Thursday, April 28, 2016

Amazing.

Update on us and our life.

ZhenAi is doing really well.  We are seeing more and more what her life has been like until now. She sits. And she stares. A lot. And I think I'm constantly pulling her out of that trying to stimulate her...and she's always dragging her feet.

She goes outside and squats. And just stares.  She sees the kids playing and she goes beside them and squats...and just stares.  She pushes the paper and crayons away, goes to sit on the couch...and just stares.  Ahhh.

She has a quiet, gentle spirit and it's going to be interesting to see how this year goes as we work hard to help her grow.

Grow.

Not become.

Not meet our expectations.

Not catch up.

Grow.

Just grow.  She is without a doubt a stunted flower. Having been nurtured very very little in the grand scheme of things.  She's weak. Frail.  Limp.  And often...blank.

So we don't have these big expectations.  She's not here to become our star daughter and make us proud.

No.  No...she's not.

We just want to nurture and love her and help her...grow.

To whatever she can be when nurtured properly.  Therapy. Medical help.  Food. Attention. Stimuli.  Love.

Grow.

Life has been busy, it always will be.  But we are together. All of us.

Azahria turned 8.  Oh my Azahria Peace.  The child that owns her name.  She's purple, glittery, all about unicorns and rainbows....and dirt and tonka and bugs and worms. She's one of a kind.  Quiet. Sweet.  Doesn't say a lot but when she does she means it.

When we started singing Happy Birthday, ZhenAi started clapping EXACTLY like the chinese people do when they want to attract you into their stores! It was funny and clearly something she's done many many times.

I tried to get her help me with dinner a few nights ago. She would put the croutons on the salad then quickly walk away. Then I'd call her back to do more. And the moment I looked away she'd scoot off.  To sit and stare.  :(

Yesterday we all loaded in the van...all 13 of us...to drive a now reduced total to 2.5 h round trip trek for 30m of speech therapy for Azlan. :) And you know what? It's wonderful.  We talk. Laugh. Sip on a coffee. Kids are singing, drawing, playing Monopoly Deal.... and that is our life.

Yes it's busy. And we are together. Living. Working. Doing school. Growing.

As I sit here tonight, Chazano just walked into my room and said "Mom...I've been wanting to tell you...you are amazing! You have 11 kids, you cook all the time, you always have such a clean kitchen (I think this is important to him ;) ), you teach us all school, you work so hard helping other moms, you JUST got home from China and I don't even think you stopped to rest since you got home!! And well...I just wanted to say...I can see how hard you work and you are amazing."

I see myself so very differently. As do you.  Flawed.  Not as patient as I hoped to be today.  Didn't take Azahria up on her offer to go hiking the mountain tonight.  Caved to buy a coffee when I've been trying not to.  Ate way too much pizza for dinner.  The last load of laundry just got washed AGAIN b/c I forgot about it.  The clean clothes need to be folded and put away. No I don't have laundry day. Laundry is like cooking a meal. It's all throughout the day. Every day. And that moment you let it get behind...you feel like you could scream. I see the laundry room. And the fact that I didn't make it to the post office...yet again.  And how I have a pile of clothes to return to the mall...that's probably past it's date that I CAN return it.  I see how I didn't feel like drying and straightening my hair today b/c it takes forever and my coffee was already cold...so I've had the worst hair day.  I see that the pantry is empty and I'm begging my husband to do the grocery shop b/c I detest it.

You get it right...? That's what I see. But that's not what my 11 year old son sees.  And it's not what everyone else sees.  And it's a good lesson for all of us.

We are harder on ourselves than hopefully anyone else will ever be.  As one of my close friends recently said to me "hey...stop that. That's my friend you are talking about!" and I did stop. In my tracks. Convicted of how I talk and think about me.

Tonight I'm going to take it.

I can do hard things. And I'm doing hard things. Day in and day out.

And that...supposedly...I hear...is amazing.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Thank you!

I should have blogged way sooner!  After posting and asking for prayer, we had an outpouring of love and support today and a MASSIVE answer to prayer.

So tonight...I sit and thank you. Thank you for being part of our village that most of the times...helps best just on your knees asking God to guide, direct, comfort and heal.

And He answered you.

Thank you.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Peace.

There is chaos.

There is also peace.

ZhenAi is doing really well.  There's this sadness that has hit me, however.  She's just...there.  And you can tell ... she's just always been...just there.

She is non verbal.  She just sits. Follows Tirzah and I... like a shadow. Often unaware of any rule of personal space...so you have to show her to not sit on top of you on the couch etc.  She almost just...exists.  And she's so content doing so...that it's scary.

School has begun with her.  However...it's really hard. Right now we are doing pre-k...but pre-k in the sense of teaching her how to color.  That's our focus.  Trying to make up for some of the major milestones that she has missed.

She will sit there for HOURS during school working on the picture. Often...just drawing lines with the crayon. I have to keep demonstrating the color motion. She will do it for a bit then stop.

She is now down with Tirzah. Her bed is set up and she seems to be doing well.  It's hard because she's definitely a big (tall) girl and 12.5y...but developmentally...not a peer.  So we just want to make sure Tirzah is not feeling a little claustrophobic.  So far, it's going well.

I am trying to push her a little bit with bathing and drying herself off. She has zero initiative to do more than necessary :)  She won't do anything besides sit in the bath and forces me to do it all. If I put the shampoo in her hair she will let it just run down her hair.  Sometimes yelling out if a drop of water drips on her face.  She definitely needs help getting dressed and most days the clothes will be inside out and 90% of the time...backwards.  If you come and see that...it's ok. We are ok with it. It's a lot of work for me to take it off and start over. Right now...it's ok :)

She still just imitates the same few words and appears to have a significant paralysis of her mouth. She can't move her tongue on one side which makes sense for how her words sound.  For example..."thank you" sounds like "Dah...DAH...DAH...DAH...DAH DUUU" that's how she says it every time. She's working really hard to say it but it has this huge build up and then finally happens.  Yes there will be lots of appts ahead as we try to see where we go from here to help her reach her potential in baby steps.

She's 12.5 years old. But ... it's not as it seems.  Someone recently told me they were shocked we adopted out of birth order.  Well #1...we followed God. As simple as that. But #2...to actually answer your "concern" (I'll give the benefit of the doubt here)...we know the difference between age and developmental age and Tirzah is still "the big sister".

On Thursday I look the girls to get their hair done.  It was a treat since I do everyone's hair. ZhenAi's hair had to be cut.  It was actually...awful :( It looked pretty but it was thin, tangly and super oily. We were having a hard time managing it. The moment we cut it...it felt thick and healthy. It's cut right to her shoulders.  By the way she bounces around...she appears to like it too :)

There have been other things happening in our family. Without any details, just asking you to pray.  Oh the darkness that is often in an adopted child's past. A past we know little about but are starting to see peaks into.  There's so much trauma. Pain. Loss. Darkness.  And that leads us to today.  Simply asking you to pray. God knows who and what.  And we are asking you to simply stand with us and pray for God's hand to heal and guide and direct.

In the midst of so much sadness...there is so much peace.   Last night, friends came over for coffee and desert and were referencing a secular book where the regret of someone's life was summed up in "if only..." but they were saying how as christians..."if only..." is not the thought.  No. In all of this we focus on what we know. For sure.  God led us here. To this child. To each of them.  Not because we were strong enough, qualified. No.  Not one bit. Because He is.  And this journey started in faith and today we realize the faith part of our story will continue.

Those of you who followed our story home from Africa will remember how God kept giving me the one line of the one song by Jesus Culture "though the world sees and soon forgets...we will not forget who You are and what You have done for us..." It was actually to the point of me sobbing in the airplane bathroom b/c I was almost tormented by this phrase. I knew right then and there God was giving me something I would need for days...and now I see...years...to come.

It's so easy to forget.  In my reading in Joshua I was struck by how God told His people to set up memorials so that their children would ask and be told the stories of how God rescued them.

(Joshua 4) He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 22 tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ 23 For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea[b] when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. 24 He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.

It hit me right there. Such a simple thought...but am I remembering...? Am I recording the moments that God rescued us? The moments when He 'showed up' and my faith was built and I couldn't miss how real my God was?  How quickly do I forget?

As the song says...the world sees and soon forgets...yet so do we all. It takes a commitment to remember.  To see and not forget.  And that...? That is where we are right now.

Yes. We are ok.  Our home is happy. Full of love. Joy. All the wonder.  But there is a pain and now a process that we have to muddle through for healing. Deep healing.  And for that...we ask for your prayer.  Thank you for walking this journey with us.  All the way. Here.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Total Gratitude.

It's 1:28am.

Our house is very, very quiet.

I had a great face time conversation with a great friend tonight.  Me, sipping coffee on the couch, her just a few too many miles away...but we connected.

Tonight has left me feeling just plain grateful.

Today was an amazing day.  Something beautiful happened today and no I can't share it.  But it's ok. It wasn't a big thing.  It just left me feeling oh so grateful.

And in the middle of this amazing, beautiful day...my dad called. And we had a short conversation that was ... wonderful.  And I hung up the phone and again....felt so very...grateful.



Zihao has asked me 158 times today how my day is going...and then told me 142 times how much he loves me. And every time I replied with "I love you more" he predictably followed up with "oh Mommy...you always say that."

Tirzah went to bed giggling with glee that she "finally remembered April Fool's Day" and has a trick planned for her brothers. (I'm pretty sure the boys forgot what tomorrow is...so that makes it even better).

We ended the day with a super fun bon fire...with the best S'mores I've ever EVER had...and a sky full of stars like it was displayed just for me to end a perfect day.

I hear the soft breathing of Nazara and Izrael in their little beds in our room (yes, they are. No, not in our bed...but you know we have to slowly break them in to their bedroom a hallway away from us, this has  been a big move from a tiny rental house where we were all on top of each other...to here) just makes me sit and smile...as if I didn't have reason enough.

And it all brought me here. To this point. Where I sit...when I should be sleeping. Instead I'm looking out this massive window in our bedroom. I see lights and stars and all things lovely and I feel...yes, I feel...grateful.

Even for this.  The small things. Like Big Piggy still being with us to take silly pictures of in the park. With freshly picked flowers placed on his head.  And Izrael and Nazara giggling behind me as I took the picture...full of total joy.

Even this.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Not quite into routine.

Last week, the couple who met us in Seattle to start the video documentary, came to our house.  Let's just say this...I could never have a TLC show for all those of you that suggest it.  Now I know, I know, it also comes with like $20,000 a show so maybe I'd rethink it but ... I'm not sure. :)

These people are wonderful, don't get me wrong. It's just having a camera in our faces non stop...? No. Thanks.

They came Thursday. Thursday night we stayed up til almost 2am filming interview style. Then Friday, Saturday, Sunday and they left Monday afternoon.

Ahhh.

The kids are pros at ignoring the camera, except ZhenAi :) Every shot of her is her posing I have no doubt, she just kept staring at the camera and it was pretty difficult to explain how to ignore it, so we just let it be.

We had Easter at our friends' house and they were so very kind to cook for our not-quite-so-small-crew.  Love them.

ZhenAi is doing really well. The fits have started again but more in response to being told what to do. Hmmmm. :) She wrote with pen all over the brand new bench in Tirzah's room which was really sad. I'll work hard at getting it out, it was literally 5 days old.  We aren't sure it's going to work right now with her down in Tirzah's room, it's hard to say.  She loves to go in the room and lock the door and have us all panicking and banging until she opens it.  She locked herself in the bathroom the other day and put nail polish all over her toes and fingers (yes, toes and fingers, not nails) and Tirzah's bathroom counter.  Ahhh.

She does pull herself out of the fits a lot faster and the intensity has dropped significantly. Though if you saw me pretty much carrying her up the stairs the other day, you might disagree :) I assure you however, they are pretty mild in comparison. And...we can handle it. Totally.

The boys playing football with Joey, our videographer right there.




Really. So adorable. Swinging at Miss Loralee's! 













Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Amazing.

Our update may be delayed but don't think it is because it's negative.

On the contrary...it's amazing.

ZhenAi is doing incredible.  Like...really.

Today is day three without a fit and I thought the day that everything went crazy was likely a breakthrough day.  It proved to be so.

Don't worry, it's not my 'first rodeo' and I'm well aware grieving isn't over and I don't even want it to be.  But we have definitely turned a corner.

A beautiful corner.

She is really lovely.  ZhenAi adores Tirzah. I mean...she lights up like a child on Christmas morning when she sees her.  Which is pretty awesome in itself. I'm glad she's really drawn to her and is going to learn from someone with such a big patient, heart.

Saturday Tirzah wanted to take me on a date. I asked her if ZhenAi could come and she immediately responded with "oh of course!". So Tirzah took us to Five Guys for burgers and fries.

ZhenAi literally skipped up the stairs to get her shoes and skipped all the way to the van!  I thought it was super sweet that Tirzah sat in the back with her instead of the front seat.  Every time I looked back at her she was beaming. Both of them.

After lunch we went to Marshall's to look for some things for Tirzah's room. Our thoughts since gotcha day were that ZhenAi needed to be upstairs closer to us.  However, Tirzah brought her down to her room and ZhenAi lit up at the idea of sleeping down there. Their mattresses are still on the floor but beds are on the way.  So we said we could absolutely try it.

The first morning (Sunday), ZhenAi and Tirzah come up for breakfast and ZhenAi is dressed for church with her hair done! Tirzah said "oh she knew exactly what she wanted to wear and let me do her hair!"  Cutest ever.

 Honestly, Tirzah has done amazing.  She took the news that ZhenAi seems to be quite a bit developmentally delayed...like a champ. She didn't really bat an eye. There was no sign of disappointment or anything about 'her' desire to have a sister that was a peer.  When we told her ZhenAi doesn't appear to speak, even in Mandarin, she didn't bat an eye there either.  She adores her.

ZhenAi copies Tirzah's every move. If Tirzah sits up straighter, ZhenAi copies.  If Tirzah says "Thank You" extra loud, so does ZhenAi.

It's now been a few nights and it's going great.  It's interesting that my last  blog post journalled the last hurrah of temper fits.  She comes for a hug every night, even if she seems to lack the concept, she leans in.

If only you could see just how calm and wonderful life really is in our house.  It is.  And our hearts are so thankful.

After dinner in our house is reading time.  It's amazing how silent this house can be! :)





Before dinner is a little louder :) Toys are all put away for the day and kids are helping in the kitchen....(you know how much easier it is to do it on my own, right? :) )




(Like Zion's tattoo...?)


And the little kids that keep it very...very...lively :)


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

A beautiful story.

My nights have gotten a little bit better and our days definitely have.

I am not napping, I'm just not sleeping.  I finally fell to sleep at 3:30am this morning and was up at 8.

Our days, however, are going wonderfully.

ZhenAi loves to be outside. Yesterday Tirzah took her on a walk and she didn't want to come back in!

This afternoon, I heard a loud whack and then a scream. I ran around the corner to see Izrael standing wide eyed "ZhenAi spanked me!!! Again!!!" I tried not to look at ZhenAi so she didn't think I was coming to talk to her.  In fact, I looked away from her.  Ray has been telling me since China that ZhenAi keeps "spanking" her.  We've never seen it but I've been trying to keep a close eye.  Well...I heard this time!

So as I walked her direction, looking the other way, she RUNS! Like...RUNS across the house.  I'm thinking that was a sign of her knowledge of what she had done.  So I call her to me. Nope, no way.  I finally get near her and motion to her what a whack is (in the air) with Izrael standing nearby.  I then say "no no". Now we say 'sorry Ray'. She started SCREAMING no. I mean...top of her lungs screaming.  Yes. This was going to be a battle.

So I had to carry her to her room...she would not budge and was stomping her feet, folding her arms, letting me know she was not going to come to her room as she screamed in the loudest shrill I hope I ever hear. So...I carried her.  Thankful for a friend who has been praying God will give us 'strong backs'!! Boy do I need it! Thankfully...I have one!

There she starts swinging at me. She never came close enough to hit me but kept motioning as if she would. Every time I would push her fist down into her lap and she'd pop it right back up.  Now I'm not smiling. My voice is quiet but stern.  "ZhenAi no.  This is not ok. You do not hit and now you need to say SORRY RAY". I'm motioning everything I'm doing. All I get is head back, mouth open, top of the lungs scream.

This went on for a very long time. Well...maybe it was my dripping sweat as I tried to keep her flailing limbs from hitting me that made the clock slow down. I'm not sure. But this standoff felt like forever.  As we are nearing the end...she leans in (I have no idea if it's on purpose or not) and burps RIGHT in my face.
Come on. Go there with me.   I am sure I bit my lips together, closed my eyes for a very long second and then entered this with new resolve.  When she burps, we have taught her to say "excuse me" and she does upon prompting. This time she laughed and said no.  Five minutes later when she saw I was not going anywhere...she said "Excuse Me" and "sorry Ray" though Ray was no where to be found ... this was wonderful.

Then I lead her to the bathroom where I washed her face and dried her tears and told her we are all done.  She nodded and came out into the kitchen, followed me like a puppy dog and was beaming the whole time.

Ahhh.

Yes. These moments.  They are hard. Messy. Yucky, even. Just plain hard.

But you know what's coming next...yes.  This:  I can do hard things.  I don't like it. Not one bit.  It's not fun. Entertaining. Feels like I'm getting no where. All of that. All of it.

But it's a part of the story.  It always amazes me how people walk in on the story years down the road and see our children obeying. Respectful. Kind. And make some comment about how lucky we are.

If you know me you know that really sits well :)  Lucky?

Come here for all the messy moments that led to respect and obedience and kindness.

Whether it's Taizi and "he's not really that hard!" after we endured months of screaming just to get him to eat! To crawl! To walk! Yes, it's fine to walk in now and see how manageable he is but it took 3 years of a lot of (loud) hard work.  As it did with all of our children.

This is her story. Our story. And someday these messy moments will all be a distant memory.

Tonight, 2 of our other children had a conversation about how one had bumped into the others' lego creation and ruined it all. It was an accident but the other child was really upset.  Really upset. Like why should child #2 still get to play with child #1? I mean "I know it was an accident but they ruined my set I don't want to play with them anymore!" and child #2 was crying b/c he felt genuinely bad about it.

So as I'm helping them wade through it...I asked them "do you think I felt like coming out of that battle with ZhenAi today and hugging her, laughing with her as she watched me cook dinner? Do you think I wanted to give her a bubble bath tonight and wash her hair and comb it when it was I who was sweating buckets and needed the bubble bath?" I was met with wide eyes. "No...mommy".  No. I didn't. But what was the RIGHT thing to do?

Yes.  We know. We all know.

The right thing is to swallow your 'me feelings' and do the right thing.

Just...do the next right thing.

Don't worry about tomorrow. Do the right thing today.  Actually..just do the next right thing right now.

After ZhenAi's bath...I look at the kitchen table to see this moment.



This moment. Unprompted. I wasn't involved one bit.

In fact when I called them to look at me, you can see the surprise on both of their faces!


Izrael (the one ZhenAi hit earlier!) is combing ZhenAi's hair and ZhenAi is looking in the mirror as she does it.

And this is the beginning of a beautiful story.  Please...some day if you visit....don't miss the work it took to get to that amazing place. See beyond.  Just like our marriage. Our new house.  Our business. We aren't lucky. Never have been!  We have worked...so very hard.  And we...just like you...have learned along the way...that we can do hard things!  And the result is this beautiful story.