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.