Saturday, January 10, 2015

Ni Hao, Y'all

The title is Chinese for, "Hi, Y'all!"

It's been about eight months since I've been in this little corner. Babies don't keep and children have, ahem, lots of needs. I've missed recording life in this space. #thankgoodnessforinstagram

I mean…wow. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since we last visited. We had an insane ride home from China. Henry-oh, and forget calling him Heng. That was part of his official Chinese name and I'd thought would make a good nickname on this space, but it led to a lot of confusion and his English name got out and that's OK. He did great on the first leg of the trip, despite leaving in a horrific storm and a two hour wait prior to take off... buckled in our seats. 

There was also that moment when I was holding Henry, waiting in line to use the facilities, and a kind stewardess who spoke no English insisted we follow her upstairs (in the plane) to the "business elite"…and with Henry and a backpack in that TINY bathroom, I could barely move and ended up bracing myself and Henry as the plane tipped and teetered in the storm and the stewardess banged on the door, insisting we come out and take our seats (at least, I assume that's what she was saying) and I spilled milk EVERYWHERE. (It was a super nice bathroom - with fresh flowers and cloth towels…Definitely for the business elite and not an exhausted mama and toddler trying to potty and change diapers and make bottles. I'm afraid I might've left a bad impression of Americans??…eek!) 

During all of this, Little Man was scratching himself all over. He kept telling us he was itching terribly. We dismissed it as nothing more than mosquito bites. We were wrong.

By the second and absolutely longest leg of the journey, Little Man was in tears and had clawed himself to the point of bleeding in several places. His lips were swollen. It was scary. And I was terrified of being quarantined again. 

Thankfully, as always, the Lord provided. There was a huge group of nurses seated all around us who offered medical help. We had him amped up on benadryl in no time. 

Henry had a rough ride and cried if we weren't standing up while holding him. No telling how many hours we "slept" with our eyes open, bouncing him.

Stepping foot on American soil was SOOOO SWEET!!!!! One last leg of flying and we'd be home, with our girls. I was a nervous wreck on that last flight. We hadn't slept in 24 hours. It was entirely business men and our little family on a tiny plane and Henry made his presence known on several occasions. Much to my surprise and relief, everyone was so kind. 

And then, before we knew it, we were reunited!!! And I have pictures somewhere of this precious moment and I can't find them! Grr. It felt so good to hold my girls in my arms. There were happy tears. The Engineers parents and grandparents were there. Mama was there and so were both of my sisters. A sweet friend and her children were there. Everyone had flags and signs and it was such a deeply impactful moment, forever etched on my heart. There's nothing like familiar faces and family who love and love well. 

We planned to spend our first night in the States at Mama's and then to head on home the next day. However, we ended up delaying our return because Little Man couldn't shake the hives. By the time we'd loaded the car and called the children to hop in, he couldn't walk for the hives on his feet. And we were so tired. So exhausted. I hadn't slept the first night in the US for fear Little Man might stop breathing because of his hives…between that and Henry's restlessness and crying out - I was just done. 

And so a day later than planned, we made the trek and Henry hated his carseat…every minute of it! And arriving at "home" was just as sweet as our arrival at the airport. Friends lined our drive with signs and flags and balloons and flowers…the fridge was stocked for at least a week. Meals came. Giant coffee toffee cakes were homemade and delivered…the yard had been done - like - edged and blown and cut - every need was so thoughtfully anticipated and met. It is humbling to be so well loved by so many. (Again  - I have pictures of all of this and can't find them at the moment…ugh.) 

And we settled into our days and trying to find a rhythm. Wren was mad for a while. Both girls keenly felt our absence. Henry slept fitfully and woke very early. Little Man set up camp in the girls' room. After two weeks of caring for five nonstop - and the experts tell you to hunker down and help your adopted child learn his new norm…but y'all, at the end of two weeks of that (not leaving the house) and no time alone, rising early to Henry's screams, going to bed late, to Henry's cries, trying to love my other four well. And not a moment away. Or alone. Except when I slept…I had a little meltdown. The adrenaline wore off and I was done. Dead. Empty. Had no strength. And so I had a really hard cry and The Engineer sent me away for the afternoon the next day. And I sat in my car and ate a bag of caramel popcorn. 

The doctor appointments began. There were so many. And our sweet little boy had several procedures done in his first (and only, so far) surgery. Tucking him into his crib the night before surgery was so bittersweet. Because I knew he'd be so changed post surgery. Which I totally wanted. Knew should happen and was best for him. Without a doubt. But it was still bittersweet. 

Surgery was a phenomenal success. I cannot believe how dramatically altered his lip is! What a sweet blessing!!! 

He had a LOT of breathing issues post surgery. And it was amazing to see the ways the Lord provided for us. I am talking - several trips to the ER and a night in the PICCU - and every. single. time. we had multiple physicians call and pave the way ahead of us. Our pediatrician was amazing. En route to the ER we actually drove past one of Henry's surgeons, who was out running, who stopped and evaluated Henry and even called to collaborate with another of Henry's surgeons and also called ahead and prepped the ER. It was so amazing how sweetly the Lord tended our EVERY need. Again and again. My MIL kept our children. Dear friends joined us at each ER visit and brought food, etc. It was just amazing. Period. The Body of Christ loves well. 

Eventually all the breathing drama tapered off…we still aren't certain of the exact cause. And as life calmed, we fell into a routine. Our new normal.

August 20th marked Wren's first birthday. A sweet friend asked what kind of cake I planned to make and I laughed and told her, "the kind you buy at the grocery store." She made Wren a strawberry cake. And it meant so much to me. Just another example of being so well loved. So often it's those little details - I mean, there was just no way I was cranking out a cake. I was too overwhelmed just keeping my people together.  And part of my heart was sad. I've always (I think) made my kids' first birthday cake. That cake was a sweet gift.

And then, melt my heart, Henry stood up in his highchair and reached over to Wren's and they shared her first piece of cake. Which was doubly sweet because he didn't have cake on his first birthday. Oh!  these babies!

Having two little ones is a lot of fun. A whole lot of fun. And it's also totally daunting and overwhelming. At least it is to me. Henry and Wren are best friends and worst enemies, but mostly best friends. 

There's a LOT of tag teaming. OH, the trouble those two get into! I've lost count of how many times we've found them playing in the potty! It's awful. I am constantly asking everyone, "Did you close the bathroom door!?"

By the time we were back to school, I officially knew I absolutely could not add homeschooling to my plate and not completely lose my mind. The Engineer graciously agreed to hire someone to come in one day a week and care for the younger ones so I could steal away with the older two to hit the books hard. I'm so thankful for this provision. It is such a gift!

History aside, the BULK of teaching in our other subjects is done in one very long day. The rest of the week is spent on history and completing assignments related to that heavy day of teaching. This has worked so well for our family. While Sister and Little Man work independently, I am able to spend one on one time with Little Bit as she learns to read and write.

Several months ago I  broke down and did something I said I'd NEVER do. I bought one of those huge snap together baby gate octagons…plus a few extensions. We call it the "baby jail" and it was the best use of accumulated gift cards I think I've ever enjoyed. It's so big and takes up so much space, you can't open our front door all the way. And that's okay. This is a season and sanity is a precious thing! And oh, the difference this has made with school!!!

Between help one day a week and the baby jail, life was feeling better. Henry still hadn't made it a Sunday in the nursery without us being called in…and so about a month ago I had a melt down. 

It was Sunday morning and because Sister was willing to go in the nursery during church for us, The Engineer and I got to attend worship together - this hadn't happened in about seven months…Sister eventually snuck out of the nursery so she could go to Sunday School…and then I got the call. "He won't stop crying. Won't let anyone hold him. We need you to come." And the tears started to bubble up. 

I slipped out of the classroom and bit down on my lip, determined not to lose control of my emotions. And as I crossed the street, en route for the nursery, I just couldn't turn it off. And the tears came and came. Floods of them came. And I couldn't stop them for the life of me. It was so embarrassing. A friend intercepted and took my place with Henry. I hid in the church library - so I could purge the rest of the tears. It was that awful hickey-snot crying where your eyes are swollen and the snot just runs down your face and there aren't enough tissues…

And I got a text. From another dear friend. "My husband said you left Sunday School upset. What's going on?….Where are you?….Stay right there. I'm coming."

And she came. And put her arm around me. And cried with me. And loved me in all my snotty, swollen eyed, crying ugly. And a handful of precious friends took our place in the nursery and helped with Henry and allowed us to worship together for the rest of December. And guess what happened? By the last Sunday, Henry fussed a tiny bit and played the rest of the time. 

And now he and Wren are on lockdown. He's got his next surgery in February and we are doing all we can to keep him well. But oh, the love of friends…laying down their lives for ours and in so doing, feeding hungry, weary souls. What blessings! 

This has kind of been the year of being stripped. So many things I've always held dear are being pried out of my fists. I've felt claustrophobic - perhaps? I hadn't realized how much I thrive on being creative - on making things, doing things…and this has been a season where, for the most part, the doing of things is done by The Engineer while I tend babies. I really, really miss working together.

I've seen a horrible side of my heart. It's like the layers are being peeled back and what this season of life is revealing is not pretty. Deep down, I am a lover of myself above all others. This has become increasingly evident. 

I am a perfectionist and with five children and loooong work days for The Engineer and living in an old house (We are all sharing the same shower and have plastic taped to the ceiling of our bedroom - from where a leak/flood was - several months ago. Whatev!) and homeschooling - keeping things "perfect" is waaay beyond my control, despite my best efforts. There have been times I've been so unreasonably out of sorts, I have wished someone would wear me out and send me to bed. Without dinner.

And yet, truly, when I reflect, I wouldn't change it for the world. I wouldn't send my big kids off to school. I wouldn't put the babies in daycare. And I wouldn't go back to work. Even though some days that sounds so, so, so good. 

Maybe we're all a little bit like that? Imagining the grass must be greener on the other side. Not content with what He has given and called us to. I just don't think ten years down the road I am going to wish I'd gotten more done or had a cleaner house…I don't think we are going to regret these choices. Even though it feels they cost dearly in the moment.

I keep telling myself this is a season. And it is. The day we took these pictures I kept chasing the babies down as they neared the curb. Neither could safely step down. And now Henry runs right over that curb without missing a beat. Time passes and we change. And grow. 

And goodness I hope I change and grow and learn these lessons well. I don't want to become a bitter old woman. 

And so our days have settled into a routine. Both babes sleep through the night. Henry occasionally wakes. By the grace of God, I am learning that He sees and knows what happens in the darkness, in the wee morning hours when the house is sleeping. I don't have to stomp and make sure The Engineer knows what I am doing. (I have done this sighing and stomping thing. Many times.) 

It's been precious to see the older three rise to the occasion. They care and love for the babies so well. (Usually!)

It's been fun to see the dynamics between each of the children and it's sweet to see their relationships growing.

As far as the home front goes, we are slowly making progress on this ol' house. One little bit at a time.

The Engineer was off for a few weeks during Christmas (YAY!!!!!) and spent almost the entire time working on a tree house for the children. I can't wait for it to be finished. It's already the scene for many adventures.

I hope 2015 is off to a wonderful start for you and yours! I can't wait to see how life unfolds this year. Happy Saturday, y'all!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Woop, Woop! USA, Here We Come!!!

Thank y'all so much for all your prayers for us!!! Sweet Heng passed the medical exam-I cried when they told me! We waited a few minutes for his medical report and ran down the street to the Consulate where we took our oath and applied for his visa. We should have it in hand, Lord willing, at 4:10 tomorrow afternoon. Our flight leaves Wednesday morning at 9am! We have 25 hours of travel from take off in Guangzhou to our final landing spot in the US. Whew. I'm tired just thinking about it all-and my arms are just aching to hold my little girls!!! We're trying to enjoy our last 36 hours here...

We met another adopting couple on our ride up the elevator tonight...they're from Australia, and ended up inviting them to our hotel room. They agreed and came right on. The mama, their little girl (who they adopted), our three and I hung out in the room while the daddies got take out. Our room was trashed and they came on in regardless. 

The kids want to spend our last full day hanging at the hotel pool with our new mates. (Hahaha.)

Little Heng continues to amaze us! Today he tried ice cream again-and cried and cried with each taste and after the tears, cried and cried for more. What a picture of myself! 

Before I run, I just want to say...we are so thankful we got to bring Sister and Little Man! I can't imagine this trip without them. I think the little girls would've been tired and miserable and worn out. The older two are at great ages for this type travel. They've hung in there so well and amazed us with their maturity. (I mean, it's not like the hotel staff had to tell one of our children to stop jumping over the velvet ropes in the front of the hotel counter. Yikes.) But seriously, it's been such a treat and privilege having them here. 

Heng is in his crib, asleep on his side, under the blue blanket a precious friend made him. His little arm is hanging through the bars and I can hear him breathing. It's a sweet sound and my heart is at peace. So thankful for God's provision and care for His flock! We've seen His hand of tender care in so many ways-big and small. 

It's late. Night, y'all!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Big Day Tomorrow!!!

Hey y'all! I've spent the last three days wrestling with the internet, trying to get pictures to load! Phew.

While I can't go into all the details here and now, I want you to know that this past week has had the potential to be absolutely unnerving in about a million ways and it has been anything but. 

God has kept us in His perfect peace and has been so gracious to us. He is carrying us through this crazy season. We have a final medical exam tomorrow morning and would SO APPRECIATE your prayers! We anticipate Heng will pass just fine, however, the doctors are looking for any sign that his rash (which they've finally agreed is chickenpox - though the absence of fever and itching still puzzles all of us) hasn't completely scabbed over.

Assuming they are pleased with what they see, they will hand us Heng's medical report and we will run it right down the street and over a block to the Consulate where we will apply for his visa.

The visa should be ready by Tuesday late afternoon and we hope to board a plane for the States Wednesday morning!!!

Please, please, please pray he passes just fine. Please pray the doctors are pleased with what they see. Pray that his rash continues to clear. If they don't pass him, you might hear me crying half way across the world! (The pic above was taken with our dear, dear guide who we love so much! She has been phenomenal and couldn't have done anything more to help us. She's a total rockstar!!!-Like our clothes drying in the background!? Haha.)

My arms are physically aching to hold our little girls and I can scarcely let myself dwell on the sweetness of our homecoming! When I think of it for too long, my heart starts racing and I get all kinds of teary. It will be so sweet. 

So many of you have let us know you are praying for us - thank you so much! It is such an honor to be part of the Body of Christ and to be so well loved and cared for. Thank y'all!!! We hope and pray that through the insanity this adventure has been, Christ has been made much of. 

It is incredibly sweet to find ourselves totally dependent on His mercy in this strange and foreign land. So often, it's easy to "fix" things. And we are comfortable, in our own little bubble…but being at the mercy of a group of physicians who we can't understand and having to depend on our guide to translate - it's just made the absolute certainty of God's sovereignty - of Him holding us in the palm of His hand and directing the doctors' hearts - so, so dear and comforting. 

We were thrilled to discover a Muay Thai event being held in our very own hotel lobby…and we were sure to make it to the first round! I feel kind of bad admitting I was a little disappointed to realize the entire thing was choreographed.

Of course, we didn't let on to the children. It may be the quietest and stillest Little Man has been the entire trip. He was rather enthralled.

Today we had a very, very sweet experience. We took a taxi to another hotel and attended Guangzhou International Christian Fellowship for worship. I think it was a tiny taste of heaven, in terms of all the people from so many different tribes and tongues, all worshipping together. There was standing room only. It was sweet to spend Sunday morning worshipping with other believers.

Saturday we spent the afternoon, well, it was supposed to be the afternoon-it was almost the night, on Shamian Island. 

Sister and Little Man and I had made the trek earlier last week, while The Engineer stayed behind, quarantined with Heng. Now that we've stayed in China past our expected leave date, we have nothing scheduled and took the opportunity to spend some unhurried time in such a beautiful spot.

We did a little shopping and exploring...

We stopped at a really neat Starbucks - probably my favorite one, ever!

It was quite a happening' spot. We sat outside on the upstairs porch.

And we learned something super fun and exciting! Our newest addition likes coffee. He's going to fit in with this family just fine! (BIG smile!)

So…in the near two weeks we've had him, he's gone from barely crawling and when he did crawl (at first) it wasn't "right." He would sort of drag one leg and then push off his foot…to crawling correctly and everywhere…to pulling up…and a few times he's taken a solid step to us without any assistance. 

He'd also only ever had rice cereal, formula, and rice congee…and now that we know his rash was chickenpox and not a food allergy, the gates are wide open! This little guy is trying all sorts of new things! We caught him with a box of blueberry flavored poky sticks (icing covered tiny little breadstick sort of things). He was digging in, loving it! Which was a big surprise because he hated sweet things early on. 

He's also learning how to drink from a cup, whereas he's only every had a bottle… and all of this is big because of his cleft lip and palate! It's just amazing what being part of a family does for a child. I can't get over the changes we are seeing in him each day. 

And I can't wait to see him with out little girls!!! What a crazy and happy (oh, I hope!) house we will have! (And messy!)

So we had a great afternoon on the island and had two stops to make before we planned to head home. At our first stop, the item we wanted wasn't in stock and so the shop keeper's husband ran to get them from - well, I'm not sure where, but he was gone for a while. During his absence a nasty storm rolled in - like a pitch black dark, scary kind of thunder (I screamed several times!) and lightning storm. We actually had a great time just hanging out with her while we waited for him to return…

And then we made our final stop and, in the POURING rain, made our way to a hotel. We'd been told the best chance of getting a taxi was to wait at a hotel on the island. So we waited. Finally we decided we should go to the hotel where our taxi had originally dropped us, it seemed busier…only, we were turned around and with the weather what it was -  I mean, the rain was coming down in sheets…we were all soaked…we couldn't find the hotel. 

Finally, finally we found it. And we waited. Nothing. No taxis. Evidently taxis don't run in the rain in Guangzhou. One of the bellmen at the hotel called a friend and tried to line up a ride for us. Nothing.

Taxis came and dropped people, but no one would take us back to our hotel. (It's about a thirty minute drive.) We were all praying. And we were hungry. We hadn't planned to stay nearly that long and had only enough to pay the taxi fee…so we kept waiting. And praying. And my children didn't even complain about being hungry! 

And God sent us sweet Jenny of Jenny's, the store where we'd done some of our shopping. When I told her we'd been waiting, at that point, over an hour and a half, she immediately offered to help us. She and her husband tried to call a cab to no avail. She translated with the bellmen for us. She asked them to call our hotel to see if there were any taxis heading this way…she flagged down taxis and asked them for us…she took us to a busier intersection. She insisted on helping us. Finally, she suggested we take the subway. This was a little overwhelming. As The Engineer said, "It can take us really far really fast. In the wrong direction!?" 

Jenny helped us figure out where to change lines, where to get off, as well as how to purchase tokens…and just like that, we were off. In China, taking the subway - like we had a clue what we were doing! It actually wasn't bad at all and we'd definitely do it again. 

We were the main attraction on the subway. Ha! These crazy, wet Americans with a baby in tow…we were quite a scene. 

We didn't eat dinner until 10:30 last night. Poor little Heng never uttered a complaint and he went a long time without food. We had a bottle, but I was worried it was bad, so we didn't give it to him. He was so content just being held. The picture above was us right before we exited the subway station…right at the entrance to our hotel! 

Once again, God was so gracious! He continues to remind us that we cannot escape His presence. Even on the other side of the world, in a country where few know Him, He is here. Even when all our plans fail, He is still caring for us, making a way, and reminding us His plans are better.

Thank y'all again for your prayers and encouragement. Please, please pray for us tomorrow morning!

Much love and happy Sunday, y'all!