The Skin of a Snowman?

Snowmen clip

“Because a human infant is totally dependent on her mother for survival, one of the most traumatic events an infant can experience is abandonment in a public place under dangerous circumstances. She will literally fear for her life” (Lyon, D’Antonio, & Beck  2001).

 

At this point, I am not in search of a diagnosis for our youngest (adopted China 2011).  It could be any of the following:

Is is critical to change what we are doing at homenow.  None of these issues occurred until she started school; I see school as the public place that is causing her to relive the trauma of abandonment.  For the last two years, she had been home with me and her siblings.

She needs love.  She needs security.  She needs to develop trust.  She needs me.

 

Today

While my coffee gets cold on the window sill, my daughter’s heart becomes warm, joyful.  We read five snowmen books today.  While reading, I held her tight, tickled her, and gave frequent zerberts.  Somehow, having my hand on her bare belly makes her sigh and snuggle closer.  Human contact. . . by the most important person to her: her mommy.

End Notes

Lyon, Lynne, D’Antonio, Nancy, & Beck, Laura. (2001).  Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Post-Institutionalized Children.  Retrieved from http://www.attach-china.org/ptsd.html.

But It’s Just a Doll!

Take a look at this baby doll.  Isn’t she pretty?  My oldest daughter bought this Christmas gift for her little sister (adopted from China in 2011).  You may be thinking, “Why isn’t this an Asian doll?”  Well, before this doll, we had bought an Asian baby doll, whose eyes would open and shut; my daughter hated her.  Later, we purchased an American girl doll that looked just like her.  Needless to say, my oldest daughter now has two American girl dolls!  Need I say more?

The Christmas Eve Gift

The Christmas Eve Gift

But, my daughter’s response to this doll was different.  With the previous dolls, she would  either ignore them or play with them-only if  her sister was around.  She didn’t mind having these dolls at the end of her bed.

On Christmas Eve, we were putting our daughters down for bed.  I noticed that her baby doll was crammed inside a box.  When I asked if she wanted to cuddle her baby, her response, “Keep it in the box.  I do not want it looking at me.”  Soon after, she told me that she didn’t like it and wanted me to take it out of the room. “The doll has eyes that will not shut and will be looking at me all night long.  It’s the doll from my bad dream.  That one would never close its eyes either,” she said.  So, I just put the doll out of sight.

Look At Her Eyes

Look At Her Eyes

The next night, right before bed,  she began to weep; we could not soothe her.  My husband, then, questioned if she had been traumatized in the orphanage.  After all, we had read many stories about children dying and being left in their cribs for several days.  I had often wondered how this impacted the other children?  Though we could not prove this, the thought was certainly worth entertaining.  The bottom line: something about that doll was scaring her.  It wasn’t until we removed the baby doll from the house did she finally relax.

Several days later, she asked who we were giving the doll to and wanted the reassurance that the doll would not return home as a gift.  I am proud to say that as I write this post, the doll is finding a new home.

Doll Phobias, really?

Can One Learn to Read . . . in all Educational Settings?

Learning does take place in all educational settings.  Joelle has been in public school for six weeks and has just come home reading her first book.  I am a firm believer that every child does learn differently and may require a variation in the learning environment to succeed. Our youngest made it very clear that she wanted me to be her mother, not her teacher.  She wanted me to hold, to tickle, to love, and to play with her-but that was it, though.

Our youngest just needed more socialization.  I know, home schoolers do not like hear that their kids are not sociable, and I believe, for the most part, many families, who choose the road of educating their own, do produce very outgoing, personable children.  But, are we all the same?  I have to remember that my daughters did have another chapter in their lives before we became a forever family.  They were use to interacting with groups of people . . . and a different culture!

What works for her right now is interacting with a teacher (Of course, it helps that I know this teacher personally.) and being involved in a classroom setting.  She thrives on being in the middle of it all-the singing, the laughing, and apparently, the reading!  Here is a video of her reading to daddy: Joelle’s Reading

Each of our children has learned to read well in a different school setting.

  • Our oldest son: Christian school
  • Our youngest son: Christian school/ homeschooling
  • Our oldest daughter: home
  • Our youngest daughter: public school

The Best Daddy Ever!

the best dadMy Dad is magnificent to me!  First of all, my Dad is a hunter.  When he kills a deer, Dad brings back the meat for me and my family-“Yum!”  When supper comes, we have delicious tacos and stew with deer meat.  This deer meat helps my family because we do not have to buy meat from the store.  Sometimes, when Dad has plenty of time, he plays Monopoly with me.  A lot of times my Daddy wins the game, but it is fine with me as long as we are having fun.  I like it when my Dad lifts me up in the air, and I stretch my arms out like an airplane.  We fly through the air.  After we run out of gas, we crash onto a bed, and he tickles and tackles me.  My favorite part of the night is when Daddy snuggles up with me and reads two books to me.  It does not matter what kind of books he reads just as long as we are together.  My favorite memory is when he adopted me.  Both Mom and Dad flew from Maine all the way to China to get me.  While we were there, my Dad would brush my teeth for me and let me put hair clips in his hair!  My Dad will love me forever.                     Happy Father’s Day, Dad!  I love you!

Girls Will be Queens

I have just listened to Audio Adrenaline’s Kings & Queens; how this song resonates within my heart and soul! This week we celebrated our second Family Forever Day with Joelle.  I wish to dedicate this song to all other Kings and Queens waiting for families like you.

Here are some of the lines from that song:

Little hands, shoeless feet, lonely eyes looking back at me

Will we leave behind the innocent too brief

On their own, on the run when their lives have only begun

These could be our daughters and our sons

Our Daughter

Our Daughter

And just like a drum I can hear their hearts beating

I know my God won’t let them be defeated

Every child has a dream to belong and be loved

Our Two Queens

Our Two Queens

[Chorus:]
Boys become kings, girls will be queens
Wrapped in Your majesty
When we love, when we love the least of these
Then they will be brave and free
Shout your name in victory
Our Queens and King
When we love, when we love the least of these
When we love the least of these
Break our hearts once again
Help us to remember when
We were only children hoping for a friend
The Other King
Won’t you look around these are the lives that the world has forgotten
Waiting for doors of our hearts and our homes to open

joelle ears 003

As we wrap up our second Gotcha Day with our Queen Joelle, I am reminded that there are at least 153 million more Kings and Queens out there?  

                                                      Truly, adoption is royalty in the making! 

                               Will YOU be part of the lineage of eternal Kings and Queens?

 

And not only for that nation, but to bring together and unite all the children of God scattered around the world.  John 11:52

The Queen’s Chair

This is our new chair.  Looks fancy-almost throne-like, don’t you think?  I would definitely say it is pretty enough for the queen of this household!  The questions is, though, does the queen ever really get to sit in this golden chair christened with burgundy, velvet pillows, dripping with ruby-like beads?  Really, is she even worthy enough?

Our furniture track record has been in the negative for almost three years; chairs and couches do not live long in our house.  However, this chair is different; they say it is “top of the line”.  Only time will tell; however, Queen Mother, that is me, claimed this chair for myself. We had quite the ceremony.  My kids presented me with a cardboard scepter as I elegantly walked to my new throne while carefully balancing my pillow crown that sat upon my head.  Here are the chair rules: no child is allowed to sit on throne unless Queen Mother is present and sitting in the chair; the children may sit with her.  King Father may sit in the chair only if Queen Mother is absent.  Elder Prince Jacob may sit in the chair only when he is babysitting.

Surprisingly, these silly rules have worked well until today.  Look at these faces.  Could you tell them no?  I bet not!  Seriously, they danced their way into my heart once again and taught me another life lesson. How did the Lord know that I needed to be reminded about Him and His love for me?

Princess Padgetts 131 (video)

To the Lord, I am not just the maid of the household as the picture below depicts. My scepter, in the Lord’s eyes, is not a broom.  To him, I am not a mother, wife, maid, teacher, or caregiver. And neither are you, moms!  Though these roles are important, they should not define who we are in Christ.

Psalm 45:11 “The King is enthralled by your beauty; honor Him, for He is your Lord.”

When I read this verse, I thought “enthralled” by my beauty?  I immediately started to name all of my flaws-both my physical, spiritual, and emotional ones.  Then, I realized that it was my heart that He is captivated with.  He loves me in spite of my shortcomings.   Ladies, the Lord is hooked, hypnotized, charmed, fascinated, and deeply in love with you and with me.  This is what my daughters taught me today.  Why else would I be willing to post a picture of me in this tiara!

The Little Red Piano

A children’s fiery-red piano, baby grand in style, sat off to one side of the room on Christmas morning. We had decided to save it for last, not because we didn’t want to surprise our little musician, but simply because we didn’t want to hear the pounding of the keys while trying to enjoy a peaceful, magical Christmas with four children, ages 12, 9. 7, and 4.

Though we wanted this piano to be  our youngest daughter’s first gift, we decided instead to cover it up with a fuzzy fleece blanket; the music maker was nestled in the corner next to the fireplace.

A silver, glittery, sparkle hat sat atop our little one’s silky, black hair. This hat would later be referred to as the “piano hat”. Those big brown eyes stared at the tree with great anticipation and wonder. As everyone took turns opening gifts, the tension began to mount. Though our little singer  loved her Legos, pink Etch-A-Sketch, and Snowball, the barking mechanical dog, it was almost as if she knew that there was a “gift” destined to be hers!

Several moments passed . . . and suddenly, Dad quickly turns on the video camera and rips off the yellow blanket. “Surprise, Joelle!” echoed across the room. But instead of giggles of delight and joy, a dead silence permeated and bounced off the unfinished, sheet rocked walls. Your brown eyes began to glisten with tears and bewilderment; the question, “For me, and only me?” was written all over your face. After a great deal of reassurance that the gift was yours and a declaration of how much we love you was said, you sat down at the red, wooden bench, made just for you.

Then, you began to quietly play. Your chubby little fingers sailed across those ivory keys speckled with rectangular dark ones. Really, it seemed like you had been playing for years. Maybe in your dreams? Joey Walker’s song, “One True God”, rang out. We were all frozen to our seats as you played; no one moved, no one spoke.  We were mesmerized and deeply honored to be part of your Christmas miracle.

This moment in time was my Christmas blessing. Your joy and delight, mixed in with a deep soul wrenching gratitude, is permanently etched inside my heart forever. The song you chose to sing was written so that other children could have forever homes. How did you know that this song was so important?  God knows.

For those of you who would like to put music into a child’s heart, like Joelle who was adopted from China in 2011, please go to http://mcfallsworship.bandcamp.com/ and purchase the worship album Let Us Return or the children’s worship one: Following Jesus. All proceeds go to help others adopt.  Millions of children are counting on you to play their song of hope and of joy.

Balancing Between Two Cultures

After meeting many adoptive parents throughout the years, I have come to the realization that we all approach our children’s cultures differently. Some pass down personal American traditions to their children whereas others attempt to integrate a variety of cultural aspects into their family. We have tried to balance the two, both in décor and Asian traditions, although I have given up trying to make authentic Chinese food, especially my daughter’s favorite — dumplings.

Our main living area is adorned with Asian artifacts such as a rice hat, a whimsical tapestry, an exquisite fan, and portraits of our daughters in their native costumes. Our oldest often refers to this room as “Her China” room. Ironically, when we redecorated our living room, I discovered some Waverly fabric at a local discount store. This burgundy, toile fabric did not have the traditional Colonial Williamsburg flare to it but rather an Asian scene displayed with ladies playing flutes, children running around a nearby stream, and men working in a garden. Stamped on the inside of this fabric were the words: Canton Gardens; we later found out that our oldest daughter’s city of birth originally had that name. Apparently, there is still a garden in Guangzhou, China, that one can visit.

During the Christmas season, our daughters have two special dresses, both an American and a Chinese one. Interestingly, my oldest seems to prefer her Asian dress more. While in China, I made a point to purchase a variety of different sized dresses; I only wish that I had bought more. They have worn these dresses not just for Christmas, but for other special days, such as Forever Family Day and Chinese New Year .

I have always disliked the family tradition of tearing down our Christmas tree on New Year’s Day. What a waste to keep a tree up for only five weeks. However, this past year, we packed all of our traditional ornaments away, leaving only white, sparkling lights. Then, we redecorated our tree with hand-blown glass ornaments in shapes of birds, pine cones and winter animals.

The finishing touch was adding our collection of Asian decorations. It was on this day that we declared our new tradition: our Chinese New Year’s tree. As a family, the kids voted to also keep the tree up until the Chinese New Year was over. Needless to say, the girls were thrilled. Now, throughout the year, our family is in constant search for new ornaments to adorn the next year’s tree.

During the first week of February, the girls and I dress up in Chinese attire and attend the annual Chinese New Year celebration in Portland, Maine. What jubilation! There is so much to do — a dragon parade, a recital put on by Asian dancers, Chinese food to sample, and booths filled with Asian gifts. My daughters love going to the craft room to make authentic decorations of China — Chinese lanterns, feathered hacky-sacks and Chinese calligraphy.

To make this day complete, we head off for “real” Chinese food, and everyone is happy that mom is “not” in that kitchen. Watching my oldest devour her vegetable and meat filled dumplings makes my heart smile.

Though most of our traditions occur within the home, going to the Chinese New Year is an important one as well. Having our daughters see other adoptees with their American parents really reminds the girls that all cultures, regardless of skin color, can be families, too.

This article was first published in Adoption Today, December 2012

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Our Little Elf!

Happy Match Day!

Two years ago today . . .

We heard your name for the very first time and

Saw your beautiful, big brown eyes.

Two years ago today, we, and many friends and family, were frantically fundraising like crazy to bring you home.  I couldn’t wait to hold you and call you “my Joelle”.

And now . . . the Journey for Joelle has been completed, and you are our forever little girl!  We love you, Joelle!

 

Another Piece of the Puzzle

In March 2011, we received our travel date to fly back to China to adopt our second daughter; the wait was finally over!  However, I had a dull ache in my heart, and her name was *Jillian, our daughter who we adopted from China in 2008.  I wasn’t obsessively concerned about leaving behind our homegrown boys (*Jon, age 12, and *Jack, age 8) since they had been separated from us when we traveled to China the first time. Now, though, Jillian had begun to regress by showing signs of clinginess, nail biting, and the quivering bottom lip– all were running rampant in this five year old’s demeanor.

Not long after receiving the travel dates for China, I was sitting on the edge of my bed, tying my shoes, when Jillian crawled into my lap to face me, wrapped her arms tightly around my neck, and, with intense articulation, pleaded, “Mommy, I can’t let you go.  You have only been my mom for three years, and I cannot live without you while you are in China getting my new sister.”  Then . . . the gut-wrenching sobs came.

Somehow, I knew that part of Jillian’s journey was to travel back to “Her China”– the nickname she often called her birth country.  Our daughter had always been very inquisitive about her past—her foster family, the orphanage, her birth parents, and the Chinese culture in general.  The confirmation came when I found out that Jillian’s Chinese social worker was in the states and had agreed to ask her foster family back in China if they would like to meet us.  When I received the resounding “Yes” from these surrogate parents, I knew that the “three” of us were traveling back to China to adopt our new daughter and to also personally thank this family for taking such good care of Jillian!

May 2011, Guangzhou, China

We are now in “Jillian’s Town” and are finalizing the adoption of our second daughter.  Up until this point, my oldest has embraced both her Chinese culture and her people, although the stinky tofu on Snack Street in Beijing wasn’t a big hit!  Even though I still have some concerns about her going through a new season of grief and unfamiliar emotions, adding another piece to “her adoption story” trumps the decision.

The afternoon finally arrives, and we all cram into the back seat of a taxi, holding our daughters on our laps, while our guide sits in the front.  As we are zipping down the highways, which seemingly took us all the way across the city, our guide chats away on his cell phone, Cantonese style, to our daughter’s foster father, trying to get more specific directions.

Finally, the taxi comes to a halt, and Jillian’s foster father is waiting for us with much compassion and happiness etched on his face.  I could tell immediately that he wanted to scoop up our daughter and carry her back to the apartment, but I could also sense her uneasiness since she was clinging to her daddy’s leg.  Without delay, I spoke to our guide, asking him to inform the foster father of Jillian’s apprehension.  My husband scooped her up, and I carried our new daughter; we, then, began to follow our guide and the father through the weaving alley ways which were, surprisingly, very clean.  The tall, eight story apartment buildings, that were all similar in appearance, loomed over us as we walked and made me wonder who was watching us, but I knew we needed to do this for both closure and healing.  Finally, after climbing many flights of steps, we had met our destination: Jillian’s Chinese home.

Walking in and seeing the same set-up of furniture and décor’, like our daughter’s pictures, was all very surreal. The foster mother was pleased to see us, but I could sense some nervousness mainly because they were currently fostering another child and could lose their jobs for agreeing to see us.

It was apparent they loved our daughter deeply.  Between the triangular conversations: the foster father, the guide, and us, I could tell they still adored Jillian.  I nearly cried when they brought out a stack of baby pictures to show us; some I had never seen. Before we had time to give our tokens of gratitude, they blessed Jillian with a singing pink poodle; she was so delighted with this present!  Then, we presented our gifts from Maine: salt water taffy, handcrafted jewelry, a letter written by Jillian with the Cantonese translation, and a picture album of our family.  The foster father had questioned where Maine was, and we were able to write our names on a world map that hung on their living room wall.  While we were doing this, Jillian began to relax and joined her new sister who was already playing with toys.

Suddenly, a miracle occurs-Jillian squeals with delight and pulls out a stuffed cat wearing a jogging suit from the toy box.  This was the childhood toy we had often seen in her pictures–we had even tried to find her one of these stuffed animals in the states.  She loved this toy and would often point it out to me.  Ironically speaking, this family had two and gave Jillian one of them!  Finally, after drinking our hot water, nibbling on some exotic Chinese fruit, and exchanging both emails and addresses, it was time to call a taxi and head back to the White Swan.

Sadly, I felt mixed emotions; I could tell that Jillian was happy to have met her foster family who had cared for her until we could fly over on the big plane, as she often said, but I was also nervous about the emotional impact this meeting would now have on her.  As we said our good-byes and took pictures, Jillian’s foster mother handed her a fiery red, golden embossed envelope with two hundred Chinese currency inside and a huge tin of cookies.  I will never forget the look this foster mother had for Jillian; the love and affection in her eyes will be ingrained in my heart forever.   Our daughter had been deeply loved in China, too.

Home Once Again, Winter 2012

Now that we are back home and have finally settled into a routine of having a new sister and daughter to love, I find myself often gazing up at the gifts: the pink poodle and stuffed cat that Jillian loves so much.  Though Jillian doesn’t say much about the visit, she looks at her life book frequently, and I find her smiling at the pictures of her foster family.  At one point, right before bedtime, Jillian questioned who she was suppose to love now since she felt torn between her loyalty to us and her foster family.  My only response was to tell her that she could love us both.  She, then, smiled and kissed me goodnight; I knew that this answer was only sufficient for now. It is inevitable that Jillian will have more questions about her story in the future, and because of this, our family will begin to pray for the next piece of the puzzle.

*Names have been changed

*This article was originally published in the April issue of Adoption Today (2012).