Thursday, December 12, 2013

Living It...Not Writing About It

We have been in China for 8 days already, and this is the first time I've made it to the blog page.  In fact, I haven't been on here since June.  This week I've been too busy, or exhausted, or overwhelmed to have anything left write.  Many times during the last six months, that has been the case as well.  Other times I just wasn't sure what to say.  It is difficult to know how much to share and how to be true and honest while protecting privacy.  I'm still sorting through all of that, but right now, I'm afraid that the precious moments of this crazy time in China will be lost if I don't make some effort to record the days.  So the next few blogs will read rather like a journal of things I hope to remember for myself and to share with my children someday.  Pictures will be added IF I can figure out how to do that.  Visitors are welcome to take a peek at what I record, but please keep in mind that this record is for us and not an attempt to impart anything to you with carefully edited words.

I guess I'll start with today--Day  8-- and go as far as I can before these two little ones wake from their nap.  Once they are up it feels like 10 children in here, not two.  They want my attention continuously--and compete for it with energy I don't even know how to describe. Their moods swing from giddy laughing to desperate weeping and that back again faster than I can process. Most days, if they have napped, I've collapsed on the bed next to them and slept until they wake.

Today Claire didn't wake us up until 5:30.  Somehow waking up 2 1/2 hours later than usual felt like we had really slept in!  We did get to bed later than usual last night after spending a delightful time at the Samuel's home.  It was so encouraging to  talk with all the guests and watch Colton and Claire play with Lilly, Isaac, and Roy.  I think the highlight for Kelly was playing drums with Ben.

We had another wonderful breakfast.  I'm still astonished that Claire chooses western food over all the yummy Chinese choices.  While I'm eating steamed buns, sweet potatoes, fried onions with peppers and potatoes, Claire chooses eggs, sausage, and a muffin.  Colton prefers fried rice and watermelon.  This second morning with us, he still seems rather overwhelmed.  He kind of zones out.  He either tries to feed himself and spills most of the food all over, or puts his hands down to his sides and waits for me to feed him.  Not sure what is going on in his little head, but one way or the other, we are getting food into him.

At 9:30 we were to go to the police station to get a passport picture.  We were supposed to do that yesterday but there was some problem with the orphanage director so it was cancelled.  Today it got rather tense.  We were there for over 2 hours.  Our guide and 6 officials were arguing.  Then our driver left to supposedly go pick up some paperwork from the orphanage director.  I'm not really sure what is going on.  The adoption was finalized on Tuesday.  We have the paper that says we are Colton's parents, but somehow this director still has a say in getting the passport. After the driver returned with a packet of papers, more arguing ensued.  Colton can understand  what they are saying, and he was getting quite upset. I was just getting exhausted from holding him, rocking him, and trying to calm him.   Finally we were allowed to leave.   Our guide says the female officials are causing problems because she is beautiful and thin and often goes to dinner with the male officials so they are jealous of her.  I'm not sure what to make of that.  She says she must find more documents and get them notarized and return to the police station.  In the meantime we are free.  (So, I pray and try not to worry since we are supposed to fly out of here tomorrow to go to GZ to complete the immigration portion of this adoption.)

Back at the hotel, we took time to give the kids a snack.  I hadn't taken anything for them because we were only supposed to be gone about an hour.  After a snack, we bundled up and headed out into the frigid windy weather to find lunch.  We found a noodle shop where we ordered two huge bowls of beef and noodles that were delicious.  Colton can't hold chopsticks and couldn't use the spoon, so I fed him some, and he stuck his mouth in the bowl and slurped a little.  It was messy but it was warm and filling.

Then we ventured into the "mall" -- and outdoor market.  It was interesting but a little hard to navigate with a stroller and tired children.  (Thanks to the Samuels for loaning us a stroller.--Colton gets tired really fast, and we have quite a long ways to walk to find a restaurant or shop.)  After looking around awhile, we opted to go to the department store down the street.  We tried on some new shoes for Colton because the velcro fasteners on his are broken--but he just said, "No, I don't like."  So, he keeps his broken shoes.  Maybe they are a sort of link to his past, and offer some security.  Who knows.  We then found a shop where we bought an extra suitcase.  We got lots of Colton's papers and crafts from ND, as well as a traditional Mongolian outfit with a hat from the orphanage.  We also managed to purchase some stuffed camels the other day, so we need a little extra luggage space.

All that adventure wore us out, so we came back for a nap.  I'm listening to both kids gargly breathing. They are really stuffy and Kelly is quite sick with an awful cough. Being sick is going  to make the rest of this journey difficult.  I keep wishing I knew where to get Chinese take-out so we didn't have to go out in the cold in search of dinner.  :-)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

What Was I Thinking? Is Adoption of an Older Child Always Hard?

I recently posted in an adoption group on Facebook that I was experiencing a hard week and kept asking myself, "What was I thinking when I adopted this child?" 

The hard week, and even the question about what I was thinking do not surprise me.  This is our third adoption of an older child.  I know there will be hard days.  I know I will have days when I feel resentment, and confusion, and frustration.  I know there will be days when I wish we had chosen an easier path.

The key is that these are FEELINGS.  Feelings change day to day, sometimes minute to minute.  The reality is that God called us to this adoption.  Our response was a step of obedience and faith.  We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the God who called us will also equip us to complete this good work.  Feelings must always give way to faith in the God who is writing our story.  His grace is sufficient.

When I posted about my difficult week, a mom about to adopt a 9-year-old girl asked the question, "Is adoption of an older child always hard?"

I absolutely must answer this with a solid, "YES." 

It might seem that there is evidence to refute this conclusion for sure.  There are plenty of blogs about people who have adopted older children and they post about how amazingly well it is going at 4 months or 6 months.  Praise God for the joy they are experiencing!  But, it isn't the whole story. For people in the midst of a difficult season these blogs can be a little disconcerting, if not downright discouraging.  They make us wonder what we are doing wrong.  We wonder if we aren't cut out for this adoption thing and if we have ruined our lives by choosing the wrong child, or misunderstanding God's direction. When we read a blog about people having a delightful transition and they credit it to diligent prayer and fasting before the adoption, it can feel like an accusation.  Did I not pray enough?  Should I have fasted more days?  If my walk with Jesus was stronger, would my child be fitting in to our family easier?

I'm not an expert after just three older child adoptions, but I've also spoken with many families who have adopted older kids.  I conclude that it is ALWAYS hard.

It isn't necessarily always hard in the same way.  Each child is different.  Each family is different.  Things that nearly push one mom over the edge might not even phase a different mama—but something else will. 

We are all sinful and all human relationships can have periods of difficulty.  But, older adopted kids have additional struggles that other children don't have.  They have been wounded by huge losses.  Important needs have not been met.  They have had to learn to depend on themselves.  Trust is fragile if it exists at all. They have had experiences that their young minds didn't know how to process, so feelings have been incorporated deep into the child's mind, without a good way to interpret them and reconcile them with the rest of life.

Part of what makes adopting an older child so difficult is that healing isn't a one-time event.  We may think we have dealt with a particular issue, only to find it surfacing again at a different time, in different circumstances. We may feel like everything is good, and our child is forming a secure attachment and then we overhear them tell a stranger that we aren't really his/her parents and she will get away from us and do just what she wants as soon as she is old enough.  We thought that issue had been laid to rest, but it is still comes back when our best parenting judgment has to deny our child something they want.

Milestones in life can bring hard things to light.  Deaths, graduations, moving, advancing to a new grade in school, taking a vacation, a birth, a marriage, a school assignment: all these normal life events can trigger hard days for an older adopted child.

My oldest adopted daughters recently entered motherhood.  One just gave birth.  The other just found out she is pregnant.  There are so many thoughts about what it means to be family.  Is blood relationship the most important part?  Why isn't her birth mother here to see the new baby?  Do I get to be the "grandma," or will I be shut out because I'm not "really related to her?"  Will she keep the baby?  Will she give the baby up for adoption?  Will she repeat the abuse and abandonment cycle, or learn to parent?  Yes, eleven years into our adoption story, there are still very hard days related to adoption issues.

Another thing that makes adopting an older child so difficult is expectations.  Of course, we all fall in love with an "imaginary" child.  Not that we haven't studied and read and prepared and prayed, but we still have an "idea" of a child in our heads during the adoption process.  It can sometimes rattle us as our real child pushes out our imaginary one.

Passing time can also be difficult.  I always tend to expect that things will get better much faster than they really do.  Real attachment and bonding take a really long time.  The older our child, the longer it can take.  In early days, our child may seem to be attaching rapidly.  They work hard to please us. They may fear making us angry enough to send them away.  They may feel like they are earning every good thing that comes their way.  We work hard to do everything just right.  After all, we are so well trained through all our adoption classes, and all the books we read.  But, we eventually get tired.  We get sick.  We can't do fake perfection anymore.  We all just want thing to be normal.  But nothing is "normal" anymore.  We have to create a new normal.  With older kids, that takes much longer than we expect.

Passing time can also be discouraging.  We thought our child would understand English better by now.   They seem to do so well most of the time, but then we encounter a situation that reveals how fragile their comprehension really is.  Maybe we thought that our 9 year old would be able to use the bathroom independently by now.  Sure she wasn't potty trained when we got her, but we truly thought she would figure it out after 10 months.  But she hasn't.  Maybe our struggle relates to sleep, or eating, or learning, or respect, or handling a "no."  Whatever it is, we often feel discouraged when we realize that we are still working on it long after we thought it would fade into a non-issue. 

None of this is to say that there are not days of tremendous joy.  There are many rewarding moments to savor if we pay attention.  That first hug that isn't stiff and forced, or the first time our child says, "I like you," can feel wonderful.  There is tremendous joy in watching our child reach milestones in health or learning.  It is a delight to watch them experience new things when we know they would have never had that opportunity if they had stayed in the orphanage.  There is joy in hearing a daughter say that she will not abort her baby no matter how difficult things might appear in the present circumstance.  There is joy in hearing our little girl singing "Jesus Loves Me" while sitting on the floor putting her puzzle together. 

Adoption is wonderful.

Adoption is hard.

Rather than pretend it won't be difficult, we must prepare ourselves by putting on the armor of God, and walking in faith.  We must trust that the one who has called us will empower us to do even the hard things.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Sacred Moments

We've been working on building a sandbox.  It is slow going.

Don't you think we picked a pretty color?
There are always so many doctor appointments to deal with, errands to run, and chores to finish.  When we do manage to find some extra time the weather doesn't always cooperate.

Finally we had a day that was just right to start adding the red paint.
Trying a roller instead of a brush.
Claire changed into her "old" clothes.  (It is hard to decide what qualifies when she has only been here 6 months.)  We mixed up the paint and got started.

Claire wanted to dip the brush into the paint all the way past the bristles and up the handle.  Then she thought it best to scrub the brush back and forth til the paint was rough and patchy and the brush resembled a bird's nest.

I tried to show her how to dip the brush, remove excess paint and make long even strokes.

Claire is not the most "teachable" person.  Even the gentlest suggestion that she isn't doing something right seems to trigger. …  What?

I'm just not sure at this point.  Perhaps it is a stubborn defiance and determination to do things her own way.  It could be a fear response.  She interprets any correction or teaching to mean she isn't good enough and then she panics?  The fear makes her shut down so she can't do the simplest things or even hear the instructions anymore.

I just can't tell what is really going on, but it often feels like defiance and is always very, very frustrating. 

It drives me to my knees on the inside, pleading with God to help me stay calm, and to find a way to get through.  My prayers are often desperate as I tell God how difficult it is to parent this little girl and ask Him to take over because I just can't do it anymore.

And, somehow, God does carry me through.  It isn't always pretty, and we sometimes call an abrupt end to whatever we were trying to do and spend a lot of time in the rocking chair, but we have managed to avoid too many mommy meltdowns.

This time, we made it mostly to the end of our painting task when I noticed little red footprints on the deck all around the tarp we had under our project.  I put Claire in a chair, firmly, and ran for supplies to clean that up.

Frustration was definitely growing.  I expected paint in her hair and on her hands and arms and knees.  But to step in it and walk on the deck after we were being so careful to keep all our work on the tarp was making me angry.

Pray.  Scrub.  Pray.  Scrub.  Pray.

Deck cleaned up and back aching, I closed up the paint and considered grabbing the hose and using cold water and some handfuls of grass to clean her bright red feet.

But Jesus whispered, "Whatever you do to the least of these…"

So I told her to sit still while I ran to collect a soft rag and a bucket filled with warm, soapy water.

Still praying, I lifted her to the edge of the deck and started scrubbing that paint off as gently as possible. 

Suddenly, I felt Jesus there.  He was there loving me. His hands were holding mine and His love was pushing out all the frustration.  Tears started streaming down my face as I got a tiny glimpse into the character of Jesus in a way I'd never seen before.

I've known about mercy and grace and love and compassion for a long, long time.  Today I felt it to my core. 

The moment passed and the rest of the day had the lots of frustrating events.  It will take lots of time, and many repetitions of love to convince Claire that she is safe enough to trust, to try hard things, to obey, and depend on us.

But, I'm certain that Jesus will help us get through the hard moments and frustrating hours.

Today, thanks to Claire, I know Jesus better than I did yesterday.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Six Months

Six months ago, we sat in the Civil Affairs office in Taiyuan and became foster parents. 

It was a very tense day.  Lifeline was supposed to deliver our paperwork so that we could hand carry the official documents needed.  

They forgot.

 I made several calls in the days before we left, and they kept assuring me that the papers were on the way and would arrive in time. Someone forgot to ever mail them. So,  I was promised that they would quickly send the paperwork ahead of us to China so that all the documents would be waiting for us when we got there.

They were not.

Fortunately, I had printed out copies of everything and Kelly had those in his backpack.  The official agreed to accept those copies until the original documents could arrive.

After a very unpleasant call to our adoption agency, that issue was set aside.  Then they brought Claire into the room. She promptly tried to run away.  She wanted nothing to do with us.  She wasn't going to have anything to do with the things we brought to distract her.  She just didn't want to even look in our direction.  We had to hold on tightly to keep her from leaving as we went down to get pictures taken for the adoption decree. 

In the picture shop, her nanny of 4 years was trying to get her to sit with us for a photo when her foster mama from her first 4 years of life walked in.  Things got a little confusing for awhile.  I remember new shoes, a bag of fruit and candy, and a glass of milk tied in a grocery bag,  being given to Claire. Then there were pictures and tears and I was holding a wailing child as we dragged her into a waiting van and pulled away as she screamed for her mamas.

All that screaming and crying created the need for a breathing treatment.  Finding some interesting things to see on the computer helped her get calm and stay still.
We needed a quick lunch.  It had been a long morning and we were running out of steam.   Our guide had only told us about a McDonald's and Pizza Hut.  Since we knew that Claire had been to McDonald's on field trips, that was our pick of necessity.

We made sure that Claire got some noodles for supper.  Proving that we could provide acceptable food was a good first step in helping her feel safe with us.
Six months later, she remembers those other mamas fondly.  She talks about how they had jobs to take care of children until their mamas could come get them. Then, those nannies will take care of other children.  Nannies love the children but don't take care of them forever.  Mommies keep on being mommies all the time.

I think I'm the mommy now. At least it sure feels like it when she crawls into my bed in the morning and pats my cheek, or when she says, "Wo ai ni, mama." at night when I'm tucking her in with 42 hugs and 18 kisses. 

                Six months isn't very long--but it is long enough for a lot of love to grow.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Happy Birthday!

Claire turned 9 today. 

It was a day to delight in her.  She loved putting up balloons and streamers.  She had a ball decorating the windows with crystal window markers.  She couldn't wait for her cake and her presents.

My heart rejoiced as I snuggled with her this morning and listened to her tell me that 8 was all gone and now she is 9.  What a miracle!  This precious little girl who wasn't supposed to live at all is a beautiful 9 year old who loves to demonstrate how "strong" and "smart" she is to anyone who will pay attention.  God has been so good to Claire.  I'm so blessed to walk down the street holding her hand, or to sing a silly song with her, or to get to work beside her, "mixing" supper or folding laundry. 

My heart also felt overwhelming sadness today. While we were snuggling this morning, Ben came in to say goodbye before heading off to work.  He bent over to hug Claire and his tie swung forward.  Claire batted it for a long time—like a kitten.  Nothing wrong with that, but my heart ached for this little child to have thoughts and ideas, to understand something more than the simple motion of a swinging tie.  Claire is 9.  She can't dress herself, or care for her body without a lot of help.  She can't count objects.  She can't speak a sentence in Chinese or English.  She doesn't play with toys.  She can't write her name or tell you where she lives.  She can't open a door or buckle a seat belt.  She doesn't communicate anything on a thought level.

I long to know my little girl.  But all I know is when she is hungry or wants me to take her to the bathroom.  I know that she resists learning with all her might, leaving me exhausted and longing for bedtime long before it is really time to turn out the lights.  I want her to be okay.  I want her brain to be healed just like her heart.  I want to be able to tell her the incredible story of God's love for her, but the empty tomb of Easter doesn't have much meaning for a child who still doesn't consistently demonstrate object permanence. 

I confess that sometimes I feel angry and I'm guilty of wanting God to explain to me why He healed her heart and her lungs, but left her brain so damaged. I love her so much.  I want her to be okay.  I want her to be able to read, and sew, and knit.  I want her to be able to play a game or participate in a discussion. 

Then, I'm reminded that God loves her more than I ever could.  He is still good.  His plan is still being carried out whether I see it or not.  So, now I ask God to show me how to love Claire the way He does—through her stubbornness and disability to the heart of who God has created her to be with abilities and disabilities all wrapped up in one sweet package.  Happy Birthday, Claire.  I love you.

"Whenever we cannot love in the old, human way…God can give us the perfect way." 
~~Corrie ten Boom

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

It Is Not Too Late

Claire was one of the featured kiddos during the Chinese New Year Celebration at New Day.
In case you missed it, here is a link to the article:

Claire's story

Colton was also featured on the second day.  Here is his story:

Colton's story

The goal behind all this celebration was to raise funds for New Day to continue to do their amazing work in the lives of children who desperately need  medical care and lots of loving.

If you missed the stories during the  New Year's celebration, it is still not too late to donate. 

Click HERE if you want to help New Day continue to provide care to these needy little ones.

Please don't ever think that any gift is too small.  If memory serves me right, I heard that if each person who "likes" New Day on Facebook would donate just $4, they would make the $12,000 goal during this fund drive.  Like the loaves and fishes, God multiplies even the smallest gifts to meet the biggest needs.

Don't you want to be part of that?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Beautiful Hair

Everywhere we go, people comment on Claire's beautiful hair. 

In spite of the fact that it is difficult to care for, I love her long, silky locks.

A little over a week ago, I was researching alopecia areata. It's an auto-immune disease that causes the body to attack its own hair.  Claire was diagnosed with this while she was in China and I was trying to learn more about it. I want to know why I'm constantly rubbing ointment into little bald places.  One link took us to a website that had a picture of a little girl with no hair at all.

Claire was looking over my shoulder and became very concerned.

"Girl.  No hair. Sad," she repeated over and over. 

It was the Locks of Love website.  I showed Claire that the girl didn't stay sad because someone gave her some of their hair.  She was so excited by this. She wanted to give the girl she saw her own hair. 

I put her off with a "maybe someday you can do that." 

But, like all things Claire gets into her head, she didn't forget.  Every single day she asked about the sad girl with no hair.  Every day she wants to make her hair short and give the girl some hair.

So, today, I got to see that it isn't her hair that makes my daughter beautiful.

 It is her heart.

Plenty of beautiful black hair.

The first cut was terrifying for mommy.

It was so thick.  It took a LOT of cutting to get that ponytail off.

Then a little touch up to make things smooth.

So happy to be able to brush her own hair without getting the brush tangled.

I am really cute with short hair!

Can't stop looking in the mirror.  She is so happy with the results.

Clean up.

Ready to mail tomorrow.
Claire is so excited that the little girl won't be sad anymore.  She is so excited that her hair will help another girl  be happy.  Claire says, "Girl happy.  Claire happy."

So, even if no one ever stops us again to comment on Claire's amazing, long, black hair, I see incredible beauty. 

Even though Claire's life has been very difficult, or perhaps because it has been difficult, Claire has learned the joy of sacrifice.  She knows that blessings are to give away and that love is big enough to reach into sad places and make a difference. I have a lot to learn from my precious daughter.  Her life bears the image of our God in a remarkable way!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Our Day at the Hospital

We woke early and got Claire ready to leave.  She was a little concerned that it was still very dark outside and very, very concerned that she couldn't have breakfast.  

Each night as I'm tucking Claire into bed, she goes over what she plans to eat for breakfast in great detail.  We usually visit that conversation 2 or 3 times before she settles in and accepts her kisses and hugs. Of course, the night before surgery, I had to tell her that she could not have breakfast the next day.  Before she was even awake enough to get out of bed, she was already talking about "no breakfast."

We drove through the dark to pick up Jenny who agreed to help out at the hospital.   By the time we made it to the parking garage, the sun was up and we could see where to park and head inside.  We checked in at 6:50 a.m.

As usual, it is a hurry-up-and-wait  process.  Wait for the lady who looks over the insurance papers.  Wait for the arm band.  Go upstairs and wait in the first waiting room for a long time.  Go get vitals taken once again and receive a beautiful outfit. 

Don't you think Claire looks pretty in light blue?
 From here, we answered all the pre-op questions--you know, the ones we had to go to the hospital one day last week to answer, and go over at least three more times before getting to this step. While the nurse was typing, they realized that they forgot to put a bed in our room, so one was wheeled in.  After the questions were finished up, we got to ride the bed down to pre-op and wait some more.   Claire wasn't too thrilled with this wait.  Nobody seemed to be able to find the orders for the blood draw so it took awhile.  Lots of strangers kept coming up and talking way too fast about things Claire didn't understand.  She was just ready to get this all over with and go home.  She repeatedly reminded us that she was hungry and wanted some breakfast. 

 It was nice to have Jenny there to provide extra distraction whenever Claire was about ready to bolt.  Jenny was awesome about keeping track of the bag of clothes and supplies, too.  

There was a bit of real fear as they wheeled Claire back to the operating room  I was not allowed to stay with her until she went to sleep, or to be there when she woke.   Hospital policy isn't always the most child friendly thing.

We waved good bye and then went to the second waiting room to sit until we were called.

The doctor came out to see me after about an hour.  Everything looked pretty good. There were no cysts. The scars were not blocking the airways. There are lots of scars, but it appears that the only impact might be that the scars on her vocal chords change the tone of her voice.  He did see some irritation and swelling that appears to be caused by reflux.  He is referring us to a gastroenterologist to evaluate why this might be occuring.

A couple ounces of apple juice helped with the waking up process.   Then we were wheeled back to a room to recover.  Claire was really impatient with the whole process.  She was irritated by the blood on her hands and the various tubes. So, we spent a little time carefully cleaning her up.  Then we had a long discussion about tigers and their teeth.   Hey, at least we weren't talking about breakfast for a few minutes.  :-)

Can't I get all these "pokes" off and go get some breakfast?
We got home around 3 o'clock.  Claire settled on the couch to watch Angelina Ballerina and eat a bowl of oatmeal.     Breakfast at last!

Thanks go out  to everyone who prayed.  It is good to see a healthy trachea and esophagus and rule out one more possible problem.  It was also a blessing to be able to get the lab work for liver tests done while Claire was unaware of the process. Any time we can avoid the stress associated with "pokes" is a blessing.

I don't suppose we will ever be fully aware of the miracles God is doing on a regular basis.   I believe He is at work mending and healing and restoring things we know nothing about. He deserves more praise and glory than any of us is capable of giving.  I hope that you will take a moment as you read these results, to say thank you to the God who is taking care of our precious girl according to His awesome plan for her life.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Hospital Pokes Feel Sad


The surgery scheduler let us know that Claire needs to check in to the hospital tomorrow morning at 7:30.  With the time confirmed, I let Claire know that she needs to go to the hospital tomorrow.

The first words out of her mouth were,   "NO pokes?"

It was a question.  A hopeful, wishful question. But, there will be pokes and I had to tell her, and she wasn't happy.

"Pokes, sad.  Hospital, sad.  Stay home, mommy."

In case you aren't up on your Chinglish, that translates to the fact that she doesn't like having blood drawn or IV's or going to the hospital.  She wants to stay home with mommy.

I assured her that I would go to the hospital with her, and Jenny will come with us, too.   Then I did my best to explain how they will use a "bubble-fish" (Claire's name for the mask on her nebulizer) to help her feel sleepy.  She will take a little rest at the hospital. While she is sleeping, the doctor will look inside her neck with a teeny-tiny little camera.   They will do the pokes to get some blood while she is sleeping so there will be no hurt.  When she wakes up, she will find a band aid on the place where they did a poke.

She wanted to know if she would come home when she wakes up.  I waffled a little on this one.  I just don't know.  It depends on what the doctor finds, and what he decides to do.  This is an "exploratory" surgery to see what is going on in the esophagus. If there is something simple like a cyst, or minor scarring, it will be taken care of right away.  If it is minor, she comes home.  If it is just a little complicated, she may stay overnight.   If anything is more complicated, we will schedule for another day to take care of things.   So I skirted the coming home question by saying I will stay with her until the doctor says she is ready to go home.

The blood draws are for the gastroenterologist.   He needs more tests to figure out what exactly is going on with Claire's liver. We know that it is enlarged and blood tests show "abnormalities," but we don't know exactly what that means. Since her little veins have had more than their share of "pokes," they tend to yield only a tiny bit of blood before the supply "dries up."    (My apologies to any medical type folks reading.  I'm used to translating events into the simplest language, and I don't know enough about medical terms to sound educated in this area.)  Getting enough blood for tests on a regular basis has become a very frustrating experience.  I'm glad they can do this one while Claire is totally unaware.

She is just so tired of doing this medical thing.  I can't blame her.  We went through her medical records and counted the days she has spent in the hospital.  Miss Claire has been hospitalized for a total of 4 years!  That is a lot for anyone.  It is way too much for an 8 year old.

We are praying that all the doctors will be able to figure out what is going on in relation to Claire's breathing difficulties and with her liver.  We want to be able to resolve the problems so that Claire can spend some time at home learning how to be a regular little girl. One who doesn't have to worry about pokes for a good long while.  Won't you pray with us?

Claire would rather count scoops of ice cream on her giant ice cream cone, not add up doctor and hospital visits.

What A Difference Seeing Makes!

Claire has had a terrible time with coloring, cutting, or tracing.  Following a line seemed impossible,  She was also stumbling whenever the ground was uneven, and was terrified to go anywhere without bright light. It took us a bit of  time to get an appointment with  the pediatric vision specialist, but we are so glad we did.  He promised us a "new child" once she had her glasses.  I don't know if I'd go quite that far, but  I do know that she is pretty happy about her glasses, and does not want to take them off.

Clearer vision has made Claire more willing to participate in activities that she used to avoid.   

So many new things to see between the doctor's office and the parking lot.  Wow!  It is fun to see.

Paying the bills is quite a chore.   First you must cut up pieces of construction paper to put inside the envelope.  Then you have to put on a "stamp" and a return address label.  Writing the address is very time consuming.  Especially when you have 25 bills to pay!

You must put them in the mailbox one at a time to make sure they are just right. Claire recognizes that her writing does not look the same as other writing. When asked what the mailman would think about all her bills, she says that he will shake his head and say, "I don't know...I don't know."  Then she giggles as she envisions the puzzled mailman.
Please don't tell Claire that Daddy went outside after Claire was in bed and removed all that confusing mail.  The garbage pick-up men surely won't say a word.  ;-)  Claire can hardly wait until our next bill paying day.  I guess I should start buying envelopes in bulk.

Coloring is much more fun when you can see what you are doing.  When Daddy colors with you, it is even better. Real men color princess pictures. Yes, they do.

 Jenny-jie jie  joined us at the park one warm sunny day.  New glasses made it so much easier to judge where all the steps were.  Claire climbed on all sorts of things she had avoided before.  Of course, seeing down from the top also made it a little bit scarier.  As long as Jenny was there to set an example, though, nothing was too scary to try.

Glasses are a wonderful blessing.  Of course, Claire is not used to being able to see clearly. We know that it will take her brain time to catch up to the new things  her eyes can do.  She still operates in her mode of avoiding things where she might fail.  She would prefer to misbehave or distract rather than try something she might not do well.

Glasses haven't changed her stubbornness.  When asked to cut a curved line, she pretends not to know how to hold the scissors.  When asked to trace over an "x" with her marker, she refuses to touch the pen to the page.  Bribes don't work.  Punishment doesn't work.  The only way we have found to get Claire to do something she doesn't want to is to wait her out. All options for any other activity are removed until she decides to make a reasonable effort at the task we are asking her to do.  It can be really stressful to wait, and wait.  Earlier this week she refused for 10 hours.

Yup.  Very, very  stubborn. 

Just when doubt was about to make me tell her she didn't have to write it, she decided to cooperate. She traced a perfect "x" on her dry erase book. It took her all of 3 seconds to complete the task with excellence.  Then we celebrated!  Guess what the first thing she wanted to do the next morning was?  Now that she knows she can trace those lines, she is all about showing off her skill. 

How I pray that each time I ask her do something and she succeeds, we will build trust.  We will need lots of that to continue to help her grow and learn.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The More the Merrier

It has been a long while since I've found time to blog.  I promised myself to take time to just enjoy my new daughter for a season, without worrying about solving all the problems that keep popping up.   For the most part, I've been keeping that promise.  By the time Claire is safely tucked into her bed each night, I've usually had so much fun that I'm ready to collapse into my own bed and not try to rally my thoughts to write a somewhat coherent sentence or two.

But today, for a change, we have no visits with doctors.  It is cool and rainy, so I can justify not enforcing the afternoon outdoor exercise routine for once.  And, Claire finished up her school work and chores in quick order so that she could watch  "A is for Angelina, B is for Ballerina."  She thinks that by adding a little "I'm learning the alphabet" into her request, I will be more likely to allow her to watch. :-)  If she had her way, she would do nothing else all day.    In one way, it is a huge step.  During our first months home, her attention span wouldn't last more than a few minutes.  Now she can focus on Angelina for as many hours as she can convince me to let her stay on the couch. 

I'm really thankful for for their free "B is for Ballerina" preschool study unit.  The librarian is also great about pointing out all the books with ballerina's in them.  We need all the motivators we can find.  Claire is not keen on trying to learn new things.

While she is giggling and clapping with Angelina, I can take a few minutes for some catch up.

Claire absolutely loves having her family home with her.   Christmas vacation was a delight for her.  Every day she would rejoice over setting the supper table for FIVE people.  Whenever anyone is not home for supper, she asks when they will be home over and over again.

Having Dan home from college was so much fun! Claire really wishes that Ohio wasn't so far away from Mississippi.

When Daddy and brothers join in, the music is the best.

Daddy brought a "flower present" for Claire.  She was delighted.  

Ben is always good for a fuzzy hug even if he is really busy with his last year of Law School and working at a local law firm.  

It was really sad to see everyone go back to work or school and leave us with just TWO people home for most of every day. When Daddy or Ben has to work late, supper time isn't nearly as much fun.
In fact, we would get really depressed over the quiet around here if it weren't for one very exciting fact.

There is a little boy in China running around showing off a picture of his new family.  

It is a bit of a shock, so you can't expect him to look too excited all at once. It is a very big idea to process.

Do you think this looks like a good idea?

What do you guys think?  Does this look like a good family for me?

Oh my goodness!  It is Claire. 

Claire is very excited.  She really covets the role of "jie jie" even though being the "mei mei" has lots of perks.
Every night, she points out which chair will be for her "di di" and wants to know when we can have SIX people at our table. 

Whenever we are sitting at the hospital waiting for another test or to see the next specialist, she keeps busy by making a list of things we need to get ready.  She wants us to hurry and buy socks and underwear, and a pillow and a special blanket.  She wants a toothbrush and a towel in the bathroom right now.  With each new stack of paperwork that we send off, she sings her "Hurry up, China" song...then sighs, "wait a minute, wait a minute."

 I tend to sigh right along with her.   Having already met this precious little guy, played with him, and held him in my arms while we were in China to pick up Claire, I'm finding the wait feels much harder. Perhaps we will have another lazy afternoon soon, and I can share my perspective on adding to our family so soon.

For now, I need to go pry someone off the couch with my standard, "No more, too much TV."