Pictures Planes and Plans

When we were flying to China I was filled with nervous excitement. I think part of it was because I just knew we would be one of those families so moved by all the children, we would be back as soon as we had settled to life in Hawaii. Um… in Hawaii. Maybe I’m still settling? Actually, we got to China, and as you’ve heard me say, Jack was clearly all I could concentrate on. I thought I would be picking up an active toddler. He at least seemed active in the few pictures we had. Instead, I met a boy with no muscle tone, tired and hungry and scared. He didn’t know how to chew. He could barely walk. Running induced falling. And the talking… well he can still parrot like nobody’s business but trying to get across what he needs to say still doesn’t happen. He is a bit better every day though. This is nothing you haven’t heard before. It’s just the reality. I’m also not as patient as I thought I was. Imagine that. Point is. Jack has changed us for the better but I can’t imagine at this point having the time or the energy to take on more. Would I feel obligated to try for his particular SWI again? Since bringing Jack home I felt knocked off course and well, a lack of purpose I guess. It’s hard to explain. When I heard from kiddos from Jack’s orphanage that were stuck on the shared list, I thought the least I could do is advocate a bit and pray a lot.

God is good and He answers prayers. Doesn’t it feel good when that fact is tangible and you can see it in front of you? The first little boy that I mentioned after bringing Jack home broke my heart. He reminded me of Jack. I couldn’t imagine leaving him there. Then over a few weeks we heard there was a family pursuing him. Iker Didi is going home in January! You can view his original post here. That makes three children, one is the son of a good friend coming home this month!!! I seriously have been somewhere between grinning from ear to ear and wanting to cry.

My friend Sharon is leaving TOMORROW to get her sweet son Paine and his sister Evie. That’s right I said and his sister. Check out Sharon’s family here. She’s already been to China three times to pick up sweet little ones. She has three older daughters too. I am constantly amazed by her strength, grace and courage. She is such an encouragement to me just when I need her and while I have spoken with her on the phone, I’ve never met her face to face. Once again, she stepped right up to help me even while packing to go get two more children to add to her family.

I mentioned that LWB asked that we try to get a photo album of Jack back to the orphanage as an encouragement that older boys (Is 3 and a half really older?) get added to the list of children available for adoption. Let me say that even with Jack’s delays, even with an upcoming surgery, even with the problems and frustrations, I can tell you we’ve chatted. If we knew then what we know now about Jack… we would do it the same way all over again. Jack is a blessing. If we can help any other family find their blessing, we’ll jump through hoops to do it. I’m so blessed to have a friends like Sharon who feels the same way. I had days with holidays thrown in to get her pictures. They arrived TODAY. Nothing like last minute. I’m thought and prayed about what to send in a letter. I’m sure Sharon didn’t realize I’m such a procrastinator. I sent it this morning to be stashed in the letter.

I’ve already received these pictures…

I’m so excited at the prospect of what this will do for the other children that we left behind. When we picked up Jack, he was one of only a handful of adoptions that had ever happened from this particular orphanage. I now know 3 families traveling in January. God is good. Please join me in praying that more of these kids can find their way into homes of forever families.

Read More

Breaking News!

Recently my friend Andrea posted this video on her blog. It stayed with me.

Then, I was contacted by a friend at Love Without Boundaries. Sweet little Rosalinda who you helped me sponsor has been adopted!!! Huge praise!!! We will now be sponsoring a little boy from Jack’s orphanage, as soon as I receive his information, I’ll share it with you. And there is bigger news. Another family is traveling to China in under 2 weeks to pick up another precious child. So now, I’m in contact with two families traveling to Jack’s orphanage in under two weeks. Rosalinda is home. Three more children in a short period of time. When we traveled Jack was one of the first children to leave for adoption. We know of a few others. The orphanage has seen the good that working with LWB does. More and more kids are getting their paperwork sent in to make them available for adoption. Blessings upon blessings. My friend from LWB asked that we send pictures of Jack over the last year with one of these families along with a note. It would be an encouragement for them to see a child after they leave.

Holy cow! Living in Hawaii, getting things off this island with the holidays… it’s um…not always easy. I contacted my sweet friend Sharon, can you help? She is getting ready to travel to China to pick up TWO children. I didn’t want to burden her with anything else right now. Of course, she even volunteered to print pictures that I emailed. She is always willing to help anyone. I ordered pictures and sent them to her. She is putting them in an album with a message that we’ll be crafting later.

The orphanage is concentrating their efforts on younger children. Sharon’s son is Jack’s age. These boys are huge blessings… not to say it doesn’t come at a cost, but huge blessings indeed. It’s my hope that the orphanage director will see the change in Jack and give some of the other children a fighting chance at finding families. If the paperwork isn’t processed, they are not available for adoption. I was so encouraged last night and this morning to hear all the changes the orphanage has made over the past year. So encouraged. An institution is still not the best place for a child to grow up. Could I ask you to join me in praying that even more changes are made… until they all come home.

If you want to follow Sharon you can find her blog here. I can’t wait to see the pictures the day Payne is in her arms! A few days later, she’ll have Evie Claire too!!!

Read More

Cognitive Tests… Make it hard to come with a title

My afternoon yesterday was most likely your night…since I live on a rock in the middle of the Pacific ocean.  I read through Facebook posts and tweets about the Cardinals losing, Monday night football, Dancing With the Stars and some pretty nasty comments about the presidential debate. My mind was on other things. I was googling “mental retardation.” I engrossed myself in stigmas and causes. Medicinenet.com defines it this way, “Mental retardation: The condition of having an IQ measured as below 70 to 75 and significant delays or lacks in at least two areas of adaptive skills. Mental retardation is present from childhood.”

I read about studies done in orphanages in Budapest. Some said that for each month a child spends in an orphanage up to age three, their IQ score goes down 1/2 point. I read about stigmas of each name. How retard has become a dirty word. I know, I used it on just about everything growing up in the ’80s. Now, the politically correct phrase is developmentally delayed. Huh? That’s Jack’s special need according to all his paperwork.

Why am I bringing all this up now? I just left Jack’s cognitive assessment. I won’t have the results for several weeks, but I know the test the psychiatrist was using needed to be changed to fit his level more than once over the three hours we spent in that little room. Jack was awesome. I think in the same situation I would have been irritated with someone asking me the same question in a sing song voice repeatedly. I didn’t do so awesome. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t lost my composure. Here’s the thing. It’s a standardized test and Jack, well, Jack’s not standard. We call those little wax things colors. Dolls are babies. I’m Mama, not Mommy. Grandpa is a bear. Things like that tend to skew a test. I can’t think of a time I’ve said, “Jack give me the _____.” I say, “Can I have ____?” or “Hand me the _____.” “Get your shoes.” “Find your cup.” I wanted to yell, “You aren’t asking the right way!” I did finally say, “In our house those are (and then I spelled out) B-A-B-I-E-S.” That’s when I got the standard rules for standardized test speech.

Jack can count higher than half the kids on Bria’s class but he won’t answer if you say, “Jack, how old are you?” He just learned to say “Mama and Daddy” not that long ago. Jack parrots our behavior. Matching something is an abstract concept for him. He shares. He tries to do what we ask. Today I was overwhelmed leaving the test when he patted my shoulder and said, “Woook! Is a train!” He is getting it, ever so slowly. The fact is for whatever reason he is delayed.

I heard all about the orphanage delay. I had delusions of grander. Apparently what I heard loudest was, “he will catch up.” Instead of that, can’t speak, low muscle tone, missing fine motor skills points. I heard he’ll be like everyone else. He’s not. Neither is Arleigh, or Hanan or Bria. We all come with our own set of kinks and quirks. Low IQ was off my radar. I thought this would be, show him a car, say car, he’ll learn car sort of deal. It’s not. I’m mad right now because I hear some people saying, “I told her so.” I hear the naysayers in my head saying, “Do you know what’s going to happen to your family?” or “Did you really count the cost.” When I am overwhelmed with Jack’s delay I’m reminded that there were people along the way of our paper chase who wanted to tell me it would be too hard. When I’m struggling, sometimes I wonder what they are thinking now.

This is what I would say to myself of almost two years ago when we were just getting Jack’s file…

Dear Self,

If you think the paperwork is scary now, you don’t know what scary is. Wait until they take him back for an MRI to look for brain damage. It is going to get a whole lot worse. It’s not blue skies and rainbows and sisters loving on brother the second you get off the plane. It’s hard. He’s going to get mad because he can’t tell you how he feels. You are going to get mad because all you want is a day at the beach and the beach is going to be the most terrifying place on earth the first few times he goes.

During this paper chase there is something about it. You are broken and want your boy home but you also feel like you are part of something bigger. You somehow really see your place in God’s plan. It’s easy now to shirk off naysayers. It’s a bit harder when Jack is in your arms and you want him to act like a normal little boy and he’s not. When you are holding him and he is tremoring like a seizure is coming on just because something is new and people are giving both you and Jack funny looks, try to remember that Wonder Woman feeling you have right now. It’s a bit harder to hold on to these days but it’s still there. Remind yourself that you are still part of God’s plan. You are helping the world see God’s love in a little boy.

Don’t quit. Jack will teach you so much about yourself. Some good, some bad. Jack is going to show you and those little girls a bigger world. He is going to win EVERYONE over even though he doesn’t talk much. The random guy at the school will come to love him. He will make people laugh out loud on a regular basis and you get to watch as he touches their hearts. Jack is going to open up compassion in Arleigh, Hanan and Bria like you’ve never seen. Bria will walk away from her little sister role to become a champion to her brother. You’re going to cry over all the tests. It’s going to be hard to watch him fail. Hard isn’t impossible. In his failing, he just gives himself more room to grow.

Jack isn’t going to be what you thought. He won’t be perfect. He’s going to be better. He may be with you until he’s 18 or forever. Either way it’s okay because you’re going to learn that when he’s around, you’re better. Delays are hard to swallow. It’s just one more mountain to climb. God wouldn’t have sent Jack to you if He thought you couldn’t do it. Somedays you may think you can’t. Remember that with God, you can.

Don’t quit! Sincerely,

B

If you are thinking about adoption, go with your eyes wide open. I realize now that  my expectations had been lower in some ways and higher in others. You don’t know until you go through it. If you want a good dose of reality, talk to another adoptive parent. In the end, they will tell you it’s worth the cost.

 

Read More

Another Jack Update

Jack has had his fair share of appointments over the last couple of weeks. We’ve finished with the assessments at Tripler. Thursday he starts school assessments. Where do we stand?

Well, the pathologist at Tripler is a bit of a hard pill to swallow. Her personality didn’t lend it’s self to Jack feeling the need to cooperate with every test. He wasn’t bad. He didn’t try to walk away. He shut down. I’m not sure that she saw it that way but it scored against him regardless. One of the funnier moments came when Jack was going through pictures. If you ask him to point to something, I’m not entirely sure he knows what he’s doing but apparently he’s a pretty good guesser if he doesn’t. Ball…cat….horse…spoon. He could point away and get it right. If you ask him what any one of those things are, he says car or makes up his own word. The speech pathologist seemed to be a bit condescending to me but I could just be a defensive mother going through these tests. Almost as if she wanted to write Jack off and move on but this was only during the test she was kind and caring as we were leaving. Like I said, could have been a big old case of mama bear. Anyway, she is making sure I can’t see the pictures, showing them to Jack and asking him what they are. She points he says, “Molly!” She shakes her head and says, “No, that’s not Mommy!” I calmly look up. “He’s saying ‘Molly’ my kids call me Mama. He wouldn’t say Mommy.” The pathologist looks at me as turns the picture of a small white dog around. “That looks just like the dog he plays with every day named Molly.” She gets Jack to make eye contact with her, She points to dog again and says, “dog.” Jack looks at her and says, “Nope! That Molly!” He’s right. Molly doesn’t think she’s a dog and neither does Jack.

The assessment is finished. Jack scored in the first percentile. That’s what we expected. I’m doing a hip hip hooray because he’s on the chart! Seriously. If you lived with him you would understand. Big old baby steps around here are celebrated. We have a referral to see a pediatric growth specialist. Because of recent deployments to Afghanistan, it isn’t likely that we’ll get an appointment before November. I’m totally okay with that. We’re in line. I don’t want to bump anyone. It’s nice to know we are finally on the right track for answers.

Hopefully Ray will be able to access the latest report and we’ll have it before Thursday’s appointment. My fingers are crossed. Hopefully Jack will soon be going to school like he so wants to do. It’s pure torture for him to drop his sisters off every day.

In the words of the pathologist, we know where we are now. There’s no where to go but up!

Read More

One Year Ago

Exactly one year ago, we were falling in love with this face…

This sad, scared, anxiety riddled face. I thought I recognized it from another agency’s list that I occasionally stalked perused. Our agency sent us a file. We asked for permission to adopt this scared little boy.

Exactly one year ago today, we received approval to start the wild roller coaster ride that is SN adoption and our world changed forever.

 

 

 

Jack is a completely different little boy than the one in that picture…most of the time. Sometimes I still catch brief glimpses of that scared little boy. I saw a bit yesterday while we waited to go into the doctor’s office.

This is the boy that I see most often these days. He’s happy and content, playing with his sisters and his Daddy. His smile is bright. This boy seems so different than the child he must have been a year ago. I know because I have pictures. Pictures of a very frightened child, almost unrecognizable from the child that he is now. For that I’m grateful. God has blessed us all in so many ways. I’m thankful for everything Jack teaches me every day.

Yesterday, we found out a bit more about his special need. We are still trying to find out if Jack’s developmental delays are institutional or something else. Next month Jack is scheduled to have an MRI. Because communication is still so very difficult and his anxiety level with doctors is so high, the decision was made to use general anesthesia. It scared me a little but I know God is bigger than that. With this MRI, we will find out if there is midline brain damage. Our doctors continue to think that it won’t be found, the MRI is simply a precaution. The next step in his treatment will be surgery on his eyes to help him control their movement. After discussing our upcoming move and the lack of progress with patching his eye, surgery seemed to be the next logical step and it needs to be done now before he loses the control he has. So that’s what we’ll do. It’s one more thing to be incredibly grateful for. If he had waited in China any longer, that control could have been lost.

Next week that scared little boy will celebrate his fourth birthday surrounded by a family that loves him very much. He has know idea that the gift is ours. He’s taught us patience, especially me. I may still be working that one out. We laugh more. We love more. We appreciate so much more. I owe the powers that be one big thank you that a year ago they said yes, we could bring this sweet boy home. We owe God a big thanks for allowing us to be his parents. We are truly blessed.

 

Read More

Really Seeing

Really Seeing

So yesterday was a pretty big day for us…months in the making. Jack was finally set to see a pediatric ophthalmologist. (No matter how many times I try, I never spell that word right.) I was nervous and excited. Anyone who has been around Jack for longer than 10 minutes will probably have noticed that his eyes can sort of float, particularly his left one. Sometimes he has me fooled because it looks like that’s the one he’s using. He holds books and video games way too close to his eyes. We’ve heard every technical term that involves things like lazy eye and being far sighted and even near sighted. We had no idea just how much he was seeing. Beyond that, I was starting to consider that lack of sight might account for his developmental delay.

Some of you are new here, so I’ll back up a little bit. Jack was a special needs adoption. His special need was a developmental delay. That delay could be caused and was likely to be caused by institutionalization. When we went to China, we had no idea how bad the delay would be but we were very hopeful that it would be mild. In some ways, we were right. In other ways, we were very, very wrong. In China, Jack could barely walk. He didn’t speak Chinese, or Mandarin or any other dialect. He only parroted what others said. It didn’t take him long to learn to walk, step off of things and soon he is running and jumping. I promise you he has way better dance moves than I’ve ever had. The boy can get his groove on! His language is still not picking up. He still says very little on his own without repeating someone. He does understand. If I say, “Let’s clean up,” he’ll put his cars back in their respective tubs. If I say we need to go potty, he marches to the bathroom. He will also stand and stare at me while he pees in the floor instead of telling me he needs to go. Frustrating much? So it’s a big old balance.

Read More