Thursday, July 14, 2016

Two Months in...

I stand in awe of all the progress that's transpired around here in just one month since my last Lulu update. As I reflect upon my initial post about Lulu's transition...just WOW...she's come so far! I'm not saying that things are perfect in our home because Lord knows we have so many more mountains to climb, and we are still very much "in the trenches" at times, but I am acknowledging all the good. That's one of the blessings of transparently sharing "the hard," I believe, is being able to openly rejoice in God's goodness through the positive change that transpires in the lives of these children when given unconditional love and a lot of prayers from faithful friends.

Lulu's transition, overall, has improved so much. When we met our little girl in China, one of the ways she seemed to "cope" looked more like hyperactivity. She wouldn't get visibly upset, really, but her grief manifested in a spin-out-of-control fashion. While she still shows this behavior sometimes in unknown and unpredictable scenarios, Lulu has become a more relaxed and calm person. She's still a "busybody" by nature, but the difference is clear. I think Jimmy and I are much calmer now, too, having more of an idea what makes our daughter tick and a better understanding of her behavior patterns.

There are two "H" words that have made a big difference in our world. The first one is "Help." Once Lulu mastered this word and it's meaning, much of her frustration went by the wayside because she could cry out for something and see how we would quickly respond to assist her when she chooses to use her words. The other "H" word that's been a world-changer...HOME. Once Lulu learned that the word matches this familiar place where we land everyday--this place where we take comfort together, she can now give us the word "home" instead of being out somewhere and having a complete meltdown because she couldn't express the simple concept of wanting to go home. It's resulted in huge improvement.

Another tremendous blessing came from our sister-friend, Kerry, who teaches and specializes in communication for children with special needs. She came to our rescue one day with an arsenal of communication tools including a feelings chart, and "first/then" chart, and most importantly a daily schedule that can visually show Lulu what her day will look like. They've really served as a lifeline in tough times.

In just a month, Lulu's co-sleeping has already transitioned a bit. She now falls asleep on her twin-sized mattress by the foot of our bed and without the full-on battle that used to take place to get her understand it was bedtime. It was war, y'all. We kinda loosened the reigns in this area and tried not to be so rigid. Thankfully, summer has allowed us to be more flexible. Now Lulu willingly complies and knows that all of us are doing the same thing. Most of the time, she sleeps through the night on her bed, and then sometimes she makes her way up into our bed. That's just fine for now. We can see her independence growing!

And in some ways, she's regressed (temporarily). It's normal for adopted children to innately try to "redo" the baby-hood that they missed out on. We are completely indulging her in every aspect of this process knowing that it will only benefit her development and emotional attachment. She's a very big (and heavy) baby! Lulu bounces back and forth in calling me "Mama" and testing out "Mommy" since that's what the other kids call me. Whichever name it is, it can be heard ringing through our home about a thousand times a day.

As usual, we've assigned some affectionate nicknames to our newest family member. Since she has a bit of a lisp, she refers to herself as "Wu Wu." So, of course, we started calling her that, too, which then morphed into "Woozer." It might be a China thing (actually I think so because I vaguely remember Joseph doing this too) but she calls Madi "Madi-ah" and Charlie is "Charlie-ah," so Madi calls her sister, "Lulu-ah." Most recently, Lulu's been calling herself "Mei Mei," which means "Little Sister" in Chinese. I kinda like it so it might stick for Mama.

This girl is our prayer leader at meal time! She never forgets to say grace and will not be content until she knows everyone at the table is ready (especially the boys, lol) and participating. In fact, sometimes we'll say grace more than once at the table with her in charge! Lulu still has a hearty appetite and prefers good foods. When given the choice, she'll usually pick something healthy over something that's not. Kudos to her orphanage for that. I still believe nutrition has played a key part of her physical and mental development.

There's still some separation anxiety from Mama but that's to be expected, and we are addressing it in small doses. I have managed, in the past few weeks, to leave her in Jimmy's care for an errand or a short time away without any tears! I always give her plenty of warning that I'm leaving to prepare her. This is major since the first couple of times I left without her resulted in complete meltdowns, and in one case she cried for almost two hours until I got home...heartbreaking, but now she is slowly learning that "Mommy comes back," and it's very rewarding to watch her trust build. Just today she, by choice, stayed back at Bubba and Grandpa's house with the boys while I took Madi to a doctor's appointment. I was gone almost three hours and she didn't cry at all. She did ask for me, and Bubba did a little countdown for her, but no tears.

Lulu loves to play. She's rough and tumble one minute and playing dress-up the next. She's still super-helpful with everything and has a big cheerful personality. Lulu's not a pushover by any stretch, and she's not afraid to let you know it. But inside, she clearly has a beautiful loving heart. She'll kiss her siblings and look after them. She'll also tell on them in a hot second, especially if she's not getting her way. Stinker.

Lulu's still loves the camera and the camera loves her. She adores seeing her own pictures after I take them...she's funny. And her favorite activity is still swimming. She's becoming the little fishy that a Florida girl should, and loves to "hold court" at our community pool, as our friend Lisa would say.


So, thankfully, the family tree continues to blossom in glorious ways. I've had friends who've expressed an interest in adoption down the line and have also expressed concern in how it could negatively affect their family dynamics. I am not going to sit here and type that it's all unicorns and rainbows in our house. It is hard sometimes, and we dig deep. But I can tell you that there are moments of beauty that make it ALL worth it...every single bit of angst. The most beautiful testimony in our family is in the heart of our Madi. She was the most resistant of our children to the idea of another adoption. In fact, she was downright angry when it was first presented and grieved over our choice. It broke our hearts, and Jimmy and I prayed for our daughter's heart and prayed for God to be glorified over all this. And guess who's bonded the most with Lulu? Yep. Sister Madi and Lulu have an amazing relationship. I'm serious. I could cry over how good it is. She's always had a kind heart, but Madi has gained a sense of compassion that we didn't see before. She seems to understand (as best she can) what Lulu's been through and is aware of the obstacles she faces. She also sees what a fighter Lulu is, and she'll protect her little sis in a flash. There have been times that Madi's come to Lulu's aid in the midst of a full-on tantrum, and there have been instances where Madi has even stood up for Lulu and given me advice on how a behavioral situation should be handled in her opinion. Madi smiles a mile-wide when she sees Lulu enter a room, and she truly enjoys teaching her new things. Madi is patient, and she is loving.


So, has this fifth adoption messed up our family dynamic? Nope. Not at all. But it has changed us in ways that have made us all stretch ourselves beyond our comfort zones. And I believe it's brought us all closer to understanding how Jesus loves us unconditionally, even through the hard times, and how we must do the same. To witness true transformation in a person is such a blessing. There's a whole list of "firsts" happening here on a weekly basis, but I'll save those for another post. To God be the Glory.


Jennifer Shaw said...

So fun to hear how far God has already brought your family! And also fun to hear so many of our own thoughts as we are adjusting to our new Noah. :) God bless you guys, and Lulu, as I know He has!

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful story. Very heart warming. Great job to all of you. God is good!