Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Honeymoon at Home

There's no place like home.

Poignant words.  It is beyond good to be back home after 18 days away.  Saturday morning in China began twenty-six hours in airports or on airplanes, going through Customs at least twice, Immigration at least twice, and picking up our checked luggage and re-checking it twice.  Exhausting, but by the grace of God, manageable.  Our longest flight was 12.5 hours, and we could not have hoped it would go as well as it did!  Kalli played with her seatbelt for at least an hour, and then proceeded to slowly and methodically rip every page out of a magazine for another hour!  Oliver sat or slept in his seat the majority of the time, which is a miracle with his energy, and did not have a single temper tantrum on the planes.  Thank you God!

We arrived at midnight and stayed awake until 2 a.m. Sunday!  Who gave my children Miracle Grow while we were gone?!  Everyone was full of excitement and curiosity as introductions of new siblings were made and a quick home tour was conducted.  Oliver hugged everyone!  He excitedly searched out his brother "Feddy", whom he had asked for every single time we were able to Skype from China.  Since, he has forgotten his interest in his brother and been stuck-like-glue to Myley! 
Note to Adoptive Families:  Oliver loved seeing his photos up in our house as if he had always been there.  Do this!

Kalli was shy and reserved at first, but has quickly found the delight in having so many playmates who want to give her their full attention.  Freddy received the great honor of being the first in our family to receive a kiss from her.  An unprompted one, I might add.  Jon received his first Kalli kisses yesterday, Grace did today, and Momma still waits . . .

But that's okay.  Most everything aside from sleep is going smoothly.  Granted we are in the space known as the "honeymoon phase" in the adoption world.  Enamored and in awe of their new brothers and sisters, no one is squabbling.  Yet.  I'm an optimist at heart, but not na├»ve enough to think this peaceful co-existence will last forever, lol!  I do believe it gives them a good start at bonding.  They are super cuteness together!  Jon snapped this photo today of our little stair steps - 2, 3, 4, 5, and 9.  We love that they are bundled up in unique packages with distinctly different personalities!  God has given them all gifts and traits that we love and treasure, and it's such a blessing to see how He cultivates them as they grow.

When we arrived home, we were pleasantly surprised to find our pantry stocked with goods, overflowing onto our countertops!!  Our church family and Sunday School class, Couples for Christ, not only arranged meals to be brought to our house for the next two weeks, but also contributed to the pantry packing.  Our family and friends were part of that HUGE blessing, too!  No worries about going to the grocery or what to fix to eat.  Seriously, I don't think I could make it through the grocery store right now.  Thank you dear, kind, and thoughtful family and friends for knowing how much we would need this expression of God's love through YOU!!  Alright, I'm crying . . . better move on.  

Sleep struggles abound, and it seems to be getting worse.  Two to four hours of sleep in 24 hour periods = not good.  The times when I start to nod off, but am awakened every 15 to 20 minutes, seem like torture.  When you are in the middle of exhaustion piling up for days and are tempted with sleep, then denied it repeatedly, the feeling is wretched.  I am pretty sure they use that as a torture tactic on prisoners of war.  It's gotten to the point where I just cry out of total exhaustion, and I feel like I'm going to start puking at some point and not be able to stop.  Seems so wimpy and weak to admit when I see it typed, but being in the middle of these moments and actually experiencing them, well, the feelings are what they are.  I know many people go through similar ordeals when a new baby is born, or even working night shifts, and just dealing with insomnia.  I have been wearing the same shirt for two days, cannot remember if I brushed my teeth yesterday, and quite frankly, I could care less.  I just want sleep!! 

From infancy to 18 years, I lived in the same house and had the same bedroom.  Every now and then, I wake up thinking I am in my childhood room.  As my mind clears through the fog of confusion, realizing which direction is which and where I am, it is so disorienting.  I wonder if that is how little Kalli is feeling.  After the first night home, she wakes up often during the night, wimpering or wailing in her half-asleep, half-awake state.  I wonder what her little mind thinks of all these changes.  I wonder how her little heart deals with all the fear and uncertainty.  All we can do is pray God will give her a sense of security, and inner peace that her world is finally as it should be. 

Oliver actually seems unphased, sleeping soundly through the night and naps.  He is indiscriminately friendly, meaning he has never met a stranger!  It's something we actually have to be cautious about, because it is harder to closely bond with someone who can be happy with anyone.  We noticed with our guides in China, and when people stop by here at home, he almost always wants to leave with them.  We are working diligently to teach him that he stays with Mommy and Daddy now, because we are a family.  I hope it's not too much to ask for continued prayers for our newly formed family.

That's the recap.  Actually, I was only able to write this because of the sleep deprivation, so at least I got something accomplished during this "honeymoon"!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Past Two Days


Calling the last two days emotionally charged would be like saying baby pandas are kinda cute - it would be an understatement.  :)

Wednesday, we set out to tour Kalli's orphanage and view her finding spot. (Oliver's original orphanage doesn't currently allow families to visit.) Upon entering, we were allowed to review her complete record, which contained more details than we had previously been given. Our guide read it to us since it was written in Chinese. Hearing her story read aloud brought stinging tears to my eyes. I desperately swallowed the growing lump in my throat to try and maintain composure.

The morning continued in its draining fashion as Kalli saw one of her primary caretakers.  Up to this point, anyone who reached out to hold her was quickly rejected.  But this special person in her life scooped her out of my arms before I could blink.  When it was time to go, I reached for my baby with hope, but confusion and misunderstanding had already set in.  Her crying ensued, much like a little lambs, intermingled with wrenching screams, heart-breaking at the least to hear the deep pain she felt.  The nanny seemed to want to take her back to offer comfort, but Jon and I made eye contact and a silent agreement that that would not be best.  We turned to leave, sort of officially closing this chapter of her life.

While it's difficult to console someone in a language they do not speak, she calmed down in about 30 minutes.

Later in the day, we visited the exact spot where she was found. At first, all I could manage was to briefly glance around, averting my eyes and heart from speculating about the unknown details. It pains me immensely to know my children will have questions . . . with no answers. I am so sorry, sweethearts. All we can focus on is what we do know - you were found! God did not allow this world's sin and failures to push you out, or allow you to be forgotten or disregarded. He brought you from the ashes, He called upon His children to come for you, and somehow, managed to move our stubborn hearts to action.

Blugh.  No actual words to articulate the day, just ugly noises derived from raw emotion.

Enter Thursday.  Our appointment at the U.S. Consulate.  We were told no photos or video, advised to be serious and get the business done.  We suppose the energy and rigidness of that type of environment was too much for Oliver, because he melted down instantaneously and continually.  The entire 1.5 or 2 hours we were there with no snacks or drinks.  Normally, you aren't there that long, but for a fun twist, the computers went down at the precise instant we were taking the final step!

Parental instinct, no, common sense, led us to forego any sightseeing after the trying morning, so we went back to our hotel.  That evening, we experienced our first 40 minute tantrum.  Whew!

I am reminded often through this journey that emotional turmoil, sleep deprivation, and physical exhaustion all deeply contribute to a worn spirit.  Not an easy road, but we are not complaining.  I have mentioned the book Orphanology before, and probably this particular thought from its pages:
"Did Jesus walk an easy path on this earth?  
Look at what He endured to adopt us into the family of God."

Even if every day were like the past two, we would take it.  DEFINITELY could not do it without the strength and comfort of our heavenly Father, and the earthly support from our astoundingly awesome family, church family, friends, and even a few strangers along the way.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Update

Wow!! God is so good! We have both our new family members! While there is lots of documentation to finish and 10 more days here, it is such a gift to now have Oliver and Kalli in our arms.

Kalli had a very difficult time at first. She cried and screamed for about 30 mins, and has been silent since. Literally no sounds have come out. She is obviously in shock. But she does give us eye contact and touches our hands. She studies our faces intently, but with a bit of a glaze over her eyes. Oliver got the first slight grin out of her last night! He is an AWESOME big brother. He was even hand feeding her last night! Sometimes he speaks to her in Mandarin, which seems to be comforting to her. (I don't know how to make a heart symbol with this tablet, but lots would be inserted here!)

Oliver keeps saying "I so happy!" And "lets go to your home in America." He is doing so well! He is sweet, intelligent, strong-willed and strong in strength. He has, as most 4 yr olds would, already started testing his boundaries with us, but we feel like it actually helps us bond!! He has gone to timeout a few times for hitting, where we sit with him and assure him we love him and don't want him to get in trbl. After 4 mins, we get up, he calms down and rubs his little eyes, says he is sorry, and we give big hugs and kisses. He is very quickly discovering Mommy and Daddy can be trusted to do what we say we will, and that we love him even when he is naughty! He is a beautiful ball of energy, light, and laughter!!!

Kalli is described by her orphanage caretakers as strong-willed and shy.  She seems so gentle.  She follows me around everywhere in the room when she is not in the carrier!! She is a delicate and chunky little sweetheart with dimples in each cheek. We cannot wait to see her smile light up the room, but expect that will take many days.

We also met our niece Sarah, who makes me tear up at the thought of her.  She is an endearing, perfect little girl. Touch is her primary form of communication, so you feel so connected with her very quickly. It is almost as if she lives in her own little world (as she is deaf and has low vision), but as soon as you scoop her up, she pulls you into that world. One of her caregivers says it's like your world slows down - thats perfect! Like it's just you and her. Jon and I kept saying how perfect my sis-in-law and brother and nephews are for her. They truly are her family, and their loving ways are just like hers! God put this beautiful picture together, that is 7000 miles apart!

Please forgive us if you have emailed or messaged and haven't gotten a response.  We have had an incredibly tight schedule, finally getting over jetlag, and internet access and our tablet seem to be unreliable. Emails that we delete reappear days later, and emails appear that weren't previously there. :)

Our precious trio at home are doing well. The girls were very upset the morning we left, but Myley now assures us "shes fine!" Thank you for your prayers and support. We feel them, and have felt God's constant presence and comfort. Sorry this is so long! I likely won't be able to update again except with pictures, so I laid it all out here at 4 am while I could!


Monday, May 26, 2014

Whirlwind Connection

Day 6 of our journey to our children, and if you asked me to describe the experience in one word . . . well, I couldn't.  One word just doesn't suffice.  Triumphant, tragic, challenging, silly, amazing, awkward, exciting, uncomfortable, funny, happy, heartbreaking, exhausting, exhilarating.  Specifically, a whirlwind of emotion!

We have had much difficulty with facebook, blogging, and skyping  We think we have the skyping figured out, and it is such a relief to see the faces of familly at home.

Our schedule has also been go-go-go, with very little time to blog or message anyway!  This may be the only update until we return home, but hopefully I'll be able to manage at least one more.

There is so much to share!!  Today, Oliver is in our arms FOREVER!!!  He is more amazing than we even realized.  He is filling our day with laughter and snuggles.  We taught him how to give an eskimo kiss (nose kiss), and it's already become "our thing".  He is full of light, life, and cuddles.  We are dumbfounded at how wonderful he is.  So spirited and independent, but a good boy who listens and seems already to trust us.  We have even managed to bond through our first temper tantrum!  :)  Bethel did an AMAZING job preparing him for this transition in his life.  We thank God for their work.

Wait until you see the pictures!  The moments frozen in time are spectacular.  I just cannot get things to cooperate to post any of them.

You know how there is always something special when you are holding your own child?  You can hold someone else's child and love them, and see their beauty and precious life.  But when you are holding your own, it just feels . . . more comfortable maybe?  Or probably you are sensing your bond.  As I lay here with him snuggled to my chest, watching his head move ever-so-slightly with each beat of my heart, he feels like mine.  Already!!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

One Year Ago . . .

One year ago (May 3, 2013) we began the adoption process. 

Now we are Ch*n@ - bound!!!  How are we feeling? 

Excited!!!!

A little . . . scared,

. . . and anxious.

Also sad . . . 

. . .but happy!!

Don't we all go through a swirl of emotion when we can see change coming and know our lives will forever be different?!

Joy is overflowing knowing we'll soon be meeting our son and our daughter!  For so long, we have wondered about their lives.  Stared at their innocent faces in photos.  Prayed for them.  Dreamt of them.  Longed to be together.

We are a bit paralyzed by sadness as we leave our three amazing children at home for eighteen days.  Folks who have taken this journey before us without Skype are my heroes!  Two things helping me cope with the difficulty of being away from my beloved Grace, my compassionate MJ, and my dynamic Fredster are:  1 - the ability to Skype, and 2 - constant, constant prayer.

May we humbly ask now that you join us in prayer on the days about to unfold?

- Safety and comfort for the three children who are staying at home (ages 9, 5, and 3).  Two of them are starting to have a bit of a difficult time thinking about the time we’ll be apart.  Please pray for God to calm and comfort their little hearts, and keep them safe and healthy while we are away.

- Safety and comfort for Jon and I.  We have never been away from any of our children longer than a week.  We need God’s strength to be without them.  Please pray that our travels are safe and healthy as well.

- Comfort and supernatural understanding for our two new little ones (Oliver 4, Kalli 2).  They are about to be pulled from the only life they have ever known.  Everything will change – from sights and sounds, to smells and touches.  Different language, different environment, different-looking people.  They are accustomed to group life, not family life, and we just pray God works in their hearts and minds to give them an understanding and lack of fear that could only come from him.

- Family and friends at home watching over our kiddos.


- Transition as our family is newly formed.  We pray our newest children are able to deal with their past loss and trauma and find healing in our home, and that our resident children are full of grace and patience as we teach Oliver and Kalli all about family!
 

- God’s blessings upon all the people He has called to help us who responded to His call to care for orphans!!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Did You Know . . . Language Development is Complex? (Series, 2 of ___ )

Our first "Did You Know?" post touched on the fact that our adoptive children will be immersed in a world speaking an entirely different language.  That can be frightening.  It can also be difficult, and have widespread educational impact.

Here is an excerpt from the American Speech Language Hearing Association Division 14 Newsletter -

"The loss of the first language before the new language develops leaves the internationally adopted child in a linguistic and educational limbo.  Unlike the bilingual child who has a strong first language to fall back on, the internationally adopted child suddenly has no communicative language until English develops.  This is a significant issue for older adopted children who need to begin school right away.  Because they are not proficient in English, cognitive and linguistic development is often negatively affected.  Consider this scenario:
 
The typical 6-year-old understands over 20,000 English words.  A 5-year-old adopted from another country would need to learn an average of 54 new words every day in order to fully catch up in language comprehension abilities by age 6.  However, while this child has been playing catch-up, his 6-year-old friends have also added an average of 5,000 words to their vocabulary.  In summary, expecting older children to develop proficient English language skills within one or two years of adoption is unrealistic.  Learning a new language to proficiency takes years."

More info can be found at http://pages.towson.edu/sglennen/index.htm.

About Me

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Two grateful children of God who are head-over-heels for one another, best friends and partners in this crazy world!  Parents striving to disciple our five incredible children who arrived in our arms in different ways, but fill our hearts with an uncompromising love.  Full of imperfections, but trying our best every day . . . well, almost every day (that goes back to the imperfections).  THANKFUL, THANKFUL, THANKFUL to know the love of our Savior and our precious family.