Friday, November 30, 2012

I Can Breathe!

Hear that big sigh of relief?  That would be me turning in my FIFTEEN PAGE term paper.

I now know more about family systems theory than I ever triangulated through emotional multigenerational thought processes. 

Would you like to come over so I can psychoanalyze all your problems and blame them on your lack of differentiation? 

No?  Okay, good, because I'm kind of ready for some fusion. 

I am now officially on Christmas Break!

And I now officially have only FOUR more classes before I graduate!  FOREVER!

Of course, I could go for my doctorate.

Hmmmm.

Ummmm, NO!!!

I will be done.  DONE as in done, DONE! 

Ready to put my big girl panties on become a real, live social worker. 


Cheers!  Blog posts of substance coming soon to a blog near you!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Family, Friends, Faith, And . . .

I hope your Turkey Day was full of thanksgiving.


Giving thanks for family, friends, and faith.


And photos of precious kids that arrive in seconds via phones.


And sleepovers with lifelong friends.


And the crafting of a new stocking.


And the crazy fun of Black Friday (and children who think they get that day off school because it's a National Shopping Holiday).


And a little boy who passed his swimming test and was finally able to go off the diving board (the first time he jumped, the second he belly-flopped, and the third he made a perfect dive).


And of course, I am very, very thankful for peppermint mochas!


And daughters to share them with!

"In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."
                                ~Thessalonians 5:18



Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Anticipation

 
 
For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.
                     
~Ralph Waldo Emerson


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Giving Thanks

This is one of my favorite pictures of the Peaceful Diva, taken on a beautiful September day.
 

I believe babies remember being in God's presence and in this picture she seems to be looking heavenward.

In other news--I don't think I have "professional photographer" in my future.

You know how some people can get those beautiful pictures of little baby feet?

Here's how mine turned out.


Uh-huh.  Nuf said. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Natasha Needs A Family


I recently wrote this post for Holt's blog in order to advocate for sweet Natasha.  She is waiting for her forever mommy and daddy.  Perhaps that lucky family is yours?
 Have you ever had a tea party with a five-year-old girl?  It’s a blast!  It usually includes lowering oneself onto teeny tiny chairs, facing an audience of stuffed bears, and breaking out the special Pepperidge Farm cookies you were saving for company.  (Just FYI, the tea is often cold water, but make sure that when you are served you grasp the tiny cup and stick out your pinky finger, then exclaim with great satisfaction that the steaming hot tea is simply delightful!)
Now that you have had your tutorial on tea parties, let me introduce you to little Natasha.  Natasha needs a mommy and a daddy!  When you read her bio, you might find yourself focusing on her diagnosis and rough start in life.  As a parent who has adopted older kids with special needs, I remember those feelings.  I urge you to look beyond. 

Several of our children had developmental delays when they were adopted—they were older and, like Natasha, experienced neglect.  What I’ve learned is that these kids are survivors!  Once they come home and have the security of a family, anything and everything is possible. While we accept the fact they might always have challenges, their development in the first year alone always blows our socks off!  It’s like discovering buried treasure!

When I look at Natasha, I see a little girl just waiting for her chance to blossom!  I see a little girl who will love to play dress-up, and use mommy’s lipstick, and make playdough cookies for daddy. Yum! She’ll be a ballerina in the morning and a ninja by noon. Like most children who have faced challenges, she will need structure, and parents who will be patient as she learns to navigate relationships and emotions. 

But, look at Natasha’s potential!  Look at the gains she has already made!  Look at that precious face!  She has a long attention span, and a huge plus is her attachment to her current foster family.  She can attach.  She just needs a mommy and daddy to attach to--forever parents who will teach her about love, commitment, and of course, tea parties!

Have you ever had a tea party with a five-year-old girl?   It’s a blast! 
To ask for more information about Natasha, please contact Erin at Holt International-- erina@holtinternational.org

Friday, November 16, 2012

Fridays With Mei Mei

Friday is a special day.  It's the day I spend with Mei Mei.  She goes to school half days, but we end the week with a full day together.


I love this arrangement, but in the beginning, Mei Mei GREATLY disliked being home on Friday. Quite frankly, in the beginning, it terrified her to be all alone with me.  

I remember our first day together when we brought her home from China, and Hubby went to work and all the other kids went to school. 

She cried all day and tried to hide from me.  How sad is that?

There's no basis in our relationship for this fear, so I can only surmise.  It's been heartbreaking to see her so distraught, and even though it's improving greatly, she's still insecure in our relationship.  Our days together have helped us make great gains. 

In my mind, our Fridays would be spent taking in the various parks, museums, and the zoo, just like the days I spent with my preschoolers.  But from the first week of school, Mei Mei absolutely insisted that she only wanted to go to the library.  Try as I might, I have never been able to convince her to go any other place.  If I try to push it, she will cry with fear.  Again, I can only wonder at the basis for her reactions.

I finally realized that having the same routine every . single . Friday . gives her a sense of trust.  It has been one of the keys to building our relationship. 

We start the day with homeschool.


And today we watched a Clifford video, because she loves Clifford. 



And then we went to lunch at McDonald's.  Because we always go to McDonald's.  (Hey, I'm not above bribing my daughter with a Happy Meal!)

And then we go feed the ducks.  Because we always feed the ducks. 


Today they were especially hungry, so Mei Mei decided to escape to higher ground.


And then we go to the library.  Because we always go to the library.

And we stay at the library for a very long time.  We read lots of books.  We have quiet, peaceful, special time together. 




Mei Mei now will sit on my lap--but she doesn't like me to wrap my arms around her.  She likes to hold onto my arm--but she won't let me take hold of her hand.  She likes to touch me--but she doesn't want me to touch her. 

She wants to be in control in this relationship building, this growing trust.  So, I let her.


Step by step, week by week, Friday by Friday, our relationship grows.  I can't wait for the day she feels totally at ease with me and our relationship.  Until that day, I will be patient.  I have to be.  And I'll keep going to eat french fries, feed the ducks, and check out more books.  Whatever it takes!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thank You Veterans

A belated thank you to all the veterans who have served our great country.

Your sacrifices are beyond words.

Saying Goodbye

We truly are the home of the free, because of the brave.

Thank you!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Harley Needs To Find A Family This Week!

This article was taken from Holt's Blog.  What a delightful little boy!  I can just see him riding bikes, playing soccer, and cuddling with bedtime stories!  He needs to find a family this week--a family ready to submit their dossier to China --perhaps that family is yours???

A Spring Blessing; Harley's Story


Harley is ready to join a loving family of his own.
DOB: February 11, 2007, China



Harley was just a day or two old when he was found abandoned in February of 2007. After a failed attempt to find his family, he was brought into the care of a local social welfare institute. When he arrived, the caregivers first gave him a bath, then changed him into “soft and comfortable clothes” before the doctors began a physical exam – estimating his birthday based on his physical development. Harley had a coppery brown birthmark on his right cheek, later diagnosed as Nevus of Ota, as well as a cleft in his lip and palate.

In Chinese culture, many still see birthmarks and clefts as signs of bad fortune – and discriminate against those who have them. But when Harley arrived at the orphanage, the caregivers received him as a blessing of hope and joy.

“When he came to this institute, it was a rainy day and it had spring thunder,” the orphanage staff writes. “We hope he can wake up the sleeping ground.” Harley brought with him the sense of renewal that comes every year in spring – and in the arrival of a newborn baby. In recognition, the caregivers gave him a Chinese name that speaks of spring.

At first, the caregivers struggled to feed Harley because of the clefts in his lip and palate. Many times a day, they prepared a formula. Afraid of choking him, they carefully held the bottle to his mouth and squeezed gently for him to drink. “After feeding him, they will cuddle him and pat his back lightly,” writes the staff. After 2 months, they gradually added cereals and fruit and vegetable juices to his diet to balance his nutrition. “He developed quickly, and his physical condition became stronger.”

On May 22, 2007, 3-month-old Harley underwent an operation for his cleft lip. In September of 2009, he received surgery to repair his palate and recuperated in the hospital. Upon returning to the orphanage, the caregivers noticed he was a little thin so the nutritionist adjusted his diet to help him grow at a healthy rate.

Since that stormy day in spring when a newborn baby arrived at the orphanage, little Harley has grown into a chatty, energetic 5-year-old boy who loves to sing, read pictures books and play with toys. He has become very close to his caregivers as well as the children in the institute – and he continues to grow healthy and strong. He attends special education classes, where he has learned to recite poems, to count, to dance, to identify colors and shapes and practice his pronunciation of words.

At no point in Harley’s short life has he not been truly loved. But although caregivers do their best to nurture the many children in their care, nothing compares to the love and attention of a family. Harley is now ready to join an adoptive family who will love him into the next stage of his life, and every stage after that – taking over for the orphanage caregivers who five years ago scooped him up in their arms, dressed him in soft and comfortable clothes, and lovingly cared for him as best they could.
A family with access to a craniofacial team and an understanding of older child adoption and institutionalization would be ideal for Harley. Interested families will need to have their dossier ready to send by November 16.

For more information about Harley, contact Marissa Leuallen at marissal@holtinternational.org or Beth Smith at beths@holtinternational.org.
* name changed

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Undecided Voter?

A little humor on Election Day!


Remember when Hubby and I were running against each other?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Happy Birthday Will!

I'm spending a weekend catching up, including on my blog!  I'm a few days late, but I wanted to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my sweet Will! 


You are so very loved!

 


It has been fun to watch you become a daddy!


I wish we could have spent your birthday together, and I never get used to being apart.  I am reminded of how much we missed you when you first moved out.  I never get used to my babies being gone, but I am so proud of you and your service to our country.


I hope you enjoyed your Hostess cupcakes and candles that we sent in your birthday package! 

Never forget how much YOU ARE LOVED!!!  Happy Birthday!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Update on Mei Mei : The Power of the Human Spirit to Adapt and Overcome!

I've been wanting to write an update about Mei Mei for some time and yet, it's hard to find the words.  Mei Mei's journey has been complicated, yet simple.  And just when I think I'm finding some clarity, everything goes out the window and a new door opens! 


Mei Mei has now been with us for eight months.  Her transition has been the easiest of all our kids;  her special needs the most difficult--and yet not.  It honestly feels like so much longer because it has been such an unusual, emotional, complicated journey--one that began with trepidation, fear, and questions that had no answers. 

When we first brought Mei Mei home we desperately sought answers--and, in the end, found few.  Mei Mei was ever so sweet.  She loved to mimic, and laugh, and tease, and simply be included in everything!  She wanted to try everything!  She was curious and inquisitive.  She was smart.

Mei Mei's development was all over the place.  Socially, she was like a toddler, but her gross motor was advanced.  She was strong and learned to ride a two-wheeler bike in one day, yet her fine motor was that of a 3 year-old.  She didn't know how to draw, write her name, use scissors, or count.  Actually, she could count to thirteen, but she didn't understand the concept of numbers. 

As always, I struggle with how much to share.  I want to protect my child's privacy.  But I also want to share with the hope of helping someone else walking in our shoes-- Especially someone who will arrive in their child's birth country and discover their child has similar special needs.  Without going into too much detail I will just say that Mei Mei had some bizarre behaviors.  If someone saw her in the grocery store they would see a child acting age appropriate one moment and then appearing very cognitively impaired the next.

Early on we tried to find professionals who might give us more clarity--providers knowledgeable of adoption and the outcome of neglect.  We wanted to be able to access services for Mei Mei, especially in school. 

Let me just say that was not a good idea.  I could write an entire book on why, but let's make it a short story and say that there are no professionals or tests that can diagnose/predict/label an adopted-and-recently-immigrated-non-English-speaking-high-anxiety-child, who fits into Mei Mei's category of neglect. 

Unfortunately, there are professionals who think they can.     

In the end, we knew that the only way to find answers would be to wait and see, filling her life with love, and education, and experiences.  We were (and are) fully prepared that Mei Mei might have learning challenges, while also believing that anything is possible.  She blows our socks off, on a daily basis, as the real Mei Mei shines through. 


And now?  Just eight months home, our sweet Mei Mei, who could not even draw a face or use scissors, can create this!



She has learned all her letters and their sounds, can write them all, and is READING HER FIRST WORDS!  She can write her brother's and sister's names by heart!  She can count to 100 (with a little help), add and subtract single digit numbers, make patterns, do puzzles, tie her shoes, and play board games! 

Her English is phenomenal!  We realized early on that her Chinese language was limited, now she speaks paragraphs in English and is always asking questions!  Many times, she will ask the same question over and over, which originally confused and concerned us.  Now, we realize she only does this when she is worried that we might change our mind (trust issues) or she's hoping for a better answer (normal kid!). 


Mei Mei is still so very sweet, and fun, and excited about life! 


She is becoming more relaxed, less anxious.  She loves playing outside and is very athletic.



She is still learning to navigate peer relationships and learn the social skills needed, but she rarely falls back into the quirky behaviors she originally presented with.  She loves school!  (She is also homeschooled part-time, but she wants to go to "real" school full time!)


She loves being with family, and having so many siblings, cousins and relatives!


She is still super attached to her daddy--a daddy's girl through and through!


She is relaxing around me more and more.  She is still tentative, but no longer afraid, and she talks to me non-stop.  She has yet to tell me that she loves me (tho she tells me how much she loves her daddy all the time!), but sometimes she will surprise me like on this day when I said I was making Chinese food for dinner and she literally jumped into my arms! 


I guess I should make Chinese food more often!

Mei Mei is an incredible blessing!  To know her is to love her!  She is the poster child for RESILIENCE!  I literally get tears in my eyes when I think about what she has overcome, and what a blessing she is to our entire family! 


We love her.


And she loves being loved! 


That's what adoption is all about!





National Adoption Month

 It's National Adoption Month!  Let's start it by watching the  Rainbow Kids video on waiting children .


"Every child deserves a home of his own." ~  Harry Holt

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Boo!

I love Halloween!  Family fun, costumes, and CANDY!  


Mei Mei loved it too!  Her first Halloween!


I never did manage to get all the kids in the same place at the same time for a pic--Lizzy, Kim and Lan Lan were all heading out with friends, Paul had a get-together here, and the littles were going around the neighborhood trick-or-treating.  Everyone had a great night! 


Sorting candy is the best part! 


And now we are all drunk on chocolate!