Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Thankful { for Chickens }

Princess came home with an absolutely beautiful book that her entire class put together. Each child wrote a sentence and then drew a lovely picture.

Her classmates were thankful for God, baby brothers, moms, dads, family, baby Jesus.

And my little Princess? Well she was thankful for CHICKEN.

She doesn't even eat chicken. Nor is she ever around live chickens.

I had to laugh. Let's count all the things little Princess should be thankful for--complete healing, a wonderful therapist, occupational therapy that is really making a difference in her life, health, hearing. Oh the list goes on.

But my little Princess doesn't see those things. No she is just an ordinary kid, going about her ordinary life, and is blind to the extraordinary miracles that make up her life. She does not see herself as the child who almost didn't survive past the age of two, who waited way too long for open heart surgery, who was almost deaf, who didn't know how to eat or swallow until almost 3 years old, who suffered more trauma than anyone I know.

Nope her life is chickens.

I'm pretty happy she views herself like that.

She's happy.

And that makes this mama very thankful.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Living A Messy Life

Thirteen years ago, my husband and I had a very clear picture of what our family would looks like.

Two kids. Girls, of course, because they are easier. Neater. Calmer. They would be exactly two years apart, and exceptionally well-behaved.

It's almost laughable now that I look at my life.

I have two rowdy, crazy, always-into-dirt/bugs/mud/any sport boys. Think pet praying mantis, lizards, and cicadas. And one wild, ready to breakdown at any moment, girly girl. Think tantrum in a tutu and tiara.

They are a perfect mess. There is nothing neat or calm at my house.

Princess is working through trauma and as parents we are stepping into new territory that we never imagined. We are committed to walking through this with her--because she is worth it--because our family is worth it.

But I'd be lying if there weren't days where I wished my family didn't have to face the mess of trauma. Where I wished all three of my kids knew love since their first breath. There are those days when I don't think I have a single more ounce of love or patience to give. How I'm not sure I can meet anyone's needs--especially Princess' the next day.

And, you know what, I get up the next morning and fumble through it all over again. God drops little gifts every once in a while: Grandparents who understand Princess and sit with her, love her, and are patient with her. Or a friend who unexpectedly calls and invites Princess over and gives me an all day break. These things come at the most unexpected and needy times.

Then there's the church service where we are reminded that we are called to live messy lives.

Jesus didn't walk the face of this Earth with perfect, all-together people. He sought out the messiest, trauma-ridden people. He didn't sit in a beautiful house, with his perfect family, and watch the world go by. No he got in the mess--fully emerged himself in it--in fact he sought it out.

We were created to roll up our sleeves and get muddy. We were created for mess. And if we view our parenting as a holy calling--a calling like no other--then it only makes sense that we are equipped to survive and thrive in the mess of parenting.

Hardly ever do I feel like I'm thriving. But I get holy glimpses of it--like when all three of my kids play together;  laughing, talking, working together. Or a little girl who asks for her daddy when she so often rejects him. Or my middle guy, who is only 7, asking to send his toys to orphans because they have nothing and he has everything he needs.

They are fleeting, perfect glimpses of the hard, messy work of parenting.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Back To Work {Pieces of Me}

Last week I received an email that I hadn't gotten in a long, long time. Three years to be exact. A magazine, one I used to write for a lot, contacted me to write an article.

I have to say, my heart skipped a beat. 

In my former life--aka before kids--I was an editor and a freelance writer. When my Big Boy came along, I quit my job at the publishing company and became a full time freelance writer/editor.  Same job. But I could just do it from the living room. I also started writing for a magazine on a monthly basis. 

I loved every single minute of it. When my second boy came along, I balanced my interview/work schedule around naps. Thank goodness they both slept three hours every day. At the same time. It was a small miracle and I was an expert at manipulating sleep schedules.  Every night, I wrote. I worked around 30 hours a week. 

Then Princess came. 

And I immediately knew there was no way I could work. I was exhausted all the time. She never napped without me. There just wasn't enough of me to go around. So I said no to a few jobs. Then eventually people stopped calling me. 

Until last week. 

And I said yes. Because things are getting better here. Things are under control. 

I have interviews scheduled while Princess is in school. And I plan to write during her OT and speech sessions. 

Please don't get me wrong, I love being a mom. I love devoting myself to my kids. But this is a piece of me that has been dormant for so long. Even though my book, One Thousand And One Tears, just came out, it took three years to publish it! There just wasn't time. 

Finally, there's time. For a little piece of me. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Follow Your Gut

For a long time, I knew something was wrong with the way Princess responded to every day things. Her excitement is off the charts. When I picked her up from her field trip last week, her pupils were dilated, she ran screaming down the school hallway, and even banged on classroom windows before I could catch her.

It took two hours to calm her down.

Over the years, I've gotten lots and lot of advice.

She'll grow out of it.

Try a naughty chair.

You let her get away with too much.

Take something away from her.

My kid does the same thing.

She's just really, really happy!

None of that advice sat well. I knew her behavior, as disrupting as it was and is, was out of her control.

That is until today.

Turns out, she has a sensory processing disorder. Her brain does not know how to regulate itself in transitions, especially exciting ones. She has inappropriate responses.

We start OT next week.

This isn't the first time Princess has been in OT. But no one has ever mentioned sensory issues to me. Her last OT was through the school: they taught her how to hold a pencil, cut with scissors, color. All good things.But I cannot tell you how excited I am that we finally know why she is so hyper. We finally have a plan. I am confident we are on the right track.

I cannot wait to watch her change and grow and understand her feelings. Since we met her three years ago, this protective shell that was built up around her has been coming off piece by piece. We have this amazing little girl, who simply needs some guidance as she grows. And I am so thankful I get a front row seat.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Sign Posts

When we accepted Princesses' referral, I remember feeling like God was telling us to hang on for a ride. But I also clearly felt like he would provide everything that we would need to parent this little girl.

Little did I know how much help we would need.

Princess needs OT to help regulate her emotions. She gets very high, very fast. When she's excited she'll do anything from squealing, talking at warp speed in a high pitched voice, or even wet her pants. But she can't go to just any therapist. I was looking for a very specific one: Someone who does the program How Does Your Engine Run, works with adopted kiddos, is familiar with TheraPlay and will work with our TheraPlay therapist, and takes our insurance. And I really wanted it close to home.

Mama was on a mission.

Which I completely and utterly failed. I left messages, sent emails, did everything but knock down doors. No one ever responded. I even had a referral!

Then we went to speech on Tuesday. We've been going here for three years, it is five minutes from my house, and unfortunately they don't have an OT.

That is until Tuesday. Our speech therapist introduced us to her. To say she is perfect for Princess is an understatement.


I think not.

My husband reminded me of all the times God has show us his hand in Princess's life. Some are small, some are big. But each remind of of his promise to her and to us.

This week it was an OT. But it in the past it's been...

An anonymous donor who paid for her open-heart surgery in China and ultimately saved her life. When the orphanage had previously refused to get her any medical treatment.

An ENT who studied problems (like frequent infections) specifically in Asian ears. And was able to widen her ear canals to help her hear.

The only spot left in preschool, with over 50 applicants, that was given to her.

Boxes of clothes left for her on my porch. Repeatedly.

Expedited passports in China.

Ears that can hear.

A healthy heart--thanks to the donor we will never meet.

A best friend.

A kindergarten teacher who "gets" her--the good and sometimes the hard stuff.

The list goes on and on and on. And if I slow down long enough, there are so many other sign posts in her life. I pray I don't miss them.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Parenting With a Purpose {Visionary Parenting}

My husband and I took a hard look at our parenting style last night. We admitted it's mostly about survival. Getting the kids from one place to the other. Making sure they eat are safe and mostly happy. We try to squeeze family time in as much as possible.

But for the most part we are on survival mode. Some days the happiest time is bedtime.

Our Bible study started Visionary Parenting yesterday, which you can find  here. It was eye opening and sobering.

Dr. Rob Rienow starts the series off by asking what do you hope your children look like when they're 20? 40? 80?

What do you want to be the center of their lives?

What we do now, matters to them then--when we are long gone.

And then he gave us the very well-known Bible verse: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. If you've ever been to Sunday School, you've probably heard that verse from Deuteronomy 6:4. But it's what comes in the verses after it that really put us in our place last night.

It goes on to command:  Keep these words...Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 

As in make time every single day, multiple times a day, to teach them about God. Because, frankly, all the carpools and soccer games and playdates won't really matter when they are 40 or 80. This is the stuff--their hearts--that's what really matters. That's where we should put all our time and energy.

So we started a new thing last night. We asked our kids for prayer requests. Yes, bedtime took a lot longer. Yes, I exhausted. But it was amazing what was on their little hearts, what worries them, what they think about.

We have a long way to go. But our Bible study challenged us to stop looking at the short-term day to day struggles and start focusing our long-term goals for our kids. Have you thought about your kids past today? What will they look like in 20 years? How about in 50 years? And what are you doing to help shape them?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Normal {Touching Grace}

Six months ago, we made the painful decision that Princess would undero a double Mastoidectomy.

She had suffered ear infections her entire life. She was also rapidly losing hearing.

It is not a pretty surgery. Or recovery. Six hours under the knife and almost a year for a full recovery.

There are no guarantees that hearing will be restored. In fact, it could be worse. Much worse. The main goal was to eliminate the infection near her brain with the hope of restoring some hearing.

She failed her first hearing test.

Then another.

Then another.

Last month, she had her ears completely scraped out--also traumatic--and cleaned.

Then she had another hearing test, which she failed.

She wasn't even close to the normal range.

The surgeon said it could be a million things--she wasn't really interested in the test, her ears were still swollen, or maybe, she need hearing aides.

Today we went for her fourth test. We knew if she failed this one, she'd need a hearing aid.

I watched her go into the booth. And I could hear the sounds and I watched her throw the ball in response to each ping.

The audiologist was almost giddy as she graphed her results.

"She can hear it! She can hear it! She can hear it!" She exclaimed as the pings got softer and softer.

So in the end, the Princess has completely normal hearing in her right ear. She can hear whispers and the wind blowing in the trees. Her left ear isn't as good. She is slightly below normal, which means she could not hear whispers.

But, the brain compensates for it. Isn't that amazing how God made our bodies?

As we drove home, I knew once again her little life had been touched by grace.

She has been given the gift of hearing.

And what a glorious gift it is.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Angels {Protection for the Orphans}

Probably one of the hardest things for my mommy heart is knowing that my Princess endured open heart surgery all by herself. As far as we can tell, her orphanage nanny dropped her off at the hospital then picked her up a few weeks later.

Who held her?

Who rocked her?

Who dried her tears?

I've seen this child after surgery, I know how desperately she wants and needs to be held and rocked and cuddled.

When she was in China, I specifically prayed that God would make himself known to her little heart.  I never really expected an answer to calm my heart.

But she recently drew this.

And when I asked her what it was she said her angel.

But she explained that it was no ordinary angel. No, this angel only came a few times. She told me she saw him in the operating room at Daddy's hospital when she had her surgery. But he left when we came back to sit by her in recovery.

But, she saw him for the first time when she cried in her sleep. In China. In the hospital.

He came every single night. Because he knew she was all alone. And her mommy wasn't there.

And he wasn't even scary.

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Friday, September 28, 2012

Blog Hop! {Still Open}

I have met some amazing families through the blog hop!

I was asked to open it back up again. So go ahead and grab the link and link up!

Happy hopping!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Adoption Blog Hop! {Meet Some Inspiring Mama's}

Welcome to the Adoption Blog Hop.

I spend so much time searching for adoption blogs, I thought it would be fun to have a blog hop!  I love to follow adoption journeys. So grab a cup of coffee and meet some inspiring Mama's.

Please follow as many fellow bloggers as possible.When you stop by their blog, leave them a comment and show them some love! I would love it if you followed my blog, too.

Grab the button, spread the word, and have fun!

Can't wait to meet you!


Sunday, September 23, 2012

I Am A Soccer Mom {Why We Said Yes To Travel Teams}

"You're crazy!" my girlfriend exclaimed after I told her our weekend soccer schedule.

My 4th grader had four (yes four) soccer games and my little guy had one. And they were all at least 30 minutes away. They both play travel soccer. After years of saying no, we finally caved and let them tryout this year. And, while it has been a huge commitment, it was the best decision we ever made.

My girlfriend thought I was crazy with a Capital C, not only because we drive to games, but because my boys play soccer three times a week. So that means I am carting them from field to field throughout the week.

But what I think she's missing, and this is exactly why we do it, kids who play an intense sport have to be disciplined. In everything. The rule is if your homework is not done (or if you've done poorly at school that day) you don't play. If you don't play, you could lose that precious spot you've worked so hard for. So they are motivated to do well in school, come home, and get their homework done, so they can get to practice.

My little guy, who is only in first grade and is playing on the second grade team, can sit still now. His teacher told me that playing soccer is just as important as his homework. Because he needs to be physical. He needs to be in a constructive environment. He craves it.

And even though they spend so much time on the field, they are still able to play with their friends outside, attend all the regular church activities, and have family time. What they don't do now is watch TV or play video games. Ever.

We looked at several clubs before we allowed our boys to tryout. Some practiced five days a week, which I wasn't ready for. Others were horribly expensive (as in thousands of dollars), which I also wasn't willing to do. We finally settled on a club in our hometown that is sponsored by the park district. I loved the coaching philosophy--they want the kids to grow up loving soccer and to learn how to be team players. Plus the price was right.

But the real beauty of travel soccer it is sitting on the sidelines every weekend and watching your kid on the field playing a game he loves with teammates he's bonded with. The competition is getting tougher and tougher. But they have risen to the challenge.

And cheering on the sidelines is exactly where this soccer mom loves to be every weekend.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Passing the Umbrella: {Seeing the Invisible}

A few weeks ago, we went to an outside church service. Like every other Sunday, we were running late. We didn't even think about grabbing an umbrella. As soon as we sat down, the skies opened. Everyone around us had an umbrella--meanwhile my poor kids huddled under my arms, desperately trying to stay dry.

It didn't take long for someone to take pity on us. He passed us his umbrella.  He stood in the rain and got wet, so my kids could stay dry.

I can't remember what that service was about, but my kids still talk about passing the umbrella. The guy didn't say a word to us. He simply handed us something we  needed.

Last week, we saw a homeless man that we've seen on and off since we moved six years ago. My middle guy wanted to give him food, which we didn't have in the car.  So he settled for praying for him. We quickly prayed that we would have an opportunity to help him.

Honestly, I didn't give the guy much thought after that. I saw him a few times wandering up and down the major street in our town. But I figured there was no real way for me to help him. He was invisible to everyone who sped up and down the street--even to me.

Fast forward to Saturday night. While we were eating dinner at a pretty nice restaurant, and the homeless man walked in. He chose the seat next to mine.

My kids noticed right away. And so did the waitress. She quickly assured us that he came in a few nights a week for a Coke and to get out of the cold. Then she asked if we wanted to switch tables.

To be honest, he smelled. Talked to himself. Swayed back and forth. Wore multiple layers of tattered clothes. I was a little taken aback.

But my kids were watching.

So instead we stayed put. And bought him dinner.

My prayer for my kids is that they will not only see invisible people, but actually do something. That they are brave enough to stay put, stand in the rain, and pass the umbrella.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Versatile Blogger Award

The Versatile Blogger Award

Thank you Megan from {All Things New} for nominating me for the Versatile Blogger Award! It's my first award I feel so honored.

1. Nominate up to 15 fellow bloggers.
2. Let the nominated bloggers know that they have been nominated for this award.
3. Share 7 random facts about yourself.
4. Thank the blogger who has nominated you.
5. Add the Versatile Blogger Award picture to your post.

My Nominees:

7 Random Facts about Me:
1. I don't like chocolate. M and M's gross me out!
2. My dog is 12 years old and part Lab and part handsome stranger. She is my first baby.
3. I drink only one cup of coffee a day. It is more cream than coffee.
4. I joined a gym 9 months ago. It has been the saving grace for my sanity.
5. I was a cheerleader in high school.
6. I was also the drum major in high school my marching band is in the movie The Fugitive.
7. I met my husband the first week in college. But I refused to go on a date with him for a year. Good thing he kept asking!

Stop by some of the blogs I listed and show 'em some love!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Stepping Out in Faith

Every parent has heard these whiny words: But I don’t want to.

The phrase usually flies out of my kids’ mouths when I’m asking them to do things like eat their vegetables, take a bath, or brush their teeth. I don’t ask them to do these things because I take great pleasure is seeing them uncomfortable, but rather because I love them and want them to be healthy.

The last time my four year old whined how much he didn’t want to eat his green beans, he added that mommies never have to do anything they don’t want to do. I tried not to laugh and reminded him about all the loads of laundry I wash, the dishes I scrub, and the toilets I clean. But I also couldn’t help but wonder how many times I’ve told God I didn’t want to do something because it took me too far out of my comfort zone.

I’ll be the first to admit it: I like to be comfortable. I don’t really like unexpected changes or challenges. When we traveled to China to adopt our daughter in August of 2009, I knew I was taking the biggest leap of faith in my life. While I was prepared for our princess to have cleft lip and palate and a repaired congenital heart disease, I was not ready for my new two year old daughter to be so delayed that she was more like a three month old baby.

While I loved the Princess from the minute I saw her picture, and the love grew even more when I held her for the first time, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t completely devastated to learn that she didn’t know how to walk, how to play with toys, or even how to turn the page of a book. As I watched other parents receive their children, I couldn’t help but notice that their kids could all walk, would smile, and laugh. I found myself asking God why me? Why was my beautiful daughter completely shutdown? Why didn’t she look at us? Why couldn’t she walk? Why did she only weigh 15 pounds?

As I wallowed in my own self-pity, my husband told me something that I already knew: God doesn’t give you more than you can handle. Let him work. Give him control. Then he gently reminded me that we prayed for God to lead us to our daughter. It was no mistake that we were her parents. So we took our daughter home and settled into our new, sometimes uncomfortable, normal as a family of five.

Five years later, and many, many developmental therapy and speech seasons later, Princess is catching up to her peers. She is smart, spunky, and full of energy. It hasn’t always been easy, but stepping out of my comfort zone has allowed me to experience a new joy. I’m no longer going through the motions of my faith, but I get to experience and see God in a deep and profound way.

I don’t want to think about what I would have missed if I had simply said, “ I don’t want to do this. Adoption is too hard.”

Are you listening to God? Is he asking you to do something? What would happen if you simply trusted him and stepped out in faith?

{I wrote this post for And it appeared there first.}

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

60 Things I Wish Strangers Knew about Adoption

1. Yes, she is my daughter.
2. Luck had nothing to do with her adoption.
3. How much did she cost? Nothing. You can't buy a baby.
4. But if you want to know how much adoption costs--google it.
5. If you want to know how to finance an adoption, I'll talk to you.
6. No, I do not know her biological history.
7. Yes, we knew she had special needs when we chose her.
8. No, we were not paid to adopt her.
9. Yes, I do realize there are a ton of kids right here in the United States that need homes...there's also kids in Russia, Ukraine, Ethiopia, and a host of other countries. When will you be adopting or becoming a foster parent?
10.  When she runs up and hugs you, she is not just a really cute, affectionate child. She has an attachment disorder, please don't hug her.
11. Your bio kid may be able to throw a world-class tantrum, but my daughter has one for totally different reasons--mostly because she is scared we will leave her--so please, please don't compare the two.
12. No, we are not infertile.
13. No, we did not adopt just to get that cute little girl we can dress in tutu's.
14. Yes, it is hard. Sometimes very, very hard. Especially the attachment stuff.
15. Yes, we have help. Professional help.
16. Yes, it costs a lot of money.
17. To see her grow and blossom makes it totally worth it.
18. She may want to go back to her birth country one day.
19. I want to go with her.
20. We will play for her college.
21. She is our daughter!
22. I know her nose is crooked.
23. That is part of her cleft.
24. And, yes, it will be repaired when she is done growing.
25. Of course, she knows she has cleft. We have mirrors.
26. She can hear you when you ask. And you're embarrassing yourself.
27. She is under our insurance--because she's our daughter!
28. No, I do not wish I'd given birth to her.
29. She is fearfully and wonderfully made.
30.  I wouldn't change a thing about her.
31. That goes for her cleft, too.
32. I'd agree that a lot of kids would thrive with their birth families even if that means being raised by grandma and grandpa or an aunt and uncle.
33. Unfortunately because of government policies and poverty, a lot of people don't have that choice. So they are forced to make choices most of us can't even imagine.
34. Even so, I believe this is Plan A for her life.
35. I also believe adoption is redemption in a fallen world.
36. Yes, she calls me Mommy.
37. No, it wasn't hard.
38. No, it wasn't love at first sight.
39. But I didn't fall madly in love with the two babies I birthed either.
40. Yes, it was scary to board a flight to China to meet my new daughter.
41. But so was going to the hospital to give birth.
42. Yes, I think about her birthmother.
43. I wish we knew who she was.
44. I wish we could tell her that the little girl she gave the gift of life to is loved, adored, and thriving.
45. She calls our parents grandma and grandpa--just like the other grandchildren. You know, because she's our daughter and part of the family.
46. No, she does not speak Chinese.
47. Maybe someday she will take a class and learn it. But language is not biologically ingrained.
48. I don't know if she has biological siblings.
49. You're right she doesn't look a thing like her two older brothers.
50. Just because we adopted does not make us saints.
51. I did not have to beg my husband to adopt. He was always on board.
52. From the first piece of paper to holding her in our arms, the entire process took 18 months.
53. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
54. For her.
55. Do my kids have different dads? Well, yes, as a matter of fact they do.
56. But they have the same daddy.
57. Yes, she does rule the roost.
58. Probably because she's the only girl.
59. Yes, she wears her tiara everywhere.
60. She is a real princess.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Parenting a Traumatized Child {Understanding Her Past}

My first baby was well planned.

I ate well.

Took vitamins.

Even got extra sleep.

And then when he was finally born, I spent hours holding him, singing to him, reading to him, just being with him. He attached within days, maybe even hours.

We'd page the doctor if he so much as sneezed. OK we were nervous, over-protective, slightly crazy, first-time parents.

But my daughter, on the other hand, spent her first two years in an orphanage.

In a crib. Alone.

She was born with Tetrology of Fallot and cleft lip and palate. And no one called the doctor when she was sick. Actually she was very near death. And, still, no doctor was paged. 

Her heart wasn't repaired until she was well over two years old.

Her cleft wasn't repaired until she was nearly three.

Simply unheard of for slightly crazed, overprotective parents.

But this is the reality of so many adopted kiddos.

So is it any wonder, that they crave attention. But they don't know how to get it? That they can't attach to their mother and father?

Last week at our Theraplay therapy session, my hubby had an Ah-ha moment. Our therapist said that many adopted kids rely on their cuteness to get attention--to become favorites. They smile and hug anyone. My hubby, remembered looking at files that said certain kids were "nanny favorites" in the orphanage.  And the nannies always loved to give them extra attention.

Our daughter was not one of those.

She was just another very sick, actually dying, kid locked away in an orphanage fighting for her life.

I've known all of this since we first got her referral. But there is a difference between knowing and understanding. Because understanding means that I don't get frustrated and stressed when she has her fifth tantrum of the day, for what seems like no reason.


When she clings to me in fear, from something I don't understand.


When she asks me a hundred times a day if I love her.


If she asks me again if I will leave her. 

Instead of frustration and stress, understanding means I have compassion because I know her brain has always been in flight or fight mode. She has fought for her very survival. And there are times, when she's still not sure if we will always be there, always feed her, always love her.

We know that we will never leave her. And that we will love her forever--no matter how she behaves, or what she does, or even how cute she is or tries to act. 

But we have to teach her.

And that takes time and work.

And we've only just begun.

But I have faith that she will be emotionally healed. And she will truly let herself experience the love of a family. And one day, she will realize her place here with us is permanent.

Come back again. I'd love to hear how you are dealing with the past trauma in your child's life. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Oh Happy Workout Wednesday!

I dropped off Evie this afternoon, flew out the Kindergarten doors, clicking my heals because for the first time in a decade all of my kids are in one spot at the same time! I have exactly 3 hours and 8 kid-free minutes every single day.

Those sweet minutes fly by. When school started, I really thought I'd start training for my first half marathon (OK maybe not). I guess I was slightly delusional. But I really believed I'd be walking on a treadmill an hour a day. And for the first time since school started a week and a half ago, I did exactly 47 painful minutes on the treadmill.

I am so out of shape. The summer filled with vacations and desserts probably didn't help. So I feel like I'm starting at square one again. After sweating it out of the treadmill, walking up the steps actually makes me want to cry.

Even still, after joining the gym I've learned:
1. When people say you actually have more energy when you exercise, they aren't lying. I actually do! I don't want to collapse on the couch and take a nap anymore.

2. If you exercise your metabolism will go way up and you can eat just about anything you want. That is a vicious lie--even if I ran for 3 hours a day that bowl of icecream is still going to make me weigh 5 extra pounds in the morning.

3. If I just stopped eating my kids leftover macaroni and cheese, crackers, goldfish,chips, chicken nuggets and anything else they happen to leave on their plate, I might be able to enjoy that bowl of icecream without gaining 5 extra pounds. That is true. I've tested it.

I'll be back in the gym on Friday. This time with my girlfriends--which makes getting there even more worthwhile and fun.

Hope you can get out there and exercise!

Monday, September 3, 2012

A Fundraiser

Adoption brings joy, anticipation, mountains of paperwork and gathering all the funds.

Oh, that can seem impossible. Especially if you are bringing home two.

The orphanage fee alone for two is $5600 X 2=$11,200! Add in the cost of travel and it can seem down right impossible.

Payne and Evie wait in China. And while they wait their Mama over at ajoyfulheart is busy raising funds to bring them home.

She is offering some amazing items like clothes, jewelry, and darling shoes!

One happens to be this book.

So hop on over to ajoyfulheart and bid on it. Help bring Evie and Payne home.

Happy bidding!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Parenting a Traumatized Child {Why There is Hope}

{Definition of Trauma} a disorder psychic or behavioral state resulting from mental or emotional stress or physical injury

Like head banging, lying, stealing, tantrums, guilt, shame, anxiety, fear, withdraw, hyper-activity.

Which have been brought about by abandonment, abuse, neglect, traumatic medical experience.

Many adopted children have experienced more trauma in their short little lives than most people ever do.

And as parents, we often feel lost and alone as our child, the one we prayed for and hoped for, bangs his head on the floor.

Or lies.

Or asks if we love them.

Or if we'll leave them, too.

But, but, but...

{Definition of Hope} to expect with confidence

It's not an easy road.

And it's work.

Dirty, in the trenches, cry yourself to sleep, wonder if it will ever get better work.

But our kids--the ones we love more than we could ever possibly image--are loved even more by their Heavenly Father. And his promise of hope is this:

{Jeremiah 29:11-13} For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Stick around, I'm doing a series on parenting a traumatized child. If you are deep in the trenches, I promise you there is hope.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Why We Are Not Adopting Again

Three years ago, my husband and I stood in front of the orphanage in Beijing, China, and promised we'd be back. We knew it was full of children who were dying, who went to bed hungry every night, and cried for someone, anyone to love them.

We'd always wanted four. It seemed logical: two boys and two girls. Everyone would have a best-friend for life. And the Princess would know the bond of a sister from her birth country.

It sounded beautiful. And we honestly thought that was where God was leading us. He had given us Evie. He had shown us over and over that Evie was our daughter. We had prayed for months, "Bring her home. Bring her home. Bring her home."

And then we landed in Chicago. And discovered the Princess' undisclosed special need-- developmental delays. Not only did she have tetrology of fallot and cleft lip and palate, but she could hardly sit, stand, walk, talk, chew, turn the pages of a book. She was completely and utterly shutdown.

We saw hints of this in China. But we assumed she would wake up and start acting like a two year old. But she never did.

So my new life--the one with only 3 three kids--consisted of juggling them so we could go to PT, OT, developmental therapy, and speech multiple times a week. Plus, all her other doctor visits.

I was exhausted. And that fourth child seemed further and further away. And the guilt of ignoring my two homegrown kids weighed heavily on me.

As time passed, I got into the rhythm of my new normal. And now three years later, things seem almost under control.

But, still, we won't be adopting again.

The Princess needs too much. She is too traumatized, too emotionally fragile, too needy. The honest, bitter truth is another special needs adoption would take too much of my time away from her. There is only so much of me to go around.

We've prayed about this. We've agonized about this. Because we know there are kids who need parents who love them. We know there are kids going to bed tonight with empty bellies, who are cold, alone, and afraid. We know, because that was Evie three short years ago. She was starving--not only for nourishment, but for human touch.

We aren't done with adoption. We just aren't adopting.

So now we are praying, "Use us. Use us. Use us."

And I wonder, how God will use us to care for the orphaned.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Happy Family Day {3 Years Home}

She has come so far. This is is first day of Kindergarten. And her first day with us. Our shutdown, timid girl has blossomed into a beautiful, feisty five year old.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Panda's For Lunch?

At 7:51 on Monday morning a bus will barrel down my street and my kids will be off. School brings lots of emotions.

I'm sad! What will I do without them?

I'm happy! Think what I can do without them.

Anxiety! What will I pack in those lunchboxes. Every. Single.Day.

So like a good mommy I did some research.

And I found this. Seriously cute. It's a Panda made out of rice and other yumminess.

There are people who can carve a flower out of a carrot. And mold sandwiches into cute little caterpillars! Who knew?

If you can do that, I'm envious. But I just don't see myself cutting cheese into little sunshines with big smiley faces made out of olives or raisins. Mommy's not that good with a knife.

So I am back to square one.

Any ideas?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Is She Different?

I was recently asked if the Princess was different from the boys.

My first reaction was, "Umm, yes, she's a GIRL. She plays with dolls, sits quietly, loves princesses..."

But no that was not what this well-meaning person was asking.

What are the differences between giving birth and adopting?

It took a long, long time to get pregnant.

We waited a long, long time for a referral.

Until you're in the abyss of the never-ending paperwork of adoption, you don't understand. Especially if there's a baby on the other side of the world waiting.

Until you take a pregnancy test that's negative, that you really want to be positive, you don't understand.

I kept taking and retaking pregnancy tests...just to make sure.

I kept looking at her pictures...just to make sure she was mine.

I was in shocked when the stick turned blue.

I was shocked when I opened an email and saw my daughter's face.

Labor is perhaps the most painful and scariest thing I've ever done. And I had drugs. Lots of them. So was boarding a plane to China. I really wish I'd had an epidural for that, too.

During labor, we lost the Big Boy's heartbeat. The nurse whispered in my ear, "We're not in the business of losing babies here."

When we stepped off the plane (that's a 14 hour labor) in China, we were told our daughter would not be able to come to the United States because of medical reasons. My husband and I decided we weren't in the business of leaving babies.

The middle one, was born 5 weeks premature. We could see through his skin.

The Princess was so shutdown, we didn't think she could see us.

I wasn't ready for the Middle One to be born.

I wasn't ready to fly to China. But in less than 14 days of getting our TA (travel assignment) we had our daughter in our arms.

I cried when I held the boys.

I cried when I held our daughter.

I cried when I brought the boys home and all my help (AKA Grandma) left me all alone...with them.

I cried when we brought our girl home and all my help (AKA Grandma) left me alone...with three of them.

When I had the Middle One, I felt tremendous (yes, it's silly) guilt that My Big Boy would no longer be my baby.

During the flight to China, I felt that same silly guilt, the Middle One would no longer be my baby.

I told the doctor, before The Middle One was born, that I was done and didn't really need to have another baby. I wanted to go home.

I told my husband when we hit the runway in Beijing to buy me the next ticket home.

When The Middle One was in the NICU, because he couldn't suck or regulate his own body temperature, I wanted nothing more than for my two boys to be in the same place--Home.

When we were in China, and the boys met their baby sister over Skype, I wanted nothing more than for my three babies in the same place--Home.

Three very different stories. Three very different kids.

So, yes, I guess she is different.

But so are the boys.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

You're a Bad Mommy!

My little girl is going to Kindergarten.

Yes, the same little girl who only three years ago was 15 pounds. Who could not stand, walk, eat, or talk. The one who was mostly deaf. And was afraid of the wind blowing, butterflies, birds, grass, loud noises, the dog, strangers. And me.

The girl who did not know how to play. Did not know where or how to sleep. Did not like blankets, pillows, books, or to be rocked to sleep.

That same little girl who had open heart surgery all by herself in China.

Who knew what it felt like to be hungry. The kind of hunger that that is painful. And leaves it's mark on your memory.

The same girl who we wondered if she would ever be able to sit in a classroom, write her name, and say her ABC's.

That girl, is going to Kindergarten, in a typical classroom. And she already has a best friend.

But to go to Kindergarten you have to have a checkup and that means shots.

So my same brave little girl who has survived cleft surgery and a double mastoidectomy since coming home, had all the pain and fury and helplessness that she lived with for so long in China wash right back over here today in the doctors office.

I told her what was happening. I told her it would pinch. And I told her she was a big brave girl. And when it was over we would go home and have a special treat.

But none of that mattered. Because when we layed her down on the table her pupils dilated like a crazed, corner dog, and her skin turned ashen, and she kicked and screamed with every ounce of strength she had.

She kicked me in the face and screamed, "You're a bad mommy!" Over and over and over again.

And honestly, before I understood a traumatized child, I would have said she was out of control. But instead, my heart just broke into a million pieces for her.

She is deeply traumatized. And it is always right under the surface. It took longer than it should have. And the nurse was wonderful and completely understanding. She did get her shots. And when we marched out of the office people stared and whispered.

But I was proud of her.

Because she did it.

It wasn't pretty. But she calmed back down.

And now this little girl gets to go to Kindergarten.

And she couldn't be more excited.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Workout Wednesday

Last year, one of my very best friends begged me to join a gym. I laughed at her and of course, said no way was I going to embarrass myself working out, let alone step foot in a gym. Plus, I didn't have any free time. And if I did, why on earth would I spend it exercising?

As the months went by, I watched my friend change.
Her attitude. Her patience. Her overall happiness. Not to mention her waist.

I wondered if she was on to something.

And honestly, I wasn't in a very good place mentally, emotionally, or physically.
I was constantly in a battle with Evie's tantrums. My kids were running me ragged. I was tired all the time. Not I need a catnap tired, but deep to the core of your bones I can't imagine taking another step tired. My back went into spasms, my shoulder ached, I had put on weight. There were days I wanted to cry all the time.

Finally in December, I agreed to go with my friend. And I stayed there for exactly 28 minutes--because I had read somewhere that 28 minutes on a treadmill was all you needed for a good workout. And truthfully that was all I could muster.

The next morning, my legs ached like I'd just run the Chicago marathon.

But I wanted more.

It became my every day escape.

Over time, I started to notice the changes. I had more energy, more patience, and my back didn't hurt anymore.

And I was happier. And I think a better mom.

Are you up for a challenge? Start small. 28 minutes. That's it. And start walking. Stay tuned and I'll tell you how I worked up to over an hour of exercise a day.

That first 28 minutes will be the best gift you can give yourself.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Middle Child

My kids went to Sport Camp last week at a local church. Throughout the week, they work on memorizing the theme verse and once they say it they get a prize. The first night, The Big Boy said it (he was blessed with a photographic memory). Before the next meeting, I worked on it with the other two. And when we picked them up, Princess proudly showed us her prize.

But  my little guy. Oh, poor kid. He did not earn his prize. He was devastated that his little sister had memorized the verse, but he couldn't. That night he cried himself to sleep.

The next morning, he was the first one up. Instead of shooing him back to bed, I let him crawl under the covers with me. And while the other two kids slept, we read his Bible verses over and over again. And instead of just memorizing them, we talked about what they meant.

Then we went downstairs and ate breakfast--just the two of us.

These alone moments are few and far between. So when I get them, I try to enjoy every single second. Plus, he is my middle child. The one who I think often gets lost in the shuffle. He has never been in school full time. So when Princess came home, Big Boy went to first grade, which left my Middle One home with me and our Princess who was totally shutdown. Then he was dragged to PT, OT, speech, and countless doctors appointments.

And it was hard. Hard for me. Hard for my little guy. And hard for Princess.

So one-on-one time with my littlest guy, is extra special.

The other two, came down the steps right when we finished our waffles. And before going off to play, he whispered in my ear, "That was fun, mommy."

That night he earned his prize.

And I hate to admit it, but I am so thankful it took him a wee bit longer than the other two to memorize his verse. Because I wouldn't trade my morning with him for anything.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Winners Are...

Oh the drawing was big fun around here. My kids loved it!

Without further adieu a copy of One Thousand And One Tears will be sent to:

Congrats and thanks for entering the drawing and for all the encouraging words. I really appreciate them!

I've talked to so many people in the last week who have kids that struggle with not knowing anything about their birthmom.

They have no pictures.

No memories.


The artist of One Thousand and One Tears, Cassandra Swierenga, painted a beautiful interpretation of a Chinese mother. If you would like a signed giclee of her artwork, it's available here. Each is 9" x 10" and $20.

Choose print:

Monday, July 23, 2012

Win a Copy of One Thousand and One Tears!

Yes, that's right. I'm giving away THREE copies of One Thousand and One Tears.

It's pretty easy to enter to win.

Leave a comment on my blog. That will get you one entry.

Grab the One Thousand and One Tear's button up above or over at and put it on your blog or facebook page. That will get you another entry. Make sure you let me know if you did this, so I can give you an extra entry.

I'll draw the winners on Friday!

Good Luck!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

When the Hurt and The Healer Collide

"She needs a mastoidectomy," the doctor told me.

"What?" I said, holding my trembling girl.

"Her mastoid bones need to come out or she'll eventually be deaf."

Deaf? Mastoid bones?


She had struggled with infection, after infection, after infection. Some were so bad, I could smell them and fluid would ooze out. We tried everything. Drops. Oral antibiotics. Nothing worked.

I went home and googled mastoidectomy. It was a six hour surgery. And the surgeon would literally drill her mastoid bones out of her skull. All of this in a last attempt to get the infection the was slowly going from her ears and creeping towards her brain. But there were some serious risks.

Complete deafness.

Facial paralysis.


I took the Princess for a second and third opinion. They all looked at her CT and said the same thing. Mastodectomy. Or the infection would slowly steal her hearing.

I got on my knees and pleaded for my little girl. How could she need this, too? How? She had already suffered so much, endured more than any other person I knew, and yet now she could be facing deafness.

So on April 9, we took her back to the hospital, and once again handed her over to the surgeon. Six hours later we were back by her side.

She was confused, agitated, and downright mad. Her ears had been literally cut away from her head and stitched back together, her ear canal was widened, she was once again assaulted with a scalpel.

We were told to expect her to be out of school for an entire month. But one week post surgery, she was doing so well her ENT allowed her to go back to school.

God has this funny way of reminding me of his faithfulness. Yes, she had to endure another surgery. But he gave us a surgeon, who happened to just have completed years of research on Asian ears. But beyond that, her hearing will never be perfect, but she is healing and she has functional hearing.

My girl's physical healing has stumped even the best surgeons. Her heart looks like it was done by the best surgeons in the US. Her palate is now beautiful. Her ears now work.

I love the song when the Hurt and the Healer Collide by Mercy Me. It just reminds me that when I allow God to take over her life. When I give her to him completely, he will always, always answer. Maybe not the answer I wanted. Because, let's face it, I would have waved my magic wand and taken away all the infection without surgery.

But faith does not work that way. God has bigger plans. Better plans. And he continues to collide with my girl. And continues to remind me that he will not leave her.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

One Thousand and One Tears the Book!

It's here! Finally, finally here!

This is a story for my daughter who somehow ended up in an orphanage in Beijing, China.
She started questioning her past.
What did her birth mom look like?
Who took care of her?
How did she get to the orphanage?
Huge gaps of her life are missing.
And I can't fill them in.
So this isn't really my daughter's story.It's her what might have, what could have, what maybe happened story.
It's a story that every child who comes from China is missing. Thanks to the work of my wonderful friend and artist Cassie, my daughter now has a picture of a young Chinese woman holding a baby. Of nannies in the orphanage. Of me waiting for her at home.
Of the tears that came along with that.
Because adoption is sad, joyous, exciting, hard, heartbreaking, overwhelming, and a hundred other emotions all rolled into one.
And I wrote it, because my daughter, who I cried for every single day she waited for me sick and alone in the orphanage, deserves to have a what if story to help her fill in those gaps. Because there are some things we will never know. And as her mom, it's my job to help her fill in those gaps.

And it's a story I want other children from China to have.
One Thousand And One Tears is available on Or you can order a hardcover signed copy from me.

They Laughed At Her

My claws are out. And I am ready to pounce.

Yesterday, I took my girl to have her eyes examined. When she is in a new environment, especially a doctor's office, she gets nervous. And acts silly. And sings. And laughs. A lot. And, well, she becomes a handful. But if you talk quietly to her, she usually calms down.

When we were finally called, the doctor took one look and her and exclaimed, "Oh brother. I have to exam HER?"

Instead of telling her things, he barked orders at me to tell her. He acted like she wasn't even in the room. And it was obvious that he wanted nothing to do with my girl.

But it gets worse.

When we were done, an employee at the front desk asked me how it went. I told her that the doctor shouldn't work with kids. And I grabbed Princess' hand to leave.

As I turned, she rolled her eyes at my girl, whispered something to some customers, and they all laughed.

At my daughter.

At my girl who obviously has special needs. Who needs a little extra grace. And if only they knew how much trauma she has been through. How many doctors have hurt her. How she had open heart surgery all by herself in China. But, you can't really explain that to people.

I was upset at the doctor. But the laughing? At a little girl?

As I drove home, my heart crumbled for my poor girl. Who, sadly, will meet so many more people in her life who laugh at and make fun of her.

But she is so much more. Yes, she can been a handful. But this feisty little girl is a miracle. She is no accident. And that is her true worth.