Thursday, May 8, 2014

At the Hospital

Nicholas and I are at the hospital today.  He just had his ABG surgery: bone marrow graft from his hip to his palate.  We have been anticipating this surgery for years.  It is kind of a big deal, as it involves a night in the hospital and a few weeks recovery.

Nicholas was not too nervous.  He was actually just very happy that he does not need his palate expander any more.  And, he was also looking forward to a night alone with me.  


The surgery went really well.  The surgeons said it could not have gone better.  And, in true Nicholas form, he was strong and calm in the recovery room, even though he was in pain. He was trying to fight back tears although I tried to reassure him that crying is okay.


We are now in our room, watching The Great Muppet Caper.  It is kind of nice to spend some alone time with him, even though it is in a hospital.  And I miss the rest of the family.

I really don't mind this part of parenting.  I know many who don't want to consider "special needs" adoption because they don't like hospitals and are anxious about needles, blood, etc.  For whatever reason, it doesn't bother me.  Of course, I would rather my kids not have to deal with pain and discomfort, but I don't mind being here and taking care of the post- op stuff. I see it as one of the many God- given resources I have available to make a small difference.  It's something I had put on my "pro" list when we were considering more adoptions.

Of course, not only my adopted kiddos end up in the hospital. Peter was in the hospital for 3 nights 2 summers ago with an appendicitis.  And while I hated seeing him in pain, too, I appreciated the opportunity to spend time with him and show him love and attention.  I remember how much the meant to me when my mom showed me that care as a child. 

I think of Elijah and how he had surgery on his foot without me there.  Actually, he was not with any adult he really knew.  He went through it on his own, and that is just so sad.  He has learned to do hard things on his own and he is only 7.  Nick, also, had surgeries without a parent when he was a baby.  We might downplay the importance of sitting by our child's bed, getting him or her drinks of water, or helping them to the bathroom, but it is so important mostly in the messages our kids get: you are not alone.  Someone is taking care of you.  Someone loves you.

I don't say any of this to point out how great I am, but to point out how great parents are.  How fundamental just the basic meeting of needs is.  I hear and read often that people think they can't adopt.  Maybe it's money they lack, or bedrooms, or time.  But, I wonder how much would change if they instead considered what resources they do have:  access to healthcare, an ability to take time off from work for their kids' medical procedures, or maybe just friends who can babysit their other kids while they go to a child's physical therapy.  In general, we all have so much we take for granted and it is these things that kids truly need.

Ok, off my soapbox.  Back to the Muppets.



Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A Tale of 3 Birthdays

Last week, my oldest baby turned 10 and my youngest baby turned 2.



When we first told Olivia, last spring, that the little boy we were adopting had a birthday the day after hers, she was concerned. She didn't necessarily want to share her special day.


Olivia out for her birthday lunch with mom
But now that Christopher is here, she loves it.  She loves sharing her birthday with him because she absolutely adores him. 

Christopher with his new birthday vacuum

In fact, she asked if we could celebrate his birthday a day early, on her actual birthday.  So she could share with him. She wanted to see him open his gifts on her birthday.  That would be a present to her.


And that says so much to me about siblings and large families.  What might seem like a negative on the outside, is actually a positive once you are in it.  Things aren't divided up into smaller and smaller pieces, but multiplied beyond logic.  Like loaves of bread and fishes, perhaps.


The idea went over so well that we decided to ask my sister's daughter, Lucy, to celebrate her birthday with them this past weekend.  Lucy, who is 3, has a birthday just a few days before Olivia and Christopher.  So we had one big party for three kids.


It was so fun. 

Lucy and Olivia

And, let me tell you, no one felt like they were getting less.  It was just more.  More grandparents to hold them.









More siblings to dote on them.







And -- of course -- more presents to open.





Thanking God for the gift of family.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Tears in his eyes


It has been a bumpy ride during the last few weeks,  besides a stomach bug threatening to ruin our Easter and now Olivia"s and Christopher's birthday party, some dysregulated beahvior has been catching me off guard.  Elijah, on the whole, is an angel.  But, as he becomes more comfortable here, he pushes boundaries, just to see how far he can go.  He is defying me and doing the opposite of what i ask him to do.

Also, some of the behaviors and anxieties he developed in the orphanages are emerging.  For example, he hoards toys and does not want to share them.  He hides things he likes under his bed and in his backpack, and sometimes forgets they are there for weeks.  He even hid our iPad under a piece of furniture in our dining room.  We were wracking our brains trying to figure out where it went, when he piped up and retrieved it.  He is really afraid that he will not get to play with his favorite things again if he doesn't hide them.

This is all hard to deal with because the other kids just don't get it.  Why won't he share like they do (or are supped to)?  Where did Peter's favorite superhero go?  Why is Elijah sulking over something as simple as another child playing with his play phone?  There are a lot of squabbles, and I struggle to find a balance between healing my child's wounds with letting him understand the rules in our family.

But, as Elijah gets more comfortable here, we also see him opening up his heart.  The other day, I was reading a book about dinosaurs to him and Peter.  When we got to a picture of a triceratops, Elijah told us that he had a toy triceratops that he played with "all day long, all day long" (that roughly translates to "all the time" in his 'Chinglish' right now). Then he said "I don't know where it is now."  I asked if it was in his backpack that he brought when he met us.  And he shook his head no, and shrugged his shoulders, repeating "I don't know where it is."

I said, "Oh that is so sad, you lost your favorite toy.  Isn't that sad, Peter."  Peter agreed, and when we turned to look at Elijah, he was tearing up.  He was trying to hide it, and was wiping his eyes.  It was clearly a loss for him.  One of his smaller losses, but a loss nonetheless.  We all know how attached our kids can get to certain toys.  And the fact that he could not count on his favorite things being there is just one example of how uncertain his life has been.

Also, so much of his life has been left behind in China.  I think it is starting to hit Elijah that he is not going back.  And that China is far away.  He tells me he loves Beijing and wants to go back.  I think he means to visit, but who knows.  Maybe he does want to return to his old life in some ways.  And that is okay.

Even though my boy is starting to process some sad emotions, I am so glad he trusts us enough to show them to us.  This is huge for a boy who has been told not to cry for most of his life; that crying is weakness and is something that makes adults uncomfortable or upset.  I am trying my best to just listen to what he says, and to not take anything personally, but just be there for him.  To let him know that showing his feelings is a good thing, and that I won't react negatively.  I want to set this precedent so that when my kids start to want to talk about their adoption stories and birth parents, they know that I am a safe person with whom to share.




Friday, April 18, 2014

Box Day 2014

We love Box Day. 

It's the day our huge boxes of books and teacher's guides arrive from Sonlight, the company we use to purchase most of our curriculum.


Poor kids.  I always make them pose for our Box Day Picture before letting them tear open the boxes.



The girls never seems to mind.  



And Nicholas is being a good sport.



Smile!  Pretty please...



Get everyone in the photo!



Uh oh, Olivia is upset that no one is listening.




And, where is Elijah?




Good, thank you for still smiling, Ellie.




And I can see Peter's face now...



Okay, just hold on.  I'm sure Elijah is on his way...




 Nick, please stop it.




One more minute...




Wait, I'm losing some of them...





But, Ellie is still posing.


Back to where I started.  Thank goodness for little girls.




We later found Elijah inside.  He found his new math curriculum.


I hope he is this excited about it when we actually start using it.


It's like Christmas. Kind of.


Tearing open packages.


 Being silly.


Even Chrissy is in on the action.


I love that they think piles of books are so thrilling.  



May it stay this way.

Spring clean-up

I put off a lot during the past winter.  Both the weather, and the fact that Elijah needed to adjust to his new home, kept us home for the last 3 months. 


Honestly, I like it that way.  


As I've said before, one of the reasons homeschooling works for me is because I am a homebody, and I am discovering more and more that constant social interactions and running around deplete me (yes, I read Quiet like most of the world.)


So, I did not mind spending the winter at home, teaching, reading, taking care of our home.



But I also knew that all of the kids, especially Christopher, needed and would love to do some activities  that would stimulate them. Those activities, along with needed medical appointments, are so important to get them moving in positive directions.

That has all added up to some very busy Spring days.  

We have visited Shriner's, the pediatric orthopedic hospital, to check up on Christopher and Elijah's conditions.  Also, long days at the Cooper Cleft lip and Palate clinic for Nicholas, along with the orthodontist and oral surgeon, as he gets ready for his bone graft surgery later this spring. In this surgery, his biggest so far, the surgeons will extract bone marrow from his hip and use it to fill the 2 clefts in his palate.  It is a long surgery, requiring one night in the hospital, and a few weeks recovery.  I am not looking forward to it, but trying not to worry about it until it is on the calendar.  I try to take each kids' surgeries and procedures as they come, and not worry too far into the future or I will implode from the sheer enormity of it all.  

in the waiting room at Shriner's


We also took Christopher to a feeding therapist to help discover why he gags often, drools, and still doesn't chew his foods properly.  It went really well, and the therapist was wonderful.  I think she answered a lot of our questions as to why speaking and eating has been delayed for Christopher.  Lots of oral-motor exercises in his future!

As for extra-curricular activities, I finally signed up Christopher for a Music Together class.  I admit, I put this off for too long (even though I knew Christopher loved music!) because I have been attending these classes since 2004 and I am just plain sick of singing "Hello, Everybody" and dancing in a circle.

But I am glad I sucked it up and started the class, because he LOVES it.  I wish I had a video to post of him shaking his little booty. Ellie loves it, too.  Elijah even joined us once and, although he was way too cool to dance and sing with us, I think he liked it. It is one of the many experiences he missed at a little boy and I can tell he was soaking it all up.





Christopher sitting on Elijah's lap


Our favorite new Spring activity has been horseback riding!  Christopher does hippotherapy (or OT on horseback), and Ellie just rides for fun.  




Ellie loves it so much.  She has long been a horse fanatic and she feels like a real-life star of her favorite show "Horseland."



Here he is with his therapist Ms. Laurie.






Elijah came to watch.  I think he would really benefit from it, too.  He might be the next to join in.



Christopher cried for the first 15 minutes he was on the horse.  But, has been doing great ever since.





Yesterday, his therapists took him into the woods.


He got off the horse and did some more traditional OT on the playground.  The therapists just wanted to see how strong his trunk is, and how he climbs and balances etc.


         
He is also building trust with them.



It is amazing to learn about how horseback riding works to stimulate his whole nervous system, strengthens his core, and helps him to learn to self-regulate.  

Here, Christopher is riding backwards.  He also rode sideways.  All of these different positions use different sets of muscles.


I knew that once Christopher got comfortable he would love hippo therapy because he loves animals.  


Heading back to the barn.



He sees Ellie on her horse ahead, and was so excited! 


What a beautiful horse. I love coming to the farm each week.


Busy, full days but I am so glad to feel the sun shining on my face.  Happy Spring!