Saturday, December 29, 2012

Amazing Nannies and Claire's Hair

There are so many ways that Claire's nanny's poured love into her life. They are truly amazing. But, this week, I am simply astounded by the fact that they let her hair grow long. 

Claire has very limited self-care skills for an 8 year old. 

She can  dress herself  IF I lay the clothes out in a particular configuration and there are no buttons, zippers, or snaps.

She can brush her teeth IF I put the toothpaste on the brush--and then only the two front ones and the lower left side.   She can't figure out how to turn the brush to get at any of the other teeth.  She mostly just sucks on the toothbrush.

She is making progress in potty training.  She recognizes her need and makes it to the bathroom in time.  She can wipe after urination--except when she gets in a rush and wipes before she stops wetting.  But, she rarely hops off the pot while still going.  I haven't had to mop up puddles for awhile. Hurray!
Frequent loose bowel movements throughout the day still require intervention from an adult to avoid a mess.

She can wash her hands all by herself.  Water, soap, and dry! 

Brushing her hair is still completely out of the question.  When she tries, the brush and comb just end up in a total tangle.  And her sense of style can be pretty...ahh...interesting.

Washing hair is a real pain.  And it must be done daily.
She has large patches of oily, flaky skin that piles up and fills her hair with  sticky "snow" that won't brush out.  She has alopecia areata.  That's an immune disease where the body attacks the hair follicles and makes the hair fall out in circles.  The medicine for it also leaves her hair goopy.

We have given up washing in the bath.  She hates water on her face and struggles to tip her head up extending her neck. 

So, each day, she climbs the stepladder and gets on the kitchen counter.  She lays down while I wash her hair with the sprayer in the kitchen sink. Then we dry, comb, and style.  It takes nearly an hour.

I admit that there are days when I'd like to make her cut it off.  She doesn't hold  still for combing or styling and is very particular about what type of ponytail she will wear. 
Just a tiny trim to remove the split ends.

But, her patient nannies, who let her grow it long and kept it beautiful, inspire me to keep on taking care of Claire's long hair and working to style it so the bald patches aren't visible. 

So beautiful.

She loves on loose ponytail with lots of clips to hold all the stray hairs in place.

While I surely  hope she will learn to do her own hair someday soon, I am also thankful for the hours we spend doing hair.  I couldn't ask for a better bonding opportunity. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Enjoying Today

We worry about what a child will become tomorrow,

yet we forget that he is someone today. 

~Stacia Tauscher

These last weeks  and months have been filled with all sorts of medical and psychological evaluations.  Lots of the information is not as positive as I could wish.  Many more questions have been raised, and we wait to be able to get in for additional testing that will help us find the answers.

It's easy for me to worry about tomorrow.  Health, and education, and behavior, and attachment all become areas of stress that threaten to make me forget to enjoy the wonderful moments of each day.

So, for December, I am challenging myself to put aside my fears about visual perception, or liver function, or bonding, and just enjoy as many moments with Claire as I possibly can.

So far, I'm surprising myself by finding that there are so many delightful moments that I barely have time to capture any to share.  But, here are a few that have been accumulating on my camera these last few days.

I'm very "big girl" and can put lights on the top!
Don't you think I'm making this tree beautiful?

Latkes with apple sauce--keep them coming.  They are "dee li shush."

Spin the dreidel and get chocolate money to eat.  I'm thinking this is a good tradition.

Claire couldn't have our mailbox be plain when so many in the neighborhood were decorated.  She is very proud of her decorated mailbox.

Gingerbread cookies--sort of like play doh.

Making special muffins for Daddy to take to the office for their special holiday breakfast.

Practicing counting to ten and getting the numbers in order.

Making bead candy canes is hard work.

Proud of my good job.

Green snickerdoodles at Ben's request.

Making chocolate crinkles is messy.

A great time at the Pinelake Christmas party for people with special needs.

Friday, December 14, 2012

A Day for Hatred

My mother heart aches for the mom's who won't see their precious children again.  I am so sorry.  So sad.

Yet there is a greater ache for those children who will also die this year without ever knowing the love of a mother. Every day little children die.  Alone.  Without enough nutritious food.  Without sufficient medical care.  Without ever knowing how special and wonderful they are. Without anyone to mourn their deaths.

Both situations are caused by sin.

This blog explains better than I possibly could why this is a day to hate the sin that destroys.  It is worth a moment to read.


Then it is worth the time to examine ourselves and determine how we can love more deeply, with less selfishness in a world awash with brokenness.

Lord Jesus, help us be your hands and feet to those who need your love.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Good News, Bad News, or No News at All

Good News

Our second visit to the Pulmonologist found that Claire's lungs are functioning well.  She has about 70% capacity because the "other" lung has grown to make up for the parts of the lung that were removed.  The trachea is not collapsing as they thought after the first visit.  In fact, our doctor says that the biggest reason Claire is out of breath all the time is because she is so out of shape.  Since no one was sure of her health, she wasn't encouraged to get much physical activity.  We have pushed her to be more active, but have been cautious until we were sure it wouldn't hurt her.  She is also very unwilling to exert herself.  Our doctor's prescription is to run, jump, ride bikes, climb, and play in order to gain strength.  So, if you see me dragging a reluctant child down the street or up the stairs, just know that I'm doing what is best for her, even if it makes her very unhappy.

Supposed to be jumping on the outdoor "pillow" at the campground.
Bad News

Our visit to the Gastroenterologist found that there is liver disease.  Her liver is not producing the enzymes it is supposed to be making.  There is also a hemangioma (abnormal collection of blood vessels) in her liver. More tests are required before we can talk details.  That means more scans and blood draws.  It is so hard to get blood.  Even when they find a vein, it dries up within a few seconds making it difficult to get enough for the required lab tests.  The bruises all over Claire's arms are not from me dragging her around to exercise—they are from the "pokes" at the doctor.

No News

Not knowing is the hardest part for me right now.  My imagination starts to think up possible scenarios as I research liver disease.  I want to get answers fast so we can start making the necessary changes to help my girl get well.  But, it takes weeks and months to get on the schedule for the next test, or to get an appointment with another specialist.  I feel so helpless sometimes—until I take my frustration to my Heavenly Father.  He is sovereign over all things.  His timing is always perfect.  He never wastes suffering.  When I remember that He is the one in charge, peace returns, and I can rest in the knowledge that God loves Claire more than I, and He is working for her good.  The doctors can do what they will, God has Claire in the palm of His hand.  I can trust Him with the good, the bad, and the unknown.

Watching a Miracle Unfold

(It has taken me a few days to edit this post and get it ready to go live.  Reading it makes me shake my head at how things change in so short a time.  I feel like I need to include a disclaimer:  Adoption is not a linear process.  It is more like riding a roller coaster.  The highs are high and the lows go really low.  One minute everything is wonderful and the next minute the bottom falls out.  The pattern with Claire seems to be to draw close, make strong steps forward, and then regress for a while.  It's okay.  Just don't assume that a positive post means we have arrived and don't need your prayers any more.  Moods are like the weather around here:  changing minute to minute.)

I feel like I've been walking around wearing my "totally dumbfounded" look the last couple of days.  I catch myself whispering, "Thank you, Jesus" about a hundred times a day.  I am just in awe of the changes I'm seeing, and my heart soars at the privilege God gave to me when He chose me to be Claire's mother.

I'm sure that most people won't really get why the things I'm going to share are a big deal.  Even Kelly, who listens carefully, still wears an expression that shows how glad he is that I'm happy, but he isn't really sure why these things are making me so glad.  Maybe you have to be with Claire 24/7 to understand.

 To me, it feels like I'm watching one of those time-lapsed photography clips of a flower poking up out of the ground and growing into something beautiful.  I'm just filled with wonder at each little change God brings about.

Frame by frame the changes are coming:

  •       She slept through the night in her own bed, in her own room, with me in my own bed in my own room.  Just one night.  But, hey, now I know it can happen.

  •    When we put up the Christmas tree, she wanted "four people" to make a picture in front of it to send to Dan "right now."  The tree wasn't even decorated.  She was happy and she wanted her family to share with her.

  •       She went to the bathroom by herself.  Really.  She went in the other room alone.  She wiped, flushed and washed her hands all by herself.  (Yes, I was spying—and crying with joy.)  It has only happened once, but I know it is possible.

  •        She played with toys!  Real play by herself, not just helping one of us build with blocks, or dress the doll.  She used Dan's old tool kit and spent hours putting in the screws and bolts and sawing the board.  She played with the cash register.  She found an old camera and walked around taking pictures of everything and talking about her shots.  She even went outside without me (YES!!!) to take some pictures of the flowers in front of the house.

  •        She colored a paper ear of Indian corn the librarian gave her.  NOT the usual scribbly-scrawls that look like a baby snagged someone's crayon, but real coloring.  Ten minutes of real coloring.  Solid.  Beautiful.  Finished. 

  •      She watched a toddler video I checked out from the library.  Not just glancing at it, but really watching, even singing along and doing the motions.  She didn't just look for 5 minutes or less and move on, or zone out and sit with her tongue hanging out and drooling like usual.  She watched for a whole 20 minutes til it was done!  And, (this is huge) she let me go get the clothes out of the dryer without following me because she was interested in her video.  Not only did she have some attention span, but she actually talked about things in the video with me when it was done!

  •       While I was cleaning her room today, she got bored.  Instead of following around 6 inches from me, she walked into her room, found a coloring book on the shelf, found her crayons in the box, and went into the living room.  When I finished cleaning, she was busily coloring a picture.  She colored the whole thing.  A giraffe.  A bear.  A penguin.  Mostly in the lines.  Mostly realistic colors.  I don't know what happened to the girl who just picked a random crayon and scribbled big lines over the whole page and said she was done.  I'm glad she has grown.  I'm glad she is enjoying her coloring and is proud of her work.

  •        She identified herself today.  "My name is Claire Robinson."  Then she proceeded to go down the list of our family members, noting that the "Robinson" part is the same.  We are the same as her.  She was so happy to identify with our family. 

  •        She came up to me in the kitchen, put her arms around me and said, "I love you."  Oh my.  I've heard those words over and over.  She ended all our Skype calls with them.  She repeats them every time I tell her that I love her.  The words are just a routine.  Something someone told her to say to her parents.  But this time, it was different.  There was no prompt, no audience, no external reason to say those words.  She wasn't trying to get anything, or stop me from doing anything.  She hugged me, and allowed me to hug her back.  It was only for a moment, but it sure was a sweet moment.

A miracle moment.  The kind that will carry me through the rough patches.  The kind that makes quiet songs of praise well up in my heart.  The kind that makes me want to shout to the whole world that God is good and He is doing miracles right under our noses every day!

Saturday, December 1, 2012


There is much to be thankful for.  The biggest on my list right now is that I finally have all the laundry from our trip to Kentucky finished.   When the cabin fills with smoke from the fire you keep blazing to fight off the 27 degree temperature, all the sleeping bags, quilts, and pillows need baths.  

Seriously, I am so thankful for time for a few days of focused family time.  Snuggling together in the big bed while daddy braves the cold to serve us breakfast,  sitting close around the fire, and exploring new things all helped Claire learn what it means to be in a family.

Going away from home, and finding out that we still take care of her and bring her back just like we said, helps build trust.   

It was so nice to spend a few days together.  Dan drove down from Cedarville and we met him at Mammoth Caves.  I didn't realize how much I miss him until I finally saw him again.  It was fun to introduce our two youngest kids to each other.  Claire finally got to see that Dan is real, and not just a computer animation.  :-)

Our little cabin was perfect in Claire's eyes.  We were always only a few feet away from her even if we moved! She was a little jealous when Dan got any attention, but she soon figured out that the best way to get people to notice her was to join in with the rest of us.

Getting in the Thanksgiving mood by making an Indian hat.  She saw a picture of Colton on Facebook wearing the one he made at New Day.  Of course, she had to have one too.

Making Kelly's grandmother's  special green jello recipe for Thanksgiving dinner.  Cooking in the cabin was challenging, but we had fun.

Thanksgiving dinner on the porch where it was just a little windy.  Claire seemed to enjoy all of our traditional food offerings, but she was most anxious to get to the apple pie.  We made that before the trip and froze it.  A little while in the oven and it was almost as good as freshly baked!

The park at the campground gave us something to do while our men folk were exploring the cave on one of the long, hard tours.

The real Yogi was sleeping for the winter, so his statue had to be good enough.

If the boys go up the tree, Claire has to follow.  They will make a tomboy out of her yet.

Ben and Dan trying to teach Claire how to skip. 

A daddy snuggle pile!

It is dark.  It is very cold.  AND, you want me to eat this thing?  Are you crazy?

S'mores aren't really worth the effort.  Just give me the "chocoli" and leave the rest.

Going down and down to the bottom of the Frozen Niagara. Pretty rocks.

Poor boys have to bend over, but Claire follows easily.

A quick stop to buy a book to read at bedtime.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


You do not have, because you do not ask God.  James 4:2

"Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.  Matthew 7:7

The sermon today was on prayer.  As Chip spoke about how important it is to be humble as we acknowledge that we cannot handle everything on our own, I was reminded of how very much we need God to intervene if attachment is ever going to happen. 

Chip also talked  about how asking reveals a position of dependence, with the weaker person depending on the stronger.  Hm-m-m.   I couldn't help think of Claire over the last few days.  She won't ask for anything.  Just this morning, she wanted breakfast and I wanted to sleep.  Kelly was already up, so I sent her out of my bed with instructions to go ask Daddy for breakfast.  She didn't.  Two hours later, she still hadn't eaten because she refused to ask.  When I fixed my own breakfast and sat down to eat it, she couldn't believe her eyes.  She trotted back to the kitchen and I heard, "Daddy, breakfast please." 
He cheerfully complied.  We were just waiting to give her breakfast, but she needed to ask.

Over the last few days she has gone without seconds at meals, or without dessert or a snack because she refuses to ask.  Such a silly, stubborn choice.

When we are cooking and she wants to taste something, she frames it as a negative.  "No eating raisins,"  she says as we measure raisins for the cookies.  She really wants raisins, but she won't ask.  When I press, she tells me I won't give her any.  Again, I remind her to ask. If she does, she gets a few raisins.  But most times, she  refuses to ask.

I wonder how often I behave exactly the same way.  What nice things is God just waiting to give to me, if I would just ask?

So, today, I asked.  Not just in the quiet, desperate place in my heart, but in a much more public way.  I'm sure Claire didn't understand why we walked all that way to the front of the church, or what the pastor was saying, but she didn't seem to mind.   It was good to agree together in prayer.

I asked with all my heart for God to build healthy attachment between us.  I asked Him to renew my love and help Claire learn to trust us.

I asked for complete healing of her brain-- emotionally and cognitively.

And, most of all, I asked that she will understand His love for her and learn to love Him back with all her heart.  

The afternoon didn't show much difference.   After lunch, Claire needed to wash the rug she had peed on. I put in in the grass and asked her to hose it off.  She can do this.  She has used the hose to wash dirt off the driveway before.  But, today she refused to squeeze the handle.  Okay.  I got a book and sat on the deck.  Ben brought me a cup of tea to help me stay calm.  Claire stood holding that hose  for an hour and a half before she squeezed out a little water.  The moment she tried, I jumped up and helped her direct the water over the rug to get all the soap off.     All it took was one tiny effort toward obedience before I basically stepped in and put my hand over hers to complete the job.

(I wonder what things God is waiting to help me with, if I would only take that first tiny step of obedience?)

I was cold and discouraged when we finally came in.  But, God helped me endure.  He helped me let go of the frustration and move on.  We had fun making pumpkin bread. Claire started using her words again, in a conversational way instead of a manipulative one.  Then we sat down to watch an episode of Angelina Ballerina together.  Claire actually snuggled up to me on the couch.  My heart started to smile again. 

I'm not sure what work God is doing in Claire in response to today's prayers.
I do know that He is pouring more love into me, so I can keep on doing love even when it is hard. 

So I will keep on praying.  Keep on asking for attachment, trust and love.  Keep on asking for healing of heart and mind.  It may come soon, or it may take years.  But I believe God will do what is best, and I will do my best to take each little step of obedience so He can fill my life with all the good things He wants to put in it.

Will you pray with me for Claire?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

You Can't Give Her Back

People sometimes ask me why we chose to adopt internationally when there are so many children in need of families right here at home.  When I don't feel the relationship warrants an honest explanation, I usually joke that I need to adopt internationally because it is so much harder to give them back when you have a bad day.

It is a joke.  We are committed for the long haul no matter what it may bring.  But I wouldn't be honest if I didn't admit to having moments when the thought of giving her back flits into my head and needs to be forcibly banished.

Yesterday, Claire appeared in my room at 4 am.  She didn't want to go potty.  She wasn't wet, and she did not want to snuggle in my bed.  She kept singing out, "Wake-up.  Wake-up."  After putting her back to bed twice, and only just getting drowsy again before she would show up singing her wake-up song, I decided to get up.  Mopping the floors before 6 a.m.  makes you feel like you have accomplished much! 

When I put her to bed last night, I reminded her that there is no waking up before it is daylight.

This morning, I woke up and saw Claire standing in my doorway.  It was daylight, so we were good.

"What d'ya need?"  I asked.

She didn't answer.  So I went down the usual list.  Do you need to go potty?  Are you wet?  Do you need dry clothes?  Do you want to come in and snuggle?  She would not answer me.  She would not come into the room when I asked her to come over to the bed.  So, we got up early again.

After breakfast, we went in to brush teeth.  She brushes her teeth every day.  I always brush after her to get the places she missed, but at least she tries.  Today she refused to put the brush on her top teeth.  I explained.  I cajoled.  I took her fingers and helped her feel where her top teeth were.  I put the brush on her top teeth and she turned it over so it only brushed the bottom.  Then, when she spit, she bent over and carefully positioned her mouth to spit on the outside of the sink—several times.

At this point, I told her she needed to brush her top teeth and couldn't leave the bathroom until she did her best.  Then I got a book and sat in the doorway reading.  She stood there on her stool, looking in the mirror, waving her arms, and making faces at herself for nearly an hour.  Then she said she had to go potty.  I called her bluff on this one because she always says she doesn't need to go if she really does.  The "I need to go" usually comes up when she doesn't want to do something, or wants to get attention away from whatever you are doing.  I just moved the rug, letting her know that it would be easier to clean up the floor in case she had an accident before she decided to brush her teeth.  She waited a few more minutes before she went ahead and brushed her teeth.  Good job, Claire!

The rest of the day she was annoyingly clingy.  She leaned on me, stroked me, pulled on my clothes.  I had promised myself that if she was clingy, I wouldn't pull away but think of it as a request for more closeness.  So, when she was almost knocking me off my chair by leaning hard against me and rubbing my hand, I put my arm around her.  She pushed my arm away and swatted me around the face.  I grabbed her wrist to tell her not to hit, and she started scratching with the other hand.  H-m-m.  I guess she really didn't want any closeness. 

At supper, we could clearly see that she wanted another roll.  But she refused to ask.  Then, she wanted to get up.  We allow her to get up and walk around at dinner because sometimes the talk can get long.  All she has to do is say excuse me.  Think she would do that tonight?  Well, twice she said it while someone else was talking.  We told her we couldn't hear when she spoke during someone else's turn.  When we paused a long time, she remained silent.  When we asked if she had anything to say, she ducked her head under the edge of the table.  So, she stayed at the table.

In hopes of inducing her to speak, Kelly got an ice cream sandwich.  He was fully prepared to give her one if she asked.  She can ask.  She has asked many times before.  She remained silent until we were clearing the table and everyone was leaving.  Only then did she say, "Excuse me."

While cleaning up the kitchen she waited til Kelly left the room and then asked for an ice cream sandwich.  I told her she needed to ask Daddy.  She asked Ben and me several times, but refused to ask Daddy.  Bummer.   No ice cream sandwich. 

After cleaning up from dinner we headed to the bathroom for a shower.  She had been wriggly so I asked if she needed to go potty.  Of course, she said she didn't.  She got undressed and I was removing the hair clips from her hair so we could wash it.  She looked up at me and peed on the rug.  Guess I shouldn't have put it back in there after the tooth brushing incident this morning. 

We wiped up and got her shower.  After drying hair, getting medications, etc, we asked her to go potty before going to bed.  She refused to wipe herself.  Again, this is a skill she has been doing for several weeks.  When she got off the toilet, Kelly told her to sit back down and wipe.  She wouldn't.  She just stood next to the toilet.  So, he got a book and sat down to read and wait her out.  She recognized that this technique could last a long time, so she got on the potty and wiped correctly.  At last—bedtime.  I was never so ready to kiss her good night and walk away for a while.

No matter how miserable this day was, I can't give her back.  I don't want to—not really.  It just gets so discouraging. 
That is why I was so encouraged by Romans 15.
I had never noticed the reference to God as a "God of endurance" before. 
Endurance is just what I need right now.  This isn't time to get discouraged and give up.  This is the time to prove our love.  
No matter how hard Claire tries to push away, we will show that "love endures all things."

Romans 15
  1. We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.
  2. Let us each please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.
  3. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written the reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.
  4. For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction that through endurance and through encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
  5. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant that you live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus,
  6. that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Put on Your Own Oxygen Mask First

(I wrote this post a little over a week ago, but I've been afraid to post it.  Today I read the post of another adoptive mom who told it the way it really is.  I was so encouraged to be reminded that difficult days are just part of this journey. It is "normal" to have problems with attachment and bonding and behavior and feelings.  Her post also reminded me that there is always some cost to adoption.  Think about what it cost for God to adopt us.  While we have lots of sweet moments, we also have many that are just plain tough.   Some come really close to feeling like "suffering."  I'm going to risk sharing some of these hard bits because they are a true part of our story.  I pray that God's glory will shine through even on my dark and cloudy emotional days. ~Rebecca)


Anyone who has flown a time or two knows the drill:  put your oxygen mask on first and then help the child sitting next to you. Most of us don't even listen to the routine instructions at the beginning of a flight. We know them by heart.

I also know that parents need to take care of themselves in order to care for their children.  In fact, as an older mom, I've advised new mothers not to catch up on chores when there baby is asleep, but to rest.  They must not run themselves ragged the first weeks, but pace themselves for the marathon of meeting needs that lies ahead. 

Somehow I forgot. 

Having parented kids with serious attachment disorder in the past, I was so determined not to make any of the mistakes I made with my other kiddos.  I was going to get this bonding thing right this time. Somehow, in my quest to be the perfect adoptive mom, I forgot that bonding takes two people doing the attachment dance…and a very long time.

So, I was sleeping (well, not much sleeping, really) on an air mattress next to Claire so she wouldn't feel afraid.  Every minute of every day she was touching me, leaning on me, pulling me, patting me, sitting on me, tripping me, blocking my movements.  Every minute she was talking, expecting a response.  Every minute she was taking, and taking, and taking.

I started to notice some changes in how I felt about her.  I started noticing some tension.  I'd fill up with dread when I heard her stirring to wake in the morning.  Teaching correct behaviors was becoming harder and harder when she just kept on doing the old behaviors in ways that made me feel like she was enjoying how miserable she could make me. 

I was so tired of getting her all washed in the bathtub and having her "poo-poo" in the water so we had to start over.  I was tired of her drying her bottom with toilet paper before she stopped peeing and then waving the drippy toilet paper to spatter urine all over herself and the room.  I was getting so tired of her refusing to go to the bathroom when I could clearly tell by her wriggling that she needed to go, and then calling out "potty" a few moments later when I had started some other activity. 

I was tired of being pushed, pulled, and poked.  I really hated having my wrists grabbed if I tried to pick up a cup of tea or move the mouse on my computer.  I was just sick of her pushing in front of me every time I tried to walk somewhere and then slowing up to block my path so I could not get where I needed to go. 

I was exhausted with the endless babble.  She would repeat words over and over, a little louder each time, until I responded.  If I did respond the first time, she just picked something else to go on about.  None of it was about communicating thoughts, needs, or ideas.  It was  just a way to keep me fully occupied with her.  Once the rest of the family came home, it got even more annoying as she just made loud noises if we tried to talk to each other and not to her. 

I was worn out with offering two choices and having her demand a third option, every single time. I have apple juice and orange juice, but she wants cranberry.  Sigh. I was tired of having her look at half a dozen outfits and cry because there wasn't one in a particular color.  She only wanted colors we didn't have. I was sick of her putting her underclothes on backwards whenever I was there, but having no problem dressing when Daddy was present.

We have been diligently trying to teach her appropriate behaviors. But she is very strong willed.  The teaching has been happening, but the learning isn't sticking. And I was so weary.

Then, one morning last week, after  a couple of mornings with worsening  potty and dressing issues, including sitting  on my pillow to pee, I had enough.  I took her hand and led her into the bedroom where my husband was about ready to leave for work.  I let him know in no uncertain terms that I could not do this anymore.  No more.  Finished.  Here she is.  I'm done.

He must have received my message loud and clear, because he called in sick, changed his clothes and took Claire out to breakfast and for a hike in the cypress swamps.  

I crawled into my real bed and fell asleep.  Soundly.  I heard no one coming and going in my house for 4 ½ hours.  Sleep is a wonderful thing.

So is forgiveness.  That afternoon, I took Claire in my lap and apologized for loosing my cool.  Language wasn't there to convey much, but she could tell by my tone and my cuddles that love hadn't vanished.  If she still had doubts about my sanity, she was smart enough to keep them to herself.

We made a few changes in the following days.  They have evolved into Claire going to bed in her own bed, and me sleeping in mine.  I check on her and take her potty before I turn in.  (When she is so sleepy, she isn't even resistant.)  We purchased a couple of flashlights she keeps handy so she can come find me if she needs help.  In the early morning (after the sun is up) she is welcome to come snuggle in my big bed for a while.  (If she is dry. If she is wet, we do some clean up and changing of clothes first.) Most mornings, we both fall asleep again for a little while.  Waking up this way after a reasonable amount of sleep has made our day times go so much better. 

I have found my smiles again.  And my heart swells with love when she has any small accomplishment.  Her defiance and strong will are still alive and well.  But my efforts to teach are more effective when I've had some rest. 

For me, sleeping in my own bed is one part of putting that oxygen mask on my own face so I can keep functioning in a helpful way during the daytime.  I wanted to be the perfect mommy, but I cannot because I am not perfect. I need to remember that.  I need to pay attention to some of my own needs or I will have nothing left to give to this very needy child. I am so weak.  I'll just have to trust that God will fill in the gaps and be the strength wherever it is lacking.

Ephesians 3

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened  with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever.  Amen.

Sunday, November 11, 2012


The neighbor children are outside playing almost every day.  Claire wants to play with them, and they have tried.  They have tried to color on the driveway with chalk, but she won't draw.  They try to play make-believe games, but she doesn't understand.  They try to play running, jumping, or hopping games, but Claire can't run, jump, or hop in any sort of usual way.  The little boy next door even brought his tricycle over for Claire to try.  It is way to small but she is able to pedal after a fashion, as long as the road slopes downhill, or I am pushing the trike with a push broom.  Believe me, it isn't pretty.

But she wants to play with the other kids so badly.  So, we decided to get a bike that is big enough for her--with very sturdy training wheels.   She was so happy about buying the bike, and even enjoyed helping Daddy put the training wheels on.  It was even fun to sit on the bike in the house.

This is definitely the bike I want!
We have to "pay the lady."
Get those training wheels just right.
OH yes!  I am amazing on my new bike!
Everyone wears a helmet, even Daddy.
But, when I took her outside to try to ride it, she wasn't going to play.  She expected it to just happen with no effort.  Claire does NOT like effort.   But, her mama is more stubborn than Claire.  Mama also understands that  learning a new skill will feel good and open up some opportunities for play with other people.

So, we went out and vowed not to go back in the house until Claire could pedal.  Claire would sit on the bike and lock both knees.  Coaxing didn't work, so I resorted to a little brute force by poking her in the back of the knee to get her to bend it while I moved her other foot around on the pedal.

Then she countered with the  floppy noodle effect. She would simply go limp and slide onto the ground.  So, I rolled her on her back, grabbed both feet and began working them in a bicycling motion.  She couldn't get away from it.

Then I'd pick her up and put her on the bike while I used my hands on her legs to make them go in the right motion.  In spite of my aching back, we made it to the end of our street.  By then I was exhausted from doing ALL the work while Claire sat comfortably on her bike and pouted.

I gave up.  It didn't seem like she would ever be able to figure this out.  Her legs went in every direction except the right one.  Her arms twitched.  She would either push both feet at once or none at all.  I was at a loss.  So...I sat down on the road and told Claire I was tired. She would have to pedal home.  Well, we sat for a long time because she wasn't going to do it.  But, time was in my favor. It was lunch time.  I explained that there was no food on the road.  She could not eat unless she pedaled back to the house.  She wasn't happy, but I finally saw some effort to figure it out.  Enough effort that I got off the ground to help again.  As soon as I got near her, she stopped trying.  She had pedaled almost 3 feet before I got up.  But once I was standing, she wanted me to push her.

I must confess that I didn't keep a sweet tone or loving eyes or any of the other  requirements for bonding that all the adoption training courses demand.  My voice was angry and my words said so.  My eyes made it clear that I was not happy with the way things were unfolding.  But--anger can be very motivational.  She started pedaling.  A few feet and then she stopped.  But, as I walked close, she would pedal away, keeping just ahead of me.   When we got almost back to the mailbox, I had her turn around and see how far she had come. Then I launched into the hurrays and happys like never before.   She smiled.

Yup.  She smiled.  That ugly face went away. She said, "Eat the lunch," and pedaled the rest of the way home.

After a nice lunch with a few pieces of "choc-oh-li"  to celebrate, I suggested we go back out and ride again.  I really wanted to build on that success.   She said "no" in no uncertain terms.  I still had one trick up my sleeve.  I explained that we needed to take a video to post on the computer so her friends could see her ride.  (She had just watched a video of Cora riding a small  toy earlier in the day.)  That got her. Out we went.  She pedaled off while I filmed. (I had never used this camera before, so I apologize for the video quality.) She didn't  want to stop! She was having fun!  In spite of herself, she had learned to pedal and she liked it!

She kept going around the block, and I followed, providing a little push when it was hilly and shedding a few tears of joy.  This little girl who isn't supposed to be alive, is riding her bicycle and clapping her hands and making it clear that God defies all the human expectations and writes the story according to His plan!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Even If

 It took 2 years to complete the paperchase to adopt Claire.  That is a long time to dream.

In my pre-adoption mind, I imagined my little girl standing proudly in a high school cap and gown.  I imagined sending her off to college, and even dreamed of a wedding on some far off day.

More near term, I dreamed of reading books together in the hammock and being able to reference our shared literature in daily conversations.  I pictured visits to the museum, or hikes to historic sites.  Maybe sharing a mother daughter Bible study with stimulating interactions that help us both stretch our understanding.

I really do know better than to create an imaginary child before adoption, but somehow, my mind seems to, well, have a mind of its own.  As much as I try to keep an empty slate for a real child to fill up, little expectations find a way to lodge in my thinking. 

One such idea was that if God had healed Claire's heart, He would surely heal her mind as well.  I wasn't even conscious of this idea being present until we started trying to do some "normal" things that most young children can do easily.  Little tugs of worry started pulling on my heart.  When the first evaluation was done at the adoption clinic in Birmingham and I watched the testing proceed, those tugs got harder.  When I saw the scores and heard the doctor talk about oxygen deprivation and brain damage and very low developmental levels, my dreams were shaken and my heart came to a virtual stand still.

I had a lot of thinking to do.
Surely God didn't heal her body just to let her brain stay broken.  (But His ways aren't always the same as our ways.)

"Oh the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are his judgements and how inscrutable his ways!"  Romans 11:33

The more I thought, the more I remembered that God loves Claire, and all of us, just as we are.  He doesn't love us for what we can do or for how much we know.  He just loves.  Sometimes He chooses to use the skills He has placed in us to accomplish things that bring Him glory.  Other times, He chooses to use those that the world would call foolish or worthless to bring even more glory to Himself. Often, He uses our weaknesses to display His greatness.

So I changed my expectations and my prayers.  Instead of asking God to just make Claire be all better, I asked Him to change my heart so that I can love her and see her through His eyes.

Oh, I still pray daily for restoration of the parts of her brain that have been damaged through lack of oxygen, exposure to powerful medications, and years of being in a hospital bed.  I believe God can heal.  I believe that brains can form new pathways to carry information. I will continue to work to provide treatment and care that offers the best opportunities for development.

But, I will also work to trust that God is ALWAYS good.  His choices are always best.  I will love my sweet girl whether she ever learns to put her clothes on in the right direction, or whether she can ever figure out how to run or jump.   If she can't do the things that most people take for granted, I will find something she can do to celebrate.

When great waves of fear sweep over me as I discover that she can't button her own pants, or trace a line with her finger no matter how many times and different ways we try, or she can't  distinguish the big puddles from the road they are on even when I'm trying to get her to stomp in them with her new rain boots,

 I will remember
 that God is in control of each and every outcome.
 He will direct our paths, and HE IS GOOD.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Joyful Day

A rainbow behind the piano promised a great beginning to a new day.

And, it has been such a nice day. 

I'm a bit surprised because they have been so difficult lately.  I really wasn't expecting so much ease and closeness and fun.

Lydia stayed with Claire this morning while I went to the doctor.  They actually PLAYED with the dolls and horses.  Later in the afternoon, Claire demonstrated her new skill by playing with me.  So much fun!   Thanks, Lydia.

My trips to the doctor give us one more thing to have in common.  Claire carefully examines my "pokes" and wants to know how many bottles of blood the doctor took. She likes to put band aids on my "little ouch" just like I put them on hers.   She has told and retold the story  that I'm having a picture with the "big circle camera"  (MRI)  tomorrow, and she is "all done"  and doesn't need to go with me. She joyfully sings out, "Mommy's turn."   See how much I'm willing to do to bond with my child.  :-)

Playing at the park convinced me that I couldn't put off seeing the doctor any longer. As Claire gets stronger, I need to be able to keep up with her!

We had to go out to get more diapers this afternoon, and decided to shop for Colten's Christmas gift.  Of course, this brought up a whole lot of discussion about each of Claire's friends being "far, far away."  At one point she started yelling, "STAY IN CHINA!" over and over.  I was tired of being sensitive, and yelled back, "NO, stay in America with Mommy and Daddy."  She was startled for a moment and looked at me with those big eyes. Then she giggled and started chanting, "Stay in America. Claire stay in America."   
She was very happy about it.

Then we talked about how the presents were going to get to Colton.  Apparently, if I'm following her trail of English stepping stones, she thought we were going to deliver the presents ...and that she would be going back to China.  Telling her she had to stay with us always was reassuring rather than depressing to her.  At least it is for today.

We made pizza for supper.  We just had so much fun, working easily together.  When I got out the flour (we use a couple of different kinds) I said, "1 cup of this kind, and 2 cups of this kind."  My precious imp pointed to the bouquet of flowers in a vase on the counter and said, "I want this kind flour."  Then she burst into giggles. 

Yes, those are green beans she is arranging on the pizza.  Don't laugh.  It was good!
A delicious work of art.
At bath time she revisited everyone being "far, far away."  When she ran out of friends, she switched to brothers.  But, when she named Ben, I said, "No way.  Ben is close."  She started giggling again. "Ben is clothes," she said, pulling on my sweater, "big, big clothes."  We giggled our way through a whole lot of people being close, or clothes, until Kelly came to see what was going on and added "close" the door to our fun! 

I'm so thankful for all the friends and strangers who are praying for us as we do the work of becoming a family.   I know God is answering your prayers because we are able to keep moving forward through the tough days, and can celebrate the joyful moments when they come.  I am so blessed to be Claire's mommy.