospital, pushing a giant double stroller, navigating a way-too-small (for us) office, nursing the baby in a bathroom along the way, and get everyone home safe, sound, and smiling?  Pretty much a miracle.  I feel like a rock star today.

While waiting to get feet measured, two different children came into the office, presumably to get some type of braces, but it was obvious that these little ones had significant medical issues, the need for orthotics being the absolute least of their concerns.

I am overwhelmed, humbled, and deeply thankful that I sat there today with four physically healthy children, needing only ankle braces.  Not oxygen.  Not a feeding tube or life-long care.  Not chemotherapy.  Just orthotics.

Nothing like a visit to the children's hospital to give you a giant dose of perspective.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

laughter doeth good...

Spit beards are only cute on babies. 
On the left, a normal sized container; on the right, Goliath Cinnamon.  I doubt I will ever need  to buy cinnamon again. 
Something being retrieved...with her feet?  
I wasn't sure where to store my inflated beach ball, but now I know.
If you're tired enough, any spot will do.
Shu thought Sweet Tea needed some toys.
Picture by Hummus Girl.  Is she holding a flask? A hand grenade?

"Baby Volcano"  
Learning to love the warm glow of technology.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

say yes to the bread

I picked up Hummus Girl from school (feeling mucho better!) on Friday and told her we would be stopping by a grocery store where we don't usually shop. ('Cause apples were $.68/lb. and we eat a LOT of apples.)  She told me about this special rainbow bread her friend had brought in her lunch and asked if we could find it.

So beautiful!  (Just try not to hyperventilate about the gallon of artificial dye.  It's a one time thing.)  Yay for me...I said yes!  Doesn't it feel good to say yes?

On the way home Hummus Girl asked if she could have candy once we got home.  I said "No, let's go for a healthy snack; we might have some sweets later."  She got upset, told me how disappointing it is when I say no.  I have to say she reacted with surprising maturity for a five year old...even if she did stay kinda pouty for a while.

I told her I understood how she felt; it's hard to hear "no."  I reminded her that we had searched for and bought the special bread she had asked for.  That I hadn't said no to the candy, rather, later.  Reminded her of the many times I say YES to her requests.

Oh...I act just like a five year old with God sometimes.  {hangs head sheepishly}

He says yes to me often, e.g. this beautiful chubby soul sitting in my lap, drooling on my left hand while I type with the right.  He said yes!!!

But I get tripped up over the "no"s and the "not right now"s.  Sigh.

We're teaching our children to trust us and our decisions on their behalf and to recognize the many times we say YES in order to delight their hearts...the very same lesson my Father God is still working on with me.

Thanks for the insight, rainbow bread.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

sometimes a valentine looks like...

My day began with a visit from our family therapist who patiently processes with me my emotions and parenting strategies while bearing with interruptions from Princess Firecracker regarding laptop concerns, Absent Minded Professor complaining about redundant comma worksheets, and Shu having a giant poop.

At the last minute I decided to send the Professor along with Shu to his grandparents for the day.  I thought it would be nice to spend some quality time with Princess Firecracker (whose middle-child-acting-out-ness I'd been discussing with the therapist).

Mid-morning I got a call from Hummus Girl's school; her ear hurt pretty bad and she couldn't decide whether or not to come home, knowing she'd miss the Valentine's Day party.  I let her stay a while, but got called again 30 minutes later to come pick her up.  Poor girl was crying in the office when I arrived.

We went straight to one of those walk-in clinics...and waited...and waited...and waited for over an hour.  Imagine if I'd had one or two more kids with me!!!  Sheesh.  (Giant thanks and love to my in-laws for caring for both boys today.) She was prescribed antibiotics for an ear infection, and then we waited some more for them to fill it.  We passed through a drive-thru on the way home, finally eating lunch at 1:30 p.m.

No.  No, I did not. 

The girls and I played a few games, baked some pre-packaged cookies. I put salmon on the grill for dinner (Dr. Husband's favorite), and just as it was due to come off, Sweet Tea had a massive poop blowout requiring a bath AND my in-laws arrived home with the boys.

Did I mention all four of the other kids are sick too?  Oh yeah.  Like, hacking their lungs out, using up all the tissue, medicinal paraphernalia covering the countertop sick.

It's been about two weeks of this nonsense at my house.  Diarrhea, tantrums, vomit, snot, spelling lists, make up work, staying up too late, waking up too early, baby Zantac, trying to home school, too much need, and not enough of me.

Today, especially, love is on my mind.  The kind of love that wants to quit but doesn't.  The kind of love that lays its life down just like Jesus did.  He did it without his own temper tantrums and pity parties, mind you, but He keeps showing me the way and filling up my love tank so I can empty it again.  Sometimes I feel I am stretched beyond capacity, and it sucks, and I long for the easy, unencumbered life I can barely remember.  Except that life is no more.  I chose a different life.  I know that.

Today love looks like wiping a nose 67 times, bathing a poo-coated baby, waiting for two hours at the "doctor" so my girlie can get back to feeling good, grilling salmon for my husband, slathering said salmon in ketchup (gross) so Hummus Girl will eat it,  investing in my own emotional health for the sake of all of us, reading that &@#* Dora book.  Again.  Breastfeeding.  Making my voice gentle when I'm close to snapping on the inside.  Finding joy so that Dr. Husband is glad to see me when he arrives home.  And a hundred and twelve other choices and self-denials.

From my love.
So that's my my family...and to Jesus.  It's not pink and frilly.  There's no lace or frosting or glitter (no. more. glitter!).  It's just me.  Imperfectly loving, serving, not giving up.  Me.

Friday, February 8, 2013

why i hate crafts

It wasn't even their fault.  {Implication: it was mine.}

And then...Princess Firecracker blew it....BLEW THE GLITTER...across the table.  Because, of course, what else would you do with glitter?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

So why did you punch your sister in the stomach?

Yes, Dr. Husband asked that yesterday to one our beloved offspring.  Sigh.  A child who shall remain nameless has been acting rather like a hormonal teenager, so I've been practicing deep, cleansing breaths while rereading parenting books.

Sweet Tea just turned four months old.  She spends her days smiling, eating her hand and copious amounts of milk, and blowing out her diapers.  We couldn't be more pleased with her.

Absent Minded Professor adores her too.  This photo was in no way staged.  There he was, gazing lovingly into his baby sister's face.  He's pretty much that way with Shu, too.  Grace just oozes from him.  Granted, he's not the parent...but still, it's a beautiful thing.  I tell you, I could not have ordered a more ideal oldest brother for this family.  

Shu is much more emotionally stable these days (even if I can't get him to smile for pictures).  He has made great progress in speech, and we are now talking about the transition from early intervention therapy through the state to services from our local school district.  He will be evaluated in the next couple of months.  We are praying he qualifies and trusting that God knows just what he and we need in the way of resources.  He gives lots of kisses to Sweet Tea's head, and I believe now more than ever that her presence has been healing for Shu somehow.  I have a plump, bald object lesson reminding me of all the ways infants learn love and attachment, which helps as we continue to play catch-up with Shu.  Lately he will demand to be held in a certain way, call himself a baby and, since he knows mommy hates Rockabye Baby, what with the baby plummeting out of a tree and all, requests "Black. White. Song." instead.  (Jesus Loves the Little Children...would you have guessed correctly?)

Princess Firecracker likes the lip balm a little too well.  Before Christmas we discovered she had gouged out every last one of the family stash with her finger, and we had to throw them all away.  She got more for Christmas and now just applies it heavily.  It's a battle I'll not fight for now.  She's certainly a passionate little creature.  I'm often tempted to treat her like she's older and have to remind myself that she's only three.

All five on a typical day.  Some in pajamas, some in dress up clothes.  No one fighting or crying at the moment.  I may have resorted to yelling to get them to look at me, but you can try to ignore that little reality tidbit.  It's not the most chaos-free zone, and it's a heckuva lot of hard work, but there's joy a good bit of the time.  God promised me that. 

Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.  Isaiah 35:10

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

seize the day but not too hard

I feel this pressure lately (OK, who am I kidding, always) to seize every moment.  To maximize every situation.  To take advantage of every single opportunity that comes our way.

For example:  It's an unusually nice day.  I MUST get the kids outside to play!  The weather will never be this beautiful again!!!

Or:  The kids' ministry at church is hosting an ice cream social.  Don't want to miss out!!!  Never mind that two of us are sick, or that the littles may run wild, or that one child's food obsession might make a food-centered event less than enjoyable.

Or:  All the kids on Facebook are in gymnastics and dance and soccer and Christian theater and are fully immersed in Chinese culture and are embalming whole chickens as part of their home school education!  How can I find a way to do it all?!?!?  (there's that nefarious comparison again)

It's kind of oppressive, this way of thinking.

I'm all for seizing the day, the moment, whatever.  My Sweet Tea just turned three months old, and I am endeavoring to cherish every little bit of her babyhood.  It passes so quickly.  I was almost a little sad when she started sleeping through the night!  I know, crazy, right?

I also want to make wise investments in my children's education and experiences, prayerfully considering what will bear the most fruit.  Sometimes you don't know.  It's cool to try new things.  But with five young kids and limited resources, they might turn out to be the classroom equivalent of busy work.  Dr. Husband and I actually ask God to clue us in early to our kids' natural and spiritual gifts so we can make the best use of the resources we have and guide the kids into fulfillment, not just busyness.

Today my thoughts turn a bit somber.  I just learned that the wife of a college acquaintance died.  She was only 42.  I cried thinking of her eleven and eight year old, time with their mom on this earth come to an end.  I sensed sorrow turning to fear, and I had to work to evict those not-from-God thoughts.

Being mindful that life is precious and unpredictable, and therefore trying to seek out every bit of joy and fruitfulness and gratitude is appropriate. Operating out of unhealthy comparison, desperation, or fear of lack, loss, or regret does not sound like the life Jesus wants for me.

We are temporal beings. We are also eternal beings.  I want to learn to live restfully and abundantly in the balance.