Friday, March 29, 2013

A Friend of Zak's

When we were at Angel House, meeting Zak for the first time, we also met some of his friends. Some of them have families waiting for them, but many don't.

Many, so very many precious children are still waiting for their families to find them.

There was one boy in particular, a little boy who was so sad when he met us because he knew we would be taking his friend away from him. A little boy who does not yet have a family.

One year ago, my friend Dawn paid a visit to Angel House, where she met a little boy who did not have a family. Eva boldly asked Dawn if she would advocate for him, to us specifically.

Praise God, our MingMing is an orphan no more!

Eva, reminded me while we were talking of how we came to know of Zak, and then she gave me pictures of his friend. She boldly asked us to pass on the gift of advocacy that was given to us. So, I want to introduce you to Zak's friend Yu.

Yu is four years old and has cerebral palsy like Zak and Suhn. Our best guess based on the short time we were with him is that his CP is more involved than our kiddos. You can read more about him on the angel house website here.

He was so sad when we saw him, but Kory was still able to get some smiles from him. He is precious and he  needs a family.

I am so thankful he is living at Angel House, but the truth is, he cannot stay there forever. Eventually if he does not get adopted, he will have to return to the orphanage. It is not a decision they make quickly, but it is a decision that they have to make.

The thought of this precious boy moving back to the orphanage breaks my heart. I think it could break his as well. Will you help me find his family? Will you pray for this sweet boy? Will you share this blog post with others? 

I can't tell you for sure how to find his file or how to begin the process (although I have a few ideas, feel free to e-mail me - see sidebar). But then, we didn't really know how to begin when we first saw Zak's picture. God provides. 

It won't be easy, I can guarantee that, BUT this little boy needs, NEEDS someone to take a chance on him. He needs a family. 

Could his family be yours?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Early Days

I remember when we first brought our daughter home, the uncertainty of what to do in certain situations was so great I felt like we were starting from scratch, newbies in the parenting realm. Clueless.

The reality is, we were starting from scratch because parenting an adopted child added a gaggle of new layers to the parenting gig we were used to.

Our biological children have never experienced trauma or rejection or abandonment  They have a felt safety with us that has never really been challenged. So, when they act out or misbehave, most likely the root of that behavior is fairly straight-forward: i.e. they are selfish little boogers like the rest of us. 

And while our adopted kiddos fall into that same category, there is simply more to it. They have experienced trauma and rejection and abandonment. They have felt unsafe in a big way, whether that was as a newborn or toddler or an older child. Those kinds of life experiences make an impact.

So when one of my adopted kiddos acts out, the root of their behavior could be attributed to the fact that they are selfish little boogers, or it could be something more. Something like fear. Fear of being rejected or abandoned again, because no matter how long they have felt safe with us, that fear is hard to let go and can manifest itself in strange, subtle and frustrating ways.

The fear still shows up in our daughter from time to time, but the uncertainty of how to respond is less than when we began. Maybe the lines have become a little less blurred as she is able to express herself more. Maybe (thanks to readings, DVDs, classes) we know a little more.

Whatever the reason (a little of all of the above I'm sure), when she is upset, the cause of the behavior is easier to nail down and on our good days, we deal with it more effectively. The cause may be fear (or something else related to her past), or it may be typical 5 year old behavior, but our experience with her over the years gives us a clearer direction of what to do.  

Over the weekend we went out to eat as a family. While we were waiting for our food Zak became quiet. When the food came he refused to eat. When it was time to leave he didn't want to go. He resisted when I went to put him in his car seat.

It brought back those feelings from when we brought Suhn home. Feeling unsure of what to do or how to handle the situation. Wondering what the root cause of the behavior was? Is this adoption related? Was there a trigger in the restaurant that reminded him of something in China? Is this a grieving moment? Why didn't he eat? What should I do???

It turns out that he wanted a milk shake and when I told him no, he decided not to eat until he got the milkshake and when we left he realized he really wanted to eat. We figured it out, gave him his food, had ice cream when we got home and all was well with the world again. In this case, I really believe it was more along the "typical" 4-year old behavior lines than fear-based acting out, but it can be really hard to tell the difference.

Especially in the beginning, when the wounds are fresh and the communication is lacking. 

Thankfully, this time around it doesn't feel quite as scary or overwhelming. Experience is a beautiful thing, and we feel better equipped and less uncertain. Even so, the same mantra holds true from our first days as adoptive parents to today: one day at a time; one foot in front of the other; and lots of prayer!

Interested in learning more? Below are a few resources we have found extremely helpful in our adoptive parenting journey:

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Dishwasher that Didn't

We came home from China to a clean house and meals that I didn't have to cook.


We also came home to a dishwasher filled with "clean" dishes. At least, they were supposed to be clean. The dishwasher TOLD me they were clean.

Only they weren't. And after a little bit of finagling and extra runs, we came to the conclusion that although we were home from China, our dishwasher had moved on.

And by move on, I really mean our dishwasher decided to stop washing.

I guess he couldn't handle the pressure and extra dishes another kid would bring to the house. If only he would have waited to meet Zak face-to-face. I'm sure he would have stuck it out.

But he didn't. He checked out. We had no choice but to banish him to the garage, away from the house. FOREVER.

And while I want to be sad for him, I'm really not.

The replacement dishwasher has since been purchased and installed. He purrs like a dishwasher on a summer evening. He cleans. He washes. He has made me realize that while our old dishwasher did the job... he really didn't.

He made me scrub the dishes before loading them into his cleaning jowels. He may have cleaned them, but he  never washed them.

Now that Mr. Clean has arrived, I don't have to scrub the dishes anymore. In fact, I can pretty much avoid rinsing altogether if I wanted to (old habits die hard).

Good riddance old machine. You checked out. You've been replaced. And I have a dishwasher that actually does what it is supposed to do.

Who knew?!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Talents to Share

She lay in a ball on the sofa, blanket wrapped tightly around her nine-year old body. I had called the school that morning to inform them she was home sick with a fever. The ibuprofen I gave her had been doing its job, giving us both the illusion that she was not so sick anymore.

She was holding out hope that she would be cleared to go to school the next morning. It would be the last day before Spring Break, the annual all-school talent show. She had tried out and made it into the program.

But when I saw her laying there on the sofa in the late-afternoon sun, we both knew the fever was back.

"How are you feeling?" I asked, already knowing the answer.

She stood up, blanket draped over her shoulders like a royal fleece robe and in a trembling voice spoke the words we both wished were not true.

"I don't feel good." she said, voice full of emotion. "I'm not going to be able to go to school am I?" and then with tears in her eyes came the words, "Mom, I just wanted to share my talent."

I held her tight and tried to come up with some kind of consolation prize, the promise of movies on the sofa falling short.

She has since moved on and accepted her fate. She will probably be able to share her talent with her music class, it is something, even if its not quite the same.

Her desire to share her talent challenged me. It wasn't a boastful, proud desire. It was a child-like knowing that she had been given a talent and talents are meant to be shared. Not over-thought, not hidden, not held back because of fear or doubt or worry over what others might think.

The truth is simple, no matter how I like to complicate it: We have all been given talents to share.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Sky Beneath My Feet

I had the chance to do some reading in China. On the airplane, in the hotel room during quiet time and at night when we forgot to borrow a DVD from our travel com padres. I had several new books loaded up on my Kindle for the occasion. A little Agatha Christie (Murder on the Orient Express), Kate Morton (The House at Riverton) and the newest Lisa Samson release (The Sky Beneath my Feet). Each book totally different from the other, all worth the read. 

The Lisa Samson book I received as part of Thomas Nelson's Book Sneeze program. They send me books in exchange for honest reviews. So, here is my review on The Sky Beneath My Feet:

The basic story line from the Book Sneeze description is this: Beth's husband won't be joining the family on vacation at the beach this year. He's not even joining them in the house. Instead, Rick has holed up alone in the backyard shed. Nobody knows exactly what he's up to. Maybe he's immersing himself in prayer. Maybe he's lost his mind. Maybe he's even the modern-day prophet or the saint the neighborhood artist imagines him to be. But while "St. Rick" waits for an epiphany, Beth will have to figure out what to do with herself and their teenage sons, possibly for the rest of her life. 

I have read a few of Lisa Samson's novels before and I gotta say, I'm a fan. I used to read a lot of "Christian fiction." I don't so much anymore because a lot of what I read was somewhat cheesy when it came to relating the faith-based aspects of the book. There would always be a "conversion" scene at the end, and while I am a big fan of conversion scenes in real life, in the books I read so many of them sounded way too cliche. (I know there are many Christian fiction books out there that don't do this, I just wasn't finding them.)

I don't think "cliche" when I read Lisa's work. Her characters and their faith were real and relateable. The story kept my attention and challenged me. (I love it when a novel tells a good story and makes me think, big plus!) Bottom line, The Sky Beneath My Feet is a well-written story of how God became real to one of His children. In my opinion, it was definitely worth the read. 

***DISCLOSURE NOTICE: A free copy of this book was supplied to me for the purpose of review by publisher. No monetary exchange was given. All comments and wording in this review are purely my own. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Settling in

I should have pictures.

But since we have returned home, the camera has not been getting much use.

Shame on me, I know.

You will just have to take my word for it.

Our transitions continue to move along in a relatively smooth sort of fashion. Zak is kinda the rock star of the family right now. Except when he periodically bites or hits, but even then, they are quick to forgive.

Our table looks a lot fuller. He's just one small boy, but since he came, when I look around our table at dinner time I can't help think that there are A LOT of kids sitting there.

We are slowly making our way out into the world. Home, however, is his comfort zone as it should be.

The jet lag is slowly disappearing and we have been well taken care of by friends and family. Meals have been delivered on a regular basis, something I am thankful for and also (if I'm being honest) feel a little guilty receiving.

We are morphing into our new normal and it feels good.

I am extremely thankful.
God is good.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Good to Be Home


We are home and adjusting; trying to move out of the foggy-brain of jet lag into our new normal.

Or at least I am. While the twins have been up around 4 -5 each morning, they hit their days hard, full of energy until I make them go to bed at 8 where they promptly fall asleep in 2 minutes flat.

I have spent my last few nights keeping a detailed record of the rest of my families sleep patterns.

Zak's bed is currently a pack-n-play in our room, where he has been sleeping relatively well. Except when he's not from around 12 - 2 each night. Thankfully he doesn't cry when he's awake. He talks to himself and makes noises with his lips. It would be really cute except that it takes place from 12 - 2 each night.

He seems to be adjusting smoothly to our life. We have been taking it easy. Keeping errands to the bare minimum. Hanging out at home, getting to know each other.

It's been good.

Good to be home. Good to be feeling out our new normal. Good to be together again as a family.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

More Pictures, Less Words

Mostly pictures tonight. It's been a long, fun day and I am tired.

Our last few days have been filled with many "traditional" Chinese adoption moments.

At the White Swan, the following photos would have been called the "red couch" pictures. This hotel has no red couch, but the crying kids all dressed up look the same on the brown sofa as they would have on the red.

(our group minus the three ZZ dads who were all in their rooms sick)

(the kids)

(us minus Kory who is feeling much better and so far, 
no one else shows any signs of sickness, thanks so much for praying!!)

Wednesday we headed to the pearl market. The boys have gotten many requests for pictures on this trip. And while they are mostly good sports about it, I don't think they will miss their celebrity status when they get home. 

This morning we finally had our Consulate Appointment. The LAST thing on our adoption checklist. Tomorrow Zak's Visa comes and we start our journey home. 

And right after we got back from our CA, we headed out to the GZ Safari Park with our travel companions and friends. For all you adoptive families heading to China. We HIGHLY recommend it. The boys loved it. We loved it. That is all I am going to say. The pictures can do the rest of the talking for me.

My last goodnight from GZ. 

Monday, March 04, 2013

Time on the Island

I have been surrounded by boys for 2 weeks now. Yesterday, it was my turn to pick what we were going to do. 

AKA, it was time to go shopping. 

If you ask my boys, they will tell you it was BORING! 

A little boredom never hurt anyone. 

We took a taxi with another family from our group (a couple who has been with us since Zhengzhou and we have really enjoyed hanging out with!) and hit Shamain Island, home of the famous White Swan hotel (currently under construction) where we spent many hours wandering on our first adoption trip. 

It was a lovely day and the island has a really fun atmosphere. We hit the shops, bartered a little and made a few purchases to take home. 

There are statues all over the island. The boys decided they wanted to take their picture with one depicting the evolution of women in China. 

We made sure to get Zak's by the line of children. If you follow China adoption blogs, you know exactly what I'm talking about. 

We ended the day at Lucy's. We ate many, many meals at  Lucy's when we adopted Suhn. It brought back such good memories to be back again. The boys' loved it. They have told me they want to eat there every night for the rest of the trip. 

Probably not going to happen, but I'm glad they liked it.

Prayer Request: Kory woke up early this morning sick. We are hoping it is something he ate, but another dad in our travel group woke up with similar symptoms. Please pray if it is a bug, the rest of stay healthy and that he recovers quickly.

Zak continues to do well. He has been testing us a little, seeing what he can get away with. He has had a couple stand offs with his Baba that Baba has won. It is a good sign, showing he is comfortable with us. 

Today we were at a small park in our hotel, a women who spoke Chinese and English asked him how old he was. He told her six. I wonder if he was joking (like his brother Sean has been known to do) or if he really thinks he is six. Time will tell. 

All in all, he continues to do really well, he is a happy little boy. Can't wait for you all to meet him!!

Saturday, March 02, 2013

A Walk in the Park

Yesterday we said good-bye to Zhengzhou and hello to Guangzhou. Our flight was smooth and on time. The Zak-man was excited to fly, his first time on an airplane. When we took off he was glued to the window and was handing out big smiles. He did great.

Even though we still have 6 days in China, home feels close. We are in the final stretch and thankful to be at this point in our journey. Our guide informed us there is a Starbucks, Papa Johns, Subway and McDonald's all close to our hotel. We cheered. It is nice to be in a place that feels a little more like home. Guangzhou has more of a western feel and our hotel is filled with adopting families and other internationals making us feel like less of a minority.

The breakfast buffet was bustling this morning. The pancakes and french toast disappearing almost as fast as the chef could make them. The boys still managed to get their fill and gave the hotel breakfast two thumbs up.

There are two parks close to our hotel. And when I say park, I don't mean of the playground variety. The parks are large and the paths are winding. Filled with trees, bridges, beautiful landscape and amusement parks. They are beautiful.

The locals were busy playing all sorts of games, from ping pong to a type of hacky sack, to cards to badminton. It had a community feel, and while the boys complained of too much walking and Zak almost fell asleep in his stroller, I loved the meandering.

We walked for about an hour and only covered half of one park. We did let the boys go on one ride to rest their feet a bit. Plus, when we asked Zak if he wanted to ride the train, the smile he gave us was impossible to refuse.

Our walk through the park felt like an authentic glimpse of life in China, which is one of the reasons I enjoyed the time. Watching people of all ages interact, play, and watch us. There is another park on the other side of our hotel that is probably just as big.  We'll let the boys recover a bit before we cover that one.

The remainder of our day will include preparing paperwork for Zak's visa and a dinner out with our travel group. 

We are glad to be in Guangzhou, one day closer to home.

Friday, March 01, 2013

The Twins in China

When we decided to take the twins to China, we had two main reasons.

One, we wanted to expand their horizons and expose them to a new culture. Two, we hoped it would help Zak's transition to have his big brothers around.

It was a good move.

Despite the fact that we are going to have to put them through a "screen" detox when we get home. It has been so fun to have them around. I know Zak would agree.

He is already imitating them. He calls for them, loudly, using the Chinese word for big brother. He laughs at them and in general loves having them around.

And they have been great with their newest little brother. It has been really sweet to see them looking out for him. They love to sit by him at meals and pushing him in the stroller when we go out.  

Despite their wishes, they have not been able to play on the Leapster or Ipad ALL day. Among other things, I have been making them journal a little everyday. I thought I'd share a few of their thoughts/observations on our trip so far:

"I am excited for China because I will get to see Zak and because I will try new food."
"The food is great so far. I like the pancakes. I don't really like the toast." 
"There are thousands of China flags in China and hardly any in the US that I have seen."
"We got Zak today. He started crying. He stopped soon."
"The plane ride was awesome. I watched a lot of movies." 
"Today we got Zak. I had fun. This will be a blast. I think he felt sad and worried." 
"Today we officially adopted Zak. Also we came to an orphanage where Zak and Suhn were. It was sad." 
"I think Zak is happy. He is cute. He's also tough."
"The food was good. I liked the toast. I didn't like the waffles." 

I also can add that they don't like the prawn flavored chips that Zak's nannies sent with him; Zak on the other hand loves them. 

Zak continues to do really well. He grieves the hardest before nap time and bedtime. He cried pretty hard before his nap today. But when he wakes up, he is all smiles, ready to play. 

We are eating dinner with our travel group again tonight and then we fly to Guangzhou tomorrow morning. We will not be sad to leave. One step closer to home and normal life, or at least our new normal. I know there will be hard days of transition ahead and we will take them one at a time. 

We are missing our kiddos back home and are so ready to be together again as a family. 

Again thanks for all your comments, love, support and prayers. 

Hopefully the next time you hear from me, we will be breathing the fresh air of Guangzhou. :)