Monday, November 30, 2009

Wild Olives Is Gettin' Festive!


Head over now and get in on the action.
There's another give-away going on right now.
And don't forget, whatever you spend at this awesome
site will help pour resources into charitable
organizations that support orphans all over China!

Tell 'em The Gang sent ya.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving
from The Gang's All Here!

Here's an old quote I found
to be quite amusing:

May your stuffing be tasty
May your turkey plump,
May your potatoes and gravy
Have nary a lump.
May your yams be delicious
And your pies take the prize,
And may your Thanksgiving dinner
Stay off your thighs!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Speaking of Attachment - Part 2

If you haven't read yesterday's post, you might want to back it up a bit and start there first. This is actually the second in a short series regarding our family's journey of attachment with Li'l Empress.

In addition to intentionally regressing Li'l Empress in some specific ways, we purposefully went after some of her Self-Comforting Behaviors. It was our intention to replace these behaviors with a healthy belief and the security that she no longer needs to comfort herself. In order to do this, we had to observe her carefully, and become a "student" of our new daughter. It was pretty easy to find the "big" stuff coming to the surface, as the whole transition from foster family to orphanage for a short stay and then to our arms created a big sense of insecurity and fear. The little stuff (control issues, fear reactions to poor listening environments, panic in chaotic situations) manifested later, when she began to experience the rest of regular security and was more attached and relaxed in our home. We are still working on those and feel like the foundations we've set are serving us very well so far!

We were told by the nanny that Li'l Empress would normally just take a bottle in her crib and fall asleep on her own. We stopped that immediately, and began training her to be comforted to a sleepy state in our arms. It went right along with the bottle feedings, in that we reversed (over a few days of intentional changes) the order in which she was doing things. Instead of getting a bottle when she woke from a nap, we helped the "gentling to sleep" process by starting nap time with those bedtime ritual/bottle feeding practices that I mentioned in my post about Intentional Regression. It was exhausting to make every single bed and nap time such an event. And I found myself crying and praying over her more once we returned home than I did in the long wait for her. But in those precious moments of intensely warring for her healing and her comfort, I am convinced that the Holy Spirit met us and began His work in her heart. I am convinced that, though she often resisted us at first, the prayer covering over her and our family broke down that instinct to protect her heart and take care of herself. Gentling her to sleep was a huge part of that process for us both.

She had some very "hard to watch" self-comforting behavior in those early months. She pulled her own hair out when bottle feeding. She picked at her skin and any little bumps, abrasions or cuts. They took forever to heal up. She did a lot of self-stim*lation that created some awkward and embarrassing moments for the older kids. In fact, she still practices some of these things when stress levels are extra high, when she's overtired, or when there is a lot of chaos in our environment. It's taught us all to be mindful of keeping a peaceful environment in our home, and makes us practice extreme patience while correcting and replacing the same behaviors over and over sometimes several times within a few minutes. Here's some of the new behaviors we introduced:
  • We got her a soft, mini-blankie and placed it in her free hands during bottle time, to deter the need to yank at her hair. As we are preparing to wean her from a bottle now, she also has attached to a soft stuffed puppy who "waits for her" in her crib so he can sleep with her.
  • We moved her hands away from her "boo-boos" when we caught her picking and reminded her to "let it heal." It has become a response that carries many levels of meaning now and I try to phrase it that way often, carrying that message to her spirit as often as she needs to hear it.
  • We would remind her not to play with her diaper, and pick her up to re-direct her attention to another activity or for a hug and snuggle. That actually came after several other "fails" on our part - it took awhile to find what worked with this one!
  • Basically, we had to teach her "from scrap" that we were her parents. That we were not caretakers. That we were/are permanent. That she could trust us to meet all her physical needs. And that we would answer her EVERY. TIME. she called.
  • Yes, that meant we did not let her "cry it out." I've never been a big fan of that parenting tool, but that's a whole 'nuther post that I likely will never write!
  • We did do some co-sleeping on and off, more especially in the early months. She's not a particularly tiny child and it was difficult to feel rested on the nights that we attempted it. But when she needed to feel us both surrounding her and touching her, we did it.
  • I've always believed that co-sleeping is a really good thing, but only when everyone feels rested as a result. We didn't need to keep it up after she started sleeping soundly through the night without any of the bad dreams or fearful wakings.
Next post, I think I'll share with you the final portion of what I shared at the seminar. It's a different concept that came directly as a result of prayer and research into attachment. It was scary and difficult to wrap my brain around when the Lord first asked it of me, but I believe whole-heartedly now that it was a hugely important key concept to cementing Li'l Empress in to The Gang's dynamics and to helping her understand who we are as a family. Further, I believe that it really set the stage for the whole Gang to welcome the change in dynamics that a new family member brings. It helped us all to embrace a change in the way we do things for the sake of someone in need. That it was the most loving compassionate thing we could do while she was at the height of that need.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Speaking of Attachment

Recently, I had the opportunity to share at our adoption agency's Special Needs seminar. I spoke for about half an hour (I forgot how long 30 minutes is when you are facing a room full of mostly strangers!) and covered our experiences with the International Adoption Program at CHOP. Then I spoke on our journey through attachment and bonding with Li'l Empress. I thought it might be helpful to some of you to share some of those thoughts over the next couple of posts.

My disclaimer is that we are by NO MEANS experts on this issue. We did do a lot of research, reading and talking with other folks before we left for China. And thankfully, The Boss has always freed me to explore ideas I have regarding parenting and encouraged me to try things that sound interesting to me. He didn't do the research himself, but he trusts me to do the reading and share the important stuff with him so that we can be on the same page. I will be totally honest in saying that we didn't do all this perfectly along this first year. However, we were willing to try things that others had shared and to talk about what worked and didn't work. We did a lot of tweaking along the way and this series of posts represents the summaries of what worked for us in that process!

First, I spoke on the idea that attachment is less about a set of steps, checklists, or progressions toward one set goal. It's more like the tides of the ocean, if you consider that the child's heart is like the beach. At "high tides" in our attachment journey, we can see tremendous progress in the waves wearing down the walls of self-protection, self-preservation, and/or self-comfort that they have built around their hearts. Make no mistake, those walls are there in some form and usually for a really good reason: survival. As we work to attach, it's our consistent, loving, nurturing choices that help to wear down those behaviors that hold them back from releasing their hearts to healing and full openness. We all need the low tide moments, when the progress seems minimal and the waves are almost still. It's a resting period of sorts, and should be seen as such. But we also need to be sure it doesn't get too comfortable. Instead, pray for high tide to return when their little hearts are refreshed and ready for the next level of bonding to wave in. And when you are in a low tide of attaching, try to remember that no sandcastle or wall built in the sand can stand through a full cycle of waves and tides. Low tide is just a part of that full cycle. (I take no credit for this metaphor. A friend shared it early in our settling in time and the Lord has used it many times over to keep me focused on Li'l Empress's process with us.)

Next, I talked about our decision to try some Intentional Regression with Li'l Empress. By this I mean that we purposefully took away many of the "normal toddler behaviors" that would continue to move her toward greater independence. We replaced them with nurturing, parent-directed actions that required her to be more dependent upon us than was considered "average" for her age. Let me explain:
  • We took away most of her self-feeding. Whenever possible, we spoon fed her (more intentionally in the very early weeks and months) and posted ourselves face-to-face with her while we did so.
  • Further, we gently took away the holding of her own bottle. At a time when most parents would consider weaning from the bottle, we instead made a ritual out of bottle time. Darkened room, blankie, rocking chair, singing and praying over her, etc. Basically, I tried as often as I could to re-create the nursing experience I shared with my older kids with the goal of creating an intimate bonding time together.
  • The nanny who brought her to us told us that she was potty-trained. Our guide explained that by their cultural standards, that meant that she probably only needed diapers when out and about in public. We, however, put her into diapers and did not introduce the potty at all until just recently (We're slated to start potty-training, American-style, sometime this winter, as I'm sensing she's going to be ready soon.) We even made diaper time an event for bonding, with games, face-to-face play and plenty of snuggles and kisses along the way.
  • Finally, we kept most feedings to only The Boss and I. Rare exceptions were made to allow the kids to participate and usually only when those feedings were not connected to a sleeping time to follow. It was good for the kids to bond with her but their attachment as siblings came far more easily and with less need for intention as they all just got the joy of "playing together" without the responsibilities of parenting!
In the next post, I will share with you some of our ideas and practices regarding issues of Self-Comforting.

You can mull on these and share in the comments some of your experiences if you've already been through the "coming home" part of the adoption journey. And if you are waiting for a precious one to join your home, please feel free to leave a comment as to how I can pray for you. One of my favorite things to do is participate in "praying home" these little ones. My other favorite thing is to "pray them in" to a firm and secure attachment process once they are home!

In the meantime, please feel free to share and pass this information on to other moms that might enjoy my musings. Again, I am no expert. I have been blessed to be surrounded by friends and family who all support our efforts and a husband who has encouraged me to listen to the Holy Spirit and good counsel.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Conversations in the High Chair

The Gang's Momma (while listening to praise chorus in the background): "Oh, let's worship Jesus. Hallelujah, Jesus. We love you Jesus."

Li'l Empress: "La la looo ah. Jeee uh."

TGM: "Awwww, Li'l Empress. Do you love Jesus?"

Li'l E: "Awwww, I lah ah."

TGM: "Yay. I love Jesus, too."

Li'l E, signing while speaking: "Moh Jeee uh."

Amen. "Moh Jeee uh" today. For all of you!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Say It Ain't So!

Okay, today's post was going to be a recap of my time at our adoption agency's special needs seminar Tuesday night.

Until my dear hubby saw a promo for the 11 o'clock news from his hub of horrible sickness in the middle of the living room.

We tuned in, live. Cuz, well, in our foggy-up-too-late-what-are-we-thinking state of mind, we forgot we have a DVR. Anyhoo. We tuned in and watched the entire newscast. Only to have my heart shattered in million pieces.

My dear Dave is retiring. Effective December 11.

(You can read about my itty-bitty local celebrity crush here and here.
Don't judge me, you know you have celebrity crushes too.)

The happy news is that for the coming weeks, they have promised all kinds of tributes and retrospectives on his career and his life serving the local region. Which means I'll get lots of opportunities to see him in action, sharing his folksy charm and winning smile with me. And if I'm really lucky, they'll be smart enough to throw in a couple peeks at Dave's adorable son. You know the one I mean. . . .

How often is it that a girl gets TWO celebrity crushes

That's some good genes there, I must say.
But I digress . . .

So, in tribute to my local celebrity crush, I give you this video. Don't be fooled by the different names - he's used a couple different ones over the course of his 56 year career. That's right. I said FIFTY SIX. You go, Dave.

Now, I must go clear my calendar of all fluff and nonsense in order that I might be able to sit and wallow in my sorrow and loss every night at 6 o'clock from tonight till December 11th. I don't want to miss a minute of my final moments with my Dave.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Notice the date stamp . . . that's the last time
that all the kids got to play outside together
in the leaves. Between the recent weather and the
flu-like symptoms that have been nailing
one Gang member at a time,
we're really hoping for another chance
to build a leaf pile to play!

For more Wordless Wednesday fun,
head over to 5 Minutes for Mom.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ready for the Olympics

My Gang has always been mesmerized by figure skating on television. The Olympics are like a two week party around here. Recently the Today show featured one of the men who is hoping to bring home a gold medal. It would be the first gold for American men in like, twenty-something years. When I heard the intro to the story, I stopped and settled in to watch. So did Li'l Empress. It seems that the fascination with spins and leaps and artistic interpretation on the ice has bitten another little Gang member.

While I ran for the camera, she stood "thiiiiiiiis close" to the television and just stared with big brown eyes at the screen for several minutes of his program.

As soon as I turned the camera on? Well, she showed me her short program. Enjoy.

We'll have to work on the gleeful screaming.
I hear those judges frown on that sort of display!

"I tate" means "I skate."

And "wa wa" means baby or baby doll in Chinese.
Interestingly, it's the only Chinese word
she knew when we met her.
and the only one she still uses, even though
we're trying to incorporate some
of the words we've learned over the years.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Dear In The Headlights

The other day, I asked The Boss a question. Ladies, you know the kind I mean. I'm talkin' about the type of query that makes the man stop in his tracks and look at you in alarm. The kind that makes him take a deep breath and swallow the huge lump of fear that has just accumulated in his throat.

I remember thinking that he was likely having his very own "Conversations In the Intersection" kind of moment. I even felt faintly bad for him. For a New York minute. Knowing that the nature of the question forced not just a response, but a response that required honesty with emotion attached. Honesty that would likely get him into trouble. And emotion that was on a level of vulnerability with which The Boss is not regularly comfortable. Not like I am anyway. I mean, I kinda live with my emotions right out there which, by the way, has its own set of unique and troublesome issahs, I tell ya. Yeah, I live there. He only occasionally visits the territory for special events and monumental arguments. I mean, ahem, meaningful interactions of intense fellowship.

So anyway. I asked him this question. I needed to connect and have some feelings explored. He needed to get out of there. Fast. I needed verbal intimacy and word cuddles. He needed to pound his chest, growl and grow more chest hair. I needed to feel the comfort of his voice washing over me. His voice was stuck in the back of his throat.

Does anyone else want to laugh out loud when they have caught their dear in the headlights of wifely conversation?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Baby BlueEye's art work
makes me feel better.
Especially when it's
a mini- jersey of #81.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Taking a Sick Leave

Okay, so, now I have whatever was working its way through The Gang's house slowly and insidiously for the last three weeks. I've actually had it since Sunday night. The congestion. The cough. The overall feeling of BLEH. The headache that won't quit. Huge bags under my eyes. Sinus pressure throbbing. You get the picture.

I don't really get sick days. You know, cuz I'm a mom. But I'm resolving to spend as much time off my feet, on my couch, sipping liquids and closing my eyes as I possibly can. I really don't want to miss the women's conference slated to begin Thursday night.

And since my comfy couch is pretty far away from my computer, I'm pretty much outta here. No writing after this. Maybe some random blog reading to break up the boredom. Maybe not. Maybe some FB updates. Maybe not.

Oh, yeah. Could you please pray for Li'l Empress? She has it too and we really need to keep her hearing ear clear of congestion and fluids. And it's really sad to listen to her cough. I'd really like for her to be much better by the time I try to leave for the women's conference.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Live webcast and events scheduled
all over the country.
Check it out here!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

This is WHY

This post. You have to read this post.

It answers so many questions. So. Many.

Not the least of which is "Why is she my bloggy hero?"

Go there now. Read. Be blessed. Be inspired.

But remember. She's. My. Hero.


Friday, November 6, 2009

Let the Holiday Festivities Begin!

Over at 5 Minutes for Giveaways, there's a couple really great contests commencing. But you have to act fast, this one is only open till the end of this week. And this one ends the following week.
On second thought, don't act on this at all. Nope, don't go there and enter the fray. Leave the fun to The Gang.

I'm just sayin' . . . .

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Remember When?

Remember back in August I shared with you a post called Three Little Girls? I asked you to join me in praying that they would find homes and families that would get them the medical care they so desperately needed? Well, it seems that I am a little behind the times in finding this out, but the happy news is that ALL THREE LITTLE GIRLS HAVE BEEN MATCHED with their Forever Families.

I'm so proud to be connected to this amazing international adoption community. I'm incredibly thankful and proud to be connected to China Care. But I am even more in awe and a state of gratefulness that Our Father loves these little ones more than any earthly parent ever could. So much so, that He brought them to the right place. At the right time. To be rightly matched with a mommy and a daddy who won't just love them forever. But will move Heaven and Earth to get them the life-saving medical treatment that they need.

God is good. All the time.
All the time. God is good.

November is National Adoption Awareness Month.
Please, click on this link if the issues surrounding
adoption interest you and your family.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

It was a muddy, muddy game.
But they went out on a big V.

For more Wordless Wednesday fun,
head over to 5 Minutes for Mom.

Hut, Hut, Hike!

Football season may officially be over for Dr. D, but we are regularly treated to live re-enactments of the sport's greatest plays ever. I'm talking Hall of Fame material here. Enjoy!

And on a completely unrelated note, but NO less important or enjoyable: Baby Christopher has been taken off all his blood pressure meds, had his chest tube removed AND was extubated successfully - all since Saturday! God is moving in this precious little man's body and the best news of all is that his sweet momma finally got to hold him for the first time yesterday. Pray for continued strengthening of his little lungs and endurance for Momma and Daddy as they continue to live away from home! He's making great strides but still needs plenty of time to rest and heal and move forward. Thanks for all your support and prayers - and for spreading the word to pray!