Dec 23, 2013

Progress and Merry Christmas

    As a 6 year old, Chloe is drinking in so much information right now.  She is like a sponge, constantly asking questions and learning.  As a kindergartner, Chloe is beginning to read.  She finds her sight words everywhere and I'm constantly hearing, "Mommy what does this spell?" or "how do you spell..."  I am predicting that books will be her constant companion in the very near future.  Chloe has always had a hunger for information and once she's able to get it on her own, she will want to drink it in.
    I have been giving Chloe piano lessons over the past few months and she loves to sit down at the piano and play.  She is still in the very early stages, learning to count the rhythms and play the most simple songs.  She hasn't learned to read the music yet.  One day Chloe said, "Mommy can I show you something?"  This is what she played:

To my surprise, Chloe had figured out the melody to The First Noel by ear on her own from listening to her sisters play.

    I'm excited to share some great test result we've gotten on Chloe.  After 2 yrs of  neurofeedback training as part of Chloe's attachment and post traumatic stress therapy, we are seeing real changes in her brain function.  Portions of her brain that were not functioning properly as a result of her early trauma are showing significant improvement.  It's great to have test results that back up what we have seen in her anxiety, sleep and anger levels.  If you'd like more information to see if  neurofeedback may help your child please follow this link:

Merry Christmas!

Oct 14, 2013

Which Way is Up?

   This is a common scene at our house these days.  Chloe has learned to do cartwheels and I'm quite sure she does a minimum of 25 a day.  She started a tap and tumble class and that was all the encouragement she needed.  She has now mastered cartwheels, 1 handed cartwheels and round-offs all within the first 6 wks. of class.  Chloe is one determined girl and it doesn't hurt that she prefers being upside down anyway. 
     Ever since kindergarten began, our school is all day every other day, Chloe's sensory disorder from her early life in the orphanage is much more obvious. Her body has an incredible craving for joint compression (crashing) and heavy muscle work.  It's more noticeable since she has to hold still for so long and keep it under control.  By the time she gets home from school, she is ready to bounce like a "Tigger."  That's how her Occupational Therapist used to describe her craving for sensory input.  She would ask Chloe if she felt like a "Tigger", a "Pooh", or an "Eeyor."  Feeling like "Pooh" was the goal.  The other day she came home from school and really wanted to talk to me.  Chloe sat on the couch next to me and was moving around so much we couldn't even talk.  Solution:  We moved the mini-trampoline into the living room.  As soon as Chloe started bouncing, we were able to have a very nice conversation.  Chloe's new obsession with tumbling is just another outlet to get her joint compression.

Aug 23, 2013

Parenting Differently

    Having already parented 3 biological children for 10+ years prior to Chloe's arrival, Greg and I thought we had a pretty good idea of what worked and didn't work when it came to parenting.  Chloe as an 8 month old of course didn't need much discipline, etc.  She was learning to feed herself, roll over, and sit up well.  As time went on, however, and Chloe caught up in her physical development, some of her emotional struggles began to make themselves more apparent.  We gave it time and assumed that showing this little one love would be enough to get her through the difficult beginning that she had.  By age 2, I started to look into parenting book for the strong-willed child.  None of the basic time-out and swat on the bottom methods were having any positive impact.  In fact, if anything they were making things worse.  In the mean time, our family dynamic was escalating too.  With a major lack of sleep, Greg and I were not only struggling in our marriage, but also in parenting our older children and especially Chloe.  Little did we realize that all of these things were having such a negative impact on Chloe's brain and heart healing.  The following article explains why we struggled so much to reach our daughter.

Jul 28, 2013

6 Years Old

     Happy Birthday to our dear sweet Chloe.  We celebrated several times but what you see is her favorite foods all in one meal.  Chloe chose: pizza, macaroni and cheese, corn on the cob, watermelon, and strawberry pie instead of cake.
   Some of the gifts Chloe was given was a kitten glasses stand so she can always find her new glasses and an American Girl doll with long straight hair.  She loves to do her hair!
    We also celebrated Chloe's birthday last week in Colorado with fellow adoptees.  They all turned 6 within 5 days of each other.
 We celebrated their special bond by giving each of them a Chinese character "sister" pendent on a red cord to remind them that even if they can't see each other very often, there is a common history that will always bind them together.

Jul 19, 2013

The Red Thread Connection

     We are blessed to be spending some time in Colorado this week with 2 adoptive families we traveled to China with 5 years ago.  On the first night in town we had a quick photo shoot with a professional photographer that had been on our China trip also.  It was amazing to watch the innate connection these 3 little girls had immediately when they were put together once again.  Below is a post that Tara the photographer posted about our "red thread" girls. 



Jun 24, 2013

A Transracial Lesson

    I am so taken aback by the depth of Chloe's desire to meet her birth mother. It pains her to admit it to me, but it comes from someplace so deep that she can't deny it.  I waiver between pain for Chloe and anger at her birth mom for all the pain she caused.  In the same breath I must also be eternally grateful that Chloe's birth mother chose to carry Chloe to term and not abort her like so many other Chinese women in difficult situations choose.  She chose to give Chloe a life and now we are blessed by it, so how can I stay angry with her?  Do you see how my thoughts go around in circles these days?  Can you imagine how confusing it is to Chloe?
    I read the following article recently on the Attachment and Bonding Center of Ohio's Facebook page and it helped me to understand the complexity of what Chloe faces day in and day out being part of our transracial family.

Jun 12, 2013

Get Me Out or Get me Through?

"Sometimes the purpose of prayer is to get us out of our circumstances, but more often than not the purpose of prayer is to get us through them."  Draw the Circle by Mark Batterson

     Right now I am watching my Chloe slide deeper and deeper into anger.  Regression is very real and not predictable.  It is a discouraging part of the process of healing for attachment kids.  In talking with Chloe's therapist yesterday, I finally just asked what is an appropriate expectation of normal? Do we just have to learn to function as a family putting up with her anger? (Which by the way is only seen at home and never exposed to those outside her inner circle.) In explanation she said that Chloe will always be impacted by adoption, but she does not need to be controlled by it.  As a person who lost a mother 10 years ago, I can say that a special event doesn't pass without me thinking of her and so it will be with Chloe.  Her perspective will always be colored by her adoption and abandonment.  However, she should not be angry with her family for 4 month just because it was Mother's Day and she missed her birth mom.  It is that regulation and control of triggers that we continue to work on in therapy.
     I'll be honest, I hoped that we would get to the place where adoption didn't have an impact on Chloe anymore.   That she would be secure enough in our love to "forget."  So I once again adjust my expectation to a more appropriate level and deal with the pangs that I am not the only Mama that Chloe will always love.
     So I pray this for myself and all you other adoptive parents:  "God please give us the grace to sustain, the strength to stand firm and the willpower to keep on keeping on."  If today is a day that all you can do is just "keep on," than know that God is the one who can supply what you need.

May 29, 2013

A New Look

    Well my little girl has glasses.  Chloe tested a little fare sited at the eye doctor and was getting headaches when watching TV.  She will have to wear them for 3 weeks all the time and then after that just as she needs for reading and electronics.  I think she looks so much older.  Thankfully the eye irritation she struggled with several years ago seems to be better.  Some Asian kids have this trouble, because their eyelashes can actually turn in against their eyes and rub every time they blink.  Surgery is sometimes required depending on the severity.  Chloe saw a specialist and just as he predicted, she has outgrown the problem.
    Emotionally, Chloe continues to struggle.  This regression seems to have it's core problem with her self-concept.  As an abandoned child, it is natural to assume they were a bad baby for their birth mom to leave them.  So it is with Chloe.  To compound that problem, Chloe was then placed in an orphanage where she didn't get the nurturing and attention that an infant needs.  She has also assumed that she was a bad baby at the orphanage and that is why the nannies did not pay more attention to her.  Arleta James, Chloe's attachment therapist, explained it this way.  Everyone's self-concept is like a piggy bank.  As an infant, each time you accomplish something like rolling over, smiling, or making funny sounds, you constantly get positive responses from others. (smiles, "what a good baby", kisses, etc.) Each one puts a token in your piggy bank.  Chloe is missing the first 8 months worth of tokens in her bank while she was at the orphanage and it has left her with a big self-concept hole.
    This week she stayed with her sister while I took the other 2 girls to the dentist.  The night before, she was begging to go along on the hour long car ride with me and cried in her bed because I was going to be gone.  She woke up during the night and couldn't sleep because she was so upset.  I assumed the issue was fear for my return, but as we began to unpack it at therapy today, the real issue came out.  I took some of her sisters and not Chloe.  She felt left out and unloved because I didn't take her with me.  Her focus has been a constant comparison to see if I love her more than her 3 sisters.  It is her attempt to make herself feel valuable.

    Arleta went on to explain to Chloe that she and her sisters are like 4 quarters and Mommy loves them all the same.  This of course did not make her happy.  Chloe would much rather be worth a pile of coins while her sisters are only worth a quarter.  When we went on to explain that Daddy is worth 2 quarters to Mommy and I love him more than my daughters, this created a whole new explosion of emotion.  She was not at all happy to find out she was not my top dog.  In reality, she is just doing her best to cope with what is lacking from her past. Chloe reminds me of so many others who look for ways to feel good about themselves in all the wrong places. We have a ways to go to build up that self-concept, but I'm pleased to be on the way.
    If you are looking for some books that might help to built your child's self-esteem, here are a few to check out:
        When I Feel Good About Myself
        Why Am I Here?
        I'm Gonna Like Me
For older children:
        What's Up With Self-Esteem Workbook

Apr 2, 2013

Loss and Developmental Change Side-Effects

  Yesterday Chloe's cat Chip (her constant companion for the past 9 months) had to be put to sleep after being hit on the road and losing the use of his back legs.  It breaks my heart to have to watch Chloe deal with yet another loss in her young life.  She chose to write "Chip had a good family of 6" on his grave marker in our woods.  I think it says a lot about the change that has happened to her heart about our family.  This little girl who did everything in her power to reject attaching to us for years, can now say her cat had a good family and actually admit that she has a good one too.  Acceptance of us has been a long journey for Chloe.
  We travel back to therapy again today to begin dealing with Chloe's recent regression.  In the last post I wrote about Chloe's developmental progression.  Unfortunately, with developmental change also comes a new ability to understand adoption and thus new struggles to process the trauma she has been through.  I'm not really sure yet what this regression is about, but we'll be increasing the therapy sessions until we get to the bottom of it.  Thankfully Chloe's signs of regression this time are more subtle, like craving the center of attention again because of insecurity and needing to look at a picture of Greg and I when we were gone to remember we will come back again and not abandon her.
   Revisiting their story is very common for adoptive kids as they grow up and their brains have a new capacity to process what they have been through.  For instance, at some point Chloe will realize that she was also abandoned by her Chinese father.  Up to this point, her focus is solely that she was abandoned by her China mom.  When this discovery is made, she will have a new sense of loss to deal with.
   Chloe's therapist has a new website with a huge number of resources for anyone interested in learning more about attachment issues and how trauma effects kids.
Also, the Attachment and Bonding Center of Ohio has a new YouTube channel with interesting interviews about attachment, etc.  I would strongly encourage adoptive families to check these links.

Feb 22, 2013

Snowy Days of Joy

     I have had great struggle with my blog host to get anything posted in the last few months.  I am happy to say the face you see above is one that we have been seeing often lately.  Chloe is growing and gaining weight which means her emotions are at a healthy state and we are seeing the evidence.  Our therapist told us a story of a teenage boy who had a breakthrough in therapy and grew 6" immediately following.  The emotional health of trauma kids from abandonment or other causes has a big impact their physical health too.
     Chloe is making strides in her development also.  She now loves to ask a ton of questions about everything, is constantly playing tricks on people, and enjoys coloring.  All of these fall into the 4-5 age developmental stage.  Chloe is 5 3/4.  This just once again demonstrates how much trauma has an effect on the brain.  Chloe as a 2 year old was stuck developmentally and still crying and displaying traits of a newborn.  Thankfully we have addressed the trauma early on and her development is almost caught up.