Tuesday, April 24, 2012

focus on the good, not the sucky

It is 9:09 p.m.  I have five kids upstairs in bed and asleep.  The kitchen is minimally cleaned up, but I still have to make three of the four lunches for school tomorrow because Sauce decided to make his own tonight (he also put away his clean laundry without being asked - who is that kid???).

It feels like 11:45 p.m.

I ran into a friend at the park today (on account of the rare warm spell) who joked with me that she is stalking my blog for an update.

There is such a mixed bag of what goes on each day, and it is against my nature not to share both.  So, I'll start with the sucky, and because we are all focusing on the good, I will end with that.

Thanks for sticking with me.


  • I had to get out of bed ten times last night.  Maybe more.  She wakes up scared to death - anywhere between two and ten times each night.
  • Sleep apnea might be contributing to her night troubles and we're investigating that medically.
  • I had to work hard to muster a smile for anyone this morning and there was more than one tear.
  • Squirt's adjustment has manifested in fear of bad guys and often being sad when I drop him off at school.
  • I am ready to fire the housekeeper.  Wait, I don't have one.  I cannot keep my house clean for the life of me - even to my sadly low standards.
  • My new state of family-cocoon works to prevent me from seeing friends socially.  I saw a couple of preschool parents by chance at the park this morning as I was trying to exhaust my daughter enough to submit to a long(er) nap (failed by the way).  I realized that this has to be the new normal for now.
  • I don't answer a lot of phone calls or initiate them either.
  • For now, I can't handle more than finding my balance in my new normal.


  • Our boys ADORE their sister.  They have been the loft to my balloon when I'm discouraged.  Even when she is rotten to them, they are nothing but devoted to her.
  • She goes to bed without protest and has adapted to a bedtime routine beautifully.
  • We are still getting meals from loving friends (we've been home since 3/29).  I have already announced to all dependent parties that I have forgotten how to cook.
  • Every day I take tags off of new items of clothing for Joya.  And I haven't purchased a thing on my own dime.
  • She lets me put "pretties" in her hair and we admire my work together.
  • Through our pre-bedtime rocking chair time, she has learned where her nose, ears, eyes, hair, mouth, and fingers are.  We work on more each night.
  • She understands everything we say in English.  I'm sure she's going to start spouting out sentences when we least expect it.
  • Normally not ticklish or physically playful, today I got some full blown belly laughs when I gobbled on her armpits during a diaper change.  And she wanted more.  Smile.
  • Despite my Beloved's busy travel schedule, I have been able to keep up with the Taxi-Mom demands of the boys' schedules.
  • I take great joy in my boys' enjoying their interests.  We have spring soccer going on and The Hunter and my man both read The H^nger Game$ series together (I read them last year).  I know there is controversy surrounding exposing kids to this series, but for this boy it was a great opportunity to connect and talk about big life topics and I'm glad we encouraged him.
  • I have great adoptive moms in my life who only need a one-sentence text from me before they call to encourage me through the tough stuff.  No offense, but now I know you have to go through it to understand.
  • Last weekend I was able to go to Denver to the "Empowered to Connect" conference based on the book "The Connected Child" and the work of Dr. Karyn Purvis, PhD. and Director of the TCU Institute of Child Development.  I learned more about investing in my home-grown kids than I ever imagined and came home encouraged and ready to start fresh.  Plus I slept without interruption for TWO nights while I was away.
  • My neighbor brought me a beautiful potted orchid yesterday and wasn't offended in the least when I had to cut our visit short to put my tired girl down for her too-short nap.
  • One of my very best friends here knows I'm sleep deprived and struggling to ride the waves of this new journey.  Each morning she texts me an encouragement from scripture and asks how she can pray for me and if she can help me by doing a grocery run or other tangible task.  Did I mention that she has six kids of her own???  I am one lucky lady.
  • I could go on with the good, but I will end with the fact that this "trial" which is really such joy mixed with adjustment, has enriched my marriage to a wonderful new level.  My Beloved has been transformed by the emotion/struggle/joy/fullness of our experience.  He is more tender and passionate about all of us.  He is quick to find humor as well as flexible to our unpredictable needs despite the demands on him to provide financially for this family of seven.  Next month we will celebrate 15 years of marriage.  He is the rock that keeps us all centered and I simply adore him.

Monday, April 16, 2012

small victories

I have a post written in my drafts folder describing some of the realities of how hard these last three weeks have been.

I don't want to forget how hard it has been.  I don't think I will, simply because I haven't been glossing it over to other people either.  Many people have asked me how it is going and I have been truthful in responses.

It is like nothing else I have experienced.

It is harder than having a newborn, for sure.

The days are pretty good, but we covet sleep.

It is just hard, but I'm looking forward to finding a new normal in my life, free of the newness, free of visitors (doesn't mean I don't love them), and in a solid routine.

I have tried to take the time to explain to several people WHY it is so hard, but the words just don't do it justice.  Part of the reason is that it is a uniquely lonely time.  There is no one that can come in and fix what is wrong, we just have to trudge on through.

I have been clinging to the knowledge that God works through the tough stuff in life.  I know He does, but I just felt like a constant failure.  We love this girl so much and there is so much hurt for her to overcome.  We can't do it for her.  We can only be here to help her through it.

At one particularly teary moment for me, I sobbed to a friend, "I know that God is here, but I don't feel Him.  I don't see His power in all of this and I want to so badly!!!"

Three things happened over the last 24 hours that gave me some peace and hope.

1.  At our couples' Bible study last night, while hashing through the topic of prayer, my eyes came across a note I wrote in my Bible long ago in 1 John regarding verse 5:4 ("for everyone born of God overcomes the world.")  At some point in time I wrote down a quote by author Max Lucado - "In your frustration you wonder where the power of God is.  Be patient.  God is using today's difficulties to strengthen you for tomorrow.  He is equipping you.  The God who makes things grow will help you bear fruit.  Dwell on the fact that God lives within you.  Think about the power that gives you life."

I'm being equipped.  He's with me.  And I'm grateful.

2.  We had a great day today!  Particularly, nap time  (which has been a time of panic, grief, and lots of screaming) went more smoothly than ever and it gave me hope that we WILL get there.  We played outside, read stories, laughed, and snuggled.  She jibber-jabbered more than ever to us (mandarin maybe?  two year old talk, for sure).  Tonight, she saw that my phone was sitting on Kenyon's lap and she leaned over and picked it up and said, "Mama, (then some jibberish equal to "here's your phone")!"  We all laughed at what a smarty pants she is.

3.  I read THIS by my sister in-law and felt comforted by the fact that she has been to a place much darker than I am right now and now she is on the other side with hind sight perspective and COMFORT.

She gave me the gift of comfort in darkness as well.

So, to sum it up - it has been hard, but it is getting better.  Small victories keep me pressing on with hope.

Easter was fun - but our family photo was pathetic.  Rufus was actually in a good mood but wanted to spoil the picture on purpose.  Sweet, huh?

best of easter 2012

She was sure cute though.

easter dress 

We rock rock rock to sleep each afternoon and night.


Our friends that we met in China sent us this.  We want this for her room:

joya drive

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

the bond that heals

If you didn't hear me in my last post, let me just say again how appreciative we are for all of the support we are receiving.  So many people are pursuing us through phone calls and emails and face to face visits.

P1010421 Of course, not one person can resist our daughter's cuteness.

She is magical for sure.

As she is exposed to more and more of our wonderful friends and social circles, I have found myself needing to put this post out there.

Joya has been put through a significant trauma.  She wasn't physically abused, but her emotional life was turned upside down less than three weeks ago when we took her from her foster family and her birth country and culture.

Although she greets most everyone with a "Ha-low" (hello) and has smiles and funny faces and songs that draw us all in, she is still learning who her forever family is.  If you have been reading our China posts, you know that initially she was clinging to Kenyon.  She didn't want anything to do with me for the first week.

Slowly, she tolerated me and allowed me to be the food maker, poop checker, and snot wiper.  But she still almost exclusively wanted her dad.

P1010464 Now that we are home, she is not panicked when Kenyon is out of sight.  In fact, he is out of town on business for two days and she and I have made some strides.  She comes to me for her needs and accepts affection and comfort from me - she has even initiated affection toward me, which is HUGE to me.

When entering a room, 'normal' toddlers will usually hang back a bit and look to their parents for a 'read' on the situation.  They are cautious and will take cues from their parents on how they are to act in that environment, with those people.

Because she has only been with us 2.5 weeks, Joya still looks to everyone as potential caregivers.

P1010442 Our main issue at this point in time is trying to help Joya to realize that we are her parents.  While we are so excited for everyone to meet her, I hope you will understand when we redirect her back to ourselves if she asks you to pick her up.  Please feel free to smile at and engage her, blow kisses and talk to her, but please resist the urge to scoop her up and squeeze her.

I know, it is tough to resist.

If she wants food, feel free to bring it to our attention, but it is really important that we be the ones to feed her or "deliver" her food to her.  It's not that we don't want to share her or that we don't want you to touch her.  It's that she needs to learn who her parents are and attach to us in a healthy way.

IMG_0479This takes time and we want to do it right.  We are hoping that you can all understand that we don't desire to be overprotective, but we want to prevent any long term emotional problems by doing this well.  When we see this secure attachment forming, we'll be encouraging her to have relationships with other adults as we do with our sons.

So, please come see us and enjoy our entertaining children!  We know you'll do nothing but support us and thank you in advance for honoring our request.

Monday, April 2, 2012


Hello friends.

I can tell you that the number of responses we received while we were in China, combined with the requests for updates within the five days we have been home have been heartwarming and overwhelming.  Thank you for your love and support during this life changing experience.  We woke up every morning in China and would immediately boot up our iPad to see what you all had to say to us while we were sleeping via blog, faceb**k, or email.

P1010100You gave us a support network and a connection to "home," and we thank you sincerely.  We think your support is priceless.

Our experience is going to take several (many?) posts to do justice, so while I have your ear (eyes?), I will tell you that I intend to do so.  Be patient with me because between my body's (as well as my daughter's) lagging time zone acknowledgement, as well as managing FIVE kids, will require an act of God to get regular blog posts out to you.

Start praying people.  Um, I meant now... yeah, take a break and pray. ;-)

So, in characteristic form, this sleep-deprived post will end in pertinent bullet points devoted to the "need-to-know" (or maybe the slightly entertaining):   (YES, I LIKE USING PARENTHESES TONIGHT!!!!!)

  • We returned to find out that our generous friends from various circles have signed up to bring us dinners every other night until the end of April (and one supply of rockin' frozen banana P1010004pancakes to microwave on my many my crazy mornings).  My dear friend Deb, who also hosted my awesome toddler shower in January, coordinated it all and we are just in awe.  Side note:  I am the girl who will NEVER turn down an offer for a dinner I don't have to make myself!!!  All we can say is THANK YOU!!!!  Such a simple thing helps so tremendously (especially for this non-cook)!!!
  • My dear friend Amy, who first introduced me to orphans with my trip to a Russian orphanage in 2006, has offered (okay, agreed to) creating Joya's "Gotcha Video" because she is UBER talented on the video-making-to-drive-you-to-tears-and-cherish-forever stuff.  Now, I just have to mail her the jump drive with the 5 GB of photos and video.  Put aside your box of tissues now.  No, I'm serious.  Do it!
  • My mom and favorite aunt were here P1010268for eight days before we came home (taking over for my only and cherished sister/BFF/soulmate to take care of our boys) and stayed until today.  We could not have made it through jet lag and Joya's crying nights without their help during the days.   How do you ever say an adequate thank you for such great sacrifices?  We are without words.  Mom - my husband is thinking of moving you in with us just for more of your sandwiches.
  • Joya is doing well considering we have only had her with us for 15 days, counting the 4.5 days here at home.  My Beloved made an accurate observation that her "renewed" grief since we've been home is likely because she is so stinkin' smart (save for college or not?) and has pieced together the fact that she is now with the people she has seen in her photo book for months now, and realizes that she is never returning to live with her foster family.  She cries out in the night for her foster mom and expresses genuine anxiety and panic when she realizes that it is close to bed time (which we did NOT see at any of our stops in China).  Her grief is inconsolable and I am jealous for the newborn experience when I could comfort and nurse a child back to sleep.  Not so now.  I ride the wave and die to my own desires - purely by asking and receiving from God's grace (my BFF's will tell you that I am NOT a woman who functions well on sleep deprivation).  She has been through a pure trauma and I will not traumatize her even more.
  • She is having GREAT days though.  Awake time is happy time filled with puzzles, playing, eating, and learning.  Very fun and we are really enjoying it - every one of us.
  • The boys are LOVING it.  Kenyon has mentioned that if we didn't have the support of our little men for our new pink addition, he just might have thoughts of regretting the decision.  But he doesn't because he is just smitten with her in every way, shape, and form, and so are our men.
  • Her attachment to her Daddy has lessened from panic to affection.  We both realize that it was really an attachment of safety and security, not of emotional connection.  That is okay with us for sure, but we are both looking forward to connecting with her in a GENUINE and growing love for each other.  It is growing and changing every day.
  • I am so grateful for my in-laws and their willingness to honor my request to come from Pennsylvania for my boys' spring break.  These grandparents definitely wanted to meet our new addition, but they are going to be such a help to us while the boys are on break and Joya still needs quite a bit of attention in order to bond with her mommy and daddy.  My husband's mom has a special gift for cooking projects, treasure hunts, and group outings.  I asked, and they honored.  Again, thank you just doesn't cut it.
  • I still have so much to say about our trip.  I want to tell you about the reality of adoption, the amazing organization "Love Without Boundaries", and the complete dissolving of our "American" impression of the nation and people of China.  So, at the very least, count on that from me.
  • And pictures..... lots of pictures.  (C'mon, you know I love the shock value!!!)P1010082

About Me

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Messy and wonderful perfectly describes my life as a wife and mom of five. I'm passionate about advocating for orphans by telling their stories and encouraging adoption and orphan care. My schedule is messy and wonderful as I am charged with four sons and one daughter. We love living in our little mountain ski town. We do a little camping, a little skiing, a little hunting, and a lot of laughing and loving. Life is dirty and loud around here but we wouldn't want it any other way. Okay, maybe a little less dirty!

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