Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tumultuous and Terrific 2

How many times can mommy put my barette back in?
If tumultuous means chaotic,disorderly, riotus, noisy, and is the antonym of peaceful, it is a great word to describe the newest chapter in Sidney’s behavior. Our little chilli pepper has begun exhibiting an even spicier side. We are on the receiving end of temper tantrums. When she doesn’t get her way, her anger escalates while she stands in one place, repeating “no.” I typically turn my back and walk away as she tends to stay in one place while acting out. Of course, I let her know, “the only person in this world who is more stubborn than you is me.” I think this is typical 2 year old behavior. We went through the same behavior with Eli, and he obviously turned a corner, because I don’t have an 8 year old screaming. At least most days.

Eli and I are having a great time during VBS this week. I typically take an active role in helping carry out the event, and it is fun to see it all put together. It is such a positive thing in my life. We are very active in church. Tom calls us orthodox Lutheran’s. I find that phrase hilarious, because he actually gets excited about teaching our confirmation class on Martin Luther. I am thinking of getting him the shirt of a winking Luther. Such fun to see the way Eli’s face lights up when they are singing and doing the corresponding actions. I didn’t direct, as in previous years, I understand how things flow. Last night was friend night, and it is always fun to see the dynamic of kids crying, kids being crazy, kids just being kids, and generally kids in motion everywhere!

VBS is a wonderful way to transition from the weekend. We had severe flooding in our region of the country. While we only had a bit of ground water around one small area in our basement, many of the people in our town evacuated their homes to escape the rising water. Flooding is not something new in our community; however the power of the water always amazes me. The water speeds over the dam and carries anything in its path. Even more amazing is how quickly it goes away. Tom had a very busy weekend, removing the furnaces and air conditioners of homes about to become full of water. As soon as people know how high the water is supposed to become, the phone calls start coming in.

OK, off to generate yet another list of attendance, fill out another thank you note, punch another nametag, fix another sandwich, tell another three children they do not belong in the tree on the churches property, tell kids to stop running in church, tell another kid they are doing a great job picking raw vegetables off the tray, and most of all watching kids grow in their belief and faith of God.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Rainy Friday

1 Year as an American Citizen!

Waiting for yet another parade in a neighboring community. Our friends live on the parade route.

A photo of Dad, because he does exist.

I continue reliving my childhood as a pool rat. Both kids can’t wait to go, and I am not one to resist the water on one of our very hot and humid Midwestern days. This has become our alternative of choice, as opposed to becoming the next meal for one of the many mosquitoes in our backyard. Eli and Sidney both love the water. I have to watch Sidney closely. She would barrel over the side if given the opportunity. Unlike most moms sitting on the side, I slather myself in sunscreen, and jump in with the kids. I do all I can to make them zombies at bedtime. I actually talked to a mom the other day who commented that her kids get too tired swimming. Isn’t that the point?

We had a not so fun experience last night. Eli and his instructor were practicing diving into the deeper water a little over 5 feet. He is only 4’6”, so this is over his head. His instructor left him hanging on the side and took off to the other side of the pool to the next lesson. In the two seconds it took me to get to the side of the pool with Sidney on my hip, Eli said, “Mom look at how I can jet off the side.” He has not practiced treading water yet this summer. In an instant he was struggling to keep his head above water. What was most disturbing were the lifeguards who stood by doing nothing. I finally asked one to jump in. Eli was not in the least upset. He thought it was too funny that his mother was getting ready to hand off his sister to one of the lifeguards and jump in fully clothed.

Outside of our aquatic life, we are starting VBS on Sunday. I spent 2 years directing. This year, I am glad I did not take it on. I can see that after 2 surgeries and physical therapy our family needed normalcy more than anything. It has been neat to watch this normalcy continue to build the bond between Sidney and Eli. They have been close since she came home. Of course this was after a very rocky start with her jealous brother, dethroned after seven years in his kingdom. I think she will be sad when he goes back to school this fall.

Yesterday marked the 1 year anniversary of Sidney becoming an American citizen. As I wrote on my Facebook page yesterday, what a blessing that we live in a free country where she can do and be all that she dreams! We never take our freedom for granted and thank people like my Dad, who served our country, guaranting we continue to live in this great free country.

I think I better stop writing and pick up my living room. I am constantly amazed at the mess the two of them can create after one rainy day. I also think it might be a busy weekend for Tom as we have had several inches of rain in the area which causes people to pull out their furnaces and air conditioners with the threat of flooding.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Summertime and the Living's Easy

I always feel like summer passes at mock speed. This summer is no exception. Eli is lamenting the quick passing of warm weather and no school. What a great thing to be a kid, playing outside for a 7 hour stretch, and eating lunch outside with the neighbor kids. It is so nice to enjoy a calm summer and no stress!

Swimming lessons are this week, and Eli loves being in the water. I can tell we need to spend lots of time there. It is great to have formal lessons, but time hanging out in the pool is what builds confidence. I am happy he is so comfortable and not terrified as was my mother’s experience with me. Sidney did not hesitate when I took her in the water. She loved it. For some reason, at the pool in particular, kids are very curious about Sidney. One kid said, “she looks Chinese.” Good guess!

We many times have children look at her special need and ask questions. Honestly, there are not many people in the world with three fingers on each hand. Typically kids just ask why. Our response is, because “God made her that way.” If there is the inevitable question of why God made her that way, we include, because "He just did." We also tell a lot of kids, she can do everything they can do with five fingers with only three. This is typically enough, and that is what I love about kids. It is an open and shut case. They get their answer and continue on. For this reason, I was surprised that a little girl brought her friend over after we had given this explanation. I had no problem telling her to go to the other side of the pool and stop bothering us. We don’t mind explaining, but there is no need for rude behavior. We typically are not outspoken, easily offended adoptive parents, but mom can only be pushed so far before she reacts.

OK, I am off to watch Adventures in Babysitting with Eli. Tom is explaining that the concept of the movie would now be obsolete, because the babysitter would have a cell phone. I feel officially old.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Celebrating One Year as a Family of Four

I thought I might have so many things to say, on a day like today, but it has been such a profound year, it is hard to find the words which accurately portray what we have witnessed. Miracle seems like the most appropriate word. Sidney, as I have said many times, is nothing short of a miracle. She is a miracle not only for the spunky, energetic, curious, loving, dramatic, and beautiful child that she is, but she is tough, brave, and a fighter. We saw all of these attributes the first day we met.

I was as prepared as a parent can be for for her to be too thin, have a myriad of possible health problems, undocumented special needs, and issues with attachment. While we later found out she was fine, developmentally and emotionally, seeing her special needs for the first time was humbling. To see the way she functioned was humbling. Though we were scared and caught off guard, we knew we had a special purpose in this child’s life, and we were going to do whatever was necessary for her to fulfill her potential.

What I was not prepared for was her tough exterior. Properly describing her appearance would be one of a child who has experienced too much, in her short time on earth. She looked tough, like she had and could take care of herself. It is only over the last year that we have had the privilege of watching that tough exterior transform into a carefree 2 year old, her chest puffed out with confidence and pride. Though we sometimes witness that haunted look on her face in new situations, those days are normally far behind us.

Watching this transformation has made us richer as a family. We share in the small triumphs and continuously witness God’s grace for those who were otherwise forgotten by the rest of the world. It reminds me so much of my favorite story on adoption about the child throwing starfish into the ocean. A man approaches him on the beach and asks why he is throwing them back into the ocean, and the boy replies that if he does not throw them back they will certainly die. The man tells the boy, he certainly cannot save them, there are too many. He turns to the man and tells him, “I made a difference to that one.”

And we are glad we made a difference to “this one.” Making a difference to “this one” has meant watching someone grow who was destined for something so much greater than what she was offered inside the Chenzhou Children’s Welfare Institute. Of course, we know all the children inside the many orphanages in China have potential which will remain unseen. Someone languishing in one of those facilities could have the cure for cancer or go on to do significant things. Anything, really. When we are frustrated, by the unfairness of the world, we only have to look at Sidney to see our little part of the world flourish.

Sidney’s Chinese name Ningxia meant “to flourish.” That was the hope of the people who watched over her wellbeing all those days she spent before we finally became a family. Part of the flourishing, I have no doubt they intended, was taking care of her immediate health issues. Until we were home, we had no idea that outside of her limb anomalies was a vicious parasite taking her ability to sustain nourishment and properly grow. Now that I reflect on her health when she came home, I am certain this parasite might have taken her life. I was aware of this when it took two rounds of antibiotics to rid her system of something we are certain had been in her system for several months. We many times wonder if this is the ultimate reason she was found in the Chenzhou Outpatient Department of Hospital No. 3.

How overwhelmed her mother and father must have been without the support of a medical system which could adequately deal with all of her medical issues. For this reason, Tom and I will never pass judgment on her mother. It is my only hope that she or the person that ultimately dropped her off will find some kind of peace in this life. Each time she had surgery, goes to physical therapy, or accomplishes all that she has become, I silently say a prayer that her mother somehow internalizes that she is okay. I also do so, because she has given me this beautiful gift. Though we will never meet, on this earth, we will always be connected.

So, on this special day, I am simply thankful for all I have been given, for all that Tom and I will witness over the coming years, and for all that Sidney will accomplish big and small.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Catching Up on a Rainy Sunday Afternoon

Before I forget, please keep the volunteers working in the Chenzhou Children’s Welfare Institute (Sidney’s orphanage) in your prayers this week. From what I can understand, they are working in the orphanage for a week. They spend the entire day interacting with the kids. I don’t have to tell you how envious I am. They have been making a huge difference. One boy in particular, has had some very traumatic experiences which have left him resistant to interacting with others. I can only assume there is no counseling available as there is a much different attitude about mental health, in this part of the world. One person, in particular, was able to get him to come out of his shell a bit. She was able to hug him, and he hugged her back when they left one day. So neat!

I heard about the volunteers on my Yahoo group for the Chenzhou orphanage. I was able to send a book from snapfish with recent photos of Sidney. Some included her in casts, so I hope they understand she has received medical treatment. The books were given to the director. There is a video on YouTube of Sidney’s orphanage, and at the end, they have glass cases in the orphanage with updated photos of children who were adopted. I hope that one day, she will be shown in this group of children. It is important that the nannies see the good outcomes they have created.

I think I can positively say, we are on the road to health. Sidney started “the funk” a couple of weeks ago. It started with a fever and goes into a chest cold. Tom and I have both gotten over it, but Eli was the “last man standing.” With Boy Scout camp coming up on Thursday for a three night camp, I was hoping he would not get sick. He was supposed to leave Thursday night, but on Wednesday night, he had a fever of 103.2. He was very disappointed. It was a bad moment when I told him he couldn’t go! He has many more years of Boy Scout camp. The part that really sucks is that Eli is a very independent child. He loves to leave and spend the night without a moment’s hesitation. He is a very easy kid. I think much of this is attributed to the fact that I stay home, and he is sick of me!

Sidney started swimming lessons last week, and she loves it. What a brave little soul! We took her one time last October, in a hotel. She did great, but I assumed she would never remember. She let me walk right in, and allowed me to take her in the deep end. I was glad she had so much confidence.

OK, off to iron 60 iron on’s to t-shirts for Vacation Bible School I two weeks. Usually I have a bit part. Last year I did not direct, and I missed participating. Fun to watch faith growing. I am also in the process of planning our curriculum for the coming fall. We do a rotation, and I am busy every 6 weeks getting the next rotation ready.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

4th of July Festivities

Sidney, Tom, and I are battling some kind of monster bug. Eli is the last man standing. Antibiotics have speeded things along a bit, and made it possible for us to enjoy the 4th of July festivities, in our small community. Everything was held a day prior to the actual event since it fell on a weekend. Our good friends Dustin and Jill had their annual 4th of July BBQ. Tom and Dustin spent many hours by the grill, in preparation of the pre fireworks feast. Tom hauls our smoker down to their house, and many hours later pork and beef ribs, as well as pulled pork were produced. Dustin is the only person that Tom trusts to watch over his ribs while he secures seating along the parade route. We live in Anytown USA, and our town has a parade on the 4th of July.

Seating is secured just about anywhere. This could be along main street or in the boulevard of someone’s home, living along the route. The main objective is to get the seats positioned at least 2 hours prior to the event. This meant by 7am, Tom had dropped off the ribs to Dustin and driven a truck load of lawn chairs to the boulevard of some unsuspecting persons house. We typically sit at the end, of the parade route, whereby floats are dumping candy to get rid of it. This is also a way to make sure the kids are not trampled trying to get candy on main street. Usually, I still find candy hanging out in a bowl in the cupboard around Halloween, and it is dumped. Eli is most excited about Christmas, but the 4th of July is a close second.

Festivities continued long after Dad took Sidney home to go to bed. Her cutoff was about 8pm. We still have some issues getting her to eat when we are in a large group. She is typically more excited about what is going on around her, or she simply doesn’t care. Given the fact that she is behind on growth and had a rough start, we work to get her to eat. That meant dad trying to get her to eat something before bed last night. We have found, consistency and routine in her eating environment helps a lot. Usually, it is not a big deal to make sure she eats something later. We found on vacation, she was a great eater, so we know that our hurried lifestyle has to slow down at dinner time to accommodate her.

Eli and Mom rode with Dustin & Jill and their girls to the fireworks. Tom and I made the compromise on child care that he could grill all day, if I got to take Eli to the fireworks. Anything else, in my opinion, would be un-American. It is most fun to watch the expression on Eli’s face. Through all of our fun yesterday, I kept thinking about last year. What I wouldn’t have given to see Sidney having fun along the parade route while the big kids guided her picking up candy. As the 1 year anniversary of her forever family day approaches, I am sure I will have more to share.