Saturday, November 1, 2014

Fall and a little more...

I know I promised I would be better about updating this blog, and I didn't do it! Summer has seem to come and went, and fall is quickly fading to winter.... We have had a busy few months but we wouldn't like it any other way.

This year the housing market took a huge swing and became crazy busy. Towards the middle of summer we began casually looking at houses online- which was a bad idea (or good one)! The houses were selling FAST, within days. Of course the house that we fell in love with had an offer on it when we called. The realtor promised to call us if anything changed and wouldn't you know about 10 days later the sale was sliding. I happened to be in Chicago at the time visiting an old college roommate when I got the call and Dan had to check out the house alone, and he sent me videos. We decided we loved the hardwood flooring, we loved that it had a fenced in backyard with an acre of land, we loved that it wasn't in a neighborhood, we loved the finish basement, we loved the price (Much cheaper).... pretty much we loved it! So we wrote an offer.... AHH... our house wasn't even on the market! We sort of just put the situation in Gods hands right in the beginning when we first saw the house online and trusted that if it was meant to be, it would work out. We never worried about selling our house, or if it was a bad decision. It always just felt right. So we closed on the house a few days after our 9th anniversary and moved in slowly. Towards the middle of September we got an offer on our house, and just recently closed about a week ago. God is good!

This summer we also hosted some chinese students- 4 different girls. We had 2 girls for a couple weeks toward the end of july, and 2 girls during the month of August. We learned alot from these experiences. We were blessed with our sweetheart from Japan, two days after the Chinese girls left in August. Mare (MA- Lay) has added so much laughter, smiles, and joy to our family. She is a complete DOLL and we feel so blessed to be her American family!

Alliot had his palate repair surgery the beginning of September. The recovery afterwards was rough- 3 weeks liquid diet, 3 weeks purees, soft foods, and then regular diet. We made it through and the doctor says the palate is healing well. :) During the recover process Alliot and I grew much closer. He even gave me a few kisses totally initiated by him. Talk about melting my heart.

Back when we got home from China we knew that we could reuse our paperwork if we were matched with a child within a year of adoption day. So we filled out a new checklist (identifying medical conditions we would be ok with). Our agency told us not to expect being able to take advantage of this because the wait for girls is about 18 months with their agency. So we viewed other waiting children profiles, and felt overwhelmed by starting over that we just didn't pursue anything. The friday after we got the official signed offer from the buyers of our house, we got a call from our agency. I was sort of in the middle of cleaning up dinner, and rushing out of the house to a friends. Dan was outside playing with the kids, and I was completely caught off guard. The agency worker gave me a brief overview of the profile, to which I didn't seem very interested in, and I said "well just send it to me, and we can take a look at it, and if nothing else maybe we can give you some feedback as to her status." She said ok, and sent me the file. It was a complete puzzle to me, she looked great, but there were some worrisome parts of the file. I then sent it to a doctor friend to get his opinion, to which he had the same thoughts. Then we sent it to a few adoptive momma friends with medical knowledge, and same thing. Finally we sent it to our pediatrician and he also concluded with the same comments. Everyone told us "She looks really great, and is developing well." So now Dan and I had to make a decision. My heart yearned for another girl, but I wasn't sure this was the one. Dan was content with our four but open to another. We wrestled with God so much on this issue, but when it came down to it we couldn't help but hear his voice. So I turned to Ann Voskamp, I just love her blog. The blog for the day was entitled, "Dear you... a letter for all the hard days..."  The letter opens like this, "

Dear you,
Dear Self and me and you and us,
Really, it’s all going to be okay.
You’re going to be okay." 
(a link to the blog if you want to read)
Over and over through out the letter she says "you're going to be okay." Dan and I talked a lot and prayed hard over this issue. 5 is a LOT of kids, our life is already crazy, we planned to spend the check from closing a little differently, etc etc etc. When it all came down to it, what we do in this life really isn't for us or about us at all. This is kingdom work, its tough, its crazy, but we are so blessed and taken care of. Every excuse I could dream up, He had an answer- no stress of putting together another dossier (a HUGE document that requires lots of steps and papers) because we could reuse our paperwork that we didn't think would be an option, repeatedly told "shes developing well," and the biggest concern- the MONEY. Nearly the exact dollar amount our first adoption cost, is nearly the exact amount we received a check for at the closing of our house. So we said YES one more time. Im leaning on HIS promises that this is all working out according to His will. Wanna know another cool fact... the same day we got our pre-approval for Alliot 1 year ago, is the same day we got our pre-approval for this little one!! :) The only detail we haven't figured out is travel. I know I can't leave the kids, so mostly likely Dan will travel alone however, my hope and prayer is that God would somehow provide the funds for the whole family to travel together (we do not have the money for that which would be around $10,000 extra). I would love for the kids to experience the country and culture of their siblings birth, and to share the joy as a family welcoming her into our arms. We are currently updating our homestudy, then we need homeland security to approve us, and then the documents travel to China for final review. We think travel will be April/May/June timeframe. 
So Im sure you are all wondering her details.... She is 19 Months old, born 2/19/13, She and Alliot will be nearly twins, and the same grade in school. Her name will be "Abrielle." I know with adoption many details are shared about their past, but this time since her "diagnosis" is not obvious, we are choosing to not share it. For her privacy mostly. Should things come up in the future we will do our best to share. She does not have any communicable disease, or chronic, terminal illness (to maybe ease your curious thoughts). We want you to get to know her as she may be, not with a diagnostic label.  
Today we celebrated Alliots 2 Birthday!! He was a happy guy, and loved the attention. He had a blast trick or treating last night too. We shared this big news with family today at his party. I will add pictures below!!! 
More updates soon.... 

Alliots "Cheese" face at his birthday party


our finished pumpkin carving. Design by Aviela

Alliots cake

Riding in the wheelbarrow to pick out our pumpkin

After bath smiles

Halloween- Anna, Elsa, Olaf, Golfer, and japanese girl :)

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Summer Time!!

I know I promised to be better at writing and updating the blog, and I failed miserably!!! Its been a month and a half since I updated last.... sorry! :(

May flew by with Johns graduation, his parents coming, him leaving, Alliots surgery for tubes, Asher t-ball, Aviela Dance recital, and Avi & Asher finishing up school... whew! The kids and I made a summer bucket list, and have been spending our days together crossing off those items. I was actually nervous for the summer having all 4 kids home, but I can honestly say its been fun!! We have been working very hard with the kids on the fruits of the spirit. It is amazing the change in their attitude in only a few weeks. When we have to remind them that their behavior is displeasing to God that seems to have a different affect then when they think it only displeases us. Its been good, and very fun to see the changes in their hearts. Today actually, I told my niece that I was jealous of her curly hair, Aviela heard me and whispered in my ear "you get an envious point." We have an app for the kids where we can click a point for them if they are displaying a fruit of the spirit, and they get negative points for behaviors that are not fruitful.... apparently Im in the negative. :)

Ashers Tball Game! He loved playing! He did get a little bored while in the outfield and I caught him picking flowers once... :)
Tulip Time! Alliot was not a fan of sitting with his sister. 
Avielas recital

Asher with his 4 year old preschool teachers! He had a great year, and really learned alot. I can't believe hes off to Kindergarten next year. He will be in Spanish Immersion like his sister. 
Johns mom with Azalia. They really adored the kids, but especially her. She wasn't always so sure about them wanting to hold her and get their picture taken with her so much. 
Alliot was enjoying Johns farewell dinner at Olive Garden!! 

Alliots surgery for the tubes went great and just as planned. We are still waiting for a date for his palate repair surgery. Dan and I are very anxious to have a date and get that repaired so that we can start working on speech with him. He tries very hard to imitate us, but pretty much everything sounds the same. Poor buddy! We are still working very hard at the thumb sucking, Dr. Mann, our plastic surgeon, does not want him doing this because after surgery it will ruin the repair. So its easier to break the habit now.

Alliot waiting for surgery. I was very impressed with the hospital staff. He was having a great time with all the toys and playing with the nurses.

The girls had a combined birthday party this year. Aviela wanted a pony party. We ended up getting a traveling petting zoo that came to us, and had pony rides! Azalia thought it sounded fun, but she ended up being afraid of the animals and enjoyed cuddling with Grandparents most of the time. The day was very eventful, and I thought the party was falling apart at 4pm when I called my cake lady to pick up the cake and found out she had the wrong day.... so we had no cake 1 hr before the party! Some how we managed to pull it all together, and it worked out!

This past week we got a new (well new to us) van! Good'ol Red is retiring from Einfeld adventures and is hoping to find a new family soon. :) Its nice to have something a little more reliable and with an 8th seat!! :)

We can't believe the summer is flying by! In august we are getting 2 chinese students for 3 weeks- Amy and Ellie. The day that they leave Mare (our student for the school year) arrives!! She is from Japan! The kids are super excited about her, and we are working hard to get the rooms all moved around and her room looking special. Enjoy all the pictures of our summer so far...

Dyllan came in town for a visit so we went to Kalamazoo for the day so the kids could see their cousin. Alliot is enjoying his ride. I was watching Abbie for a good friend and she wanted to be in the picture with the boys. 

I can't believe I let my little brother take me for a ride on this quad! 

Loving the water table. Alliot is very obsessed with liquids, so he likes the water table, but we have to watch him otherwise he tries to sneak a drink.

Happy boy!

My boys at Meijer Gardens


Downtown rockford! Its impossible to get all the kids looking at the same time. I think we actually bribed Azalia with her drink to smile... 

Last day of school picnic, and park downtown

Start of summer parade. Asher and Dan went on a canoe trip while we watched the parade. 

They are all smiling!! They were very tired, we were waiting for the fireworks and it was very late! 

Alliots first fireworks and he LOVED them!

Happy Fathers day!! 

Beach day at Meyers Lake with our friend Abbie

Strawberry picking. Im sure glad they didn't weigh Azalia after we were done. I'm not sure she contributed any to the container we picked

Birthday party

My girls!

So excited to ride the pony. The pony's name was Dusty

Petting zoo

Alliot LOVED the animals, he giggled and giggled

The cakes Dan got quit at Meijer, without their names and no candles... :(

Me and my girls!! 

Aviela and her friends

Azalia and her friends... she was so scared of the horse dan had to hold her and she was screaming!

Cousins!! See why I told Ellie I was jealous of her hair- beautiful ringlets.

Afternoon ice cream and a park adventure

We were able to go to the zoo this week and see the Tigers!!! Sooo cool!! 

Alliot was loving these goats, he was chasing them around the pen giggling and giggling. Asher made some comment like "I guess hes a crazy asian who likes animals" I turned and noticed a mom behind me heard and was laughing... I quickly let her know that he was ours and that we use the word "asian" as a term of endearment. 

The kids were on the same rock as the lion, only separated by glass! I love the big animals. 

Cleaning Old red!

Cousins sharing a towel!!

Alliot was buried in the sand

The kids loved just going at the watermelon with spoons. Smiles all around. :)

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

2 months home!

I was reminded this past week that I haven't updated my blog in awhile and kinda "left everyone hanging," she was right- its time!! I like following blogs myself, and when it doesn't get updated for awhile I begin to get impatient, so I know exactly what she means.

Saturday was exactly 2 months since "gotcha," the time is going way faster now that when we were waiting... I can't believe its been 2 months! I feel like I am finally starting to come out of the "fog" that I didn't even realize I was living in. The novelty of having Alliot around is finally starting to wear off a little with the other kids. When we first got home they couldn't keep their hands off him, they were very "helpful," and I felt like I was constantly putting out fires with whose turn it was to do this or that for him. It made me very flustered because I felt like we had made some head way towards attachment in China, and this was putting us back a bit. Alliot was terrified of the kids, they were so overwhelming to him that he would cry a lot and want to be held constantly. He would see them coming and just scream because he was afraid they might pick him up (rag doll style) and transplant him to where ever they were playing.

Azalia was also struggling with giving up that youngest child seat. I carried her every where before we left, she still sat in the highchair, we rocked to sleep at night, she had one on one attention 3 days a week while the others were at school, and my lap always had her name on it. Even though we talked a lot about a new brother, I didn't prepare her as well as I could have. Her world turned upside down! It made me sad to see her crave how things were.

For the first couple weeks coming home our church arranged for meals to be brought to us which was a complete life saver! I felt most days like I was drowning and the thought of cooking dinner seemed like climbing the great wall carrying two children, and dragging two others. I am thankful to have John around to help cook some of the meals. With his help I have been able to ease back into my routine. Lately it isn't such an overwhelming task.

When I first proposed the idea of adoption to Dan he had his reservations and was worried how he would love a child not biologically his own. Me on the other hand, thought that would be the easiest part. I love kids, I have a heart for China... easy! In China it was easy, Alliot seem to attach to both of us equally, I felt affection towards him, it felt very natural. Coming home it was different, I didn't feel as attached to him, he overwhelmed me, he was exhausting me, he was taking away from my other kids, and I began to see some institutional behaviors that made me uncomfortable.  For a couple weeks I felt very guilty for feeling the way I felt. We got home on a Friday and Dan was back to work on Monday so I was on my own, this was a big change for me AND Alliot. All of the transitions for him coming back home and sort of being thrown into my crazy schedule of school and preschool pick ups was enough to bring out some institutional behaviors. As I began noticing these behaviors I realized that I have 16 months of learned behavior that needs to be relearned. We weren't handed a peaceful infant with a blank slate at the hospital that we watched grow and move months before we saw their face. That we taught everything thing they knew, no... this was different! Im not saying I don't love him, I DO, he is a treasure, a blessing, a gift from God, with an incredible story. It just didn't come as instantly as it did with our bio kids for me, its been a gradual kinda of learned love as we both figure each other out.

Since Alliot physically can not say many words due to his cleft palate, I have begun teaching him some signs. He is very bright and catches on quickly although, we do have a painful day of teaching as he protests and I continue to be consistent. Dinner was a complete nightmare for the first couple weeks home. Alliot would scream at the sight of food, eat very quickly and scream for more. It was stressful. So I decided to teach him the sign for "more," he of course was not interested in learning that and rather scream. I continued to be consistent and it worked! Dinner is much much less stressful, and less noisy! When we met with the plastic surgeon who will repair the palate he suggested that we puree his foods to make it easier to eat and because after the surgery that will be his diet for several weeks. He suggested that it makes it less of a transition then if we do it before hand. So we have been pureeing his food and that seems to be working out well for both of us. Now we are working on "please" and "thank you."

Most institutionalized kids are not used to making eye contact. In the orphanages they are one of many kids the nannies care for, and I can only imagine that meal times, bath time, and play time are treated much less personally. We didn't notice the eye contact being an issue in China, but I definitely noticed it at home. It was grunting, screaming, and pointing to objects he wanted. So we had another painful day of repetitive encouraging for him to look at me to tell me what he wants. We have made great strides in this area, he is pretty consistently making eye contact and if he forgets it only takes a little reminder for him to look at me- most days.

One of the few words Alliot can say is "mama," It is more of a noise that he knows how to make and likes to make. He would point to anyone, or anything and say "mama." At first it didn't bother me, but recently I have been making more of a point for him to identify that word with me. Im not sure if hes making the connection just yet, but we are working on it.

We haven't been really strict about who touches him, or holds him, talks to him, etc. And I think we are doing ok. I have only been uncomfortable in public in regard to his attachment a few times. Im still trying to figure out how to best handle those situations. :) For instance today at the doctor, two different staff people offered their arms to Alliot for them to pick him up. The reason why he was walking was because it was a teaching moment .... I had to let it brush off my shoulders, though I was frustrated. So just a disclaimer if you see us in public being stubborn about something with him, most likely it is because we are being consistent with him to get him to choose the healthy behavior we want. It might appear that we are being very stubborn, but in reality we are doing our best to show him we are going to be consistent. We  have 16 months of insecure attachment behavior we are trying to defuse- its exhausting! Im not gonna lie, in the moment of his refusal it would be much easier to give in, but that sends inconsistent messages. We are doing our best, its tricky, and its MUCH different than parenting our bio children.

In April we met with Dr. Mann the plastic surgeon who will repair Alliots palate. He is scheduling about 6 months out but said that we would be first on the cancellation list for speech related issues due to his age. Along with puree foods after the palate is repaired, there will also be no thumb sucking as well. We have been trying for nearly 3 weeks to break this HORRIBLE habit!! (Who am I to talk since I probably sucked my thumb till I was 10 :)) We have tried many things, but the best has been tube socks over his hands as mittens pinned on his onesie 24/7. Only a few times he got them off in the night! We are now at a point that he doesn't need to have them during the day, only for sleeping!! woohoo!!

Last week we met with the urologist for a circumcision, and today we met with the ENT for tubes. He has had 2 almost 3 ear infections since being home. We are going to combine both of those procedures into one surgery on May 29. These need to be done before the palate can be fixed because after the palate is fixed he can not be intubated again until its fully healed. Im glad to have a date for these procedures so that we can be ready whenever something pops open for the palate.

So I used to be the crazy adoptive mom that would run up and talk to anyone who had an asian child with them, now I find myself being the crazy cl/cp mom who talks to anyone whos kid has a cleft lip. I met a really fun couple friends over spring break who both have daughters with cleft lip, one with cleft palate too. Such a health of support! We all got together with our families for dinner one night and colored easter eggs, it was a lot of fun!! I hope Alliot will grow up being confident in the way his lip looks, we want him to have friends who "look like him."

A few fun facts about his strides since being home....

*On "gotcha" day he weighed 14lbs, 2 weeks later 17lbs, and today 20lbs!! 6lbs in 2 months is incredible to me.
*On "gotcha" day he wore 9 month clothes, today he wears his age 18 months! (Good thing I didn't buy to many small ones)
*On "gotcha" day he could only crawl, today he can walk by himself, and climb stairs!!
*On "gotcha" day he knew 1 word (mama), today he knows (mama, hi, bye bye, aviela, ma for more, and up) pretty impressive for an open palate.
We took the kids overnight to hotel in shipshewana over spring break so the kids could see the amish. They loved the pool! 

I already miss that sweet thumb sucking face

"so big!" 

Ready to swim, its impossible to get all the kids to look AND smile

Mitten hands :)
Clefty friends, not sure why Alliots belly is showing :)


We needed some fresh air, notice the snow in the background. This was probably in March. Not sure Alliot can see

My sweet happy boy!