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The Chaos Reigns
"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that our lives belong to each other." - Mother Teresa

Monday, May 27, 2013

Sibling Attachment

We have had a crazy wild week, but things have changed so much for the better.  Things are becoming so much more manageable, and we are slowly getting out more with the kids. 

Our week started with our kitchen faucet breaking, so we were left with the hose from the sprayer in the sink until the new one arrived. The water for the hose was super high pressure, so inevitably someone would forget this and turn the water on full blast and our kitchen would turn into Water World(think detachable shower head). This of course was always timed with a toddler (sometimes 2) running full speed through the kitchen and let's just say this is how we incorporate physics lessons into our day. It was wild.

We had a breakthrough week with Jia and her naps. She finally gave in to her persistent Mom.  She went from rageful protest of her naps to being happy and looking relieved for nap time. She can handle life's little challenges so much better now. I found a great article on adoptive children and sleep if there are any adoptive family struggling with this topic.  http://adoptmed.org/topics/sleep-and-adoption.html


I wanted write on the progress of Jude and Jia's siblings and their attachment because there is very little literature written about this, so I thought I would attempt to document the progress.  Further, in big families, everyone is a team player. Siblings become a big component of the daily dose of all the required interaction and love.



The older girls...
They have always had unconditional love for Jude and Jia from the beginning.  I believe taking them with us to China had a big part in solidifying their relationship with them. Jia lets them hold her like a baby doll which they love (none of my other kiddos let them do this), so they are like little Mommies to her.

They still speak Mandarin to Jude, so he bonded to them first in China. Whenever he is mad or frustrated, they always run to his rescue and talk to him through the problem in Mandarin. They also like to yell at him in Mandarin. :) 

Joel....
Jude and Joel have finally started to play. Although Joel still spends most of his time growling at Jude and chasing him through the house. Jude is in one of 2 states with Joel: terrified or laughing while playing. Both Jude and Jia have learned to growl thanks to Joel. : ) (Jia's growl  is really cute and pathetic because of her cleft palete...she is like the story of the little lion cub who hasn't found her grown up lioness growl.  LOL)  Joel has also figured out how to keep their undivided attention. He goes to the pantry...fills a plastic ziploc with snacks...then he goes over to Jia and Jude and feeds them like little birds. I think he aslo just feeding his ego.

We believe Joel has this diagnoses called Cute Aggression. They have basically found through research that some kids become aggressive when they see something cute....well that is our cute Joel. Not sure if there is therapy for this or not. But, we have therapy needs that are higher up on our list for now.



Molly....
Molly was pretty mad at us after we came home from China. More so that we left her than because of Jude and Jia. Although she did say to me about a week after we arrived home, "Mom, I am not sad anymore, but I still do not like Jia." 

The other night I found her in her room crying, and I asked her what was wrong. She said, "Mom I want to go with you on a plane to China." So, I went and got Caroline's suitcase and told her we would pretend to go to China. Well she took this pretty seriously and filled the suitcase with her clothes. She rolled the suitcase over to the door, and she announced that she was ready to leave for the airport. I explained we were just pretending and she burst into tears again. I further explained that there were no real flights to China at that moment.  We then quickly turned our kitchen bar stools into a 747, so we could take our international flight. All the kids joined to play. Jia was our pilot, but it was beginning to get dangerous because she kept leaving her post. Our therapeutic play kept turning traumatic because Joel kept screaming about flying through thunderstorms and the plane crashing. So, we had to stop after a while before more psychological damage was done.

With certain things, Molly is actually acting much older. She has been insisting to dress herself. They other day I found her in room with pajamas wrapped around herself in a knot. I rescued the situation. She then insisted to put her dress on by herself.  It was upside down, but she would not be defeated...or give into any help.  So, she walked around the house holding up her dress for a good 30 minutes. This drove OCD Joel crazy, and he kept insisting that she fix it. I told him he really just needed to let it go.



With Jia, Molly either acts like a little Mommy or imitates her crying and sounds. I found her the other day calmly explaining to Jia that we do not actually eat the kitchen play food, we just pretend to eat it....as she demonstrated to Jia exactly how to do this. If Mom's hands are full...Jia will sometimes reach for Molly and of course Molly attempts to pick her up. (She is only 9 months older than Jia.) 

Molly plays really well with Jude. Unless he does something mean, then she will break into irrational uncontrollable crying.  She usually calls him Dude, unless she him mad at him and then she screams "No Jian Quan" (his Chinese name.) I asked her why she calls him this, and she told me because Emma and Caroline call him Jian Quan when they are mad at him too.  :)



She also sounds her alarm letting me know if Jude and Jia are crying, and she gets upset if their needs are not met immediately.  She is our little attachment alarm clock.

Jia's adjustment....


We noticed this week that you can no longer see Jia's rib cages, and she is significantly heavier. It is amazing just one month of healthy eating makes.  

But, she still has some big anxieties with food.  She will scream hysterically for food when someone else is served...even though she has a plate full of exactly what they have in front of her. 
We also learned she eats crayons like they are crackers.  Literally bites, chews, and swallows them. So, they have all been put away.


On a side note Dr. Mercola just wrote an article about the health benefits of picking your nose and eating it. This is good news for Joel and Molly.  http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/05/13/nose-picking.aspx
I am hoping his next article is on the health benefit of crayons.

Since Jia has never experience a home before, she is literally into everything.  It would be like keeping your baby in an ergo carrier all their life and them letting them go explore finally at almost 2.  So, setting up all the necessary boundaries has been somewhat exhausting.

Once we got home and settled, we realized Jia is actually extremely bright. My very wise friend Johanna (a fellow adoptive Mom) gave me some very good advice to never to jump to any conclusions based on the behavior you are experiencing in China.  Get home...get them healthy...get settled....and then you will know. And, she was completely right. All the head banging and tantrums had me really scared in China. We now know she is cognitively very high functioning.

She knows a lot of signs now.  

More, all done, food, apple, bread, cheese, yogurt, drink, milk, apple, fork, sleep, awake, dog, monkey, flower, frog, clean, bath, car, help, wait (I sign this constantly when they are screaming for food) and, she claps and smiles for herself whenever she makes a sign. 

She also says a few words and sounds...hi, no, more, Emma, mama, dada.   And, wow, oh 

And, she will even shake her head yes when I ask her a question.

This doesn't seem like much, but all we had in China was "ma" and screaming for things, so we have made some big progress in the communication department.

Emotionally...I noticed she can change her emotion in second...one second hysterical crying, next second hysterical giggling.  She also sometimes just cries when she is having fun and playing...so it is so hard to know when to respond.  So, I am definitely going to reach out for help in the emotional department.

She also loves to dance...so she joins into our family dance parties .

Jude's adjustment...

Jude is doing great all around. He still screams a lot when the kids are playing...I have accepted that fact that we are going to have a summer of screaming.  He loves the park and tried to crash a 3 year old soccer game the other day.  He just wanted to join in the fun.  He is adjusting well.  His need for sleep and food is still high.

He also is starting to sign...food, more, all done. But, repeats a ton of English words.  He is a healthy, happy boy.

We are all experiencing the joy and blessings of these two little ones in our lives.








Saturday, May 18, 2013

Learning and Observing

Jude and Jia have been with us just over a month now.  But, in some ways, it feels like we have known them for much longer.

I have learned and observed so much about them during this short time.




Sleep: 

They have both finally started to sleep well at night.  But, naps have been terrible the last few weeks. They would both only take a max 40 minute afternoon nap. I tried getting them down earlier..later nothing worked. So finally, I concluded if their naps were only going to be 40 minutes or less, they would need two: morning and afternoon.... kind of like a young babies sleep cycle.  And, my new theory worked!

The first time I put Jude down in the morning he slept 2 1/2 hours. He went down again for 1 hour nap in the afternoon. Alleluia 

Jia fights her nap...so hers looks more like 2 40 minute naps. This basically translates into 3 kids on 3 different nap schedules (when you add Molly).  But, since sleep begets sleep and if I keep being consistent and persistent, I think we will get there. They are also in such better moods now that they are sleeping more.

My theory is their sleep pattern development is delayed. Maybe they were never given the opportunity for their sleep to develop correctly, or maybe it is the result of our regressing them for attachment reasons. I am not really sure.

But, they seem to both have a sleep pattern cycle of about a 9 month old (they are both almost 2). This surprised me..because I had never heard to expect this before.  

Attachment:

So, we are regressing them as we were trained for attachment reasons...treating them like little infants. Rocking them...giving them bottles, etc. Basically, giving them what they never experienced but really needed.

Jude wanted nothing to do with this in the beginning, but now he lets me rock and sing to him. So, our independent dude is starting to cuddle, and he wants to be held more throughout the day.


Jia is still a big clinger. She sometimes cannot function unless she is held. She will just stand and cry. My coping mechanism has been the ergo carrier.  If I reach my limit for the screaming, Jia goes right in and I wear her for a few hours. She is then super quiet and happy. She would be content if I left her in the carrier all day.

Since I was struggling with her behavior, I tried to find out more information on her orphanage. I ran across a adoptive Mom's blog who had visited Jia's orphanage and had asked a lot of detailed questions. It was very insightful. I learned in the first year she was transferred to a new room with new caregivers every 3 months...lots of breaks in her attachment to caregivers. When she had her lip surgery, she was dropped off at the hospital alone for a whole month. They other thing I noticed was when I was sent photos of another Mom's orphanage visit in January...not 1 of the photos was anyone holding Jia.  So, she probably had to fight to be held.

This all makes sense because every time you pick her up, she is extremely overjoyed.  She giggles, smiles, and her whole body shakes. It really cute, but not typical behavior. It is almost like she learned it was a special treat to be held. So, all this information has helped my approach with her. And, the ergo carrier has been my best friend.

Eating:

Both kids are still eating a ton of food....think 5 bowls of chili for dinner. It is insane. Especially Jia.  This girl will eat anything you put in front of her, and has at least 3 full plates of food at every meal. She got a sticker on her shirt after her blood draw at the hospital the other day.  I noticed in the rear view mirror of the car that she had pulled it off her shirt and was eating it.

Jude still steals food from anyone in the vicinity.... even when his plate is completely full.

It has started to calm down a little. Now, they will actually play and throw their food....before they were all business.  But, we spend a large portion of our day feeding them.


Family Integration

With regard to learning to juggle 6 kids and each of their needs, I feel like every time we start to feel like everything is coming together, everything falls apart.

Family dynamics are very different...especially when you have so many little ones newly interacting.  
Joel loves his new brother and wants to show him lots of love and affection. This translates in his mind to death grip hugs, toys in his face, and him trying to run Jude over with his cozy coup.  So, I have been on Joel all day...every day. Jude screams at the top of his lungs whenever Joel is in the vicinity.  

Molly is now imitating Jia's tiger sounds and screams for things. Just what I need...I have 2 toddlers with no language skills, plus add Molly's imitating...you get 3.

Jia's is starting to warm up to everyone, but still has moments when she screams to be left alone if any of the kids come near her.  

I have been learning to deal with all this craziness and the new noise level in the household.

So, I had one of those not so pretty moments when the perfect storm came and Mommy snapped, and I started to scream at everyone. When I was apologizing later that evening for my tantrum, I was thinking about how to adjust to the new octave level and family dynamics in the household to prevent any future scary Mommy moments.  

Dave approached me....he was a still a little scared of me, but was brave and gave me some advice which has really helped.

All of this is God's will...every kid scream...every child meltdown...every Joel bear hug.. let it happen.  Fiat.  God's will be done.  His will not mine.  Walk away with peace and say Fiat.  Don't try to intervene so much or be bothered when multiple kids are crying. Fiat.

Fiat is Mary's yes. Her humble submission to the will of God to allow him to enter humanity. None of it made any sense.  But, she trusted in His plan to redeem humanity.  

So, I have done this. I have let go.

And, it is working beautifully.

I truly was intervening too much in the scrabbles...trying to control every ones adjustment, and it was making me overwhelmed. I am learning to let the kids cope and adjust to each other on their own.  And, they are truly starting to figure things out with one another. I finally see how all these little interactions are part of the work God has planned.

Let the chaos reign.  Let it be.  Fiat.

“May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Adjusting to Our New Normal

"Love begins at home, it is not how much we do, but how much we love."  Mother Teresa


I have been thinking a lot about this quote since we have been home and adjusting to our new normal. I am realizing, we really cannot do much. We cannot live as we did before and our family needs to make some significant sacrifices for our 2 newest members. Life needs to be as agenda free as possible in order for us to survive.

Although our lifestyle has not change much....we had little ones before Jude and Jia, every simple task has multiple layers of complexity added to it.  We are exhausted by the end of the day.  But, all of these little sacrifices produce these little fruits from Jude and Jia.  We are seeing growth and progress every day. I remember that love kept Jesus on the cross.  He could have ended it all in a moment, but He knew the fruit it would produce.  We are in the trenches, but we are realizing every day, things are getting a little easier, and these 2 little babies are starting to thrive.

Flight Back

Our flight back was hard as expected. Jude does not like to stand in lines or be contained.  Every time we had to stand in line for Customs, he would cry...arch his back, and quickly stamp his little feet. I felt the exact same way, but contained myself.  He is just like his Mom.

When were boarding our flight from Beijing to LA, I was pessimistically thinking we still have 2 more flights left today, and this is the longest one...when Caroline happily said to me, "Mom, do you know we are boarding the 6th out of our 7th flight from our trip.... we are almost done!"  It was such a needed moment of optimism from my daughter.

When we got on the plane, the only empty seat on the flight was next to Dave. Alleluia. This allowed us to put Jude on the floor and Jia on the seat to sleep. Someone gave me the floor tip...can't remember who but thank you! It worked. We put them to bed Beijing time, and they both slept the last half of the flight.

By the time we got to LAX, we were all exhausted. Immigration took their sweat little time processing Jude and Jia's paperwork, and we waited almost 2 hours before we could go through Customs. Gotta love bureaucracy.

When we got to the terminal for our Denver flight, I lost it. I was extremely sick and tired, so I boarded the plane crying.  It probably was a good thing since we were in day 2 of traveling, and Jude was no longer having any of it. The passengers probably thought we have a fragile one here (the Mom), and everyone was very sympathetic to Jude's 2 hours worth of crying on the flight (not joking).

I actually passed out on the flight (despite Jude's screaming) which was a much needed rest to re-energize for our reunion with Joel and Molly who we had not seen in 16 days.  Our hearts were aching for them.

On a side note, I am happy to report, we did not have a single delayed flight on our entire trip.  Praise the Lord. And, unlike their Mother, the older girls did not shed a single tear or complaint on our journey home. They were amazing.

We had an emotional reunion with the Grandparents and the kids. I have never appreciated our home so much before. ( especially potable water)  And, we instantly thought.... life will be so much easier now that we are home. Jude and Jia were in toddler toy heaven.

However, we really did not know what was coming with 2 toddlers combined with a 14 hour time change.  It was not pretty.  It looked like 2 parents who desperately needed to sleep mixed with 2 toddlers who wanted nothing to do with sleep. They were up all night crying for days.  And, we were crying for days.

On Sunday, I finally went to the ER since I was still so sick and exhausted.

We had to say goodbye to Grandpa who stayed with the kids for a week, fixed all sorts of things around our house, helped with groceries, logistics, etc.  We could not thank him enough.

Dave's Mom stayed with us the first week to keep things together. We seriously could not have managed without her. She is amazing with kids, so Jude and Jia warmed up to their Grandma right away. She deserves all the glory for their smooth transition.

By Thursday, we were finally making some huge progress in the kids adjustment when we had to introduce our dog (Thank you Barnes for watching him). And, we were back to square one. 2 toddlers screaming on the couch for days.

Caroline had her First Communion on Sunday.  It was a grace filled day for our family and was great to get out of the house.  We actually had all 6 kids dressed and attending 8:30 am mass.   OK.  So, we starting baths and getting ready at 1:00 pm  on Saturday :)



But after almost 2 weeks, happy to report, Jude and Jia seem to be adjusting well.  I am still recovering from sickness. I was finally diagnosed with a parasite after 2 weeks of being ill.  Crossing my fingers this potent medicine I am taking finally works. But, seeing the light of health and starting to feel like my old self.

A big thank you to all of the friends who have been helping with meals, school pick up, etc.
You have no idea how much this is helping us survive.  Thank you!

The other night Emma said to me.."Mom, the next time we adopt... can I come with you on the trip again?" I looked at her with my eyebrow raised, "Next time?"

She looked surprised, "Mom, we are adopting again......aren't we?"

You got to love the heart of children...no sacrifice, all love.









Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Biological Mothers of My Adopted Children

I love my wife. I admire her strength, stamina, and selfless devotion to our children. I do not forget the hardships that have been inflicted on her, and because they have hurt her they have also left their own wounds in me. Child birth and the physical sacrifices she has endured so that our biological children could come into this world, unfair circumstances and mistreatment by others, even the hardships caused her by my own shortcomings. Some of the times in my own life that I have felt most helpless, most vulnerable, have been when she has endured pain that I cannot in any way share, lessen, or shield.

I look at my biological children, and she is there in their physical characteristics. Caroline and Molly have her eyes. Emma and Joel have her smile.

When I look at and hold my adopted Jude and Jia, I think of my wife. I think of our decision, our journey, our shared jubilation to welcome them into our family. Occasionally, I also think of how the physical characteristics these children bare are those of another man and woman. I know nothing about these people, except that they (or, most likely, the mother alone,) abandoned Jude and Jia in a compassionate manner, so that they quickly would be found and taken into protective custody. I will likely never know any more about them.

For years, I have felt acutely connected to the mothers of these children.

I grieve for these women. Obviously some trauma has severely wounded their humanity, and in a horrifying way has separated them from being the mother to these children.  That no one could share, lessen, or shield this affliction from them leaves a wound in me. The factors driving "unwanted" pregnancy in our society are well known, and they exist in China as well. However, there are other factors…over there… that more likely drove these mothers to abandon their children for adoption. Perhaps…they accidentally violated government family planning laws (“the one child policy”), and could not afford the consequences…their family, the state, or their employer discovered their pregnancy and required abortion, and so they delivered these children in secret…they feared that the medical afflictions of these children could cost them many times their lifetime incomes to treat (Jia with cleft lip/palate, Jude with a doctor’s report of congenital heart disease) …or something else equally tragic unfolded…

As stated in the blogging of our trip, I have had many tears over the past few weeks. However, before our trip I shed tears mainly for two reasons. One…for Jude and Jia, after we matched and while we waited, in my sadness that we could not immediately be united with them. Two…for the biological mothers of my adopted children, since we first began this process many years ago, as I tried to comprehend the tragedy they either had or would soon experience....and as I wondered when the moments would occur of conception, birth, painful separation.

I wonder if they watched these children from a distance, as they grew in their orphanages and waited for placement. I wonder if they quietly said their goodbyes from a distance when Jude and Jia left…to be brought to us, a few short weeks ago…

I pray for them. I pray that this wound of loss, which I cannot fathom experiencing, heals in time. I pray that they can forgive those who have inflicted the trauma upon them that gave rise to the abandonment. I pray that they know and trust that their biological children are surrounded by the burning love of their adoptive family. I pray that they continue their life and one day soon find joy, happiness, laughter, love, and God’s overwhelming presence in their journey.

I thank them. I thank God for them, and their strength. I have the deepest gratitude for these amazingly strong women. They truly are some of my greatest, greatest heroes. Against odds that cannot be measured, they chose life. In acts of supreme and selfless love, they did not end their pregnancies. Jude and Jia are here, in our arms, alive…full of incredible joy…imparting incredible joy on those around them. How I thank these women.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Starting Week 4



Not much time to post regularly these days…but here’s a quick update.

Kristy did recover from the bug that sent her to the hospital, but we are struggling to stay healthy…maybe some combination of typical viral churn that lots of little hands and feet bring into a house, combined with collectively suppressed immunity from the stressful upheaval that we’re all experiencing. Kristy and I can both change dirty diapers…listen to a chorus of shouts…tend to sick kids…all day long, no problem…but sleep deprivation plus our own stomach sickness make it hard to meet the demands of a few…plus four more …little friends…

And so we are very blessed with helpers and friends who help us stay sane and keep the Fantz hotel management able to meet the needs of their tenants … My Mom especially has been such a help, staying with us and taking morning shifts after our dual baby night shifts.

Jude and Jia have been through so many changes in a short period. There are moments when I am utterly shocked at how well they seem to have adjusted, but the moments where I am reminded of the often-dark place, where their little hearts are in life’s journey, starkly interject here and there. These little minds that already have joy, peace, and laughter, still are testing whether we can be trusted. Especially when they are tired, and the haze of sleep confuses their ability to be secure in the bonding that has happened for them. It will be a long path to sleep security.  They are at near-newborn levels of trust in some areas. They can’t yet understand that the unfair cycle of abandonment that they have been in for their short lives is not perpetual…but is in fact, officially, over, Amen… Time and healing.

These kiddos can out-eat every sibling except Emma! We’re so excited to see them eating well. Jia especially has physical malnourishment to undo.

It has been a tough week for Molly. Her regression was pretty fierce, and she needed some special bonding sessions with Mommy alone to get her own reassurance. It seems she has even shed pounds from her already-tiny body frame (she’s been too small for her size since her pneumonia and hospital stay at 3 months of age)…not eating normally, wanting bottles and comfort all day, joining the nighttime chorus of waking kids. Obviously she’s been working through a lot of stress. Things seem to be improving, and she has started to socially engage her new siblings more and more each day.  She holds hands with and hugs Jia now, she asks Jude if she can bring him toys. So cute.

Joel, Caroline and Emma all hanging in there.

I am thankful for those who add us to their prayer lists, and ask you to continue praying for us.