Friday, May 31, 2013

thoughts from David...

Since my wife is extremely busy, I figured I would write a quick post. I see the stats of the number of people checking the blog daily and start to feel guilty that we haven't posted an update in a while!

So here are a few of my thoughts...

Our time in China...

  • Beijing was a great experience. The weather was perfect (warm but not that humid and very blue skies which we had never seen in China before). Visiting a section of the Great Wall we had not seen before was the highlight for me. Hiking the Great Wall was a workout with two children but  an incredible memory. It definitely made LeighAnn and I thankful for CrossFit workouts! My other highlight was meeting friends for dinner in Beijing that we met on our last trip to China. The only glitch in our time in Beijing was all our checked luggage not arriving to the airport. We were told that it would be delivered the next day. That did not happen. We called the airport on the morning we were supposed the leave Beijing to check on our luggage (our flight from Beijing to Guangzhou would leave that evening). They stated it was there and that it would be delivered late that afternoon. I told them that we were leaving on a flight that evening and needed it sooner. The airport staff member in broken English said they couldn't get it there till the afternoon. I told them I was an "angry American" and "I needed my luggage within two hours"....short pause on the phone and then the guy says, "ok....we are on our way with luggage now." When I told our guide what happened, he was surprised we were able to get it sooner. He liked that I used the "angry American" line and thought that's why they changed their minds! Guess I need to keep that phrase in my back pocket if needed again!
  • Gotcha Day....Great experience at first, but almost too good to be true. LeighAnn and Linnea dressed up the same (a sweet lady from Fayetteville made all three girls matching dresses and we were able to send Abbie her dress a couple months prior). We were told later that Abbie picked out what she wanted to wear this day and she chose the dress we sent her. So, all three girls matched and that helped with an instant connection. When she came out, she went straight to Linnea first and then LeighAnn and made eye contact with the dresses. It was a neat moment and hopefully I can get the video posted soon. Abbie sat with us nicely on the couch and played with a few little things we brought (bubbles, etc). I worked with Miko on getting a few things translated in regards to her daily habits such as what she likes to eat, sleep schedule, etc. We realized Abbie was very strong-willed and independent rather quickly. She did not like being told what to do and pitched royal fit when we had to take her hand to get her to come out of a computer office she had ventured into after she decided to explore her surroundings. She hit and screamed but finally calmed down after some time as well as soothing words and water from LeighAnn. I have to be honest, I was thinking, "What have I done to my family!?" Here is Nathan and Linnea watching this child try to beat us up, she obviously is very strong physically, and I knew this was going to be TOUGH! My wife and I didn't really state our true thoughts until a day later, but we were thinking the same thing. This probably sounds so selfish but just being honest. 
  • Week one in China....Each day got a little better but Abbie still had meltdowns. We had great moments with her. She has an infectious smile and laugh. She is a beautiful little girl. We got to have a lot of fun with here. Then something would set her off....usually her not getting her way and she would pitch a fit. One of the worst was when she threw herself down on the ground outside the hotel in the rain. She was dead weight. The guide was talking to her in Chinese and she refused to move. That was hard to watch. I just wanted to pick her up whether she was hitting me or whatever. Instead we were encouraged to just let her get up on her own. So, I watched my sweet and gracious wife sit down next to her outside and sooth her wife her words while stroking her hair. One thing that was obvious once again on this trip was I definitely married way up! To see your wife be hit, scratched to the point of being cut, kicked to the point of having bruises all over her legs....and in return to hold this little girl, speak softly to her, stroke her cheeks and was just evidence of His Grace in her life that she in turn could be so merciful and gracious. No, it was not easy to watch as you just want to stop it. I did not want to see my wife crying like she was while these tantrums were happening or afterwards when it was over. My Son even asked me why she could get away with that (knowing that he is not allowed to treat us like that), so it was a great teaching moment for him. Sure, I could have stopped her kicking and hitting by physically overpowering her (which I must say was my instinct that I had to constantly fight back) but my wife would just say, "I got this, just let me hold her." As my wife posted, we reject authority in our lives all the time. We fight God unfortunately. We were able to point Nathan to Jesus on the Cross when He asked his Father to forgive those mocking and torturing Him as He took the pain Himself. Plus, we were able to teach him that Abbie may not know any better and that she was in "survivor mode." We were total strangers to her, spoke a different language, ate different things, etc. She did not know where her next meal would come from, where she would sleep or how she would be cared for. I asked Nathan to think about him in the same situation since he was the same age. He thought about it for a while and then stated, "yeah, I think I would probably act the same way." 
  • Week two in China...Much better week for Abbie as she started getting more into a routine. However, we figured this would start all over again once we got back home with a new routine. Life at a hotel and going from appointment to appointment is not reality back home! Abbie's tantrums seemed to be subsiding. She would still get into 'moods' but those are easier to deal with. We went to the circus and a couple other fun things which she really enjoyed. We finally asked the guide to tell her to point to things that she may like (food, toys or whatever). She started to do that so it helped to know what she likes. We bought her a couple toys and treats she liked and it seemed to make her day to have some things of her own. She definitely likes to shop now so I'm in more trouble with three girls in the house that like to shop! Everything was getting better with Abbie until the plane ride home. She did not like being confined in a seat belt. Not sure if she had ever had one on. I can't imagine how she felt since she had never seen an airplane before and her first trip was a 13 hour flight. She had about four kicking and hitting fits, with the last one being the worst. She was yelling so loud that about 15 other passengers gathered around us plus some of the flight crew. We had a three hour layover in LAX so we were able to get some food and relax for a little while before getting on the next flight. Plus it gave us some more time to get some snacks she liked and pray some more that the next flight would be smooth for her. It did go much better. She slept a good portion of the trip. When we were getting off the plane, I made the mistake of taking her carry-on bag from her. Keep in mind this small pink pull-suitcase had just about every possession she owned in it. She was having trouble pulling it down the airplane aisle as we were disembarking so I said something like, "let me get that for you sweetie." Well, looking back, of course she didn't understand me or my intentions. All she probably saw was me taking her bag of possessions and that totally set her off. She WOULD NOT get off that plane. She started crying and sat down in the aisle in front of me and all the passengers trying to get off the plane behind me. LeighAnn was ahead of us with Linnea and some other carry-ons. We basically had to pick her up with her fighting us to get off the plane. It took about 10 minutes in the jetway to calm her down. She was fine going towards baggage claim and it was so nice to see so many of our friends there to greet us at such an early hour on a Friday morning. What a sweet reunion it was to see Luke and Ethan!!!! 
  • Since we have been home.... We were so blessed by our wonderful friends ....our yard was taken care of and even landscaped, the pantry and refrigerator were stocked and a meal schedule was posted on our refrigerator of the people bringing meals in the first couple of weeks we were home....WOW! Totally blown away. Also, I had asked our associate Pastor while we were in China if he could help coordinate moving Abbie's bed out of Linnea's room into LeighAnn's craft room. We decided while in China that it would not be a good idea to have the girls in the same room. Our long term intent was for Abbie to have her own room within a few months but we were going to have the girls together for a little while. Well, with Abbie being like a "little Mommy" at the orphanage, we realized we had to make a change quickly. We thought we would come home to a craft room with a twin bed in it. Instead, all the craft stuff was moved down to our guest room and the room was decorated for Abbie. "Abigail Joy" in letters were on the wall, a dollhouse was in the corner, white children's furniture was in the room, and the list goes on. Sometimes it drives me crazy how much my wife uses certain words ("cute" being one of them!) but this room did indeed look cute. Abbie had her own room to sleep in and enjoy. It was fun to see her reaction. It is also fun to see her reaction to experience so many "firsts" in her life. She seems grateful and we are trying to go slow to not overwhelm her. We are trying to stay home as much as possible because over-stimulation can overwhelm her. Her tantrums are very few now, maybe one a day if that. She still gets upset and angry, but she is controlling it much better. We just sit her in a chair, sit next to her and let her calm down. She usually is not thrusting or hitting anymore....usually just some tears or silence. Then we ask her is she is ready to play again, talk to her in basic English about her actions (using a good amount of hand signals in which she acknowledges what we mean), give her hugs and then she is back to playing again. She has come a long way in a short time. She still speaks Chinese to us and we have picked up a few words (thanks to our friend Annie who speaks Cantonese and helped us with this). We have learned key phrases in Chinese to help her (and us) in this transition. We play outside a lot which she loves. Her brothers seem to like her and are helping her adjust. Linnea is probably having the hardest time. Sharing is the main thing we are working on with Abbie. Her favorite word in Chinese seems to be "it's mine." She is getting the hang of the sharing concept now but it will take time as she is still pretty reluctant to share. We find her hiding things under her pillow and sheets. We find her sneaking snacks. All these things will probably subside in time. Yesterday I came downstairs and she had an apple in her hand. She looked at me like, "can I really have this?" and I motioned that she could. She just got this huge smile on her face. (We keep a basket of fruit on the table so she can learn that she can know that food is available to her!)                     Here are a few more things from this first week:
    • Friday -- First day home. Several of our friends and family followed us home to help with the luggage. It was great to have them come. Afterwards, we enjoyed our first breakfast as a family of seven!!! 
    • Saturday and Sunday -- mainly spent these days outside playing. Abbie has quite an arm as we noticed when we were playing baseball. May have to sign her up sometime for softball if her mom allows me!! We also went swimming. I think this was Abbie's first time in the pool. She was unsure of the water but eventually got in with us holding her and mainly played on the steps. 
    • Monday -- Abbie's first Memorial Day. We went out to breakfast ...Abbie's first Chick-fil-A experience. I was wondering if she would like CFA (especially the nuggets since our kids love them and b/c she would not eat McDonald's chicken nuggets in China). She loved them and even asked for more!!! Made my day!!! Sorry McDonald's but real chicken always wins out!!! After breakfast we went to the graveside of a fallen soldier I knew. We placed flowers and small flags at the graveside and talked about what Memorial Day was really all about. Our boys (led by Luke) wanted to say the Pledge of Allegiance and sing "My Country tis of Thee" so we did both.    Monday afternoon -- gave Abbie her first bike. She now has a bike and scooter so she really likes both! What a smile on her face when she got this! We had a cookout that night (other firsts for Abbie ...hamburgers, hotdogs, baked beans, corn on the cob, etc)
    • Tuesday - Thursday -- A lot more playing outside and more pool time. Abbie is now walking in the shallow end on her own so by next week I bet she will be jumping in! Abbie picked out a pair of tennis shoes  from Target and was so excited about those. When I got home, she took my hand and motioned me to come upstairs to her room. She pulled out her tennis shoes, held them up, smiled VERY big and pointed to herself. How sweet that she got so excited over a pair of shoes that we her own. I got my lesson for the day in gratefulness right there. On Tuesday night, Abbie came over to me with an alphabet train puzzle. She wanted to go through each letter and practice. It was almost like she was stating, "ok, I'm ready to learn to talk your language!" We got about four letters into the puzzle and she walks off. I figured she was done. She came back with a leap frog alphabet machine. As we went through each puzzle piece letter, she would find the matching letter on the keyboard, press it, and then proceed to make all the sounds (i.e. "A"..."AAAA", 'Ahhhh", "Apple"). We went through the whole puzzle twice. I then took her over to the piano and broke out a lesson one book which Luke had been working on. We worked on her finger position, finger numbers and a C scale. We went through what each white key note was. She stopped me, walks over and grabs the leap frog, points to the letter "H" and then points to the piano and shrugs. She wanted to know where the "H" was on the piano. Ahh.....this kid is going to be smart! It was hard to explain since she could not understand my English that the white keys go from A through G and then start over with A, however, it was neat that she realized this! 
    • Friday morning -- Abbie heading to her first pediatrician visit. Hope everything goes well! Probably more pool time later!
Thank you so much for your prayers during this journey. They are definitely felt. The first week was not easy at all. The second got better. The third is going very well. Abbie is wonderful little girl. We are trying to let her be just that -- a little girl. You can tell Abbie likes to help (she would fold clothes, sheets, clean the floors, get Linnea out of bed and change her if we allowed her to -- yes, she has tried to do all of these repeatedly). We are trying to let her get comfortable here and just let her enjoy playing and being a little girl. It is fun to watch her have laugh and just enjoy life. Sometimes my mind goes there...there being "why could we have not gotten her earlier in life?" ....I know this was all in God's timing but just being honest that these thoughts do come to mind. I cannot wait to watch God's plan unfold in Abbie's life.

Thank you again for walking this journey with us. We are blessed to know you!

P.S. Friends --- we will probably stay home as much as possible as Abbie adjusts. LeighAnn will probably stay home with her while I take our other Children to Church with me. Here are things we are specifically working on so it may help you understand why we are staying put for now (and also how you can pray for us):

  • Abbie thinks she has to help all parents with their smaller children. Again, this probably comes from her having and wanting to help with the smaller children at the orphanage. This may take some time being away from small children for this to reverse.....not that we want her to lose her sweet spirit of serving, but to allow her to realize that she does not have to be responsible for small children.
  • Sharing ...probably a new concept for her which is much easier to work on within our family than with other children. This also goes into her taking things and hiding them (which would probably be seen as stealing to most). As soon as we correct her and tell her she cannot take a certain item and hide it, she does not do it anymore. For instance, she took some Chinese money that I had leftover out of my pocket and placed it under her pillow. If you ask where something is like this through motions, she will lead you right to it. This will take some time for her to realize that she does not have to take and hide things. 
  • Obedience and getting her way ...these are the two things that lead to most of Abbie's outbursts. She is obeying MUCH better now but still has her moments. It will take time for her to learn her boundaries, our expectations and right from wrong. 
  • Attachment --- this is probably the biggest issue for all adoptive families....we want Abbie to attach to us. Right now she would go to any adult and seek affection from them. She would even call other men "Baba" (Daddy) as she may be confused by this new person /role in her life. 
Thanks again for your prayers!!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Can't believe he's 7!!

Happy Birthday Luke!! I can't believe you're seven!!!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

the journey home....

I think I am probably past exhaustion and jet lag is here.  Its 3:30 am and I am eating a cookie, drinking a coke zero and blogging - yep thats crazy! I wanted to write about our journey home before I forget -  not that I think I could but I know in a few days I will probably enter into that "fog" stage - you adoptive mamas out there know what I am talking about - you don't know it while you are in it - but looking back you can see where you were in a fog for a few weeks after you came home.  I didn't notice it my first time when I was home with Linnea - someone else noticed it - but now I recognize it in other mamas - and so I am certain it will come around again this time.  Anyway I feel somewhat together right now so I thought I would blog and update you on the journey.  I have lots on my mind right now - so this might be a long post fyi.

We left GZ on Thursday afternoon around 4:30 China time.  Of course we couldn't just get all our things together and leave no that would have been too simple.  About 15 minutes before we are needing to head out the door to the lobby of the hotel to check out  - I am once again going to fix Linnea's hairbow that keeps getting ripped out because she and Nathan feel the need to wrestle and get all sweaty after having baths because you know we are getting ready to be on a LONG plane ride and will not get to have a bath until we make it home.  I go to fix her hair to discover she has gum in her hair - Nathan accidentally dropped his gum out of his mouth when they were wrestling - and it lands in Linnea's hair.  I break a comb trying to get it out.  It has to be cut out.  Meanwhile - Abbie is in the process of taking the money we have left to get home and trying to put it who knows where.  David catches her in this act and of course takes the money away and as you guessed - a meltdown ensued.  Yes these are the kinds of things that happen to you right when you need to get out the door.  We did make it to the lobby - and we were on time.  We said our goodbyes to the dear friends we met along our way and we were off to the airport.  On the way to the airport Abbie again gets in one of her moods - she keeps pretty quiet for this one.  We made it to the airport and Miko helped us get all checked in and dropped us off at security.  It was sad to say goodbye to her.  Lord willing I will see her again and in the meantime I will keep praying for her soul.  So we begin to make our way through customs inspection  and of course we get in the line where the computer quits working and I should mention I don't think the airport has a good working AC!!  The inspectors move us over to another line check us all out and then we move on to security.  I strategically packed all the items we would need to take out and put into bins into one bag.  Do you think this worked? No of course not - and I will never complain about ATL security at the airport either.  We had to take out all my chargers, my curling iron,  it was crazy!  Its a good thing we were early!  We finally got through all that and made our way to the gate where we had some time to chill out before we got on the plane.  Which means we had time for Abbie to have a large outburst the one with the screaming, kicking and hitting.  It was such a large outburst that when we went to the bathroom after this - the ladies in the bathroom looked at her and started to pretend cry and point at us and of course they are talking in a language I cannot understand - who knows what they were saying about us.  I am hoping that she is just getting her outburst over with and she won't do this on the plane,  I wish I could say that I was wrong.

I should note that the Chinese people have their own ways of doing things and they are not patient and they like to stare.  One example I can give is when the girls and I were in the bathroom before getting on the plane there was a lady standing outside our stall and when we opened the door to come out she may as well have pulled us out of the stall - we couldn't get out her way quick enough.  And I mentioned the comments/snickers we got in the bathroom.  Another example: as we were getting ready to board the plane one of the elderly women was trying to push me out of the way just to get her ticket read so she could move on and get into the airplane.

So we make it onto the plane with no problem.  The girls and I had three seats out of four in the middle aisle and David and Nathan had two out of four behind us.  I sat in the middle and had a girl on each side.  We should have never put Abbie on the aisle.  During this rather LONG plane ride Abbie had 4 outbursts as I now like to refer to them. Keep in mind she has never been on an airplane - I don't know if she has ever even see one she may have seen some in pictures but I don't know.  She had one fit during her sleep.  I think she was having a nightmare.  She did sleep some but when she woke up confined to a seat belt - well that didn't set well with her. And us asking her to move her legs out of the aisle for the flight attendant didn't go over real well either that is what triggered her last one. It was right before we landed and it was the worst.  As I was holding her and trying to keep her from hurting herself she just got louder and more volatile.  Lets just say I have war wounds from this one.  David moved up to help me try and calm her down and if it wasn't already bad enough we got to have an audience as some of the Chinese people on the flight got out of their seats to come and watch.  When she has these she always screams the same phrase over and over again and of course we have no idea what she is saying to us - but I am sure its not nice.  Tears began to stream down my face and if I am being honest here - which clearly I am - I was feeling humiliated.  She got it together before we landed and we were able to get off the plane all in one piece so to speak.

Finally on American soil!  We breezed through customs and immigrations at LAX in no time and Abbie is now a United States Citizen and officially a Pruiksma!! During our layover time I begged others to pray that God would be merciful on our next plane ride home.  LA to ATL is a four hour flight and I just didn't think I had it in me to go a few more rounds with her.  I was tired physically and emotionally.  This time Abbie and I got to be on a two seat side with a window and an aisle and then David and the other two were right across from me on the three seats in the middle.  We learned our lesson from the last plane ride and this time Abbie sat inside by the window.  She did amazing not a peep....until it was time to get off the plane.  We were finally home and she wasn't budging.  She was just standing in the aisle with of course people behind her wanting to get off the plane themselves.  She threw herself on the ground and then I just had to pull her up and drag her with me - I am carrying Linnea dragging Abbie who is kicking and screaming and David is following carrying our carry ons.  We made it to the jetway to get the stroller and then she just throws herself on the ground - screaming that same phrase over and over.  We just waited - I know the poor crew was ready to leave themselves and they were so gracious even offering to help carry her.  She finally got it together and we made it off the jetway.  Praise the Lord.  I am thankful she got the outburst out then so this was not the first impression she would give her brothers she hadn't met yet.  Finally we were on our way - almost home.

I don't think I made it up the escalator before the tears started flowing.  I was so ready to be home in more ways than one.  I wanted to hug my boys and see familiar faces who have walked this adoption road.  It was a joyous reunion and Abbie did wonderful.  We were greeted by family and a few dear dear friends.  Mind you we landed at 5:45 am.  So when I say dear dear friends I mean dear dear friends.  We are blessed beyond measure.  As we arrived home and pulled up into our driveway we had a beautifully manicured lawn and someone had put the roof and slide on our kids outside fort.  If that wasn't enough our kitchen was filled with all kinds of goodies and a stocked fridge/freezer and pantry.  But wait it gets better...

While we were in China we quickly realized that we were not going to be able to have Abbie and Linnea share a room - so we called our dear friends and had to ask for help.  We needed our office cleared out and Abbie's bed moved into there.  I wasn't too worried about how the room looked I just needed her bed to be in there.  I even told them don't worry about cleaning out the closet - I can tackle that when I get home besides it was the junkiest closet in my house - its the office!!  The main thing was the girls just cannot sleep in the same room right now.  As we headed up to show Abbie her new room - I was completely blown away - speechless,  crying.  I felt like I was on one of those room makeover shows.  My sweet friends couldn't let Abbie just come home to her own bed - they gave her a room - AND they cleaned out the closet.  AND on our back deck was table and chairs - something I have always wanted... and ALL seven us of will fit!!  We are indeed blessed.  I can't even begin to put into words the deep sincere gratitude I have for my church family - to be a part of such a body of believers is indescribable.  I know that I know that  know this family prayed and prayed and prayed some more over and for our family.  We felt it and have seen evidences of it.  I love being a part of you Berachah family and I/we are thankful how the Lord has used you in our lives.  You have brought much joy!!

So here we are home sweet home and our journey continues.  This is a lifelong transition as we are continually being conformed to Christ.  We have now been home two full days with Abbie and things are going surprisingly well.  The outbursts are not nearly as often and have not been remotely what they have been.  She is getting along great with Ethan and Luke.  There is work to be done with Nathan and Linnea.

I was rocking Abbie on her bed last night as she was having trouble sleeping - she was crying, tears were in her eyes but there was no sound - it was a silent cry.  I was reflecting on all we have been through with Abbie and just all the emotions I have felt with her and I was reminded of God's goodness - in that moment of rocking her I felt extreme mama bear love for this sweet girl.  Friends I have to confess - when she is physically beating me up - love is not on my mind and I again confess I cannot even bring myself to ask God to help me to love her in those moments - I am relying on you going before Him on my behalf asking Him to help me - and HE does.  That was more than overwhelming for me - when I am so stuck in my own sin and don't want to ask for His help - He generously gives it to me anyway.  I am unworthy and in reality I never will be.  I look down at my arm and see physical reminders of the struggle that goes on with Abbie and I see reminders of the struggle that my own adoption required.  Tonight I praise Him for this reminder.  He is the reason I am here and He is the reason we are in this journey and so by His grace we will carry on and strive to bring glory to His name throughout.

So what now (are you still reading?  sorry I told you this would be long!!)  First and foremost keep praying.  Pray for the souls of my children.  Pray for Abbie - pray God would break her for His glory.
Life for us will be different in all kinds of ways now but specifically in these next several weeks - we are in what they call the cocooning phase of adoption!!

We are confident of this : God's design is PERFECT!  His plan for parents and children is a beautiful meaningful picture of His love for us.  The primary caretaker (usually mommy) meets the need and soothes the child.  This repeats between a parent and child over and over to create trust within the child for the parent; the baby is hungry, cries in distress, mom feeds and calms the baby - which teaches her that this person is safe and can be trusted.  By God's very design an emotional foundation is laid in the tiniest of babies, which will affect their learning, conscience, growth and future relationships.  The security provided by parents will, ultimately give children a trust for and empathy toward others.  Children who come home through adoption have experienced interruptions in this typical attachment process.  The loss of a biological mother and father at an early age can be a major trauma on their little hearts.  Abbie has experienced the loss of familiar and comforting caretakers as well as the sights, smells, and language of her birth country.  Abbie is easily overwhelmed. Not only does she need to learn about this new environment we have thrust upon her she also has to learn about love and family.  She has not experienced God's design for a family having lived in an orphanage setting for over 6 years.  Her world has been turned upside down.  She may and likely will struggle with feeling safe and secure and lack the ability to trust that we will meet her needs.  She is on survival mode - and it doesn't include us.  The good news is that we can now as her parents and forever family rebuild attachment and help her heal from these emotional wounds.

A friend shared with me this great article on 10 things you can do for an adoptive family. It says it ay better than I could and I think it is just good info.

1. Give them space. The parents need time to bond with their child, and too many adults in the child’s life may complicate the bonding process and confuse the child. The adoptive family may need breathing room to adjust to all the changes in their family, so call first and ask them when would be a good time to visit – and be patient if it isn’t right away! 
2. Honor boundaries. Ask the parents about boundaries before engaging with a newly adopted child, and then respect those boundaries. Often adopted children should not be shown affection and care by anyone other than their new parents until they have had a chance to fully attach to their new family.  
3. Share the love. Be careful not to ignore other children in the family. This can cause resentment with the new sibling(s) and leaves parents the difficult task of answering questions like, “Why am I not as special as my new brother?”
4. Word watch. Be thoughtful about what you say in front of children. It is not beneficial for children to hear questions about how difficult or expensive their adoption process was or to hear comments about how saintly their parents must be for letting them into the family. 
5. Respect their privacy.  Do not ask prying questions or expect parents to share details of the child’s background and biological family history. Many families choose not to share their child’s history to respect the adoptee’s privacy. 
6. Embrace honesty. Ask the parents how they are doing, and don’t be shocked or judgmental when they share struggles. This does not mean they regret adopting – it just means adoption is hard! Be their friend and encourager as they share struggles. 
7. Bring community to them. The early months with a newly adopted child can feel very lonely and isolated as the parents often need to stay at home with the child while they attach and adjust. Get creative. Bring dessert to their house and sit and chat after the kids are in bed. Find a night when dad can be home with the child and you can take mom out for some adult conversation.  
8. Find practical ways to serve. If they have other children, offer to take them out for a bit. Mow the yard. Bring meals. Clean their house. Offer to come over late after the kids are asleep and let the parents take a walk around the neighborhood or go out for ice cream together. 
9. Respect their parenting methods. Parenting and disciplining children who have experienced loss, trauma, abuse, and/or neglect requires a completely different parenting approach.  Even if their parenting choices seem unconventional to you, respect their choices.
10. Rejoice with them. Point out and rejoice in all the sweet little victories along the way as little hearts heal. Celebrate with adoptive parents as their child learns to give and receive love and to be a part of their forever family. 

    Thank you for staying with this and reading this incredibly LONG blog post. I am grateful! Well, we are officially a party of seven!!  Woo Hoo!!  Stay tuned life just got a little crazier :-)  I will try and post some pictures tomorrow!

    Wednesday, May 22, 2013


    Tonight is my last night in China - as I sit here typing and thinking, and reflecting I am looking out the window from our hotel room to this very big city - once might look out and think its rather gloomy looking, dirty, and way overcrowded, buildings so close together they are practically touching one another and the majority of these buildings are apartments - just in my immediate view I can count at least 15 apartment buildings = and some of them are high rise - but not in the fancy sense of the word.  There are close to 12 million people in just this city alone and each one of them has a story.  These people speak a language that is beyond me and even in that language there are several different dialects none of which I clearly can understand – but I love to hear their conversations and the inflections they use with their voices.   I am fascinated as we go out at night for dinner walking the streets of Guangzhou. You know one thing I think I will always get a kick out of is Chinese fashion! Today we saw a guy wearing a shirt that said "I am a style icon" - do they even know what their shirts say or mean?  It just cracks me up!  I love people watching and thinking about back home – what seems worlds away – you all are up and getting your day started and here we are winding down for the night.  I wish I could explain all the feelings this place conjures up inside me – but I can’t – I am just in awe.  I love this place.  If I could have my other children here with me and could find a place to live and have a somewhat normal life – I would stay here – not forever but for a time.  It’s no surprise that this was where I wanted to live before I met my prince charming.  Therefore tonight is bittersweet for me.  Don’t get me wrong – I am MORE than ready to get my hands around my sweet boys that I left at home and I am ready to sleep in my bed among other things, but I am also a little sad to leave this place behind.  You know last year when we left – I left knowing I would be back one day for another little girl – I had no idea it would land me back so quickly – but tonight I think its pretty safe for me to say I won’t be coming back next year – I am not sure how soon I will be back.  And I leave friends behind here – it occurred to me tonight that when you adopt you are not just adding a new family member to your own family – you get to add a bunch of other families into that mix as well.  Families from Idaho, Tennessee, Virginia, and then of course the friends you make here in China – like Miko our guide whom I’ve come to love, and Rebecca our other LL guide.  I think of the strangers I have seen in the streets or in the stores, the waiters at restaurants we have frequented, the beggars on the street.  All likely lost – do they know about HOPE – the HOPE?  I must confess – as we were preparing for this trip – I was a little concerned that I would get homesick and just be ready to get out of this country and home asap.  I prayed hard that God would not let that happen – that whatever happened on this trip that I would not lose my love and zeal for this communist dark country that so needs the LIGHT!! God was faithful – beyond what I could imagine – because after our Gotcha day almost two weeks ago I laid down on the couch in our hotel room weary, exhausted, emotional and out of tears just wanting to come home and here I am tonight – a little sad to be leaving.  I am thankful – thankful that God has burdened my heart for this place – thankful that HE is sovereign and thankful to be coming home.  Who knows maybe one day we HE will give us the opportunity to live here for a season- I can certainly pray that way J. 

    Tomorrow we start our journey home.  We finished up Abbie’s visa paperwork today at the consulate and will wait for her passport/visa to arrive tomorrow.  This has indeed been a journey.  I have so many pictures to share but the Internet has not exactly been cooperative so I guess I will just picture overload when I get home and get over jetlag! 

    Luke and Ethan two more sleeps for you and Mommy and Daddy, Nathan and Abbie are home!! We have missed you soo much!!  Can’t wait to see you!!  Next post Lord willing will be from the USA!

    Tuesday, May 21, 2013

    just hanging around...

    Today was somewhat uneventful as we had nothing on the agenda except for a dinner boat cruise this evening.  Nathan and I worked on school and then we had an opportunity to go out and take a walk to the local Aeon (kind of like a super Target and shopping mall combined) while the girls took a nap. I enjoyed being able to browse a store with two free hands and it was good to have some time with Nathan.  A funny story.  While Nathan was working on his math today Abbie decided she would practice writing her numbers as well.  As soon as Nathan noticed this he says "hey mom look Abbie is writing in Americanese!!"  It was so funny!!

    It was nice to be able to just stay in our room and not have meetings and things that we had to get to.  I know most people would be bored but being out so much gets to be too much for Abbie and that can actually trigger a meltdown - we almost made it all day without one - but this evening we had a little one.  Things are getting better. I have a feeling though once we get home it might get worse again and then get better.  We are going to really have to work hard once we are home.  Abbie is so friendly even here - she would bond with these other families if we let her.  We are thankful to be with other families who know the importance of ignoring her so to speak.  She's so cute she can be hard to ignore especially when she wants to touch you.  Please pray that we would be good nesters at home and that others would understand the importance of this "cocooning" phase for our family.

    This morning after breakfast we ran into our friends the Caldwells who just got their little boy from Maoming yesterday.  We met them in the lobby and this was the first time he and Abbie have seen one another outside of the orphanage.  As soon as he saw her his face lit up and he exclaimed "AiMu" (which is Abbie's Chinese name.)  It was one of the most precious things I have seen.  I wish we would have caught it on video.  I am so thankful for all the Maoming mamas I know.  What a bond we all share!

    The dinner boat cruise was pretty much like I remembered it from last year except this year it rained pretty much the whole time.  I am thankful that towards the end we are able to get out and get a few pictures.  It cracks me up that they run out of plates and out of food - not that it was that good or edible. We thankfully knew to snack before hand.

    Tomorrow is our Consulate Appointment!!  Hooray - this is the last check in the box!!  Abbie will get her visa and we will be on our way home Thursday night.  It is bittersweet as I think about it - believe it or not there are things I will miss about this place and I am pretty sure I won't be back again in a year :-)

    Here are a few pics from the day....  or maybe not - actually I have tried to download them three times now and I keep losing the internet - so check back later.... I have to go to bed!

    Monday, May 20, 2013

    what we've been up to

    It looks as things are right on schedule with the Embassy here in GZ so that means that we will be able to have our Consulate Appointment and Wednesday morning and be home on Friday!!  Woo hoo!! 4 days and my family will be together again!!

    We have been pretty busy these past few days so it does make the days go by quicker.  While I am so ready to be home with my whole family there are things I will miss about this city I love - but I will post more on that later.  Right now I will let you know what we've been up to these past few days.  

    Sunday morning we got up and were able to go to an International Church Service.  Oh my I most definitely needed this!! What an encouragement to my soul!!  The music was fantastic and the message was deep - hard core and it was on raising children - isn't God soo good!!  It was refreshing and God used that time to remind me and encourage me - especially in my plight with Abbie.  When she gets into her fits - not only is there a physical battle that I am fighting - there is also a spiritual war going on. We are doing battle for her soul.  Thankfully God is in control of all things and regardless of what I do or don't do - He's got this covered.  He did though call us to where we are - to adopt Abbie and we are answering His call and I am convinced He will equip us with what we need along the way!!  Abbie is doing better each day - but its still hard.  I can't imagine what she is thinking.  Thankful for grace!

    After church we grabbed some lunch with some friends at the local McDonalds.  Abbie will only eat the french fries - can't say that I blame her :-)  After a nap we headed out with some other Lifeline families to the Liwan plaza - basically the local shopping district where you can buy good jade, pearls, and other Chinese type souvenirs as well as some pretty cheap DVDs.  When we arrived back at the hotel we caught up with our dear friends the Caldwells.  I have to just write about these sweet friends another time but the also adopted from Maoming - a little boy.  So excited for them!!  They came over to our room where we all had some yummy pizza.  

    On this mornings (Monday) agenda was the zoo.  It was HOT and miserable!!  We did see a few really big snakes so that was a hit - but we didn't stay long as it was so hot and humid.  

    Tonight we went to the circus!!  The number one rated thing to do here in Guangzhou is go to the circus and I am so glad we went.  It was an amazing show.  I am guessing it will be one of the highlights of Nathans trip.  It really was fantastic and I highly recommend it!!

    Well my eyes are getting heavy so I will leave you with some pics.  These are just a few as we have many!! Enjoy!

    Saturday, May 18, 2013

    Days like this...

    Today was a hard day.

    Today was our medical visit day.  All kids who are being adopted undergo a medical examination in order to get their visa.   All kids who are over the age of 2 must undergo a TB test.  Last year when Linnea had her TB test done I was allowed to go in with her and even hold her while they did the stick.  Well it looks like the rules have changed because no parent could go in with Abbie - in fact they took her to the room and closed the door while we waited outside.  You can probably see where I am going with this.  Yep just a few minutes later we had a terrible fit.  Yes right inside the medical office building in public - probably her worst fit yet.  She again hit, kicked, screamed, pinched and just had a complete meltdown.  These moments are hard.  We are not exactly sure what triggered this fit of rage or if it was just simply because of what she had endured during the morning - who knows.  After our guide came to help us calm her down - she pretty much shunned me for the rest of the morning.  We made it through the day with having any more big meltdowns but we certainly got looks and gestures that let us know how she is feeling about us.  She also gives us this scowl look while talking to us in Chinese - it sounds like she is cursing us - and for all we know she might be - we certainly can't understand what she is saying.  NO ONE would ever think from looking at her pictures that she could be like this - but I am here to tell you pictures can be deceiving.  Now when she is having a good day - those pictures are true to life.

    I was talking to one of our guides today about Abbie's fits of rage and just wondering what her thoughts were.  I find it so interesting that she tells me that just a few day ago the orphanage director called them to let them know that Abbie was very strong willed and stubborn.  I find it so interesting that they waited until we were in country before they disclosed that information.  Not that we would have changed our minds - but it would have been helpful in preparing us to bring her home.

    I will probably say  it a million times but this adoption has been soo different from Linnea's.  And the bonding and attachment with Abbie is going to take much longer and a lot more work than it did with Linnea.  In fact Linnea just crawled out of bed and came straight to me to be cuddled and reassured.  The last thing Abbie wants to do with me is cuddle and be reassured I am her mom.  Right now I am just a stranger to her.  A stranger who speaks "martian"  trying to be her boss - and this is not going over well.

    I want to say that I do indeed feel your prayers - there was one point today where I could just feel myself getting ready to lose my patience when suddenly I was overwhelmed by grace - and it wasn't me!! For sure the Holy Spirit was working and I know its because of your prayers.  For this I can never say THANK YOU enough!

    A dear friend reminded today again that this is attachment thing is no joke. Its hard for sure!!  And in reality it takes time - and with older child adoptions it takes LOTS of time .. She shared with me a passage in the "Velveteen Rabbit"  I think it is so fitting.
    • “Real isn't how you are made,' said the Skin Horse. 'It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.' 'Does it hurt?' asked the Rabbit. 'Sometimes,' said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. 'When you are Real you don't mind being hurt.' 'Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,' he asked, 'or bit by bit?' 'It doesn't happen all at once,' said the Skin Horse. 'You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.”
      ― Margery Williams

    Thursday, May 16, 2013

    What we know about Abbie and the things we are learning....

    It is customary for families to be given an update on their child on adoption day.  I thought I would share the information we got about Abbie:

    She is from Maoming Social Welfare she was brought to the orphanage gate at 20 months with a note.  She has been in Maoming since this time for a total of almost 6 years.  At night she slept with a foster family as well as lived with them on the weekends.  In her foster family she had two brothers and a sister.  She can walk, run, jump, climb and ride a tricycle.  She doesn't know any English.  She can speak!! Personality: she wants attention.  She may be nervous in new places.  If someone she knows stays with her she will not be so nervous.  She is strong-willed.  She wants to be the boss.  She will be shy when meeting new people.  She does not like to talk to strangers and will put her head down.  She is a good eater she will tell you if food is salty or sweet.  When she stayed at the orphanage she likes to take care of the little ones.  She likes to play with them.  If she stays with strangers she will normally be shy.  She is quiet, shy, likes to smile, likes pretty dresses, likes to play outside, likes to help foster parents do house work.  She likes toys, Barbie dolls, cloth dolls, music box, building blocks, legos.
    Here below is a picture of the documents the orphanage gave us - its a journal so to speak of her life while she lived in Maoming - its all in Chinese but the pictures are priceless and we will have it translated.

    That was the information we were given on Monday.  Right away I knew she was strong willed and I would add - doesn't like to share.

    What we have learned these past few days:

    She LOVES to smile and her smile is infectious.  She has the cutest giggle and she likes to giggle as well.  She has two emotions - happy and mad and these can change in an instant.  She loves to wash her hands (she is her daddy's girl) She likes to color and is very good at it.  She is a touchy feel kind of a girl.  She and Luke will get along well.  She likes to be a mama hen - Linnea is not very fond of this.  What's hers is hers and no one else can have it much less touch it.  If she sees something she likes she is going to take it and likely hide it.  For example - David and I were missing our watches - we found one under her pillow and the other one under a stack of coloring books.  Last night after I put the girls to bed I could hear something going on in the room - went back in to find Abbie digging through David's backpack and putting what she wanted from his backpack into her backpack  She's quite a character.  If she is hungry or tired her mood changes dramatically - the combination of this would not be good news for us.  She has to eat and must have a nap.  Her mood swings are unpredictable - its hard to know if this is part of the grief process or is this part of her personality - and could it be due in part to the special need she was born with.  I don't know....

    I look at Linnea and constantly remind myself of what a difference a year makes.  I am thankful for this reminder as we learn Abbie and begin to parent her.  We know this is part of God's sovereign plan and trust His timing and His plan.  The days ahead of us will be joyful and painful for all parties involved - but don't we all have good days and bad days.  I from time to time would read a blog of a fellow adoptive mama who has adopted three children and one of them being older and suffered through quite a traumatic experience - while Abbie has not suffered the same traumatic experiences - she certainly has suffered and in ways I can't imagine and in ways different from Linnea.  Being a parent of adopted children is certainly a calling and definitely requires wisdom.  I am  thankful that God promises to give us wisdom when ask for it.  Here's to the days ahead....

    both girls having a moment...

    one of my new favorite pictures!!

    Wednesday, May 15, 2013

    the good, the bad, and the ugly ....

    I feel like I have somewhat of a "clear mind" in our guide Miko's words... David has taken Nathan to the pool, and the girls are in the bathtub so I am going to attempt to begin this post - it might be long it might be short - it just depends on how this night progresses -  thats just one of the many unknowns in my life right now...

    I think I will start with the ugly......ugly might not be the best descriptive word out there - but lets just say some things about adoption are not pretty.  I have said it before and I will continue to remind myself that my own adoption was not pretty - it was actually horrific - but boy am I ever glad Christ was willing to go through the horrific just for me.  So Monday's gotcha day was rough.  I have been sitting here at the computer for quite some time and I just can't seem to get past that sentence.  Monday was a long day and I at one point felt like I was in a pit and couldn't get out - and not that I just couldn't get out but that I had drug my whole family down there with me. The 23 Psalm was near and dear to my heart this day - clearly I wasn't walking through death but I was in a valley and it wasn't pretty.  I went into the Civil Affairs office where we were to meet Abbie with no emotion.  I had no idea what to expect.  I can say during this whole time of preparing for her to come home I have reminded myself over and over to expect to be surprised.  I think I was more thinking that in terms of her cognitive well being and it never occurred to me what her social well being might look like and what grieving would look like for her.  I am so thankful that we had Nathan and Linnea with us as we met her as I think they were very beneficial in bringing her in our fold.  She came out in her matching dress and bent right down to Linnea.  (I should note here Linnea is not fond of having a big sister around and is very much jealous and she does not like Abbie touching her all the time.)  If it weren't for the kids I am not sure Abbie would have willingly come sit over by us.  We had been told the day before when Abbie sees something she wants she is going to go after it - even if it means putting it in her pocket.  We saw this when she saw the gifts we had brought for her.  She wanted them right away.  She is very strong willed - something else we noticed right away.  Just within the first few minutes of meeting her fear and doubt begin to set in with me.  She didn't want to be touched or bothered - she wanted what was hers and that was it.  This was nothing like Linnea's gotcha day - that day was a fairy tale so to speak and I was longing for those kind of moments.  As the afternoon progressed things got worse.  Abbie refused to be in pictures with us and then she had a meltdown which included kicking, head butting, pinching and hitting all while I am holding her.  This was heart wrenching and I lost it emotionally as well.  Abbie was grieving and this was her way of doing it.  I had been prepared for tears but the rest not so much.  It was HARD.  Even today as I sit here and right this I cannot begin to imagine what must have been going through her mind or even what is going through her mind right now.  We somewhat got ourselves together and made it back to the hotel.  We came in and she wanted a bath so the girls got a bath. This seemed to make her happy.  Then she wanted her fingernails painted like Linnea's.  Well that started out ok but didn't end so well.  We are not even sure what set her off but the tantrum ensued and she again kicked, hit, head butted, pinched and cried, until she fell asleep.  At this point I was physically and emotionally spent.  And to be honest I was missing the sweetness that I had on Linnea's gotcha day.  This day had been traumatic for all parties involved.  The funny thing is last year when we adopted Linnea and she did so remarkably well - our friends Daniel and Jenny adopted too and their daughter was not doing so well - she screamed and cried and didn't want to be held but didn't want to be put down and David and I can remember saying we're praying for you guys... the couple we adopted with this week had a seamless transition and said those very words to us "we're praying for you guys"  We for sure are feeling the prayers of His people as we make little strides everyday.  The meltdowns are fewer - we see evidences of Gods graces everyday!!

    The bad - well so we have gotten word that the United States Consulate has been closed for an emergency.  This is not good news.  The Consulate Appointment is the last thing you do in China and it is your ticket home.  You cannot leave until you have this appointment.  Our appointment is not until next week.  We have been told that they are closed all week and are not sure when they will reopen - however when they reopen all the people that had appointments this week will be first to have their appointments whenever they do reopen and this will push all the other appointments to a later date.  What does this mean for us - well so far we are being told that it looks like our stay will have to be extended for a few more days.  We do not have confirmation of this - but we have been given the official heads up.  At this point if that does happen we are thinking that David will go ahead and fly home with Nathan and Linnea and I will stay here with Abbie as we wait for a consulate appointment.  The hard thing right now is how to handle flights as we don't know for sure when I would get to come home.  And we don't know for sure if we will even be affected - but we are preparing for it just in case.  Please pray for us and all the families affected by this - there are a lot of us here right now and not just from our agency.  Lots of mama's and daddies wanting to get back home.

    The good - I must end on a good note!!  Abbie is doing well considering the circumstances.  I mean she  has known nothing but an orphanage for the last 6 years and then the foster family she stayed with at night and on the weekends.  I can't begin to fathom this.  She has two emotions happy and mad there is not middle ground with her.  For the most part she is happy!! We love her giggle.  And she can talk!!  She calls us mama and baba (daddy) she repeats things we say to her and she knows her new English name!  She likes to love on us and be cuddled.  She is ours!!! And most importantly we feel your prayers.  I was telling a friend earlier - this is spiritual warfare for us.  Satan would love nothing more than to have Abbie and lots of other orphans left here in this country where people hang crazy pictures on their doors to scare the demons away.  God is good and sovereign and HE is right here with us.

    I can feel my eyes starting to get very sleepy - so I will post some pics for you and head to bed.  So far we have gotten Abbie, made it official, and applied for her passport.  Tomorrow is a tourism day.  Thanks for keeping up with us!! Much love!!

    Beijing Day 2

    After a long fun filled day in Beijing on Friday I think we were toast once we got back to our hotel room!! Much needed sleep was had by all!!  We woke up Saturday morning tracked down our missing luggage and got the packed up as we were heading out that night to come to Guangzhou.  We wanted Saturday to be more of a relaxing non rushed day and it turned out to be just that.  We had another amazing breakfast - side note - all breakfast here in China is super good!!  After breakfast we met our friendly tour guide Eric and headed out to the city center.  It was much more crowded on the streets of Beijing with it being the weekend.  Also Eric said that the months of May and October are the busiest months of the year in China as far as tourism is concerned.  For example that day it was an hour wait just to get a ticket to the Forbidden City.  Thankfully that was not on our agenda as we had done it last year and didn't think the kids were old enough to enjoy that tour right now.  We did stop at Tienanmen square and walk around to the outside of the Forbidden City.  It was neat for Nathan to be able to see in person some of the history that he had learned during our homeschooling year.  Chinese people really know their history- the facts they recall is pretty incredible.  The sad part to me is that they don't know all of their history.  They learn about what happened in the square and things about the revolution from people like us - foreigners.  Nathan was pretty fascinated by seeing all the military all over the place in the sqaure and he enjoyed seeing the mote around the Forbidden City.  After stopping at the city center we headed out to the Hutong Village and took a tour in rickshaws around this old old city in Beijing.  We even got to go in house.  In this village in these homes there is no bathroom.  You have to use the public restroom.  I cannot even fathom living that way - but they are totally accustomed to it - and I am sure they would think our way of living to be quite different as well.  After our Hutong tour we returned to the hotel to get ALL of our luggage and grab some lunch.  At this point Nathan was ready for some American food so we hit the trusty Mcdonalds.  Can we say yum - sort of.  Nathan thought it tasted like home - so I was glad for him.  After eating we then headed out to the market.  This is the place where all the foreigners go to bargain for lots of different things - mainly pearls and knock off purses, watches, and shoes.  If there is one thing I do well its drive a hard bargain.  This is always a fun part of the trip for me as when I say just the few things I know in Chinese the market people get all surprised and it makes for great conversation.  And let me just say I am a better bargainer than my husband :-)  and I always walk away wondering if I could have bargained them down farther.  We probably disappointed so many as we didn't buy much - after all its fake - but they do crack me up trying to tell me its not!!  We did visit our friends pearl market and had a good time there.  We picked out some pearls to give to Abbie on her wedding day.  Linnea got a little pair of earrings and Nathan made as strand of pearls to give to his future wife one day.  After our market experience we sat down at a starbucks as we waited for our guide to come back and pick us up.  I am so glad we did this - as Nathan sat down and being the social butterfly he is - he started speaking to the lady sitting next to him and she was an American.  Her and her husband were there visiting friends they actually are working in Korea.  And the friends they were meeting volunteer at Maria's Big House of Hope - that is the orphanage christian songwriter/singer  Steven Curtis Chapman sponsors.  They were going there to volunteer over the weekend!!  How kind of God to give us this sweet experience.  They asked if they could take our picture and pray for us as we were in China. I LOVE how God is in all the details.  So gracious to hear a familiar language and to speak with believers who have a heart for the orphan!!  Makes my heart joyful!!

    After all this we headed back to the Airport to say goodbye to Beijing and hello to Guangzhou.  Here are a few pics from our Saturday in Beijing.  Enjoy!!