Tuesday, June 28, 2011

salsa, swimming, mice, and cakes

When we were at the Walgreen's pharmacy drive thru tonight Lily yelled, "Chicken! Chicken! Mommy, Lily wants chicken!"

Hope does pat a cake now! She loves to do it most with daddy! She toddles into his office and walks up to his chair and starts rolling the dough and making a sound that sounds like "rollllllll it up" and he just melts!

Lily says she likes Mickey Mouse but does not like Chunk E. Cheese! (she calls him chunk)

Hope will still not eat anything! She just picks up puffs and throws them off her high chair tray! : ( But she sure is cute doing it!

Lily now likes milk and cookies. And she eats queso but will not touch sliced cheese!

Hope is back to sucking her thumb (her best friend for 14 months of her life) but I'm trying to get her on a pacifier so she doesn't mess with her fistula in her mouth.

Lily should be going to Cincinnati Children's Hospital in a few months for her first surgery. She will be there for about 2 weeks.

Hope says mama about once a week though Husband has never been present. I do have witnesses though. She can say na na too but that's about it.

Lily is now sleeping in Phoebe's room because we are really trying to get Lily to like Phoebe more. It was way too much fun sleeping with the boys.

Hope likes to open cabinets and drag out stuff and it makes me so happy!

Lily likes to east salsa and hot sauce with a spoon and squirt ketchup packets directly into her mouth.

Lily and Hope are getting a super dark tan AND we use lots of sunscreen! Ignorantly, we did not know this was possible. They both love the water and are not afraid of it at all!


What's so special about being normal?

I'm reading three books right now. Adopting the Hurt Child, Parenting the Hurt Child, and The Connected Child. I read the first free pages allowed of these books on iBooks on my iPhone late one night and when I read the statement "...don't assume that just by integrating the child into your family that she will form a healthy attachment" I knew I needed to read up! So I am quickly learning that this is a matter for the professionals and I will read everything I can to teach me and Husband how to parent Lily. Not just for our sake....for her sake. She has so many classic symptoms of reactive attachment disorder and she has 9 years of institutionalized life behind her. I want to raise Lily in a way that she can overcome this and be able to have healthy relationships with adults in her life. From the outside she looks happy and healthy and free. And it would be easy to just believe that now all her past is erased and she can just forget it all. But her past is part of our life and we need to be able to help her sort through it when the time comes. She will have many questions one day when her mind is mature enough and brave enough to remember her past. I want to do what's right for her and what will provide the best opportunity for complete healing in her mind. Laying in a crib, not being able to walk or talk until almost 5 and living without a sole nurturing caregiver for 9 years comes with baggage. And we will take it all. Because we love Lily! And when it's time to unpack the bags, we will be right there with her.

As I read I am reminded of adults I know that did not have proper, loving nurturing relationships with their mothers the first 3 years of their lives and I can see that some of them still struggle in areas listed in the book, even as adults. It is hard to trust others, it is hard to let others see their weakness, they don't want to have to depend on anyone, or they have to control the person in fear that they will leave them as others in their childhood did.

While Lily is 9, she is really on about a 4 year old level so in a way that makes it easier for us ...or does that. We often wonder if she has the capacity to retain knowledge and learn and grow. School will tell us a lot. She has learned English well and she is very capable. I think her mind is clear, just extremely delayed. Like it's been asleep for 9 years. But regardless we just want the best for Lily and we want to help bring out her best. We don't put expectations on her. I know I have a ton to learn about raising a "special needs" child, but one thing that I do know is that kids don't have to conform to the norm. What is the norm anyway and what's so special about being normal? Who wants to be normal? I don't! When we take kids and measure them against others (height, weight, hair color, skin color, eye color, reading efficiency, baseball stats) all we get is kids (or parents should I say) that think they are better than others and kids that think they are worthless. I understand this is part of life, but we am going to strive to raise our kids in a way that they don't feel the need to measure themselves against others.

This past year in school a lot of my daughter's friends were saying, doing, writing, listening to, etc. things that we don't want her to. That was the norm. That unfortunately is the norm of kids her age, but even worse. And we decided that that norm wasn't going to be ok with us. And that is was OK for her to be the only one in some cases that believed differently. So the older I get the less I care about being normal and I think if we can somehow pass that on to our children it will help them so much in life. And in Lily's case, I am not interested in protecting her from the big bad world or making her feel "normal." She is special. She knows that a Man named God told me and Husband to go get her from the orphanage and you should see the smile that comes over her face when we talk about that. She knows she is special.

So I know that I'm just delving into this information in these books, but the professionals assure that she can overcome this disorder although most people carry it with them their whole lives. I know that God also has done a great work in Lily's mind and that He will be faithful to complete this good work! I can see Lily speaking in front of many people. Lily has a great story that has already begun. I can't wait to read her book one day!!!! I just hope it says good things about me! HAHA. Excuse me while I go read....

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Our Nine Year Old Children

It's hard to believe these two are both nine years old. And Lily will be 10 in August, so she's actually Rob's older sister!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Health update on girls...

We are registered at Cincinnati Children's Hospital for Lily's first surgery. Should be expecting a call back soon with a surgery date. It looks like Lily will be in the hospital for 7-10 days after her surgery and we will have to be there early for pre-ops. So we are sorting through details about how we will keep our family together at least for a few days. I cannot go two weeks without seeing my other four kids. : ( What if Hope forgets me?!

Hope has a small fistula that developed in the roof of her mouth. We will wait to see when she starts talking and if she sounds too nasaly or if she cannot pronounce words right. If not, her palate may need to be shortened or lengthened and the hole (fistula) would be repaired then. So now she can start eating for the first time in her life!!!!! I bought puffs today!

When we got her she could barely walk ten steps without tiring....

random photo time

the "twins" sleeping in Lily's bed

the "twins" eating their favorite snack

PoPo in her flattering bubble suit

PoPo and her hair

Hope in the cap she wore on Gotcha Day. We love it!

Toughness runs in the family

Monkeys in her cage!

Lily's baby XioaMei had surgery too!

Hope feels most secure with Husband in the water.

Hope loves her daddy

Hope teaching yoga

Hope didn't let her arm restraints keep her outta the trash!

Baseball fun

She's not afraid of the water at all!

Hope didn't like sleeping with her no nos. We tried to hide them under her onesie. She cried so hard this night she must've collapsed on this pillow! It made me sad but I snapped this photo because it's so funny!

Hope loved Incredible Pizza!

Lily cutting her barbie doll's hair!

it's a small girl after all

Monday, June 20, 2011

One year ago today I met Hope and Lily

Hope and me last June 2010. She didn't know how to respond to my love and squishing and kissing!!!

Hope is used to all the love now!!!!

Lily last year in the orphanage. A precious little girl trapped inside....

Lily now! Blossoming beauty!!!

We are driving back from Dallas and Hope's one month follow up after her cleft palate surgery. Today is a very very special day for us. Last year on June 20 it was father's day and I was thousands of miles away on the other side of the planet searching for our baby in an orphanage in a dusty city in north China.

Our adoption agency had called with the opportunity to go on a mission trip to China to take supplies and gifts to them. It was perhaps the first of many trips they were planning to partner with the orphanage and bless them. We jumped at the chance! God had been stirring my heart already about foreign missions. We couldn't afford for both of us to go so Husband decided I should go and I cheerfully agreed!

That first day there was surreal, a blur, scary, and too real. Husband and I had decided to adopt years ago but the wait had gotten so long. We either switch to special needs or we wait for years longer. We knew God had led us here and He knew what we needed to do so we said yes. To think about adopting a special needs child and to check boxes on an application of what special needs you are open to, and then to actually go see and meet the children with the special needs is so different. They aren't just boxes on a paper to check, they are real eternal souls in precious little needy bodies. The first day I was there we met almost all of the children. I had hopes that if I met a certain child there that I felt we should adopt, that when we got back to the states we would inquire about the child. I had prayed and vowed to God that I would not set my eyes on the cutest or least needy child and ignore the rest, but that my purpose on the trip was to hold and love on and pray for as many children as I could.

I can remember when being in the baby room I noticed one particular girl that day on June 20 that I wrote about in my journal that night. I named her tiny round star! She was six months old, weighed 10 pounds, and she has a very wide cleft lip and cleft palate. Her eyes and hair jet black. Her head and eyes were round and she had bright eyes that twinkled! I couldn't believe that after laying there day after day for 6 months she could still smile at me although it was really hard to get her to look me in the eyes.

I loved all the children, all the babies, but at the end of the week four children had overtaken my heart and I could see them all in our family.

One of them was our Hope and another was our Lily!

I knew we could only adopt one and after spending a lot of time with all four of them by the end of the week I knew that Hope was our baby and that we would seek to request to adopt her. When I got home Husband and I started the process to request Qing Xiaodan! Every day was painful for me, feeling like she was my baby and she wasn't with me. There are never any guarantees but we were praying our adoption agency could match us with Hope. We ended up having to wait over 7 months until I saw her again when she was placed in our arms. It felt like eternity. In those 7 months every one of our family members fell in love with her and we felt like we knew her. She was ours in our hearts already!

And never in a million years would we have guessed that we would end up adopting Dang Ning Li at the same time. I knew that the China policy was one child at a time and having to wait a year before you adopt another. But I could not get little Ning Li, who we Americans called Lily because the orphanage called her LiLi, out of my mind. I told everyone about her when I got home. There was a girl that went on the trip as well named Kerri who just fell in love with the older children there and really spent a lot of time with Lily. Because there were only a few older children and Kerri spent so much time loving on them, I really focused on the babies for that week. The baby room was not that fun to be in because there were a lot of small babies there with serious conditions. You could tell that even though the babies didn't get picked up very much they were still very responsive to the human touched and desired it!

One of the babies was sick while I was there, so I held her a lot in the infirmary while she had an IV. I was drawn to her because she was the most beautiful baby there to me and because she was sick. Once I was in the room with the babies and one would cry so I'd pick her up, then Xiaodan (my Hope) would cry, so I'd put the baby down and pick up Xiaodan! Then the baby would start throwing a fit kicking her legs so I'd go back to her!!! I wanted to adopt both of them at once! If allowed, I would've brought a whole plane full of children home!

So as the story goes, when America World called us back to tell us that China had approved us to adopt Lily along with Hope we were shocked and thrilled. Older children are considered harder to place, so I really feel like that helped us get Lily approved to adopt with Hope. After all, Lily had been in the system for 8 years and no one had adopted her. The whole time I was in China I kept thinking of my three kids back home and my sister's three kids who live nearby and how I could just see Lily fitting in. Lily seemed to be a normal little 3 or 4 year old girl....until you realize that she was 8 years old. At first I thought maybe she had a form of dwarfism. That didn't scare me. But later we would find out she didn't have that. She was like a little tiny mystery girl that I couldn't get out of my mind. I wondered why no one had adopted her in almost 9 years! And knew her chances were dwindling quickly, as older children are less frequently adopted. I just thought about if we already have 3 kids and we are adopting a baby, what's one more child! And when I was there, far far away from the American norm, I could think and see things more clearly. I would send my sisters and Husband frantic texts about how we have got to start doing more for orphans, how we have so much in America and take it for granted, how we spoil our American kids, how we only think about ourselves, how we spend money on material things that will burn up one day while children are in need of someone to love them. And I remembered that saying....Adoption isn't about finding children for families, it's about finding families for children.

I would think about what it took me and Husband to raise our babies their first year. The sleepless nights, the panic over diaper rash, the concern over teething, the exhaustion and stress I felt and wanted self pity just for having a baby that I WANTED, the feeling of needing the latest toy and invention and monitor just to keep my baby safe and my mind at peace.....and how kids in the orphanages do not get anything.....anything. I was feeling like there had to be a balance between neglect and the way I raised my babies and stressed myself out. My mind raced at night every night there. We spent $400 on our phone bill that week as Husband and I discussed every detail. He was far away from me, but right beside me in spirit! Our hearts had been changed forever!

That's why when I ran to Husband in the shower one day to tell him we had been approved to adopt Lily along with Hope I could see it in his eyes....the certainty that we were going to take Lily forever. I doubted, I feared, I wondered if I had painted a fairy tale picture to Husband and that's why he said yes.....I had nightmares one night and woke up in a sweat with the devil whispering in my ear that I was CRAZY for adopting Lily and that it was a big mistake. Husband grabbed my face and looked me in the eyes and put all my fears aside...he said he wanted Lily NO MATTER WHAT! (Yes, I know, I have the greatest husband on the planet!)

So here we are a year later, and we've had these two little Chinese twerps (we call all our kids twerps) for FOUR MONTHS now! And it seems like a lifetime. They just fit perfectly. God has led us to this. We must've done something right because we know we heard His voice leading us to these girls. His grace has been sufficient and is new every morning. I love Him more everyday. Parenting Lily has brought me closer to God as I realize how powerful and unconditional adoption is. I am so grateful God loves me no matter what I act like and that He treats me like His daughter! And that once I became a Christian, everything God has became mine....that is powerful.

Our lives have changed so much in a year. We are different, our lives are different, our days are different, our nights are different, our thoughts are different, our dreams are different, our priorities are different. To look at Lily and Hope thriving in our family brings so much joy to me everyday. When we told people we were adopting Lily along with Hope even though we had TONS of support we still got loving jokes about how we were crazy! And now, we can confirm we were crazy and we still are! When medical bills come in, when challenging days with Lily come, when I'm stressed out during Hope's cleft surgery recovery we realize that we didn't make the sensible decision by adopting them but that Someone greater was influencing us and guarding our eyes to see the world's view of what we did. And we are so grateful for His guidance and protection because we are in a place of complete trust and reliance on Him now forever. Parenting them and providing for them is out of our league and we must rely on His grace and mercy and provision and wisdom every day.

I am so thankful for Husband. He has never wavered in our decision and in his love for Hope and Lily. In fact, he bonded instantly with Lily while it is taking more time for me. He loves without boundaries and gives without limits. He gets up everyday at 5 am to work for 12-15 hours a day to provide for his family. Every year we go to Disney World at Thanksgiving for his birthday and for our family vacation. It's priceless memories and Husband's reward for working for years at this schedule. Last year we didn't go but we are already planning this years' trip and can already imagine the fun Hope and Lily will have there with us. Really, how much fun WE will have there with them!!!

Life is good, no matter what. Life is good when we relinquish control and let go of our expectations and the world's standards and let God intervene. I know that Lily and Hope are blessings from God, and that He knew years ago that we would say yes to Lily. He had to lead us to Hope so that we would find Lily! Rob (our 9 year old) says that the reason we had to wait so long was to find Lily! And he is right. We had baby Hope in our minds for years, but God had something else in mind. I wonder what else He already knows.....

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Four months ago today....

Lily and Hope became officially ours on Valentine's Day four months ago!!!! We cannot remember life without them. I think Hope may not remember life without us either. Lily got more cavities filled this morning and later snuggled into her Aunt's bed to take a nap. As she laid in their nice, fluffy bed, sleeping soundly, not with the covers pulled over her face like she did for the first few months, all I could think of was how thankful to God and Husband I am we got her! Her life was changed in a moment all because we said YES! And it was worth it. She is worth it! They both are!

I need Michelle Duggar and a swimming pool!

Hope is recovering from her cleft palate surgery still. Sadly, she developed a fistula (hole) in the roof of her mouth as the palate was healing. We knew this was a possibility but were hoping it would not happen since it will require another surgery. It's not urgent so the mouth will continue healing and later (maybe even years) it will be repaired. The surgeries have been WAY tougher on ME than I thought. I thought I'd just be so glad that she was getting her mouth fixed but every time they take my sweet baby back for surgery I almost lose it!

Hope goes back next week for another checkup and hopefully the doctor will give us the ok to ditch the NO NOS! She wants desperately to get her tiny little thumb back in her mouth! It was her security for 14 months when she had nothing else.

Lily continues to learn English more and more every day. She picks up most from Johnny which isn't the ideal, so we often have to tell her not to say things she says. It's a reality to me everyday that we are shaping her every little part of her being!

One night I was talking to her about her life. I don't think she understands that she will grow up one day. I am certain she doesn't understand death. She jumped into the pool yesterday without her swimmies on (I was right there) and PG and Rob were able to scoop her up safely. I tried to explain in a scary but not too scary way how bad it would be if they had not rescued her. She blankly half stared and half smiled at me. There is so much she has not seen or experienced living in an orphanage for 9 years. So many mysteries too. That I want to solve.

So anyway, Lily was asking for an iphone (yes, Lily was asking for an iphone). And I explained to her that she was too little. She told me Phoebe had one, and I further explained that it was an iPod touch and that she paid for it herself and that she was older. She asked me if she could get one when she was "too big" (bigger). I said yes, and she was thrilled! I told her that she will grow if she keeps taking her vitamins and that one day she might want to get a baby too, like I got her! She liked that idea. She told me that she would put the baby in Hope's crib, Hope could sleep in her bed, and that she would sleep in between me and Husband! I told her that she would have her own house maybe. Her face lit up with amazement! She was beginning to DREAM! Then she told me that she was going to leave her baby with the baby's daddy and go shopping! HA! That was funny because I have never done that....she dreamed that up all on her own!

I realized that this little girl believes what I tell her. And we will make sure to use this gift wisely. Let the dreams begin! I cannot help but think of this amazing scripture which comes alive when I think of Lily:

Jeremiah 29:11
The Message (MSG)
10-11This is God's Word on the subject: "As soon as Babylon's seventy years are up and not a day before, I'll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.

God's Word is alive and powerful and working in Lily's life!!!!

The more days that go by the better it gets with Lily and the more I feel like she likes me, but then again the more I feel like I have no idea what I'm doing and that I need to get a thorough education on attachment disorders. I read some information about it, took a video course with Husband, and such, but nothing prepares you for living it out.

Reactive Attachment Disorder is a psychological disorder that children develop when they do not receive certain vital things as a baby, such as nurture, proper feeding, affirmative love when they cry, etc. Lily lived in an orphanage for 9 and a half years of her life. We don't know much but we do know that she didn't walk until she was almost 5. So I am guessing that she spend most of those first years in a crib on her back. As great as I think she is doing, and as "normal" as she acts, I know that there are 9 years of junk in her precious mind that she needs to work through. I don't desire to sweep it under the rug as I know that she would not be able to have healthy relationships if we did this. She has a lot of growth ahead of her, and I am willing to go the distance with her.

Lily exhibits classic signs of RAD and there are many professionals who have written fabulous books that I am reading to educate myself and Husband on how to be the best parents for Lily. One thing I read last night is not to assume that just by integrating her into our family she will overcome this disorder. Which in a way, I kinda thought would happen. This is way outta my league of knowledge, so I am hitting the books to prepare. I love my little Lily girl. When I think about what she went through all those years it compels me to work hard for her to help her grow into a strong, healthy, well adapted woman of God! And I know she will.

For those interested, signs of this disorder include things such as:

Superficially charming and engaging, particularly around strangers or those who they feel they can manipulate
Indiscriminate affection, often to strangers; but not affectionate on parent’s terms
Problems making eye contact, except when angry or lying
Trouble understanding cause and effect
Developmental / Learning delays
Triangulation of adults; pitting one against the other
Self-reliance; prefers to work alone than with others

These are just a few things we can see in Lily's behavior. Lily is precious and has many great qualities and there are many other symptoms that are more violent, etc. that Lily has never shown. She is a gentle girl. She is amazing for what she has been through. And we realize that when she does these things, they are part of her personality that has developed as a survival instinct. And as she attaches to us, they will be replaced with healthy traits. Lily has trouble looking us in the eye. Even when we say good things, not just when we are pointing out negative behavior. We stop talking until she focuses. It takes a while. It's really hard for her. Husband and I talk about how no one in her whole life may have ever really looked into her precious eyes. Maybe no one even required her to look at them. And it's hard to stare in someone's eyes. It's a feeling of vulnerability. And she is uncomfortable with that. But she is learning there is safety in our eyes!

Also, she will ask me something and if I say no she will turn around and ask Husband right in front of me (not even trying to hide it like our other kids! Ha), and vice versa. She doesn't realize that Husband and I are a team. And she doesn't understand cause and effect like I clearly thought she did. But sitting in a room for 9 years and staring at nothing new probably didn't involve a lot of cause and effect. So to punish her right after she does something wrong isn't too effective right now. Sure, she is upset but I am not sure she puts the two together. And we've caught her telling some lies. Granted, they are minor like washing her hands, etc., but we realize that she doesn't have any knowledge of truth and lies and the morality of telling the truth. We are working on that.

She is very independent, which is how I am, and I love to teach my kids to be independent...so I like that Lily is this way. However, she needs to learn dependency on us right now, so I have to be more willing to do more things for her that I would expect my other kids to do, etc.

She's nine, but not really. So if we imagine her to be about 4 or 5, we can relate better to her.

This weekend we were at my oldest sister's home in Texas (her name is Aunt Tina, but Lily calls her Uncle Tuna, which we think is hilarious!). While swimming with Husband, Lily told him that she wanted to live with my other sister Chantel who also has a pool because of this reason. She named off three people that had pools and then said we don't. When Husband told me this later that night I felt rejected, hurt, and angry. I wanted to just say, OK, Lily, then why don't you go live with her! Because after all, look at all we've sacrificed for you and all the money we've spent (already $2600 in just four months on her teeth already as a matter of fact!). But as if she would even understand that! And besides, if I were in JR. HIGH that might be an appropriate response! So I am really trying to act mature and respond well to her....not as I want or normally would, but as a professional is teaching me to better Lily and not be concerned about myself.

So I am learning a lot about myself. I parent a lot through reason. And reason and logic isn't working with Lily. So we are learning how we should parent Lily. And all is going good.

The problem is I cannot get my laundry done and keep my house clean and spend enough individual time with each kid, and work my Shaklee business to help pay for medical bills or think about starting a cupcake business or be nice enough to Husband or make enough home cooked meals and healthy snacks!!!! I need to go to a mommy convention!!!! I need Michelle Duggar, desperately! And I'm serious!