From where I stand…

Today I woke up to the realization that our nation isn’t what I thought it was. While I don’t think that America was in a place of greatness, it was in a place of change. Slowly morphing into a beautiful collage of all people and beliefs. People were coming behind their brothers and sisters and standing with them instead of over them.  And I realize that perhaps, in my ideal eyes, I had hope that the decency of humanity would prevail. That inside every person was a soul who, in the end, would not stand with a man who has consistently shown that he has no moral compass.

And, I know many will say that this is about Hillary losing. But, no. In my eyes, this is about Trump winning. People wake up everyday fearing their life because of the color of their skin or their sexual orientation; people live in deep shame for the very person that God made them to be. But, we’ve slowly been working towards change. Towards a nation of unity and not division. But, Trump brought out the deep-seeded feelings that people still have towards those who are different. He has given a voice to those who fear people who might not have the same values and beliefs as themselves. To those who think that unity and equal rights are somehow going to bring our country down.

If I’m being completely honest, this has made me lose hope in The Church. My faith in God, no, but my love of The Church, yes. I will not stand behind a Christianity that chooses to vote on the single issue of pro-life at the expense of all other lives. That somehow the life of the unborn means more than the lives of African Americans or Muslims or Latinos or Asians or those with special needs or those in the LGBTQ community. That the Church holds the values of traditional marriage so high that we are unwilling to see the pain we are creating inside of people. I have heard many Christians say that they feared losing their religious freedom if Hillary was elected. But, Trump has people actually fearing for their lives. People who are now afraid to leave their houses. People who will now be targeted even more for the color of their skin, their sexual preferences, or their religion. That somehow Christian single issues are more important than the moral character of our nation’s leader. I’m not sure how we ever got to a place where we are willing to overlook a man’s integrity for a few issues that we hold dear. And, again, this isn’t about voting Hillary, it’s about using voices to elect a man who is a known racist, misogynist and xenophobe.

So, today I’m going to cry.  I’m going to worry for my son who is a Chinese immigrant and has mental health disabilities. I’m going to think about how I would want my children to be treated should they be LGBTQ. I’m going to pray for those who are afraid to leave their houses. I’m going to think about all those who now will be told they don’t have a place here because of the color of their skin or their religion.  Today I am mourning. Grieving. But, tomorrow, I’m going to put my big girl pants on and continue fighting.  I will use my voice of privilege to speak for those who are afraid. I will look at the people we surround ourselves with and make a promise that we will try harder to have every religion and race in our circle. I will be a fighting example for my children that we must rise up and defend those who cannot defend themselves.

Tomorrow, I’m going to continue the fight, but today I’m just going to cry.

When your normal changes.

I was trying to think of many ways to write this blog post, wondering the great wonderings and deciding if it was even something that I should share.

The adoption world is full of many, many puppy dogs and rainbows. Where the beautiful pot of gold at the end is this gorgeous, perfect blended family. I think portraying adoption in this light negates the fact that adoption is hard and messy and intertwined in between the hard and messy is trauma and broken souls and hearts that have experienced more pain than should ever be allowed. I have a few friends that have the rainbow and the pot of gold and then there is everyone else, where their rainbow is shattered and their pot of gold is so far off that they can’t even dream it to be true.

When we go into adoption, we think and dream and picture and we spend, truthfully, little time really thinking hard about the realities of how an innocent child got to where they are. When my son was in my arms for the first time, my whole world changed. I viewed life differently. This innate feeling of guilt. Guilt that his biological family wasn’t there, guilt for taking him from his birth country. Guilt for leaving his native language. Lots and lots of guilt.

And, then the layers kept peeling back and I was exposed to all the things that I could have never understood before. Broken hearts, fear, trauma, angst, anger, etc… all of these things that come from the loss of a first family. The immediate loss that an infant experiences will forever impact who they are. Sure, many children who are adopted never experience even a third of these things or if they do, they often are silent sufferers. I have a few friends who have the rainbow. And, their story is beautiful. And, then, there is the rest of us. Suffering. In the midst of trials and tribulations that are really indescribable. But, that doesn’t mean our journey isn’t beautiful. Suffering amidst the beauty, that is our life.

We’ve lost many friends on this journey. I’ve cried myself to sleep many nights. At first, I thought it was my struggles with post adoption depression but then I realized that life now, this new normal of ours, is hard. And, people are scared of hard. People want the pretty and gorgeous. People don’t want to see you when you are so tired that you physically can’t move. People don’t want to see a family that is barely hanging on not for a lack of love or understanding but because the trials they are facing are taxing on their souls. So, people chose not to stick around. And, I don’t blame them. Because, when you call and I can’t pick up or you text and I don’t respond, it’s not because I don’t care it’s because I have not another ounce to give. This is more than a physical tired, this is emotional exhaustion.

People see a well adjusted little boy who loves his family like no other. They see siblings who dote on their brother because he is the most amazing little boy. But, people can’t see behind the happiness because it’s too hard or they don’t want to. It’s too hard to know that that same little boy has so much fear that he screams for hours. That that same little boy has zero impulse control. That the same child is still grieving, a year and a half later. That the same child doesn’t ever sleep, like ever. That the same child who is running happily on the playground is the same one who just gripped his mommas neck so hard because of a deep seeded fear of a loud noise. Whose endless screaming is a plea for mercy and grace and love.

What I can tell you is I could have never been prepared for the needs of my son. His physical needs related to his cleft lip and palate, sure but his emotional needs that come from abandonment and trauma and everything else? Never. Never could I have seen where we are now. Because the suffering is real.

Our new normal has brought us on a journey that I could have never imagined.

because when you listen…

The past two weeks have been the hardest two weeks of my entire life. We thought we were through the rough, that the smooth was headed our way. We have put in the hard work; we have changed and learned and grown. We have tried harder than we ever thought possible. The past few weeks have taught us that we know nothing. That right when we think we have made progress, we are so quickly reminded that this process is a lifetime. That progress can’t be measured on a daily basis but must be looked at over a lifetime. That we must celebrate every inch like it is the biggest victory that we will ever get.

Because sometimes you do therapy after therapy, read book after book and watch video after video hoping and praying that one of those will be a beacon into your days of suffering. That someone will have the answer to the trials.

But, what about when that doesn’t happen? When you wake up another day only to find that it’s exponentially harder than the day before. The day before, you thought it could never get worse but then, it does.

Lately I’ve let jealousy overcome me. I’ve been consumed by other peoples happiness, by their apparent ease of life. And, I hate being riddled with jealousy. Jealous of dates with spouses, vacations sans children, by extra spending money, by those whose lives are…easy. I’m jealous. I simply want what they have. A peaceful moment. The calm. The laughter. I want it all. But, then I find myself so consumed by others lives that I miss my own joy.

And, when I miss my own joy, I miss the laughter roaming through our halls, the giggles that bounce from wall to wall. I miss the days we spend with our children and the adventures we go on. I miss our joy. Our joy isn’t date nights and lavish vacations(heck, any vacation), it’s not fancy dinners or remodeling our house. Our joy is different than their joy. I was so consumed by theirs that I missed ours.

Our joy is having our sweet baby make eye contact. Or running to us with an owie instead of holding back his own tears. Our joy is using words instead of screams. Of not smearing poop all over the walls. Or not hanging from the curtains. Or jumping off the bed instead of sleeping. Our joy is…different…but it is still…joy.

And, then, right in the middle of my own self pity, I had a revelation. I wasn’t listening. I wasn’t listening to my child. I was so consumed by what was wrong about our lives and what was amazing about everyone else’s that I missed the cries. I was so consumed with wanting a moment to myself that I couldn’t hear anything. I was so consumed by my own misery that I couldn’t find the answer to my child’s cries and screams. It’s like I had become numb to the noise. 16 months of constant screaming had been hard but the last two weeks of torture had, finally, worn me down. But, the Lord laid a hand upon me and whispered that I must listen. That this was my job. It wasn’t for the faint of heart and it surely wasn’t easy but we couldn’t give up. And then, I started making changes. Listening. Trying. Changing, again.

This time I realized that the sudden increase in my child’s screams were his way of saying that he couldn’t handle it. We had put him in a preschool and looking back, things went from bad to worse right after that. But, two weeks, it took two weeks until I opened my eyes to see it. And, then I realized that his preschool was triggering. Sure, many said to tough it out, that he will get used to it. But, for 14 months, my son didn’t have the voice of his momma to help calm his cries or protect him. And, it’s not his job to push past his pain, it’s my job to protect him from the scars of his past. To ease his little life so that his past wounds don’t haunt him everyday.

And, when I did listen, it was like the gates of joy opened. On the surface, it’s like the change of preschools was just what he needed. But, looking back, he needed to know that his momma was listening to his cries. That not only was I there for him but I proved to him that his suffering doesn’t have to be something that he has to endure.

It sounds ridiculous, preschool. Like, could that really be the root of all of our problems? To tell you the truth, yes. Changing his preschool turned a light on in him. A little boy came out that I have never, in 16 months, seen before. It’s like he finally realized that we weren’t bystanders or people holding the spot until someone else came along. It’s like he realized that he was safe. That his feelings were validated and that, above all else, we were listening.

So while I still want calm moments and date nights and fancy dinners and vacations, I’ve realized that the joy in our home right now is more than enough to carry me through this phase in our life. That my sweet baby finally being HAPPY is the greatest gift that I could ever receive.

2 years old.

2 years old. The first birthday spent with us, his forever family. I have so many words that are roaming around in my head but the thoughts are so hard to put together.

When I think of FuMing’s birth, I wonder so many things. Little questions that are in the back of my mind about the day that he came into this world. But, what I do know, is that Ming was meant to be here, on this earth and the day of his birth brings about the ending of one family and the beginning of another. It is a day of tragedy and love combined to form the story of our son’s beginning. It is a day that comes with heartbreak and celebration. So many emotions that are the story of his life. Things he will have to process in his own time, in his own way. I pray that I can hold his hand, wipe his tears and grieve right alongside him. But, in the end, I hope that he can celebrate, celebrate his life. His life that wasn’t what God intended but is what it is.  A life full of beautiful and rich love.

I think of Ming’s birth family every single day, but on his birthday, it is more of a deep yearning, a hole in my heart and thoughts filled with wondering about them. Is today a day of fear and wonderment for them? Are their hearts hurting and their eyes filled with tears? Are they even able to lift their heads off their pillows today? Or do they feel a peace? I pray so many things for his birth family but, above all, I pray that they feel a sense of peace of knowing their son is okay. A peace that can only come from our Holy Father.

I often say that I left a piece of my heart in China, but actually it is more like a deep longing. A longing to know those who share the same DNA as my son. I desperately want to wrap my arms around his birth family and celebrate this little boy who is both their son and mine. And so on his birthday, we continue the search to find his birth family. A search that leaves our hearts aching. A search that keeps us up at night. A search that sometimes seems impossible. But, then we see a glimmer. A little glimmer that begins to answer questions and to help fill the void of the unknown.

Because although family is more than blood, knowing your biology and roots are something that every human deserves. Because in this world we live in, adoption is the result of brokenness and sometimes the truth will be harder than not knowing and often our fears keep us from seeking that which is real. But, when all is said and done, if I were a first mother, I would want someone to search for me. So, we push ahead, putting every little piece together in the hopes that one day, it will form a full picture. One in which brokenness was redeemed by love, where two worlds collide, where our son knows his first family and his forever family. I think so much about knowing them and embracing the imperfections that brought our families together with a bond that will never be broken.

And, then, I’m brought back to the here and now. To the feet pattering through the hallways and the shrieks of laughter that never end. I’m brought back to my boy running full force into my arms asking me to sing Happy Birthday to him, again. And, I watch him soak in this whole day, I see the joy in his smile because he knows that today is his day. We have sung Happy Birthday to him no less than 20 times and every time brings more joy to him than the time before. I see him opening every present and after each one is open, he runs into my arms and gives me the biggest hug. And, my heart swells. A deep love that only a mother knows.

This two year old of ours is a force to be reckoned with. He has the sweetest dimple on his cheek and eyes that speak to you. He radiates joy, pure joy. And, you can’t help but smile and laugh when your around him, he just has this aura that captivates your heart. And then he screams the loudest scream that you have ever heard in your entire life and you wonder if it’s the same child. And, it is. Because FuMing does everything with such enthusiasm. He wakes from his bed screaming and his feet never stop moving.  Because life for Ming is 100% or nothing. He doesn’t do anything half way, whether that is running as fast as he can all the time or screaming from the top of his lungs. He is fearless.

Ming is naughty, very naughty. So naughty that you can’t help but laugh to yourself as you are giving him the “did you really just do that” look. Ming loves the fish food. Specifically, he loves opening it and throwing it throughout the house like it’s confetti on New Years. He loves the dresser and opening the drawers so he can swing from them like he is a trapeze artist. He loves going into the bathroom and turning on the bathtub and then leaving it running only to take the shampoo bottle and pump it all throughout the house. He loves laying on balloons knowing that they will pop and, when they do, he will run to me in a shriek of terror seeking comfort only to turn right back around and lay on another one. The thrill keeps him going back for more. If it’s quiet, you know that Ming is either reading a book as sweet as can be or doing something so naughty that it will give you gray hairs the moment you see it. And, I can’t help but think how boring our lives would be without Ming in them.

So, on his birthday, I am overcome with honor. A deep feeling of gratitude that he is in our lives and that we get the privilege of raising him. I yearn for the piece of him that is on the other side of the world, to know those who brought him into this world. A day filled with so many emotions. But when I tuck him into bed at night, I know that I’m the lucky one that gets to wake up to those screams tomorrow and that is something that I don’t take lightly.

And, I can’t help but think that we could all use a little more Ming in our souls. To scream louder and cry harder. To laugh from deep within your belly and smile until your cheeks hurt. To never turn away from something for fear of failing but to take every challenge as an opportunity to experience life. Because if I’ve learned one thing from my little warrior it’s that no matter the challenges that life has thrown your way, you are still here living. And, what an opportunity it is that we get to wake up everyday and face the world.

Rachael Grace. 9 days old.

I took a quick day trip to take my nieces newborn pictures. While I got a lot of sweet, adorable newborn sleeping pictures, I think this series might be my favorite out of the bunch. Laying on the blanket from when we were kids. Just simplicity and I like that.

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Sister.

My sweet sister is almost due with her second baby.

While I am not jealous at all of being pregnant, I am jealous of the sweet, squishy newborn that will soon be occupying their house.

I am jealous of that baby smell but not so much the constant baby puke that runs down your shirt.

I’m jealous of the cute cloth diapers but not so much washing them.

I’m jealous of nursing a baby but not so much on the thrush or yeast or sore boobs that come with it.

I’m jealous of the simplicity that comes with a newborn but not the sleepless nights.

I’m jealous of all those firsts that she gets to witness; the first time the baby is placed on your chest, the first kissing their precious head, the first smile, the first coo, the first burp, the first giggle, the first time to roll over, the first time to sit up and the list goes on.

I missed all that with my fourth child and I’d give anything to relish in those moments even if it meant baby puke down my shirt, washing cloth diapers, sore boobs and sleepless nights.

I pray that you are able to enjoy every single moment even when you are in the thick of it. Because life is precious and those moments will never come around again.

Above all, I can’t wait to be an Auntie x2. And, of course, to take squishy newborn pictures. DSC_8590 DSC_8604 DSC_8627 DSC_8657 DSC_8665 DSC_8668 DSC_8680 DSC_8690 DSC_8705 DSC_8707 DSC_8745

My favorite niece and my daughter

These two. They make my heart melt.

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Their connection is so deep, it’s almost sisterly. They pick up right where they left off .

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Teagen just dotes all over Riley. She loves her so.

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Sweet Riley is getting ready to become a big sister. It’s such a special, momentous occasion and it makes me all sorts of sappy. I know she will delve into her new role perfectly and become an amazing sister much like her cousin.

6 months home.

We are 6 months home with Ming. It feels like so much longer. He just fits perfectly in our family. He gives our other kids the confidence to be a little louder and to live a little more freely. While they teach him what it means to be a family and that it’s okay to slow down a little. DSC_8781 DSC_8810

He has added a special zest to our family, a certain spark that was missing. He keeps us on our toes and is constantly pushing the boundries.

He loves a thrill. The thrill of life. The thrill of spinning around until you fall down. The thrill of knowing you aren’t supposed to do something but doing it anyway. The thrill of laughing so hard that your belly hurts.

He melts my heart with his smile and his little dimple. He teaches me to love in a new way. He inspires me on a daily basis. But, most importantly, he has taught me that family is more than blood. DSC_8759 DSC_8773 DSC_8785 DSC_8801 DSC_8795 DSC_8794

My sweet girl.

My only daughter. My mirror image. My girl. She is getting old. She is confident. She is kind. She is sure of her place in this world. She is courageous and adventurous. DSC_8892DSC_8910

I look at these pictures and I see my girl morphing into someone else. Gone are the days of toddler chub and cloth diapers. Gone are the days of carrying her more than she walks. Gone are the days when rocking would heal anything. DSC_8849bw

She is growing. It’s a beautiful growth to watch.

And I think of myself. And I want to protect her from making the same mistakes I made. To hold back her wings. To keep her in my arms a little longer, where she is safe. But, I can’t. I have to teach her to fly on her own. And, while we are years from her leaving our nest, everyday is a day to nurture her soul. To let her know that she is capable of so much. To open up to my personal mistakes so she can grow and learn from them without making the same ones. But, most importantly, that she deeply understands that we will always be by her side. DSC_8860bw

So while now, our days are spent playing hide and seek and Uno and practicing reading. Soon, our days will be filled with sleepovers and dates and driving and things that seem so far off but really they aren’t.

So, while I embrace today, in the back of my mind I am always thinking of tomorrow. What can I do today to help her grow for tomorrow? DSC_8957DSC_8860DSC_8849

When the fog lifts.

The moment, the moment when the fog lifts and your world is clear again. That moment is so very wonderful. Like I can see again. My mind working again. It’s a good feeling.

Life is still hard, a constant stretch but now that the post adoption depression is under control, I feel like I can handle those moments with the exact care and love that they require. Sure the days aren’t easy. But, they are easier.

So, now that the fog has lifted, what comes next? The hard work. The work of healing and mending deep wounds of trauma that come from being adopted. The work of blending a family. Sure, we are all attached but we need to go deeper than that. To make sure that Ming knows that we aren’t going anywhere. To teach him coping skills. To help him learn to self soothe. To let him know that we are here to kiss boo boo’s and he doesn’t have to tough it out by himself. To teach him how to communicate. How to express anger and frustration and love and kindness. All these things, so unnatural to him. And I have to learn to teach him. To see what his needs are and meet them. To look beyond the surface and dig deep. To understand his actions and behaviors on a whole new level and to meet him just where he is.

I’ve been meeting a trauma therapist to help understand Ming a little better and how to nurture his wounds and heart. I had a revelation during our session the other day. While Ming is developmentally on target or above for his age, emotionally he is that of a 6 month old. I need to meet him at his emotional level. To nurture that side of him that needs the most tender loving care. And, it’s hard to not push your child to do things that you know they are developmentally capable of.

It isn’t Ming that needs to learn and change, it is myself. I have to adjust. To rethink every movement to make sure that I am meeting his emotional needs. To stop before I speak or act. To see the deeper side of things. And it’s exhausting. But with that exhaustion comes a sense of relief that I am changing and that change is hard and tiring but very worth it.

I always thought of myself as a very attachment oriented parent but this brings it to a whole new level. And, I just have to keep evaluating and reevaluating and changing and growing. And while we are in a rhythm, I can’t get stale. I can’t let that rhythm get comfortable. I can’t stop trying to reach and be greater for my son. Because he is worth it. Our family is worth it. So onward we push.