We are home with Amos, Daisy, Lee and Violet! Meanwhile we have jumped in again for one last very special girl. If you would like to help with that, you can make a non-tax-deductible donation HERE that we can access immediately. You can also make a tax-deductible donation HERE that we can use once we receive travel dates. Or by donating HERE you can help provide her and other children at her orphanage the care and nutrition they desperately need. See all of our current fundraisers HERE. We are thankful for any support you can offer!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Barton Is Almost Home!

I know a lot of people have been wondering what is going on with Barton. He and my husband have a flight scheduled to come home on Wednesday! Finally! They have had their final embassy appointment so they have his exit visa!

Here are a couple photos from when Barton first left the orphanage. He was able to come earlier in the day instead of later when they planned, so he came to the apartment in orphanage clothes that they returned the next day.

He loves juice so one of the first things he wanted to do when he got to the apartment was have some juice with a snack.

Here he is changing into his very own clothes. He was completely in love with the shoes. He kept saying how they were so much softer and more comfortable than the ones he had been wearing. He was very happy with them.

He is eating dinner with his car (machina!) on the table. He likes to savor his food and is a very slow and thorough eater! It is getting better as he is beginning to realize that there is plenty of food at every meal and he can eat as much as he needs.

These are some gifts from his cousins! He will be so excited when he finally gets to meet them. 

We were keeping quiet on the details while things were getting worked out, but we did have another delay in country. Yeah, seriously. Enough already with those delays, right? Hopefully we are finally at the point where no more delays are possible. The tax office made a mistake changing his documents, so his passport was printed incorrectly the first time. Those little details like having an accurate passport are kind of important to the embassy and immigration, you know? Even worse, getting the fixed passport took even longer than getting the first passport. That doubled the amount of time my husband had to stay in country, and the amount of time that I was here by myself with all of our other kids.

And how are the other kids doing? Awesome. They are doing so well. We had a fever and cough come through while my husband was gone. I was worried it might be the enterovirus that has been on the news, but apparently it was just a virus going around. They had to stay home from school for a couple days, but they were complete champs. Theo and Orion were much more upset about missing a trip on the bus than they were about being sick. Look at their smiling faces! I promise you I never look that good when I am sick.

Evan has been doing well in therapy. He still gets very easily overstimulated, but he was comfortable enough to practice biting marshmallow peeps in speech last week. He is doing better at home at accepting a couple spoonfuls of food before spitting the rest on me and demanding his bottle instead. It is amazing that he will eat the same thing out of a bottle that he spits out from a spoon, but that is what happens when you are never given the chance. Things are looking like he will eventually be able to move way from the bottles which will be an amazing milestone. Here are a couple photos that show how big he is getting! He has gained 12 pounds since he came home 3 months ago. He is so amazing! The photos in the red shirt are new.

These other two photos are from after we brought him out of the orphanage and our trip home. I can't believe how much he has changed already! The really shocking thing to me is that I remember when I took these pictures I thought they didn't accurately capture how small he was, how obvious his bones were, how hollowed his skin looked when you were up close in person. Now I look at the difference between those pictures that don't even show the real depth of his condition and his pictures now. Wow.

He has been such a blessing to us. Everyone should be lucky enough to have a child just like him and his brothers! So many of their friends are still waiting for families of their own if you think there might be a child out there waiting for you.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

New School Year, New Beginnings

I can't say enough how much older child adoption rocks. These kids are incredible and we feel so honored to be able to share all these new milestones with them. I know what we have done isn't right for every family, but it has been great for us and for our children - all of them. And I also know that most families don't have as easy a transition as we have! My husband and I keep asking each other if this is still a honeymoon period or if this is really the way things are going to be forever. Either way, we are very thankful for the last three months and how well everyone has bonded. 

An anonymous individual commented during our adoption process that we should have only adopted one child. Which of our boys would they have had us leave behind? We can't imagine being without any of them, and we also can't imagine what would have happened to them if we hadn't said "YES" to each of them. We are counting the days until Barton can join us here at home too. (Very soon!) I know most people don't adopt 4 older boys at once. That is okay! Yes, it has been all kinds of chaos. You should see what happens if I skip a single day's worth of laundry! But the kids are great, incredible, and loved so much. It has been an amazing journey and we all have so much ahead of us, together.

So, on to school!

This is the day Theo and Orion went to check out their new school. Their new teacher could hear us as soon as we came in the door, even though her room is a few halls away, because the boys were so excited and kept exclaiming about how big and beautiful the school is. I really like their teacher and she has been wonderful about understanding my concern over helping the boys transition into a school environment. The boys had a great time checking everything out and meeting the staff. 

Here are Theo and Orion after their haircuts for school! Aren't they the handsomest boys ever? I had been putting off cutting their hair because one of them has a lot of scars on his head that are hidden when his hair is longer. We were able to cut it short enough that they were happy with it but long enough to make the scars less obvious. Phew! They were also both quite surprised that their haircuts didn't hurt. Little things like that pop up all the time, so unexpectedly. It stings my heart that something like a haircut not hurting would bring them so much joy. They really enjoyed having everyone fuss over how handsome they were afterward though, which we were all more than happy to do.

Here they are waiting for the bus! So much anticipation had been building for this. They started asking when school would begin as soon as they got to America. They were very disappointed to learn it was the middle of summer vacation. It is finally time to figure out what school is like and they can't wait.

Theo was a little nervous about the lift on the bus for the first few days, but now he has gotten used to it. The bus driver has been really good about showing him everything she is going to do before she does it so he knows what to expect. She takes great care of them!

Orion just about leapt into his seat once the bus stopped. I am glad they are excited for their bus ride, since it is pretty long. There are only about twenty other kids on their bus, but we are in a rural area so it takes some time to pick everyone up. The other kids have been very curious and excited about the boys going to their school, and also helpful about showing the boys how things work. 

There is a lot of catching up to do in so many areas. We are still learning about the concept of buying things, and that Mama and Papa are the ones paying for your milk at school - not the teacher! They are missing a lot of the assumed background knowledge, even in very basic materials. We often don't discover those gaps in their knowledge until we all stumble into them together.

Their excitement for everything makes it easier. You know the videos of kids finding out they are headed on a vacation to Disney? That is how Theo and Orion sounded as the bus pulled into school for the first time. They are so thrilled to go to school each day and learn new things. I have had so many people from the school stop me to tell me how much the boys' excitement has affected them. Again, we are so in awe to be their parents. They are still adjusting to the expectations at school. Orion had been entering each classroom by shouting hello and shaking everyone's hands...all out of excitement and absolutely adorable, but not always appropriate! Now that we are a couple weeks into school, we are working on keeping their excitement a little quieter and a little more suited to the setting, but happily it is still there.

You'll notice Evan didn't get on the bus with Theo and Orion. He will be having homebound services for this year. Medically, he is amazingly uncomplicated considering his background. He has CP. He is malnourished but gaining weight. Even uncomplicated children have a lot of medical visits though, and with his background all of these transitions are very tiring and stressful. The specialists have agreed that we will better be able to find the right educational environment in another year. He will be getting most of his services through the school at home, but also some extra speech therapy and PT during short sessions at the school. We will be adding private therapy too as he gets more comfortable with the interaction with all of the therapists and educators. All of this is a big change for him, and no one has any idea what kind of results we can expect from the therapies. We are hoping for miracles, but we truly love him exactly the way he is.

These photos are from one of his many trips to our Children's hospital. This was us going to do some sedated tests, which he did fine with although I was a nervous wreck the whole time waiting for him! We don't have much new information about his condition at this point. It isn't progressive, which we knew. His hearing is great, which we were pleased to find but expected. He has a little bit of vision, but it is hard to assess, which we also expected. None of these have changed what we are doing, but it is good information to have.

I can't explain how much we love Evan, and the rest of children as well of course. I think the bedridden kids, the crib kids, come across as very scary and hopeless. It is so hard to see a little blurb and a photo or two of a child and make a decision, even when the photos and description make a child sound "easy." (Haha, easy child? I know, I know, doesn't exist!) With the bedridden kids, and also transferred kids, the child is most likely drugged, in all but the most rare cases is neglected at a level the average person can't comprehend, with so many unknown diagnoses and an unknown future. What we have found after getting Evan out of his crib and into the real world, is that all of that scariness melts away. What seems frightening in a crib in a room full of other neglected children and adults seems so much easier in the light of day - in the living room of your home, in a carseat in your car, outside on a walk with your family. Even with Theo and Orion, who were in much better conditions than Evan, you could see something fall away once they left the orphanage and arrived in America with us. Adoption changes lives. It can be hard. It can be heartbreaking. It is worth it. We are so thankful for our children.