Saturday, December 31, 2016

Revisiting My 2016 Goals...

So, just for kicks, I thought it'd be fun on this last day of 2016 to revisit the goals I set for myself this year. 

1) Intentional 1-on-1 Time with Each Kid

I actually think I did really well with this one. We did all sorts of "dates" with the kids this year -  movies, ice cream, shopping, Ikea, Sonic, etc. The kids get SO excited to go on a date with one of us, and even though we sometimes have to explain to them why a "date" doesn't mean we go buy them a toy, we've really loved it. It's definitely something we'll keep up in 2017.

2) Wake Up Before Kids

Yeah, so, this one was REALLY hard to keep up. Especially once summer hit. I was really good about it until about April and then fell off the wagon. I could feel a HUGE difference in my attitude toward the day when I did it, but it was a struggle the second half of the year. And once we got home from China, it didn't happen at all. I'm getting back on the saddle in 2017 for this's so hard, but so worth it!

3) Grace for the Whole Family as We Adapt to Becoming a Family of FIVE!

I actually think we've done well with this. Everyone has transitioned pretty easily. I actually think I am the one most struggling with it, simply because there is SO MUCH demand for my attention, and I (selfishly) get so burned out. When Brooks takes a nap, for example, I really just want to veg out and scroll Instagram or enjoy a cup of coffee, but there is housework to be done, and the bigs see it as an opportunity to get my undivided attention since the baby is asleep. When I'm exhausted and somewhat sleep-deprived most of the time, this is HARD. There are just not enough hours in the day for me to fill MY tank when I have three little people depleting it all day...which is all the more reason to really hone in goal #2 in 2017!

4) Go Get Our China Boy! 

And that we did! And it was definitely the highlight of 2016 for all of us! 

To read more about our trip to China, click HERE.

To read more about our adoption process, click HERE.

Happy New Year, friends! Hoping 2017 is your best year yet! 

Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas Eve Photo Shoot

So, confession: I haven't done a family Christmas card since 2014. Eeek! Last year, we were on such a strict budget since every extra penny went to our adoption process that I couldn't justify the cards expense, and this year, we had been home a hot minute when we would've been needing to take pictures, order cards, and get them out. I could've made myself crazy and tried to get them done, but we were jet-lagged and sleep-deprived, so instead, I gave myself some grace and took it off my plate. 

As the cards from family and friends started coming in, it made me realize that I really did miss having some family pictures taken in the fall, so on Christmas Eve, we spent a few minutes outside and did a little mini photo shoot in our front yard. :) Thanks, Mom, for being our photographer! 

If we had gotten around to a card, this would've been the three amigos!

And I likely would've included a little announcement on the back about this sweet cowboy. He completed our family this year by coming home to Texas, and we love him to the moon! 

The best we could do of all five.

Sister wasn't feeling the pics...but how cute are these boys?!!

Brother love.

Love this kid. 

Crazy face!

I'm pretty sure he LOVES his boots.

He's discovered his head. Ha!

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas, friends! And here's hoping I get my act together enough to send a 2017 card! XO! 
Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Break My Heart for What Breaks Yours: Reflections on Our Orphanage Visit

Five weeks ago today, my heart was broken in the most radical way. The breaking took exactly twenty-four minutes, but I'll never view the world the same way again.

Five weeks ago today, I pulled up to a dilapidated building in the middle of a rundown city in China in a silver van, accompanied by my squirmy new toddler, my husband, and Echo, the guide assigned by our adoption agency. My breath caught as Echo announced that we had arrived. This was my son's orphanage - the place he had called home for the last 13 months. I was completely unprepared for what I was about to see and experience. 

We drove through the gate after she motioned to the guards to let us in, and it was then that it dawned on me what a privilege it was to be here. There was a sacredness to viewing our son's second home. It was a piece of his story...a story that began with more questions than answers, and this visit was about putting the pieces of the puzzle together for him. As I opened the door to get out of the van, I immediately recognized the greenery along the sidewalk that had been in his referral photo. It was then that I began to realize how hard this was going to be. We stopped to take a new picture by the greenery as a lump began to form in my throat, but we pushed on and continued toward the door. 

June 2016 - Referral Photo

November 2016 - In Front of the Greenery with Echo

We walked along the path and Echo pointed out the "playground" area. It was basically a large open area with a star in the middle that I recognized from our travel update we had gotten just a few days before we left the US. No toys, no play equipment - it was just an open, fenced, safe space. Part of me knew I needed to be grateful that he had been taken outside to play now and then...a very rare gift and privilege for children in an orphanage...but it just broke my heart to see the condition of the grounds and the lack of kid-friendly play equipment. Scarcity was everywhere.

We continued up the path to the front door. As we walked in, we were immediately swarmed by a handful of little girls desperately seeking affection. All were dressed in heavy coats and long pants, as it was chilly outside and the building had no heat or air conditioning. One little girl, likely about four years old, reached for my hand before the door had even closed and, almost instinctively, put my hand to her face. As I told her hello and smiled at her, she began to stroke her cheek with my hand, desperately seeking to fill her need for affection. 

We walked into the downstairs baby and toddler room, and I was taken aback by just how quiet the babies were. There was an older woman seated in a rocking chair by the window holding an infant girl with Down Syndrome, and the other handful of babies in the room were simply watching her from their cribs. They were not crying, they were not playing, they were not being held - they were simply existing in their assigned spaces. One little boy chewed on a bite of a snack, slowly, savoring each bite. One little girl watched me cautiously, uncertain as to what I had come to do. Not one child in a crib reached up or asked me to hold him.

There were quite a few empty beds in this room which made me happy because I knew there had been several recent adoptions from this orphanage, and I knew of two children in the building who had families coming soon...but the ones who remained broke me. I so desperately wanted to assure all of these precious children that this wasn't forever, but I couldn't. So many of these little ones had such severe neurological or physical conditions that I wasn't sure I could keep my promise. So many of these kids would be deemed "unadoptable" due to their physical or neurological limitations that files wouldn't even be prepared for them. They wouldn't even be given a chance.

After a few minutes here, we headed upstairs to what had been Brooks's room. As we approached the landing of the stairs, cheers began to erupt and caregivers in white coats swarmed us, taking Brooks from my arms with big smiles and covering him in kisses and hugs. He went willingly from one smiling face to the next until his second mama came walking down the hallway...and at that point, I saw them both light up in such a natural, maternal, and healthy way. He began to flap his arms and squeal as he reached for her, and she reached out to receive him, hesitantly at first. It was so clear that this moment was so hard for her. She loved our son as her own, and it hit me then as I witnessed their connection that SHE was the biggest piece of the puzzle. I hadn't come to visit his orphanage to see the facility...I had come to see HER. She was his story, and I am just so incredibly grateful for the way she loved and cherished him for 13 months. The puzzle was coming together.

She carried him into the second baby/toddler room which was where he had slept and played all that time. We met his "best friend," a precious girl just a month older than our Brooks who is now home with her family in Missouri, and I was shown his crib. I stood there for a moment, studying the place where he had spent so much time over the last year. Brooks's head is quite flat on the right side, and standing at his crib, it now made sense why. Not only was his crib mattress essentially plywood wrapped in a blanket, but his crib faced the door, so when he laid in it, he would turn his head to the right to see what was going on in the room, causing the flat spot. Another piece of the puzzle came to light. 

There was loud music playing in the hallways, and it swelled over into the baby room. I now understood where his love of music (and loud noises) came from. Another piece of the puzzle. 

 We asked about the dosage of the medication that had been sent to us the day before in Brooks's backpack, and it was explained to us that they had only given him part of his daily dose in order to save some of the "expensive" antibiotic for the other children when they were sick. The scarcity revealed itself again. More of the puzzle was making sense.

At this point, our guide was encouraging us to get back on the road and head to the passport office which was over an hour away, so we began to move ourselves toward the door to leave. We asked her to express our sincerest gratitude to Brooks's ayi for all she had done for him over the last year, and she nodded while looking down at the floor. It was so clear her heart was breaking as she let him go. She had a hard time even looking at us, let alone watching us love on our boy. I asked if I could hug her, and she allowed it briefly. "Xie xie," I said. Thank you. Those words will never be enough, but it was what I could offer in that moment. These women, these selfless ayis, are WARRIORS. I don't know how they do these babies for such a brief time and then send them on to their forever families. I'll never understand their courage, but I'll ALWAYS be grateful for it. Brooks is a fighter...and he learned it from this amazing woman.

 As we walked out the door, those same girls who had greeted us saw us out. Smiling, waving, hugging us as we left...I think about those girls almost every day. I pray that they are given a chance. I'll never know, of course, if they were found by a family or if they will age out of that orphanage in the next 8-10 years, their future uncertain, but I can pray and hope and advocate for people to step out in faith and choose this broken journey. 

Because what I truly walked away from that orphanage asking myself is this...

I'll say it again...

I've been asking God over the last two years to "break my heart for what breaks Yours," and I can say with 100% confidence that He has succeeded. Those 24 minutes in that orphanage changed my life, and I am incredibly grateful that I was able to get a glimpse into my son's life there and have my heart broken so profoundly. I think of those precious girls left behind often, and although I'll never know for sure, I'd like to think they have mommies and daddies out there waiting for them right now that just haven't found them yet. Who knows...maybe it's one of you. ;) 
Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Post-Adoption: 1 Month

One month ago, we became this precious little man's parents!
To see our Gotcha Day video, click:

This month was such an absolute blur. We spent half of it in China, half of it battling jet lag, and have spent the last week or so "attempting" to create a new normal and a routine. I emphasize the attempting...because we are just a total work in progress over here!

In so many ways, I feel like Brooks has been part of our family forever, and in so many ways, I feel like we met him five minutes ago. There are still things that surprise me about him, and he is continuing to open up and show us more and more of his personality everyday. We feel so blessed that God chose us to be HIS.

The pic above: Our final update picture from his orphanage on the right (11/7), and exactly one month later charming his mama in the mirror (12/7). What a difference a month makes!

Before I dive into telling you all the things about Brooks...I just want to take a moment and express my gratitude for all of you who made this adoption possible. When I think about the hundreds, yes HUNDREDS, of people who rallied behind us to get this little boy into his forever family, I just about erupt into tears. Throughout this adoption process, we sold over 500 t-shirts, received more than thirty private donations, took donations from friends and family for a garage sale, were showered by our friends and co-workers not once but TWICE (seriously, I won't buy diapers until 2018), and received thousands of well wishes and prayers from people who represent so many different stages of our lives. God sets the lonely in families...but He doesn't do it alone. He used each and every one of YOU to make this happen for Brooks and for us, and I will never really be able to find the right words to express my gratitude for that.

So, each month, rather than just rambling about what we've been up to, I'm going to try to really focus on a few specific areas - language, physical development, attachment, sleeping, food, health, and random facts. So, let's go!

LANGUAGE: So, Brooks is 15 months tomorrow, and he's basically on track with his speech and language development from what we can tell. Fortunately for us, we were able to bring him home so young that the Mandarin wasn't totally ingrained into him yet. Right now, he says mama, dada, ah-da (all done), ma (more), and no. No is his favorite...he thinks it's hilarious. ;) Funny story - last week when we were playing at the mall, he walked over and listened to two Asian ladies who (I think) were speaking Mandarin. He was a total creeper and just stood there listening with a very intent look on his face. My initial reaction was to scoop him up and take him away, but I didn't. I was so curious how he would react to that, so I watched. After about five minutes, he turned around and came running to me with a big smile on his face, so I don't think he cared too much, but it was very obvious he remembered it.

PHYSICAL DEVELOPMENT: According to our pediatrician, Brooks is right on track. He walks, stands up on his own, has the pincer grasp, throws and bangs everything, and has mastered the squat. It's seriously my favorite thing to see him just randomly squat in the middle of the floor. Developmentally, there are no concerns about Brooks at all. The only physical concerns we are monitoring are his size...he's a peanut. At 14.5 months, he was 18 pounds and 29 inches. (That's the average size of a 9-month old American baby.) He is below the chart for both height and weight, so when we go back in January, our pediatrician would like to see some growth on both fronts. Based on how much he eats and sleeps, I don't see that being a problem. :)

ATTACHMENT: Brooks came to us very willingly, and after about four or five days of being with us, he began showing a preference for us over anyone us which was great. (At first, he would willingly go to just about anybody...can't let that happen!) He has started showing stranger danger which is wonderful and totally age-appropriate, and if we do allow a family member or friend to hold him briefly, he always quickly reaches back out for us which is what we want to see. He has only been in the care of me or Blake since we got him, and we'll continue that another couple of weeks before attempting the church nursery in January. If we attend a play-date or birthday party, he comes back and "checks in" with us every couple of minutes which is also what we want to be seeing. We've really had no issues here at all...huge praise!

SLEEPING: Aaaaaand, this is where we've struggled. You knew it couldn't be ALL good news, right?! That'd be too easy! So...jet's a bear for an adult, but it's an absolute beast for a toddler. Those first 7-10 nights home were absolute hell. I'm sorry, but there's just no other word for it. We were up and down ALL. NIGHT. LONG. Thankfully, we began to see glimpses of hope about a week home when it was down to 2-3 night wakings, and after lots of discussion with our social worker, we made the decision to move Brooks to his own room after two weeks home which was the best thing we've done for him and for us. He sleeps so much more soundly in his own space. The first night in his crib, he woke up once for about 20 minutes, and the third night in his crib, he slept nearly 13 hours straight with no crying. He naps in his crib daily for about two hours, and we are so thankful to be seeing major improvement here.

FOOD: When we first got Brooks, he was somewhat dehydrated and oh so very hungry. The first morning we went to the breakfast buffet at our hotel in China, he screamed bloody murder at the sight of so much food. If he could see food, he had to be shoveling it in his mouth as fast as he could or he'd be sobbing. When I would go to lift him out of his highchair because I felt like he had eaten enough, he'd quickly grab just a little bit more in his fists and take it with him. The first full day we had him, he vomited from overeating. :( We've been working hard to reassure him that there's always more food available so he won't overeat, and we've come a long way since those first few days. We had to slow him down to just one bite at a time, and it's been hard, but he's made huge strides. The only food he's ever not eaten that I've offered is hamburger, but for the most part, he eats everything. Some of his favorites are rice, bananas, hot dogs, Cheerios, peanut butter crackers, yogurt, and anything that comes out of a pouch. He drinks milk, water, and occasionally apple juice out of a sippy cup.

HEALTH: So, I think I've discussed this before, but Brooks's file mentioned premature birth and anemia as his medical concerns. We were a little hesitant about the anemia because we knew it could be a symptom of a bigger issue or a misdiagnosis altogether (which is very common in China), but now that we've been home and had both a check-up and blood work done, I can shout from the rooftops that Brooks is a 100% healthy child. He has some mild eczema and allergies, but he has absolutely no medical concerns whatsoever. We still don't know how or why his file ended up in the "special needs" program, although we have theories. He is certainly the exception, not the rule, in the China adoption world, but he is such a blessing to our family, and to hear we have a healthy child was just the icing on the cake. We are truly so, so lucky!

RANDOM FACTS: Brooks is not scared of Santa...but he's not exactly a fan either... (NAILED IT, KID.)

He has absolutely NO FEAR...of ANYTHING.

Brooks is obsessed with water. He lives for bath time, and we are currently struggling to keep him from playing in toilets. (EWWWWWW!)

He is in the big, slobbery, eat-your-face-with-my-kisses phase. 

We already can't imagine life without his joy and spunk.

Well, that about sums up our first month home! During this second month, we will celebrate CHRISTMAS! So, so excited! As always, if you or someone you know is considering adoption from China or elsewhere and ever want to talk or ask questions, please don't hesitate to reach out! Leave a comment below or shoot me an email anytime - It's been such a blessing to hear how many of your hearts are considering adoption...if it's on your heart, let's chat!

To read more about our trip to China, click HERE.

To read more about our adoption process, click HERE.
Thursday, December 1, 2016

China: Days 11-13

Our final two days in China were spent relaxing and praying that our visa would come in time for us to catch our Hong Kong flight! 

We woke up Wednesday morning, our final day in Guangzhou, and decided to make the best of it despite the unknown visa situation. We spent the morning walking around a beautiful park with Brooks and enjoyed the gorgeous lake. 

In the afternoon, we headed back out for one last souvenir shopping excursion at Shamian Island. We loved it out there! 

How cute are my boys watching the Pearl River?!!

When we returned our guide met us with Brooks's visa in hand...HUGE PRAISE! 

We woke up Thursday morning, our last day in Guangzhou, and headed to catch the train to Hong Kong.

Cheeks McGee slept most of the train ride, and we spent Thanksgiving afternoon swimming and eating at the hotel with our little turkey. :)

Friday morning, we attempted to do some Hong Kong tourist activities, but the lines were crazy long for everything since it was a holiday weekend, so we headed back to the hotel for one last good nap before our 14-hour flight to Texas.  

Seriously...I could watch him sleep all day!

At 3:45PM, we boarded our flight to the good ole US of A...home, sweet home...

Brooks did pretty well on the flight when he was eating or sleeping...otherwise, he was pretty upset to be confined in a giant metal tube...haha. Thankfully, we don't have do that again anytime soon! 
Thanks, Benadryl! ;) 

And finally, at 3:45PM on Friday, November 25th, we were HOME. Praise be to God! Our airport homecoming pictures are coming SOON! :) 
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...