Monday, April 27, 2015

Differences

I have some super exciting news! We got LOA last week! This means China said yes to us adopting Ewan! We are anticipating a June 29th gotcha! It's still just speculation at this point, but it could mean that in 62 days from now I'll be holding my boy in my arms! AAAHHH!!! There are a few steps still to go. We mostly are waiting for U.S. and visa clearance from here on out.

I have been thinking a lot lately about the differences between adopting an older child versus Milo, who was essentially a newborn in many ways when we got him. Sometimes it's overwhelming to think how different it's going to be this time around! I have been trying my best to be prepared, and luckily I have the experiences of many wise mothers who've gone before me on this journey of older-child-adoption who are always willing to share their stories. Some of the many differences we're anticipating are:
Language barrier. Ewan has spoken Mandarin his entire life. He goes to school and learns Mandarin. He knows very little, if any, English. I can't imagine suddenly having to live in China and only speaking English, so I know it will be scary for him at first to be thrown with English only speaking parents! Hopefully he'll learn quickly, but this is a major thing!
Grief and mourning. Milo had a certain amount of grief and mourning, I believe, but he was always happy as a clam during the awake hours. It was at night that the issues came to life. With Ewan it will be different. He is verbal, older, and has lived nearly his entire life within the walls of his SWI. His specific SWI is very interesting. It has foster homes on campus and every child lives with a foster family of sorts. They come to school at the SWI, but lunch, dinner, and bed are all taken care of in their foster home. They have lovely couples that take care of the kids. I don't know the history of Ewans' foster care placement, but I imagine he's had the same foster parents his entire life. Coming with us will be a huge adjustment for him, and I expect much sorrow and pain. He is, after all, being taken from every thing familiar to him. It's heartbreaking, even though we do think it's best for him to have a permanent family long term. In fact, I've heard recently that kids get transferred out of his SWI at age 8, so he had very limited time there!
Cultural differences. It's important to note cultural differences that might seem rude from an American lens that are not considered impolite in China. It's important to keep an open mind, as Ewan will come to us with habits and a culture entirely different from our own. It certainly doesn't help bonding or attachment to constantly be thinking your child is rude when they are, in fact, just practicing the cultural norms they've been taught! Some Chinese cultural norms that I'm aware of that could seem rude to Americans are: loud eating, eating with your mouth open, only bathing once a week (and not always using soap even when they do bathe), wearing the same outfit all week, throwing used toilet paper in the garbage (it's illegal to throw toilet paper away in China apparently!?), being very pushy, being very loud, having long fingernails (even the boys and men), staring, being blunt and opinionated, and burping and farting in public. This will definitely be a "pick your battles" situation. We will need to gently introduce (mostly by modeling) how we do things in America and hope he catches on.
Fear of new family. I can't imagine being thrown to a family that looks nothing like me, smells nothing like I'm familiar with, eats nothing I know, speaks a language I don't understand, and has a way of functioning that I'm not familiar with. Our kids are so, so brave. It's not uncommon for the child to not like their new family very much. More often than not, I've seen kids bond with one parent and completely reject the other. Even though we go into this prepared, it still hurts. These issues are worked on and resolved through time.
School issues. So...Ewan is 7. He should be in 1st grade. When he comes home this summer, he'll be the age of a child going into 2nd grade. I can't even express the stress this gives me. I've heard case after case of children being forced to attend the grade their chronological age says they should be in by school districts. This takes no consideration for the fact that our kids come home very small for their ages and very globally delayed. Ewan is a smart cookie. He will do well in school, and I want to give him every opportunity to soar. I would love for him to be mainstreamed in a typical classroom. He doesn't speak English, however, and he absolutely cannot soar if thrown into 2nd grade having never attended school. My plan is to home school him his first year home and then see how he does. Oh, and in case you're wondering, I've never home schooled before. Yup. This whole subject gives me a stress stomachache!
Sleep issues. Most kids with Ds have sleep issues. Most kids from orphanages have sleep issues. I've never co-slept with my kids other than when they're sick. Of course they're in my room the first few months of life, but my kids all sleep well and do much better in their own beds. Plus I don't think I could accomplish anything in my life without the few hours after they go to bed and before I go to bed. Ewan might want/need to co-sleep. Oh goodness. Heaven help us.
Food issues. Every child who has felt like they consistently didn't have enough to eat over a period of time has lingering food issues. We don't know how Ewan is being fed, but we anticipate him coming with high anxiety levels over food. I feel we are prepared. We know he needs to have 24/7 access to food and healthy snacks. This is non-negotiable. He can't feel safe without this. It's very different than anything we've ever dealt with as parents before, though, so of course it leaves us a bit anxious to know how it's all going to play out.
Struggling to meet everyone's needs. I had the amazing opportunity to attend an Empowered to Connect simulcast a few weeks ago. If you're not aware, Empowered to Connect is a conference with Karyn Purvis and her TBRI training (or Trust Based Relational Intervention). Karyn is the absolute expert on kids from hard places. She knows their hearts and minds like nobody's business! She is the most kind, loving, positive person and I absolutely adore her! I am 100% a believer in her methods, and we plan to implement them immediately. This does mean a big shift in some of our parenting strategies, and we are trying to start them with all of our kids now. We bought ALL of her DVD's. You read that correctly. We own the entire collection. Ha! I'm religiously studying them and hope to be an "expert" by the time we get Ewan! It has opened my eyes wide to so many things and I'm already incredibly grateful for the knowledge!
Even though I feel I will have the knowledge, it's a whole different ballgame to put it into practice. Meeting a 7 year old's every need (while managing four other children as well) has me very stressed out. I know it will all work out in the end, but I know that it's going to be quite a transition. We will need to keep our world very small for a while, and it's going to be a very tricky dance to manage everyone's emotional and physical needs through this time.

I feel like I've been in the adoption world enough to know now what to expect. I've seen so many friends who were over the moon excited to welcome their little ones home, only to be punched in the face by life after adoption. Their child has behaviors they don't understand and don't know how to deal with. Life isn't roses and rainbows. It's hard. It's messy. It's a struggle. Many days these worn out mamas don't even like their child, even though they love them. I don't walk into this naively. These subjects cause me stress, but I know that we are doing the right thing. I look at Ewan's pictures and videos and I already know how very precious he is. I can't wait to share that knowledge with him. Absolutely every child deserves to know how precious they are. I have to remember this when our life feels like it's completely wrecked. I have to revisit this post and remember that we knew it would be hard, even if we didn't know just HOW hard. I have to remember that he's worth it, even if he hates me. And when Mom and Dad are spread too thin, I have to remember that our whole family will be stronger and better for this in the long run. Two months. The final countdown is on, and with it my overwhelming and dueling feelings of excitement and joy mixed with complete fear and trepidation. We've got this. Right?

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Exciting News!

I have a couple of really exciting things to share. The first is that we were chosen to be a Reece's Rainbow 5/5/5 family!! Remember when I blogged about the 5/5/5 program in July? Well, imagine my surprise when we were chosen this month to be one of the five families!! I am SO excited and grateful! This means that every donation made to the 5/5/5 fund from April 6-May 5 will be split among 5 families, and we are one of them! In March the total was $2,828.15, which means that each family received $565.63! WOW!! That would be a great boost for us! If you are interested in helping, please visit this link! We would be so very appreciative!

The next exciting news is about a visit to Ewan's SWI. One of the biggest blessings when adopting is the sweet friendships you make along the way. It's always miraculous to watch our kids' "red threads" finding their way into our lives. Ewan was one of the thousands of kids whose file is prepared, but still waiting for a family. His file was nearly three years old when we got it. He was lost in the abyss of shared list older boys. He has waited so, so long. Without the advocacy and personal stories of Ewan from his Bring Me Hope buddy, we never would have known about him, much less had the courage to say yes!

Then there are the friends that lift you up along the journey. Friends that listen to you whine about wait times and throw out theories about travel dates on an almost daily basis, and friends that travel while you're still waiting.

One such friend went to Ewan's SWI mid-March with her newly adopted son. She asked specifically about Ewan. She showed our picture and his name, and they pulled him from the walk to school to come meet them for some pictures. There really aren't words enough to describe the emotions of having another contact who has met our boy. And the joy of having new pictures and video!? It's overwhelming in the best kind of way! I've studied every single picture and every second of video. I simply cannot wait until it's our turn to meet this amazing boy!!
He starts out very shy and uncertain. He doesn't know who these people are, and I'm sure he's wondering why he can't go to class with all the rest of his friends.
video
Then they ask him to say hello. When he does, it's the cutest thing ever! So of course the women in the room laugh, which makes him even more suspicious! I absolutely love his little face after he says Ni Hao. Like, "What on earth are you laughing at??"

He finally warms up, it seems, after my friend's daughter turned her phone around so he could see himself. Oh, buddy! You are absolutely the cutest!!




And one more cute video! "Hi!"
video
These little snippets into Ewan's life made us SO anxious to get to him! He is, according to my friend, very well taken care of and loved. I couldn't ask for more. I'm very impressed with a lot of things about Ewan's SWI, and it makes me so happy to hear he's in good hands until we can reach him ourselves!

As of today, we are on day 34 of our LOA wait. I'm very hopeful we'll have approval from China in the next month, which means probably mid-July travel. It's all too early to really know, but that's just an educated guess on my part. Nothing is scientific, and it could easily change. We had a board book made for Ewan with pictures of our family, home, Ewan's bedroom, and our dog. It turned out so cute! I can't wait for approval so we can send it to him! I digitally put who we are in Chinese characters on our pictures, so hopefully someone from the SWI will read it to him! Here are a few examples of the pictures we included:
 Jiejie, which means older sister.
 Gege, older brother.
 Meimei, younger sister
Didi, younger brother.

We also found out that Ewan's SWI is open to receiving QQ calls from adoptive families after they have LOA! In case you aren't aware (I know I wasn't!) QQ is like Skype. We can video chat with him before traveling to China! This is amazing! Not only is it exciting to think about seeing him, but it's also great because we can hopefully eliminate many of his fears about us, adoption, and his future before we ever meet him!

We could potentially be in China in three months from now! What!? Wahoo!! Thank you for all your support!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

One Year!!

Today is the one year anniversary of Milo's gotcha
I can't even believe it! What a year it's been! Milo continues to amaze us every single day. We were watching some video from our time in China the other day and I was just so surprised at how tiny and helpless he was! You've come a long way, Mr. Milo! From a tiny little baby to a full blown toddler; we are so, so proud of you and how hard you've worked and everything you've overcome!
How YOU doin'?
 Now he's full of swagger. A regular ladies man ;) And he's ginormous. He has nearly doubled his body weight in a year! He LOVES to be standing up lately. He holds on to whatever he can and stands for a really long time. He can even push chairs around and walk behind them! I'm so excited; he'll be walking before we know it!
 Milo had a great first Valentine's Day at home. He even gave out a few valentines to friends and got a some in return <3
 These two really love each other. Such cute brothers!!
 Milo's become a real pill about taking pictures recently. He will be laughing and smiling and having a good time, but as soon as the camera comes out he stops. To get some smiley pictures, he plays with Dad and I shoot away.
His neck is beyond ticklish. It's hilarious!





 I love this boy with  my whole entire heart. He fills me with such joy! He smiles when I come into the room. He has started calling me Mama. It is the sweetest! We have no expectations that Milo has to return our love, but I'll admit it feels pretty darn wonderful when he does!
 Milo's big brother got baptized on Saturday. It was a special event for the whole family! 
 Milo was playing with his grandpa in this picture. Pops, as we call him, is pretty hilarious.
 Milo has also become quite obsessed with balloons. They hypnotize him and he can't seem to stay away!
 Shenanigans with Dad.






This year has been full of so many wonderful firsts. And through it all, Milo has continued to be happy, loving, and perfect. Our family would not be complete without him. He is amazing. I am thankful every single day we said yes to adopting. Yes to special needs. Yes to Down syndrome. Yes to Milo. He is an absolute joy. I cannot wait to continue to experience life with our Milo Man. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

In 7th Heaven!

Our dear Ewan turned seven on Monday. Seven is a lot of birthdays to go uncelebrated. We just couldn't stand the thought of him not having a party, so we sent one to him! Through a Chinese courier service (the same lady we went shopping with in Guangzhou), we ordered a birthday cake, some lollipops for the other children, and a stuffed animal for Ewan. I have been waiting patiently anxiously for pictures of the party to show up in my inbox. It's possible I've been checking my email every five minutes for days now. I just can't help it! The only pictures I have of Ewan are from his file, which is three years old, and summer camp. Summer camp was a long time ago! I can't help but wonder if he's changed and grown and if he's happy.
I was giddy as can be when suddenly these pictures showed up last night!! The whole family gathered 'round and we laughed and laughed at these darling glimpses into our soon-to-be son's life.



Notice the fingers in the frosting...
And now the frosting all over the face! He just couldn't resist eating it off his hand :) Yes, he'll fit right in around here.

His buddy from summer camp told us he really loves stuffed animals. I hope he gets to keep this panda!
I just love this happy, smiling face!!
 It sure does a mama's heart good to see her boy happy and well! It also makes me super duper anxious to get to China and hold this boy in my arms! In that vein, I have more good news! Today we are DTC!!!
For those that are unfamiliar with the Chinese adoption process, DTC stands for dossier to China. All our paperwork and months of labor have been uploaded into the Chinese computer system and the hard copies have been Fed Ex'd and are on their way to Beijing. We now are in the queue waiting for official acceptance from China. We will hopefully be traveling in about five months!
The kids picked out these hearts especially for the occasion :)
Being DTC is a big step! It means your home study is approved, USCIS has agreed that you can adopt, and all the document chasing is done! I just can't believe it! We're coming, Ewan!!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

...and a Happy New Year!

What a wonderful Christmas we had with Milo!

 Milo got to go to his sister's Christmas mini dance recital. While the girls were stretching, Milo got to show off his own flexibility and put them all to shame ;)
This is the Sunday before Christmas; my favorite Sunday of the year! Unfortunately Milo was sick and had to go to the ER the night before. His breathing was labored and his O2 saturation was low. He got a few breathing treatments, suctioned out, and given steroids. He was much better after that, but he stayed home from church this day. Dang it!
 Celebrating Christmas Eve a few days early with Grandma and Grandpa! His favorite part of the evening was the shiny wrapping paper. He could see a reflection of himself in it and spent most of the night admiring the view of himself. If I were as cute as this, I'd love looking at myself, too!

 The actual Christmas Eve. Wahoo!!
 We had such fun celebrating Milo's first Christmas Eve! Fancy dinner, talent show, acting out the nativity, and fondu!

 Milo opening his first Christmas jammies! So exciting!!

 All ready for bed!
 Christmas morning!!
 Milo got some fun toys this year and really, truly loves them!
 He got a fun plush motorcycle rocking horse thing and thinks it's a blast!
Here's what Santa brought Milo! Although the trampoline is too big for him still, he sure enjoys using it to stand up all by himself, then crawling on top of it! Crazy boy! He LOVES watching the cars go down the track and grabs the cars every time he sees them!
Here's a little video of Milo at Grandma and Grandpa's on Christmas morning getting a tickle from his dad. (It appears to only work if you watch it from a computer and not a phone or iPad...)
video

Here he is on top of the trampoline. He got there all by himself!

This Christmas was such a wonderful time. Watching Milo enjoy himself and be surrounded by a family was truly the most magical Christmas gift we could ever receive.

Milo finally made it to church after Christmas was over. I had to have him wear his studly Christmas outfit, though! It was too cute to not wear to church!!



 We had a super fun New Year's as well! We went to a hotel with an indoor water park! The big kids and mom and dad slept over, and Nan took Milo home to sleep in his own bed after swimming, dinner, and games.

Lately this boy's personality is coming out more and more. He's seriously the FUNNIEST kid! He loves to laugh and loves it when you laugh at him laughing! Ha! That makes for some pretty hilarious moments! He'll start laughing, then we'll start laughing, then he'll start laughing even harder because we're laughing, then we'll start laughing harder because he's laughing harder! I have laughed so much I've cried on several occasions lately. Oh, this kid owns my heart!


 And those faces!? Come on!! They slay me!
Here's Milo playing peek-a-boo with his dad. They're both digging this game lately! Too cute!
 Another thing that cracks me up lately is the relationship Milo and our dog, Stella, have. They love each other so very much! Stella is fiercely protective of Milo, and Milo thinks Stella's the greatest jungle gym that ever was!
 She's the perfect height for Milo to pull himself to standing while holding her back. And Stella absolutely LOVES it when Milo plays with her! She gets the most proud look on her face. Cracks me up!
Last weekend was a four day weekend for us (the kids had no school Friday or Monday), so we headed out of town for a mini vacation. We're trying to get enough Marriott points to be gold status by the time we travel to China to get Ewan, so what better way than to go stay in a Courtyard in St. George for a few nights? We actually had such a wonderful time together!
 We went to a fun children's museum on Saturday. The photo on top is Milo and Dad in a fake airplane. The photo below is Milo dressed as a Union Soldier.
 I love this boy!!

 Milo loved playing with those beads in this "boat". Ah, the face!
 We had so much fun swimming, going to a movie, and just spending quality uninterrupted time together! One night we rented "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" on pay per view. Milo was having so much fun and just kept laughing! He loves family time as much as the rest of us!



Every day's a party when he's around!

Milo's made some great progress developmentally lately. The biggest difference is his eating!! Holy cow! He went from occasionally eating very pureed baby food to now eating anything and everything we give him in just a matter of a few days! I have no idea what the difference was, but it was drastic and immediate! I'm SO proud of him! Hopefully he'll be able to consume enough calories on his own soon so I can stop making his formula!

He is also a million times more playful than he used to be. He's always up for having fun and laughing. He has a ready smile and a curious personality. He is a joy to be with and around. He's generally always happy and content. I love this picture of Milo sleeping like a pretzel. Our treadmill training physical therapist suggested we buy a vintage 80's Fisher Price crib toy. It has the best little gadgets to engage kids and get them working on fine motor skills. I found one on Ebay, and Milo LOVES it! One day I put him down for a nap, and instead of falling asleep, he played forever with the toy. I went in to check on him and got a good laugh out of the fact that he must have been sitting contently playing with his toy one minute to folded over on himself asleep the next! Too dang cute!
Milo is also very much a toddler! The other day I was pouring him a bottle and he knocked the bottle out of my hands. Formula flew everywhere. I mean everywhere. I put Milo down in another room and was cleaning up the spilled formula. I heard splashing and laughter and came around the corner to see Milo had crawled back into the kitchen and was playing in the dog's water. He had soaked himself as well as the floor and thought it was the greatest thing ever.
 See his sopping wet pants!? Little stinker!
The funniest part of it is that I can't even feel annoyed! I'm always genuinely happy that he's causing mischief and being part of the world! I mean, do you know how hard we've worked to teach him to crawl, help him use his hands, and tried to get him engaged in what was going on around him? Months and months of therapy and work! So all I can do is laugh and change his clothes and feel happy that it's all working :)

These photos were from today. I promise, this very long post is almost over! Just a few more shots of my boy. Have I ever mentioned I'm slightly obsessed with him? Oh, well I am!
 He sure loves to give kisses!


Life is so great. Milo is absolutely adored by all of his siblings, his parents, and his extended family. A cute friend whispered to me in church today as Milo loudly snored on my shoulder, "Whit, do you realize you are the luckiest woman in the world? You get to be that cutest boy's mom!" I couldn't agree more. He is such a special spirit and we are the luckiest. We love you, Milo Man!