Category Archives: Family

A Little About Judah

We’ve been home from china for six almost twelve weeks now. (I started this post at six weeks home but couldn’t bring myself to finish putting my thoughts down until now.) I honestly didn’t expect to go this long before writing another post but up until now I really haven’t had the opportunity to sit down and gather my thoughts and write… ok maybe I have but I’ve been indulging in my favorite pastime… reading.   Let’s just call it maternity leave, lol!

In addition to adjusting to life as a family of five over the past twelve weeks we also moved into our house… seven days after being back in country!  It was crazy and looking back I’m not sure how we did it but it was better than letting Judah adjust to our apartment and then uprooting him and moving into a house a month or two after returning home.

As much as I know you would all love to see pics of Whistle Haven I know you would much rather hear about Judah.  Besides at this point the house isn’t exactly ready for pics.  We still have construction workers coming by on a regular basis and moving boxes scattered all around.  It’s beginning to look like we live there though and it certainly feels like home now.

So Let’s Talk About Judah

Noah for females in Hebrew means “motion”, Esther means “star”, and

Judah means “to praise”.

Both girls have certainly lived up to the meaning of their names and I don’t expect Judah to be any different.  My heart and prayer is for Judah’s life to bring praise to God but I’ve realized over the past twelve weeks that to truly do that I must share where he’s coming from. So that as he overcomes hurdles and learns to work around barriers you will see the need to praise God for all the work that he is doing in and through Judah’s life.  I will be the first to tell you that God has taught me so much already through Judah.  Adoption is by far one of the toughest things (both times) that I have ever done in my life but also (both times) one of the ways that as I look back at my faith I can see the biggest growth and the times when I have clung to the scriptures and the love of God most.

Adoption is tough.  As hard as it is for the parents it in no way compares to how difficult it is for the child.  In Judah’s case it has been pure terror and it completely traumatized him for the first eight weeks at home.  Suddenly everything he knew was ripped out from underneath him and he had no idea why.  The only thing that soothed him was Michael Luke and me holding him WHILE walking. If we stopped even for a minute it was more than he could bear. He would almost immediately start biting his thumb and crying.  I don’t mean sucking his thumb like some babies do I mean physically biting. Biting to the point that his thumb was calloused from biting it so much.  In China his nanny told me that he bit his thumb to tell people he was hungry.  I haven’t seen him do that since coming home because I don’t let that sweet boy go hungry but he does bite it when he becomes uncomfortable or is trying to go to sleep.  I can happily share that he doesn’t bite his thumb as much now.  About four weeks ago he started tolerating me holding him while standing still and he doesn’t bite his thumb near as much when trying to go to sleep.  In fact sometimes he just accepts that it is bed time and rolls over and goes to sleep. I am thankful that during this exhausting and tough time of Judah adjusting he doesn’t tolerate his stroller and car seat. So let’s just say we may or may not have driven lots of miles out of our way just to remain in the car and we may or may not have wandered aimlessly around the malls and parks just to fill our time.  It worked though and we are seeing light on the other end of the tunnel now.

Nowadays, Judah still likes to be held a lot but he does tolerate playtime a few times throughout the day and is starting to really enjoy watching his sisters play. He also loves music.  So the girls and I love to crank up some Disney songs and dance around the room while he sits flailing his arms and head around joining in the fun with us.

 

A couple of weeks ago Judah got some adorable glasses that I think took his cuteness factor to an entirely new level.  Apparently he’s pretty nearsighted so this helps to improve his vision.  We aren’t sure how clear he sees though because on top of being nearsighted he also has nystagmus.  Basically it means that his eyes are constantly moving back and forth making it hard for him to focus or see things clearly.  Remember when you were a kid and you used to spin around in circles and then you stopped but everything looked like it kept spinning?  Well, that’s similar to how Judah views the world… without the dizziness.  It will be a while before we actually know how good his vision is but I think he sees pretty good. He’s able to distinguish foods on his plate and will track us around the room.

Nystagmus was one of the special needs listed when we reviewed his file last year.  Michael Luke and I had been praying about Judah, at the time his name was Renquan (pronounced ren-cwhin) for several days.  I was nervous about adopting a child with low vision who might possible be legally blind.  For several days I had been praying to God, asking him for wisdom and to make it clear whether Judah was the child for us.  One of my concerns was how would a vision impaired person get around independently. Well, I kid you not, the very day I asked God to make it clear to me he did!  We were in Salt Lake City at the time riding the trolley around downtown and at one of the stops SIX blind people got on.  The first waited at the door and used his cane to count each person as they boarded.  He clicked his cane after the sixth one boarded and said, “ok, that’s everyone.” It was literally the blind leading the blind and God’s way of showing me that everything would be oik.  I knew then that Judah was the child God intended for us.  Now that we are home Judah’s low vision seems like such a minor thing.

This past week were finally able to begin our therapy sessions. So far we have started occupational and developmental therapy with physical and speech therapy beginning soon.  Judah’s therapy doesn’t have as much  to with the fact that he has low vision but that he also has hypotonia or as it’s more commonly referred to as low muscle tone.  Think floppy baby.   In short his brain has not fully learned how to activate and use all of his muscles to the best of their ability.  This leaves him developmentally and cognitively behind but according to others who have been down this whole therapy route therapy can do wonders for children like him.  So let’s just say I’m one ecstatic mama because carrying around 22lbs of baby all day is a workout!

Regardless of Judah’s special needs he is made in the image of God and he is fearfully and wonderfully made.  And I’ve fallen completely in love with the little boy that makes the sweetest sound as he pats me on the back, squeezes my neck, and then gives me slobbery kisses.  In this broken world he’s discovering love.

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Lianyungang Social Welfare Center

Nanjing, China is where we met Judah but he is actually from Lianyungang, China.

Visiting your child’s orphanage is sort of an elective with a China adoption.  To truly understand where Judah came from and what kind of life he had up until he met us we knew we wanted to visit his orphanage.

Wednesday morning our guide and driver met us at the Nanjing Holiday Inn hotel for a four hour journey to Lianyunguang.  As Americans I think we hear a lot about the vast population of China and we picture the major cities of Beijing and Shanghai.  Nanjing and Lianyunguang both fit those descriptions well but the four drive between the two cities was mostly farm land.

 

The drive was beautiful.  Field after field that grows wheat in the winter and harvests rice in the summer.  Stand alone houses and small rivers and water channels used for transporting goods. Men and women working on the farms with the occasional tractor or plow.It amazed me that even in a country as populated as China there is still so much green land.  It was beautiful!

We arrived at the Lianyungang Social Welfare Center a little before lunch. It wasn’t just a building it was a complex of buildings that served as an orphanage and a nursing home.  Judah’s nanny and the orphanage director greeted us at the front entrance.

 

With international adoption there is so much unknown about how your child has been cared.  The Lianyungang Social Welfare Center is housed in a new set of buildings that is only a couple of years old.  The facility was clean and colorful designs were used throughout but even this can not hide the fact or feeling that where he had lived was an institution.

 

We were shown the playroom where Judah spent time each day with some of the other children and a small room where he slept when he was a baby before being moved upstairs to his foster family.

 

Judah’s foster family lived above the orphanage. There are several families living there in the complex.  Each family is allowed to live there rent free in exchange for caring for some of the children at night.  For instance Judah’s foster family cared for four children at night and during the day the kids joined the rest of the children downstairs. We took the elevator to his foster families living quarters.

 

We were welcomed by his foster mom and dad who had prepared a big lunch for us.  She was excited to see Judah again and I was thankful to meet the woman who had cared for our little guy for us.  We didn’t know he had been living with a foster family until we met him on Monday.  Pictures of the kids were taped to the wall in the living room and there was a small table where the children normally sit.

Sitting on the table was all the food she had prepared for us.  We sat down for a short meal. The foster mom joined us and fed Judah while everyone else crowded around and took pictures for us.  Everything happened so fast that really it was hard to take it all in.  The man brought us canned drinks and I eagerly took one because I was so thirsty.  I popped the tab and pulled it back thinking it was going to taste like an R.C. Cola or something. Boy was I shocked when I realized it was some sort of Chinese beer!  I felt bad that I had opened one of his three remaining cans only to drink a sip.

After our meal our guide took us down the hall to show us Judah’s room that he shared with the other three kids.

The sight of his metal sterile looking crib just about broke my heart. It was so tiny but at least furnished with colorful Paul Frank sheets and blankets to keep him warm.  Here was where my little boy had slept every night.  The entire living unit consisted of five rooms.  This is what home had looked like for him up until now.

After visiting with his foster family we went back downstairs for a delicious meal that the orphanage had prepared for us.

it was prepared by the cooks there.  Our guide shared with me that this was some of the same food Judah was used to eating.  He didn’t eat  much but the girls made up for his lack of appetite.

The table was set with beautiful china trimmed in gold but the fanciest thing to the girls was that they got to drink Coke out of long stemmed glasses.  Judge me if you want but they had never had Coke before so this was an extremely fancy occasion for them!

I am incredibly thankful that Judah had the opportunity to live with his foster family but the truth is that even with that little luxury the effects of institutionalization have not escaped him.

Judah is two but developmentally around six months old.  I’m not all that sure how much interaction with toys and people he has had and I don’t know if he has ever learned to love someone else because he showed zero emotion leaving his nanny and foster mom.

What I do know that is in six short days I have already seen this little boy grow in big ways.  Monday he had no desire to reach out and touch things.  I’m not sure it was nerves or what but he was basically lifeless. Now we board the elevator and he’s learned that when he reaches his hand out he can feel the scratchy upholstery on the wall.  He’s beginning to show signs of wanting to be held and starting to hold onto me as I hold him.  He still doesn’t understand peek-a-boo or get tickled easily but he is starting to grin at me when I lean over him and talk to him on the floor. He hasn’t learned to crawl yet because maybe he’s never had a motivation to  but last night he rolled all over our room because he was so happy and wanted to see what was going on.

In one short week this little boy is finding joy in life and letting his curiosity for life propel him forward.  Love is powerful.  Love is free and life changing.  So mom next time your just sitting there holding your crying baby or laying on the floor with your little one feeling like you are wasting precious time remember that you aren’t.  You are helping your little one develop and become all that they can.

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Two Days of Amusement


The past two days have gone by so quickly but have been a blast.  Both days have been focused on the girls and a celebration of their last time to spend together before gaining a little brother.

Thursday we visited Ocean Park.

Kai Ma and Jelly Uncle wanted to take Esther here as her gift from them. Think of Ocean Park as Sea World meets the Georgia Aquarium with the hills of the San Diego Zoo.  The park is packed with rides, roller coasters and huge aquariums filled with fish, sharks, and other marine life that is native to the Hong Kong area.

The girls were captivated by all the roller coasters and basically wanted to ride them all.  Unfortunately… or maybe fortunately for me Noah was only tall enough to ride one of them. I’m just dumbfounded why people enjoy thrill rides so much.  What is so great about feeling your stomach catapult outside of your body?

We didn’t share with Esther that she actually met the height requirements for more coasters than the Arctic Blast because a family is only as strong as it’s weakest link or in this case it’s shortest link.  We couldn’t let one ride and not the other.  The girls were ecstatic to finally have a roller coaster to ride though. It left me wondering whose girls these are.  Is my future filled with vacations where we conquer the world’s scariest roller coasters as a family?

Like a good mom though I boarded the Arctic Blast with them.  We screamed and raised our hands, and had a wonderful time.  Noah and Esther loved it… I did too to be honest.  Maybe it was because it didn’t have any big drops.  The Arctic Blast left them with a thirst for more roller coasters the next day at Hong Kong Disneyland though.

After Ocean Park we too the MTR (the subway) back to the hotel and then walked across the street to a sushi restaurant.  Esther got to pick what type of food because it was her birthday. She had been requesting sushi all week so sushi it was. While we were waiting on our food Kai Ma went downstairs to order an ice cream cake as a gift from her two girls.

Esther was all smiles to have a strawberry ice cream cake with candles and a bear made out of icing.  We sang Happy Birthday to her and then she ate until she couldn’t eat any more of the cake and chocolate bear.  Ten minutes later she was passed out in Michael Luke’s arms before we could even make it down one of the four flights of escalators out of the shopping center.

Friday morning we walked back to our new local breakfast cafe for more egg tarts and milk tea.  With a long day ahead of us we ordered a few combos of food too.  This included rolls, a slice of deli meat, soup.  The soup kind of threw me off but it ended up being a hit with our family.

We tried two different kinds. One consisted of spaghetti noodles, a red broth, and beef and the other had ramen noodles, a clear broth with tiny pieces of cabbage, and shredded pieces of  white meat that was probably  chicken.  Esther loved the ramen soup and Noah was head over heals for the red soup.  I might have to try adding soups to our breakfast menu when we return back home.

After breakfast we found a little side street that served as a local market.  It was fun to wander down it. Many of the booths were still closed because it seams that as big as the city is it doesn’t really come to life until around ten in the morning.

Next, we made it to the part of the morning the girls had been most excited about…. Hong Kong Disneyland.  When we came three years ago to Hong Kong we took Noah to Hong Kong Disneyland as her last treat before meeting Esther. It was fun to do the same thing with the girls before meeting Judah this coming Monday.

HK Disney is great because the ticket are much more affordable and the average wait times yesterday we were 5-20 minutes. With one of the longest waits being for Dumbo.  I think the short lines had to do with it being a weekday because last time we definitely waited longer.

Like I mentioned earlier the girls were on a hunt for more roller coasters. The first one they saw was Grizzly Gulch.  A mine car roller coaster that goes backwards and forwards. Noah just missed the height requirement by a couple of inches.

She was tall enough for Hyperspace Mountain (Space Mountain for the U.S. folks) though.  Can I just add this is the part of the day where I really began to panic.  I’m talking about sweating, nausea, and the uncontrollable desire to bathe my body in Lavender.  A roller coaster in the dark?  Did I mention I’m terrified of thrill rides.  The girls were begging me to be a big girl so we could all ride it together but in the end I begged Michael Luke to ride it first with Esther and then with Noah.

Esther came off of the ride all smiles and begging to ride it again.  She pleaded with me to ride it and convince me that I could handle.  So I put my big girl underwear on, endured the five minute wait for Hyperspcae Mountain, and then found myself locked in the roller coaster.  Esther sat beside me for moral support.

Come to find out maybe roller coasters aren’t so bad.  Space Mountain was fun!  So much fun that we rode it again.  Not exactly what I though I would be doing on my tenth anniversary but I don’t regret it.

We ended up spending the entire day at Disney where we enjoyed milk tarts for snack….

mushroom and chicken tarts for supper…

and egg tarts for dessert.  Has anyone caught on to the fact that we are a little head over heels for tarts?

My day was perfectly capped off by returning to the room to find a gorgeous display of roses from Michael Luke.

Really, I’m just blown away by how beautiful they are.  I’m a little sad that I will have to leave behind tomorrow.  But like the scripture says, “the grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.: Isaiah 40:8.

 

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