Friday, August 24, 2012

Mommy, Please Don't Die

I have been quite ill this week with an influenza type chest cold. 

Apparently my immune system did not get the memo that it is summer, not winter.

My kids are not used to seeing me laying on the couch for days at a time--have I ever mentioned I'm a bit hyper?  (I always tell parents of active kids that while it may be hard to parent, it is a blessing in adulthood.) 

Anyhoo, all that lounging created a lot of angst for my kids.  Not just normal angst.

Mei Mei sat and watched me cough.  She showed great concern throughout the days, then finally, hesitatingly asked, "Mommy no die?  Mommy cancer?"

Knife in the heart.  No words for how it shatters my soul that even our newly adopted kids know the evil of cancer--and silently worry that death's tentacles linger. 

No. Words.

And yet their fears go infinitely deeper, especially for my kids adopted at older ages. 

They fear the loss of their mother.  They fear in a way that goes way beyond what most children can conceive. 

Every child's deepest fear is the loss of their mother.

And adopted kids?  They fear loss infinitely more.  They KNOW.  They've LIVED it. 

They know what it is to cry for a mother who only exists in their dreams.  They know abandonment.  They know what it is to go unprotected, untouched, unloved.  They know what it is to be alone.  THEY KNOW.  And they FEAR it will happen again, no matter how much I try to convince them that it won't. 

And really, how can I be sure?  How can I be sure I'll live through my kids' childhoods?

I reassure my children that I will do everything in my power to be safe; to live a long and healthy life.  I wear my seatbelt, go for check-ups and eat my veggies.  I even find myself being extra careful because of their precautions.  (When Hubby and I went to Hawaii, I refused to kite-sail because Vu's last words to me on departure were, "Mommy, please don't die!") 

But there are no certainties--and they know it.  They know it even more clearly in our family where cancer and death has shown its evil grasp. 

It comes up in conversations.  Lan Lan says that if I ever die she is going to be so mad at me!  Mad! Oh, my sweet, spicy girl. 

Vu says that if I ever die he is going to die too.  He has even gone so far as to consider ways he might achieve it.  When he first started asking me questions like how long it would take to die of starvation I was concerned.  In reality, I know he was simply longing for a solution of how he would possibly survive the loss of his mother--yet again. 

The only solution that really seems to help my kids is to talk about it--to quit denying the possibilities and instead face them head on.  I let them know we have a plan for the unthinkable, reassuring their tender hearts that they will NEVER be alone again.  We talk about who will care for them (especially if both parents die) and how our relatives and friends will rally around, encircling them with abundant love and devotion.

My kids feel especially surrounded by love when I remind them of ALL the people in their lives who love them; individually naming each and every sibling, relative, godparent, friend, neighbor, teacher and counselor.

And, of course, I remind them of the One who loves them more than all those people combined.  The One who created them.  The One who cried with them in their darkest hours and who will take their hurts and use it against evil, for good. 

And most importantly, I remind my kids that death is only temporary.  Eventually, we will all be together for eternity.  ETERNITY.  There will be no tears, no sadness, no loss, no devastation.  No cancer.  No death. 

"He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."    ~  Revelation 21:4

Joe always loved theme parks.  At Knott's Berry Farm
we looked up at a clear blue sky, sans for this single cloud
streaked with a rainbow.  I felt like it was Joe, smiling down from heaven.
Ultimately, I can't heal my children's broken hearts.  Loss has been their reality.  Their hearts may be puzzle-pieced back together, but the transparent cracks threaten to shatter all over again.  I can't promise I won't die prematurely or promise they won't have more loss.
All I can do is make fear and death a safe topic of discussion, hold my kids close, love them deeply, and teach them to trust Jesus (regardless of what earthly life throws in their path). 
I can promise I will be their mommy FOREVER--for ETERNITY.  

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Story In Which The Crazed Lady Walks Into The ENT

I'm sick with a bad cold today and I'm handling it in an unusual fashion.  I am allowing myself to be sick.  I know.  Weird.  I am lounging on the couch with my computer (duh), a book (George Muller: The Guardian of Bristol's Orphans), ads from the Sunday paper (tracking down best prices for school supplies--we need a LOT!), and watching a movie from the library (18 Kids and Counting).

It's kinda nice to be sick when I actually have some extra time.

Patrick brought in a bottle of Gatorade and suggested it might help.  I agreed.  He then eyed that 32 oz. jug and said it sure looked awfully big.  And tasty.  I was guilted into suggesting all the kids be given a little cup first.  Patrick happily obliged, skipping off into the kitchen with it.  He returned a few minutes later. 

There was one-inch left in the bottom. 

Moral of the story: Sharing is over-rated.

I might be sick because of all the trip craziness, including this day, driving from Billings to Spokane.  By this point I was so, SO tired.

And I'm sorry to report, this IS NOT a dramatization.  I'm doubly sorry to report that coffee had little effect. 

Being sick reminds me that I haven't yet shared our "how to find an emergency ear, nose, and throat doctor in a strange town" episode.

The Story In Which The Crazed Lady Walks Into The ENT

Vu started complaining of ear pain mid-trip.  I treated him for swimmer's ear and kept him out of the pool, and that seemed to solve the problem.  A few days later his ear drum burst. (Note to self: don't forget that Vu has a high pain tolerance and might not complain--even when he has a severe ear infection.  Note to other adoptive parents: this is common in children who have suffered neglect--they learn to ignore pain.)

Anyhoo, after some hit or miss trying to find an urgent care in South Dakota, we spent one morning and $140 for some ear drops.  Diagnosis: swimmer's ear, double ear infection, ruptured ear drum.

Sidenote: Dr. CrazyForKids (me) thought he also needed an oral antibiotic.  I am usually anti-medication, but I felt his complicated double ear infection needed more than just ear drops. 

The doctor didn't seem impressed by my self-appointed medical degree on ear infections. 

That night was HORRIBLE. 

Vu started running a fever and his ear canal was swelling shut.  (BTDT with James who had to have a wick forced into his ear canal for swimmers ear--NOT FUN!)  Vu's ear was draining pus and he was in so much pain!

I was in a strange town, in a strange hotel, with six not-so-strange-but-still-youngish kids.  I was alone.

What to do? 

I knew I could go to the ER, but I also felt I needed an EXPERT.  I needed Superman.  Super Doctor.  Super Ear Doctor.  I needed an ENT (ear, nose, and throat specialist).

But I knew that wasn't possible.  I mean, I've waited months for an appt. with an ENT. 

But Vu's ear canal was fiery red and he said it felt like there was a dragon war going on inside. 

It was 5 am.  I was trying to comfort a crying kid.  I was exhausted.  My brain was whirling with crazy ideas.

What if we just walked in to the office of an ENT.  Would they see us? 

I knew what the answer would be if I called first.

So, I did some google searching, loaded up the motel room with three plates of donuts from the free continental breakfast, left five kids sleeping (Kim knew I was leaving),

and showed up at the ENT, 8am, right when they opened.

Billings, Montana is my new favorite town.  And I have a new favorite ENT.

Yes, they listened.  Yes, they saw the wild look in my eyes (see pic above for reference). Yes, they had mercy on my sweet crying boy.  Yes, they let us see the ENT.  He suctioned the infection out, gave us different ear drops AND an oral antibiotic (the ENT confirmed Dr. CrazyForKids prescriptive diagnosis!), and we were back at the hotel before the other kids had even started waking up.  

Soon we were off to Spokane and off to healing for Vu's ears.

Moral of the story.  Be bold for your child.  It never hurts to ask.  And don't downplay your pseudo medical degree. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Get Your Tickets ToThe Most Amazing Show On Earth!

It's still summer break here and we've been having fun with our puppet theater.  We bought ours at a school auction; it is homemade with fabric sewn to fit onto expandable curtain rods.  The two rods fit into an open doorway.  Easy to make and a great gift idea!

Great fun on a hot day!

Friday, August 17, 2012


Driving 6,000 miles with a carload of kids was really relatively easy.  My kids were at perfect ages for it and the best part was seeing all the friends and family along the way.  We had so many reunions and our hosts were always so great about welcoming a crowd of friends.  Fun!  A few more pics.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Forever And Always

What a special day!  We completed Lan Lan's US adoption. 

She now has her official American name and will be issued an American birth certificate with our names as her parents.  I love the judge who officiates.  She does a mock trial with all the kids and explains history regarding the courts and legal system. 

The best part was when the judge asked Lan Lan if she understood how long she would be in our family.  Lan Lan said, "For one year.  And until I get old and die."

And the judge said, "And even longer than that--forever and always."

Sweet words.

Some people think it is too late for older children to be adopted.  Especially kids who have always been waiting.  And waiting.  Some think kids who have experienced a harsh life will never overcome the effects.

referral picture in 2010

Those people don't know Lan Lan.  She is one of the sweetest, most loving children in the whole world!  She is determined and loves to try new things.  She is musical, artistic, athletic, opinionated, kind, optimistic, sassy, stylish, thoughtful . . . and did I mention beautiful? 

Forever and always.

I love those words. 

How blessed we are.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Skater Boy

I am happy to report that our skatepark adventure was a mondo success.  We were able to hit eleven skateparks in ten states. 

Favorites:  El Paso and Rapid City

Least Favorites:  Southern Cal because they don't allow scooters

Paul is quite entertaining.  How I love this kid!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Vacationing With Newly Adopted Children

There were times during our trip that I questioned my sanity.  You may be thinking I was second-guessing driving 7,108 miles, through 18 states, with 6 children (plus Lizzy the first 9 days).

Nope.  That part was AMAZING.  Except for the sick kid part--I will share ALL the gory details with you later. 

Unless of course you DON'T want to hear about the diarrhea episode at Mt. Rushmore. 

Oops.  Did I just share some of the gory details?  Okay then, considered that part covered.

I loved, loved, loved our trip!  It was one of the greatest blessings of my life.  I REALLY wish my hubby could have joined us for part of the trip, but for some strange reason he keeps using up his vacation days traveling to China.

And that was the part I began questioning myself about.  How could I take two newly adopted children away from home for over three weeks?  Especially Mei Mei.  Really?  That's crazy! 

It breaks all my "post-adoption rules." And I am very into my "post-adoption rules," such as staying home as much as possible.  And yet for us, somehow breaking the rules worked!

I knew I would never get another summer like this where my kids are young and I am not working.  I've thought a lot about why and how it worked so well.  Some thoughts:
  • Older children can understand time.  Our girls understood the concept of 23 days and both speak English very well.  I would never take a newly adopted young child on a vacation.  Being older is KEY to being able to vacation early in the adoption process--particularly a vacation where we stayed at so many different places. 
  • Each night at bedtime I showed them a calendar of our trip and we would cross off the day, count how many more days until we returned home, talk about our future stops (looking at the map) and the people we would be visiting.  This repetition proved reassuring.
  • We called Hubby every day and talked a lot about things we would do together after our return.
  • Lan Lan and Mei Mei are both emotionally stable.  Neither child has rages, meltdowns, or acting out behaviors.  Having BTDT with previous kids, I never would have considered the trip if we were still in that space of attachment and adjustment. 
  • Mei Mei has been our easiest child to transition into our family.  She is very much a go-with-the-flow personality. 
  • Both girls are very attached to their daddy--I wouldn't have considered the trip if they weren't.  On a positive note, being solo with Mei Mei for three weeks really helped strengthen her attachment to me. 
  • We were extremely busy during our trip so the time went by quickly. 
  • We were with precious family and friends--all our children loved being loved on. 
  • I knew that I would cut our trip short if things changed and we needed to go home. 
  • We had tons of people praying--we were coveted by blessings and love.
Having said all that, both girls are thrilled to be home--all the kids are.  I sense their need to have some structure to their days.  Some quiet.  They love to just play and play.

And yesterday, Mei Mei came down with a high fever and cough which turned out to be pneumonia!  I can't help but think that the stress of our trip contributed to her sickness.  True, she has a laid-back personality, but I also know that on the inside she is still raging cortisol through her tiny body--I simply cannot wrap my brain around all the changes she has experienced in the last few months. 

So, yes, there is a dose of mommy-guilt, but if I had it to do over again, I would.

And honestly, I think there is a confidence that builds in the newly adopted older child when we go on a trip and return home with them once again.  A sense of belonging.  A true sense of family.  Love.