Dec 21, 2009

Christmas Tree, Christmas Cookies and Fun

What a crazy time of the year.  Between basketball schedules and homework, it's been tough to sweeze in some Holdiay fun.  Chloe wasn't sure if she liked hanging ornaments on the tree or eating homemade Christmas candy better.  Her smile looks a little goofy because her mouth was full.

Making Christmas cut-out cookies was quite an undertaking with a 2 year old this year.  How many hands do they have anyway?  Lets just say that we iced and decorated them while she was sleeping :)

Chloe is looking at her favorite book "Brown Bear, Brown Bear."  She almost has it memorized.

   I wanted to end this blog post with a link to a YouTube video of the song called "Merry Christmas."  It features an adoption video created for the Third Day tour.  The song was written by Brad Avery, who has adopted from China. Click the song title below:

May God richly bless you all this Holiday Season and I pray there will many reminders of the precious gift of God's Son Jesus Christ that was given on that first Christmas.

Dec 12, 2009

Friends, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Trees

We had a nice time with family at Thanksgiving.  Greg's family was at our house for brunch on Thanksgiving day and then we celebrated with my family the following Sat.  Chloe especially enjoyed making Lego towers with her cousin Jared.

Everyone was together in my family except my nephew Mitch who was in NY with his girlfriend's family.

We enjoyed a windy 60 deg. to cut our Christmas tree this year

    November also brought a special visit from Alexandria and her family.  She was in a crib next to Chloe at the orphanage and in our travel group.  Her visit came at a really good time.  Chloe continues to learn her life story through attachment therapy and was particularly emotional about a pictures of Alexandria in a crib at the orphanage.  The other babies were the only "family" Chloe ever knew and they were suddenly just gone.  Working through her feeling from her time at the orphanage should be the last big emotional milestone preventing her attachment.  However, it is the big one.  Chloe spent the most time at the orphanage and it makes sense that there are the most emotions associated with it.  She continues to be in regression, screaming, biting, and doing all she can to reject our family right now, but we know that this too will pass as her heart heals.  Many kids in therapy struggle during the Holdiay Season.  They respond to their mom's stress.  If Chloe has not pulled out of this regression by mid Jan., we will do a 3 day intensive therapy session with her to help her move forward.

    My thoughts today are for all you other adoptive mom's out there who not only are stressed from the season, but are struggling with our little ones (and big ones) behaviour.  May God grant us all the patience and wisdom to continue to parent with unconditional love and to see them as His precious creation without the baggage of their past.

Nov 18, 2009

Family Photos

   Last night we were scheduled to take a family photo for Christmas.  Chloe had done really well the previous week for her own pictures, so we were not anticipating any problems.  I had spent a lot of time finding coordinating clothes and then getting everyone ready last night took a couple of hours.  I was pretty exhausted by the time we got to the photo shoot.  As you know, when you take a group photo, it's takes time to get everyone arranged and the youngest one always gets placed in the group last.  This was very disturbing to Chloe.  She just walked around us and said, "Mommy, my turn?"  There were almost tears in her eyes, she was so worried she would be left out.  Eventually her patience just wore out and she did everything she could do to disrupt the session.  Chloe stuck out her tongue.  She tickled us.  She turned upside down.  She ran away and eventually, she just cried refusing to wear her outfit or sit in the picture at all.  I was going back and forth between pittying her because she didn't seem to be able to emotionally handle the situation and being furious because she was doing everything opposite she was being told.  Finally, the photographer said she had gotten enough shots and she could do a head swap on some of the photos so Chloe is looking at the camera.  Thank goodness for modern technology.  Needless to say, we were all spent by the time we got home.  I can't wait to see the pictures though and I'll try get permission to post some on our site as soon as possible.
   I am happy to say the Attachment and Bonding Seminar we hosted on Sat. went very well.  We had over 40 people there and we hope to continue offering education to parents who are struggling.  So many adoptive families face unexpected frustrations and we want to do all we can to give them hope and help.

Nov 11, 2009

2 Steps Forward, 1 Step Back

    At our last therapy session, Arleta suggested it was time to work on getting Chloe out of our bed.  Yah!!!  I must say that this caused me a significant amount of apprehension at the same time.  For a little history, Chloe has had a lot of sleep issues from the first day we got home and it was really the driving force behind us finding ABC of Ohio.  She has always been a light sleeper and very restless.  This is caused by her anxiety and need to be in control.  Chloe seems to sleep with "one eye open" so she doesn't miss anything, never really getting into deep sleep.  Light sleep was important at the orphanage so she didn't miss anything, like a bottle, but she still hasn't transitioned out of it to be a sleeping "family girl."  For a little over a year, Chloe has slept with Greg and I.  This has certainly had an impact on us, but at the time it was a last resort to get some more sleep.  Chloe was waking so often at night, we ended up sleeping next to her mattress on the floor most of the time.
   My apprehension about getting her out of our bed came from Arleta's warning, "this will probably make Chloe regress."  I know that regression is a normal and necessary part of the bonding process, but a part that I have certainly been dreading.  Regression allows the brain to catch up and fill in the missing pieces caused by rapid forward development.  Did you ever notice how a child who is working hard to learn to walk will stop talking for a short time?  Little did I know, we were about to hit regression anyway.  We never even had a chance to rearrange our bedroom to accommadate another mattress before "old" Chloe was back.  I had truly forgotten what it was like.  She is back to screaming, demanding, running away from me, wiggling all the time (fllight mode), and being very defiant.  I was shopping with several of the girls last week and she screamed at them a couple of times for just looking at her. Children have such a delightful waying of keeping us humble. Chloe is even resisting eye contact during holding therapy again.
   Thank goodness I have Arleta to call during these times of frustration.  I am much calmer after speaking with her and I know that this too will pass.  The great thing about regression is that once Chloe is passed it, she will not need to regress that far again and will probably have made even further strides forward.  In the mean time, I'll take a deep breath and know it's only for a time.

 Chloe and her buddies had a front row seat in the basement as her sister practiced for their Christmas program.
Bath time is Chloe's absolute favorite.  Sometimes she like to take a bath in the laundry room wash tub instead of the bathtub.  Chloe calls it a "Nilla bath," because it's where we give our dog Nilla her baths.

   As a closing note, please remember us in prayer on Sat., Nov 14th.  Chloe's therapist will be speaking to about 40 local adoptive parents who want to know more about attachment and bonding issues.  The seminar is from 1-4pm and we pray that it will bring hope and help to a lot of struggling parents.

Oct 27, 2009

What's in a Name?

     As you listen to Chloe speak, there is one particular word that is noticeably missing from her vocabulary.  It's her name "Chloe."  She can say almost anything you tell her, but whenever you ask her who is in the picture or in the mirror, she always responds "me."  At Chloe's last therapy session, I spoke to Arleta about this and she too thought it seemed odd.  It turned out to be quite a session.  The whole goal of the 90 minutes was to get Chloe to say "My name is Chloe."  She would say everything except Chloe.  This is the first time that Chloe has completely refused to do something in a therapy session.  It seemed to be a hold out of some sort that she wouldn't acknowledge her American name.  She was beginning to embrace her family and language, but not her name.  Chloe doesn't even seem to have a response to her Chinese name.
    Well today we had a break through.  I was holding Chloe to put her to sleep this afternoon, so I tried prompting her to say her name.  This is something I've tried repeated since the last therapy session with no success.  Sure enough, today when I had Chloe repeat after me "my name is..."  Chloe came out too!  I had her repeat it several times to make sure it wasn't just a fluke, but each time there was a very distinctive Clo-eee.  I have continued to ask her this evening what her name is and she continues to answer Chloe, with an occasional "me" thrown in with a giggle.  Praise the Lord for little breaks throughs like this one.  We need the encouragement to keep clodding through the bonding process.  Who knows why it was so difficult for Chloe to embrace and accept her American name.  The complexity of the mind created by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is beyond fathom.

    This family picture was taken at Greg's 20th Year High School Reunion in Atwater, OH.  We were able to spend the night at his parent's house for the first time since the adoption as a family.  Chloe did pretty well sleeping away from home and has really begun to reach out and accept others outside our immediate family.  This makes her grandma and grandpa very happy.

Oct 12, 2009

Family Time and Question Words

With the report from our family session of therapy in mind, we have been trying hard to focus on healing. We took advantage of a break in our kids soccer schedule and spent a weekend away as a family.
We spent lots of time together just playing and having fun. Chloe enjoyed going to the zoo for the first time. Doesn't the gorilla in this picture just look like another member of the family? :)

Chloe, as usual, was apprehensive when she saw the suitcases come out and sensed that we were going somewhere. Much of her life has been about leaving, so spending time away from home is scary to her. She's just not sure if she'll be left again. As we drove, she asked often if we were going to go home again. It's heartbreaking to realize the type of fear and uncertainty she must live with each day. Chloe still wants to wear shoes every time I do, so she's sure to go along. Thankfully, once we reached the hotel, she settled in and did really well. It was a blessed time for our family.
We are seeing really good progress in Chloe's attachment. There is just a sense of ease about her that was never present before. She is talking more willingly and even began tattling on her sisters this week. Question words were also new for her recently. It was just a part of her vocabulary that had been noticeably absent. They suddenly appeared this week. I'm beginning to feel her attach to me. It's becoming more difficult for Greg to work with her, but we're told this is normal. A child can only really bond to 1 person at a time, so unfortunately, Greg will just have to wait his turn. Although, he's excited to see progress, I think it's hard to continue to feel rejection from her. Chloe seems to genuinely want to spend time with me now instead of just putting up with me. The way she says "Mommy" has a different feel to it now. It warms my heart every time I hear it. We are bracing ourselves for the inevitable setback that accompanies such significant progress. From what we've been told, it is very normal and essential for the brain's growth and development. So as I close tonight it is with this prayer in mind - "Oh Lord, please give me the peace of mind to enjoy each day for what it is and the stamina to withstand the inevitable setbacks that are yet to come."

What Are Implicit Memories?

Arleta James, Chloe's attachment therapist, keeps a blog about attachment issues. She recently posted 2 articles that give a great explanation of why kids who have had a traumatic past (abandonment, neglect, orphanage care, etc.) may continue to struggle even though adopted at a young age. I hear so often, "But you adopted Chloe at 8 months, she can't remember any of that." And I must admit, this was my line of thinking before we met Chloe too. It just didn't make any sense. We can't remember anything from when we were infants, so how can her early history have an impact? Arleta's articles will shed some light on this subject and I would strongly encourage adoptive parents to take a look. You might be surprised at the new understanding you gain about your child.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Sep 17, 2009

4 Girls in Need

4 needy girls + 2 overwhelmed parents = our crazy family of 6

Our whole family went to counseling with Chloe this past Monday and it was very eye opening. I've heard repeatedly that adoption will bring to light any issue a person may have. This has proven to be true in our family too. Our other 3 girls have certainly been affected by the stress and transition of the last 18 months. There have been many changes that have had an impact. I have 1 girl who is sad about it, 1 girl who is mad about it, but in denial, and 1 girl who was too embarrassed to show any emotion and instead used non-verbal communication to get my attention through nearly the entire session. I though life was busy enough with an unattached 2 year and 3 kids playing on different soccer teams. Quite frankly, I am just plain overwhelmed. How can I possibly meets the needs of all of my children, maintain my marriage, and at some point find time to take a shower! I am so thankful to be working with Artleta, who is an expert on bringing an adoptive child into an existing family. However, this doesn't change our present circumstances. I ask for your prayers for wisdom. How do we choose what is most important? Which child should have my attention first? How do we divide up our time? When do I take time away from them in order to be a better parent? How will giving more attention to the other girls have an impact on Chloe? These are all questions for which I have no answers. So we too will be praying for clarity of thought and leaning on the promise that God will provide the grace we need to fulfill His calling.

"If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him." James 1:5

"But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles: they will run and not grow weary, they will walk not be faint." Isaiah 40:31

Please be praying for a little girl named Mia. She was adopted as a special needs child 2 months ago and has undergone 2 open heart surgeries. There have been a lot of complications and the family would appreciate your prayers. Their blog is:

Sep 8, 2009

Glimpses of a New Girl

Chloe and wedding bubbles

Yes, this is our little busy body holding still and taking in her world, a vital step in her growth process. Calmness had almost never happened before therapy began and was one of the first signs of change. Change that is becoming evident to others around us also.
For the first 2 weeks after our intensive bonding therapy, Chloe very strongly rejected me (Mom). She wouldn't have anything to do with me if Greg was available. That was pretty tough to take. It was like giving your child medicine they needed and then having them angry with you all day long for how bad it tasted. According to Arleta, our therapist, because Chloe needs to bond to me first and I am the one doing the daily holding therapy, she was doing all she could to resist. Also, Chloe knows that I am not her China mom and she is trying very hard not to attach to me. Thankfully, her rejection began to fade over the last week. There was even one time last week I was rocking her to sleep and she did all she could do to get my attention.
We have also tackled Chloe's talking issue. She is no longer allowed to use non-verbal communication since it was a form of control. Chloe is capable of saying over 100 words, but she would much rather point and grunt. However, the strategy has been working and just last week, her talking started to kick in. We laugh almost daily at what she chooses to say. It certainly has made church a lot more challenging and noisy :) Chloe was very frustrated for a couple of weeks, yelling "no" a lot when she wasn't speaking clearly enough to be understood. Thankfully that too has eased some.
Unfortunately, true to the 2 steps forward and 1 step back that we were warned about, Chloe has once again become very insistent on self-soothing by sucking on her arm like she did in the orphanage. Initially, she had let this habit go relatively easily, but now it's back with a vengeance. We also continue to work on Chloe's aggression toward her sisters through holding. She gets held to help her calm down and then she is required to apology and do something nice in return.
We go back for family therapy next week. Chloe is not the only one effected by this family transition. The stress of the last 18 months has had a big impact on each of us. Arleta will help us recognize just what those effects have been on our other girls. We were told that adoption intensifies any problem you might have. That is obviously very true.
Chloe got to go camping with our family for the first time this past weekend.

She loved the pontoon boat ride.

I'm sure this was only the first of many trips to the camp ground. We had a great time.

Aug 25, 2009

Travel Group Reunion

With everything else that has been going on, I haven't taken the time to post pictures from the July Travel Group Reunion that we hosted in our area. Chloe, Heather, and Alexandria are all from Chongqing and were adopted together.
We spent Friday evening getting reacquainted around the camp fire.

Chloe and Heather became fast friends as her family camped in our woods.

Saturday morning we all took a wagon ride at an exotic animal farm.

The kids all loved seeing and feeding the animals right from the horse drawn wagon.

Chloe even got to feed some giraffes with a little help from Daddy.

We all enjoyed a good Amish cooked meal for lunch.

After naps, we all had pizza and cake at our house to wrap up the day.
It was so great to spend time with others who have shared in this amazing journey with us. It seemed as though we were able to pick up right where we left off even though it had been 15 months since we'd been together. There was a special comfort level between the little girls that was noticeable and it only cemented our determination to keep them in touch.

Aug 7, 2009

Attachment Therapy

     I am sitting down tonight feeling totally inadequate to try and explain all that has happened this week, but first a little statistic: 2/3 of the 6,000,000 adopted kids in the United States have moderate to sever attachment issues, many of which go unrecognized. This is a staggering number of children and families dealing with significant emotional issues and almost no one to help.
    We have been going through 3 hours of therapy a day with an attachment specialist for the last 5 days. Much of that time consisted of what you see above. However, it has taken most of the week for Chloe to willingly give me eye contact even for a few seconds at a time. This position to her is threatening and intimate. It brings back feelings and emotions that are hard to deal with. We've been working to help Chloe cope with her abandonment and life story. Her birth mom abandoned her at 2 days of age, after which she was taken to a police station and then to an orphanage where for 240 days she spent approx. 20 out of 24 hours each day staring at the ceiling from her crib. She was often hungry and no one responded when she cried, so eventually she just stopped crying for her needs. Because of a lack of sensory stimulation, she would hit herself on the head and suck on her hand to go to sleep. When we were found as her family, she road 6 hours in a van for the first time with people she didn't know. She was not fed and then suddenly she was handed to 2 people who looked different, smelled different, and sounded different. Within 2 weeks she was flown to a new country away from anything or anyone she had ever known. Not exactly a fairytale story. It's understandable why Chloe is traumatized by her past.
    I wanted to take a moment to try explain about 2 different kinds of memories our brain makes. One type of memory is called explicit, which is the type of memories you can recall. The first day of school, would be a good example. The brain also stores implicit memories which are emotional responses and feelings that happen subconsciously. These implicit memories are being recorded in the brain even before babies are born and these are the type of memories that Chloe is struggling with. As a newborn, when your parent speaks to you, it causes your brain to process these implicit emotions/feelings and release them. In Chloe's situation, there was no one directly speaking to her that allowed all the emotions she was dealing with to be released. So now, by talking through what Chloe must have been feeling during her first traumatic 8 months brings those feelings back out and eventually her brain can then let go of them. The goal is for Chloe to have less and less reaction each time the therapist talks through her story. It was absolutely heart breaking this week to watch Chloe's eyes fill with tears and her lip quiver when she was told that her China mom was not coming back to get her. She so clearly understood that it was astounding.
    There are so many more details I could share and if you have specific questions, feel free to email me or post a comment and I'll get back with you. We are working on eye contact with Chloe for 20min. twice a day, in addition to encouraging her to talk. She is capable of saying a lot of words, but resists, choosing to point and grunt. That will be coming to end. Also, we are working on her aggression towards her sisters. The therapist said the next 2 weeks or so Chloe will be a real bear once she realized this was not just a temporary change. We go back to therapy every 2 weeks where we'll continue to desensitize Chloe to her life story, in turn allowing her to embrace her new life with our family.
    I feel like I need to include a few resources today for you adoptive parents. Our therapist, Arleta James, has written an amazing book about integrating an adoptive child into an existing family. I think every adoptive family needs this book! It is full of really practical information.
You can purchase the book at: or on

Arleta also writes a biweekly adoption blog that has lots of great tools in it. You can find the blog at:

    Lastly, I'd like to include a resource for you parents who are wondering if your child has attachment issues. It is part of the application process for ABC of Ohio to determine attachment issues. Children under 5:   Children over 5:   If you have any questions or concerns, please contact ABC of Ohio. They treat more internationally adopted kids with attachment issues than any other clinic in the country.
Thank you for your prayers this week, they have truly been a blessing.

Aug 2, 2009

Therapy Week

This is the week we are scheduled to begin intensive attachment and bonding therapy with Chloe. We have been anticipating it for a long time and yet we go into this week with a little apprehension as well. Change is always hard, even when it's for the better. If you change your eating habits to eat healthier, it's good for you, but the process is challenging. So I think this process will be for Chloe and all of us. Even though there are challenges about where she is right now, we all have adapted to it and it's become somewhat "normal."

Tonight I am reminding myself to keep my eye on the prize and see the bigger picture. To have a little girl who can look me in the eye and return the love we've been pouring into her will be truly amazing, no matter what the journey may need to be to get there. To heal the wounds and baggage left from her abandonment and orphanage experience will allow Chloe to have healthy relationships others and most importantly, the ability to put her trust in her Savior Jesus Christ.

Please keep our family in your prayers this week. Therapy is from 10am-1pm each day. I'll update again soon and let you know how it's going.

Jul 27, 2009

Happy 2nd Birthday Chloe!

We celebrated Chloe's 2nd Birthday with family this past weekend.
She got to open her presents tonight from our family - a talking baby and a car of her very own.

One of Chloe's new found foods is corn on the cob.
As I reflect back on all this past year has held, there has been much learning on Chloe's part and ours as her parents. We are so grateful to God for all He has taught us through her. Now we look forward to what this next year will bring. Next week we begin intensive attachment and bonding therapy for Chloe. We pray that this will bring about a new trust and bonding for her that she has yet to experience. The independence that we now come to expect from Chloe is only a symptom of her troubled heart and inability to allow someone to care for her. As you think of Chloe in the weeks to come, please pray for a deep healing that only God can bring. He created her and only He knows what will heal her heart. If you would like more information on attachment and bonding, please see the link to ABC of Ohio on the right.

Jul 13, 2009

A Visit with Florida Friends

We had a great opportunity to visit some other adoptive families in our travel group on our vacation in Florida. Emma and her brother Josh at the pool with Chloe. Emma is from Chloe's orphanage.
Roselyn is from a neighboring orphanage in Chongqing.

The 3 girls together for supper at Macaroni Grill. Our reservation was for 12, 5 adults and 7 kids. I think the waiters were drawing straws to see who had to serve us.

The Hannemann Family

Rosie and her mom Retta

We caught up with the Kaplin family in Jacksonville and had a great time while the kids played on the playground at Chick-fil-A.

We also got to spend some time with family in Sarasota. Chloe loved her first beach visit at Siesta Key.

We got reacquainted with a Chinese shop owner that Greg had spoken with a few months before we adopted Chloe. She remembered him and was very excited to meet Chloe.

Chloe is an all-American, donut loving kid. In this case, it was much easier to let her eat it without any clothes.

We braved the 100 deg. temperatures and spent a day Disney World. As it turns out, Chloe's favorite ride was the bus, first thing in the morning.

Chloe on the Mad Hatter tea cup ride.

Chloe loved exploring at Minnie Mouse's house. She wanted to climb on everything.

On a side note - We are scheduled to begin attachment and bonding therapy the first week of Aug. with Chloe. Please be praying that our funding goes through. Right now it looks like it will not be available due to State budget cuts. We will move forward anyway, even if we have to pay ourselves.