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...)

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!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What's in a Name?

As Romeo so poetically reminds us, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." I don't know, Romeo. I might disagree with you. Our name follows us our whole life and beyond. What you are named really does matter! "The sense of personal identity and uniqueness that a name gives us is at the heart of why names interest us and why they are important to us as individuals and to our society as a whole." (H. Edward Deluzian.)

In most adoption literature, it is recommended that children who are a little older when they're adopted should be allowed to keep their names. Since literally every single thing they're familiar with and accustomed to is being taken away from them, letting them hold onto their name can be an important piece to keeping part of their personal identity and helping them to feel secure. For most kids coming from China, though, this simply isn't feasible. It's difficult enough to be a new kid in a new world, but it's even harder when you have a name nobody can pronounce or that seems so very foreign to the new tongue. It could single the child out even more than they already are. I had no thought in mind to keep "Todd's" Chinese name, which is Yun Tang (pronounced You In Tong). (As a side-note, "Todd" is not his name. He's never even heard that name. Children are given English advocacy names so that we can pronounce the names! Todd is just a name given to him to advocate and has no real connection to him.)  As we were batting around different names to see how they felt (my favorite name was Taye ;), my husband was insistent that we keep his Chinese name. I was insistent that we not. We had a friend suggest naming him Ewan (like Ewan McGregor), and Quin was sold! I...well, no. I had to think about it for a while and let it settle. It's not exactly my favorite name, but I understand the importance and significance to letting a 7 1/2 year old child keep the only name he's ever known. With that in mind, it was agreed upon that we would name him Ewan Tang! He gets to keep his name! I know it's spelled differently, but it's not like he ever knew the English way to spell it anyway! He likely would know his name in Chinese characters.

I'm excited! Now that we know what we're naming him, it's making it seem more real! We're all getting used to calling him Ewan, and it's starting to fit and feel more right to me. And I laugh, because his room is already Star Wars themed from his big brother, and remember cute Ewan McGregor as Obi Wan Kenobi!?

I mean, I guess it was meant to be. Haha!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Stranger Than Fiction

Do things ever happen in your life that defy logic or human understanding? They do occasionally in mine. We have had one such experience lately, and I'd like to share.
About a month and a half ago, we were looking at pictures of children waiting for Angel Tree Warriors through Reece's Rainbow Angel Tree Program. We had decided as a family that we were going to become warriors this year for a child in China with Down syndrome. The goal is to raise $1,000 through the holiday season for a child who doesn't have a committed family yet with the hope that the advocacy and funds will help them find a family. We were excited about the project and were brainstorming ways we could raise the money. We looked through the faces of the waiting children, and our kids all agreed they wanted to advocate for one child specifically. He is the exact same age as our 7 year old son and looks SO much like Milo! The kids immediately started saying they wanted to adopt him. Our kids don't typically say things like that, so it kind of took me off guard. My 7 year old was particularly insistent. He has a bunk bed in his room and seriously can't wait to share his room with a brother. I always assumed this would be Milo when he got old enough, but their strange attachment to this boy made me think. Not only are money and time a barrier to us adopting again, but space in our home as well! We are out of bedrooms. Truly the one place in the home we could squeeze another person is in my son's room. It's a good size room, has a bunk bed already, and has a spacious closet. Hmmmm...
I requested this boy's file. Although he is absolutely darling and will bless a family some day, for some reason I knew he wasn't ours. I was relieved! I was also slightly disappointed, but mostly I was relieved! Oh, to not have to start another adoption, come up with the finances, mix our lives all up again; yes, I was relieved!
A day or so after knowing this first little boy wasn't ours, I was quickly scrolling through my blog trying to find some information for an article being written about Dasha in Russia. I went past this article that I wrote in early September and got the chills. I saw this face and had the thought, "Oh, THERE is my son!"
I quickly dismissed the thought. Nope, not happening. He's amazing, but our lives are full. Over the next weeks, I began to be consumed with thoughts of "Todd". I read his profile on the Defend website several times. I knew he would be a huge blessing to any family, and I panicked at the thought that he would never have one! He has three things going against him: 1) He's a boy. It's so, so sad to say, but being a boy is one of the biggest obstacles to being adopted. 75% of kids on the waiting child list in China are boys. 2) He is almost 7. It's always harder for older kids to find homes. 3) He has Down syndrome. I know a LOT of people adopting kids with Down syndrome, but the adoptive families numbers pale in comparison to the numbers of children with Ds needing homes. I mentioned to Quin that I couldn't get this boy's face out of my mind, and he kind of laughed it off. Yeah, he's great, but no. I agreed and tried to get on with my life. For WEEKS I agonized! I couldn't decide why he was haunting me so! Was it because I simply felt compassion for him and wish I could be his mom, or was Heavenly Father trying to tell me to go get him?? I seriously felt a knot in my stomach all the time trying to decipher what we were supposed to do. 

We went to Florida on vacation, and I thought for sure this would calm my mind. Vacations are tricky with kids, and I knew a vacation with 6 days of constant on the go would result in very grumpy kids. This would erase from my mind any desire to add another child into our already nutty group! So we went...and our kids were perfect. They were all incredibly well behaved the whole trip! And, I thought A LOT about Todd. The entire trip. Every activity we did I would think about how it would be to have him with us. I strangely, well, missed someone I'd never even met. I would even count to make sure we had everyone and get a surge of panic that someone was missing. 
After we got home and went about our lives, I continued to feel this way. I finally mentioned it to Quin again, and he was curious where my feelings were coming from. Was this just something I personally wanted to do, or was it divinely inspired? We started to pray and ponder and start to talk about the idea. Honestly, it felt in so many ways like the absolute craziest decision we could ever make. Money was the biggest concern. would we come up with $30,000 AGAIN? There is just no way. And what about our time? We already have four kids, and our lives are constantly jam packed. Why would we add an additional child into the mix, and a child with special needs at that? My brain continued to tell me the answer had to be "no", while my heart pressed that the answer was indeed "yes".
After some intense prayer, Quin and I both came to the conclusion that it was our decision to make, but that if we decided to do it, none of our concerns would materialize. Everything would be okay. We would, of course, continue to be insanely, crazy busy, but everything would work out.

Even with that reassurance, we just weren't certain. We knew "Todd" would be an incredible blessing to any family, and we also knew that he would thrive with the love of a family. We've witnessed this firsthand with Milo. But did it need to be us? The next morning (October 26) was the Primary Program in church. This is when the kids ages 3-12 perform the songs they've learned through the year as well as do little speaking parts. It's the best Sunday of the year! SO cute! I was sitting there minding my own business when the kids started to sing "The Family is of God". 

(You can listen to the song The Family is of God by clicking on this video)
Tears started streaming down my face. This was my answer. There is nothing more important in the world than a family. Nothing. If we were on the fence about this, the answer needed to be yes. When the things you're weighing are "hmmm...we're going to be really busy and have no money" or "this child is raised in an orphanage and never knows the love of a family", the answer is simple. SO simple. You do it. You go get him and you figure out how to manage. It suddenly made sense in my mind that I was overwhelmed with one child, then I had another and figured it out. I was busy and felt crazy with two, then we had a third and we made it all work. I didn't know how we'd do a fourth, and here we are! I know it will be the same with a fifth. I know we'll just do it. Life goes by so quickly. Love is what lasts. This is a busy season in life, but this season will pass and family will be forever.
This video is of Todd showing off his sweet dance moves! He's the one on the left.
The very next morning (October 27th) I started calling agencies. By Tuesday we were $2,000 in. THIS IS HAPPENING!!! Holy cow! I can't even believe this is real life! We have pre approval from China, our home study is completed, our initial agency fees have been paid, our I-800A is in the mail, and I've nearly finished all the dossier paperwork. We anticipate a later summer/early fall travel date. It still feels like this is some strange out of body experience. It doesn't feel like real life yet. It feels, well, stranger than fiction! 
If you need to donate some money before the end of the year for tax purposes, we wouldn't say no if you chose to donate to our adoption ;) Here is a link to our Reece's Rainbow FSP. It's a tax deductible donation. Paypal does charge a fee (so we'd be getting less money than you give), so if you'd rather, you can mail your checks to:
Reece's Rainbow
PO Box 277
Monrovia, MD 21770
and put our names (Quin and Whitney Stephens) on the memo line.
Thank you!!


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time!

These first pictures were taken a few days before Thanksgiving. They're old news, but they're cute so I'm posting them anyway ;)

Don't you just love this time of year!? I sure do! There's something even extra magical when you have a new "baby" to enjoy the holiday with as well! Seeing the twinkling lights and Christmas ornaments through his eyes as he sees them for the first time has brought absolute joy to our Christmas season!
In early November, we headed to get our pictures taken with Santa. This is something we do every year with the kids. The picture is displayed through the season, and we also put them in ornaments so we have an ornament with the kids and Santa from every year. I love it! Milo was intrigued by Santa. So fun to have him home!!
 We decorated the house the day after Thanksgiving, and Milo's excitement was beyond what I'd even anticipated! He loved every decoration, but especially the tree! Even now, weeks later, he gravitates towards it. He crawls and scoots over to it, lays underneath it, and just looks up. It's SO cute! 

We've had a holly jolly time the past few weeks and have kept busy as can be with fun activities! We had a pajama late over with some out of town cousins. So fun!


 We went to Temple Square to see the lights. I could never have anticipated how much Milo would enjoy this! It made me cry a few times because he loved it so very much!

 I mean, just look at his face! He was enthralled!!

 Here are some professional pictures of what he was looking at so intently:

There was so much to see and it was so crowded that I thought for sure he'd get overwhelmed. He really, truly loved it, though, and was all smiles and giggles! Warmed my heart up like I can't even describe!

We also had a blast at the Festival of Trees! It's an amazing local event where hundreds and hundreds of trees, wreaths, playhouses, a children's activity center, goodies, etc. are all donated to raise money for Primary Children's Hospital. I've been going with my mom for as long as I can remember. Ever since I was born, probably! It's a yearly tradition, and I'm happy to say Milo enjoyed it with us this year as well! We even saw every single tree; something we haven't been able to accomplish in YEARS!

 Milo got to meet Santa again at our church Christmas party. So cute!

 And yet again yesterday at the Stephens family Santa breakfast! Milo couldn't quite figure the beard thing out. Ha!

I hope everyone is having a wonderful season! I can't wait to continue to experience the magic with Milo for the first time!