Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Once Again, Family and Friends

Dear Family and Friends:

We are so close to having Travel Approval and a departure date to bring home Judah! February is going to be a very busy month for our family because of both of our boys keeping us busy, so we thought we'd post this now while we still have a chance. You might remember a similar post prior to our departure to leave to bring Jordan home almost two years ago. We thought we would write something similar, and ask that you read through it once again to understand how you can help us in the coming weeks and months! 

Regarding our homecoming: 

I know a number of people have asked about meeting Derek and Judah at the airport--something that we were unable to do with Jet because of extra special circumstances--and we would love it if you would join us at the PIA. Please follow along on Judah's Facebook page where I will be posting the flight information as well as daily updates while Derek, his dad, and Judah are in China. We hope you'll follow along for the actual journey, and this time I'll be updating the page here in States so you won't have to stay up late or get up early to check for new posts. In fact, this will be the last post here for awhile so you'll have to rely on Facebook/Instagram for any updates.    

Just like last time, we ask that in the airport you please do not touch or show affection to Judah as well as limit direct eye contact and communication with him. This is even more important this time around since Judah is a bit older than Jordan was when we brought him home, plus he'll have had a lot of new experiences in a very short period of time that could cause him to be overstimulated and scared, in addition to being exhausted from traveling. I know some of you are huggers, and please, feel free to hug anyone you want--just not Judah! If you want to bring balloons, signs, or gifts, please check in with me first so Derek and I can decide if we think it would be too much or okay for Judah. Given that the boys will each be around three years old, there's a good chance that both of them will vaguely remember this day and we want to make sure they remember it as a exciting and fun time and not scary and overwhelming. 

In fact, please also understand that even last minute, we may decide to keep our homecoming quiet and private, pending how Judah is doing. Again, the Facebook page will have that information. 

Please keep reading to find out how you can help us in the coming weeks...

Derek and I (and Jet) are very thankful once again for the love and support you have all show us thus far. We are so excited to become an official family of four, as this process has been much, much longer than our first time around and we know how excited you all are for us as well! We also recognize the changes coming our way, for all four of us, and once again we'd appreciate your help and support in the future to make Judah's transition into our family complete. 

While some of the ways we parent will be the same as parenting biological children, both to siblings and new additions, there will also be some differences. We realize these methods may be unfamiliar to you or even strange, but we ask that you respect our decisions. We've discussed this at length with our social worker, due to the boys' similar ages, and it is not our desire to cause any hurt feelings (because there will be feelings hurt) but we can all agree that we want what's best for both boys--boys who are old enough to recognize changes but not mature enough to properly handle them emotionally. 

Our main priorities are two-fold:
  1. We need Judah to feel safe and secure in his new environment and learn to trust us both as his new parents. 
  2. We need to make sure, especially given the closeness in their age, that Jordan does not feel left out or replaced.
Because of these, again as mentioned, many ways we parent may seem strange to you. One big reason for doing things this way is because Judah will trust us only to an extent to meet his basic physical needs. Please remember, however, that just like a newborn and caregiver are starting from the very beginning, we too are starting at the "beginning" with Judah. Adoption is traumatizing regardless of age. Within a fifteen(ish) day time span, Judah will have left the only home he's ever known, where he shared a room with ten to twenty other children and rarely left the facility's grounds, to meeting his dad, staying in a hotel, lots of appointments, lots of flights and train rides both in country and back to the States, new foods, new smells, new clothes, and a different language. Judah needs to know that we, as his parents, are his constant and will be the ones to meet his needs, whatever they may be.

We are firm believers that attachment begins the minute your son or daughter is handed to you. Even in China, Derek will be the one to see to Judah's needs while Derek's dad will be, as we like to tease him, a glorified baggage handler with no tips. Once they are home, we will be limiting visitors and Judah's interactions with new people and experiences. In fact, for the first few weeks that he's home he won't be leaving the house. If you do plan to help us in any way or visit, as some of you have already volunteered (thank you!) please text or call us first so we can decide how to proceed. After those first few weeks or more if he needs them are up, we will slowly start to introduce him to new experiences and people. For example, we may attempt church on a Sunday, and if that goes well maybe get groceries on Monday. If not, then we'll stay put for a few days and try again when we feel he's ready. There is no timeline or agenda.

Another way things might seem strange to you is that at times, it may seem like we don't discipline the boys. I promise you, that is not and will not be the case. However, unless Judah (or Jordan) is a danger to himself or others, we will not be enforcing typical rules that you may have in place for your kids who have always lived with you and have trusted you since birth. Things that typically we would even call Jordan out on we may let slide for a short while. In Judah's case, he is only just learning how to live in a family--so how can we expect certain behaviors and rules to be obeyed if he's never experienced them before? We also ask that you do not discipline or correct either of our kids (again, unless they are a danger to themselves or others around them) so that we can establish a trust relationship between all four of us with no resentment. If you do see a questionable behavior, please bring it to Derek's or my attention to handle. 

Judah may seem like a friendly, outgoing, affectionate, and extroverted kid. This is very common for kids who are raised in an institution, but in addition, if his file is indeed correct, both he and Jordan have that special extrovert gene. This is why it's especially important for you to please remember that when you do come into contact with Judah, he may ask you for a snack or to be picked up or read to or any number of things, and--here is the hard part--please do not do what he asks and redirect him to us, his parents.

That's right.

Go against everything that you know to be true and right in this world and do not help the cute little boy with dimples. This rule applies to everyone, no matter your relationship to us and/or him. We know what we are asking, and how hard it will be for some of you, but there is no way for us to know what is Judah's personality vs. what could be a display of typical orphanage behavior. Children in orphanages are used to going to an adult, any adult, and asking for what they need. Not only does Judah need to learn who his parents are and more importantly, what parents do, Derek and I also need to learn about and bond with our son as well.

Before Judah accepts anything--food, affection, toys or gifts--from others, he needs to accept them from both of us. If you do have something you wish to give him, we ask that you wait or that you give it to one of us to screen when an appropriate time would be to give it, no matter how small or large the item. Thank you to those of you who have already done so. He has lived with very little to call his own, and the last thing we want is for him to be overwhelmed with toys and gifts. On the other hand, and this might be the only time we'll say this because it goes against everything we've ever said, this would be an excellent time to affirm Jordan and his place in the family should you still feel the need to shower anyone with gifts.

We realize what we are asking, and that it might seem crazy to you. Again, we have no timeline or agenda. Some children can be well-adjusted within a few months and some may take a year or more--regardless of age! However extreme, all we want is to do whatever is best for Judah and Jordan to make sure they both feel secure in their place in our family. If you're not sure about something, just ask us. Derek or I won't be far away from either of them, or easily reachable, so we'll be happy to answer any of your questions. Some things we might relax right away, and others not, but we have no way of knowing until we are reunited and living together as a family of four. It's a gradual process, full of two steps forward and one step back, but our hope is that it will be so gradual that no one will even notice the tiny changes, and that on Judah's timeline, he will be a happy and well-adjusted little boy who knows he has family and friends who love him, just as Jordan is.

By no means are we implying that we are experts on the subject of attachment. I'm pretty positive that there will be times we mess up, but--in addition to everything else we are already asking you--please show us some grace? We'd like to think we've learned a few things from last time, but every child is different, no matter how they join your family and adjustments always need to be made. If you want to read further about our crazy ways, I'm happy to suggest a number of resources that have been written by psychologists, social workers, and adoptive parents.

Thank you all very much for your understanding and help while we get used to our new normal as a family of four!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

It Goes On

In three words, I can summarize everything I've learned about life: it goes on. --Robert Frost.

There are only a few hours left of 2017, and it's bittersweet to leave it behind us. Between the first day of the year and today, we've had ups, downs, highs, lows, and all of the in betweens. Like many of you, I found our Top Nine on Instagram to be a refreshingly accurate representation of our year. As Mr. Frost so eloquently referenced, life goes on.

But...sometimes life moved slowly. There were days that didn't seem to ever end, like the day of Jordan's heart surgery, and then the day of his second surgery a few days after. Silent cries because he wanted to be held but there were so many tubes and wires and lines attached that it wasn't possible. Helping him out of the car when we got home after being discharged and realizing the boy who ran down the hall toward the operating room couldn't even walk or talk. The days and weeks post discharge when he would cry and and shake because he was weaning off some pretty heavy narcotics, and we were giving our two year old methadone and Ativan just to take the edge off until he could start to feel like himself again. It's old news for many of you, but it was just yesterday for us.

But, then there were the quick, happy flashes, that happened more and more frequently, like holding our son for the first time after two weeks. Seeing him smile and ask for PomPom. Learning to jump, both feet leaving the ground. Taking our first family vacation ever. Building sandcastles and eating shaved ice and fish tacos and experiencing our first hurricane like true Midwesterners. Getting colds and not ending up in the hospital (except for that one time...). Experiencing the holidays the way they're meant to be experienced, with family and friends.

Learning that we would be a family of four, very quickly. Buying new clothes for another little boy, just a couple months younger than Jordan. Counting the days and realizing that in less than two months from now, Derek and his dad will be in China bringing home Judah. Emails and updates about our newest son, stacks of paperwork and red tape completed just to receive and send off a fresh bunch.

So 2017...was bittersweet. It was fast and slow. There were parts we'd prefer not to relive, parts that we wish would stay forever, and parts that point to a future we can't wait for. We don't make New Year's Resolutions, because why decide to make a change later when we can just do it today? I realize that's a rather lofty and somewhat arrogant sounding statement but it works for us.

If we've learned anything this year, it's for these two control freaks to not hold on so tightly. Again. We've made a number of plans this past year...and not a single one has happened the way we anticipated. Not one. It's almost--but not quite--comical. And we're not perfect at letting go, not by a long shot.

Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit"--yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that." As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. --James 4:13-17

Does this mean we don't make plans? Absolutely not. We still make plans. We still pray about those plans. We hope those plans will come to fruition. But, we've also learned to be flexible. We listen more to our gut when things don't quite feel right. We aren't in control. We never have been. God is God, and we are not...and when you finally, finally remember that, you can hopefully find comfort in it. So when incidences like unexpected health issues, bills, matches that weren't the right fit, paperwork logjams, or small rodents that tunnel through the backseat of your car happen, we can accept...that was in The Plan. Just not ours.

So there are no New Year's Resolutions here. We have some hopes for what 2018 has in store, but we don't call the shots. We also don't intend to sit idly by and watch life happen. Time doesn't stop for us, life is fleeting, and we intend to be present for every moment, planned or not.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Plus One

Plus One Day: the day when your child has been home with you one day longer than they weren't. 

Typically, it's used as a marker for adjustment and attachment. When you reach it, it's a good measurement for where your family is in your attachment journey. For many, it's indicative of how well-adjusted your child is. To fully erase the damage of being alone, institutionalized, without a family, some experts say this particular day can be when your child will finally begin to feel wholly and completely a part of your family. A Plus One Day is a good thing. Some families even choose to celebrate this day, especially since it only comes once. 

Well, we didn't. 

In fact, while I've thought about Jet's time with us off and on over the past eighteen months or so, I never actually marked the date, and it was only yesterday that I saw a post on Facebook by someone else who mentioned it and I realized I should count back since surely it was coming up. Well, it actually came and went over two months ago, with no acknowledgement and absolutely zero pomp and circumstance in this house. 

I brought it up to Derek even, marveling at the fact that Jet has been with us for more than half his life. Part of that is due to the fact that he was just barely sixteen months old on our Family Day, which is atypically young, and the other part is because time truly does fly. Ten pounds and nine inches worth of time, actually. 

So while we (belatedly) acknowledge this day, it's also bittersweet. It's one more day removed from his country of birth. It's one more day removed from his birth parents, who may never know that their son is still alive. One more day removed from his Nainai. It's realizing that he no longer responds to Jian Guo. It's realizing that his little "xiexie" has morphed into "thank you". 

Please, don't misunderstand. These are all good things. I'm thankful that Jet's adjustment and attachment went smoothly. Of course there were bumps in the road, as expected, but overall we're grateful that we have a pretty confident, well-adjusted little boy who we can call our son. Yet we can't help but grieve, to realize this isn't the way it's supposed to be. 

In a perfect world, Jet's birth family wouldn't have had to worry about their son needing costly, open heart surgery. They wouldn't have had to make what I can only imagine was a devastating decision. Their son would grow up happy and healthy, with his family who loved him. 

But, that's not how things worked out. His birth family was forced to make the hardest choice parents can face. For reasons we'll never know but will always be thankful for, God orchestrated Jet to be able to receive his lifesaving surgery while still in China. Then, while recovering and up to the time of his adoption, Jet was able to learn to live in a family, a part of a family with a woman who loved him as a son, teaching him important things like how to love and how to be loved in return...thus making his transition into our family as our son smoother than most. We're forever grateful to her for her sacrificial love. 

We don't live in a perfect world. We have lots of questions, and never enough answers. But we do know that God doesn't make mistakes. His plan is perfect. He's in control. 

So we forgot Jet's Plus One Day. I haven't even done the math to figure out when it was exactly, because right now, it doesn't matter. What matters is our son, growing up happy and healthy, with his family who loves him. Jet is where he's supposed to be.