Thursday, April 12, 2018

Hints of Spring

This really has been the never ending winter, hasn't it? I'm not a winter girl (I ask Derek to look for warmer climate jobs every December); and sorry, I can take or leave a PSL and apple picking in the fall isn't my thing either. I do love a long summer, but by far, spring is my favorite season. Everything is fresh and new and clean and smells pretty and green and alive. I start bugging Derek about seeing buds on trees, "Did you see?? I think the tree across the street has buds on it." And he humors me, because one 40 degree day in February does not a budding tree make, "yeah, I'm sure it won't be long now." I need those hints of spring to remind myself that yes, winter does end.

I noticed yesterday our little flowering bush that we planted seven or eight years ago has leaves and buds on it, even though it's been snowed on more times than we thought it would survive, and for sure I didn't think it would survive this long winter. Our neighbor has the same one, and every year, hers blooms much sooner and longer than ours does. Here it is though, the little shrub that could. It's finally getting ready to show us its pretty purple flowers.

After what seemed like the longest winter possible, both of our boys are home napping and I'm sitting on the couch with the windows open and listening to the birds and enjoying the peace and the quiet and the fresh air before reality sets in again. I'm soaking in the hints of our actual, physical spring to remind myself that our family's spring is coming. 

Because how we're feeling right now? It's like we're in some never ending winter season. 

Hi. It's been awhile. We're still here. We're still in the thick of it.

Sometimes, we feel like we've been in the thick of it for almost two years. After all, it's been almost two years since we brought Jet home, and how quickly we forget how unprepared and inexperienced and scared we were during those first months that seem like just one long blur until his discharge after his heart surgery. It wasn't what we expected, and of course it wasn't what we wanted, but God had other plans.

Feeling pretty confident, we barely waited a day after Jet was cleared after his surgery before we full speed ahead hopped right back into our adoption plan again...expecting a longer wait before being matched again...but God had other plans. 

I know it seems like an exaggeration, and that you've heard it before, but I have paper (or I guess electronic) evidence that one day we were told it would be a 12-24 month wait for the special needs I inquired about and the very next day we got the call that there was a little boy available that fit our profile, with a special need we hadn't even considered because the likelihood of a match seemed low, but God had other plans. 

Judah has been home for almost a month, and for us adults, the adjustment period is a bit easier. Our minds are capable of understanding these changes. Sometimes, we don't like them, or are frustrated with them, but we can understand them. But for our two three year olds? They could use some time yet, both of them. Adoption is not natural, so how can we expect an easy transition for something that comes from brokenness? We can't. 

So when we're low on patience and sleep, when our older son is so overstimulated he's up until midnight or is so frustrated he loses the ability to communicate, when our younger son is refusing a hug or when he stands in the corner because he doesn't understand the meaning of "no" and refuses to join the family, we have to look for our hints of Spring. 
  • Two years ago, neither of our boys were home. 
  • One year ago, Jordan was still sedated more than a week after his open heart surgery with no immediate plan to extubate. 
  • Six months ago, we got to go on a family vacation and received the news we would *not* have to wait to adopt Judah due to policy changes. 
  • Six weeks ago, we were still a family of three. 
  • Two weeks ago, we were awake at night longer than we were sleeping.
  • One week ago we started to actively put a plan in place to help both of them deal with their feelings.
  • Three days ago, Judah chose to sit next to me with his books instead of in a chair by himself for over an hour. 
  • Yesterday, both boys played basketball and sung along to The Song of the Cebu (it's very catchy; they get their taste from their mom). Athletic and artistic, we keep them well-rounded.  
  • This morning, they both ate their breakfast, and second and third breakfasts...Jet didn't choke on a single thing, and Judah was picky--milestones for both of their respective developmental progress. 
And we don't forget the meals, the encouragement, the prayers, and the affirmations of friendship over the past years and months and weeks, especially this past. It would be and sometimes is very easy as adoptive parents to feel misunderstood, isolated, and lonely, but these brief interactions have showed us that we are not any of those things to our friends (and family) who love us. 

Every year my poor little shrub has stubbornly held off, long enough that I start to think that this was the winter that finally ended it,yet it still surprises me every year. Last year, at a brief glance it held not even a hint of flowering the morning Jordan went in for his heart surgery, and yet the day of his discharge was the first day it started to bloom. Even though sometimes we don't feel like we're making progress as a family, we know we just need to look a little harder. We have full confidence that with time, both of our boys will blossom into their full potential as individuals, as sons, and as brothers. 

We have no idea what the future holds for us. Derek and I are looking forward to a our kind of normal year with no expectations except the anticipated (and let's be honest, maybe a few unanticipated) doctor appointments, spring soccer, maybe a baseball game, a family vacation, some yard work, some house work...normal things that we've put off for going on two years. 

But God might have other plans. 

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.