Thursday, December 22, 2016

Happy December from Matthew

Hello everyone. Since Mom wasn't doing a very good job of blogging about me these past months, i figured it was time to take matters into my own hands. And since it's been so many months since she posted anything, I figured you might like a little recap. So here it is.

This year I . . .
Rang in the new year at Tall Timber Ranch in the Cascade Mountains.

Spent time in snow country with my family.

Watched my mom and sister snowshoe in the falling snow.

Gave my dad and mom lots of kisses.

Said goodbye to my sister as she flew to New Jersey with my mom.

Welcomed a new cousin, baby Nicholas.

Watched my cousins and grandparents be SILLY!

Spent spring break with our dear friends in Pullman, WA.

Went hiking on Whidbey Island.

Read lots and lots of books.

Cheered on the Seattle Sounders with my dad.

Learned to love balloons.

Also learned to stop being afraid of latex gloves.

Spent a weekend in Ocean Shores with friends.

Got covered in sand.

Wrestled a lot with my dad.

Picked strawberries with my family.

Went for lots of hikes.

Sent my sister and brother off to their last day of school in June.

Celebrated my brother's 8th birthday.

Started learning to smile for the camera.

Became obsessed with balloons.

Rode my skuut at a park in Utah.

Hiked at Arches National Park.

Hiked in the hills of Colorado.

Hiked on the trails in Western Washington.

Mastered the art of smiling.

Got lots of piggy-back rides.

Learned to smile REALLY big.

Cut down a Christmas tree with my grandparents.

And got a room full of balloons for my 6th birthday!
It has been a busy year indeed. I'm definitely giving my family a run for their money with all my changes and developments, and also all my challenging behaviors. But we're making a way together, and I'm gaining skills and communicating more than ever. They love my new smile, my boundless energy, my creativity, and the way I'm always up for a new adventure.

My mom is sorry she hasn't blogged more in 2016, but she hopes to do more in 2017. Our family knows it takes a village to raise a kiddo like me, and they are SO thankful for the village that surrounds us.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016



My boy cried tears today—the first time in the almost four years he’s been home with us. We were at the doctor’s office, waiting to see the pediatrician, and I could tell he was anxious about what was ahead—the unknown person and the unknown place that awaited him.

We sat together on the scratchy plaid fabric of the waiting room couch, him glancing anxiously over his right shoulder, then his left, then his right again, me rubbing my hand up and down his back, singing songs in his ear to comfort him.

He signed “home” and “car” over and over again, my boy whose words are spoken through his hands. “Home, mama, home. Please. Car.”

I tried to reassure him that this was a “no hurt” visit—that the doctor is his “friend.” I talked back to him with my hands and my voice—and the most calm my mama voice could muster.

I turned my head away from him, glancing at two women sitting across from us who were having a conversation. When I glanced back at my boy, there were tears streaming down his cheeks. He was wiping them away furiously, this silent stream, pooling in soft circles wiped away by his chubby fingers. He squinted his eyes and the tears flowed even more furiously. 

Quietly, announcing with a wet seriousness that this boy was scared.

These were the first scared tears I’d seen on my boy’s face—this boy who was abandoned at three days old in China, who spent his first 18 months in a poor, neglectful orphanage, was finally learning to feel emotion.

My heart felt this kind of conflicted mess of sadness and joy for him—sadness in the way any mama holds her baby’s emotions close, wanting to protect him, scare away the monsters hiding under his bed.

But joy because this boy is finally learning to feel—to emote—to join the communion of the human family in all its conflicted emotions with depth and meaning and purpose.

This boy is my teacher—this wise spiritual guide who has shaped and taught me more than anyone or anything else in my life. This boy with his big heart, his developmental delays, his absence of spoken language. It seems that every day I learn something new about myself by loving and caring for him.

The mystery is profound to me, kind of like his tears.

Sunday, February 7, 2016


One of the challenges I feel on a daily basis is trying to find the right balance for our family. I suppose this is something every family deals with in their own way: busy children and working parents make for a busy pace of life that can become rather unsustainable if its not kept in check.

But with a Matthew in our family, this is especially important. Rather than needing a full agenda of social activities and things to do, Matthew thrives on a simpler schedule. He values people spending time with him and activities that help him build his skills and his language. Big parties, fancy activities and exciting adventures come in second to the more simple daily routines like eating, resting, reading books and playing together.

I have to admit, this has been a difficult adjustment for me to make. I’m a very social and busy person—I thrive on hosting gatherings, spending time with friends and family, and just being together with people. I also deeply value alone time and quiet—but neither of these things is best for Matthew. Not large social events and not time for me to retreat alone to my room to recharge.

That doesn’t mean I don’t need them, though. I think it’s important to recognize that each of us in our family has needs and desires, and we should work together to meet as many of them as possible in a way that creates balance for our family.

My husband Aaron is gone overnight this weekend. Rather than this being a stressful time, it’s been a lovely overnight with the kids. I’ve kept things simple—no big social gatherings or parties. Just us being together in simple ways. Matthew thrives in this kind of environment. He’s been calm and focused the whole time Aaron’s been gone, because he’s gotten a significant amount of my attention. And then when the kids are down, I’ve also gotten a chance to have some quiet alone time, which I’ve needed too.

I don’t know that life with Matthew makes balance any more challenging than it is in other families—but I do find that I need to be more intentional about making sure everyone has their needs met.

I’ve said it in blog posts before, and I’ll say it again: the best place for our family, where life feels the most simple and balanced, is when we are together outside somewhere. Hiking, camping, snowshoeing, playing on the beach, walking—these are the things that help us feel the most calm and enjoy being together. Being outside gives us the balance we long for, which is why we go out together a lot.

I am grateful for weekends like this one, when life is simple enough for us to enjoy being together. Matthew’s in a good space, and so am I. That matters a great deal these days.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Where We Are Now

We’ve reached a plateau in our adoption and parenting journey with Matthew, at least that’s how I would describe it. We’re walking the flat ridge that stretches pretty straight in front of us. We know that inclines and declines are still ahead, but at this point we aren’t worry about bracing ourselves for either, because what we see ahead is similar to what we know already.

Our family is coming up on celebrating four years of having Matthew home. I follow several groups on Facebook that include families traveling to China to pick up their children. While that journey is familiar to me and I remember ours well, it also seems like it’s been a while since we did travel. Back then life was full of adoption questions—of doubts, of fears, of anticipation and excitement. It was a good season, but the farther down the road we get, the more I realize that it was exactly that: a season.

Now we’re in the living season. The digging-in-and settling-in-and-doing-life season. In some ways I miss the big moments that the adoption season brought us, but in other ways I’m grateful for the chance to get down to just living life. It’s a good place to be.

I thought it might be helpful to give a few updates about Matthew, as I know many people still find themselves to our blog and are interested in what the path is like after a child is home. Ours is just one story, as I always remind people, and each child and family are different. But I learned a lot from reading about the stories of others (and still do) so I put this forth hoping it gives wisdom or ideas to someone else.

Developmental: Matthew finished one 12-week course of an ABA-based treatment program for Autism in the fall at our local children’s neurological center. It was a good experience for him, but perhaps it was even more helpful for Aaron and me (and my parents, too, who also participated). It gave all of us tools to use when parenting a child on the autism spectrum who also exhibits ADHD and sensory processing disorder behaviors. Matthew’s still a busy guy, still working to settle himself in the social world, but we all know better how to help him do that. We all feel more confident managing his challenging behaviors. This is such a good thing. And we are working to see if our insurance company will approve a second 12-week session of autism preschool this spring. The teachers and we both feel like another round would really benefit Matthew. He also continues to attend his morning developmental preschool program in the school district where we live. This program doesn’t help as much with his developmental challenges, but it does give him a rich learning environment where he can practice his social and intellectual skills.

Craniofacial: I just made our annual appointment with the Craniofacial Center at Seattle Children’s Hospital. It’s been a rather quiet craniofacial season for us. We were there last August seeing the craniofacial speech language pathologist—hoping to rule out VPI (velopharanyngeal palatal insufficiency)—but unfortunately Matthew doesn’t yet have enough spoken language to make this determination. When I made our appointment this year, I was told that there is a possibility Matthew might need a lip repair surgery this summer before starts kindergarten. I WAS SHOCKED. Honestly. Our craniofacial team hadn’t previously said anything about another surgery this summer, and Matthew is making so much progress with his speech production—moving his lips into position—that the idea of surgery that interferes with the muscle movements of his lip makes me terrified. I believe this procedure is “elective,” which means we can likely say NO. But of course I also want to make all decisions about surgery with thought, the right amount of input/wisdom from doctors, and also in larger consideration of Matthew and his development. I’ll keep you posted and hope we can work it out to skip this surgery so as to keep Matthew’s language development intact and moving forward.

Speech/Language: Well, our boy still isn’t talking in sentences, but he’s doing a lot more word approximations and using a ton of signs. I’d really like to seek out a speech apraxia evaluation and hopeful diagnosis for Matthew, because every doctor and speech therapist who sees him agrees he has a motor planning problem or oral motor delay which is contributing to his lack of spoken language. We also have an appointment at Seattle Children’s in late February for an evaluation in their communication center—and we hope the outcome of that is a referral/prescription for an alternative communication device (which will likely be an iPad with a speech program on it).  Since Matthew starts developmental kindergarten in the fall, it would be wonderful if he could be in that program with a way to communicate with his classmates. The biggest challenge in Matthew’s speech/language development to me is that he has so many factors impacting his delays. There’s the oral motor delay, which means he actually can’t form words. But then there are his many social delays. We haven’t had much luck finding a speech therapist who advocates for supporting him in both ways—most of our team either wants to support the social OR the motor. That’s been rather frustrating to me.

In terms of just being a general little guy, Matthew is still very socially different than his peers (and honestly, different from all other little kids). He exhibits some autistic behaviors in terms of his lack of communication and inability to read the social environments in which he lives. Sensory processing disorder also plays a huge role in his impulsive, hyper behavior. But he can also be warm and connecting—he makes eye contact readily when asked.

The biggest thing about Matthew in this new season is his willingness to smile and laugh. It’s like he finally found his smile once again. Yohan, who is Matthew’s caregiver, took all the photos in this post—and I just love the variety of smiles and happy faces that Matthew exhibits.

It’s a good life—a busy life, which is why I haven’t blogged more in recent months. We are still living daily with the impact of Matthew’s cleft lip and palate and the neglectful orphanage in which he spent his first 18 months. But we also know that every day, every week, every month that he is in our family gives him just that much more opportunity to grow and learn at his own pace.

And for that, we are most certainly grateful.