Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Our Interesting Christmas

Well, you know my philosophy....

Why have a boring old traditional Christmas when you can have a wild, unusual, high-stress one?

So that's just what we did.

Last week, Steve and Sugar both had the stomach flu. Sugar's lasted about 48 hours. Steve's kept going on and off for the whole week. On Christmas Eve, he began to have severe pain in his upper abdomen. It was strong enough that I called his parents to see if they could watch Cupcake and Sugar while I took him to the ER. While I was on the phone, the pain subsided, so we decided to wait and see if it happened again.

It happened again.

Within 30 minutes, we were on our way to the ER. He was in such pain that I thought he might pass out during the 10 minute drive to the hospital. By the time we got there, the pain had subsided. They asked questions, ran tests, drew blood, poked him, and started an IV. He felt fine until noon, when he had another attack, which lasted 45 minutes. At that point, they drugged him up with pain killers.

He was diagnosed with mild (not currently life threatening) pancreatitis. Treatment involves hospitalization, rest, nothing to eat, and continual monitoring of vitals. He was admitted overnight. :-( He came home around 5:00 pm on Christmas Day, so he was able to enjoy small portions of Grandma's feast.

While we were in the ER, the most beautiful snow was falling. Everything was blanketed in sparkling white splendor. It was the perfect backdrop for our Christmas Eve Candlelight Service. My whole church family loved on me even though I had that "unshowered, uncombed, no make-up, no deodorant, straight-from-the-hospital" look and smell.

The big kids helped me with getting packages out of hiding and bedecked with bows. (Cupcake spent the night with the Grandparents.) I was in bed by 11:30, which is earlier than most Christmas Eves.

Next morning, the kids opened most of their gifts while I videotaped. We went up to the hospital to visit Daddy and show him the videos.

We saved the personal gifts to each other until Daddy got home.

It was hard on Steve to miss Christmas. He loves to watch the kids enjoy the holiday. The kids did pretty well with it. Sugar had the hardest time. She really hates medical emergencies. Cupcake held it together the whole time and saved her meltdowns until after Daddy came home. I felt like God carried me through the stress. I had extra energy and a very calm, optimistic, positive attitude, which is not like me in stressful situations.

As the new year rolls around, we look back and have much to be thankful for.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

All I Want for Christmas is...

my FOUR front teeth!

Comfortable in His Manhood

I married a man's man. He's not afraid of what others may think. (Well, maybe a little...) But, nevertheless, he knows what's most important, and he's willing to act on it.

Cupcake has had a rough couple of weeks. Steve traveled and I was sick (at the same time) back in November. At school, her beloved wonderful teacher suddenly went on bed-rest a month before her due date. Two classmates and a neighber friend moved in the past month with very little notice. The Thanksgiving break with low structure, combined with Tim coming home and leaving again was stressful.

All of these things could throw a regular kid into meltdown. It's exponential for Cupcake. We've had an significant increase in defiance and behavior issues.

So, knowing that Cupcake was needing some special one-on-one time (and I was needing a break from the neediness), Steve offered to let Cupcake do a makeover on him.

Oh yes he did.

We began to see smiles.

We all giggled, then laughed until I was crying/snorting/snot-bubbling.

She likes that eyeliner.

It got worse. In the end, he looked like a cross between Marilyn Manson and the Easter Bunny, but I'll spare you those gruesome photos. Let's just say there's virtually no hope of him ever running for public office.

I think it was just the thing to turn Cupcake around. It lightened the mood in our house considerably for everyone. Things are looking up again. :-)

Thank you, Daddy, for doing what's needed, even if it's a bit uncomfortable and embarrassing.

Blessings to you,

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Okay, so Sugar has had a nasty virus and a migraine for two days. It's kicking her tail. She's been running a fever anywhere from 100 to 105, even with motrin. She's been just miserable.

Cupcake has been jealous of all the TLC we've been giving her. So, tonight, I come home from church and hear that Cupcake put the thermometer we've been using for Sugar in her mouth "because she wants to get sick, too."


Blessings to you,

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Love and Compassion

(I've been working on this post for over a month now... Sigh... I'm just going to post it.)

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:1-8
One principle that is foundational to everything else we learned at Empowered to Connect is that love and compassion for our kids is key to success. We can follow any program, script, or technique and it will fail, unless we truly show our children that they are beautiful and precious. Our kids are more valuable than they know. It's our job to fill their hearts up with that truth.

When a parent is feeling empty, beat down, and hopeless, it can be very difficult to see our child as a precious kid who is scared to death and just doing his/her best to survive. It is necessary to step back now and then (or several times a day) to consider our child is not trying to get into trouble. They are just trying to get it right the way they know best. We need to remember that they are acting according to their worldview. The world is not a safe place for them. They must use all their skills to survive. To lose is to die. We want to bring them to a place where they know deep down that we are trustworthy and we're on their side.

If we don't know their history, we have trouble empathizing with it. Dr. Karyn Purvis did a great job in reminding us of just how traumatic trauma can be. I must have teared up or got the lump in my throat twenty times over the weekend (of the conference). Steve and I have more knowledge of Cupcake's history than most adoptive parents have, so having compassion on her has been easier for us than others. We felt really encouraged that we had done so much right in parenting Cupcake from the beginning. However, with Sugar, we often forget that she experienced intense trauma in the early days of Cupcake's arrival. Our young one brought her trauma into our home, and we were all traumatized as we witnessed and experienced just how deep and awful her pain was.

We've messed up a lot of things as we've adjusted to our new life, but our biggest mistake in parenting since bringing Cupcake home is that we have forgotten that all our kids were hurt by this. We have years and years of "traditional Christian parenting" techniques that have forged some very bad habits**. These old techniques seemed to work pretty well for our homegrown kiddos, but they absolutely backfired in our faces when used on Cupcake. And we're just starting to comprehend that they are backfiring when used on our big kids, too. (We're kind of slow that way.) We've been trying to parent three kids the old way, and one the new way. The inconsistencies are not lost on our daughters. It's time for a new start.

**Bad habits were formed when we learned (mistakenly) that obedience is everything. Obedience is definitely important in a parent/child relationship, but relationship is paramount. Jesus said, "If you love me, you will obey what I command." Notice: Love (relationship) comes first. Obedience flows out of love, not the other way around.

I'm going to have to have a separate post about this. If you want to pursue it a little further now, Stonefox over at Moms, Ministry, and More had a great post on this a while back.


What about babies from hard places?

A lot of parents that adopt infants believe that all this trauma parenting doesn't apply to them. They feel their child is/was too young to know. If they can't remember, it shouldn't affect them later in life.

How could a baby be from a "hard place"?

Dr. Tiffany Field did a study on the brains of children, both before and after birth. If the birthmother only experienced depression while carrying the child (no drugs, alcohol, abuse, etc.), the child's brain chemistry was different. The dopamine and serotonin levels were lower than normal. Three months later, they tested the urine of the babies. Their levels were still below normal.

So, what do these lower levels of chemicals do?

They cause babies to be anxious, afraid, fussy, or withdrawn.

If a child is adopted, he already has a gut feeling of rejection/abandonment. With no cognitive ability to understand or express that, a child carries a sense of impending danger. Early trauma affects the way a child feels, thinks, and acts, even if they have no recollection of the trauma.

Are you breathing?

Take a deep breath. I'm not done.

There is hope.

If you are aware of this, you can work to help your child succeed. Every kid can make progress towards forming healthy relationships. As the child connects with you, it opens up brain pathways that were closed. Social, relational, academic, and emotional growth can take place! I've seen it with my own kid. I saw it in the videos Dr. Purvis showed. These kids are dying to connect with us. They just don't feel safe. They don't feel that they have a voice. They feel their needs aren't important to anyone else. That's why they have to take care of themselves.

If you see your child through the eyes of compassion and you commit to the healing journey, you are on your way to witnessing a miracle.

It's going to take everything in you to bring out the real child beneath the survivor child.

Are you willing to go there? It will be worth it.

Blessings to you,

Monday, October 25, 2010

Cupcake's Words

These words fill me up.

(This was written all by herself at school last week.)

Blessings to you,

Sunday, October 24, 2010


We've had a couple of breakthroughs with Cupcake lately. They're pretty big. :-)

Ever since we came back from the Empowered to Connect Conference, Cupcake has been more and more confident of our love. She's been very happy and mostly cooperative. We've had a couple of rough patches but we've been able to pull out of them with some deep breathing and gentle words. It's been really good.

Cupcake is beginning to use her words to express what's really going on in her heart. She is able to say things like, "I feel disappointed that I didn't get...", or, "I feel sad about..."

Academically, she is still catching up, but is learning by leaps and bounds. Reading is beginning to click. Math is coming along. Her handwriting is great.

She has really been a snuggle-bunny lately. It is so good to finally have my baby crawl up into my lap just to get some lovin' and to stay there for more than a few minutes.

Another breakthrough is related to the snuggling. Cupcake is now able to sit on my lap while I read books to her. Until recently, we only were able to read very short picture books. We always tried to sneak in a quick book at bedtime. But now, we are working our way through her first chapter book with very few pictures. She asks me to read to her almost every night. It's a cliffhanger. :-)

Our biggest breakthrough has to do with the development of her conscience. Twice this weekend, Cupcake did something wrong, confessed it to us, cried in grief, asked us what to do, and apologized to the offended party. Both times, she was anxious to make things right. She didn't want to waste any time. She worried if the other person would forgive her. Both times, forgiveness was granted easily, hugs exchanged, and Cupcake skipped off with a light heart.

I can't begin to tell you how proud I am of my little one. She is such a beautiful, sweet, tender-hearted creature. I love to see her blooming and growing. God is working on her heart and I get to be on the front row. :-)

Blessings to you,

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Just For Fun

I'm working on a serious post (have been for 2 weeks), but in the meantime...

Do you know what this is?


A fly swatter?

A bug killer?


How about "a marshmallow bat"?


See how it looks like a marshmallow stick with a paddle?

Blessings to you,

Thursday, October 7, 2010

My Kid is Smarter Than Your Kid ;-)

My kid is able to get straight A's simply by her brain's existence.

No need to show up for class.

No need to take quizzes.

Tests? Dispense with the formalities.

She is so brilliant, she can achieve a 4.0 with no effort.

What makes me so sure?

We received a report card from the local middle school yesterday. It was in Sugar's name. It had two classes listed. And the grades? Good solid A's.

Here's the thing...

Sugar doesn't attend the local middle school. She never has.

Last year, at the appropriate time, we sent in the form that said she would NOT BE ATTENDING the middle school. In the early summer, we received her course schedule. Again, I called and told them that Sugar would not be attending. When we got the bus schedule for her in August, I beat my head against the wall. So now, a report card, with A's. I guess her reputation as an excellent student preceded her.

Steve called today and they sounded puzzled, and apologized for the mix-up, promised to straighten it out . We'll see how she does next semester. ;-)

Blessings to you,

Monday, September 27, 2010

Sensory Needs

One of the interesting points Dr. Purvis made was that many, many kids who have early trauma have sensory processing issues. When a child has an interruption in the normal development, the sensory system takes a hit. She believes in treating children holistically. "Holistic" is one of those words that can mean something different to everybody. Dr. Purvis defines it as treating the whole person - body, soul and spirit. (Not treating each diagnosis or issue as a separate entity in itself, but treating the whole child). Once a child is taken care of, feels safe, loved and lovable, the sensory issues will be diminished. She recommends a book, "The Out of Synch Child" by Carol Kranowitz for parents to explore the issue, and "The Out of Synch Child Has Fun" if you find your child does has special sensory needs.

Just from my own limited knowledge, these are some hints that a child has sensory processing difficulties. A child can either feel things too intensely (sensory avoidant) or not intensely enough (sensory seeking), and sometimes both.

If your child:
  • often complains about tags, tight, or scratchy clothing
  • is picky about eating certain textures
  • covers ears at moderately loud noises
  • is LOUD
  • hugs really hard
  • plays too rough
  • refuses to touch slimy, wet, or messy substances
A couple of people asked about wall-pushing. She did not elaborate, but she showed a picture of kids pushing against a wall with all their might (kind of like stretching before you exercise). I guess the wall can take whatever the kid can dish out. :-)

Dr. Purvis had statistics about the incidence of sensory issues in adopted children versus birth children. Of course, I can't find those now, ;-) but it was significantly higher for adopted children. My point in posting this is that adoptive parents need to be aware of this and be willing to look into it, if they want to see real healing in their children. I am just becoming aware of this possibility and hope to begin studying this subject in the near future.

My friend, Lisa, over at A Bushel and A Peck has done quite a bit of research on this in her quest to help one of her children. She is a hero of mine and I highly recommend her as a great resource for parenting/adoption wisdom, as well as a "sensory mom".

Blessings to you,

Friday, September 24, 2010

Bits of Wisdom

Our Empowered to Connect Conference was a gold mine of wisdom. I took lots of notes and I am going back through them to solidify what we learned. I'll share with you the wisdom Dr. Purvis shared with us and also some thoughts I had on what she said over the next few weeks. I have a new label for Empowered to Connect, so you can find all the posts at once. Sometimes it will be a coherent thought stream, and sometimes just bits and pieces. Tonight, you get just a smattering. This Mama is exhausted. ;-)

Give your child a sensory rich experience. Try:
  • play-doh
  • finger paints
  • fidgets - little toys they can fidget with that have a variety of textures and sensory stimuli
  • wall-pushing
  • rice
  • sand
  • pudding
  • mud
  • slime
  • silly putty
  • mini-trampoline
  • running

These things may be too much for a child who has not had any stimulus, but introducing one thing and showing the child that it's okay can be a growing, trusting experience for your little one.

Even snacks can be sensory rich. Did you know that sweet=calm and sour=alert? That explains why my little tornado LOVES sugar. It helps her calm down. Now I have scientific proof of what I naturally suspected.

Blessings to you,

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Grand Finale

The final stop on our epic vacation really was a grand finale for us. My heart is so full with this story, my words fail me.

But I've got to tell the story. Their story. Our story. Cupcake's story. God's story.

On the outskirts of Baltimore, in northern Maryland, we had a "family reunion" of a different sort. We finally met Jim and Laurie in person. Jim and Laurie are our family, not based on common ancestry, but based on a common history.

Our daughter was once their daughter.

You see, this family was once Cupcake's family, not by birth, but by love. One year before we fell in love with her picture, they fell in love with her picture. A year before we began praying for her by name, they were already praying for her by name. For nine months they were in process to adopt Cupcake. Then the unthinkable happened...

If you've never adopted before, you must understand that the minute you have a name and a picture, you carry that child in your heart, much like a pregnant mother. Some cynics might say that the child is only "potentially yours", that she's not truly "yours" until the papers are finalized. But that is not the way a mother or father's love works. From the moment you know a child is waiting for you, a reckless, wild, consuming love sweeps over you like an ocean wave. Make no mistake, the waiting child is your baby.

The story is heart-breaking, miraculous and very long. In a nutshell, for 9 months, Jim and Laurie loved Cupcake as a daughter. They received update pictures once a month. They visited Guatemala and fell in love with the spunky little one with the big brown eyes and curly hair. While visiting, they had an incredible worship experience that confirmed to them that God had His hands on this precious one. About 2 months after their visit they received some update pictures that were troubling. Cupcake appeared to be in grave danger. They immediately arranged to fly to Guatemala to assess the situation and make sure Cupcake received the tender care she deserved. Before they could fly down, their agency called to tell them that Cupcake was gone. She had disappeared overnight, and they had no idea where she was. They had lost her referral. The adoption was over.

(I'm so glad this is not the end of the story.)

I cannot imagine the pain and heartbreak Jim and Laurie went through. This much I know...It was real grief. The loss of a child. Broken dreams. The grief was compounded by the unknown. What had become of Cupcake? Whose hands had she fallen into? Was she dead or alive?

Even through the grief, the family continued to pray daily for Cupcake, especially their two youngest sons.

Months passed and more heartache.

Eventually they received a referral for a beautiful Guatemalan baby girl. This adoption was no cake walk either. Delay after delay happened. One day, Laurie was invited to the Long-Road-Home group by a friend. (This is the same group where I met Tammy and her son.) This was an online group for people who were involved in long, difficult adoptions from Guatemala. Now the thing with the Long-Road-Home is: it is by invitation only. Someone in the group had to know you and vouch for you before you were granted access. Let's just say that security was tight. When Laurie joined, there were 44 people IN THE WORLD who had access to this group. And I was one of them.

They found Cupcake! They found us! :-D

At first we were shocked, because we had no idea that Cupcake had been placed for adoption before. Also, we were worried that they might try to "get her back". We feared that they might have unhealed wounds and any relationship might be unhealthy. They put our fears to rest very early. Yes, they had grieved and feared for her life, but they had given their pain and fear to the One who loves them best. And He carried them and brought them to a place of peace.

They sent us pictures of Cupcake from a year before we knew her. They prayed for us. They blessed us. They encouraged us. I've got a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes just thinking about what a blessing they have been. They prayed for our daughter before adoption was even on our radar. They wrapped their loving arms around our baby when she had no one else. They were Jesus to my child. They were Jesus to us.

To top it all off, they invited us to stay with them, though we had never met in real life. It was very brave of them to invite all six of us - at the end of our vacation, no less. And did I mention, they have 6 kids of their own - 2 are grown and married, and one is the precious little Guatemalan beauty they finally adopted. Now that's a houseful!

We had a wonderful time.

Our families blended together like cousins. It seemed we had always known them. Old friends. Easy. Comfortable. Similar. We knew that we would have much in common, simply because we serve the same God. But we had no idea how well we would match up. We instantly felt welcome and at home. The kids happily ran off to play. We enjoyed sweet fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ.

We have so much in common, it's crazy.

In fact, the next morning, my girls woke up and put on the clothes we had picked for them. Their daughter put on the clothes they had picked for her. And this is the result:

Great minds think alike. ;-)

We spent a too-short day at Gettysburg, seeing the battlefield and enjoying our time with them.

All too soon, it was time to say good-bye. :-(

We are so thankful that we had the opportunity to connect with this precious family in real life. Because of who they are, our visit was so much more than we could have ever hoped for. It was a blessing all the way around.

We love you guys.

Blessings to you,

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Empowered to Connect

This past weekend, Steve and I attentded Show Hope's very first Empowered to Connect Conference in Nashville. It was incredible! We were so encouraged and motivated. Dr. Karyn Purvis is brilliant. She gave us so many nuts and bolts ideas for helping our kids heal and grow. I can't wait to share it all with you.

But for now, if you get the chance to attend one of these conferences, by all means, do it. It doesn't matter if you have adopted kids or not. This woman will inspire you to be the best parent God created you to be.

Blessings to you,

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Favorite Beach Photos

Blessings to you,

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Beach

After the frenetic pace of Washington, DC, it was so refreshing to visit the beach.

I thought about posting pictures with the words "Sun", "Sand", and "Rest" for this post, but I have too many memories I want to preserve.

We went to Chincoteague, VA, home of the famous Chincoteague Ponies. It was mellow and slow-paced, quiet and intimate. Just what we needed.

The only shot of the ponies...see the little dots?

The first afternoon, we drove around and checked out the island.

Then we drove over to Assateague Island National Wildlife Refuge. We stopped at the beach just to, ahem... dip our toes in.

The next day, we spent the day at the beach. The weather was hot, the water was cool. Perfect. Cupcake loved it until she got a few snootfuls of saltwater. She spent most of the day playing in the sand. Steve stayed with her because ocean swimming is not his favorite. The three big kids and I had a great time "wave jumping". I had so much fun, but I must admit that I'm not as young as I used to be. Holding my own against the ocean was quite a workout. :-)

We hiked to a pony viewing area, but saw no ponies. The only wildlife we encountered were the voracious mosquitoes. Do you see the neon sign over Sugar that blinks, "MOSQUITO BUFFET - ALL YOU CAN EAT!"? Well the mosquitoes did!

The following morning, we hiked over to the Assateague Lighthouse.

Then we left for the outskirts of Baltimore, which was to be the grand finale of our epic vacation.

Blessings to you,