Friday, June 29, 2012

Summer Stuff, Abby Update and VBS

 I am so sorry it has been so long since I posted.
So much is happening here at our home with wedding prep and graduation party prep along with every day life! Which is actually quite full as I am sure you all know!!

We are asking for more prayers for Abby. She had a liver MRI and the results were discouraging.
Her liver is still FULL of iron. There has been no change since 4.5 months ago when we started the chelation process.
My heart sunk when I heard the news.
We were so hoping that her liver iron level would go down.

Next is a liver and bone marrow biopsy.
That will be done in July.
Praying and praying for some good news...

When we go in for her transfusions we bring a different sibling each time!
The other kids are excited to see where she what we do when we go in for a transfusion. Abby is excited to share in the fun with a sib and it makes her feel special!
We watch TV, watch movies, color, play with playdoh, read books, have a snack, eat lunch and play on the ipad!

Thank you God for making it a joyful experience!

We came home to children enjoying the summer weather and making the best of the heat!

Water is just so much fun!

Here is our version of a swimming pool!
Hey, it works!!

Last week the children went to vacation bible school!
It is a highlight of their summer!

Emma and Ellie were in different classes and it worked out great!!
The children there were very nice and helpful to Emma! Ellie was able to meet some new kids!

Ava and Anna attended a first grade class together!
Sam and Abby were in the kindergarten class together!

Sarah is the first "S" in Jesus!

Next year Luke gets to go and Sarah becomes a helper/ volunteer!
I look forward to our two new girls being able to attend!
We are still working on the names and will post on that soon!!

Hope you are enjoying your summer!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Dual Adoption

You will not find any scientific data or studies in this post.
It is purely my opinion based from our experience.

Which after doing 3 dual adoptions we definitely have experience!
And now we are doing it again!
Yay God!

Our first dual adoption were bio sibs- so I'm not sure if that officially counts as dual BUT there were two kids coming home!

Many families feel so comfortable bringing home one child. 
That is wonderful!
And that is right for them.
I would never want to say otherwise.

We just need to all work together to get families for the orphans!
whether it is one at time, two at a time or sibling groups!

for us, 
bringing home two at a time has been awesome!

We were so excited about bringing home sisters and thought is was such a perfect situation.
We are thankful the girls were not split up but at the same time it brought challenges that surprised us.
Emma and Ellie had their "roles", their expectations of each other and their baggage.  Instead of starting fresh and being able to redefine themselves in their new family they came with preconceived ideas of each other.
Their own little hierarchy.

Emma gave Ellie her food whenever Ellie wanted it, even though Emma was starving and Ellie was plump.
Emma protected her sister but Ellie did not protect Emma.
Emma was a lower class citizen, she was not just an orphan she was a mentally retarded orphan and she had no worth. The sad thing is even her sister who loved her more than anyone else also saw her this way.
Ellie was also cognitively disabled, speech disabled and most likely suffered at the hands of others also.
But in her life their was one person lower than her,
her sister Emma.

When we met them we were shocked. I expected to see two girls close together, talking between themselves and sticking together through thick and thin.

Instead we saw them practically run over each other trying to be the first to get love, acceptance and attention. It was heart breaking. 
Ellie wanted to be labeled the good child therefor Emma was expected to have the label of the bad child.
During much of our time in China they strived to fulfill their self given roles.
It was a very challenging time.
Because of their speech and cognitive disabilities they did not converse between each other at all.

Once we got home we had to undo all of this in order to redo healthy, happy, valued and equal roles within the new family.

There was no loyalty, no camaraderie, no consideration for the other- it was every man for himself.

Since that is not the way our large family works we needed to show them that we can love and accept both of them not one or the other. 

Once home Ellie was surprised to see that we were kind, loving and positive towards Emma. Ellie didn't know what to do about it and I think she was a bit threatened.
The girls would have fights in the closet. Ellie would be hitting Emma and Emma would be struggling verbally to defend herself.
If Ellie was having a bad day she would secretly take it out on Emma.

Ellie was NOT a bad kid. She just didn't know how to cope with the changing roles and dynamics around her.
(the girls don't fight like this now)
At the same time Ellie saw that she could trust us because we were nice to the one person that no one else has ever been nice too- Emma.
Quickly they could see that this was a good place to be.

So here were two children that knew each other and we being adopted together. It worked but it was challenging. 
They did have an underlying love for each other, a familiarity with each other- a comfort level because they were bio sibs.

We have never adopted 2 children from the same orphanage that already knew each other but were NOT related. I have heard of others that have and they have had their challenges.
In that situation the two children would not have a previous love towards each other. They would enter a family knowing of each other but never considering each other as family.
In one case a family brought home the bully and the victim. They had no way of knowing the orphanage dynamics before bringing the children home.
Is this bad?
No, but it makes for greater challenges.
I believe that anything can be overcome through prayer, love, hard work and more prayer.

Here is my thoughts on adopting two children from the same orphanage-

If the children are in the same orphanage and not sibs they do not have an underlying love for one another.
They have never loved this person before and now they are expected to love them?

They have a hierarchy where one is higher than the other. They live in a world of survival not love. These roles are with them and if they bring part of their past with them they do not leave other parts easily.They will take this to their new family and they will expect it to be this way in their new family.

Of course I think they can relearn new behavior and new family rules just like our children have, but it is challenging and takes time.

Some families are blessed to adopt friends or children that had a special loving relationship within the orphanage or foster home!
I would love to hear others who have had this experience!

Now onto adopting two children from different orphans-

We are amazed each time... that would be twice.
We will let you know if we are amazed again because our two children coming home this time are also from different orphanages.

The positives-
They come to us without preconceived notions regarding the other child. (Such as they are stupid, the stink due to incontinence, they can't- walk-club foot, they were in the bad room of the orphanage, nobody like them, etc)
They come to us without their spot in the hierarchy of the orphanage. They are not the lowest or the highest still trying to fulfill their old role.
They come wanting to be loved and to be part of a family without needing to step on someone else to get there. 
It's the fresh start the deserve!

They know that the other child is just as scared as they are but they also know they are not alone in this journey. There is another child with them that speaks their language and looks more like them than their new parents.

The language of play and laughter help them to adjust.
We play and laugh with them BUT we are not 5 or 7 or 11 years old so they immediately start to form a bond with the new sib.
This journey is so so scary- everything is changing in their lives and they are not the only one going through it- their new sib is too. 
This other person speaks the same language as they do- unlike their new parents. It's an instant bond.

And yes, they begin to bond to their new sib before bonding to us. 
But their new sib does not have the food, the money, the clothes, they do not protect them or provide for them like their new parent does, so they begin to bond to us too.
We always make sure that all food, gifts and clothes come from either Mom or Dad. 
All child cares are done by us for bonding until they can or want to do them themselves.

They see the other child accepting us so they do too. If at first one child pulls away and doesn't want to be close to us the other one sees the opportunity for love and acceptance so they seize the moment of opportuntiy. The next one comes around soon after!

There is less time for them to be frightened and to dwell on their fears and their preferences. Instead they are experiencing their new life with less fear and apprehension.

Old stereotypes are no longer with them. It no longer matters who or who did not like them in the orphanage. They start to get positive feedback, they like it and they want more!

Do they bicker - yes they do. In fact they will give it to one another in Chinese- it's pretty funny!
Do they compete - yes they do, a little but we watch it closely. I also don't mind if they compete a little to be "good"or to obey.
Are they jealous of each other? I have seen moments of this (the evil eye being given) but they seem to get over it quickly.

The negatives of dual adoption-

It is more expensive. Two orphanage fees, two agency adoption fees and extra plane ticket home, etc
It's an inconvenience- more suitcases, more backpacks, more prep at home, etc
It's emotionally draining (as all adoptions are whether it goes smoothly or their are bumps in the road) but now their are two children's needs that have to be fulfilled.
Your stay in China will be longer. You may have to go to 2 different provinces to meet your children before going on to GZ. You are away from your family at home for a longer period of time.

My own biased is this...

Why can't we help one more child
and then one more turns into
one more and so on!

We feel called by God to bring the children home and will do so until we hear or see God redirect us differently. Until He says we are done, until doors close and He shows us another way to serve HIM.

Does it matter of there are 3 or 4 children in the bedroom?
Does it matter if we have to squish together at the kitchen counter just a little bit more, or share bikes, or share clothes, or take turns with toys, so one more child can have a family?

God is not asking much from us. He is just asking that we care for his children. We can do that!

Bringing home two just feels so right, so natural to us!

It doesn't mean others have too. It just works for us.

Blessings on your journey whether it is for one, for two or for more!

Praise God!!

(Pics are from the children playing outside after a rain and Sarah going to horse day camp!)

Friday, June 22, 2012

All About Luke!

Many of you have followed Luke's story for a long time.
Ever since we was a tiny baby and very fragile with a serious heart defect. 

You have prayed for him and witnessed God's miracles as he was sent to Israel and had life saving surgery! 

And there may be a special family out there who may be particularly interested in his progress.
So I thought an "all about Luke" post was in order!

This little guy has been home 6 months!

When we met him in China our guide said "this is your Momma!"

Luke took one look at me and shook his head "NO, no she's not my Momma..."

Poor little guy- why on earth would he think I was his Momma?

It was so cute!

Three times while we were in China he walked up to a Chinese person and said (in Chinese)
"Can you help me find my Momma and Babba? They live in Beijing."
It was hysterically funny and heartbreaking at the same time.

He was stoic and trying to be strong while in China. We could tell he liked us but everything was changing and it was so confusing to him.
Having Sarah with us and adopting Abby at the same time was a big help. It was a distraction from his stress and made for great playtime and laughter!
One of the many reasons why we love adopting two at a time!

Luke is kind of like Anna. He goes to the beat of a different drummer. He doesn't always like to follow the crowd but he is fine with it IF it's what he wants to do.

He loves the doggies and spent the first 3 months amazed by them. Now they are just part of the family like everyone else. Ava is our other dog lover!

Luke's favorites sibs are Sarah and Ava (who he calls Era). He loves Sam too but the two boys are very different.
He has the biggest challenges with Emma and Abby. I think he is confused with Emma seeming bigger but unable to do the things older children do. Abby and Luke sometimes get into a bit of a tussle - they both want to boss each other around and not listen to the other one.

Luke LOVES all the older sibs and they adore him!
They enjoy his sense of humor. He has a wonderful wit about him! 
He can get along with younger and older people.
Whenever they come home he runs to the front door calling their name and gives them a big hug!

Luke had heart surgery after being home 3 months.
Before surgery he had good coloring but a limited activity level.
He would attempt to run 1, 2, 3 steps and then stop.
He would stop at the bottom of the steps and look to us... then say "carry" with his arms up.
He could walk about 30 feet and then want to be carried again.

Now, 3 months post op...
He is running and 
running and 

He is climbing!
He is jumping!
He is pedaling!

Did I mention that he is running!
And when he is done running he says
"I'm Fast!"

And honestly...
he is getting faster!

Heart babies do not focus on learning milestones. The focus on surviving.
Right now Luke is learning to make his bed, put on clothes and trying to brush his teeth.

He's pants are no longer falling down! He still has a tiny butt however other muscles are now developing. He has thigh muscles and a smaller tummy.
He weighs 32 lbs and is 37.5 inches tall! He has gained 3 lbs and has grown 1.5 inches in the last 6 months!
He is still in the 3 % as far as the growth charts but he is making nice progress!

Ava was trying to teach him how to make his bed!

She is very patient and he worked very hard!

He was quite proud of his accomplishment!

And so were we!

(in this pic Luke and Sam got their buzz light year PJ bottoms mixed up!
Luke is wearing 5T and Sam was wearing the 3T's!)

Luke is still in diapers- he is doing his business successfully in the toilet both the little one and the big one!
After the wedding we will be focusing on potty training!
Beware big boy those diapers are going bye bye!

Luke started swim lessons. He loves loves loves water... preferably to play in! 
Swimming was all new to him!
The first time we took him to the pool we realized we needed to help him get physically stronger.
If his head went under water he could not lift it up. If he was on his back he had a very hard time rolling over and "righting" himself.

I have always said that through adoption we have witnessed God's miracles right in our own home!
It happens again and again and each time it is just as amazing!

Once again we see how God is working in Luke's life!
He is healing him. He is strengthening him.
He is bonding us as a family.
He is teaching him!

While in China, Luke seemed to be able to speak the language and get his point across.
He no longer speaks Chinese as far as we know. Although if someone spoke to him he may be able to understand.
At this point I think it would be upsetting and confusing to him.

We are starting Sarah, Ava, Sam and Anna in Chinese language classes this fall. Anna never actually spoke Chinese BUT she seems to have an aptitude for it.
I am guessing it will be the same for Luke.

Luke's vocabulary is expanding and he can say 5 word sentences. Sometimes he is quite hard to understand but he always gets his point across and he is absolutely adorable when he talks!
There are some sounds he is unable to produce so we are starting him in speech in July.

He will also be doing OT to help him with his small motor skills such as holding a pencil, coloring, putting his clothes on and off, etc 

He had his 3 yr old well child check up this week and had a few necessary immunizations.
He did so well! Whimpered a little but no real tears!

Once Luke got home he went straight to the cardiologist. It feels so good to finally have his "well child check up" done!

There were a few 3 yr old milestones that we ned to still work on such as balancing on one foot.
He tried so hard in the DR office and almost did it!
Once we got home he practiced a couple times and whoola- he can do it!
We think with time he will catch up and most likely excel at many things!

This fall he will start preschool two afternoons a week!
We are still homeschooling but I am feeling like a preschool experience will be so good for him!
I love christian preschool!  I love what they teach!  
And it will be nice for him to have some time with kids his size and age!

I also believe that when educating the new adoptees it is important to start at the beginning - that would be preschool!
We have done it with all of our new children(no matter what age they are when they come home) and they are progressing nicely.

I will be doing preschool activities with Emma, Abby and Luke during part of the morning.

Luke does not like it when he wants something and we say no.
He freezes in his spot, won't look at us and is really in shock that we are not giving him what he wants. To him his request is completely reasonable!
If we ignore him he will soon get over it and come back and join us.

He has a tiny little naughty streak. We don't see it often BUT it's there!
If he wants a toy he has no problem taking it and voicing his opinion when someone tries to take it back. In fact he is quite shocked when someone takes it back.
In the end if he does not get what he wants it's completely unfair!

This where Abby and Luke have their squabbles. Even though Abby is not the second youngest, maturity wise she is... so they sometime go at it over a toy, a sitting spot or bossing each other around!

Luke has a more gentle spirit. He is not really a physical boy although he is capable of hitting a sister when I am not around. Usually he is pretty peaceful and very nice to have in the home and to be with.
He likes to do puzzles, color, look at books, play dublos, play with cars and be outside. 
When he is outside he likes to explore, ride his tricycle and where his shark bike helmet.
He seems to be quite tactile and loves soap when he washes his hands, playing in the dirt or sand, playing in the sink, playing with playdoh, and touching different textures.
He loves to be read to and especially loves interactive books!

He knows his colors and can count to 10! We are working on counting to 20!
He likes to play on the ipad but it doesn't happen often in our house!
(There is a long line for turns whenever it's out- but he always asks for his turn! So he does advocate for himself, which is good in a big family!)
He is beginning to sing some songs. Old McDonalds farm is a favorite and a hoot to listen too!
Luke does not have the best singing voice... and I'm being kind saying it this way ;-)
So... he fits right in!
None of us can sing!

He has been asking about his birthday (it's in November).
It was celebrated in China right before he came home in December.
Poor guy has to wait a long time for his first b-day at home.
Sorry honey- I know unfair!

I know there is so much more to say but for now this is all I can think of.

Luke is a perfect blessing from God and we are so grateful to have him home!

Praise God!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

HaPpY BiRtHdAy AvA!!

And Happy Father's Day Honey!

(I had this post all done... and then erased it, somehow... UGH)

We had a birthday plan and it included sunshine and swimming!
By the time we arrived at the pool there was no sunshine ;-(
It was time for plan B
we did not have a plan B
so we asked the birthday girl!

She chose to have lunch at the pool even though it was raining!

There was no lightening and a few families were still there so we decided to join them
and swim in the rain!!

It was a first for all of us!

The children LOVED it!

The water was cozy warm but a bit chilly on the outside!

Soon everyone left and we had the pool and the lifeguards to ourselves!

And 8 pairs of goggles!
4 children have no clue what to do with them BUT they still want them!
We often leave the pool with missing goggle or extra ones! Sorry to whose ever googles we have!

These two got chilled and needed to warm up!

They were all set to call it a day until they saw that no one else was getting out of the pool.
Their secret plan was foiled so they ended up back in the water!

And they loved it!

The next thing we knew Daddy was in the pool too!

I wanted to go swimming too (wink wink) but someone needed to watch Abby and Luke closely and take pics of our first every birthday party in the rain!

Whenever Dad gets in the pool he's like a kid magnet!

The birthday girl was certain this was the best birthday EVER!

We spent an hour and a half swimming in the rain!

Of course, I was hoping it was going to stop and the sun would come out!
I may have been the only one hoping for that!!

Emma loves the water!

Anna is a fish!

The birthday girl is becoming a very very good swimmer!

Luke is doing great in his swimming lessons!
He is learning fast!!
They were amazed at how well he did at his last swim lesson!

And now onto the Birthday Party!

This is Ava's second birthday at home!
She is such an amazing blessing to us!

Next summer Lottie (name my be changed- that's another post?) will be in the pic and she is smaller than Ava but bigger than Anna and Abby! Can't wait for all the cuteness!

Here are the guests of honor!
The Birthday Girl on her Birthday and the Daddy on Daddy's day!

And the invited guests!
It seems like we invite the same people over and over again!

Okay, now the party is getting outta hand!

And finally it's time to open presents!

The kids are really into Bu*ld a Be*r!

It make my job easy- one stop shop!

And by the look on her face I think she likes what she got! 

Could her smile get any bigger!

Happy Father's Day Honey!
You're the best!

I was taking a pic of the little kids when Johnny decided to jump in!

We love it when they big kids are home for the parties!

At the end of the night Ava and all the kids said this was 

The BEST Birthday Party EVER!