Our tough little cookie

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

It's been a rough couple months for Mommy and HJ. Along with the beginning of school came a barrage of doctors' appointments, transitions, and a flare-up of emotions and tantrums that just about did us in. I realize now that during those times when we were barely keeping afloat, it wasn't that I didn't have time to blog, it was just that I couldn't bring myself to think of a positive spin on the situation, so I didn't want to stop and reflect. But now that I feel we're turning a corner, I can acknowledge that I'm actually pretty proud of how HJ has dealt with all of these challenges.

In the past few weeks, HJ has been to the pediatrician for her annual checkup, a specialized developmental pediatrician for her apraxia and other delays, a dermatologist for her ezcema, a child psychologist for her anxiety, and no less than four trips to the dentist culminating in what was probably the most traumatic experience of all -- a pulpotomy (basically a root canal), which ended up requiring a combination of laughing gas, versed (a sedative), a papoose (essentially a child restraint similar to a strait jacket), and three dental assistants holding her down.

After the procedure, which lasted about 45 minutes but felt like an eternity for me and I'm sure even longer for my baby girl,  the older Eastern European dental assistant, who looked pretty intimidating herself, looked straight at me, shook her head, and said, "Your girl, she's tough." Yes, tell me about it... The understatement of the year. How could a 32 pound, 4 year old little girl put up such a fight, you might ask? If you don't know HJ, the term "fight or flight" doesn't exist for her -- it's basically all fight. The dentist even told me she was probably the most difficult patient she has ever had. In fact, she suggested in the middle of the procedure abandoning everything and rescheduling for general anesthesia, but in that moment I knew there was probably no way I was ever going to convince HJ to come back to the dentist office if we didn't finish it all right there. 

So long story short, HJ and the rest of us survived.  And what was the very first thing my baby girl said to me as soon as it was all over? She groggily tried to sit up as they unstrapped her and asked in a voice hoarse from screaming, "Mommy...my purple nail polish..." You see, I had bought her this tiny little bottle of sparkly purple nail polish the day before, and she had been holding on to it for dear life during the entire ordeal. But somewhere in the midst of the chaos, it had gotten lost. Thankfully, we recovered the nail polish, and I scooped her up and gave her the biggest hug I possibly could, and we left that dentist office as soon as we were able. On the way out, though, the dentist spotted her with her pacifier, and she gently reminded her that it wasn't good for her teeth to use it anymore. And after three years of trying to wean her off of that thing, it took only those few words from the dentist for HJ to decide right then and there that she was done with that pacifier for good.

We're hoping that letting go of the pacifier (her "baby-guh") is just the beginning to saying goodbye to some other baby behaviors that have overstayed their welcome... Although, if there's anything I've learned from being HJ's mom, it's that she'll move on only when she's good and ready. So I might as well enjoy these moments with my big baby girl before it's really too late...

The best-laid plans...

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

It sounded like a nice idea at the end of May... Thoughts of a slow and happy summer, sunny afternoons spent in the backyard with the kids running around in the sprinkler...Not to say that the past two months haven't been filled with some of those sweet nostalgic moments. But the reality is that they were often completely overshadowed by a frenetic pace of life that I had previously sworn off, and clearly evidenced by my lack of posting on this blog since June 3rd!

And the reason that we're all finally getting back into the routine? HJ started summer school this week. Thank the Lord for summer school! I was so proud of how she jumped right back in, even though the classes were being held in a new building and she hadn't seen her teacher and the other kids in two months. The only glitch was trying to get her on the school bus ... Didn't quite work out, but I keep telling myself  -- "She's only four!" On the other hand, I also find myself thinking, "Wow! She's already four years old!" I remember when she came home from Korea, she was almost the same age Lila is now... And now she's old enough to go on a school bus by herself?? As another mom told me, The days are long but the years are short... So true!

So today as I picked her up after another failed attempt at the bus, we were driving home and I hear her turn to Lila and say very seriously, "Lila, do you like Mommy best or Daddy?" What??! How does she come up with these things?? Good thing Lila can't really talk yet... Otherwise, I'm pretty sure Lila would reply with, "Da-da!" her first and favorite word.

A few other "grown-up" things HJ likes to say lately... Calling Daddy "Sol" and Mommy "Angela" -- as in, "Sol! Where are you??" And, "An-gee-laaa! Can you help me??" Sol and I both looked at each other the first time HJ said these phrases and wondered, Is this the only thing we say to each other these days??!

Another frequent quote of HJ's lately, "I have a rough days. I have ezcemas on my skin." Poor baby girl. You know it's bad when she's saying "I have a rough day" and it's only 8:30 in the morning!

And I'm sure other moms feel this way too, but just as much as HJ is struggling between wanting to do everything all by herself, and yet still being babied, I'm struggling with wanting her to be more independent in some things, and not wanting to let go of my baby girl in other ways... Seriously, the whole school bus thing was giving me major panic attacks... I kept telling Sol, "I don't know about HJ, but I don't think I can do this!" I contemplated following the school bus, I had dreams about going on the school bus with her, I couldn't stop talking to her teacher and other parents about the bus, and finally, when I saw the teacher walking out with HJ after school, saying, "Sorry, she just kept saying she didn't want to go on the bus..." you can bet I let out a little sigh of relief!

Sometimes when she is having a tantrum or "rough day," I've gotten myself into the habit of holding her and asking, "Are you my baby girl? Are you Mommy's baby girl?" I know... it's probably not the best choice of words! But for some reason, whenever we have this exchange, she always calms down and looks at me with a little smile and nods, and suddenly, all is better with the world....

Learning Enthusiasm

Sunday, June 3, 2012

When I started this blog almost half a year ago, I titled it "My Spirited Girl," because I really wanted to focus on the positive aspects of my daughter versus dwelling on what some people might consider her limitations. Since then, thanks to other adoptive parents and a wonderful Montessori teacher, I've come across a couple other key books that have helped me with this daily challenge of parenting a special needs adopted child. One called The Connected Child: Bring hope and healing to your adoptive family by Karyn Purvis was such an encouraging, gentle reminder that adopted children have already been through so much in their young lives. And sometimes it takes an extra dose of compassion and nurturing to help them through some of that trauma.

The other book that I have been really intrigued by is called Kids Beyond Limits by Anat Baniel. Though it describes the stories of children with more significant special needs such as cerebral palsy or autism, this book has really opened my eyes to how much my own attitude can help or hinder the progress that HJ makes everyday. And my baby girl has really come a long way... A friend that recently brought home her baby boy from Korea reminded me of this in such a tangible way.

One of the key principles mentioned in Anat Baniel's book has to do simply with enthusiasm. She encourages parents to really, deeply, and quietly celebrate every tiny bit of progress that your child makes, and to feel that enthusiasm internally rather than just conveying it outwardly by clapping or saying, "Good job!" Because essentially, a child notices SO much about their parent's expressions and emotions and picks up on everything with great sensitivity. And sometimes there is nothing more encouraging (or on the other hand limiting) to a little kid than what mommy or daddy thinks. She also reminds parents that enthusiasm can be learned. We can learn to be enthusiastic by actually practicing it on a moment to moment basis. Rather than continually focus on our child's limitations and how far behind they still may be from what is "normal" -- she encourages parents to cherish and enjoy each little step that your child takes.

Not surprisingly this past week offered me many moments to practice my enthusiasm. Moments where HJ started having a tantrum, but quickly recovered and actually verbalized that she was hungry and wanted a snack... Moments where she shared a toy with Lila and told her "don't cry, it's ok," or when she let me wash her hair and actually closed her eyes and relaxed! Moments where she (almost) fell asleep on her own, or asked to sit on the potty like a big girl. There were of course moments where she also said, "I don't want to be 4... I want to be a baby like Lila...." but even in her expressing that sentiment I can tell she's come so far!

Today was actually a really stressful, difficult day for all of us for some reason, and when I was giving HJ a bath in the early evening, I tried to look deep into her eyes and just connect for a moment, to find out what had been bothering her all day... And she looked right back at me and with tears welling up in her eyes, she said, "I not feel good, Mommy. I sick..." And though we couldn't figure out whether it was bad allergies, a sinus headache, tummy ache, eczema, fatigue, or maybe all of the above, I wanted her to know we understood. We all have those bad days. Today was one of ours. But thank the Lord tomorrow's a new day. A new chance to start over and start fresh. Lately when HJ makes a mistake, for example, spill something, or accidentally knock something over, she has a tendency to say right away, "That's fine, that's fine... that's ok!" as a way of reassuring herself. Though I haven't always been the best at telling her that in the midst of one of her tantrums, I do want her to know it's ok... It really is fine, HJ. Tomorrow's a new day...

I take it all back...

Thursday, May 24, 2012

My poor, poor little girl...For the past year I have been dragging her around everywhere, to playdates and activities and all the things I thought were good for her and fun too, when today, on the last day of preschool ironically, I finally realized how overwhelmed and tired she must be.

Since today was her last day before summer vacation, her class had a little party for the parents and families. It was only from 9:00 - 10:30 a.m., but don't know if it's because we all slept late the night before, or if it was because it was so darned hot outside, but by the time the party was over, I was exhausted! And even my little extrovert Lila looked really glassy-eyed from all the stimulation and promptly conked out in the car as soon as we left school.

And the only thing that I kept thinking afterwards was, wow, so this is how it feels to go to preschool everyday, and I'm a grown-up! There's so much stimulation, even just being outside and running around, eating snacks, music time, and for HJ's class, therapy time like pushing herself on a scooter while lying on her tummy, and it all starts so early at 7:30 a.m! Actually, we were late again today, and poor HJ did not even eat breakfast. She just rolled out of bed and we rushed off to school.

Being the on-the-go person that I am, and already having had my alone time and quiet time at home in the mornings while HJ went to preschool, there were many days where I scheduled things for right after school. I would pick her up and we would rush off to meet another friend, have lunch with my dad, go to music class or the park, or whatever was on that day's to do list.  Poor HJ! She would just have to go along, and then I would wonder why she would always fall asleep in the car after lunch, and we often ended up missing her afternoon classes at Montessori or My Gym.

You would think that as HJ's mom, I would have realized this sooner! I don't know what was wrong with me. I knew in my mind that HJ was an introvert and homebody, more like Sol, but in my day to day planning, I just did not take that into account enough. When it came down to it, I think I just continued to operate the way I knew best, which was to squeeze in as much activity as I could in the time we had. I mean, even when we're on vacation, I have to resist the urge to do too much. It's hard for me to say, Ok, we'll just do one thing today and not stress out about the other things we could be doing as well...I guess I was sort of living life as a stay-at-home mom like we were permanently on vacation and just squeezing in as much as we possibly could!

In many subtle and not so subtle ways, I think God has been trying to send me the message that I need to SLOW down and listen for His voice in the way that I parent. But for some reason I've been really resistant. Maybe it's just because it's easier for me to do things the way that they come naturally to me, but through HJ I've been learning that there are some things that are too important in life, such as raising your children, to do without more thought, care, effort, and sacrifice.

I'm hoping this summer will be a chance for me to take a step back and ask for a redo. Sorry HJ, Mommy's not been too sensitive to your needs and how God has uniquely made you... Here's hoping this summer means less running around like crazy people and more time enjoying life and one another...

Happy Mother's Day, Daddy!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Now for a belated Mother's Day post... Well, it turns out HJ really loves Mother's Day. Last weekend's festivities included a fancy brunch where she had her fill of her favorite foods (watermelon, bacon, and oatmeal) and a "Mommy and me" garden tea party with cupcakes, crafts, and balloons, after which she basically asked, Why we do this? "It's for Mother's Day," I told her, and I could see from her expression that she wasn't sure what that was, but it didn't really matter because it meant lots of fun with her favorite people, Daddy, Mimi eemo (my sister), Ha-Ji (grandpa), and Nee (grandma).

Breakfast on Sunday was special pancakes made by Daddy, at church she got to make a purple flower pen and decorate a card, and Mimi, Ha-Ji, and Nee all came over for dinner and cake, and she couldn't stop saying "Happy Mother's Day!" very exuberantly to everyone, including Sol and my dad. Even as the week has gone on, she likes to say with a big smile, "Happy Mother's Day, Mommy (or Daddy!)" whenever she thinks of it.

Honestly, during the past few weeks I haven't had my best mothering moments. But luckily, as I've mentioned before, HJ has a lot in common with her daddy. Sol and HJ just get each other, so Sol was doing his best to explain our daughter's perspective to me when I was frustrated with HJ's inability to get over small issues. Lately, we've had a lot of meltdowns (both HJ and me) over not being able to find things. I fully admit that this has to do with my organizational deficiencies, but often it just happens at the worst times and with an overly emotional reaction from HJ that was driving me nuts.

Here is a typical scene: Getting ready to go out the door for preschool, HJ sees one of Lila's Mickey Mouse sleepers in the corner. Not only does she have to take it to school, she now has to find the other sleeper from the Disney Store that she considers "matching" with the Mickey Mouse one. Problem is, Mommy has no idea where the other sleeper is. It could be in the laundry room, the diaper bag, Lila's room upstairs, who knows. "We'll find it later," I tell HJ and try to usher her out the door but the damage is already done. HJ must find the sleeper, or she cannot go to school. If she does not find the sleeper, she will not be able to move on, literally, which she demonstrates by repeatedly asking for the sleeper, at first politely, "Please, Mommy!" but then with increasing urgency until it is a full-blown tantrum with no chance of reasoning with her. By this time, I am feeling completely out of control myself and Lila is more often than not crying as well. Sometimes we miraculously find the object that HJ is looking for, other times I somehow force her into the car and we just get to wherever we need to go, but not without a lot of tears, frustration, and bad feelings for everyone.

I've gotten a lot of suggestions from others, which I'm sure have worked for other parents, ranging from getting rid of a lot of her "stuff," to reorganizing and labeling her playroom, or simply ignoring what she is asking for. A friend even suggested medicating her for anxiety if she was a little older. We have actually tried many of these ideas (minus the medication) to some extent, but the problem is nothing seems to provide a long-term solution. My worry is that HJ will be forever unable to function with this inability to move on when she fixates on something that she needs at the moment. Sol keeps reassuring me that things will get better, and that HJ will slowly learn to cope with these issues of hers, just as everyone else learns to deal with whatever issues they have. He used an example of how he also cannot function or "move on" when he sees a mess around the house. Everything must go in the place it belongs before he can relax. Poor Sol and HJ, they both have to live with someone like me who most of the time doesn't even notice the mess. I am one of those people who would probably be oblivious to the sky falling down around me if I was focused on something else.

One night after a particularly bad episode with HJ, I came across a book called The Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children by Ross W. Greene. I haven't even gotten halfway through the book, but I'm cautiously optimistic that this approach will give me some practical ways to deal with HJ's meltdowns. "Easily frustrated" and "chronically inflexible" seem to be pretty accurate ways to describe HJ, at least in those moments where she is likely to have these meltdowns. Although the labels sound negative, the book so far has given me a much more sympathetic perspective on what is possibly going on in HJ's mind and how to help her during these times. Again, it kind of comes back to something not functioning entirely correctly in her brain when she is having these moments of anxiety and emotional overload. The book suggests that we as parents have to remain calm during these episodes and essentially serve as our child's "frontal lobe" until she develops the part of her brain where she can verbalize and effectively respond to frustration. It's an interesting idea, and with my mother's instinct, I do feel that this partially explains what is going on with HJ. Early on, the book also mentions that children with language delays are more likely to have difficulty problem-solving and expressing their frustration in a productive manner.

It's only been a couple days since I've tried implementing some of the collaborative problem-solving and sympathizing that the book suggests, and already I've seen it work. It almost seems too simple, but it also requires some on-the-spot creativity that I'm going to have to get better at. For example, the other night, we were quickly approaching meltdown mode late in the evening before HJ's bedtime when HJ kept insisting that she had to see Nee, Mimi, and Ha-ji at that very moment. I could feel my blood pressure rising as HJ's "Please, Mommy!" started becoming louder and more urgent, when Sol jumped in and said calmly, "You want to see Nee, Mimi, and Ha-ji? How about we call them?" HJ literally stopped in her tracks and you could see the wheels turning in her head. "Ok," she said, and phew, one phone call later, tantrum and meltdown avoided!

And today, on the way home after a long morning of errands and driving around, we were passing by the mall, when HJ suddenly started requesting, "Mommy, please, please can we go to the mall?" I had to think of something quickly. A simple "No, not now," wasn't working, and HJ was approaching her cranky need to take a nap immediately stage. "Do you want to go the mall?" I asked her. "Did you want to go to the play area? How about we set up a play area at home instead?" I ventured. And phew, another meltdown averted. It appeared her real desire was not to go the mall, but just to have some time to play and run around after being cooped up in the car all day. "Ok," said HJ. "We clean up the mess and play at home," she agreed. Of course, HJ had to throw in that part about cleaning up the mess!

It's not that I don't want HJ to respect me, or ideally just comply when I tell her not to do something, but just telling her not to get so upset with whatever was bothering her was clearly not working. And the more successes we both have in problem-solving this way, I'm hoping the meltdowns will be less frequent and that my patience and understanding for my spirited little girl will only grow.

The World According to HJ - Part 2

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

There were so many things that I forgot to include in my last post about the funny, sweet, uniquely HJ things that HJ says that I decided to compose a second edition. I like that it helps keep things in perspective for me, especially when we've had a rough couple weeks with sickness, crazy sleepless nights, and hectic mornings. So here goes, Part 2 of "The World According to HJ..."

"Mommy, I'm three," said very seriously in response to my worrying out loud to Sol about what HJ is going to be like when she is a teenager.

"Mommy, why you do that with your eyes?" asked when I was trying to imitate the cute, scrunched-up face she makes when she's trying to explain something or tell a dramatic story.

"I not want to relax!" in response to the constant reminders I give her to "just relax" when I am trying to shampoo her hair during her bath.

"I here, Lila. Don't cry, I here," when she gets into the car after I pick her up from preschool and she sees that Lila has been wailing away in her car seat.

"Hooray! You find your keys, Mommy!" with much clapping and fanfare after a particularly stressful morning of running around looking for my car keys before her friend Andrew's "Diego" birthday party.

"Ha-ji, look at this! Ha-ji, you want this?" said in a very sweet voice to my dad after a day after she had been not on her best behavior at my parents' house. She also offered him a tiny piece of her snack (normally HJ is most definitely not a food-sharer.)

"I lost my muffin! Call Mrs. Strauts!" said very urgently when she came home from preschool and she thought she had left her peach muffin from breakfast at school.

"I don't want Mommy go class, go doctor appointment, or color your hair," in an effort to remember all the times I had to leave her in the past week to do something where she couldn't come along.

"I don't want Lila to look my window, only her window," said while we were driving somewhere and Lila kept peering out of her car seat towards her direction.

"No Daddy! You're Korean!" when Sol tried to read the Spanish words in her Dora book.

"How morning, guys!" (translation "Good morning, guys") said very enthusiastically and loudly to her classmates when she came to preschool late yet again.

"Bye, friends! Bye!" as she leaves preschool everyday. Did I mention she loves preschool?

"I don't like Daddy make a fire and steak" (translation - No grilling, Daddy! Why? We're not sure. She doesn't like "the fire...")

"I want Daddy cook something else." And for some reason the only thing she wants Daddy to cook? Eggs... And more specifically, "No yellow part, only white."

Yes, that's our girl, our little HJ... Seriously, I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried...

The World According to HJ

Monday, April 9, 2012

So HJ has been talking up a storm these days. I'm not sure if it's the speech therapy, her age, or if she's just ready to share her thoughts with the world, but I'm loving it. I'm trying hard to remember all the funny and insightful things she says, because I know even a year ago, it was rare to hear her express so much verbally. So in no particular order, here are some of the things HJ has said in the last week that I don't want to forget...

"Mommy, it's a beautiful day," as we walk into church and she's eating a piece of canadian bacon and hashbrown from breakfast.

"I want Daddy to buy me that ________ " (fill in the blank -- bounce house, giant green plastic frog at the mall playground, whatever strikes her fancy). I find it pretty endearing at this point that she thinks Daddy can and will buy her whatever she wants. It's not like he really does.... usually!

"Daddy fix that..." in regard to any toy that breaks or runs out of batteries. To Sol's credit, he once painstakingly glued together a tiny plastic flower ring that Mommy had accidentally stepped on. 

"I want to lie down outside and look at the clouds with Corinna."

"No highway for you!" before Sol goes to work every morning. Sometimes followed by, "No highway. Not for Daddy, not for Mommy!"  for extra emphasis. 

"No Swiper, No!" every time Lila grabs one of HJ's toys and starts putting it in her mouth. Apparently Lila = Swiper. 

"No orange soap for you, Mommy (or Daddy)" -- HJ is very particular about which soap we use in the bathroom. The orange soap is hers; the blue soap is for everyone else. 

"Nobody look at my baby!" or "Nobody hold my baby!" Although Lila = Swiper sometimes, apparently she is also HJ's baby, and HJ is a very protective big sister!

Although there are still moments where I feel like we are playing charades with HJ (i.e. when she can't find something she's looking for and she can't quite describe it, I'm always like, "Ok, what color is it?" "Is it a book? A toy? Where did you play with it?") overall life has become a thousand times easier now that she can tell us how she's feeling and what she's thinking. Thank the Lord for those speech therapists and the fact that eventually HJ seems to catch up developmentally with her peers, even if it's on her own timetable. Just like everything else she does, I guess it's not her style to follow the crowd. She's just a girl who always has her own plans in mind... And now she's willing to let the world know all about it...

His Princess

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Every morning before Sol goes to work, he has a special way of saying goodbye. He kisses each one of us on the forehead and says, "Bye Princess One, Princess Two, and Princess Three" -- hopefully I'm not embarrassing him too much by revealing this tender-hearted side of him that few people see!

The funny thing is lately HJ has been modifying the routine (as usual with her own way of doing things). Before Sol can kiss her and say "Bye Princess Two," she says, "No Daddy! Kiss my back!" Or "Daddy! Kiss my hand!" And she stretches out her hand with a big smile and laughs when her daddy acquiesces. This kiss to start the day has become so important to her that one time when Sol thought she was sleeping and he didn't say his usual goodbye, she woke up right away and the first thing she said was, "Daddy forgot to kiss me!"

Honestly I am so thankful that HJ has such a special relationship with Sol. It already seems to make her such a confident little girl, and I'm really hoping this continues into her teenage years and beyond. When Sol and I were filling out a slew of paperwork for HJ's IEP meeting, one of the questions in the parent survey was, "What are your hopes and dreams for your child?" I remember thinking, wow, that's one tough question to be asking, when Sol immediately replied, "To become a woman of joy. And a defender of the weak." I loved that Sol answered the question that way, and I loved even more that he knew exactly what his dreams and hopes were for HJ. It reminded me that our hopes for our daughter are not limited to just succeeding academically, but that there are greater things to be concerned about, life-long things about her character that will matter more in the long run than whatever worldly accomplishments she achieves.

Sol and I were just talking tonight about how glad we are that HJ is so secure in who she is. We're really fortunate in that she received so much love and individual attention at the orphanage, and even now, wherever she goes she seems to be the sort of child that doesn't get easily ignored (for good or bad I suppose!). Another good thing is that she doesn't really fall prey to that weakness that many girls have where they subconsciously feel a bit competitive with other girls and have a hard time sharing the spotlight. Yes, I know she's only 3.5 years old, but I think I can already tell that she's kind of blissfully unconcerned with petty jealousies or cliques or what people think of her. Again I'm hoping this is another character trait that will serve her well as she gets older when that subtle sort of competition can really be draining. I realize, too, that there's a difference between being a "princess" in the spoiled sense of the word, a girl who expects that everything will revolve around her, versus being a "princess" in the calm, confident, "I have a father (and Father in Heaven) who loves me so unconditionally that I know my identity and that I am a precious and valuable person."

It may have taken me a while to arrive at my own answer to the question, but I know now that these really are my hopes and dreams for HJ, and for Lila as well. Thankfully these two little princesses have a daddy who's given them a head start in this arena.

I have a special needs child

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A couple months before HJ came home, we unexpectedly received a notice from the agency in Korea asking us to sign a Class B Medical Waiver. Essentially, it's a document that asks parents to acknowledge that yes, you know your child might have some developmental delays and you are still ok proceeding with the adoption.

Looking back, we pretty much went into HJ's adoption with a huge leap of faith. We didn't know much about her birthmom, we knew absolutely nothing about her biological dad, and we knew nothing of her prenatal or genetic history. What we did know, deep in our hearts, was that she was meant to be our child. From the moment that my mom told me that my grandfather had a baby girl at the orphanage, and asked us if we knew anyone that wanted to adopt her, we knew she was ours.

Still, for some reason that Class B Waiver really threw us off when we received it. At least for me, I was confused. Hadn't my grandfather assured us that HJ was the healthiest, smartest, most beautiful baby he had ever seen in his 50 years at the orphanage? Yes, he was clearly biased and smitten by HJ, but it just didn't occur to us that she could have any serious delays. We knew she was not babbling as much as other babies and that she wasn't crawling or holding up her head very well, but we assumed at the time that she would soon catch up.

When she came to us at 14 months old, she was still not walking and talking much. I chalked it up to the shock of her transition and her sensitive temperament. But when she ended up qualifying for occupational, speech, developmental and behavioral therapy through Early Intervention, I shed some tears because now her delays were becoming more of a reality. She made incredible gains those first couple years, and I kind of convinced myself that she was going to be fine. I told Sol, "I don't want her to go to Harvard or anything, I just want her to have a normal education and not have to struggle too much in school." Growing up, I had been one of those kids who loved school and was basically your typical Korean American overachiever, along with most of my friends. But just because of that, I didn't want to put any undue pressure on HJ. I just didn't want her to be made fun of, or labeled unfairly, or given fewer opportunities to excel.

So when HJ turned three and aged out of Early Intervention, we had our first IEP meeting with the school district to see if she qualified for special education preschool. This is where the difficult decisions really came into play. We knew she had made so much progress since her adoption, but we also knew she had some major sensory issues and still needed support. After a tense and drawn-out meeting, the therapists and teachers actually took a vote and determined that it would be better to put HJ in the least restrictive environment possible, which meant a regular preschool classroom, but she would continue receiving speech therapy on a weekly basis.

Fast forward about 9 months, and Sol and I found ourselves in another IEP meeting to re-evaluate HJ's placement. This time I wasn't pregnant, but now we had a very active and squirmy 8 month old trying to distract us. Nevertheless, this meeting went much more smoothly, and it was decided that HJ would benefit from more intensive special education services. It may have taken me almost a year, but now I was ready to accept it. HJ had special needs.

I asked for a diagnosis this time, so I could better understand how to help my daughter. They told us she has verbal apraxia. The speech therapist described it as a disconnect between her brain and the ability to plan the movements her mouth has to make to form certain sounds and words. The scary part of it is that it is considered a neurological speech issue, and that is something that she will probably have to deal with for the rest of her life. The good thing is she will now be receiving even more therapy to address her specific needs, and it looks like they caught it as early as they possibly could.

HJ had her first day at her new special education preschool today. I was so proud of her for how well she adjusted to her new teacher and classmates, and how she took it all in stride. Now that I better understand what she has been going through to try to communicate with us and everyone around her, I am even more amazed at all that she's overcome in her 3.5 years on this earth. She lost her birthmom and her first caregiver, she survived a move from a completely different country and culture, and she adjusted beautifully to a new baby sister and starting school, all the while dealing with the frustration of not being able to express the words she knew she wanted to say out loud. As her mom, all I can say is, I'm so proud of my baby girl. She's not a baby anymore... She's really growing up before our very eyes...

A mother's instinct

Monday, March 12, 2012

A dear, dear friend who is also adopting recently had a baby shower where we were asked to share "words of wisdom" and good old-fashioned advice for the new mom. I always struggle with being put on the spot in situations like this, but this time I knew just what I wanted to say. Basically, "You're going to get a lot of advice. But trust yourself. Trust your gut. You will know what to do for your baby because you're the mom."

It's not that I'm against getting advice from other people. In fact, I think I'm the type of person that attracts an unusually large amount of "well, this worked for me" or "why don't you try it this way" kind of advice... Maybe it's because I look so frazzled running around with two kids all the time? I actually had a stranger stop me at the grocery store and ask, "Is there anything I can do to help?" as I struggled to put Lila in the Ergo while HJ was tugging at my hand and simultaneously holding a million of her security items...

In any case, I think the best advice I've gotten in the past 2.5 years since HJ came home was from a pastor and another adoptive parent with four other kids. After a particularly stressful parenting situation erupted involving another mom and her child (soon after Lila was born and my emotions were running even higher than usual), he essentially told me, "Listen. No one knows your child like you do. And many of the people giving you advice are not adoptive parents themselves. So do what's best for your child." When I heard those words spoken to me, I felt this immense relief, like a huge burden had been lifted from me. I had been bracing myself for more "helpful" words such as, "You need to be more consistent. You need to be more structured. Your child doesn't respect you" etc... But when he said, "No one knows your child like you do," I suddenly knew that was the truth. 

Now I'm also not saying that people who haven't adopted can't give good advice to people with adopted kids. It's just that I've noticed that there's this automatic connection between adoptive parents where you just "get each other." I kind of liken it to the way that as a Korean-American, there are certain things I just get about other people who are second-generation and grew up with first-generation immigrant parents. There are some things you have gone through that are similar enough, despite our individual personalities and life circumstances, that cause you to have a shared reality.
On the other hand, my mom recently remarked how strange it was that I'm like an old school Korean mama, meaning I sleep with my girls, I sometimes feed Lila on my lap, and both seem permanently attached to me (on my front or back, sometimes at the same time!)... And according to my mom, they are spoiled rotten.

I used to joke that I would never "spoil" Lila the way that they coddled HJ when she was in Korea that first year of her life... but now that I have an infant, I'm the one eating my own words... Honestly, it's just what works best for our family at this point in our lives. And it doesn't mean I pass judgment on others who choose to parent their kids another way. Actually, just today at church I was commiserating with a couple other moms who also co-sleep with their babies about both the joys and pains of sleeping together with your little one(s). In our circle we're the ones who are the rarity for not having successfully sleep-trained, and I often confess I feel embarrassed about it! Funny that in Korea it's still the norm... I should have thought more carefully about the whole sleep issue before buying that expensive and currently unused crib from Pottery Barn...Wishful thinking at the time I guess.

Don't know what it is about being a mom, but deep down I think there's always this insecurity that you're not doing everything right. Well, scratch that. For sure you're not doing everything right, but add in a dose of perfectionism and high-achievement, Asian-American, goal-oriented, comparison-driven nature, and the competitiveness of parenting can sometimes get a little out of hand. For example, I've never heard these words actually spoken out loud to me, but there's sometimes this subtle undertone I hear, and it might be coming from myself, "Oh you're just a stay-at-home mom? Kind of a waste of your master's degree, no?" Or, "Why do you need a break? You're home all day and not working..."

I recently was lucky enough, thanks to my understanding husband, parents, and sister, to get away for a girls' weekend trip WITHOUT THE KIDS. The reactions I got from other moms were great, ranging from the lines of "You go, girl!" to "Wow, that's pretty nice of your husband" to "I wish I would've done that" or "I did that last year and it was the best thing ever...." When I was totally stressed the day I was leaving, my mom called me and said, "Don't worry about your kids. Go and have fun. We'll take care of them," and honestly I felt like crying because that was the best thing to hear at the moment when I was seriously thinking I was crazy for leaving my 8 month old and very demanding 3 year old for three nights...And yes, I couldn't sleep the first night at all, probably because I didn't have both my kids hanging all over me, and I was worried whether they were getting any sleep at all, but by the morning after the second night I was finally able to relax and reflect on how good life was, not because I was away from the kids, but because of them and because I actually had the time to appreciate my family.

Now it's back to life, back to reality, with barely a moment to think other than late at night, early in the morning, or when the kids are napping, as long as I haven't fallen asleep myself! But you know as they say, I wouldn't trade my life now for anything. I just wish I had more time to enjoy it before these days pass me by...


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

HJ is very emphatic with her words and facial expressions, hand gestures, body language, tone of voice, etc... So even though she is delayed in her speech, Sol and I were just commenting that she's pretty good at communicating in other ways so she gets her point across pretty well.

So just imagine HJ saying, over and over again, in a very loud, very serious voice, with her eyes really big, and her head nodding up and down with each word, and her little hands outstretched, imploringly, "MOMMY. I CAN'T FIND YOU! I CAN'T FIND YOU AT THE Y!!!"

This has been my reality for the past couple weeks. Why did I do this to myself, I have to ask several times a day, when HJ starts "MOMMY. I CAN'T FIND YOU..."

What happened was I signed up for a groupon for a 3 month membership at the YMCA. Again, another one of those things where I thought, Great! I can finally exercise and not pay $90 a month at Lifetime and still get free babysitting for a couple hours.

The thing is, the first time I went to Zumba, it shockingly went even better than I could have hoped for. I had taken  HJ and Lila to see the childcare room a few days in advance. I showed HJ the toys that they had, the Barbie dollhouse, the puzzles, the little fisher price school bus... She was actually excited. So the day I wanted to try it out, we went early, got snacks, and HJ sat down and colored the whole time and Lila amazingly did not cry or fuss at all. And I got to exercise, without the kids... A miracle.... Of course this was too good to be true...

The next week I thought since everything had gone so well previously, that I should try a Pilates class with my friend. Couple things were working against me though. #1) The class started at 6:30 p.m., which meant I had to rush to feed the kids beforehand and #2) HJ kept saying, Mommy, no exercising! I don't want to go to the Y. Yes, bad parent that I am, I decided that HJ would be fine once we got to the Y and she saw the place where she had so much fun before, and I put the kids in the car and we went anyway.

Ok, I guess there were more than a couple things working against me... When we got to the parking lot, HJ still did not want to get out, so I basically had to bribe her by saying she could pick a snack from the vending machine, and she happily changed her mind. She got her snack and we went to the childcare room, and it was PACKED. Last time, HJ and Lila were the only kids. Another bad sign, but I decided we had made it this far and I wasn't turning back... So I said bye, have fun, Daddy will meet you here after work, and left for the class. No tears at this point, and I thought all was well...

Now I assumed the Pilates class would be meeting right across the hall, in the room which has a wall of windows where you can see everyone in the class. I told Sol if there was any drama with the kids, he could just come and get me. Turns out the class was moved to another room where there were no windows, and it was a bit further away from the childcare room...Yes, another bad sign that I ignored...

About halfway into the class, I hear the distinct wailing and screaming, of not just one, but yes, both of my children... I left the room to find them in the hallway, with poor Sol, struggling to get HJ in her winter jacket and Lila trying to break free from the infant carseat that is really too small for her at this point and probably contributing to her protesting so loudly every time we put her in it...I could see that HJ was about to really lose it and pretty much throw herself on the ground, so I quickly picked her up and said, "Mommy's here, what's wrong?"

According to Sol, the kids were fine until he came to pick them up. I mistakenly had not explained clearly enough to HJ that when Daddy came he was coming to take them home, and that Mommy would meet them at home later. So problem #1-- HJ did not want to leave without me. And Problem #2 -- they didn't know where I was.

Still holding HJ, I went back to the Pilates room, and tried to gather my things without making a scene... The teacher looked at me sympathetically and said, "That's ok... Maybe it will go better next time?" I smiled and nodded, but I was really thinking, not likely...

We made it home and I was helping HJ out of the carseat when she stopped and looked at me with big, fat tears in her eyes and said it for the first time, "MOMMY. I CAN'T FIND YOU! I CAN'T FIND YOU AT THE Y!" And she started wailing again and threw her arms around my neck. Seriously. Dagger in my heart. Mommy guilt to the max...

And I kid you not, for the past two weeks, this phrase has been repeated, randomly, several times a day, to make sure that I do not forget that Mommy, your daughter could not find you at the Y, and she is still not over the traumatic experience and she does not want you to ever forget it... Sigh... So much for trying to save some money, exercise, and have a little time to myself... I guess it's back to running through the mall with my giant double stroller, both kids in tow, as usual...

HJ (and mommy's) Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Thursday, February 16, 2012

I think I have sufficiently recovered from the stress of last Friday to look back and laugh... a little.. .Or maybe it will serve as a warning to me the next time I delude myself into thinking I can do a million things when I am dragging around a very sensitive 3.5 year old and a 7 month old who doesn't like her carseat...

The morning started off with a LONG evaluation for HJ to see if she needs any additional therapies and switch preschools from her small, cozy, 2 day a week Lutheran church program to the 4 day a week intensive special-ed class at the public preschool. Honestly I was more nervous than HJ, who probably was just annoyed that these strangers were asking her to do basic things like count to ten, identify shapes and colors and body parts and put together a tower of blocks. Every time they asked her to do something, she kind of looked at them like, "Yea I can do this but I don't want to right now and you can't make me..."

I have to give credit to the speech therapist who found all kinds of creative ways to get her to participate, mainly by convincing her that she was playing a game rather than being tested. So after over an hour of Pinkalicious dolls counting candles on cupcakes and princess stickers stuck all over Curious George, we raced off to our next activity-- "Stroller Steps" as HJ likes to call it.

Now I would gladly have skipped the class after the long and drawn-out evaluation, but HJ doesn't like having her routine upset, and Friday mornings means "Stroller Steps" at the mall with "baby Mitchell." I grabbed our giant double stroller, loaded it up with snacks and exercise bands and all the other stuff that HJ needs for security, and we literally ran through the mall looking for the other moms and strollers. They're pretty hard to miss, and we eventually joined up and finished a surprisingly tough class of lunges and jumping jacks and singing Old McDonald had a farm...

I tried to be a good mom and pack some healthy snacks for HJ and Lila, but after finishing them off and eating baby Mitchell's snacks too, HJ decided she really needed a Mcdonald's hash brown. Against my better judgment I got her the hashbrown and then we booked it to our next activity, Korean class.

Up until now it hadn't been that bad of a day, but things from here went downhill pretty quickly. To get to Korean class, which was in the city, meant taking the highway, which for some reason HJ says is "scary" and "too fast" (Sol asked her if it was just mommy's driving that was too fast, but HJ said it was both mommy and daddy so I was a little bit redeemed there!). Being in the city meant no parking which meant walking pretty far lugging the 30 lb carseat (b/c I didn't have the snap-and-go with me b/c of previously mentioned giant double stroller taking up our entire trunk) and HJ carrying her hashbrown and her numerous bags of stuff while cars whizzed by us.

Got to Korean class late, and it was our first day, so HJ was really staring down the nice Korean teacher and refusing to participate in her nice Korean songs and games. Lila, on the other hand, was having a ball with all the stimulation, but all I could keep thinking was I probably need to nurse her before we leave and get back on the scary, too fast highway. Apple juice and crackers after class seemed like the perfect break for HJ, who have you noticed, never says no to snacks. But being so distracted with Lila and another 8 month old sibling who was HUGE compared to little Lila by the way, I sat HJ on a high table and stool to eat her crackers. The next thing I know, there is a huge crash and HJ (and chair) are toppled on the floor and HJ is wailing. Granted, it was a pretty tall stool and a long way down, but if you don't know HJ, she is a DRAMA queen under even the most normal of circumstances so you can only imagine the loud crying that ensued from this incident.

HJ got a purple lollipop and that seemed to distract her enough to get us out the door, until we were back in the car and she decided she needed a different color lollipop, not purple. At this point I seriously debated going back and getting another lollipop just to avoid an hour of crying on the highway, but HJ managed to calm down enough so that wasn't necessary. Phew.

Basically, we made it home in one piece, but we did have to stop at McDonald's again (yes I know, two times in one day, really bad) and I decided that Korean class in the city is too much for us at this time. It's too bad because I really loved the idea of HJ learning Korean with her friends who are also adopted, but that will have to go on the list of things that sound good in theory but in reality don't quite work out (i.e. ballet class..)

Ever since this day, HJ has been re-enacting her dramatic fall from the chair numerous times for Daddy's benefit... Now I wish I could say that we will never have such a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day again, but I can already think of another day that probably falls in this category... I will have to save that for another post since I am already getting exhausted from recounting this one...

I Don't Want to Forget...

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

HJ remembers everything... Where she left her toys... Who gave her what present... The store we visited just one time months before... Her sentences these days often begin with, "I remember..."

It makes me wonder, what memories does she still have about her life in Korea before we adopted her? Recently when Lila was crying inconsolably, HJ went to her room, and a few moments later came back with a podaegi that her caretaker had used to carry her everywhere. We probably hadn't brought out that podaegi in the past two years, but it amazed me that HJ instinctively thought of giving it to Lila because she knew it made her feel better when she was a baby...

When HJ first came home and we video-chatted with my grandfather and her previous caretaker in Korea, HJ would often get really sad and quiet and it just seemed like she was remembering and missing everyone in the orphanage. Some people have told us that children are so resilient and that babies can't remember that much, but at least for HJ it seems there are these emotional memories that she holds onto from the life she had before she came to us.

We often joke that HJ is a "f.o.b" or 1.5 generation and generally more "Korean" than we are, even though she was still a baby when she was adopted. She LOVES eating "bop" and "gook" and would prefer Korean banchan to American food any day. And these days she loves learning new Korean words from "nee" and "ha-ji" (grandma and grandpa), so we're thinking about enrolling her in Korean school before this moment passes us by!

This is all to say that I've been thinking lately... there are things that I don't want to forget either. I don't want to forget how far our daughter has come.... When there are days like today where there were diaper explosions and tears and naps that weren't taken, I want to remember the magic of meeting our daughter for the first time, the first time I held her when she cried at night, the first time she said "umma" and rested her head on my shoulder. I don't want to forget that it's a miracle she's here and part of our family, that people on both sides of the world said it couldn't be done, but God allowed it to happen, and for that, I'm always thankful.

Mommy too much people

Monday, January 23, 2012

"Mommy nobody come over! Too much people!" has been a favorite phrase of HJ's lately. Along with "Stop laughing guys!" "Oh no too much stuff!" and "Don't take my picture Mommy!" You can probably get a sense of my daughter's temperament based on the frequency with which she uses these phrases! Uncannily like my husband (in more ways than we ever expected), HJ is a true introvert, "true to herself" as I am trying to say positively, rather than "not very outgoing" or "not a people person."

This weekend while I took the girls to a friend's birthday party, Sol spent almost six hours rearranging and cleaning HJ's bedroom, putting up a pink princess canopy tent in the corner so she can hide out for some of her cherished alone time. When we came home, HJ was THRILLED to say the least. Ever since her room has been "fixed by Daddy" as HJ likes to say, her new favorite phrase is "NOBODY GO IN MY ROOM!" I have to laugh because it sounds just like someone else in our household, a certain husband and father who makes it clear that no one else should step foot in his office, AKA "man cave" :)

In a previous life, pre-children, I had always thought I was an introvert as well. After having two kids I quickly realized that I am becoming more and more of an extrovert... Some days when we don't leave the house at all, I feel like all the life has been slowly drained from me and I can hardly function. It's a strange feeling, but being home with two young kids has made me feel more alone than the days when I used to work from home for hours at a time or just read and write in solitude.

I have often thought how ironic it is that my daughter is such an introvert and homebody when I am discovering how much I enjoy being with other people and being out and about. Sol, the one who understands HJ intuitively because he feels the same way, is always reminding me to give our daughter more unstructured time at home to unwind and de-stress. I'm trying hard to find a balance so that HJ gets the chance to recharge but also socialize and try new things. Although she resists at first, from experience I know that she eventually really enjoys and appreciates those times.

There are so many activities that I sometimes feel like I drag her to... Little gym, apple-picking, the pumpkin farm, the children's museum, the waterpark... I know she will enjoy these activities once we get there, but sometimes it's a battle convincing her to go. I have to smile though when months after we've been somewhere she wakes up one morning and says, "Mommy, I went to the pumpkin farm. WIth Sarah and Corinna and mommy. I had fun on the strawberry ride." It must've made more of an impact than I realized at the time!

So while others may think I'm crazy, I plan to continue exposing her to new experiences and classes, because I know in the end it will be worth it for her. In Raising Your Spirited Child there's a chapter that discusses children who have a "nonapproaching trait" or in other words, have a cautious first reaction to everything. Again, that describes HJ perfectly. But as the author says, this doesn't mean that all new situations need to be avoided. Just like everything else with HJ, there just needs to be a little extra preparation, encouragement, and support before she can fully jump in and enjoy herself. Some of the suggestions in the book: arriving early, bringing along a friend, viewing a video beforehand, or creating a picture planner. Lord help me if I actually have the time and energy to do these things with HJ before we start a new activity, but at least I have some ideas now rather than wondering why I'm the only parent holding my 3 year old in ballet class while the other girls are happily dancing with the instructor. I do have to confess part of me was a little bit sad when the ballet classes had to be canceled. Putting her hair in a bun, wearing the same outfit as everyone else, quietly following instructions, not quite the thing for our spirited girl I suppose! But getting to do her own thing in art class, or running around in gymnastics, that brings a smile to her face.

Sometimes I've thought that my husband would be a better stay at home parent than I would, especially with the way that his personality matches up with HJ's. I picture their calm and scheduled days, an orderly house, the dishes washed and the laundry folded and put away, and a happy father and daughter snuggling on the couch. Perhaps it will happen in another stage of our lives if it ever comes to that... But for now, it's me and my girls, trying to make things work as best as we can... It's funny how things work out differently than we expect, but I'm trusting that God has a plan for us in this season of life and I'm hoping that being there for my girls is what they need right now... Ask me again another day and I might have a different answer, but for now this is my story and I'm sticking to it :)

Transitions for a spirited child

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Who actually likes change? I thought I did... I thought I thrived on it ... until the events of this past year hit seemingly all at once and we were left a little breathless, like in the aftermath of a sudden storm where you're left thinking, what just happened here? In the course of a few months we bought a new house, moved to a new town, had a baby, started going to a new church, and HJ started preschool.  According to those life stressors scales, we were off the charts.

Now for my daughter, all kinds of transitions, big and small, are potentially stressful. I know lots of little kids have a lovey or security blanket that they like to carry around with them to help ease transitions from home to wherever they're going, but HJ is a little bit different in this way. Every time we have to leave the house (or go to a different room in the house), she needs to gather all her "stuff"... sometimes it's just putting random little toys into a bag, other times she wants to take a little more "baggage" -- clothes, books, food, whatever makes her feel safe and comfortable at the time... So when someone at church asks me why she's holding five pairs of her socks and a bag of chips I just have to shrug and say, that's my HJ...

So for my daughter, this past year has been rough to say the least. For the most part, she dealt with the changes amazingly well. We were especially thankful for the way that she adjusted to baby L, being more protective of her than jealous, and always wanting to make sure we were physically "all together" as a family. Sure, it made things a little uncomfortable when someone wanted to hold baby and HJ freaked out because she couldn't see her, and yes, it was inconvenient when we ALL had to go together to HJ's swim lessons, but overall we were really proud of the way she was handling everything.

That's not to say that there haven't been some crazy moments in the past few months. The book Raising Your Spirited Child mentions something called "spill-over tantrums" and explains how spirited children are often the "emotional barometer" of the stress in your home. HJ has always been sensitive emotionally, but it took me longer than it should have to realize that a lot of her tantrums and emotional outbursts were really indicators of how stressed we all were with the changes in our lives. When I remember that, it helps me to have just that extra bit of patience when we're at the end of a long day and it feels like we're all going to lose it. It makes me think, what's triggering this tantrum, rather than, oh Lord, here we go again...

There are other things I should remind myself of more often. Like how happy she is when I drop her off at "Miss Susan's school"... Even now when I zip up her pink and blue Dora jacket before I send her off in the morning, I sometimes tear up a little. I thought the day would never come when I could just wave and say "Bye, see you soon!" and she would go off with a big smile. 

I don't know if it's because she's our first child, or because she's adopted and it seemed like we waited so long for her, or if it's just because I'm an emotional mom...but everything we go through with HJ always feels so much MORE heart-wrenching than I expected. My husband recently said to me, "You really didn't think it would be like this? That it would be this hard?" I don't know what I thought before we became parents, but I definitely wasn't ready for the intensity and complexity of every emotion and decision involving our daughter... I guess my husband was a little more prepared than I was :) But yea, I guess that's why he's asleep right now and I'm up writing this blog...

Good Days and Bad Days

Friday, January 6, 2012

I've been thinking about starting this blog for quite some time now. After reading Raising Your Spirited Child (a guide for parents whose child is more intense, sensitive, perceptive, persistent, and energetic) by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, I just didn't know what to do with all the thoughts racing through my head. Here was a book that described our daughter HJ perfectly. Of all the discipline and parenting books I had read, from James Dobson's The Strong-Willed Child to The Happiest Toddler on the Block to countless others, I could tell this book was what I had been looking for. Honestly, I was overwhelmed with parenting. My main question every single day was, how am I going to do this? How am I going to be the kind of mother my daughter needs when I feel like I'm barely surviving each day?

There's a story in Raising Your Spirited Child  where the author describes a preschooler who didn't want to get his hand painted when the class was making an art project for Thanksgiving. The author explains how the teacher successfully got the little boy to participate in the project, but only after several tries where the child first observed other kids making the hand-prints, and only after the teacher slowly got him used to the feel of a paintbrush tickling his hand, one little finger at a time. In the end the boy was thrilled to have completed the project, thanks to a teacher who was able to approach the child with a creative and patient way to help him overcome his sensory issues.

HJ actually went through the same exact ordeal when creating her turkey handprint project at preschool. Now my first thought after reading this example in the book was, if it takes my daughter that long to successfully complete a small art project, how are we going to make it through the challenges that face us each day? And by "challenges" I mean simply getting dressed, getting out the door, having a playdate or going to a class, eating dinner, taking a bath, and getting to bed!

But after my initial reaction, I started thinking Ok, we CAN do this... because first of all, we just have to since I'm a stay at home mom with HJ and her little sis L, but also because I want to help my daughter be successful in all aspects of her life and just ENJOY life. And really, my husband and I just love her so much, and we want to be the best parents we can be for her.

Long story short, I'm hoping that this blog will help me chronicle the daily ups and downs, the good days and bad days, and all the little moments that I don't want to forget (and maybe some that I do!)... Oh, and my husband also thinks it's a great idea... mostly because I'm always keeping him up late at night wanting to talk about all my concerns regarding HJ. So, here goes...

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