Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Emma. They walk into our room with a dark haired quiet Chinese 3 year old. They sit on the couch with her. Doll reaches for her and she comes easily. They give us a quick description of 3 medications with multiple doses a day and they are gone. Emma is uninterested in being held. Cole is with us and they connect rather quickly. Little did we know what a special spirit had just joined our family. Adoption is a great gift for a family.

Emma was a blank page. She rarely spoke. She did not know how to behave in public. She was not potty trained. She did feel ownership or feel possessive. She did not cry when she was hurt. She didn't ask for things. She did not want affection. She did not give affection. She didn't like ice-cream but she loved lemons. Emma was a blank page.

So, what do you do with a blank page? I won't even answer that. Too cliche. Oh yes I will. You write on it.

With Emma we held her when she tolerated it. We read to her. We took her on rides in the stroller. We walked with her. We ate cookies and donuts. (Once in a while.) Slowly we started to see progress. She became jealous when Cole was being held. She wanted her Talking Elmo. She cried when she was hurt. She enjoyed being held. She sat through an entire movie. It is quite amazing to see her grow and develop.

In the adoption training courses, it talks about attachment and teaches techniques to attach but also to help straighten out the tumbled emotions that children have when they have been neglected, abused or sensory deprived. These tools have been the source of miricals every day in the lives of our children. They have also helped us recognize ways to improve our relationships with our older children as well. (See Hints)

I teasingly ask Cole if he is in trouble. Emma interupts. No. He's my brother!

Friday, November 25, 2011

An Old Thanksgiving Day Tradition Reborn

For thanksgiving day we had stayed home for the first time in quite a while. While Doll & I worked in the kitchen, Doll sent the kids upstairs with Tim & Kristin to come up with some type of entertainment for the afternoon. They worked for more than an hour upstairs while we worked downstairs. At times we thought they were coming down through the roof, but all was still intact when they finally did come down to show off their work. This type of tradition had been initiated by our oldest, Ash-brook when she was quite a bit younger. So Tim et.al. wanted to dedicate this performance to her.

Lia and Sean will of course have many opportunities to participate. At this point, the cast seems a bit small but another adoption or 2 will make all the difference.

Simple Traditions

As a family we, of course, have many simple traditions. 3 or 4 years ago we started walking to the Taco Bell about a mile from the house. Initially, I pushed Cole & Emma in the stroller but one day, Cole got out and wanted to walk. After that, I found myself pushing am empty stroller so we left it at home. At first we went was once every couple months. Then it was about once a month. Then I started to take them to get donuts when they got up early on Saturday morning. So Saturdays have become walking days. Since we moved a year ago, the walk is now 1.5 miles each way.

This time has been invaluable bonding time. It give us opportunity to step on bigs, walk on the ledge, stop & look at the lake, laugh about mistakes, kick pine combs, toss magnolia hand grenades, test dads commitment (the lagging game), and much much more. We talk about everything. This mornings topics were bugs and planets. (Not uncommon topics with Cole).

How we do it:
The key is that every word and action from dad has to be a positive one. Some days take lots of encouragement: "good job!" "you're my good girl" "I love you." "I can see the donut shop!" Even discipline needs to be positive: "come hold my hand :)" Three miles is a long way if child thinks dad is disappointed, mad or even distracted but a joy when you are having a good time.  Whats more is that children need to feel that they are doing good.  I can recall my dad telling me that I had done a good job and how wonderful it felt.  Even as an older child.  I don't think there is a better medicine to help kids overcome their insecurities than a positive comment from a parent.

The other thing that really helps is to have a goal in mind that is sufficient to motivate the kids.  For my kids, donuts are generally plenty of motivation.  It may be the park that they are looking forward to.  It could be a party or the school or whatever.

The pitfalls:
There are 3 things I don't do. First, I don't carry them while we walk. If somebody needs attention, I stop; pick them up; love and encourage; laugh and play, and put them down when they're ready to go forward.  After the first few times walking, they have not asked for me to carry them.

Second, I don't put a time limit on the trip. If we need to stop every 15 minutes to talk, rest, pout or whatever, we stop.  (I try to limit my pouting, but sometimes, the walk just gets the better of me.) If the kids want to play at the park, we play. If it gets late, we may call for a ride home.  I want this to be a good experience for them and us.

Finally, I don't hear whining. I do what I can to prevent it using the techniques above. I have a good example. I have a sweet 4-year-old granddaughter who was so excited to walk. She had ridden in the stroller part way on the first round or 2 but ended up walking most of the way the last trip. So we knew she could comfortably do it.  If not, she would have ridden in the stroller until both she & I & her mom felt she was ready. Before we left on the next round, she agreed to walk the whole way. Part way through she started to fuss to her mom to carry her.  She did fine for a while but after a bit, her mom gave in and carried her for 20 yards till we arrived at our destination.  While we were eating, I told my daughter about something I had learned for parrot training.  When a parrot screeches it is often asking for attention.  The 2 best things you can do to prevent an annoying parrot from screeching are: give it lots of dedicated attention when it is not screeching.  When it is screeching, leave the room and completely ignore it until it stops.  If you come back in after an hour of screeching, it just learned that it takes an hour of screeching to get your attention.  If you wait for 2 hours, it learns that it takes 2 hours of screeching.  The same thing applies to kids.  Make sure the child has sufficient attention, love and concern when the child is happy.   When the child begins to whine, and you have checked and know that the child is OK, ignore the wine but continue to pay attention to the child's needs with positive encouragement as appropriate. Don't over do it but don't ignore if there is a real need.  Completely ignore the wining until the wining has been gone for at least 5 min.  Then start with positive feedback about progress.  If the wining starts again, ignore it again.  We tried it on the way home.  She fussed a bit to be held as soon as we left for home.  Mom ignored it.  At one point she said she had a sore on her foot, so mom took the shoe off and checked.  The foot was fine but mom allowed her to walk without the shoe on and then encouraged her to walk in the grass to let the grass tickle her feet.  She thought that was a cool idea and she took off in the grass.  Shortly, she had completely forgotten about the whining and walked the rest of the way home.  After that one trip she never whined again and she often bragged that she could do the whole walk without being carried!

We certainly enjoy walking.  On occasion, we do hear a grumble or 2 but it seems that they almost always want to walk, especially once we get started.  These simple traditions abound in our home and are most often initiated by Mom.  However, they are particularly key for adopted children who have likely lived in less than optimal conditions as orphins. They may have never been told they are doing a good job, have not been held, cuddled and loved sufficient, or who have been put down, abused or neglected in other ways.  They all have wonderful spirits that can fill your soul with love if you set the right example for them and spend time and effort with them.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Lia and Sean's vacation!

Last summer Lia & Sean were able to go to a camp sponsored by a group called Bring Me Hope. The vacation was for a day on the beach. They had a great time. The family who ran the camp just happened to get a glimps of Lia on their summary video and a photo of Sean. Lia is the little girl who is pushing the wheelchair. As you ca tell they had a great time. The video includes many other children who are waiting for families. Many of them have no family waiting for them yet.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Johnson's Do The Jerk

Tonight was family home evening. So in the privacy of our own home I made this video for the world to see.

Cole on the Roll

Cole is one bright kid. He is thrilled to have a new brother and sister (but mostly a new brother). Cole is a great example to hiS sister Emma. They take care of each other and sometimes disagree but Cole is so very kind to her.

Cole loves to camp. Every May we have a father son campout and Cole has a great time. As a tradition I always take my boys, and anyone else who wants to go, on a hike. Cole had a hard time giving up his play time this year but once we got going, he had a great time. I overheard him talking to his friends about the hike. He was pretty proud. I think he'll be looking forward to it next year.

Cole came into our family when he was 2 years old. He had the effects of amniotic banding on his hands and feet. This included bilateral club feet. His right foot is functioning fine. We still struggle a bit with his left foot. Nothing else bothers him too much as long as we let him Know we love him and he is a good boy.

I have to add. We were watching Santa Paws last night. He loved the story in general but it was about all I could do to keep him there because he was afraid of the mean foster home care taker! He's a sweat boy.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Hello Sean

This is Sean. He is a one of a kind little 6-year old. He is gentle but fun loving, sweat and busy. He lives in the same orphanage as Lia and they are good friends. His best buddy is Brady. They do everything together. In future posts, I'll include multiple videos of the 2 together. We are hoping Brady will be adopted soon as well and that he will live close by!

Sean has lived in the orphanage most of his life and does not even know what it is like to have a family. As we have seen in our other children, Sean longs to be held and told that he is good. He wants to know that Mom & Dad, brother and sister are there for him and that he is safe. He longs to trust and be trusted. He wants to be a child and we want to be his family.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Meet Lia

This is Lia. She is a beautiful young lady with a beautiful smile. She is like a mother to her friends in her orphanage. Her smile is contagious and her stamina is amazing. She can do anything she wants to. She has been in the orphanage for only about a year. She is dearly loved by all who meet her. Nothing can stop her.

We recently received preapproval for her adoption and are working to get our dossier complete. The home study is about half way complete and documents are starting to fly again. We anticipate traveling sometime in the first half of next year.

Some may think that Lia is unadoptable because she is an older child with a major disability. But we have learned that all children have disabilities and that all children bring blessings. It is true that some require different amounts of efforts and different types of effort to address their needs, but it is also true that children like Lia always bring wonderful lessons of overcoming challenges, finding joy in the face of danger and love in the face of adversity. As you go with us through this journey maybe you will understand why these blessings are so important to us.

A visitor came to the orphanage to help arrange for adoptions of some of the children. She met Lia and fell in love with her. When it came time for the visitor to leave, Lia tugged at her shirt and  quietly asked, "Please come back. Don't forget me."

We begin again.

We have been truly blessed by the children who have come into our home. They are all very special in their own special way and bring us unmeasurable joy. We have 4 wonderful caring and generous biological children who we are very proud of. They have broken us into parenthood. They are wonderful children in spite of our mistakes and they are the ones who prepared us for 3 subsequent adoptions. While parenting is the hardest thing we have ever done, each phase has been wonderful. So we couldn't help but start down the path to adopt 2 more children who we will call Lia and Sean.

While we will follow our the adoption process to Lia and Sean, I also hope to be able to help fill the needs in homes by helping to match families with the children who are waiting to bless the lives of their forever families.