My Baby Tells Her Story

It’s been less than six months since my daughter finished her year-long treatment with interferon.  The needles, the sharps container, the smell of the alcohol wipes, that whole experience has quickly become a distant memory.  At age four, it’s doubtful that my daughter will remember anything about it into adulthood.  That’s wonderful, but at the same time, I want her to remember.  I want her to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that she’s always been a fighter.  She’s always had courage beyond her years.

I didn’t want to rely just on my telling of the story.  I hoped to preserve something that would capture her, the girl she is right now with the scratchy little voice who could talk about such big things.

We stand in awe of her amazing result, but just as amazing, just as awe-inspiring, is her tenacious spirit.  We feel so blessed to call her our daughter.

Whatever Wednesday

Each Wednesday we post links from the previous week that touch on special needs adoption. Our hope is that these small snapshots provide you with a glimpse of life after adopting through China’s waiting child program… both the long-term blessings and the challenges that come with parenting a child with special needs. We also hope to raise awareness about a variety of special needs.

Monday’s Answers: How Much Should They Share?adoptive momma (Ethiopia) One Thankful Mom at A Bushel and a Peck… on how to help children adopted at older ages navigate how much they should share, and with whom they should share their past histories

Thinking back to May 31st and Reflections on an Emotional Dayadoptive momma (China) snapshot at Somebody Needs a Nap… on meeting her day, then meeting her daughter’s foster family, last month during their adoption trip

A+adoptive momma (China) Sandra at The Daily Grind… a simple t-shirt message reminds a mom of her pride in her daughter

third (and final) appointment at the children’s hospitaladoptive momma (China) Jill at Little Lilah Grace… a free-and-clear from the local children’s hospital after adopting through the special needs program

Fearless – Inspiration – Perseverance – Succeeding – Prideadoptive momma (China) Robin at Dreaming of Tea for Three… watching her daughter climb at the playground

The kindness of strangers to kids with special needs
mom Ellen at Love That Max… detailing the many kindnesses her son experienced on their recent vacation


Our newest guest contributor is Katherine, who is currently living and teaching in China. She also has the unique opportunity to spend time volunteering at a local orphanage. Katherine blogs over at Life of a Pilgrim and although she is not an adoptive mother, she has a unique perspective and invaluable insights into life in China.

I’m going to be real honest with you; I’ve struggled a lot with what to write here. First of all, I’m extraordinarily humbled to be posting here. I’ve never adopted. I’m not even a mother. I’m a huge believer in practicing what you preach—and if you aren’t practicing it, then be quiet. I can’t give you advice on attachment, I can’t commiserate with the pain of waiting, I can’t help you figure out the tangle of paperwork. I’ve never walked in your shoes. I wouldn’t be surprised if someday I do, but as for now, I can’t speak to any of those issues.

So why am I joining the discussion here? I’m wondering the same thing just about now. I’m wondering why I emailed Stefanie saying I’d love to share. What I have to offer is simply one tiny glimpse into life in a government orphanage in China. It’s one small, and by no means normative, view of the landscape of Chinese orphanages.

I moved to China five years ago with very little knowledge and understanding of the culture. The past five years I’ve learned a lot, but the more I learn the more I realize I don’t understand. If there is one principle to hold onto while discussing China, it’s that China is a land of contradictions. This is a frustrating realization when you’re trying to learn about the culture. Our human tendency when we’re learning something new is to make generalizations and equations. If A is true and B is true then C must be true. However, such simplifying strategies just don’t work in China.

This fact is especially true within orphanages, and is one of the reasons for my hesitation in sharing. I can tell you any number of heart-wrenching and heart-warming stories, but if these stories are set up as norms, they become false and misleading. In sharing, learning, and preserving the stories of these precious children and of your child, there must be a balanced acceptance of the broken and the redeemed, the good and the bad, the noble and the corrupt. A focus only on the good creates a romanticized version of orphanage life and adoption that fails to acknowledge that things are not as they should be. A focus only on what’s broken fails to acknowledge the intimate activity of the Defender of orphans, working to bring redemption and healing in the darkest corners.

With all of that being said, today I want to share a bit about some of the changes I’ve witnessed at our orphanage in the past five years. This overview will hopefully give you a broader framework within which to tuck future stories I may share (that is, if Stefanie ever invites my long-windedness back).

One of the most encouraging things to witness the past five years has been the move of the orphanage, both figuratively and literally. Five years ago, the orphanage was in a one room old building behind an elderly and disabled home on the outskirts of the city. Most in the city were ignorant of its presence. When one of the foreign teachers at our university heard there was an orphanage, she found a student who could take her. What began was a gradual period of building relationship and trust and what resulted was an unprecedented freedom in visiting the orphanage whenever we want to.

We began to take students with us to the orphanage, and when the need for surgeries arose for several children, a fundraiser was held on our university campus to raise money. In a way, our involvement in this project “shamed” the school. The fact that foreigners were caring for their own people didn’t sit too comfortably with those at our university. As a result, more and more student groups began to visit the orphanage. Some Saturdays we would arrive and every single child would be in the arms of a student.

In those early days, the orphanage was able to build a new building next to the old one. It was a two-storied bright pink castle, and was a huge improvement over the previous building. They were in that building for about three years before the biggest move came. About two years ago, the orphanage moved from the outskirts of the city to the very heart of the city, becoming the only orphanage in the province to be downtown. The building, with cartoon characters sprawled over its outside walls, is hard to ignore now. Community awareness and aid is increasing. There are more domestic adoptions now.

While this history is extremely encouraging, there are still many things that weekly break my heart. There is a great deal of corruption in the higher levels of orphanage administration in our region. Children’s files are moved extremely slowly to Beijing for placement. While the nannies at our orphanage truly love the children, there aren’t nearly enough of them. While those with minor special needs are usually adopted as toddlers, those with more severe special needs are for the most part left behind.

Hope and despair, brokenness and redemption, beauty and shame. Such is the complex and contradictory world of the orphanage. What’s left for each of us to do within this picture is to fight for justice and love. We embrace and applaud what is good and right, and we seek to take part in the redemption of what’s broken. However, our greatest comfort remains in the fact that the big picture orchestration is in the hands of the only One who intimately knows and cares and understands each little life.

Whatever Wednesday

Each Wednesday we post links from the previous week that touch on special needs adoption. Our hope is that these small snapshots provide you with a glimpse of life after adopting through China’s waiting child program… both the long-term blessings and the challenges that come with parenting a child with special needs. We also hope to raise awareness about a variety of special needs.

Cognitive Skills —- boring, right?
adoptive momma (China) Heather at Noodles, Tea and a Didi, Please… on normal developmental delays due to a lack of exposure to things

Hospital Day 2 adoptive momma (China and Ethiopia) CW at I Will Pull This Blog Over!… their second day in the hospital after p-flap surgery

Restoring Resourcefulnessadoptive momma (Ethiopia) Tisha at Deutschland… on how she changed their family budget to help pay off hospital bills

Educating Mayadoptive momma (China) Sister Carrie at Jiaozi… how her daughter, adopted at age eight, adapted to the American education system over the past several years

Faith’s Heartadoptive momma (China) Snapshot at Somebody Needs a Nap… on her daughter’s heart PDA with a high velocity

Be Still…adoptive momma (China) Nicole at The Baker Sweets… on feeling the pull to adopt a child found on the special needs list

Running Through China: A Stop at the Henan Cleft Healing Homeadoptive momma (China) and executive director Amy Eldridge at Love Without Boundaries… visiting the little ones at the Henan Cleft Healing home in Kaifeng

A Pleasant Surpriseadoptive momma (China) Annie at Cornbread & Chopsticks… a recent conversation at the pool that didn’t turn out the way one momma expected

loving China

We have five children from China, ranging in age from 2 to 6. While none of them have come to us with a desire to explore their heritage, we have taken it upon ourselves to at least crack open the door to their roots. In a small way, embracing not only our children, but where they come from.

We don’t take Chinese classes. We don’t have lots of Chinese friends. Currently, bound by time and monetary constraints, that just isn’t possible. But it is possible to introduce, in small ways, pieces of China into our children’s lives. And we have found that when we crack open that door, more often than not, our children run through, delighted at the opportunity to learn more about their “China”.

We have numerous Chinese books around, all age appropriate for small children. This is one of our favorites… we have enjoyed trying the traditional Chinese recipes and referring to it for child-friendly stories about Chinese Holidays. Tonggu Momma has some wonderful book ideas for children adopted from China on her blog here. So far our children have enjoyed reading books based on China, but nothing like they love seeing China… in action.

They love this DVD. I actually bought it a while ago. Initially, it met with mixed reviews, no one really disliked it, per se. But no one loved it. When Vivienne arrived home, with her love of singing and dancing, I decided to pull it out again. And wow, do they love it now. Every single one of them. And they haven’t stopped watching it (off and on, a mom does occasionally need a break) ever since.

In fact, even when they are not watching the video, I find them humming or singing the songs on the video and sometimes, even several of them join in together to sing one of the songs from the DVD. None of us are quite sure what, exactly, they are singing, but they most definitely are enjoying themselves. And I love that one of the reasons they enjoy the songs so much is because they are Chinese. I hope they always feel proud to be Chinese. Because although they are American, they are and always will be Chinese, too.

We have also interspersed Asian-inspired art and items purchased in China displayed all around our home. We want them to know that we have not only embraced them as our children, but that we have an admiration and love for China as well. Our daughters, both 6 years old and home for 4 and 5 years respectively, especially love having pieces of China in their every day lives. They enjoy looking over their ‘China pictures’, the gifts we purchased for them in China, and the books, clothes and jewelry we bought for them while there. They have mementos of China safely tucked in special spots around their room. And having access to these items occasionally opens up an opportunity for us to discuss big issues, and to use heavy words like “orphanage” and “birth parents” more naturally, without having to force a conversation. We don’t want our children to hear ‘adopted’ or ‘orphan’ for the first time at school, out of the mouth of another child, and not know what it means or how to respond. We want them to learn about their beginnings softly. Gently. At their own pace. And in the safety of our home, surrounded by people who love them.

Each family needs to decide for themselves how they will seek out ways to help your Chinese child express a connection to their roots, if and when they choose. But I encourage adoptive parents to be intentional about offering at least a few ways that their Chinese child can safely express a connection to China without having to ask. We have been very pleasantly surprised that even at a young age, and even though it was parent-initiated, how excited our children are to embrace their “China”.

I’d love to hear other ways that you encourage this connection in your home!

She Flies!

I know. My second post here in week. But it has occurred to me that we are, perhaps, too quick to make judgements about a child’s future based on what we see when they are two or three (or younger).

Yes, dear friends, it was finally upon us. The BIG DAY. The DANCE.

It has loomed large in Cheeky’s mind from the very first moment that she understood that being in ballet meant getting up on stage and dancing in a costume.

And so on Wednesday night my flower and my butterfly had their hair scraped into buns and makeup applied to their faces. We kissed the boys and the husband goodbye and off we went to get ready for their moments.

I think I was more nervous than either of them. Not so much for Sassy. She has a natural grace and confidence beyond her years. Though she is only nine, I know she can handle being on stage. I know that if she makes a mistake, she will keep going and still be proud of herself.

But Cheeky is my baby. My little one. My newly emerged butterfly. She wants nothing more than to please me and her teachers. She wanted, I must say, to be perfect. To have us look at her and say, “Oh, Cheeky, we are so proud.”

And so she pranced and practiced in the big room with the dozens of kids milling around. While her little friends sat and complained about being hot and thirsty and BORED, she straightened her costume and checked her hair. Her teacher had asked if she could dance without glasses, and Cheeky was quite verbal in her desire to do so. I wanted to say, “No. The lights are too bright. You MUST have transitional lenses.”

But I looked into her face and knew I had to let her decide.

And so she went…into line with her friends, and I knew that when she rounded the corner, she’d hand her glasses to an older girl, and she’d step out into the spotlight. No glasses. Just Cheeky and the balance she’s learned from ballet and the heart she brings to all she does.

I followed and stood in the wings, watching as she ran on stage. I was not allowed to take pictures there, but I wish I could have. Because she glowed, my little one. This child who was deemed unadoptable, unacceptable, unlovable. This kid who was so delayed at three years old that I probably would have turned and run from her. I wish all of you could have been standing there beside me. I wish you could have seen what I saw.

Because she was not the most graceful dancer or the most coordinated. Her legs were not straight and her toes did not always point. But, oh, how she danced! How she danced! As if those little wings on her back were not just props but real. As if the sheer joy of being loved, of being alive lifted her up and set her free.

And I thought, “Oh, China, how could you have let this one go? How could you have not seen what you were missing out on? The joy, the creativity, the passion.”

And I thought, “What if I had met her when she was three? What if I had been too scared to see the brightness in her orphanage-dull eyes?”

Would I have walked away?

I can’t know, and it haunts me.

But perhaps that is why Cheeky came into my life now. Perhaps I am simply the voice that will shout to the world – Look how far a child can come! Look how beautiful the future can be?


Because I have seen what happens when a severely delayed three-year-old finds love. I have seen what can happen when she is accepted and encouraged and embraced. She doesn’t just thrive, she grows wings.

And then she flies.

Whatever Wednesday

Each Wednesday we post links from the previous week that touch on special needs adoption. Our hope is that these small snapshots provide you with a glimpse of life after adopting through China’s waiting child program… both the long-term blessings and the challenges that come with parenting a child with special needs. We also hope to raise awareness about a variety of special needs.

A Day in the Life of Two Medical Volunteersvolunteers Cathy Langguth and Nancy Delpha at the Love Without Boundaries blog… a glimpse into the responsibilities, joys and challenges of two medical volunteers with Love Without Boundaries

Adoption, club feet & the current statusadoptive momma (Vietnam) Nancy at Ordinary Miracles & the Crazy 8… on their son’s treatment plan for club foot as well as sensory issues

The GRACE in Sienna and She is Doing Fine… Now!adoptive momma (China) Diana at First a Pearl, Then Two Rubies… another blood draw: one of many for Sienna, but the first for mom

Got ADHD? It Could Be SPD momma to a child with SPD Patty O. at Pancakes Gone Awry… on the similarities between these two special needs

Here She Is!adoptive momma (China) Mama Duck at Sunshine and Rubber Duckies… announcing her newly received PA and more on her daughter’s special need of “hearing impairment”

Dept. of Unexpected Effectsadoptive momma (domestic, transracial) Mary Dell at Torrefaction… on strangers’ comments and overly personal stories after they notice her son’s limb difference

Chinese More Likely to be Near-SightedChinese/Taiwanese-American Tim at the group blog 8 Asians… an interesting article about how people of Chinese origin have the highest rates of short-sightedness in the world

Other People Talking About
PAD adoptive momma (China) Elizabeth at Don’t Call Me Mother… links to several blogs that are opening up about post-adoption depression

The Finger!!! adoptive momma (China) Annie at Cornbread & Chopsticks… on her daughter’s improved hand mobility

Why did you adopt ME?adoptive momma (China) Diane at An-Ya Diary… on conversations with her daughter about the choice to adopt HER, a child they first saw on a special needs list

The Americanization of Mayadoptive momma (China) Sister Carrie at Jiaozi… on older child adoption and culture shock

Too Painfuladoptive momma (China) Cheri at Love & Laughter Enrich the Soul… on her son’s recent eye exams

Fun or Therapy?Randy and Rita Rippee at the New Day Foster Home Blog… blowing bubbles: fun or therapy?

Maggie Updatesadoptive momma (China) Kathy at In the Waiting… on wearing a headband (a bone conduction hearing aid) and changing hair needs

One week post-surgeryadoptive momma (China) Courtney at Courtney’s Blog… an update one week after palate surgery

Sensory-Friendly 4th of Julyadoptive momma (domestic) Hartley at Hartley’s Life with 3 Boys… how to navigate a firecracker of a holiday, the 4th of July, with a child who struggles with sensory issues

A Year

Cross Posted to my personal blog

On Monday, June 22, 2009, Cheeky made the journey of a lifetime. She left the apartment she’d lived in for four years, got in a taxi and traveled to meet her new parents. Meanwhile, I was traveling, too. Riding in a car, talking to our guide and my husband, terrified of what was about to happen.

Two lives. Completely separate. About to converge.

Would it work?

We’re closing in on a year since that day, and so much has happened in that time. Cheeky’s hair has grown, her tiny little arms have filled out, she has gained balance and a certain amount of grace. She has learned English, clung to Mandarin, begun to read.

She’s learned a lot, my cheeky girl, but I’ve have learned more.

At least that’s what I was thinking a few nights ago as I watched her walk into ballet rehearsal, her finally-long-enough hair scraped back into a bun, a huge smile on her face. I didn’t want to let her go, you see. I wanted to walk her in, make sure she knew where to sit, hold her hand for a few minutes as dozens and dozens of other kids poured into the room. But she didn’t need me, and I backed off and let her go. The same is true of her mad dash along the sidewalk in South Hill. The neighborhood is old, the pavement rutted and dangerous for someone with poor vision, but my kids wanted to run down a hill, and I couldn’t say no. I watched Cheeky take off after her brothers and sister, and my heart was in my throat. “Be careful, Cheeky!” I wanted to shout. “Look out! There’s a crack in the pavement. The sidewalk is uneven. Slow down, slow down, slow down!”

I desperately wanted to say all those things, but I kept them bottled up, and I watched her run, her spindly arms akimbo, her legs pumping harder than they could have when we’d first met.

Because that is one of the things I’ve learned from being Cheeky’s mom – the best gift I can give her is my confidence. I wanted, you see, to protect her when we first met. Even before that day, I planned how I would help her navigate her new world. I worried about what she would see or not see, I thought of how I would help her. And then I met her. There she was, walking toward me with ice cream in hand, her face filled with determination and spunk. This was not a shy and retiring child. This was not the wobbly, nearly blind kid I’d imagined. This was a full-out energized bunny, and she had no intention of stopping to let me help her find her way.

That energy, that verve was a shock to my system. My husband and I looked at each other, and I could see my surprise reflected in his eyes. This was the terrified child? This was the little girl who would need weeks and months, maybe even years to adjust? As I watched her jump from one bed to another in the the hotel room, I realized that she didn’t need me to protect her. She needed me to believe in her.

And so I have. I have let her climb six foot walls unaided. I have let her run in the bright sunlight unencumbered by long sleeves and bulky, skin-shielding clothes. I have slathered her with sunscreen and sent her over to a friend’s pool with her brothers and sister, and I have refused (nearly) to worry that she’ll fail to see the edge of the pool and fall in. I have refused to shield her from the stares and questions, just as I have refused to allow others to pity or baby her. Allowed myself to pity or baby her.

What is there, after all, to pity? Why baby a confident eight year old?

That is another thing I’ve learned in the past months – my daughter will not ever be defined by her ‘special need’ or her adoption. She is, quite simply, a little girl who wants (like all of us) to be loved and accepted. When we first arrived home, I felt this need to answer questions and to inform. When people commented on her hair or her eyes or her Asian features, I’d often fall into teacher mode. There was nothing wrong with that, but I’ve grown since then. I’ve matured. After all these months, I realize that it is okay to let the compliments hang in the air, to allow the speaker to keep wondering. People who are truly curious, who are interested in adoption, who want to know more about albinism will ask me direct questions that I don’t mind answering. But those who simply throw idle compliments in the air (Wow! She has the whitest hair I’ve ever seen. It’s beautiful), I just let those comments hang there and respond with a simple thank you. That, I think, honors Cheeky more than constantly providing unasked for answers.

Which is another thing I’ve learned. Parenting a child with a visible special need means being open to public scrutiny. In many ways, it makes us public property. Our family, our history, our reasons for adopting are things people are even more curious about because of our daughter’s noticeable differences. At first, the stares bothered me. I wanted to hide my daughter from the world, refuse to let others look at her with that…Oh my gosh! She’s one of those albinos..look. I wrote an entire post on my daughter NOT being a circus sideshow act.

And she is not.

And that is what I have learned. People can’t help their curiosity, and my daughter needs to know that. Most people are simply curious, and that curiosity is an innate human trait. By refusing to be defensive or to take offense, I will teach my daughter that being different is something to be celebrated rather than mourned. We are all different, and that is a good thing. That has become my mantra.

Which brings me to the final and most important thing I’ve learned. Before changing the parameters for our adoption, I had big dreams about my newest daughter. She would be dark haired and dark eyed. She would be younger than five but older than three. I would teach her to read and to write and to love. I would embrace her in a way she probably had never been embraced before, my arms wrapping around her and claiming her as my daughter even as she learned what having a mother meant.

But somehow that vision changed. My soul opened to a child like Cheeky in the same way a Morning Glory opens to dawn. One part slowly unfurling, and then another and another, until I was bathing in this new idea, this bright and wonderful thought.

That first step of faith was the most difficult, and after that, I simply went along for the ride, watching as God showed me in no uncertain terms that He would honor and bless my timid and tiny faith.

Since then, I have adapted to life as Cheeky’s mother. I have adapted to being a mother to five. I have adapted to the new vision of my family that came with the new vision of my daughter.

And that is the big thing I have learned. It has never been Cheeky’s job to come into our home and adapt to us. It has always been my job and my joy to adapt to her.

Last night, China Mom Skyped us. It has been several months since she’s asked to do so, and I was eager to let Cheeky speak with her China family. Though Cheeky has worked hard to maintain her Mandarin, most of the conversations she has in the language are about school things and kid things, not big things like adoption. In preparation for the meeting, Cheeky wanted her hair washed and dried and then she ran to her room to put on a pretty dress, and when China Mom finally appeared on the computer screen, Cheeky trembled with joy.

This, you see, is her mother. This woman far away in another country in another home with another child standing close to her side.

That is not to say that I am not also her mother. It is simply to say that China Mom’s arms were the first to truly hold my daughter. It was China Mom’s scent and voice and smile that Cheeky first opened to. It was China Mom who taught Cheeky to walk, to talk, to sing.

To believe in love and in forever.

That is something I never expected. It was never part of my vision and my dream.

Yet, here it is and has been for nearly a year. An entire family that we are part of. That we must be part of.

At one point in the hour long conversation, Cheeky could not think of the right Mandarin words to say. Her face got very red and tears slid down her cheeks. My heart shattered into a million pieces as I was helpless to give her the words she needed.

“What is that word, Mommy?” She said, looking at me as if I held all answers to all problems in my hands.

“I don’t know, sweetie.” I replied. “But I will help you find out.”

And so I emailed China Mom and told her Cheeky’s struggles. China Mom was not nearly as distraught as our daughter. She has been here before, you see. She has seen the bond of language disappear. Usually, she has told me, within three months the children are no longer able to speak Mandarin at all. Our daughter is an exception, but her Mandarin has holes.

And my poor dear Cheeky knows it.

Eventually, the conversation went on, and Cheeky seemed fine. But when I tucked her into bed last night, she was quiet.

“You are sad,” I said, not bothering to give her a choice about it. “Tell me why?”

“I don’t know.” She said, and I knew she did not want to hurt me.

“Let me tell you what I think.” I offered. “I think that you are sad because you miss China Mom. I think you are sad because you didn’t have all the words you wanted to say all that you wanted to her. I think you are sad because you worry that means the love you have for her and the love she has for you will go away.”

And Cheeky began to cry with deep mournful sobs that nearly robbed me of breath, and then she climbed into my lap and her tears soaked my shirt as she pressed her face against my chest.

I waited until the tears slowed, and then I cupped her face in my hand, and I looked into her clear blue eyes. I wanted to tell her not to be sad, but she is sad and I don’t want her to hide it.

Instead, I said, “Cheeky, I know it is hard for you. I know how much you love China Mom, and I know how much she loves you. I am so happy that you love each other. I know it is hard to not have all the words you want, but those words are not gone forever. Even if they were, there is something that requires no words. Do you know what that is?”

And she shook her head, and the tears started again.

“It is love, Cheeky. Love requires no words. It is action and feeling all mixed up together. It is two people who are connected no matter what language they speak.”

“Like you and me when I first came home?” She said, and I knew she understood.

“Yep. Just like that.” I said, and she smiled and climbed into my lap again.

And we stayed like that for a long time, me and the daughter I share with another mother. Two people who did not know each other a year and one day ago, but who are now mother and daughter. Both of us learning and adapting and mourning and rejoicing. Together.

Loving Luke

I entitled this post Loving Luke because before Luke came home from China in May 2007….
he didn’t know love.
He never knew love.
Love doesn’t even capture all of what he was missing.
He wasn’t fed, he wasn’t held, he wasn’t touched, he was totally and completely neglected.
NEGLECT: to be remiss in the care or treatment of; to pay no attention
There was not one person who loved on the boy. Not one. Ever.
So he came home to us as a shell of a person. A little boy so deeply buried in himself that he operated within his own set parameters. He was not willing to let anyone in. Why should he. Everyone had failed him.
We loved Luke. Desperately. And slowly…slowly he allowed us to be part of his life. And part of me desperately wanted OTHERS to love Luke to. Family is obligated to love and care for its own.
I wanted others to assign value to Luke, to invest in Luke, to see great things in Luke.
The doctors and professionals treated him like an anomaly. His past educators gave the minimum and when his progress wasn’t fast enough or consistent enough they backed off. Like the kid was too much work. It was like he was experiencing neglect all over again. Like the message was being repeated to him again and again: you are not worth it.
Until this year.
In September 2009 we switched Luke from an inclusive pre-school classroom to a small elementary school based pre-school classroom. Prior to the school year starting…I was nervous. VERY nervous. Luke had failed to make any progress for the previous school year.
My worry would eat me.
Is this as far as he will go?
Can he not learn and process any additional information?
What does the future look like for him and for us?
And then a few weeks before school started we met his teacher, Ms. Teri.
From the very.first.moment she was vibrant and engaged. She was immediately interested in Luke. She wanted to know all about him. About his beginnings and about his progression since he came home. She got down on the floor and communicated with him.
And because she was interested…Luke became interested.
And over the last year Ms. Teri poured herself into Luke. She was gentle but structured. She taught him from her heart. She invested herself. Luke never experienced that before with a non-family member.
And once he did…a lightbulb turned on.
It was almost as if he knew the people before had no real interest in him.
He’s Intellectually Disabled but he’s not stupid. He feels it. He understands it.
Being able to trust a person outside of family has been instrumental for Luke. He is learning how to trust others. A piece of his protective shell that colored his interactions with people has been torn away.
Because of Ms. Teri.
She taught him more than how to cut with scissors, recognize his shapes, and the ability to identify his written name. She taught him about love. Love outside of family. That is the greatest gift she could have ever given to him. And to me.
My heart needed that and so did Luke’s.
A orphan boy who was unloved and uncared for has a family and now has a small group of folks (Ms. Teri and her team) that completely and utterly care about him.
Luke has come so far.
Because we answered God’s call to invest in him and because we finally found a wonderful person who was willing to do the same.
We all will never be the same.

That Gon’ Make Me ANNOYING!

Well, yes, yes it is. In fact (and this is awful, and I know it), you were already annoying. Far more annoying than your brothers and sisters. and I’m trying to figure out why. (Of course, when you’re pouting, as here, you really ARE annoying. Nothing tough to get about that one.)

Rory doesn’t mean she’s annoying, of course. She means she’s annoyed (by Lily’s singing in the car, and in this case, she’s absolutely right). But it’s something she says often, and oh, it rings so true for me. Why is Rory (4, and home for very almost close to a year now) so much more annoying to me than the other three kids? I actually have a couple of ideas about why–but first, just for my own venting purposes, do let me catalogue the ways in which I get annoyed. (Note my phrasing? I GET that it’s not that Rory is annoying–not really. She doesn’t annoy others. It’s that I am annoyed by Rory’s behavior, which is a whole different question. And I mostly, nearly almost always at least kinda really try hard not to take that out on her. And I often succeed.)

Herewith, a short list:
  • She ALWAYS has to go to the bathroom. Still. There is nothing wrong with her, her system–in every way–just moves faster than my other kids, and she goes more frequently, and that is just the way it is. At home, it’s–well, it’s still an annoyance, because she feels that she can’t wipe on her own–but never tells me she’s going to need me, and if I’m out in the yard, the yelling and hollering and level of outrage that I did not appear immediately when called is high. But when we are not home, every entree gets cold, and I miss part of every party, every meal, every anything you could name, because I am in the potty. Plus, it’s Port-a-Potty season. Plus, she finds bathrooms–all elements of them–a source of never ending delight. The toilets! So many! The soap! The paper towel dispensers! The tiny little trash can things on the walls! And if I am in there, of course, she gets my attention, my undivided attention, which can be used to discuss such things as: The toilets! So many! The soap! The paper towel dispensers! The tiny little trash can things on the walls! You get the idea.

  • She loves to talk, but has few subjects for conversation, so she likes to really get the most out of the ones she’s got. This means that every day, we discuss, ad nauseum, whether it is a school day, whether she can have candy, whether she can play Wii, whether it’s day, whether it’s night, where we are going, when we will next visit Grandma and Grandpa, whether we can visit Grandma and Grandpa right now…She knows the answer to all of these questions–or at least, she does after the first time she asks. But she likes to keep asking, just to chat. Especially in the car.
  • She likes to fall asleep in the car at night–but not really. She likes to pretend to be asleep, get carried upstairs, have a pull up put on, get tucked in and then…get up, having peed in the pulll-up, get another one, and do it all over again for bedtime.
  • She likes the dogs. Too much. The dogs need, at all times, to be doing what she wants them to do. She’s finally agreed to leave the old dog mostly alone, but she drags the young dog everywhere by his hair, or his collar if she can get it. If you have the copy of the Olivia book where Olivia is carrying the cat in and out of every room, you’ll get the idea. It isn’t that she wants the dog to go somewhere, it’s that she ones someone–anyone–to do what she wants. So she drags him into my room and shuts the door. She lets him out and drags him into the playroom. She tries to box him in by moving things around in the playroom. Whatever room he’s in, she drags him out; whatever room he’s out of, she drags him in. I don’t want to forbid her from touching the dog entirely. She loves him, and he loves her. But she really hasn’t been able to grasp any limits on this.
  • She doesn’t distinguish between a tiny offense-bumping her accidentally with your coat sleeve as you walk by, say–and something more like having her arm ripped off. The noise she makes (and it’s a horrible screely combination of a scream and a cry and a whine) is EXACTLY THE SAME. Which means it’s impossible to tell if someone should be punished or if I should rush to the rescue, or if I should sigh and turn a page. ANd I always, always get it wrong.

I could go on with this list, but I won’t. For one thing, I get annoyed just thinking about some of it. For another, well, it really just goes on and on and on. And it makes it sound like I don’t even like her, let alone love her, and I do. Lots. And my other kids have lists too. They’re just shorter.

What I think is that every stage has its annoying moments, and Rory is going through a whole passel of stages at once. Every one of my kids, at about two and a half, had to turn every bathroom visit into an odyssey. Every one talked and talked and talked when they first got to a point when they could really communicate. And they’re all, still, prone to hanging on to the things I do for them that I do for only them, and “wiping” certainly qualifies. So there’s that.

And then there’s leftover stuff, huge foster family stuff, like the screely noise (which MUST have garnered her plenty of attention). And the dog thing. No one, ever, does what Rory wants to do just because Rory wants to do it. They might agree to play, or work out a deal, or choose something together–but there is no one that she can just tell to do something, who does it. The dog qualifies. She’s manipulative, too–I didn’t mention that. If everyone is cleaning, she’ll poke at one item until everyone else has done all the work. She asks for candy after crying–as in, she had a big boo boo or whatever, and there was a big fuss, and it’s over and…now can I have the candy you said no to half an hour ago? I chalk that up to foster homes and foster nurses, too. If I were a nanny in a foster home, I’d stuff the kids with cheap candy constantly. Why not?

And then there’s stuff that’s just Rory. She has to pee, she really does. And she has a voice that’s best described as piercing, which means she gets “shhh’d” when no one else does, just because her tones carry. Eventually she’ll deal on her own.

So, there it is, my annoying rant about my sometimes annoying kid. I could have posted all the ways in which she is extremely cute–like when she lays on the same dog, thumb in her mouth. Or her new words, which include “awesome” and “cool.” Or her delighted affection for her ice cream shaped silly band. There’s an even longer list of all of that. But right now, I’m on the question of annoyance, and it’s time to look at how the blame should fall on me.

Rory annoys me because I try to do too much at once–typing on the computer, for example, at a time when I know they’re needy. She annoys me in the car because I get tired, and I just don’t want to talk–but if I changed my attitude, it wouldn’t be a big deal. She annoys me when she asks for food right after a picnic because I don’t make her sit down and eat–and I should know by now that she won’t eat if there’s anything better to do, a quality that will stand her will in life. She annoys me because I often don’t want to focus on the kids, and nobody’s more gifted at making a person focus on her than she is. All those things aren’t even a little bit about Rory. They’re about me. Knowing that doesn’t change much (although I have designated big chunks of time as kid time now, instead of trying to multitask constantly, and it’s much better). But it tempers my reaction. It’s pretty easy for me not to react, knowing that I’m only reacting to my own responses. I save the reactions to respond to their actions, now. When I yell because I’m annoyed, I really just ought to go in the bathroom and yell at myself.

Cross posted, and elaborated on pretty much endlessly, at Raising Devils.