Tuesday, March 22, 2016

rejoicing with gladness

I'm back after an impromptu hiatus from blogging. I can't even begin to describe the heights and depths of NOISE and CHAOS this household experiences. So much noise, so much laundry, and for me, so many sinus issues (WHY?!).

That said, I'm just here to share some sweetness for today. If you read my last blog post, you know that Clementine and I are still struggling in a few minor areas. One is the HAIR and one is OBEDIENCE (whereas she doesn't struggle with these things with Brad). While we still experience those struggles in addition to the normal struggles of a two-year-old, we have reached a new level of sweetness in our relationship.

During bedtime, our whole family gathers (or at least tries to) on the boys' and Clementine's bed (yes, they're all in one bed, and they like it like that). We often read books and we always pray together. (Clementine's first few prayers were approximately 20 minutes long, but they were the cutest things ever. A bunch of jabber with actual words dotted throughout: "Mommy".... "Daddy"... "Body (Brody"..."Button (Brecken)"... "MeMaw"... "PaPaw".... "Oakee (Oaklee)"... "Ah-men.")

I have never pushed too hard to be close to Clementine during these times. Even with everything going so well, she hasn't seemed interested in lying down near me before bed, and I haven't wanted to push too hard before she was ready. Cuddling before bedtime can make a kid feel pretty vulnerable, you know.

But last night Oaklee was already in bed, and when I came into the kids' room for prayers and bedtime hugs and kisses, Clementine wanted me to lie down beside her on her pillow, with her blanket.

I happily obliged and she snuggled closer until her forehead was touching mine. She peered at me through half-open eyelids, looking me over from the bottom of my chin to the top of my forehead. She began to trace the outline of my face with her tiny fingers, delicately running her fingertips along my eyebrows and down across my chin and then down my neck. I always wonder what she is thinking in moments like these. Did she get time like this with foster moms or was she placed in bed with a quick hand pat? Had she snuggled with anyone before? Had anyone ever delighted in her?

One of my very favorite verses, Zephaniah 3:17, popped into my head....

"The Lord your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save; 
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.”

To me, this verse describes the depth of love and affection God the Father has for us as his children. It became much more meaningful to me as I began adopting and having children. I would rock my babies to sleep or hold them as they slept, rejoicing over them and their precious little lives, and understand more clearly that God has that same (even more) depth of love for me. 

When Clementine finally came home to us, she was a bit past the stage of rocking to sleep and holding in my arms. Sure, she would let me hold her after the first week or (she LOVES to be carried everywhere), and yes, she would sit with me during the day and hug me and blow kisses as she went outside, but I could not quiet her with my love. Realistically--quite frankly--I often did not rejoice over her with gladness. Please don't put words in my mouth...I rejoiced SO MUCH when she finally came to be with us, and I rejoice over her silly little self often. However, it's also true that I was often so happy that she was finally sleeping and not acting like a toddler--who often seemed to defy and deny only me--that I didn't take much time to rejoice over HER, over the sweet little lady God had created her to be. 

So when she snuggled in close and let me hold her as she rested quietly, feeling my eyelashes and rubbing my cheeks as I held her other hand, I knew that moment was as much for me as it was for her. 

What must it be like to have a Mommy who will rejoice over you with gladness? I hope this is a question Clementine never has to ask again.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

two-month checkup

It's been two months since Clementine joined our family at home. (I know, I know...we need to update that picture up top. We hope to do so soon.)

Normally, when you bring a newborn home from the hospital you have a two-month checkup to see how the baby has been developing. If you are a new parent, you might have tons of questions and you will probably be working ahead of the timeline to be sure other people know you are, in fact, the perfect parent you present to the world on social media. At two months, you were probably disappointed your baby wasn't crawling because you wanted so badly to prove she was advanced.

If you are on, say, your fourth kid, you are just there to prove your child is still alive and hasn't gotten lost among the shuffle. Or you're there for the peace and quiet that a pediatric physician's waiting room might afford you. (It's all relative, people.) You are certainly not there to show off your baby's progress (like you have time to look up baby's next steps) so when the doctor asks if Baby is able to use a pincer grasp at nine months you smile and nod and make a mental note to watch for that next time you are alone with Baby. And when, at 12 months, your doctor asks if Baby can use a sippy cup you silently create a reminder in your phone to buy one the next time you're at the store so you can find out.

After discussing Baby accomplishments, many doctors give out a checklist of developmental tasks, as well as a personalized growth chart to see where you stand.

Adoption doesn't follow this timeline, with its happy little checklists, spreadsheets, and safety reminders, so I'm going to offer up my own checklist as a guideline of sorts. (This is NOT a standard. Jeez people, we are the epitome of clueless and will never provide a high standard for anyone.)

AT TWO MONTHS HOME, Clementine is:

  • Well-bonded with Mommy and Daddy. 
  • Laughing often, and often louder than anyone in the family.
  • Pulling limp-body tantrum or stunts or meltdowns on Mom at the grocery store. (I see you, Sam's Club workers who think I'm torturing my child because I made her say please and she LOST IT. I see you, People of Walmart, gawking at me as I nearly dragged two kids down the aisle [because shopping with FOUR KIDS is so fun]. Please take a picture and post it on your website. We are so very special sometimes.)
  • Copying EVERYTHING her brothers do. (She tried peeing off the back deck the other day. Didn't work out very well.)
  • Approximately 30 pounds heavier than she was two months ago. This is a rough and exaggerated estimate, but I'm nearly serious. She eats so much and looks so different. 
  • Quarreling with her brothers, which I see as a good sign.
  • Jabbering all day long. I smile and nod mostly. She understands nearly everything we tell her, and she is working on saying everything, as well.
  • Saying "Mom" about 2,764 times a day.
  • Potty-trained. She didn't seem to be fully trained when she came home in diapers, but she is now.
  • Seeking time to be near Mommy. This is so huge! 
  • Still taking issue with me brushing her hair and telling her to do certain things, whereas she easily allows those things with Daddy. (It's as if hair brushing and obedience are triggers...or it's just as if she's two years old!) 
  • Still an excellent sleeper. Once she goes to sleep at night, she is OUT all night. She is all over the bed but does not get out of it and sleeps hard until the morning. (Whereas our boys are out of bed and wanting in ours in the middle of the night. Parenting fail on our part with them.)
  • Showing no signs of illness. No scabies, no tapeworm, no ringworm, no lice, no giardia, NOT EVEN TB!! (We were warned she may have all of the above.) That's not to say she hasn't had any of that...we've just seen no signs of it. Her chest x-rays were clear, and her skin TB test came back negative. (Can anyone explain this to me? It makes no sense.) Her other issue, which actually brought her home with the medical exit letter, is kidney-related and presenting no symptoms. We pray this trend continues.
  • Still eating almost anything, loving bananas and peanut butter, and disliking condiments and most sweets.
  • Still preferring men to women, and still calling all women "mama." I am not worried about it. 
  • Mastering the use of the word "yucky" along with the cutest little scrunched nose to further express the sentiment. 
  • Doing a hundred thousand times better than she was in her first week here. I am so in awe of God's ability to restore and redeem people. 
I have heard from MANY people who say their first week/month with their adopted child(ren) were/are ROUGH. PLEASE do not give up hope if you're in a rough patch. Things get better. For some, it gets better quickly. For others, it may take a while. The tiny glimpses of hope were enough for us to hunker down and push through those first few hard weeks, and we are so thrilled we did. 

Clementine's clothes from that week are virtually unwearable due to the food stains ALL OVER. It's almost like she relapsed into a primal mode where she shut herself down emotionally and focused solely on getting physical needs met, meaning she ate with GREAT INTENSITY and could not have cared less about keeping things clean. When I look back at pictures of that first week, I continue to be amazed at how far we have all come. She is doing great, our family feels united (unless ownership of food or a Lego creation is being questioned), and we are as close to normal as we ever will be. 

My Facebook feed is getting AWESOME as I get to see pictures of my Internet friends bring their children home from DRC. I am praying for the children and families who are finally being united now and in the coming weeks. Hoping the two-month checkup is full of love and joy and peace for all of them. (And wisdom, when those three things are hard to come by. We pray for that a lot around here, too.)