Tuesday, July 22, 2014

For 36 hours!

I snuck away and visited our kids in Colorado!

It's hard not living near our grand baby, Emily.  
So I am going to need to take some quick trips to see them... as often as possible!


She has changed since our last time with her- just 4 weeks ago.
She is smiling and smiling now!
Her sweet face lights up with joy and her whole body wiggles with delight!
She loves to study faces- especially her Nana's face!
She likes bling!
Earings, bracelets, watches and Nana's glasses!


Mr and Mrs Mulvahill-
more commonly known as Matt and Caitlin came over for the evening!
They are as happy as can be!



It was so wonderful being with my 2 bigs, my son and daughter in love and baby Emily!

I could listen to them chat and laugh all night long!
It brings me such joy and peace when I see my bigs get together!



The view form their deck!!



It was Caitlin birthday just a couple days ago so we had a mini celebration!!



I am enjoying every minute of our sweet baby girl!
Praising God for His many blessings and for this moment in Colorado!


Katie, Andrew and Emily are in their home now!
It's not easy being in limbo due to an international move but they have handled it very well!
Their furniture should arrive this weekend!
I brought a blow up mattress to sleep on and slept like a baby 
(this is my idea of camping)!


So thankful for this treasured time with our grand baby Emily!
(Katie, Andrew, Matt and Caitlin, too ;-)

Soon it will be time to head to the airport...

I am always excited to return to our children at home but also so thankful for a moment away-
it's a bit refreshing!

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Myths and Truths of Older Child Adoption

From my point of view…

There are two different age groups of older child adoption (probably more).

There are those that are nearing aging out - that's the 10 yrs - 13yrs 364 days group.
and
the 5-9 yr old crowd.

I don't really think of the 3-4 yr old as an older child.
Yes, their brain has been fully formed through the first 3 yrs of the lives and from their past experiences. Compared to an infant and toddler they are older. 
Yes, they may have struggles but they are still "little" and easier to nurture and (gulp) easier to love. 

Our children came home at these ages-

1. Anna- 17 months

2. Sarah- 8yrs 9 month

3. Emma just turned 10 and Ellie just turned 8.
We think they were probably a year or two older than the age we were given.
Both girls had a full set of adult teeth.

4. Ava at 5 yrs 10 months and Sam at 4 years 6 months.

5. Abby at 5 yrs 10 months and Luke 
at 3 yrs old.

6. Mia was 11 yrs 3 months, Melissa was 7 yrs 2 months and Madeline was 6 yrs 3 months.

7. Ben came home at 7 yrs 7months and Joey at 5 yrs 5 months

For each one of them, I mourned the time we missed.
The time that they grew and experienced life (a not so good life) without us.

So, Anna came home as toddler. We loved it and so did the big kids!
It was the right time in our life to bring home a young child!
She has "grown up" with Johnny, who was 13 when she came home!
Mark was still at home too and he was 17 at the time.

Sarah and Ellie came home at the 8-9 yr old stage and Mia and Emma came home at the 10 and older.
I am including them in the older category because they were quite challenging.

That means 8 of our children came home at the 3yrs - almost 8yr stage.
We love this age group!
They are mobile, they are potty trained (unless that is their special need), they want to interact and play with you and the other kids. They watch the other kids and learn how we do things at our house and in the USA. You can reason with them and they usually desire to please.

Obviously the words above are a bit of an over simplification 
but the point is we like adopting in this age bracket.


Adopting Sarah, Mia, Emma and Ellie was much more challenging.
That does not mean I don't like adopting children a little older it just means that it came with more challenges.
Had they been even older, I am guessing it would have come with even more challenges.

Challenges are not bad
We grow from being challenged.
We rely on God(and less on ourselves) the more we are challenged.
So challenges are GOOD!

BUT
if you are adopting older 
meaning the 10 - 13 364/365th yr olds you need to be
EQUIPPED and PREPARED!

So equip yourself and prepare yourself properly!
Don't jump out of the plane without your parachute!
And even with your parachute you will still experience surprises and challenges!

The truth is I love a challenge!
And I have not been a bit disappointed with the challenge of adopting older!
It makes me continuously work on...
ME!

I do not want to discourage anyone from adopting an older child.
There are many families that have successfully adopted older children and they are doing very well. 
If you feel God's call to adopt an older child- you should listen and act.
Because God will equip you to do what HE has asked you to do…

My Thoughts-

When adopting an older child do consider birth order and how this may change your family dynamics and the roles of each child in your home.
Discuss it with your social worker, other families that have adopted older and read books on this issue.

Our older birth kids where not effected by birth order. They were much older and we got the go ahead from each one of them!
(Johnny was the last one on board and he decided it would be much too quiet in our home after everyone but him left.)


Myth #1
I am saving this older child from an uncertain and horrible future.

Maybe?
And most likely they will have a better future with a family and people to love and support them.
But don't glorify yourself…
Don't think it's half God and half you doing this.
It's NOT…
It's ALL GOD!

Myth #2 
They will be happy that I saved them.

This is a tough one. 
Some kids are thrilled to leave China and let the past be the past while others
find it very difficult. Even though China may not have been good to them, it's still part of who they are. 
It comes home with them and the more you try to move them away from it the harder they may resist.
It depends on the child.

Myth #3 
They will think of me as their Mother and my husband as their Father.
I love them already!

You love a picture. 
You love the dream of what you think life will be like.
The older child does not always appreciate new parents wanting to "parent" them.
They have lived without parents for many years and they thought they were doing just fine.
So now, here you are trying to tell them what to do?
How do you think they are going to react?

With time they may think of you as their mother and father. 
But be prepared- your blessings may not happen for many many years.

Even with birth children the teen years are challenging.
We have found many of our blessings happen once they are into their mid twenties.
At that point you can share a mutually respectful relationship.

Myth #4
It will be beautiful. 
We will hang out together and do things together.
Watch movies, play catch, shop, or read together...

Early adolescents is the natural time for a child to try to break away from rules and parental controls.
They want to get their feet wet on their own so to speak.
They would rather fail themselves than have you tell them what to do (even if you are right).
And this may happen over and over and over again...

Myth #5
They will be friends with the children that are already in our home (bio, adopted, foster).
They will enjoy being a big brother or sister, a son or a daughter.

Maybe? And that would be great! 
But consider that they may have no interest at all in
"being friends"
with their new sibs.
Adolescents usually want to pick their own friends based on their own interests.
As far as being an older brother or sister-
 that may happen as they can find their "younger identity" in them and actually enjoy some time with younger sibs.
It can be freeing to an older adopted child that is torn between the biological age and their personal maturity.
But they may not want or appreciate the responsibility of being the older sib.

Myth #6
We can give them a good education!

If they are healthy, smart and play an instrument… you may want to reconsider…
Most likely they are not a "real orphan".
Do NOT be mad at your agency, your social worker, your husband or the prospective child.
Most likely you will never know or meet the person responsible for the gross misrepresentation.
It is sad but fraud does happen even in adoption. 
Be thankful that you found out in time and that this child can continue to stay near their biological family in China.
Then go quickly
and find the real orphan that is waiting patiently for YOU!
There are so many that wait.
Surely, your child is waiting among them...

Academically your child will come to you many years behind in their education.
It has been a struggle for many families.
And we are also challenged by this issue.
The schools want to place them in the grade according to their age, but they are no where near that grade emotionally.
Homeschooling could be a perfect fit…
except they are an older adoptee who really doesn't want to spend that much time with you (nor you with them) and may be a bit embarrassed at the lower educational level they are at.
Plus they are learning a new language which they may or may not want to learn.
Educating the older adoptee is prayer worthy…
It can be challenging.

Myth #7
Since they are older we will not have to deal with any of the "younger child stuff".

NOPE, They will come to you in a larger body with the mind of a 7 yr old.
They will have ingrained orphanage behaviors that will slowly drive you crazy.
You will do all that you can to purge these behaviors and then you will grow weary and decide to just pick your battles and while letting go of some of the behaviors that need correction 
because you can't correct them 
all. day. long...

But you will become more dependent on God.
You will ask him to take some of your more recent concerns and as long as you actually give them up…
HE will take them!
(and yes, I find myself praying through BKF as everyone is chomping and enjoying their cereal!)

Truths #1
Adoption is a beautiful thing.

Yes it is, in theory and in reality, but its hard work and will put you on your knees.
We are all adopted by God.
It's good to open our hearts and our homes to others in need.
This is pure truth…
BUT, that doesn't mean we are going to have the perfect happily ever after family…
It means we Love and trust you Lord.
We know you will not leave us alone.
You will be with us through the good times and the bad times...

Truth #2
This is tough

It is tough…
It may be the hardest thing you'll ever do…
But, if you are called to do it you know God will be with you every step of the way.
Sometimes we don't let God in and instead try to do it ourselves.
Don't do it alone- you need HIM!

There does come a time when you need to let you child do it on their own.
You cannot control, constantly look after or make their decisions for them.
You may need to free yourself from this and give it all to HIM.

Truth #3
Their dreams of what an American family is 
and 
what it means to move to another country 
and 
be part of a family- that they have just met… 
is completely different than yours and mine... 

Most likely their thoughts and dreams are completely inaccurate.
They have been told many untruths about America and families in America.
We will not buy them what ever they want, whenever they want it…

I don't know how to cook Chinese food and I'm not planning to learn how.
We have cereal in the morning 5 days a week and we love cheese!

Truth #4
Do NOT buy them an iPad or an iPod or a tablet or a computer, etc right away.

They lose themselves in those things and you may may not get them back…

I would love to insert another category here- so please add to my "do remember" list in the comment sections!

Do Remember #1
realize that even though things seem challenging they probably will grow up and be just fine.

Do Remember #2
God loves us unconditionally. Try to love your older adopted child as God loves us, unconditionally.

Do Remember #3
Give yourself a break. Do something special for you and give time and attention to your marital relationship. It has to be a priority in your life… if the parents are happy there is a greater chance that the children will be happy!

Do Remember #4
If God calls you to serve Him- do so!
HE has a reason, HE has a purpose- find out what it is!
BUT be patient.

Do Remember #5
Have a sense of humor! With them and with some of the issues you are facing!
Humor heals and smiles are contagious!

I am sure there are so many more Myths and Truths and Do Remembers to add in - 
 we all have our own bucket full.

I want to end this post with my personal TRUTHS…

Would we do it again?
Absolutely, 
I would, we would and we have had this conversation.

Are we challenged?
Yes, we are… and I have shared some of our challenges in the past and will be sharing more.

How are we coping?
I would say we are doing well.
We have a few challenging days but mostly there are good days.
We are good at discussing our challenges, working together and finding solutions/ options and opportunities.
We work with all of our children as a family unit to help the child that is struggling.
Our kids do much better with a known schedule- so we will be starting back to school as soon as possible.
We pray ALL OF THE TIME!
This is bigger than us but not bigger than 
HIM!

We do feel that having had 5 children go through adolescents has been helpful to us in parenting our new crew…
Our 5 older kiddos were great kids but they weren't perfect!
We had many challenging times with them too!
Now we can look back and laugh at some of those moments!
Someday you will be able to do that too!

Adolescent is filled with twists and turns whether it is your bio child or your adopted child.
They will try to take you on an emotional roller coaster.
Whatever you do… 
DON'T get on the roller coaster with them!
Stay peaceful and close to GOD and watch from a distance!
At some point they will want to join you in peacefulness!

Adolescent children/ teens will disappoint you, frustrate you, hurt your feelings, outsmart you and make you wish you could start the day over or give up and go to bed early…

BUT, the reward of having a child grow up into a well adjusted adult will make you forget all of those awful teen years…

This is why I would love to have mentors(parents with adopted adults in their 20's) that have made it into the adult years.
I'd like to know how are they doing?
What is their greatest challenge?
What would you do different if you could do it all over again?
What did you do, that you are glad you did, when raising your adopted child?

I believe that our older adopted children will grow up to be healthy productive adults.
I just think the path that some of them will take my be a bit different than the norm,
that's okay.

Worrying about our older adopted children is not helpful to us or to them.
Love them and give it to God!
(I know, easier said than done… but I'm still trying!)




Thursday, July 17, 2014

Diagnosed and Then Re Diagnosed and Then...



For this post lease click on the link below!
http://www.nohandsbutours.com/2014/07/15/diagnosed-and-then-rediagnosed-and-then/




Thursday, July 10, 2014

Amazing Grace!

It's time!
To introduce our new daughter!


We said we were done and we meant it…
We did not plan to adopt again…

But God had other plans for us!

It was in April when we first saw her picture.
I wasn't looking but I was having conversations with God.
I asked him if there was one more child we were leaving behind?

Hubby was firm- he knew we were done…

And then a friend sent me a picture of a little 5 yr old girl that needed a family.
She had a special need that we were very familiar with…
The minute I saw her my heart leapt!
And she had a face that I felt like I recognized!
Bits and pieces of our children at home.

I showed hubby her pic and
his face lit up, then he quickly caught himself and said
"shame on you"
(with a hint of a smile).

I am not usually the one that remains quiet but I did this time…
I prayed and prayed.
Dear God,
 IF she is our daughter 
please have Hubby desire to talk about it. 
Please change his heart if that is your will.
It is in YOUR hands Lord.

Every time I wanted to bring it up- I prayed instead.
And by golly he was the one that brought up adopting her.
Not once, not twice but many times!
Until the decision was made!

We felt God's guiding hand all along and I knew He had a name for her.
So I prayed over it
and then it popped into my head
Grace!
That's it!

So this is our amazing Grace!

She turned 6 yrs old in May!
She was just a few months older than Joey (will be 6 this month) and Luke (will be 6 in November).

We are not very far into the adoption process but we are trying to move faster.
We have PA and we are finishing up our home study now.
We are hoping the Grace will join our family sometime at the end of the winter (maybe beginning of spring) but that is just a guess?

We feel so blessed to have this special treasure be our daughter!
Praising GOD!!



Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Good, The Bad and The Somewhere In Between

I like to keep things positive and the truth is most of our life is positive.
The children are thriving and blossoming and it is a joy to have a front row seat to God's miracles!

But not everything in life is perfect and joyful.
We have struggles just like everyone else.
We have issues that we work on with certain children and we have necessary areas of growth as parents to birth children and children with a variety of needs.

As we walked the road of new parents(30 yrs ago) with our first five I would always have a mentor.
A friend that I respected that had BTDT.
I had many questions and they were always so helpful.
Whether we ended up doing it there way, someone else's way or our own way it was just so good to hear what worked and what didn't work for them.

Adopting older children is kind of a new thing and there are very few BTDT parents.
(Actually if you know of any please encourage them to start a FB group for those of us that are currently muddling their way through this new phenomenon). 
I am blessed to have a groups that are on the road with me!
We support each other, redirect, clarify when necessary and pray for one another.
Whether it's just a bad day, a small issue or a big issue that they, we, I need help with…
there is some place to go.
I also have a close friend that is experienced and an amazing resource.

I think it is important to keep things real so that's why I am writing this post.
In fact it should really be a regular part of my blog and I may make it just that…

Some of the issues I want to write about are

1. They Either Love Us or They Hate Us… Large Families.

2. Myths and Truths of Older Child Adoption…

3. My Truth About Lying…

4. The Many Challenges of Parenting Older Adopted Cognitively Disabled Children

Now, don't get your hopes up. You know I am not a very good writer and of course they will be no research involved- and the content will be just what I have observed and what I think.

Plus even though they may seem like slightly negative topics, they are not and they need to be discussed… I will not present them in a negative way.

So you decide!
Leave a comment regarding which one I should blog about first.

Thank you!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Our 4th of July Celebration!!


We spent the day at the club and enjoyed all they had to offer!


The had cannonball and bellyflop competitions!


And gunny sack races after that!
Go Anna, Melissa, Abby, Sam and Madeline!


There was some stiff competition and we didn't win but we all had fun!



Next was Ava's age bracket!


And then Mia and Ellie!


Our sunny day turned cloudy but that didn't matter!


Mia came in 4th place- our best finish!
Emma was not happy that she is too old to partake in the activities.
She has a hard time understanding this since she thinks of herself as significantly younger.
Sarah understands and was fine with it.


Relay races with Dad's and kids!
Sarah is giving it her all!
We didn't win BUT we didn't lose either!


Hubby and Anna did the "kid toss"!


And there she goes!
By now hubby was exhausted!


So we went home and got ready for part 2 of our 4th of July celebration!


They quickly got sidetracked by our doggies so 
I just snapped away as my pictures sessions fell apart!


Best thing we ever did for our doggies was to adopt 13 children!


They get so so much love from them!


We tried for more pics out on the yard!


Loving this crew in their red, white and blues!


Sissy and Mimi love to get in the middle of the fun!


Ben is our biggest and newest boy so we had to run to the store to be sure he had red, white and blue to wear, too!




Em and El love this day!


  
Lots of tattoos!


Then it was off to dinner!


And a few rounds of BINGO!
Abby was our winner for the night!
$100


We pool all the money together!
Last year we won $140



Our evening ended with fireworks!
It was such a fun time for everyone!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

"I Do" in Colorado!


Matt and Caitlin are now husband and wife!
WoooooHoooooooo!
We had the most wonderful time at Snow Mountain Ranch
celebrating these two love birds!

I didn't want to advertise that we were going to be away from home so I have been a bit hush hush about it-
BUT
not anymore!

I'll start at the beginning!
Packing for this crew was challenging- especially when it included 
nicely pressed clothes for a wedding 
and our everyday stuff!
Along with all the medical things we need!

I know with time we will get better and better at it!

We headed off to Colorado on Tuesday morning!


And hit something on the road in northern Iowa…
we felt the van shimmy and shake so we pulled over.

A piece of an old tire was stuck in our front grill and must have changed the aerodynamics of the vehicle (along with strong winds). 
We quickly got back on our way and all was well!


Until our speakers to the TV stopped working…
Thank goodness for iPhones!
I was able to locate a repair person in Des Moines Iowa and he had is fixed in 20 minutes!

Once again we were on our way!

We arrived in Snow Mountain Ranch at 2:00 the next day (Wednesday)!
This was the first time the children saw the mountains!
They were in AWE!


We planned many fun activities including archery, putt putt golf and horseback riding. 
That included a one hour trail ride with all 15 of us!
I did spend part of the time praying for safety as I saw our tiny little Luke, Joey and Madeline on huge, HUGE horses!


The setting was beautiful!
Mountains surrounded us!
It was breathtaking!


I am so sorry- I did not get pics of our activities… 
we were having fun and there just wasn't a place to stash a camera…

That evening we had dinner around the campfire.
Some of the wedding guest we just arriving so they joined the two families!


It sure gets chilly in the mountains at night.
You wouldn't know this by looking at what our kids are wearing but just take my word for it!


The campfire kept us cozy!


It wasn't long until Sarah and Mia had Matt and Caitlin's friends doing a handstand contest!
Young men are competitive no matter what it is!
Some of them were quite good but the girls still beat them!


As a mom it did go through my head- it's late, it's cold maybe the kids should be in bed…
WRONG!


We had sooooooo much fun!
And even though I was chilly, they were sweating!

(Caitlin and Mia trying to lean on each other and get up together!)


The day of the grooms dinner was more low key.
The children did what children do best!
They played and played!
Do your kids love finding rocks as much as our kids do?
And each rock is a treasure to them (much like the shells from Florida)!


After a fun time of spinning around and around
three children came to me with tummy aches ;-)
Go figure!


Children from orphanages do not have developed core muscles.
Surprisingly, they are quite weak.
They also have never had the opportunity to do the monkey bars and develop strong upper arms to carry their body weight.
I feel a sense of victory when they can do this!
Yay God!!
And good job Abby and Ellie!


The rehearsal went well!


Mark on the left was an usher and reader.
Billy on my right was the best man.


The children came to the rehearsal but they did not attend the grooms dinner.


Sometimes the Momma and the Daddy just need to talk to the adults and 
have a little break from her treasures ;-)


It is so much fun to have these three back in the good ole USA!


Caitlin and her Aunts (her Dad's sisters)!


Uncle Mike- you made it on the blog ;-)


And you too, cousin Jimmy!


Auntie Mimi, too!
Barb and Kelly are regulars!


It was wonderful to meet Caitlin's extended family!


She has a small nuclear family and a huge extended family!


Caitlin's Dad(on the left) was the oldest of nine and her Mom has three sisters!
And all of them have kids… and they are having kids and, and, and!


Where as Hubby and I only had 7 members from our extended family come to the wedding 
and
24 members of our nuclear family!
(which is now growing and growing and we are loving it!)


Both families are quite large but just in different generations!


We have been blessed through this wonderful marriage!
Both families feel so good about our two children… okay, adult children, getting married!
We couldn't have hand picked a better spouse!
Caitlin's Dad(Dan) is in the middle and her mom(Deb) is on the right!
(On the far left is her Uncle Tom… or is it Bob?)

Of course now I realize I should have gotten a pick of her with her Mom and Dad- thank goodness there was a real photographer at the wedding!


Plus Katie, my sister and my friends Karen and Kelsey were able to get photos too! 
I will share some of my snapshots and then hopefully post again with the "good pics" from the photographers!


Emma and Ellie are our bookends!
They are usually at one end or another of the rows because we know they will always behave!


They have a quiet demeanor and are not chatty or overly curious.
Like Joey, Luke, Abby, Madeline, Anna, Sam and Mia(and sometime Sarah).

Sarah, Ava, Melissa and Ben are our other bookends ;-)
Karen and Kelsey(our sitter/friend and her daughter) sat in the middle if each row- I am guessing you can figure out exactly where they were ;-)
Yep! Right between Joey and Anna and Abby and Sam!
All the busy bodies were only an arms length away from them!

It's all about positioning for success in church, at weddings and every other place we go!


We are so happy to have Katie, Andrew and Emily "close by"!
(that means in the USA)
It was a delight to get some baby holding time this past weekend!
I think Emily likes her Nana and Papa!


An usher!
Johnny has been studying in Chicago this summer. So glad he could take a short break and fly to Colorado!


The best man!


The reader and an other usher!


Lining up and preparing to get into their seats!


The guests are ready for the ceremony to start!


It was perfect weather!
Comfortable low 70's/ high 60/s, no humidity and a light breeze!


Taren is Caitlin's BFF and maid of Honor!

The wedding was WONDERFUL!

Caitlin was a beautiful bride and Matt was so handsome!

I did not bring my camera for the ceremony but I know we have lots of pics from the other photographers!

Matt and Caitlin wrote their own vows, they were lovely and from their hearts!


I love pics like this!
It tells the true story!
Luke is definitely going somewhere… not sure where and I am telling someone… something!
I'm certain it was very important!


Okay!
Now we are ready!!


Our bigs!
Love how God is adding more to this crew too!


Our precious little boys!
They are 8, 7, 5 and 5!


All four of the big girls are becoming lovely young ladies!
They are 11, 12, 13 and 14 (not in order).


Here's our baby girls that are growing up way too fast!
They are 7, 8, 8, 8 and 9 now…


My camera was blinking due to low battery.
Kelsey and Karen took these pics!
I am so thankful they were able to get these!


These two boys love pretty ladies!
Especially Billy's girlfriend Kelly!
Smart boys!
Watch out Billy they may steal her away from you!


Caitlin and Taren planned ahead and had a treasure/scavenger hunt for the kids!


It was fantastic and the kids hunted and hunted for the items listed!
Stones in the shape of hearts, a feather, a seed, a flower and much more!


It was delightful to see them running about and finding the treasures listed!


Plus it allowed us to talk to the adults!


I love God's simple pleasures!
Sometimes I need to remind myself to open my eyes 
and SEE THEM!


Praising God for this amazing time and celebrating our new son and daughter in love!


Here is the point that my camera turned off…
Bummed but I know the others got great pics!
Can't wait to see them and share them!

Some people have asked what camera I use.
It is a simple point and shoot but good quality.
I have a Canon S110!
It requires nothing of me- which is good because the children require a lot of me!

Caitlin's Dad, Billy and Taren gave awesome speeches and toasts!

(insert pics of children, Matt and Caitlin dancing ;-)

They had a blue grass band after the meal and the dancing was so much fun for all of us! 
The children could have danced all night long!
There was SO MUCH JOY there!

(insert pic of Matt and Caitlin from the wedding ;-)
Katie can you do that?

Praising God for this young couple!

We are blessed to have a new daughter and our dear son is blessed to call her his wife!
Thank you Jesus!