Friday, August 10, 2012

Living Tall

We have watched Joshua gain a lot of mobility lately. He is moving around the house with much more speed and agility. But we are noticing something. He still walks just like he used to. He is bent to the side and pitched to the front. He holds his head to the side. At first I wondered if something was going wrong. Maybe the rods and pins have slipped and his spine is curving again? We notice if we tell him to straighten up, he can. And if we remind him to hold his back straight he least for a minute. Finally, I called the doctor and asked about it. They said that this is a very common problem. We just need to remind him to stand up straight and we will get started with some PT as well. His muscles must be retrained to accommodate his new position.

It made me often do I "walk crooked" in my Christian life? How easy it is to forget the price that was paid for me to be healed? Christ's precious blood was shed that my heart might be whole. Yet, I forget my Redeemer and walk in the crooked way of selfishness, worry, and complaining. I slip into old patterns of behavior. Maybe those sinful attitudes feel more comfortable and familiar. Just like Joshua has to be reminded often (many times a day!) to stand straight and tall, to put his head straight, I also have to be reminded. I am a new creature in Christ.  Josh's muscles have to be retrained, and I must retrain my heart and mind to think on what is true, noble and right. It is time to make a greater effort to spend time in the Word and prayer. There I know I will find the encouragement I need to live in newness of life.

And with the Lord's help Josh and I will work together to be who we really are.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The BIG Surgery

When we met Joshua in China, we talked with him (through a translator) about his back. We told him that he would have surgery that would make him straight and tall. I still remember his big smile. So this day had been long planned and anticipated.

We have had multiple meetings with the surgeon, so many x-rays, an MRI and CT, but finally the day had come for Joshua's BIG surgery.

We went to Denver on July 11th in the evening. My sister came and stayed with the other kids. Josh cried as we pulled away from the house and it was all I could do not to join him! We assured him that we would soon be home again and that all the other kids would be there waiting for him. Andy told him that this would be hard, but not as hard as some things that he has already been through. "You were all alone when you had to live at the orphanage, but now you have a Mom and Dad and we are going to stay with you all the time! We are all going to come back home together!" Makes me cry now just to remember Andy saying that to him as he put him in the car. He quickly calmed down and we tried to chat about the scenery and whatever else we could think of to keep the mood light.

We spent the night at the Ronald McDonald House, a wonderful place.  We arrived at the hospital bright and early on the morning of the 12th.  We were the first ones there. Joshua went into surgery about 8:00 and then began the longest day of our lives. My parents brought Kimberly and my niece, Sophia up to visit for awhile. Our pastor and assistant pastor also came and sat with us for a little while. I knew that people all around the world were praying for our boy. What a comfort that was. The nurse came out every two hours and assured us that things were going well, just slowly. Very slowly. She was awesome and we discovered that she was a nursing school classmate with my niece, Gentry. She always asked us how we were doing and encouraged us to eat and drink. She was such a comfort to us.

Dinner time came and went. All of the other families who were waiting were moved either to the patient rooms or sent home. The cleaning staff came and went. It was just us and security guards who  would walk by from time to time. Finally, at about 11:00 p.m. the doctor came out. He looked like he had been working out! He was sweaty and looked so very tired. But he was elated. He said that Joshua's spine was quite rigid and gave them quite a challenge. He was able to correct his spine from a 138 degrees to just 38. Truly incredible. There was someone monitoring his neurological responses throughout the entire surgery (we were able to meet her later and thank her). At that point, it was clear that his little body had handled all that it could, so they wrapped things up.

Josh went straight to the ICU where the sight of the blood and all of the hustle and bustle around him on top of the exhaustion was almost more than I could bear. I left fairly quickly to sleep at the Ronald McDonald house while Andy bravely stayed through the sleepless night. People were there constantly monitoring our precious boy. He looked pretty rough with his breathing tube still in, and tubes and wires everywhere.

poor baby! Hardly looks like himself under all of that.
In all, we spent eleven days in the hospital. (I think it was six nights in the PICU and five on the pediatric floor...honestly it's a little fuzzy now.) Many people who had been part of the surgery stopped by to say hello. He had made quite an impression on them all. Each day he made progress until he was disconnected from everything and sent home. He was still pretty fragile and made me nervous, but we were so glad to get home.

working with the physical therapist to sit on the edge of the bed. Oh the pain!
Standing up! With Dr. Bess and Audra Braun, his P.A.
This is John, a surgical nurse who refused to leave when his shift was over. He insisted on staying in the OR until Josh was all done. He visited with Joshua twice more while he was there and gave him a hat to match his (except with lizard on it!). 

We have been home two and a half weeks now and he is doing so well. He tires easily, but he is getting stronger each day. He looks amazing.

It is hard for him to remember to stand straight. It is as if his body has been crooked for so long, that it still wants to go that way, even though his spine is straight. He tends to cock his head to the side as well which is how it was before. We keep reminding him, "you're straight and tall now!" And then he will straighten up. He has been very brave and kept up a cheerful attitude most of the time. I think the recovery is wearing on him now as he would like to be able to do more.

Thank you so much to all who prayed for us, cared for our kids, brought us meals and encouraged us in so many ways. I especially remember one night when he was really uncomfortable in the hospital and I sent out a quick "please pray" message on Facebook. Immediately, many people responded that they were praying for him. I was so encouraged.

This little boy has a story to tell and we look forward to seeing all of the ways the Lord will use him. We were so impressed with all of the staff at Presbyterian St. Luke's and especially Dr. Bess and his staff. Glory to God for his great mercy and grace in our lives!

definitely making progress here. Look how comfy he looks just sitting there.

Here are before and after x rays from the front. See the tiny space that was left for his lung before the surgery? No wonder he got winded so easily. There was great concern that he would get pneumonia afterwards, but the respiratory therapists and doctors worked so hard with him and we avoided it. 

And from the side. 

Home at last. Is that how the walker is supposed to be used?

Noodles at home. Yes!

When You Walk Through the Fire...

The smoke as it rose over our house in the hours before we evacuated. shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. Isaiah 43:2

Even though a month has gone by since the events of that day, I am still processing through some of the feelings and experiences of it all. Underneath the fear and sorrow, I am struck again by how faithful God was to us. His presence gave us peace. He graciously provided for our every need. And He continues to use the whole experience to remind us what really matters and how carefully He holds our lives in His hands.

We first saw the Waldo Canon Fire when the kids and I were out shopping on Saturday. By late afternoon, some mandatory evacuation orders had been made. Andy's parent's home is in the upper portion of Mountain Shadows. It was not yet under mandatory evacuation, but the streets nearby were. Since his mom had recently had surgery and was still on oxygen, we felt like it would be best to get them packed up and moved while there was plenty of time. We ended up going with them to my parent's house where we spent the night.

On Sunday things seemed about the same, and they chose to go home. We also returned to our home which is a just a couple of miles east of theirs (and thus farther from the fire.) We spent a couple of nervous days watching the news and talking with them about what they should do.

Tuesday morning Andy went to work and I ran an errand (leaving some of my kids home!) When I got home, I spoke with Andy's parents and expressed my concern that things looked worse. Just after four o'clock the fire came over the ridge near their house. The evacuation order became urgent for them and mandatory for us. I didn't have time to get up there to help them and busied myself getting our essentials together and getting the kids out the door. I was frantic. I was praying aloud and trying to think clearly. I went up in our study which is the highest room in our house and glanced out the window. I could clearly see the fire racing down the foothills towards my mother and father in law's neighborhood.  We got in the car and drove to my parent's house. Sometime along the way we spoke with Andy and he was able to reach his parents. They had gotten into their car and headed down the hill with fire literally on their heels. They headed north to the home of some friends. When Andy arrived at my parent's house, we decided the air quality there was poor enough that we should go further out. We ended up at my sister's house in Peyton. It was just a blessing to be there. It was far enough away that it gave all of us a feeling of safety and we couldn't have had a more comfortable place to stay. My niece and her family were also there, so it was a houseful. They were so gracious and we felt the peace of the Lord as our extended family ministered to us.

We assumed Andy's parent's  house was gone and wondered about ours through the night. But on Wednesday morning we got word that both their house and ours were spared. They were not able to return for several weeks, and what a sight awaited them! Many of their neighbors lost their homes. The beautiful ravine across the street from their home is completely black. Yet their house didn't even smell smoky. God was so gracious to them and we are so thankful. His mom continues to struggle with her health, so we are so glad they didn't have to add the stress of rebuilding. Our house was fine as well. Just a fine layer of soot on everything.

God really protected the kid's hearts through it all. I was amazed at how well they all handled it. I realized that Joshua was most concerned that we would have enough to eat. I went to the store and stocked us up on some of his favorites and that really helped him to feel safe. Isaac and Moriah seemed comforted to know that we were all together and that we would take care of them whether we were at home or somewhere else. Each of them had a lot of trauma in their early lives, so I was amazed at how calm they remained. God was so gracious. It helped that my sister's house is out in the country and there are lots of fun things to do and places to explore. The older kids talked a lot about what they would miss if we lost everything, but continued to rest in the Lord's sovereignty and to be thankful that we were all together. They were a real example to me!

It is hard to see our familiar places so changed. The blackened mountain is never far from view and reminds us daily of all that happened. It reminds us of our dependency on God for our safety and our very breath. Cleanup and rebuilding have already begun up there. Our prayers continue for those who lost so much.

We were so thankful to get back into our house and get re-settled because we knew in just two weeks we would face yet another big event for our family.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Tonsils, and BAHA and tethered cord, oh my!

What an incredible summer this has been. We are finally beginning to come up for air, catch up on sleep and resume some of our normal activities (including blogging!)

We began with Isaac's tonsillectomy in May. He did fine. Surprisingly they didn't find large adenoids, or really any adenoids at all. He is a unique boy in so many ways! He also had MRI's from the top of his head to the bottom of his spine under anesthesia. The neurosurgeon was checking his tethered cord repair and just checking for other possible causes for his muscle weakness. She felt that everything looked fine and sent us on to the neurologist. We saw her, but are waiting for some blood work which may give us some more clues. Thursday, Isaac will have the honor of having the last planned surgery for our family for the foreseeable future. It will be an outpatient procedure of a *ahem* private nature. But should correct some things that need a bit of work. (Poor guy.)

Next was Moriah's BAHA implant. We hope that she will get to have the processor by Christmas so she can experience bi-lateral hearing. She was a super star and hardly shed a tear through the whole ordeal.  Now she can defend herself if her brothers are picking on her by pushing her titanium "button" into their arm. It's a little unnerving to see such a thing poking out from behind her ear, but it will be well worth it in the end!
Getting ready!
Moriah had to wear this bonnet for several days with a dressing over her new "button." We thought she sported it well!

On June 12th, Josh had a tethered cord release surgery. He had to lay flat on his back for twenty four hours and then he was allowed to move around. He spent two nights in the hospital. His biggest complaint was that they didn't feed him enough. Jello just didn't do it for him! It was a good experience, for which I was very thankful. We knew we would be back in the same hospital with many of the same nurses for a much bigger surgery in just a month.
Josh and his faithful friend. This was the day we went home.

Through each of these experiences, we have known God's grace and care. Sometimes it has been through Scripture and the comfort of the Holy Spirit. And sometimes through the practical help and encouragement of his people. We couldn't have done it without our parents and church family! They  cared for our other kids and provided meals and most of all prayed unceasingly for us.

Just when we thought things were going to settle down for a little while...something big happened. More on that in my next post.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Ordinary Miracles

S'mores were a big hit! We just used the gas grill to heat the marshmallows. 
Joshua ate about six!

We made new friends at the zoo!
I love the views from the zoo. You can see the whole city below.

Caleb was amazed when this birdie landed right on his shoulder.

And then, Josiah found a friend of his own!

Being a family of eight has been nothing short of miraculous. Most of the miracles have occurred in the routine of daily life. They would be easy to miss if we weren't looking. But we are looking...trying to be aware of how the Lord is at work in our lives and the lives of these little ones. And we are amazed. Before the boys came home, one of our very specific prayers was that they would be prepared to have a family. God answered that prayer and worked in their hearts so that they were ready to love us. From the first day, they have been able to show affection and want hugs from us. There is still work to be done in this area, of course. Attachment is a long process. But we are so thankful for the progress we've made.

We prayed that they would be able to transition from their life in China to life here. We asked God to give them comfort. They have grieved at times, but for the most part, they seem genuinely happy and glad to be here. Each new day is an adventure for them. I am trying to give them as many sensory rich experiences as possible. Bubbles, the park, the zoo, the rice tub, painting, play dough, water in the sink, window markers, drawing, sandpaper letters, blocks, shaving cream...we do it all. (And some TV, too, when a quiet break is needed).

We continue to pray for their understanding of the Gospel. It is cute to hear them pray. Joshua has memorized The Lord's Prayer and he likes to say it with us when we pray it together at church. It blesses our hearts to hear him even though the meaning of many of the words are still out of his reach. The boys are good about reminding us to pray before bed and before meals.

There are certainly hard days. Times when the road ahead seems long and it is all I can do to focus on the day ahead. My brain gets tired of trying to decipher their Chinglish and I can only imagine how difficult it still is for them to understand all of the particulars not only of our language, but of our culture. There are mornings when I dread the arrival of all of the little feet coming from their bedrooms  ready to start the day (with lots of needs and demands from the moment their feet hit the floor). But there are also the smiles, hugs, giggles, and the joy of belonging. Of being safe and well fed, loved and disciplined...of being HOME and part of a family.

We are so thankful for the love and support of our families and our church family. They have embraced the boys (despite their quirks) with love and acceptance. This extended family has already enriched the boy's lives so much.

Ordinary miracles every day.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Surgery Summer Begins

School is winding down. The flowers are blooming and the days are long. Dinner on the deck is delightful. We are enjoying all of the usual signs that summer is around the corner. This year, however, we find ourselves embarking on a very different kind of summer. Plans are made. Reservations are set...for the hospital, that is. We will be spending a significant amount of time there and in doctor's offices for the next few months.

Tomorrow, Isaac will start us off with the removal of his  tonsils and adenoids.  He has very large tonsils and adenoids. The doctors feel like it may help him to breath and sleep better. We still have many questions about his medical situation. Several specialists and a skull to base-of-spine MRI are still ahead for him. But we are hopeful that this first step will be helpful to his well-being. We have started PT with him as well.

Then, on June 6th Moriah will have surgery to put in her BAHA. The BAHA (Bone Attached Hearing Aid) consists of a little post that is surgically placed. A processor will be placed on this post which will send sound from her good ear around to her deaf ear, thus giving her the perception of sound on both sides. We have been looking forward to doing this for her for a couple of years. She is now finally old enough and big enough to qualify. For six months, the post will heal and become part of her bone. So it will be closer to Christmas before she really gets to see what it will be like to hear well. I am excited for her. We feel like it will help her socially and academically.

Next, on June 12th, Joshua will have a lamenectomy. This surgery will release the base of his spinal cord. It has become fastened down as a result of his scoliosis. We anticipate about three days in the hospital. The surgeon kind of laughed when we met with her on Friday. She is the same doctor who released Moriah's tethered cord three years ago. (Isaac also had a tethered cord which was repaired in China.) It's not every day that she sees one family with three kids with the same problem. About four weeks after this surgery, he will have his big scoliosis surgery. We are anticipating somewhere between one to three weeks in the hospital for that one. They will place titanium rods down the majority of his spine. Whether it will be one surgery or a series of surgeries over the course of his hospitalization will depend on how his body responds to the spine movement.

Sounds fun, huh?

Even though no one would choose for their children to suffer or endure surgeries, we do have joy in knowing that the children will each have an improvement  in their quality of life as a result of these procedures. For Isaac and Moriah, their growth, health and learning will improve. For Joshua, his life will be saved as his scoliosis would, if left untreated, crush his heart and end his life. We are also praying that the Lord will use these experiences to grow our bond with the children. Each one will need special love and care. We also pray that they will experience the peace and love of their Heavenly Father. He has loved and cared for them even before they were ours. This is our hope and confidence.

We are so thankful for so many who lift these little ones up in prayer! God has been so faithful to them each day of their lives. He will sustain them (and us) and bring about their good and His glory through these things.

"The surrendered accept that pain is always but growing pains. And growth is always a gift--even when trials are the tutor."--Ann Voskamp

The other three kids will have a challenge this summer as well as their own fun will have to be close to home and they will need to help with the little ones. Their hearts are already being stretched as they minister to "the least of these."  right here in their own family. I am so thankful for the Lord's work in their hearts.

Handsome Joshua who will soon be several inches taller!

The Tethered-Cord Trio

Who wouldn't love that sweet face? 

Friendly and smart, little Isaac has already come a long way in his short time home. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

By the Numbers

Our lives have definitely moved from busy to super-busy since the boys came home. Just for fun, I thought I would try to capture our first two months home in numerical fashion.

18--times I've used the rice cooker. Although, when I made rice earlier this week, Joshua didn't want it. He said rice is boo-hao (bad). It is amazing how their tastes are changing. Lasagna instead of stir-fry? Incredible.

56--nights in their own beds at HOME.

57--mornings they have woken up at HOME.

25--doctor appointments with lots more in the near future.

2-- CT scans and 4 MRI's for Joshua

2--x rays for Isaac

6--x rays for Joshua

50--baggies of goldfish crackers packed for car rides. Yesterday Isaac told me, "I like goldfish!"

100--loads of laundry. About two per day. My parents have been coming over one day a week to help me keep up, which has been a huge blessing.

24--(maybe more) trips to the grocery store. I didn't think adding two more mouths would make such a big difference in the amount of food that we eat...especially yogurt and bananas.

45--circles around the driveway that Joshua makes daily on Moriah's pink tricycle. We are in the process of getting this boy something appropriate to ride. Moriah will be so glad to have her tricycle back. She reminds me every day that we need to get Joshua a bike!

4--large bottles of bubbles

35--pounds of rice that I dumped into a tub with some measuring cups, plastic funnels and toy cars.

5--number of children who want to play in rice tub.

8--pairs of 3-T pants that I have purchased for Isaac before finding some that are actually skinny enough. (Thank you Old Navy.)

8--Sundays that we have been able to worship the Lord as family of 8. We fill up a whole row! Our church family has blessed us again and again with their loving acceptance of our boys. Our boys know that they are special and loved. They are experiencing what it means to be part of God's family.

2--number of days left that we will not all fit into our car. We are hoping to upgrade this weekend so that we can all travel together! Hooray!

Too Many episodes of Sponge Bob that the boys have watched. They were allowed to watch this in China and get very excited about it. I never let my other kids watch it, but I have caved. Some things are simply not worth a battle.

100,000,000--trips to the bathroom. Moriah and Isaac just do not think it would be right to go into a public place and not explore the bathroom. Moriah reminds me that at least there aren't squatty potties here. We explored more than our share of those in China.

It is amazing when I stop to think about all of the things (mostly quite insignificant) that make up family life. Yet, for these boys, each one is significant as they learn what life in a family is all about. It is my joy and privilege to serve this big family (I'm reminding myself of this daily.) Each member is a blessing.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Ugly-Beautiful of Our Life Together

When I think about adoption, the idea of the ugly-beautiful seems to describe my feelings. I think I first began to think about this term when I read One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.  Some of the ugly things related to adoption are obvious at a glance. There is nothing pretty about a baby being left alone under a bridge. Nothing attractive about nine years spent without a family. Having five living situations before nineteen months of age is ugly.

There was also beauty in their lives before us. Each of our three children from hard places had loving foster care for part of their lives. Each of them had parents who gave them life. Each of them was listed for adoption. Their Father was watching over them before we knew about them.

Now that we are home, we are finding each day filled with ugly-beautiful realties. The beautiful things include seeing six little faces waiting for breakfast each morning. An unsolicited hug. Happy giggles as the children explore the deck and back yard. "Shank you, mommy,"(there is no "th" sound in Chinese.) And little language lessons exchanged back and forth. Meeting Isaac's friend from his foster home in China who has been home for about a year. Seeing the boys baptized and watching our church family embrace them with open arms. Spending time with our parents as they serve us selflessly and get to know their new grandsons. Watching the boys experience new things like frozen yogurt and water color paints. 

The ugly is always present as well. Hard moments when tears cannot be held back. Frustration when communication doesn't happen. Challenges to discipline with limited common language. Struggles in self-regulation when there is is sensory overload due to so many new experiences. Fights over toys between children whose survival instinct is strong. Blood draws, immunizations, and multiple doctor appointments. New and frightening diagnosis. Older siblings struggling with the new family dynamic. Little ones fighting over my lap and attention. So many unknowns concerning their past lives.  Grief for the years we did not share. Sadness when we think about their birth parents.

It would be overwhelming if we had to walk this journey alone. It is our trust in God that gives us hope. He is our Redeemer. He lived the ugly-beautiful perfectly. Coming from perfect beauty, He clothed Himself with humanity and walked on our soil. Our dirt on His feet. Our hatred poured out upon Him. Our sins overwhelming Him on the cross. Yet, the salvation that He achieved for us...Oh how beautiful! One day the ugly will be swallowed up in beautiful and we will see Him face-to-face. We place our hope and trust in Him knowing that He can work to use the ugly for our good and His glory. He takes the hard things and uses them to mold and shape each of us into His image. He didn't promise an easy road. But He promised never to leave us or forsake us. So we walk in faith and hope. We trust that each day's ugly-beautiful will be useful in His hands. He lived it for us and we are privileged to catch a glimpse of His beauty as we walk this journey after Him.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Home at Last

We are home! Actually, tomorrow marks the one week home point. It seems like we have been in a fog that is just now beginning to lift. Thankfully, Andy has had this whole week off, so we have been holed up at home trying to adjust and catch up on sleep. We wanted to keep things quiet for the boys, so they have only left the house a few times. We went to church Sunday night, they had haircuts on Tuesday, and today we went to the pediatrician.

The boys are doing remarkably well. They are learning bits of English and we are learning bits of Chinese. Joshua is very expressive, so he manages to get his point across quite well. Isaac is happy as long as he is fed, taken to the bathroom and played with. He jabbers away in Chinese and we just smile and nod. Sometimes Joshua helps us understand what he wants if we can't figure it out.

It is fun to make them laugh by doing crazy things. Andy used Goole Translate to look up the phrase, "I am a Chinese language expert." Then he repeated the phrase to Joshua who laughed like crazy. I don't think he has him fooled!

Joshua had a few rough nights with lots of sadness, but the last two nights have been better. Isaac goes to sleep easily, but wakes up a little sad and seems kind of frozen until he gets some food and remembers who we all are. They both  enjoy lots of puzzles, blocks, legos, and Thomas the Tank Engine trains and track.  They have impressive attention spans. It is interesting to me how much Joshua likes toys that are designed for younger kids. He is just as interested in blocks and simple puzzle as the preschoolers. I'm guessing all of these colorful, imaginative play type of toys are new to him, too.

The other four are adjusting, too. I think there has been some grieving for them, too, as they realize that our family dynamic has changed. They have been kind and loving, but there are definitely moments of frustration and longing for simpler days. We keep reminding them that the time will come when we won't be able to imagine our family without these two. Things will get easier as we understand each other better and Joshua and Isaac learn what it means to belong to a family.

We found a pediatrician who specializes in adoption and who is also a Christian. We couldn't be more thrilled about this! We took Isaac today and Joshua will get his turn tomorrow. He will be such a great resource as we navigate all of the different specialists and procedures that they will need in the months ahead.

Pictures will be coming soon! Everyone is asleep at this moment, so I think Andy and I had better join them before someone wakes up! (Although last night everyone slept through the night for the first time since we've been home. What a difference a good rest makes!)

Thanks again so much to everyone who prayed for us on our journey. We have so much still to process as we reflect on our time. Most of all, we know that God was with us. He cared for every detail and continues to provide us with grace and strength for the journey. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Foster Home Visits

I am going to backtrack a few days to share about our visits to the foster homes where our boys lived before coming to us. Isaac lived for most of his life at Swallow's Nest. This home is run by Pam and Clay Williams. They also took care of Moriah for a few months before we adopted her. Pam is in the US for awhile, so Rebekah, their intern, picked us up and took us to Swallow's Nest. It was fun to love on the babies for awhile. Kimberly had a little boy in mind that she had seen in pictures, so she was happy when Andy spotted him. Kimberly scooped him up and didn't put him down until we left! There are so many sweet children there. Some of them have families on the way (one had gotcha day today!) but some are still waiting. It really touched my heart how they all recognized us because they had been passing around the little photo album that we had sent to Isaac. After a little while, Isaac began to cry. He asked Rebekah if he was going to stay there. She told him that he would leave with us and would not be staying there. He was a little happier then, but sat in Caleb's lap for the rest of the visit. I was glad that he wanted to be with us and already felt the difference that a forever family makes. Swallow's Nest does wonderful work, though, and I am so thankful for all of the loving care that he received.

Rebekah with some of the little "swallows." I love that delicate little girl in the background.
Wish I could have brought her home, too. Who am I kidding... I wish I could have brought them all home.

Isaac felt better when Caleb was near!
Kimberly's little buddy

Outside of Swallow's Nest

 Next, we went to lunch at a delicious Chinese Restaurant. We had some time before our scheduled visit to Joshua's foster home, so Clay met us at a children's play place. The kid's had a great time running around there.
Lunch at the Chinese Restaurant with Rebekah. 

Thanks, Clay, for the fun time at the play area!

 At 2:30 we went to Joshua's foster home. I do not exactly understand how he came to live there. But it was a wonderful place where he was clearly loved and well cared for. About thirty kids (from babies to teenagers lived there.) The kids his age were at school, so we hung around until they came home. They were happy to see him and glad to meet us. But the sadness in some of their eyes reduced me to tears. They were so clearly longing for a mom and dad of their own. A foster home (however loving) is not a forever family and they know it! They had given him a party before he came to us and the decorations were still up. He served all of us water and snacks. He clearly loved the little ones and was great with them. They told us that they purposely put him in with the younger boys because he was such a help with them. I loved seeing how much the workers there loved him. They could not have been more thrilled to see him with us. It was a sweet visit for all of us. It was great to have Rebekah there with us to interpret and to talk with the foster home workers.

Joshua was so happy to show us off to his friends at the foster home.
The babies were all so cute and chubby. They were clearly well loved.

He loved the babies

Some of Joshua's friends

We took a taxi ride back to the hotel where we collapsed into bed, exhausted.

To add to the emotional nature of the day, one couple in our group decided not to accept the baby that they received on Gotcha Day. She had more complicated medical issues than they were prepared to deal with. The whole situation broke our hearts as we watched this little one return to the orphanage. We are praying that she will not have to wait too long for a forever family who will be able to give her the love and care that she needs. Her Heavenly Father, the defender of the helpless, and Father to the fatherless has not forgotten her and we trust that He has a wonderful plan for her life.

It is hard to put into words the mixed emotions of this journey. We are thrilled with the blessings the Lord has given us. We are sad for their many losses. We are excited for the days ahead. We are scared and afraid about all of the challenges that those days will hold. We have seen things that break our hearts and things that make us laugh. We have witnessed the wonder and mystery of another culture. We have struggled through the cultural and language barriers that make everything harder. We can't wait to get home, yet we will be sad to leave.

We know the Lord is using all of these things to stretch and grow us and so we can only give thanks. 

Guanzhou Adventures

We flew from Zhengzhou to Guanzhou on Friday. I had intended to do a better job of blogging, but  keeping up with six kids in a foreign country is a big job. Especially when two of them are going through the biggest transition of their lives! We are referred to as "the big family." It is not uncommon for Chinese people to stop and stare at us open-mouthed or to audibly count the children while shaking their heads in wonder.

Our flight here was quite turbulent. Isaac had a messy accident. I think it was a combination of stress and my lack of understanding his words. He ended up sitting in his messy pants until we landed because there was nowhere to change him. Since then I have kept him in a diaper just in case! It makes both of us feel a little more relaxed. But we are beginning to understand each other a little better. 

Joshua continues to amaze us with his resilience. He wants to please and tries hard to be a good boy. Everyone we meet who can speak Chinese with him tell us what a smart and charming boy he is. He is very impressed with Andy's strong muscles and tells everyone how strong his BaBa is. We have skyped with our Chinese friend, Gloria, a couple of times. It is funny to hear the boys jabbering away to her. I'm sure it is comforting to them to know that there is at least one person in America who speaks Chinese. Our guides have been a big help, too, in communicating with them. But mostly we just muddle through and do the best that we can. 

Last night we decided to celebrate by going to a fancy restaurant here at the hotel. All of the children behaved beautifully through the long meal. By the end of it, the boys had charmed the waitresses to the point that they were bringing them whatever they asked for.  Joshua ended up getting a hamburger in addition to the spaghetti we had ordered for him. They also brought him a plate of strawberries (compliments of the chef!) They were funny as they chatted with the waitresses while we looked on without a clue about what they were saying. 

His personal assistant at the restaurant.

Fancy food! It was fun to give the boys (and ourselves) this treat. They've come a long way from orphanage life! (Hopefully they won't get the idea that we live like this all the time!)

Today we did some shopping for souvenirs. The weather here has been awful. We were expecting it to be warm, but we have still needed our coats. It is damp and rainy. We went to Shaiman Island. All of the adoptive families used to stay there at the White Swan Hotel, but it closed for renovations for a year and a half! So we are staying in the city itself at the China Hotel. It is a nice hotel, but it doesn't have quite the same atmosphere.

The waterfall in the lobby of the (now closed) White Swan.

Six kids!

Lunch at Lucy's with the Zittles. They have American decor and food. 

Isaac has seemed a little more content today. Both of the boys have a lot to learn about what it means to live in a family, but we are looking forward to celebrating all of their small victories together.  

God has been so good to us! A couple of the kids are struggling with some stomach issues and Caleb and Josiah have colds. So we are praying for good health for all as we draw nearer to our long journey home. Thanks so much for praying for us!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Things We've Learned About Our Boys

1. They are much smaller than I imagined. All of the clothes I brought are way too big! Some of the things I brought for Isaac fit Joshua. And it is hard to get decent looking clothes here. We bought them some jeans yesterday, but they are not like anything I would normally buy. Oh well. Joshua probably wears about a 5-6 and Isaac a 3-4.

2. They can really put away the noodles and rice!

3. Isaac can charm any Chinese woman he sees. He says all kinds of things to them that we don't understand and they smile and laugh and talk back to him. Today, he got the lady at the breakfast buffet to get him a boiled egg, peel it and cut it up.

4. Isaac has very low muscle tone throughout his body. We bought a stroller for him because he really can't walk very far on his own. He is kind of a wet noodle. He has trouble getting from a laying down position to standing up.

5. They both love to name off all of our family and make sure everyone is present.

6. Joshua loves Ultra Man. (He's a Chinese super hero.)

7. Joshua can run and jump even though his back is so crooked. He's like a funny little elf bouncing around.

8. Joshua is also quite an actor. He was pretending that he had a terrible stomach pain and then when I would say, "Oh, are you ok?" he would smile and laugh. He was also pretending to be Frankenstein and he can do an excellent impression of a little crooked old man. Very funny. I know some of his clowning around is a defensive technique. But he sure is cute and funny.

9. Both of the boys wake up smiling and talking. They lay down quietly and go to sleep without a fuss. They are amazing.

10. Isaac can count frontwards and backwards and recognize the numbers 1-9 written down. He goes down the hall of the hotel naming each number on the door in Chinese.

11. Joshua loves the nerf guns. Sure glad we brought those.

12. Joshua is a technology guy. He knows how to play Angry Birds and Plants vs. Zombies. He also like the TV remote.

13. Both of the boys have won the hearts of the others in our group. They give hugs freely and say Ni Hao to all of the families.

14. They both try to talk with Moriah in Chinese and wonder why she doesn't answer.

15. God has a special plan for these two. I can't wait to see all that He has in store for them.

We had to go back to the registration office to finalize the adoption. Joshua was confused and thought we were going to get on the plane. But once the guide explained to him where we were going, he was fine.

Ours forever!!

Three brothers

Our crew in the hotel lobby. We are so thankful that all of the kids are here. They have been such a help with the boys. I am so proud of the way they all have handled everything. They are such a blessing.

Mei Mei waiting for dinner last night.

We ate at a restaurant near the hotel last night. It was good food and pretty cheap. Just a little hard to order!