cover photo

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

Thursday, April 24, 2014

First Easter!

Jude and Gigi had a blessed first Easter.

We had a small intimate Seder supper with the kids on Holy Thursday, and we left for the mountains to visit family on Good Friday.
The older girls went skiing on Saturday with their Dad, Uncle and cousins. When we went to pick up their rentals skis, we ended up buying used skis for the older girls to use next year. Extra Easter Bunny present. Only 70 bucks for used rental skis, polls, and boots at Sports Authority. It was quite the end of the ski season deal!

Late Easter Eve after the 11th child finally fell asleep (or we thought), my sister-in-law and I set up the Easter baskets and a scavenger hunt for 11 kids. Yes 11 kids! I made Dave sort, match and hide all the plastic eggs, much to his dismay. We were exhausted after we got everything set up....every year it gets to be more effort as we add more kids to the crew. LOL .We even had some unexpected Easter bunny spies. So, the cat is out of the bag for a couple of the kids who still believed.

I was worried about how Jude would do with all the Easter baskets after our Christmas fiasco, so I was prepared to get up with him to prevent any Jude collateral damage. He actually did amazingly well. He was actually excited about his own basket and was not trying to hoard and take everyone else's Easter stuff. Talk about progress. Alleluia! I even caught him sharing his candy with his siblings. Wow Jude!

A couple of the kids got up at 3 am, and were promptly told to return to bed. But, by 6:30 am, the kids were up having a blast with their Easter baskets, and they were already running through the house on their egg and scavenger hunts.

Grandpa was awoken by the noise of the countless pounding of tiny footsteps from above.

Gia kept her Holiday record and finished off all of her Easter candy by 9:00 am. Then, she went looking for candy in others kids baskets. She is still working on a little thing called impulse control. Advice welcome!

Then, we headed to mass where my nephew was baptized on Easter Sunday! God bless him.
Keeping 4 kids under 5 quiet for 2 hours in the pew was challenging to say the least, but we survived without being too obnoxious of a family.


They had a lovely reception for my nephew afterwards.The kids had a blast running around the church basement playing with their cousins and friends of cousins.

Happy Easter 2014 and Baptism little nephew!!


Friday, April 18, 2014

Our Adoption "Gotcha" Day Anniversary and Holy Week

“If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plan” - Woody Allen

Part 1
I confess…I was VERY opposed to creating an adoption blog.

I felt that we were “violated” enough during our adoption pursuit…agencies and social workers; family history, health, credit, criminal checks; dozens of paperwork filings; letters of reference from friends and family everywhere; a Department of Homeland Security denial for “failing duty of candor” (don’t get me started on how they concluded this or the thousands of dollars we had to spend to change their conclusion); hurtful words said to us along the way …on and on AND ON!

The fa├žade of our house was knocked down and replaced with a sheet of glass. There were dozens of spectators sitting in comfy home theatre seating in our front yard, holding us to their judgment, with spotlights shining on us from behind them. Honey, wait a minute, you want to put this circus on an INTERNET FEED?? J

Kristy’s “Gotcha Day” Anniversary post brings me tears. I am SO GLAD we have done this blog. We NEVER would have recorded this journey without making ourselves “accountable” in such a way. We have created this story of LOVE for our family archive. We have been ENCOURAGED by so many people through the hard times. This blog was created because my wife calls the shots in this house – THANK GOD.

A few months back, Kristy left her blog admin page open on the family computer and I could see that the blog visit count was in the tens of thousands. It is humbling to know that Kristy’s vision to share our blog journey has inspired, encouraged, touched others.

I am thankful that this blog has been part of her labor of love.

Part 2

As for the year in review...

I did not think it was possible to give words to the miraculous transformation for Jude and Gia, but Kristy has managed to do this; I have nothing to add. There is much to be said about the transformations of Emma, Caroline, Joel and Molly over this year...but, that will be written later...

There are plenty of other dimensions of our journey...well, subplots...that I want to make sure are "on the record"...lest we forget them in 20 years...

Kristy left her job as a turnaround champ for high-profile, multimillion dollar projects in distress. She also stepped down as chair of the board for the kids’ school that she co-founded (but stayed heavily engaged and heavily stressed, all year). She devoted herself tirelessly to being a stay at home mom, even pushing to the point of an overnight hospital stay for dehydration and exhaustion. We have divided and conquered house nighttimes for the entire past year, having slept in separate rooms since the adoption and occasionally pulling simultaneous night vigils. Both of my businesses, that I worked to bone to build and that kept me self employed for 6 years, went belly up. Our balance sheet did a face plant and we almost lost our house. I had to do a retirement account liquidation loan to pay a tax bill. I dropped 30 pounds from my pre-adoption trip weight.

And more little insanities. Surgeries; dozens of antibiotic / antiviral / antifungal prescriptions. Frequent flier cards with local Hospital ERs. A trophy from Children’s Hospital Colorado for the most stool sample lab tests for a single household (sorry for that one). Let’s just say there were a few unwelcome species that escorted us back to the US, and they needed to be evicted.

Car break-in, car accident, Denver FD fire engine visit at 3am, stolen credit cards, two major basement floods (including “the Great Colorado Flood of 2013”). A second (stray) dog was added to Fantz pack (sigh), because he refused to be shooed away from our back yard during a winter week in the single digits.

And even more little insanities…but, you get the point…

There were other major matters as well. Painful heartbreak developed outside of our family that devastated everyone involved.


This Temple that we had spent much of our life together building– at one point a seemingly perfect, grand, luxurious post that was ever expanding – was, in many ways, destroyed over the last year. Its embellishments, comforts, luxuries, guarantees, expectations, contentments, promise of control, and future security that had been amassed within, were razed with it to the ground.
"Jesus…said…'Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.'" - John 2:19
I have thought this over the last few days…How blessed we are that this first anniversary celebration of our “Gotcha Day” coincides with Holy Week.

I have reflected on Christ’s Passion. But, I have also felt my heart bursting with gratitude…that my own Temple has been profoundly destroyed. Thank you, Lord. For shattering my plans.

“Seek first the kingdom of God..., and all these things will be given you besides.” – Matthew 6:33

Had I not entrusted myself wholly to God, He never could have shattered my plans…

Had he not shattered my plans, He never could have given me this...

(Passover this week)

I will experience the full joy of the Easter Resurrection through this tiny village of seven other souls, with whom I have been blessed to share my life on Earth. 

I pray that each who reads this give their self wholly to seeking God...then, that they find unspeakable joy in what will come after their temple, whatever it may be, is destroyed...

Happy Gotcha Day, Fantzes!

Happy Easter, everyone!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

What a Year!

Today is our one year Gotcha anniversary.

I remember thinking so often during our first few months home with Jude and Gia...I can't wait until we are at the year mark.

Because it was hard....really hard.

And we made it! And boy, what a difference a year makes! They are completely different kids. Life is incredibility better than it was a year ago.

Gia's match photo

Jude's match photo

One year ago when we first walked into the civil affairs office in China on Gotcha Day, I had no idea what to expect. We spotted Gia right away. My first reaction was she was cutest, sweetest baby I had ever seen. And, I was in love.

She was silent...almost non-responsive.

By the time Jude had arrived, Gia had a firm survival grip on me, and I really could not even approach Jude because of Gia's unwillingness to let me go. Nor did Jude want me to come near him. I was so overwhelmed at this point, I could barely process Jude's arrival into our family. He clung to his Dad and went from checking veraciously eating the snacks we were feeding having random periods of hysterical screaming. He seemed like to me that he was going to be the difficult one. Boy was I wrong in that assumption.

Looking back on the Gotcha videos (now that I know them both so well), I can see just how terrified, scared, and confused they both were on this day. Although a beautiful joyful day for our family and a new beginning for Jude and Gia, it was also a day of significant trauma and loss for them.

After the finalizing all of our Chinese paperwork and traveling back to the hotel, Jude started to finally relax and calm down. He started to play and have a blast with his Mandarin speaking sisters. Boy, did he warm up to Emma and Caroline right away. They were the only ones that he could understand. Emma and Caroline would giggle their heads off anytime he would respond to them in Mandarin. They thought it was so adorable to hear a 2 year speak Chinese. We could see glimpses of the joy that was in him.

However, as soon as Jude saw anyone Chinese, he would run to them for dear life. I think he was hoping to get away from us and find a new family. He was less than excited about his Caucasian English speaking parents.

When we got back to the hotel with Gia, she started to ramp up her behaviors. We learned very quickly she had three forms of communication: shrieking, groaning, and full blown tantrums. She did not respond at all to her sisters speaking with her in Mandarin. No one spoke to her enough in the orphanage for her to have developed any language comprehension in Mandarin at almost 2 years of age. And, we realized pretty quickly she was in horrible shape. She could barely function as a 2 year old. Although her gross and fine motor skills were on track and in appearance, she looked like any typical 2 year old (although a much skinnier and malnourished version), she came to us with profound psychological and emotional distress. She could barely function as a child.

I remember being so exhausted that evening. Gotcha day felt like it was the longest, emotionally draining day of my life, and all I wanted to do was sleep. All would be better the next day. But, there was no sleeping that night. Gia spent the entire evening waking up every 20 minutes terror shrieking. This was a preview of what our life would be like the next few months home.

The next day we had to go back to the civil affairs office to finalize our adoption in the eyes of the Chinese government. (We had 24 hours to decide whether or not to "keep" our child) Someone in our travel group made the comment, "Who would give their child back after 24 hours?" I remember thinking, "I would. I desperately wanted to give them back, and tell them this was all a big mistake."  I had spent the last 24 hours with Gia and after dealing with her constant shrieking, my feelings about our adoption had turned from joy to fear. I was completely beaten down (and exhausted from not sleeping), and it had only been 24 hours. The fear of what our life was about to become had completely overtaken me. I wanted to stop it all right then and there.

Fortunately, Dave was much stronger and had complete faith when things were so impossible. He kept telling me all would be OK, and we could do this. God wouldn't abandon us.

Over the next few days, I remember feeling resentment toward Jude and Gia's birth parents and caregivers. "Who could do this to an innocent child?" (I am not really proud of these feelings, but this is how I honestly felt.) I couldn't believe what terrible shape the kids were in....especially Gia. I had never seen anything like it before in such young children. This sounds terrible, but I felt like I inherited the sins of another person. None of this seemed fair to me. I questioned why we thought we could even do this. I questioned why God gave us such a unbearable cross.

It was fascinating to watch the dynamics of the newly adopted children who "survival attached" to one parent. The kids were clinging on for their lives. One parent was feeling sad and rejected because their new child wanted nothing to do with them.... meanwhile the other parent (the one the child clung to) looked exhausted,  ragged... like they were going to pull their hair out. What I wasn't expecting was what this constant clinging from a screaming, terrified child would feel like. It felt like you were taken hostage by a 2 year old terrorist. Out of complete fear, this child was trying to control every action and move of the parent. You couldn't even use the restroom without the child shrieking uncontrollably.

The rest of our China trip was pure survival.  I couldn't pray without crying. My older girls kept asking me why I was so sad. I could not quite understand and process it all myself. We somehow manage to finish all our government and medical appointments and make it home despite terrible sickness, screaming toddlers, and travel logistics that stretched us beyond what we thought we were ever capable of enduring.

The first few months home were unimaginably hard. I would wake up in the morning feeling like I wanted to die. I could barely hold things together. Dealing with the constant shrieking day and night and a child that never slept was more than a human could handle. Soon I looked identical to the panicked, stressed out kids we adopted. Our family was thrown into utter chaos. I could barely breathe. I felt like there was no joy in our adoption. I was completely surprised by the circumstances. Although I went into our adoption journey knowing it would be a very difficult road, I was expecting there to be at least some joy in these early months.

But, slowly things began to transform within Jude and Gigi. Slowly they began the healing process. We began to see glimpses of the joy we were fighting so hard to obtain.

Along this journey, I had come across the Harry Harlow study of the monkey who was intentionally deprived of his mother's touch for the 1st 6 months of life. (I had remembered these studies from Pysch 101, but let's face, it had been a while.) While watching the video of when they tried to unsuccessfully socialize the monkey who was deprived of his mother, I had a pretty big epiphany. Watching this monkey become completely neurotic when they tried to integrate him with the other monkeys, made Gia's early behavior in our adoption finally make sense to me. This little monkeys behavior looked exactly like Gia's behavior when we got her.  Honestly. I had initially just kindof thought we were matched with a crazy child. Of course, I had an attachment therapist tell me many times Gigi's behavior looked very much like a child who had experienced early neglect. But, for some reason before I watched this video, I had a hard time believing this. Gia was supposed to have been from a good orphanage where they actually took care of the children. Jude had spent time with a foster mother. But for some reason, when I watched this video, it finally sunk in that their previous neglect was the root of all of our challenges. My heart ached for both of them, and I had such remorse for my previous feelings toward their behaviors.

In the experiment, to remedy this neglect, they placed a 3 month old monkey with the deprived 6 month old. The 3 month old naturally attached himself to the 6 month old like it was his mother. The 6th month old hated and recoiled from this constant contact from the 3 month old, but the result was a complete healing and reversal in the 6 months old monkey's neurotic behavior. He became completely healed of all signs of his previous neglect and was able to successfully socialize and interact normally with other monkeys.

And let me tell you, this is where the healing begins.

Even though all these other therapies we were doing were certainly helping Jude and Gia: OT, speech, behavioral, etc. The root of everything was attachment. This renewed my resolve to work to reverse the damage done. I started wearing them 1 hour each day in the ergo carrier. We persisted in the rocking before bed, infant massage, skin brushing. And, of course, we were present for them in their daily lives.

There were many dark moments where I had for forgive myself for struggling to love them. I had to recognize the fact that a child who shrieks all day is impossible for anyone to like let alone love. I had to make love an action not a feeling. And, fake it until I felt it. There were also days where we saw the most beautiful light.  Glimpses of their healing and joy.  
And, the change in Jude and Gia over the past year is nothing short of miraculous. I am in such awe by their transformation. It has renewed my faith that all things are possible with God.  Jude and Gigi are completely different children.

And, they are a such unbelievable blessings to our family.

And joy! Yes, there is finally joy.

Not that there are not still difficulties. But, now most days, the joyful moments outweigh the challenging moments. Our days are actually manageable now.

So, what have I learned this past year?

I have learned that healing a broken child is possible. Love does heal. (with a little help from Lord above and some therapist who might be actually angels). But, it takes time. The healing does not happen overnight.

Taking in a broken child leaves you a little broken. Adoption is not an easy journey without your heart becoming wounded along the way.

We need to take the time to let God's grace flow. I read once that God's grace never stops chasing us.  We just need to stop and take the time to receive it. His grace is very much a necessity in this journey.

Taking part in the sufferings of Christ, leaves you transformed. Simone of Cyrene who was asked to help carry the cross of Jesus is a story that is supposed to represent the call of each one of us. Our individual call to share in the cross of Christ. Simone was never the same after carrying his cross. He was completely transformed by the experience.

I can honestly say I am a become a very different person over this past year. It has been a purification process. Although I am left a little more wounded,I am also a lot more aware of the sufferings of humanity.  I am a little more sensitive to the world and those around me. I am also a lot more aware of my own weaknesses and my complete dependence on God.

Thank you for following us on our journey. Thank you for all of your prayers and support. They have helped us tremendously. We are forever grateful!

Happy Gotcha Day Gia and Jude! You are both forever etched into our hearts. Our family wouldn't be whole without you.

I am sorry for all the times I haven't been the best Mother, or I have been too weak to give you what you need.  But, always know your adoption was done out of great love.

Music in video by Michael Nolan, " Baby Baby", "Alleluia."

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Layers of the Onion- Part 4 {Sensory}

This is a post dedicated to our bouncing bean Gigi and our head ramming Jude.

A post about all things sensory.

Gigi is sensory seeking... Jude is sensory defensive.  Of course, these two kiddos seem to always be in opposite ends of the spectrum on everything....just to make my life easier.

So, what does this sensory dysfunction look like?

Well, for Gia controlling her little body has never been an easy process. She would at times spend hours bouncing up and down next to me.... running around on her tip toes..... never walking anywhere.
It is somewhat nauseating to watch her.
Gigi really has more of Tigger boing than a bounce.

When you try to start any movement activity, her little body becomes completely out of control.
You can't swing Gigi high or long enough.  And, she will let you throw her way too scary high in the air.

Did I ever mention she struggles with sleep, and she still moves constantly when she sleeps? Lol

For Jude, it means shutting down very quickly whenever he gets too much of anything. He is constantly pushing himself into things to regulate. Especially his little head into my stomach. He has always had a hard time with touch. Extremely squirmy around little plastic animal toys, and can scream bloody murder if he sees anything slimy...especially in the shape of a fish.

I guess it makes sense that children who lacked adequate sensory input due to living in an institution would have a higher rate of Sensory Processing Disorders.

So, when we first brought Jude and Gia home, I started the Wilbarger brushing protocol intensely. Mostly to help Gia regulate and for Jude to be less defensive to touch. I did the brushing 8 times a day for about 3 months. (I had been trained in this method many years ago when my oldest daughter struggled with sensory issues.) The thought behind this therapy is that the skin is the largest sensory organ. Brushing the skin regularly helps the brain better process sensory information. I felt it helped Jude and Gigi immensely

Then, I moved on to brain stem therapy. This is a popular method in England (Very similar to occupational therapy)
Basically, the reasoning behind this therapy is that some children skip significant developmental milestones that are needed to suppress the moro reflex. (Gia still had this reflex when we brought her home at almost 2 years of age...this reflex is usually suppressed by 6 months of age.) The presence of these reflexes is linked to all kinds of developmental delays. So, the approach is to basically redo all the gross motor developmental milestones from birth and ensure all their reflexes have been appropriately suppressed.
I saw a huge explosion in Gia's language after doing this therapy. She was almost non-verbal prior to it.

Then, we began occupational therapy.

We have been blessed with amazing therapists. (I don't know how I could have survived this first year home without them.) They are like God sent angels for us...speech, behavioral, attachment, and OT. All once a week.

For this post, we will stick with OT.

So, what I didn't realize was that all this jumping Gia was doing all day was massively dis-regulating her and one of the sources for her behavioral challenges. Gia's OT informed me she is trying to regulate her system by jumping, but the jumping is actually having the opposite effect. What she needed was heavy work to regulate.

So, I filled all these old pillow pets and stuffed animals with pinto beans because I was too cheap to buy 5 pound therapy animals that were recommended. (The mini pillow pets with beans work beyond amazing. It was funny, after I made one, all my kids requested to have their very own.) So, whenever I see a little bouncing Gigi 's head next to me, I hand Gia a 5 pound pillow pet, and I tell her "the zebra (pillow pet) is very tired  and needs to go to bed."  So, she happily carries the zebra to her bedroom. And, as soon as she gets back I tell her, "he woke up and he is crying, you better go get him." I run her in circles with poor GiGi carrying this 5 pound stuffed animal around the house until she is completely wiped out.... and well regulated.

And, let me tell you this small technique of walking around the house with a heavy stuffed animal works miraculous for her. I had no idea how much of her constant emotional breakdowns were related to her sensory issues. We saw a huge drop in tantrums after a healthy daily diet of heavy work.

These heavy mini pillow pets are also great when you need the kids to focus on an activity that requires them to be still. I always put one on Gigi's lap when reading her a story to help her focus and control her body from constantly moving.

I have also made weighted vests for the kids to wear anytime they need regulation...any double lined vest, you can easily fill with ziploc bags of pinto beans. (if you are lazy like me you just cut a hole in the vest in 4 different sides, drop a ziploc bag of pinto beans in, and close it with some duct tape. lol) 

 Homemade weighted vest and weighted pillow pet

Molly napping in our quiet corner

I also splurged and bought weighted blankets on Etsy. Also, good for calming moments and sleeping.

Quiet corner with weighted blanket

We also have a swing in the basement with many therapy swings to attach to it.  But, one of the best ideas my therapist had was to buy 2 yards of spandex fabric to create a tight hugging swing for them. (It was cheap and easy to make.) This swing works beautifully for regulating as well. They love it.

Kinetic sand station

I also have made many sensory bins that are ready to use. They are simply shoe box size plastic bins filled with different sensory themes ....rice, pasta, kinetic sand, etc. These bins are messy, but as Jude and Gigi's therapist tells me, if it entertains them longer than it takes to clean it up, it is worth it.

sensory bin (rice and magnetic things)

Pinterest has fabulous ideas for sensory bins.

I often set up sensory stations when I am trying to get things done around the house. Water play at the sink is always an easy station. Simple to set up and it never gets old. At times, I make the water really warm...other times, really cold with a bunch of ice cubes thrown in the sink. They can't get enough of it.

Water play
Stringing bead station

We also plan to have a very sensory themed summer (when they can finally do these messy things outside).

Are they making progress?  Yes. Amazing progress. Jude is tolerating so much more, and Gigi is slowly developing more control of her little body.

Not completely there yet, but they are on the right path to healing.