Friday, December 30, 2011

The non-update update.

I've re-written this post twice.  This is take #3.  I needed a few hours distance to clear my head before publishing and I'm glad I did.  My first two drafts were super long and angsty, and kind of full of long descriptions of why you should feel sorry for me.   I laid out all the bad luck timing of being in the Thailand program at this time and the trifecta of unusual circumstances that have led to delays and frustrations.  So, instead of those drafts, I'll try to summarize the facts and my feelings.  I think we all know that summarizing long stories into short stories is not my strength, so be patient with me!

Here's the good news:
*We got a correspondence from our agency today about Asher.
*It had a picture of him that we had not seen before.
*It was a really cute picture.  (You can see it here.)  The password is my maiden name, all lower case.  If you need the password, leave a comment or email me at brazenlilly@gmail.com.  But I'll only check that email regularly for about a week after posting this, so commenting is the best way to get my attention.)
*We found out a few specific details about how his foster family managed during the flooding.  The report said that they were severely affected, but that they live in a "stilt" house, and were able to move important items and all family members to the second floor, and have continued to live there with some normalcy.  All family members are safe and doing well in their "psycho-emotional condition."  :)  There is flooding surrounding their home.  The report did not clarify if/when the flooding has receded, but said that HSF is in near-daily phone contact with them, and delivers supplies by boat once a week.

Here's the frustrating news:
*We were expecting a full report (including 3-5 pictures) about Asher's development and well being, and we received no information, other than a check box saying that he is "falling behind" in all developmental expectations. The lack of information is due to the social workers not being able to conduct their routine visits because of the severe flooding.
*The one picture we received was very low resolution (too small to print even a 4x6) and it was taken in June, with the last batch of pictures we received this fall.  This is kind of frustrating for 2 reasons.  First, it's not any more recent than what we had seen, and also makes me feel a little frustrated knowing that they have not included all available pictures in previous reports.  Trying not to dwell on that.
* Basically, we have no specific information or pictures of Asher from the last 6 months, and it is hard to know that he has surely changed so very much in that time.  He is now 15 months old.  We were planning to see pictures from September, perhaps with him wearing or holding something we sent him after the referral in June.

Here's the most important news that I need to focus on:
*Our son and his foster family are safe.  Hundreds of people lost their lives, thousands more lost jobs and homes in this catastrophe, so this is no small praise.


Our agency has acknowledged that many of the reports were "vague" because of the lack of ability to get the children to their doctor's appointments and have the regular lengthy visits with the children.  The offices in the US have requested to the Thai offices that they obtain and send any new information or pictures when available, and not wait until March if possible.  (That is when we are scheduled to receive another update.)

For those who are wondering, I hesitate to even make a guess as to when we will travel to Thailand to bring Asher home.  There are 2 families who received referrals in March 2011 (we received in June) who are still waiting to get their first approval.  They have been told they "should" receive that approval on January 4th.  (Actually, they were originally told it could happen in October or November.)  If they do, they will most likely travel in mid-March.  I have no idea if that means our paperwork will be precisely 3 months behind them and we'll travel in June, but of course we are hoping and praying that is not the case.  We are hoping the Thai adoption board is working hard to catch up on all the delays from the Nativeland tours this summer and the flooding this fall, and that we will receive our approval...soon.  That's all I have the heart to hope for right now, because unmet expectations are going to be the death of me.

Thanks for all your support, questions, prayers, positive comments and thoughts!  It absolutely does help.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

But it's a useful obsession, see?

A couple posts back (so, pretty much the other one I did this entire fall) I mentioned that I'd held off on a new internet sensation called Pinterest.  I didn't start using it when so many of my friends did.  See how strong I am?  Well, turns out, that's all a facade.  I'm weak, weak, weak!  In November I joined and jumped in with both feet and really, really love it.  If you don't know what Pinterest is, I don't want to take time explaining it, so ask a friend or ask me for an invitation and go check it out! It was just what I needed to get a little inspired--inspired to do new stuff and even though it provides another way to spend time on the computer, it also has motivated me to get away from the computer and DO stuff. I am not exaggerating when I say that I've probably tried at least 10-12 new dinner recipes in the last 6 weeks.  Not all were winners, but it's so nice to break out of the rut. 
*
I also went to Pinterest for ideas for teacher gifts.  These were the finished result (2 of the 5 I ended up making) and it was all from ideas I found on the site. 



 Another fun trend I'm seeing on Pinterest is ideas for activities and crafts to do with kids.  I tried two of them out on the same day last week before Christmas and actually remembered to take pictures.  This first one involved paint, and my children are obsessed with paint.  Painting is right up there with play-doh on activities I dread.  But I busted out the new paint project because I love them and I'm such an amazingly nice mommy.  You put a few dollops of paint on some paper in a large, wide plastic bin, and then throw in a handful of marbles and let them roll around and do the painting work.  It turned out pretty neat looking!






I usually make both kids strip down when paint is involved, especially Syd, who is at an incredibly clumsy and awkward phase.  (Last week she spilled her goldfish FIVE times.  The SAME bowl of goldfish crackers.  5 times. OH MY WORD.)  But I also don't really like posting pictures of my daughter clearly t0ples$--even though she's only 3, it just doesn't sit well with me--so I drew her a shirt in photoshop.  haha!  I crack myself up. 
 I can't stop giggling about the purple digi-shirt!


The next activity we did later the same day and it involved crepe paper and masking tape.  It's called "Laser Practice."  Get it?!  I did the first half of the hallway to get them (ok, especially him) pumped up, then Carson finished the rest.  I highly recommend this activity.  It entertained my kids for almost 30 minutes, which is some kind of record around here.  The only problem was they wanted to leave it up for daddy, so every time I went to the bathroom or to my bedroom I had to crawl and contort through the lasers.  But still?  Worth it!




So, in summary?  I heart Pinterest.  If you need proof, look up the recipe for Cranberry Bliss Bars.  Make them.  You, too, will be converted.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

So, Christmas happened.

Since I haven't been great at blogging or posting pictures, I thought I'd give an obligatory post that has both.  This will mainly be for my extended family that doesn't check facebook and the stalkers--some of you fall into both categories.
This is the best family shot of the season.  Soon I will have an annual series of Christmas Eve shots when Sydney is so tired she is sucking on her fingers.  I know for sure this is #2. 
Oh, yep, see I found this one from 2009.
But anyway, back to the 2011 play by play: on Christmas Eve, we spent the day with my family.  The girl cousins are getting to a fun age (3 and 2) where they can play together and enjoy each other's company.


Here's Bapaw Roy and his oldest grandchild.

I'm kind of in love with this picture of my daughter  She's patiently waiting for presents.

Fun fact about my parents: they LOVE movies.  They love collecting DVD's and they actually WATCH them.  Each year they like to give each other DVD's and instead of writing the actual to/from, they use that as a clue for what movie is inside.  For instance, it might say "To: Elizabeth,  From: Mr. Darcy" but that would be WAY too amateur for them.  Now they mix characters and actors and really make it tricky.  I love it.  This is my mom trying to figure it out:

Thirty-nine years last week, baby!

Aw, look at those two adorkables.  And HALLELUJAH for a new DVD player!  The one we have now was free from Trent's work as a 5 year gift.  It gets overheated after being on for 75 minutes, which turns out is a very inconvenient time in most movies for your DVD player to stop working.


This is my brother, Mike, and his son, Jack.  Really, you think they look alike?  Huh.  I just don't see it.

Beautiful Becky and little Kate/Katie/Kaitlyn/Katiebug.

We had our own Christmas morning together, and even had a few gifts for Asher.  Again, probably due to denial and busy-ness, but I was able to mostly keep the sadness in check.  Only got teary a few times about not having him here.  But as far as pictures from our morning...none turned out very well, so I'll skip ahead to Christmas morning at my in-laws.  Before church, the aunties let the kids open a couple stocking gifts.  This turned out to be a brilliant plan.  Sydney received a fancy black purse AND a bag of "real" make-up.  Fortunately "real" means that it is not plastic, but it also means that it does not show up at all on skin.  She. Was. Obsessed.


Syd took her make up in her new purse to church and it successfully distracted her for much of the service.  She was very seriously doing her own make up and generously offering to do mine, Michelle's and Carson's.  The bag came with a little stamp and even though it had no ink, she walked down the aisle stamping the backs of all of our hands.
Doesn't Aunt Shell's make-up look pretty?!

This is Uncle Chad, working his musical magic on the mini guitar.  I just want to say the reason I have no pictures of Auntie Tara is that she had just worked an all night shift and was understandably not in the mood to be photographed.  She was doing well just to be physically present.

More Auntie love!  This is the adored Aunt Jess (married to Uncle Chad).


What six year old boy doesn't need Spy Glasses?  The edges of the lenses are mirrors, so you can see behind you!
These are my wonderful in-laws!

Of course Bapaw Phil lets Sydney help him open his gifts.
This was a funny and memorable moment.  Carson has been asking--no, begging!--for a set of drums.  Michelle and Tara got them for him, but didn't put his name on the box.  It was the last gift to be opened, and they handed it to Chad as though it was for him.  Chad played the part well and was ECSTATIC about his new drums!  Carson handled the competition well and fought for his precious drums!  "No!  They're for ME!  They have to be for ME!"

He emerged victorious, and we stocked up on ear plugs and Excedrin.
I hope your Christmas was blessed as well!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Guilt-free blogging.

I used to be that annoying friend who teased and guilted others when they would start a blog and then neglect it.  Well, now I've become the neglector!  And I've decided to let go of the guilt.  I'm not giving up the blog, but I just don't think I'll update it as frequently as I used to.  Right now I'm just in a season where I don't have time to write and the adoption is in a stage where I have nothing to write about.  I still love writing. I still think several times a week about what a great story this or that would make.  And I'm making a conscious effort to limit my commitments this spring to prepare for Asher's homecoming, so maybe I'll have more time to write--and something to write about. To, to sum up: don't write me off yet.  And I'll try to give you a glimpse of some stuff that has been happening.

Life has just seemed to FLY by this fall.  I was talking to someone the other day (which was what?  a month ago?) and used that same phrase: "the other day" and realized the day in question was mid-August.  I blinked and it was December.  Which, to be honest, to a person who feels in a perpetual state of waiting, that's not a horrible thing. 

Speaking of waiting, it's no secret that the wait is getting longer and harder than we ever anticipated.  All of us Thai mamas are dealing with it differently.  Strangely, it seems that a shopping trip to Target that ends in grief-stricken tears has become a right-of passage for many.  My coping method du jour is total detachment.  As I just told my friend Jessica, when people ask me how the adoption is going I just kind of shrug and stare blankly with a dead smile.  I might try to explain 1st approval and how it's a really important paper that comes from Thailand, but that the people "in front of us" in line still haven't received theirs, so I have no earthly idea when ours will come.  But mostly I just give some pithy cliche about worth the wait.  Lately, it's been feeling not very real...like I'm playing a strange online game and downloaded a picture of cute little chubby Asian baby.  I'm sure some psychology major would tell me that I'm in denial, b/c the pain of acknowledging that my child is on the other side of the world being cared for by someone else and I have no idea when I'll get to see and hold him is too painful to face. 
*
Another big deal around here this fall was that my husband accomplished a long-time goal of running a 50 mile ultra marathon. Yep. You read that correctly! He ran 50 miles in one day. Straight. Went to the bathroom once. Never sat down. It took him about 9 hours and 45 minutes.  He's been training with amazing discipline for months, but had never ran farther than 32 miles prior to the race.  (I know...it takes a crazy situation to be implying that running 32 miles is not that far.)  We were nervous about the weather and how his mind and body would hold up under such incredible stress.  But he did it!  I was so proud of him.  We both agree that his success is largely due to his support team.  Three of his closest friends, Mike, Eric and Jim (who was the leader of the support team), came and spent all day with no other focus than helping Trent succeed.  Jim set up a literal base camp with all forms of calories, hydration and first aid.  The race was set up int he shape of a Q.  It started at the tip of the tail, and the runners had to go around 8 times, each time going all the way back to the starting line.  The support tent was set up right where the runners left to the loop, so every hour and fifteen minutes or so, Trent would go by us twice in 10 minutes.  One of the guys would run out to him, run or walk along with him and see how he was doing, take his water bottles and ask what food sounded good.  When he said nothing sounded good, they forced him to eat anyway.  As he walked to the tip of the Q tail to turn around (following me?), they would quickly refill bottles and warm up soup broth on the camp stove, while discussing Trent's current mental health (which was spotty around lap 5).  Then, for the last 3 loops, one of the guys ran with him the whole time for moral support.  It was an amazing and humbling act of friendship to see.  I get a little choked up just thinking about it!


                                    




* The other big and exciting thing that happened in the last month, is that I. Joined. Pinterest.  I've known about Pinterest for a long time, but had refused to join, because I was afraid it would be an internet worm hole that sucked my time.  And I was exactly right.  If you don't know, Pinterest is basically your very own online bulletin board.  You have different categories of boards (the ones I use most are crafty, decorating or recipe-based) and when you want to bookmark a webpage, you "pin it."  You choose a jpg from that page to represent that page and it saves it for you on your bulletin board.  Then, at any time you can go to your board, click on the pin and be taken to the original web page.  You can also "follow" friends who are on Pinterest and see what they've been pinning.  It's completely enjoyable and total eye-candy for me.  But, in my defense of the hours I've already spent on the site (pretty much replacing blog time for me), I've tried at least a half dozen new dinner recipes, and have made (or started) as many crafty projects.  It has been completely inspirational and motivated me to actually get off the computer and DO things.  I don't have a lot of pictures yet, but here is a picture of my Pinterest inspired Christmas countdown advent calendar:
I used the paper boxes we've had for a couple years, cut some branches from my back yard and used a 50% off coupon to get that tin jar for $4.  Win!

I will try to blog about how our Christmas countdown has changed for the better this year, but no promises.  And no guilt!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

OK, Let's Talk Thailand

Warning--major spiritual content ahead.  ;)
I haven't thought about the blog, or read any other blogs for about 2 weeks.  As I mentioned in the previous post (that was a repeat and I'm not sure anyone read) I was on a small team which coordinated our women's conference last weekend, and it consumed me--mind and body--for a good 2 weeks.  Then afterwards I was completely braindead.  And if I'm completely honest?  I allowed myself to be sucked into the distraction. There was some level of selfish self-preservation to be thinking all day about something else--something about which there were MANY tasks to be done, rather than be thinking all day about Thailand, Asher and a situation about which there is NOTHING to be done.  I long for the day when I can be exhausted caring for the needs of a one year old, but caring for the needs of 230 women was a diverting substitute for a while!
*
One thing I really appreciate is that the people in my life have not put Asher out of their hearts and minds, and they have not let me do so either.  I have received numerous inquiries on updates, dozens of encouraging notes and words, special Scripture verses that were plucked out of the Word and chosen just for my son and for me, and even powerful songs of hope that my friends have reminded me of in a challenging time.  Here's an excerpt of one of those powerful verses:

"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.  For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior....You are precious and honored in my sight, and I love you.  Do not be afraid, for I am with you.  I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west.  I will bring my sons and daughters from the ends of the earth--everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made."  Isaiah 43: 2-6

Now I realize that it is taken out of context, and I left out a couple verses, but that part about gathering children from the east?  Bringing sons and daughters from the ends of the earth?  Protecting us from the rivers and waters? Yeah. Powerful stuff, that.  I'm trusting that God is ok with me taking solace from his Word, even if Isaiah wasn't really writing about adopting an Asian child.  :)  It reminds me that Asher was created for His glory!  A dear friend has dedicated this verse to Asher, and I'll never forget it.

Another friend of mine, whom I haven't seen in years, but with whom I have a musical background, reminded me of a song I also hadn't heard in years.  In the midst of my worry and anxiety, she reminded me of these simple words that gave me such freedom:

"Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus!  Just to take Him at His word.  Just to rest upon His promise, just to know 'Thus saith the Lord.'  Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!  How I've proved Him o'er and o'er.  Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!  Oh, for grace to trust Him more."

I read somewhere that refusing to forgive is like drinking poison and hoping it will kill your enemy.  I think there should be some sort of witty cliche about worry and fret, that it will accomplish nothing but while you're worrying about everything else you'll give yourself an ulcer.  I'm still working on how to make that short and pithy.  ;)  When I sang that song, I truly did experience a lightening of my heart.  I was reminded that He has proved faithful over and over.  I experienced that sweetness that comes from surrending to the God who is in control, who knows my son and his circumstances, and the promise He will never leave or forsake us.

Even just this week when I was at Bible study, we were going around the table talking about the different names of God in the Old Testament and how we see those aspects of God in our lives today, I just didn't want to share (which is unheard of for me, the blabbermouth) because I was tired of talking about this and crying.  And yet two of my friends answered for me.  He is Jehovah-Shammah, "the God who is there."  He is Jehovah-Shalom, "The Lord who is peace."  And the one that really set me off, He is El-Roi, "the God who sees."  The thought that sends me into a tizzy more than any other is the fact that I don't know where my son is.  I don't know where he's living, what kind of conditions he's in, even what city he's in.  He's in a (possibly literal) sea of hurting people who are all trying to just make it through this disaster, and I worry that no one there will take as good of care of him as I would.  That he'll get lost in that sea (not necessarily literally, but figuratively).   And yet MY GOD IS THE GOD WHO SEES ASHER.  He knows the exact latitude and longitude where Asher laid his head last night.  He knows who is holding him and giving him one of those 8 daily bottles this very moment.  He knows when he is hungry and thirsty, when his diaper needs changing and when he is unsettled or sad.  I believe this with my whole heart and soul and it gives me a peace when I can just TRUST HIM to care for my son.

Usually Thailand in November is a celebration.  The Loi Krathong festival is right about now.  I haven't seen a lot of news updates on how the flooding has affected the festival, but some Thai-mama friends found a video of the celebration from last year.  If you've seen the movie Tangled (and if you haven't--go rent it RIGHT NOW!) you know the scene in the movie where they release floating lanterns each year to celebrate the lost princess.  That scene was based on a Thai tradition during Loi Krathong.  My friend Angie so rightfully saw these lanterns and it reminded her of their lost princess, who should have been home by now.  To me, this beautiful scene represents the beauty of Thailand and the hope that is there.  I believe the country will rebound and recover, and will experience victory over adversity.  And I have hope and TRUST that our memory of Asher's time in Thailand will be that he was loved and cared for, and his connection to his homeland will be strong and positive.
As far as updates go, our agency still has hope that we will receive 1st approval as early as January.  Normally travel would follow within 8-12 weeks.  However, I'm not as optimistic about January, because the families who received referrals last March (ours was June) still don't have 1st approval.  Also, the Thai government usually only has 2 court dates a month, at which time they only schedule 3-4 families to be there in person to receive custody.  All the families that were supposed to travel and have court dates this fall have been postponed to spring, which means that there will be a backlog of families ready and waiting for Thai courtdates.  Our prayer right now is that the Thai government will increase the number of courtdates per month, or allow several more families per month to travel.  It is possible that April is still our month to travel--but we are not holding our breath.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Repost--the first 3 year old.

Oh, wow!  I just remembered something.  I HAVE A BLOG.  My life has been taken over by a women's retreat, which will sound really crazy to any of you who have not been to one or helped coordinate one.  No time to explain.  I randomly clicked on an archived post and found it amusing, so I'm gonna repost.  It's from the days when I had a new 3 year old and a 4 month old--October of 2008.  Enjoy!



OK, seriously, my son cracks me up. I can't even remember all the funny things he says. I'm loving this part of 3 years old. Lots of talking and conversation all day. Except this conversation that happens a lot. Imagine me doing the dishes and Carson talking but also kind of gazing off, not exactly sure of what he wants to say:



C: Mom?


M: Hmmm?


C: Mom?


M:Yes?


C: Mom?


M: WHAT, Carson?


C: Mom?


M: I'M LISTENING CARSON. WHAT DO YOU NEED?


This one is a classic, though. It happened last week:


C: Mom, Sydney can stay for just a little bit.


M: What do you mean?


C: She can stay, but only for a little bit.


M: You mean stay on my lap or stay in our house?


C: Stay here in our house. Just for a little bit. Then she has to go back.


M: Go back where?


C: To the doctor.



But this one made me happy. At least I know he's listening! Just now, C and hubby are wrestling on the bed. I hear this:

C: Daddy! Don't do that! You are making a choice! Make a good choice!


Also, I have a new revelation. For three years I have studied, shopped, researched, interviewed and longed for The Toy. You know, that elusive Toy that would fill the void in my child's life. The Toy that would beckon to him all day long. The Toy that would keep him entertained WHILST educating him for hours on end. We have a bedroom full of toys, but not The Toy.
Turns out, the equivalent to The Toy was here all along: in his head. His imagination starting shaping last year but it has multiplied exponentially in the last month. It is absolutely filling our days.

One frequent game in our house stems from the doctor's kit he got for his birthday. First we examined each other back and forth, multiple times a day. Then I added the element of a clip board, and when I was the doc, I asked him questions about height, weight, ailment, etc. and wrote the answer down. This caught his attention, and then he was not to be seen all day without the clipboard and a crayon, asking me all kinds of personal questions and "writing" the answer down. (I don't think he spelled "none of your business" correctly.) But one time, I asked about his family and if he had any pets. THIS then morphed into the clipboard interview about all of his animals and then my animals. And people, there are a lot of animals. C-dog is not super confident on all his letters, but he KNOWS his animals. (Ironic, since I'm not exactly a member of PETA.) He told me all about his mouse, elephant, dog, fish, lion, meerkat, hamster, racoon, dolphin, tiger, giraffe, beetle, etc. They all have names, but often the names are of characters from the last movie or TV show he watched, or whatever phonetical sounds come flowing out of his mouth. Yesterday there were several animals named Lurla or Choolee.
NOW the imaginary animals have taken the form of the stereotypical imaginary friend/animals. He has a bunny, a cat and 2 dogs that have been consistently with us (and I mean CONSISTENTLY--Target? check. Bathtime? check. Dinner? check.) for 2 days. Cute? Sure, for a while. But at nap time yesterday, I hear this:

"Mom! MOM! Hurry, MOM! THE DOOR'S CLOSED AND MY BUNNY CAN'T GET OUT! HE HAS TO GO POTTY! DO YOU HEAR ME? HURRY!!!"

Sigh. I gave in and opened the door for the bunny to pee. Then:

"MOM! The bunny can't get back in! LET MY BUNNY BACK IN!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

I really don't mind that all my tupperware has been spread out all day because, evidently, this cat, 2 dogs and bunny are quite hungry. He feeds them approximately every 10 minutes. But when I'm trying to calm a crying baby and he asks me to feed them, and I pour "food" into all the bowls, he had a total meltdown because I gave dog food to the cat. I'm totally serious. I'm even kind of embarassed to tell you about the bed I made for the dogs in the car so we could leave the garage.

Wanna know my little secret to keeping my sanity? I convinced him to name the cat Monica, one of the dogs Chandler and the bunny Rachel. It makes me giggle every time. ;)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Comic relief.

We need a change of pace on this here blog.  So instead of continuing to lament our adoption status, I'm going to publish a guest post I wrote for Natalie in August.  It was some serious comic gold, not to mention horribly embarrassing for me, and I'm just not sure how many of you went over to read it.  I feel like a few of you might have mentioned it to me the next time we were in close quarters--with some jesting involved.  See, Natalie suggested I write a story about an awkward moment.

Then my problem became: where to begin? My number of embarrassing and awkward moments has increased exponentially since I became a mother. Should I write about when I took my 2 week old to the grocery store and my fragile bladder control failed me? Or when I was singing on stage at church and my nursing boobs started leaking? Or when my daughter projectile vomited on the shoes of a woman in front of us—also at the grocery store? Huh. I’m noticing many of my moments have to do with bodily fluids. And grocery stores. I hope you find these amusing, because my vault of funny is deep with blood, urine, snot, feces, spit-up and puke. Barrel of laughs, right?!?

But I’ll let you in on a little secret…these are easier to share, because I totally blame it on the kids! The REAL humiliation is when the moment has nothing to do with having given birth or a person under age 10 who doesn’t know any better. So, in honor of Natalie’s Awkward and Awesome, I’ll just cut to the chase and share a couple doozies.

Several years ago I worked at a church office. If we needed to make copies or use the shared printer, we had to walk down the hall to a small copy room. No biggie. One afternoon, I was waiting for a particularly LONG printing/collating/stapling job, and my Mexican food lunch (Who are we kidding? I was young and broke. I’m sure it was Taco Bell.) was, let’s just say it was settling uncomfortably in my lower GI. In my innocence, I figured that being alone in this room for a good 10 minutes was a perfect place to—why am I having such a hard time writing this?—to PASS GAS, people. I tooted, alright?! There. I said it.
It took about 2 seconds for me to realize the ignorance of my ways. A SMALL room, with only ONE door? Oh, sweet, innocent, stupid early-twenties Me. What did I think was going to happen when one of the pastors walked in RIGHT THEN? Blame it on…the copy machine? The non-existent “other” person who couldn’t have just left, because he would have seen them leaving the room? My stinky toddler who wouldn’t be born for another 4 years? Nope. Nothin’ doing. Just smile, laugh uncomfortably, and GET THE HECK OUT OF THERE.  Abandon the collating 1 to 2 sided copies.  And never speak of it again for approximately 9 years, at which time you will share it publicly for all the world. So, yes, Pastor Tom, if you are reading this…IT WAS ME, OK? I admit it.  Stop haunting my dreams with that look of disgust.

I swear I don’t have stomach issues. I’m mostly a person with mastery over my gas. But I will share one more embarrassing moment, knowing full-well you’ll all start recommending I be checked for IBS. Many moons later, I was in the grocery store (see what I mean?) with a 1 and 4 year old and—having learned my lesson—was in a very well-ventilated, large and open aisle, perfect for a quick getaway. There were 2 other groups of people in this long aisle, but they were down by the frozen pizzas and I was still at popsicles. I gently let out a teeny-tiny little whiff as I was walking. I didn’t factor in the fact that my loud-mouth preschooler has a nose that is right about the height of my rear-end.

“MOM! YOUR BOTTOM IS SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO STINKY!!!” Heads turn. Brows raise. Chuckles are unsuccessfully hidden.  “Oh! Heehee! Aren’t you a little silly! You must be smelling the…the…cheese aisle. Or Sydney’s diaper! YES! That’s it! Your sister’s diaper! What a funny little man you are!” Then secretly I grab his funny little arm and walk quickly away towards the register, telling him under my breath to shut his adorable little trap.

So, you know, lesson learned by moi. Get in control of your sphincter already, girl. Public gas-passing is a risky, risky business, better left to the professionals—whom I’m assuming are middle school boys, frat boys, and pretty much just boys of all ages who don’t care if someone smells their farts. And apparently I should avoid grocery stores. Can someone back me up when I explain to my husband that I can’t do the shopping anymore?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Low point.

I've been procrastinating writing this post. Partly because it's sad and difficult.  Partly because several of my Thai-adopt friends have said it and said it well.  (See Thai blogs on the right.)  But several people have asked what the scoop is, and I realize that although it's big news in our little adoption world, that doesn't mean everyone is "in the know."
*
The flooding in Thailand is severe.  The water levels are not receding.  In fact, the flooding is spreading to Bangkok, the capital city, the place to which many families had already evacuated.  This article today does not paint a pretty picture of the devastation.  2.5 million people disrupted, 113,000 in shelters and at least 366 dead.   The damages are estimated at over 10 billion US dollars--that's billion with a B. 
 And our little boy is there.  Somewhere.  These pictures were sent from the social workers in Thailand.  They did not clarify if any of these homes were actual Holt foster family homes.
 I'll try to summarize the information that we have received.  First, it's important to understand the vast responsibility on the shoulders of our sister agency.  Holt Sahathai Foundation (HSF) has approximately 70 foster families affected by the floods.  In each of these homes is a child for which they are responsible, and a foster family to whom they have promised support.  These children range from newborns recently relinquished to those toddlers who were supposed to come home to their adoptive families within the next few weeks.  In addition to those families, HSF also has a large program for Family Preservation.  They work to support and rehabilitate birth mothers who are not able to take custody of their newborns at birth, but who would like to do so in the future.  HSF then supports BOTH the birth mother AND the foster family caring temporarily for the child.  (One US family who traveled to bring home their kiddo said the foster mother had cared for 10 children, and 8 of them had been reunited with their birth mothers!)  Our update said that 105 families in this program have been affected by the flood.   HSF is providing food and supplies and shelter to all of the families that need it. These staggering numbers are why the HSF social workers (especially the precious few that speak English) do not have time to detail out for all of us just precisely where and how our babes are right now.
 HSF drafted a spreadsheet outlining the number of foster families and the severity to which they have been affected.  The majority fall under 2 categories.  First, 18 homes were so severely flooded that they were no longer liveable.  These families are living with relatives or in shelters.  33 foster family homes are flooded UP TO THE second floor.  The families have created a living area on the upper level and supplies and food are being brought to them by boat on a weekly or bi-weekly level.   In our original paperwork, Asher's foster home was described as a 2 level home, the first level being where the daily activities took place and the second level housed the sleeping quarters.  So, at night, I lay awake picturing Asher with his foster family (mom, dad, grandma and sisters age 7 and 10), stranded in their bedrooms, looking out at an ocean of muddy water, waiting for rice, water and formula to be delivered.  I don't know for sure if this is the case, but it's a picture I can't get out of my mind.
 Of course for those of us whose spring travel dates were tentative at best, we could assume this was not good news for our progress.  But the worst blow came last Wednesday, when a dear friend --who had already experienced major delays in their process--had been told at the beginning of last week that the wait was coming to an end!  They had a court date for December 1st and would finally be united with their daughter and have her home for Christmas.  That means they would be buying tickets and seeing their daughter within a few short weeks! The very next day they were told that due to the floods, they should not plan to travel to Thailand until February.  We all grieved for them...it was a difficult day after such celebration.  This family received a referral 6 months prior to ours.  It's anyone's guess as to what this means for others in the program, including our family.  The initial estimate is to add 2 months from previously estimated dates, which for us might mean June.
 But as I look at this picture below--I don't know with certainty, but I choose to think it is a Holt babe with his foster family--I have to remind myself that it is not about ME.  I'm sad--really sad--about how long this process is taking.  I'm feeling frustrated and down that I won't get to have him in my arms for a long time. But my main concern is for my son.  I'm stressed about if and how this disaster will affect him emotionally--how it will affect his foster family relationship and level of care.  I have to continually remind myself that although I do believe it is in his best interest to begin his chapter of life in the US as soon as possible, it might not be in his best interest to rush the transition in the midst of crisis.  Trent and I like to daydream about what it would be like if we got a call and said "Get on a plane tomorrow, they're granting visas to all the kiddos."  We'd be in those airline seats!  But a rushed custody transfer would be one trauma on the heels of another, well, if not "trauma" then certainly a stressful living situation that he is currently in.


This summer after our referral, I think I was at the apex of my adoption high.  "We have a baby!  He's gorgeous and he's mine!  Everything is going according to plan.  We've almost fully funded! Yes, it takes a long time, but the process is following the precise timeline laid out for us." 
Well, that timeline has disolved and with it my cheery adoption outlook.  This is not fun.  This is hard.  Someone watching our process might see how hard it is and decide not to adopt, which depresses me even more.  I'm trying to keep my focus on the situation in Thailand and not let myself wallow too much in self-pity, since I'm sitting here in my secure, dry home.  This is just another layer in the DEEP ways that the Lord is teaching me through this process.  Surrendering control time and time again, and choosing to trust.  Hoping that some good news is just around the corner...for the people of Thailand and for those of us on the other side of the world whose hearts are in the flood.
*
If you would like to donate directly to the fund that will rebuild and repair HSF foster family homes click HERE or see info about texting below.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Say WHAT?!

I've always had a sarcastic reflex.  It's like a gag-reflex--it's taken years for me to realize that I do actually have some control over it, but still, it's a natural instinct.  In truth, I don't remember even realizing it might not be a barrel of laughs to everyone around me until my new husband (of about 6 months) was not laughing after I mocked him with some witty jab.  It could have been any number of times I told him that his stories of physical therapy class were "simply riveting!  Tell me more about the muscles of the lower leg, Dearest!"  Or the time I excitedly told him about this new invention called running water, and that he should see if it works to rinse off his dishes. And if really wanted to get crazy, I could introduce him to this newfangled contraption called the dishwasher.  He looked at me without a trace of amusement and told me to lay off the sarcasm.  Not that funny to him. Huh.  Interesting. 

Reigning in my tongue is a lifelong learning process...I doubt I'll ever master it.  Sometimes, the target is just too easy--or maybe I'm just too easily annoyed.  People on reality shows...whether it be of the talent, island-survival or weight-loss genre--are often subject to my sarcastic criticism.  "Really, CHAZ?  Is it really LIFE or DEATH?  You mean this moment where you're going to sing a pop song--could mean you cease living?  Really? You wanna re-think that statement?"  "Gee, thanks, Jillian!  I never realized that EXTRA CHEWING GUM was low in calories and a great post-workout snack!  I also never realized that product placement could be so awkward and unnatural!"   "Wow, Chris, this really IS the most dramatic rose ceremony EVER!"

I thought for sure that I had been getting better at keeping my speech positive and uplifting, especially during the kids' waking hours. (Previously mentioned reality show rants always happen after hours.)  Carson does know what sarcasm is by name and calls me out on it.  Like when he says "Mom!  Sydney's lid came off and she spilled milk all over the floor!" and I say "Awesome."  He informs me that I don't really think it is awesome, but that I'm being sarcastic.  To which I reply: "Yes, you're a real genius."

But a few signs have crept up and subtlety hinted that maybe the smart-@$$ doesn't fall far from the tree. And by "subtlety hinted" I  mean shot up red flags that my oldest child is on the fast track to being a cynical character from a quick-talking teen dramedy on FOX who wears ironic vintage t-shirts.

Here's a few examples.  We were laying on his bed at night, and we usually read 3 books or one chapter in a longer book.  I was especially exhausted and just grabbed a few that were on the floor near the bed. He complained we had read them recently, and I said that he was welcome to go get more books, but I was tired and these were closeby.  He grew frustrated and said they were "close by" because I always just "throw his books on the floor" and he has to clean them up. (Not true.)  I calmly asked if he could think of a solution to our problem (my solution: you could get up and get some new books if you want them so bad) and he said, with full head-wag and eyebrows raised: "Uh, yeah, you could walk, like, FIVE FEET and put them away when you're done."

WHOA.  EXCUSE ME?!  We nipped that in the bud with some serious reality checks on how that is rude and disrespectful and also: HELLO!?!  Am I reading Curious George Goes Camping for my own benefit?  Is it my responsibility to keep the circulation up on the books? You think I wait all day to see what actually happens If You Give a Mouse a freaking Cookie? 

Hmmmm. OK. That right there might be where he gets it.  I promise I didn't actually say all those things to him, but I wanted to.

Another moment was not directed at me, but was still disconcerting.  We were in the car and I was listening to a voicemail on speakerphone.  I'll admit, it was a rather long message.  To nobody in particular, Carson says: "Sheesh.  What are you gonna do?  TALK us to DEATH?!"  That one, since he didn't know the person leaving the message, took me a minute to reprimand, because I was chuckling to myself just a teensy bit.  But then I did manage to tell him that was disrespectful and that he should not ever speak that way.

These two in close proximity, followed the next day by his well-timed and expertly delivered "DUH!" (seriously--it was scary good.  I know 13 year old girls from 1991 who would have given him props) were enough to guilt me into my own reality check.  In theory, as an adult I have a better handle on when sarcasm and mockery are called for and when they are hurtful and/or completely inappropriate.  Hey--I said "in theory."  But this witty tool can also be a dangerous weapon, one that I don't want in the hands (or mouths) of my children!  It's ironic, because I'm actually very conscious of trying to make positive statements about people in Carson's life...from the guy pumping our gas to the kid in his class who doesn't listen to his little sister.  I specifically try to model graciousness to everyone we encounter--particularly in public.  However, I'm wondering if my guard is dropped when I'm with people I'm most comfortable with--the ones I love the most!  These little rude-awakening moments have been a good dose of my own medicine to help me regain focus on the goal of setting a good example with actions AND words. 

And I feel confident that I'll be able to get a grip on that!  I mean, I've completely mastered all other areas of parenting.*

*Yes, that's sarcasm.  You're a real genius.



Friday, October 14, 2011

King over the flood.

Several people have asked about the flooding in Thailand and what we know and what it means.  The answers are brief.  We know that it is pretty bad.  Monsoons and typhoons have caused the worst flooding in decades...affecting two-thirds of Thailand.  THIS ARTICLE gives you an idea of how bad...and it's a few days old, so there may be newer updates by now. We know that Asher and his foster family are safe, but they have been evacuated--as have all foster families in that area.  The official quote from our agency was that the floods have "severely affected" all the foster families in the Ayutthaya district, which is where Asher and many of our friends' children are living.  We don't know where they are now, and we don't know how long.  I'm assuming somewhere in Bangkok, which is one of the only areas yet to be flooded.  We know that Holt Sahathai, our sister agency in Thailand, is providing safe housing and relief support to the families--almost 80 families. I'm sure this is a huge task for them to support the Thai families and know how worried the adoptive families are as well.  We don't know if their homes are still standing, or how badly damaged they are.  We don't know if his foster family was able to save any of the things or pictures we have sent to Asher.  We don't know how this will emotionally affect our son or his foster family. We don't know if or when his foster family will be able to return to their home.  WE DON'T KNOW WHAT THIS MEANS FOR OUR ADOPTION PROCESS.  Several people have asked if this could be a way for Asher to come home sooner.  In all honesty, I cannot foresee how that would happen.  If anything, I'm afraid the stress of a natural disaster on the entire country will slow down government paperwork, not speed it up. 

Here's what we know--what we are clinging to.  (Sorry if this is too "spiritual spice" for some of my readers!)  Our heavenly Father is not surprised by this flood.  I don't know why He is allowing it to happen, or why He allows so many devastating things to happen on this earth.  He never promised life would be easy and safe.  "In this world you will have trouble..." But I know that He has promised to never leave me or forsake me--or my son.  My God loves Asher even more than I do.  A silly little Christian cliche that I've seen over people's bathroom sinks comes to mind...and in this moment it doesn't sound silly to me.  "Sometimes God calms the storm.  Sometimes He lets the storm rage and calms His child."  Bumper sticker theology?  Maybe.  But right now there's a storm across the ocean that if affecting my family, and I need some calmin'. 

For most of the past 2 weeks I've felt a little numb about the situation.  I have kind of put it out of my mind in a move of self-preservation.  Of course, that can only last so long.  A few days ago I was driving and listening to my tunes and heard a song that I've heard and sung dozens of times.  But I heard it with new ears. 
 "When the oceans rise and thunders roar, I will soar with You above the storm.  Father You are KING OVER THE FLOOD.  I will be still and know You are God."


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

"I see a bwown beya yookin at me."

My sweet Sydney has been driving me BONKERS lately.  I don't know if she's not feeling well or what, but she's been a needy, clingy whiny, hot mess all the livelong day.  But she still has some ridiculously sweet moments, like the one below.  Her language is delayed, so we've been working with her, gently correcting, ENUNCIATING our words clearly, and lots of reading books.  She has a few favorites, and this one she can read/recite on her own.  I think she got a little nervous with the camera on, b/c she usually doesn't mix up the colors, but still: this is crazy cute.

video

Sunday, October 09, 2011

The 411 on those weird parents of his.

Yesterday we spent several hours at an adoption training workshop.  We are required to complete a certain amount of hours of training prior to bringing Asher home.  I don't really know if this is a Holt requirement or a state or federal requirement, but it doesn't matter, because it's a just a good idea.  It's been divided up into 3 full days of seminars with other couples, and this was our last "module."  It was focused on recognizing and parenting a child who has experienced loss and/or trauma. The themes were definitely drilled into our head in a concrete way.  If I could summarize the training in one sentence, it would be this: in many ways, adopted children need to be parented differently than bio children.

Throughout the workshop, we talked about a variety of situations that may affect our adopted children.  In the room we had families adopting from Korea, Thailand, Ethiopia, and China.  One family also has a preschooler adopted from Vietnam.  Some of the kiddos are in orphanages, others in foster families.  I think all of them will come home between the ages of 13 and 22 months.  I appreciated the social worker facilitating our class, because she wasn't touchy-feely about grief and loss.  At no time did she convey pity towards our children.  But she was completely frank that being separated from everything these children recognize as normal and safe (even into a new, loving home) will be a life-changing trauma--one that will affect their psyche in deep and potentially unknown ways.  In addition, we are not fully able to understand or know the details about their care in the first year, and how that may also play into their behavior and emotions.

Now, just like a first-time-pregnant woman cannot possibly be a parenting expert, I do not share this info because I have all the answers.  On the contrary, I'm rather intimidated by the unknowns and anxious about making parenting decisions for Asher, especially as he transitions home. You experienced adoptive parents may have thoughts and experiences that differ from our expectations and the information I'm conveying, but we are trying to prepare with due diligence for all possibilities--and help prepare our families as well.  We are always open to hearing ideas and stories that vary from the textbook norm. One thing that I have heard frequently is that it is difficult for people who have only dealt with biological, securely attached children to understand the strange choices made by adoptive parents! One adoptive mother called it "upside down" parenting.  We have been encouraged to share the concepts and theories that we are learning and will most likely implement, so that our close friends and family will better grasp the choices we will make in the best interest of Asher.  This may be old news for you or totally foreign.  I'm not going to be academic and quote sources, just paraphrase what we've learned from books, stories and seminars.  Even though Asher won't be home for many months, I'm writing this now while it's fresh in my mind.

Here are just a few examples we are anticipating. We've heard many times that grief in a toddler will often manifest itself at night--Asher will very likely have trouble sleeping in a new place, with new people, waking up and wondering where he is.  Even when he knows us and is getting comfortable with us, he may still grieve for his foster mother.  Things are always worse at night, right?  I think that even as an adult!  Many families in Thailand sleep as a family on a single low mattress on the ground.  We will probably experiment with co-sleeping with Asher--whether that means in bed with us, a crib adjacent to our bed...we don't know yet.  We plan to continue waking up and comforting Asher in the night when he cries...even after he's been home several months, when we are sleep-deprived and just wishing he would learn to self-soothe.  Research shows that letting an adopted child "cry it out" can do serious harm to the attachment cycle of parent and child.  He needs to TRUST that we will be there to meet his needs and calm his fears.  We did some sleep-training with both of our older kids at different times and had to let them cry it out--especially when they got to be toddlers.  And we've never been co-sleepers!  So that will be an adjustment for all of us.  I also have no idea how we're going to deal with the fact that he's clearly bottle-fed--a LOT.  Some families ween the toddler immediately to sippy cups, and other families continue a few bottles for comfort and the fact that feeding them a bottle is an opportunity for physical snuggling and eye-contact.  We'll have to feel that one out when we get there!

Another very important aspect of bringing home an adopted toddler is the need to attach and bond with his father and mother.  We have a very close extended family who are involved in our daily lives--this is a good thing!  We want Asher to recognize and bond with them too.  But first and foremost, he must understand that I am his mom--now and forever.  Trent is his Daddy.  This is his last transition.  No one else will be coming to take him away again.  We will be the ones to hold him, feed him, give him gifts, change him, comfort him--meet all his needs.  If you can think about a one-year-old that you know...can you imagine taking him or her away from their family--and not bringing them back?  Can you imagine how scared and upset they would be?  We've read lots of different strategies that help with bonding and attachment....eye-contact games like peekaboo, lots of physical contact and baby carrying, and making sure that mom and dad are the only ones to meet Asher's needs (including comforting and holding) for the first several weeks.  Oh, how I would LOVE to have a huge--HUGE--party when we get home with Asher!  There are so many people who will want to meet him and if they could would just snuggle him like crazy!  But, alas, we will not be doing anything like that.  Maybe an airport greeting or something like that, but then we'll probably hunker down at our house for a while and find our new normal.  We had two experienced adoptive parents talk with us yesterday, and they said that this experience is similar to coming home with a newborn--we will be brain dead, physically and emotionally exhausted.  They both said the best gift people can give us is to bring dinner (and meet Asher in a small, low-pressure setting), or pay for house-cleaning!  These moms also said that we will be able to tell when Asher is more ready to interact and be held by family members, and then slowly be introduced to our loving friends and church family.  I'm sure every child is different and adjusts at different speeds.

Another interesting exercise we did yesterday was read through "vinyettes" taken from real-life post-placement situations.  They were gathered by Holt's social workers in our state.  They ran the gamut from sleep and eating issues with toddlers to bed-wetting and aggressive behaviors of older kids.  (There was a lot of questions and discussions about potty-training a toddler from another culture!  But that is a different post.)  A discussion that resulted from this activity was to think about how to discipline an adopted toddler or preschooler.  When one of my bio toddlers would take a toy or hit during playtime, I often put them in time out.  But isolating a child who may still struggle with security and attachment could cause more emotional damage--and further negative behavior.  Adoptive parents have to get creative on how they discipline--firmly, but in love and ever-mindful of the adopted child's complicated background.  There's a word tossed around a lot, it's called a "time-in."  If Asher is making bad choices, instead of sending him to his room, I might remove him from the situation and sit WITH him in his room.  Or maybe just bring him with me to a chair in the next room and sit with him in my lap for a few minutes.

These are just a few examples of possible situations that might arise.  The good news is that our research and also many, many stories from experienced adoptive parents (especially our friends in the Thailand program!) have told us that toddlers are resilient!  They are often quick to adjust and bond with their new, loving families.  The intense grieving does not usually last longer than weeks or a couple months.  Soon enough, we anticipate having a happy, well-adjusted little boy going to playdates, sleepovers at grandma's house, enjoying preschool and Sunday school.  Thank you all for your amazing support and understanding.  I hope someday Asher can fathom the incredible number of people who were loving and waiting for him here at home!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Hold me over.

Our "September Update" on Asher almost did not live up to its name.  In fact, when we got an email today, we were told that the information we received is not the official pre-adoption child update--that will be coming soon.  It had one picture and a short description of his social worker's check up with him.  Holt Sahathai Foundation, which is Holt's partner agency in Bangkok, just transitions to a new database for their child management system (all children waiting to be matched, waiting to come home and also sponsored children who will hopefully stay with their bio families).  In short, I don't understand all the details, but we got a picture!  Just one so far, and hopefully the "official" update will come in a couple weeks with more (and better quality) pictures.

I'm gonna stick with the private blog for pictures....for now.  Click HERE for the link that that one photo.  The password is my maiden name, all lower case letters.  If you don't know it but would like to see it, feel free to email me at brazenlilly@gmail.com or leave a comment with your email address.  And I'll send you the background check information.  Ha!  I kid.

Asher's report says that he is very attached to his foster family, especially the mother.  In fact, the social worker reports that his gross motor skills are slightly delayed because the foster mother "always helps him in all aspects."  He can sit with minimal assistance and can stand while holding onto furniture.  He has two lower teeth.  :)  The report says that he recognizes all of the foster family (mom, dad, 2 sisters, and a gma), and enjoys being held by all of them.

I can imagine my pediatric physical therapist of a husband can't wait to get his hands on a slightly delayed, very loved little man!  I appreciate hearing these details, and imagining Asher being just loved on all the livelong day.  Would I maybe do things differently than the foster mom?  Probably.  But how happy am I that a minor delay is because he is being doted upon?  Very.  Often times delays in adopted children have to do with NOT being held or stimulated enough! The social worker reported that she gave tips to the parents about how to help give Asher get down on the floor with more space to explore and increase his balance and strength.  ;)  She also suggested less bottles and more solid food.

These long-awaited reports have 2 affects on me.  First, they make me giddy and more in love with my son!  But second, they make me just a little sad because I want to be with him!  To just grab that little body up out of that walker and snuggle his cheeks!  But each report, and each month, and each day is a day closer to Asher's homecoming.  When we finally meet him face to face, he probably won't be in the mood for cheek-snuggling just yet, but I'll settle for a stolen kiss on that semi-bald head.  Please keep praying for the Thai government to catch up on all the adoption processing that was neglected during the hiatus this summer.  Our April travel is not guaranteed, and more delays might just break my heart in two!