Monday, July 11, 2011

Whoa Nelly.

I'm still stuck in a somewhat reflective mood. Thinking on a year home. All the milestones and accomplishments our girl has made. The joys we've experienced of having a sweet daughter in our family. I often sit overwhelmed with astonishment, at how very brave she is. Bravely trying to right her world from being turned upside down.

I also have been weary and emotional. We moved last week. The weeks leading up to it were, as imaginable, hectic and chaotic. I went into it knowing it could undo her. Literally, you can watch this girl "undo". She just unravels before our eyes some days.

I'm still SO thankful for the opportunity to attend the Empowered to Connect Conference and hear Dr. Purvis speak. It gave me SO MUCH more understanding and compassion for her behaviors. I'm not sure anyone else would notice her "unravel", but I can see it. It makes me sad for her, because we've just been locked into a survival mode for 2 weeks. Knowing this change was HARD for her. And when it's hard for her, it's HARD FOR EVERYONE. What does it look like, you might ask? Her eyes dart furiously around. I know she's frantic, on high alert, waiting for the next thing to change, not wanting to be caught off guard. Not wanting to be left behind, or blindsided. She gets upset by one small thing, and then when we try to figure it out and ask her, "what do you want, sweet girl?" She franticly reaches for thing after thing. Grasping for anything and everything. Changing her answer 10 times. LOOKING LOST. She doesn't know what she wants...she just feels unraveled by the activity. It's hard for all of us. We WANT to meet her need, if only we could figure it out! I know we desperately need to get back to our "boot camp" mode. Lots of structure, lots of sensory activities. However, we also need the boxes out of our living space. Like I said, we KNOW we need to plow through and survive these few weeks, so we can get back to order (at least, structured chaos!).

We did finally get the AMAZING word that we are finally Giardia FREE!!! I was so happy that day, the lady on the phone probably thought I was nuts over being so happy to be parasite free. we waited a looooong time to hear those words.

We are still chasing answers for some other minor health issues, which led us to another Dr. The local hospital in Portland, Or, called OHSU has ONE Dr. with lots of experience with international kids. We finally took the plunge to take Lucy to her, hoping for some more answers or at least clues. We are not dealing with anything major, but persistent small issues. I'm feeling like I've dead ended with our regular family practice, and we just needed a fresh set of eyes with experience with kiddos from Africa. While I did not LOVE our experience there (we waited 1.5 hours past our appt time to see the Dr!!) I do feel like we got new perspective and some direction towards possible answers.

I know there are families with WAY more medical/physical/emotional issues than we do. And I feel for you. I know that I just get bogged down some days with the weight of it. Constant questions. Constant concerns about her health. Non life threatening, just constant and nagging. Knowing her life could be easier if she felt better. Juggling appts, multiple dr's, specialists...and too many questions still hanging and not enough answers. It's frusterating and overwhelming at times. Always wondering about things we'll NEVER know the answers to.

And then, following the great bog down days, I'm always recharged when I return to my source of grace. The Lord. I'm overwhelmed then, too, in a different way. The Lord extends grace to me for my shortcomings. For losing it when my strength and stamina run out. When I realize, it should never have been my strength and stamina I was relying on. I would do much better if I asked him each and every day to FILL me with gratitude and thanks for where we are. To let my list of things I'm grateful for fuel my day of things that are not so fun to deal with. To reflect on what gives me joy and fills me up. To allow the Lord to use those things to keep me focused on the task at hand. The Lord is always faithful to me, and so full of grace. He carries me through the hard days, and loves me when I fail. He loves me up and sets me back on me feet for a new day. I'm so grateful for that.

Sidenote: I am almost finished with a great book, 1,000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp. It's a "challenge to live fully where you are".  I have loved the challenge to be thankful, deeply filled with gratitude, for the itty bitty gifts in my life. To allow that gratitude to fuel my perspective on life. To let JOY carry me through challenges. To find my center of gravity in grace and gratitude for those precious gifts. As a result, I've started a thankful journal. A few snippets of things I"m grateful for:

41. Long snuggles from Lucy, asking "Stay Mama" at bed time.
42. KISSES from Lulu.
43. A new home to head to.
44. 8 miles-long run.
45. a Dry 8 miles....BONUS!
46. Naps, for me :) Sunday naps are fabulous.
47. Books I love to re-read.
48. Snuggles.
49. "mama rock-ee"
50. A clean house that stuck for awhile.
51. Long lap snuggles from a reluctant child.
52. missing front teeth on an almost 7 year old.

And, to top it off, I've been BAWLING lately when I hear this song on the radio. When I'm feeling like a weakling, ready to cave, it recharges me to fight for my girl's needs. To keep putting one foot in front of the other, picking up the phone for the 10,000th call to the dr. To keep going.

I am so blessed by this life I have. I am so honored to continue to be here. To love Lucy as she bravely goes through her days, trying to find her way. I pray for strength and patience to be constant for her. I know I'm among many who are doing the same...it's humbling to be given such a gift of being a parent to such precious kids, isn't it?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Lucy Day! One Year Home

I can't even believe it's been one year since we met Lucy. It feels like yesterday, but also feels like she's been with us forever, we can't imagine our life without our girl. 
One year ago, I lifted a very concerned and sleepy girl from the baby seat and into my arms. Poor babe, was dead asleep and woke up to a stranger!

 The year has been full of so many milestones and celebrations. And, I'm not gonna lie...lots of challenges as well. I'm going to post more about that later, but this post is about celebrating!

Lucy has gone from a tiny little bean of a girl, to a full blown toddler. She has gained 10 lbs this year and grown so tall! We are always commenting on how long her arms and legs are, and her feet are size 8!!! Seems crazy huge for a girl who's not even two! She's gone from this tiny timid girl...

 

To our little princess...or Puff-Uff, as she likes to call herself! She loves to wear her tiara and tutu..over her jammies, while she eats breakfast...any time, anywhere. 




This girl can CLEAN UP a plate of dairy free pancakes, like nobody's business!

To celebrate our first year together...we went to our fave local Ethiopian restaurant, Enat Kitchen. Our whole family LOVED it. Every time we have Ethiopian, our whole family likes it more and more. Lucy LOVES injera. It was so so tasty. Then, we went to Yo Cream for dessert...and they even had Dairy Free sorbet for Lulu! It was a great family night together...although the boys didn't quite get why Lucy get ANOTHER day besides her birthday! It truly felt like a birthday to me...after all, it was the first day I held her in my arms, and that day with our boys was the "birth" day. You know?
The kiddos

our tasty platter

lulu and daddy

me and my girl!

Of course, being a gal who loves to give (and get) gifts, I had to give my girlie a gift. She's liking her baby dolls alot lately, and sort of pretending a bit. I thought she'd love this baby cradle. I found it at Goodwill, and rehabed it. I got my inspiration from Pottery Barn Kids, here.


Here is the PBkids version:
Lucy even has this little baby doll from my sis-in-law...her name is really Lucy, so who could resist that? And the cute thing is, the white one's name is Abby, which is my neice's name, so of course, grammy got her one too.  But for $5 for the cradle at Goodwill, and $4 in paint...I saved myself about $50. I did the lettering with my Cricut cutting machine and adhesive vinyl (which I love and am completely addicted to). I loved the fun way PBK documented the birth info, but since we don't know Lucy's birth weight and such, I though I'd add her birthday in ET, and the day we met her. I love how it turned out!

We had a fun day celebrating our girl. Our journey of adoption is far from over. We continue to learn and grow toghether all the time, and God has used this precious girl to teach us how to truly depend on the Lord daily, for wisdom, for unconditional love, and patience.

Monday, May 16, 2011

jumping jack.

Oh, this boy.

He has long had me a pile of mush.

One lazy day at home about a month ago, during Lucy's nap, we played in my bed.

I knew it was a moment I wanted to remember and I'm so glad I grabbed my camera. I think I had a rented lens this day, Canon 50mm 1.2L series.....sigh. I really want to own this lens!! It's like butta. I digress.

My sweet, sweet boy. He oozes personality. His Nana says he will be on TV someday. I wouldn't be surprised.  He is a mama's boy through and through, and don't tell my hubby, but I like it that way :)

I love the dirty fingernails, the scrapes, bruises, and freckles...it's just Jack.
ps...this video slideshow is best viewed here small. If you try to blow it up full screen, it's grainy. I'm still trying to figure out how to best post video here!


video



Sunday, April 24, 2011

new.

Fall has always been my favorite time of year...but this year, I'm finding I'm in love with Spring! It's really fitting us right now. When  you think of spring and all that it brings, NEW comes to mind. For us it's been a season of REnew, NEW beginnings, NEW habits, NEW growth.

It was a very VERY long rainy season here in the pacific northwest, and I think we may have broken some records for days in a row... I believe in March we had 30 of 31 days of "measureable" amounts of rain. Usually, Matt and I don't mind the rain at all, we like jeans and sweatshirts and hot coffee.  But, this has been alot of long grey days! When it hit 55, my boys wanted to get out the slip n slide! Needless to say, seeing the cherry blossom trees beginning to bloom, tulips and daffodils finally popping up...the color has been FANTASTIC! This week one of my BFF's and I were doing our weekly run and it was DRY and SUNNY! It hit 70 yesterday! Yahoo! (however, today, the rain is back!)
Lucy's first easter basket! She loved her fancy accessories, but could care less about the cute bunny I made her!

 Today is Easter. I was again reminded of new beginnings. And I have been feeling a full grateful heart all weekend at the NEW signs of growth and trust I'm seeing in Lucy. We had company all weekend, and in the midst of noise and chaos, she was a champ. She has been reaching for me, asking for me and even preferring me, even with Daddy home. (that NEVER happens).

Some Lucy related things I'm feeling so thankful for:
  • Almost every day this week, she's let me rock her to sleep! Previously, I'd get maybe 5 minutes and she'd be begging to get in her bed on her own.Each day I rock her, the time it takes her to relax and fall asleep has gotten shorter and shorter and I really feel like it's a shift in her. She's trusting me to soothe and comfort her. And, I dare say, she's even ENJOYING it.
  • She's been waking up alot during the night. Not sure what that's about...seems to be having some dreams that frighten her or something, but when I go in her room, she's reaching for me, asking me to "snugoo" (Lucy speak for snuggle). I melt every time and scoop her up. 
  • She's giving me affection, generously. Kisses and hugs, without me having to beg and plead! 
  • Her language continues to increase rapidly, and it seems like she tries to repeat anything you ask of her. Her words have been pretty age appropriate for many months, but we're seeing a surge of growth in this area...For MONTHS she's only done sign language for "thank you" even after loads of encouragement to use the WORDS thank you. She just would.not. do. it. All of a sudden, clear as a bell, she's saying "Thank You, Mama!" Thank You, dada!" It's music to my ears! 
  • When we say, who do you want to rock you tonight? Mama or Dada? She's been picking me every time! This feels huge to me.

It's odd, but we are feeling like since we crossed the 9 months home mark, she actually started really showing more reservations with me. Like, she expected that I'd disappear after a few months. That is what she has known, and been able to deal with thus far. It's like, she realized I'm not leaving and she didn't really know what to do with that. She really started showing signs of not trusting me in an intimate natural way, between a mother and child. She knows I will meet her basic needs, food, diaper, bed, play. But to really trust me? To LOVE me? Not so much. After reading some of Dr. Purvis' research and attending the Empowered to Connect conference, the facts started to make sense to me. She really did NOT trust me. I could see the anxiety in her face throughout the day, as if she's on high alert, expecting things to change. Not allowing me to be emotionally close with her.

It's amazing how 2 weeks of implementing Dr. Purvis's parenting strategies for adopted children, I'm seeing lots of changes. Feeling more connected to Lucy and she to me. I am feeling so so thankful for the opportunity to attend ETC and gain some tools to help build a trusting relationship with Lucy that she and I are both finding so much joy in this week!

Here's some pics of our first Easter together! She absolutely LOVED getting all dressed up and "fancy". She kept saying, "Fanseeee, Fanseee" and cried when I took of her pretty church dress. She just wanted to stay FANSEEEE!

What a love. I'm so enjoying my girl right now, and soaking up the blessings. 

Easter with the cousins, all dressed up!

My wonderful sister in law, Rachel and I (we did not coordinate on purpose!)

My Nephew, looking so sharp!

By big boy!

Sweet KiKi! She and Lucy looked so cute in matching dresses!

My little handsome man, Jack!

Hayden and I, so proud of what a great big brother he is!

My sweet girl in her "Fanseeees"

could NOT get her to sit still for me!

sweet slobbery girl. Love her to bits.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Empowered to Connect Conference- Part 2 CONNECTING with our kids.

Today, I've got connection on the brain. Dr. Purvis said it over and over, and so did the Monroe's in their session, that CONNECTION is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING  we can spend our time working on and giving our children. Not just existing in the same space, but being fully present for our children, meeting their needs, responding when they ask for us to meet a need.

Our adopted/fostered kids, experienced the "trauma" in their stories that they have, be it abuse or neglect, or simply the separation from their birth parents, or malnutrition, or ANYTHING really that they have experienced...it's literally changed the way they perceive their "voice" being heard. Obviously, our children have physical voices. But they have learned through life experience, that their voice may not matter to those whose ears it falls on. Maybe they cried in hunger or thirst and a parent was unable to meet that need. Maybe they cried in pain or loneliness and that cry was not responded too. Maybe, the were being hurt physically by someone they trusted. There are a million variables.

In our home, this looks like this: Lucy will shriek or scream to get our attention, (like when she's thirsty or wants a toy) when we know she knows the words for water, toy, etc. She will yell or demand attention instead of using her words. This is something I've really been working on this week (truly, it's more of a habit I need to develop, than her...I need to teach her to use her words). So, example. Lucy will shriek...I know she wants water. Putting my finger under her chin, asking gently for her to look at my eyes (which she'll do almost every time, just with my asking) and then I say, "Can you ask Mama for your water? Water please?" Then she'll usually respond with "wa-wee peeez" or "peez mama". And I say, "Oh, thank you for using your words! I'd love to give you some water!" Already in one week, I can see her learning to use her words instead of shrieking. She's learning that her words are important to me, and I respond to her need when she asks me for something.

Dr Purvis shared that over the course of a child's first 3 years, in a normal uninterrupted development situation, a child will have a need and have it met by the parent 100's of thousands of times. Isn't that amazing? But OUR children, have had that cycle interrupted. They had needs that went unmet. They learned that their needs didn't always get met when voiced. We have to get that train moving again. Teach them... using your voice= I will meet your need.

I share this, not to toot my own horn, but I've gotten lots of response from you other adoptive parents who are also feeling the need to try another tactic. Wanting to see more trust and connection with your children. I hope that sharing my learning lessons and success and failures, you can glean inspiration to keep working on connecting with your precious kiddos.

Dr. Purvis shared so many great little scenarios like this at the ETC conference, as well as in the TCU dvd series.

We feel incredibly blessed that Lucy spent time in two AMAZING orphanage/foster care centers before coming to us. Her physical needs were well attended to, and she was loved and nurtured there. However, they were still "staff". They worked in shifts...her caregiver changed at different parts of the day and she moved to different rooms or houses as she grew and developed. (I say this fully believing that our agency is top notch. I would choose Gladney over and over. Some things just can't be done differently.)

I have come to understand in the past month, (after our meltdown experience and lots of thinking back and pondering and praying) that in Lucy's perspective, ALL of the women in her life who she loved or loved her...have left her or been removed from her. When I think of that, it totally makes sense that she keeps me at a distance, protecting her little heart from being hurt again. It shatters me, that a 20 month old child, can live in understanding that mommies can't be trusted. I HATE IT. But I love her, and long for her to believe otherwise.

Dr. Purvis shares that every thing we do...every interaction with our child/children needs to be done in a way to provides a connection between us (the parent) and our child. Every moment of fun, correction, meeting of basic needs....we need to HUNT for a moment of connection. Those moments of connection are what will build trust in our child. Give them the understanding that THIS mommy or daddy is ON DUTY for good.

This is a lengthy video, but please take the time to watch it when you have a bit of time. It will give you some real understanding of how your child's mind works, and how to make changes that will help you make better connections with your child.


The Connecting Link - Dr. Karyn Purvis from Tapestry on Vimeo.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Lessons Learned from Empowered to Connect Conference- part 1

Where to begin, really? My brain is still trying to wrap around all that I learned at ETC. It was SUCH AN AMAZING CONFERENCE. It was so worth the cost of a plane ticket and travel to be there. I feel like it was totally life changing for me, understanding where my girly is coming from, and how to help her face her history as a unified team. Ok, this post is long and loaded. I'm trying to process this myself, but I'm SO hoping some other parents can glean something out of my experience. It was TREMEMDOUSLY helpful.

So, I have a new understanding of how our children's (adopted or foster) brain chemistry has literally been changed, due to their "history". Even in situations when our child has been placed with us at birth, as Dr. Purvis put it, EVERY child comes with at least 9 months of history (pre-natal). It is impossible that a pregnant woman, contemplating how to handle her pregnancy (wether or not to terminate), or stressful conversations or lack of with a significant other, or contemplating keeping or giving up her child, or how she will provide for this child...or pure anger AT the child for interrupting her life....it's impossible for the stress hormones (cortisol) to NOT affect our children. And children who go through traumatic separations, or go with needs unmet during the first formative and developmental years of their life, thier sweet little brains are altered. Physically changed. Their precious little brains, shift to survivor mode. Fight, flight, or freeze. Survivor mode takes over and literally does not allow their brains to cognitively function like yours or mine (assuming ours our "normal").
(Here is a great video on Understanding our Children from Dr. Purvis speaking at Tapestry adoption ministry, where she explains some of this, much better than my attempt here!

Better Understanding Our Children - Dr. Karyn Purvis from Tapestry on Vimeo.

Some risk factors she stated were stressful or difficult pregnancy, difficult  birth, Early hospitalization, abuse, neglect, trauma (such as being separated from birth parent or other). ANY or all of these risk factors can cause an imbalance of brain chemistry.

When the little brain chemistry is out of balance, they literally are stuck in survivor mode. Like, ALL the time, even when there is no reason for it (by our judgement). They live in the fear of  having to take care of themselves, and they are on constant alert, looking for how they need to stay in control of situations to get their own needs met. They don't trust us as the mama or daddy to take care of their needs. Especially when our kiddos have been in situations when any of their needs have gone unmet.

Ok, sorry, there was no way to get to THIS part, without that explanation. SO...one of the tools I brought home, was to start a little relationship and trust building boot camp. I'm not quite sure how long it will last, but for now our days will look like this for the most part.

Our kids, Kids from "hard places" need some extra stimulation to some of their sensory needs. This will help kick those sweet little brains back into gear, turning down that survivor mode, and turning ON the parts of their brain that allow them to process life in a healthy, cognitive way. Dr Purvis suggested some of these activities to get things started.

1. Keep them HYDRATED. (I found this ironic, since Lucy is constantly on alert, asking where her water is. ALL DAY LONG.) Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate.
2. Feed them every 2 hours during the day, and a snack with protein before bed. This will help them gain confidence that there is no shortage of food and that need will be met by you. It also can be calming to our kids to have certain foods (sweeter foods, like fruit, tend to have a calming effect, tangy or sour foods can be stimulating. choose accordingly)
3. Physical activity every 2 hours. Dr. Purvis 's institute has a room they call Crash N Bump. Climbing, jumping on a trampoline, spinning on a sit n spin, climbing up a slide and jumping from the top with a buddy...all stimulate different sensory needs in the brain. These activities serve 2 purposes, One- attachment. You as the parent are fully engaged in these activities with your child. Eye contact, praising their accomplishments, working together to count, etc. This builds trust and relationship. Second-the physical activity literally helps engage parts of the brain that have not been used. This helps reorganize the brain and regulate some of those out of balance hormones and areas. This will help them be able handle the input of the world around them and allow "survivor" mode to shut down.

Dr Purvis states that when the brain re-orders, our kids language tends to have a major growth spurt, as well as we start to see the fear diminish (which can be shown in anger, anxiety, or "crazy" behavior). We want to trade our kids...take away fear and give them trust. These activities will help accomplish this by serving to that dual purpose.

I made my own version of Crash n Bump in our family room. A mini trampoline, a sit n spin, and some ride on toys to ride around the table. These particular activities are chosen to help stimulate Vestibular (inner ear) sensory needs and Proprioceptive (large muscles) Sensory needs. Here's a little video of some of our play time in our little Crash N Bump zone. We declared yesterday a jammie day, so excuse our pj's and messy hair. Towards the end, it get's a little boring the first few minutes are my most successful time with her.
video




I also put a little sensory table in my kitchen that we'll spend some time at during other parts of the day (things like beans and rice, water, or shaving cream). I set up a "schedule" for Lucy and Jack..mostly for my sake, to stay focused on my goals for the day. It sort of falls into a natural rythym. 

I'll be honest, by 2pm, I was TIRED. It's alot of mental energy to stay totally engaged and on task. My house was a total mess, but we stuck to our goals of eating every two hours, and having physical/ sensory activity every 2 hours.  It's demanding, but I think in the BIG picture, it's a short term "boot camp" with LONG term huge benefits. On a typical day, Lucy usuaally has asked me to put her to bed twice when it's not her nap time...her escape from the overwhelming parts of the day. Since Monday when I started this, she has not asked ONCE to escape. It's kind of amazing. I still see the need to continue, and will for a few more weeks at least.
  Here's some snippets of our day.
Snack Time or meals every 2 hours

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!

Our daily routine (I can't get it rotated! Sorry.)

Playing in the dry rice and beans (they LOVE this! but be prepared to sweep.)



Today I switched the table to shaving cream. Went straight for the hair!Not sure I"ll do this one again soon. It ended in baths for both kiddos!


a nice shot of the herniated belly button :)



I got a new little point and shoot camera for an "anniversary" gift from my hubby. It's so handy!








Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Adoption from the Inside Out- Michael and Amy Monroe

This past weekend, one of the breakout sessions I attended during the Empowered to Connect Conference was taught by Michael and Amy Monroe, adoptive mom and dad to 4 beautiful kiddos.

This is a link to the same teaching they shared at ETC. It's good stuff. REAL good. I encourage you to hop over and take a listen...there's even fancy slides to go with the Audio. It's probably about 45-60 minutes, I think it's downloadable. They share about what they've learned about dealing with their own histories as parents, in order to parent our children who have high needs without dragging our baggage in and loading it onto our kids. This couple had a passion and gifting for equipping adoptive parents to help their children from "hard places" heal and connect to their families.

Take a listen HERE.
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