I even have a superstition that has grown on me
as the result of invisible hands
coming all the time..
Namely, that if you follow your bliss
you put yourself on a kind of track
that has been there all the while,
waiting for you.
And the life that you ought to be living,
is the one you ARE living.
-joseph campbell

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Sensory Appreciation

Going through the days and nights with Cami and Delilah is like walking through a sensory mine field. Before adoption I thought we all more or less experienced the world in the same way. Everyone knew what hot and cold felt like. We knew what felt scratchy or smooth. I thought everyone noticed these details vaguely and went on with their life.

I had no idea!

I have learned that some children seek extra sensory input. They actually have a physical need to run, spin, climb, swing, push and take in all the world has to offer. Both of my girls are hungry for sensory input. It works out well for us to spend time outside each day. We also have a trampoline in our den, and many hours each day are spent playing dance and gymnastics. An equal amount of energy is expended reaching for the forbidden sensory fruit like jumping off the stairs, scaling the pantry shelves, and building their own obstacle course.

Trying to stop sensory seekers is difficult because even struggling in my arms or fighting off my interference in their shenanigans gives some degree of satisfying sensory experiences! To them. It gives bruises and sore muscles to me!

Being outside can fill alot of needs at once. There is the bright sun, a breeze warm or cold, the feeling of grass and soil, and space to run and jump or climb. Shoveling or gathering stones or leaves seem to be enjoyable sensory work. We have tried crates full of beans and rice indoors, but time after time, the best exercise turned out to be throwing the beans EVERYWHERE before I could stop it.

Cami is sensory seeking most likely because the first two years of her life were spent in an orphanage where her view was probably the same day after day. From the pictures I've seen, there was not much color there, and I don't know how much she was allowed to explore her enviornment. In the winter, she wore a large puffy jacket day and night so movement was restricted.

When we first met Cami, she was a little girl scared of so many things we hardly notice in our world. The noise of airplanes or the sound of birds singing were startling to her. She could not bring herself to reach out a touch a furry stuffed animal! Yet because her primitive self craved all the sights and sounds she had missed, she quickly put her trust in us and allowed us to introduce her to the world at large! She managed to overcome her fear of many things in order to experience the sensory input they provided. One part of her brain knew what she needed.

Another part of Cami's brain did not like the stimulation of the moving, twirling, talking, and very typical world. So while Cami is busy seeking out new experiences, she is, at the same time, distracted by a part of her brain sounding off alarms that "enough is enough, too much already". So hers is a fragile balance. And at the end of the day, especially a noisy day filled with new sounds, tastes, or activities, Cami often has to let off steam in order to compensate for too much sensory input. The letting off steam is not pleasant (see earlier post about raging) so we try to counterbalance her world from the outside.

And we try to respect her sensory needs and allow her home to be a sensory safe place. I cut the tags out of her clothes because they bother her. I wash and comb her hair very gently because any stimulation of her scalp is interpreted as painful. We avoid situations where I expect good behavior when there is a great deal of activity and noise. Restaurants, for example, are not a good place for us right now. I try to keep our world peaceful, though it is challenging.

The other player in our sensory maze is Delilah, our party girl! She is also a sensory seeker. And her need for sensory input has no end. She loves to experience the physical world with her whole body.

Delilah's babyhood was not bland. The photos from her foster family show a colorful home and she slept with her foster mother and it seems she was carried everywhere for the first two years.

Delilah craves sensory experiences because it is what she has grown to expect. She could almost be sensory typical, if she had a stopping point!!!! We worry about injury, though so far Delilah is both bouncy and followed by a troupe of guardian angels. I have also wondered if she registers pain within normal range because so little seems to bother her!

Delilah loves to have her hair washed and brushed. Tangles do not seem to bother her, nor does the water running into her face when I rinse out the shampoo. She is a daredevil who climbs and jumps with no regard to danger. She has learned to appreciate sensory input without learning internal regulation.

So what do all these sensory differences mean in our real life???? It means when I have two girls in the bath tub, one is crying because hair washing is so brutal and then the other is crying because it is absolutely, positively, two hours later, water gone cold, time to get out.

It means if one girl lines up all the blocks according to color and size, the other will likely jump off the chair and crash them all to the ground. And then there will be crying again. It means one girl likes to be dressed to the shoes most days, and the other doesn't seems to notice hot or cold on her body as discomfort. It means going out into the world and trying to pack up two overstimulated girls to come home is very, very difficult. And that is a sensory experience I try to AVOID!!!!!

Having children with special sensory needs means we do what we can to help our girls make peace with their physical world. We continue to offer safe sensory experiences and we continue to help them transition from one sensory state to another. And we hope, with love and maturity, the day will come when sensory input will come and go mostly unnoticed by the conscious mind of these beautiful and busy girls.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Winter Bath

Sometimes when it's too cold to go outside and the boredom sets in,
I like to fix a fancy bath for the girls.

We have a room heater,
bubbles, body wash, special washcloths and towels,
and lotion for afterwards.

These baths are not about getting a good scrub,
getting clean is a fringe benefit.
These morning baths,
while the winter sun shines full in the window,
are about water play,
on a cozy day.

After the towels and lotion,
the hair brushing and dressing,
we snuggle on the sofa for reading,
and I inhale the scent of my bubbly clean girls
and I know I have a slice of heaven.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Cami asked for a drawing book.
Yesterday I bought two spiral bound sketch books
and new markers.

Here is a sample of Cami's drawing.
She has pages and pages of this type of design.
Is it just me?
Or does this look a little like Chinese writing?

I'm fascinated by the idea of hardwiring
and what we know
without even realizing we know it.

Orphans do not experience the things
they are biologically expecting.
Most importantly,
they lose the sight and sound and smell of their mother.
A certain death,
is the message their body gives them.
And ever after,
they are reminded,
even from safe havens
their bodies prepare
for the fight of their life.

But Cami is a survivor,
and so much beauty survived with her.
This writing is from her soul.
And the only thing that could impress me more
was if it actually could be read!!!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Dark Side

I have decided there is no good excitement here anymore....
Snow days,
Close your eyes for a surprise,
Visits with friends,
a morning at school,
the doctor,
the church,
it is all too much.
And it always ends badly.

Cami is a child who both seeks out extra sensory experiences
during the day,
Has a difficult time processing the sensory input
she receives.

what goes in must come out.
The bigger the fun,
the louder the cries,
the further the fall.

When it is all over,
and the friends are gone,
and the cake is eaten,
and the night is coming,
Cami will lose control.

Of course she can not say,
Gee, mom, I've had a big day......
I think I need some time to unwind.
totally unrelated to the excitement
will push her over the edge.

She will rage.
Her body will tremble and fight
every attempt at comfort.
She will scream
and yell, "NOOOOOOOOOO"

I have tried many ways
of dealing with her rages,
they are a hard time for everyone.
But I find it cannot be fixed,
with a word or a gesture,
the course must be run.
The pent up stress must be released.

And only then,
when the trembling stops
and she looks at me again,
with eyes that truly see,
may I pick her up and hold her to me.

Offering comfort
I tell her simple things.
I promise again to always love and take care.
I validate her anger.
I tell her I am also mad.
She should not have lain in a dull room,
cold bed,
for two empty years.
She deserved better.
She deserves everything.

This is the dark side of a child's heart.
No one wants to tell us
to speak of it
But how could we expect
an orphan
to suffer such a loss and void
and have no damages.

The raging darkness in the void seeps out
and winds around our legs,
threatens to pull taunt choking our throat.
But when the child is spent
and the rage has quieted,
I believe a tiny bit of the
Darkness has died,
and some of the Light
has come in.

I Will Not Be Cold

With record breaking cold weather here in the South
I was trying to convince Cami to wear
her fuzzy blanket sleeper to bed
last night.

She wanted to wear lighter weight cotton pajamas.
I told her I just didn't want her to be cold.
She answered:
"Don't worry, mom, I'll be sleeping right beside you,
in your bed.
I will not be cold.'

She was speaking the truth.
And she has known cold.
Living two years in an orphanage
without heat.
She wore her pink coat day and night.
She was lucky to have it.
But she was likely still cold.

I am so thankful when those toasty toes
touch me in sleep.
We are warm.
I hope there are enough
soft blankets and hugs
to erase
her memories of being cold and alone.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Little Lights in Their Eyes

The days are different now.
We did not send the girls back to preschool
after winter break.
Now with the severely cold weather
I'm thankful to have cozy mornings of
hot milk and coffee.

We are not new to homeschooling.
Our homeschool adventure began in 1997.
I am not overly concerned
with academics.
At this age,
I look for teachable moments,
little lights in their eyes,
lots of hands on experiences,
and books,
rooms full of books.

Cami loves writing her ABCs.
Delilah loves puzzles.
Cami wants to know how to spell words
for the grocery list.
Delilah mostly loves the color Blue.

I love watching their minds
make sense of the world,
ask questions,
and come up with new ideas.
I really love being the one who gets to see
the world
Through the eyes of a child again.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Smallest Reindeer

Christmas has come and gone.
Delilah's first Christmas with us,
though we heard from her foster family
she was the "light"
of their winter celebrations last year.

On this day,
in the middle of a brutal cold spell down South
so many of the Christmas toys
seem to have been
used up,
sitting alone in the corner.

But the imaginations run clear and bright.
Christmas themes still dance just below the conscious mind,
and Cami and Delilah stay busy.

The photo shows a moment
just before the sleigh in the background took off.
Cami is tying on the smallest reindeer,
who accepted her assignment
and never asked
why she was not Santa Claus.

The sleigh contained pillowcases
full of toys.
I was given a doll without clothing.....
Maybe I will try and be a better girl next year.....

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Made In China

Every so often a book comes through our house and captures it's intended audience with such strength we find ourselves reading it time and again. A really powerful book finds us all tangled in hugs by the time we reach the last page.

Made In China; A Story of Adoption by Vanita Oelshlager is a brightly illustrated story about a younger sister, adopted from China, who has her feelings hurt by the innocent teasing of her big sister. The older sibling sees the words, "made in China" on a household object and tells the little girl that just like the broom, she was Made In China. As she looks around she finds more and more things stamped with Made in China.

"'It's just like you'/my big sister said,/'You're Made in China./It's stamped right on your head.'"

Feeling sad and confused, the child seeks out her dad who she believes will have the answer to comfort her. Parents and children alike will smile at the loving wisdom of the father. He tells his daughter she was not made in China like a dress or a toy, but she was born in China to a mother who loved her. He explains how her birth mother was not able to take care of her and had to make a hard decision. He says he was waiting here for her.

The story reminds us our daughters very likely smile the same smile as their mothers in China and reminds our children we are their family forever, not just with them for a little while. The tone is warm and loving and the gentle rhyming text holds the attention of children as young as three.

From Amazon, "Kristen Blackwood (illustrator) has employed a blend of linoleum cuts outlined in black and computer coloring techniques to craft stunning illustrations. Ethnic features are realistic and enhance the simple text, depicting the birth mother as well as the adoptive family. The endpapers feature more than a dozen photos of Chinese adoptees of various ages, with a space for the reader to add a photo of herself. This title will be of special interest to families of Chinese adoptees, but could also serve as a springboard for discussing racial slurs and insensitivity for a much wider audience." Great for ages 3 and up.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Year of the Butterfly

If there was a Chinese Year of the Butterfly,
Delilah would be the symbol.

She squealed with delight when we passed shops on
Shaimen Island decorated with butterfly flags.
But it took longer for us to see
she not only loved butterflies,
she was becoming one.

I will confess
when we first shared photos of Delilah
many friends warned me
there was something very impish about her.
They told me I was in deep trouble.
And I was afraid.
Was I too old for a spirited child?

Can you imagine me in China
watching my new daughter hurling her bowl of noodles
against the wall!
I wondered if I would always feel so exhausted.

What I didn't know yet
was the magic behind those laughing eyes.
And the gentle soul that puts stuffed animals in the freezer
and then wraps them in blankets and coos to them as they thaw out.

She came into our family, promptly claiming the spot as "baby",
she surprised me by being such a good and gentle child.
She likes to sleep on top of us
and she has a lovely singing voice.

Delilah spends most of her time in dress up clothing.
She believes she IS Mulan
and she shows a sympathy for other people's hurts
far beyond her age.

Delilah is like a butterfly,
carefree and beautiful to watch,
and a joy to follow as she lights gently
on the stepping stones of her life.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sunday Snapshot

This Sunday Snapshot is a note about Cami. At four and a half, Cami knows many things.
And she is smart enough to ask about what she doesn't know.
She is a thinker.

The other day she asked where ideas come from .
From your brain, her daddy said.
She thought for a moment and replied,
"I think some of my ideas come from my knee"

Cami has the gift of organization.
Already being the mom of a few self confessed messy souls,
I am thrilled to have someone else in the house who loves order.
On Christmas afternoon Cami announced she was going to her room,
to organize her new things.
Earlier that morning she took each item out of her stocking and inspected it.
Then she put everything back in the stocking.
It now sits in her closet, pristine, just as Santa left it.
I bet some rainy day she will love discovering it again.

Maybe because Cami lived in an orphanage for the first two years of her life,
she is aware of some things in a more serious way than other children.
Cami loves to be dressed warmly, in layers, including a sweatshirt or sweater.

Cami is highly aware of food.
She plans her meals and eats all of them.
She has a mature palate for her age.
(especially interesting since she was born with hardly any palate)!!
When we met Cami, she wore Size 24 months.
She has been with us for 2 years and 4 months.
She now wears Size 5.
That is quite a bit of growing!
She is solid and strong.
How I would love to see her biological family!

But most of all, Cami is aware of love.
I remember the first time we saw her laugh,
In the pool at the White Swan Hotel.
It was an odd thing,
as if it was her very first time laughing.
Perhaps it was.....

Cami had to learn what it meant to have a family,
to sleep with a family,
to be held when she cried,
to be pampered and petted.
Cami learned to love us all.

And now she is a big sister,
and she is such a sweet caregiver.
She loves to teach Delilah new things
and to help her get dressed or reach things for her from the shelf.
Cami has lots of great Big Sister ideas
..........but she is right about ideas......
the idea of kicking Delilah when things go wrong
must be coming from her knee!!!! LOL

Civil Affairs Office, Nanchang, Adoption Day, August 2007