Category Archives: Adoption

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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Egg tarts, Dim Sum, and Memories

The past two days have been a whirlwind of activity and at the end of the day we’ve all been too tired to do anything else more than crawl in to bed… our in the girls case placed into bed because they feel asleep long before returning to the hotel.  Waking up early isn’t the hard part when you fast forward 14 hours in your day but staying alert last two or three in the afternoon is the difficult part because our internal clocks are still convinced that it is the middle of the night.

So here I am at five on a Friday morning awake with one of the girls stirring already.  It’s five hours until Hong Kong Disneyland opens so it looks like we’ve got some time to kill and that I can finally put my thoughts down in a post.  My writing may be brief though because my laptop is acting as our sound machine right now. If I was to use it I would surely wake the entire room up.  So it looks like this will be another post published through my phone while hiding under the covers so I don’t wake anyone else with the light of my phone.

Wednesday was our first full day here in Hong Kong.  We ventured out into the busy streets early among the hustle and bustle of so many going to work to look for our favorite… egg tarts.  Not really having any clue where to look or where to go we just sort of wandered around until we spotted a little cafe that had some displayed in the window.

(Well Esther woke up, left the bahroom light on, and ran and jumped on the bed to wake up Noah. So now I have a laptop to type on.)

The nice part about Hong Kong is that so many people here speak English but even when you stumble across a place like this restaurant where only one person speaks English and the other waitresses are too scared to come take your order there’s always pictures to point at. In this case we waited and waited perfectly willing to point at pictures to order but finally ML caught the English speaking ladies attention and she came and happily took our order of egg tarts, milk tea, and pineapple buns.

While not the healthiest breakfast it certainly was tasty and fun getting out in the city so early in the morning.

Eating is one of the focal points of the trip.  So shortly after breakfast came lunch at the Dragon King Restaurant.  Kai Ma and Jelly Uncle selected the restaurant because of the wonderful dim sum options.  According to Wikipedia dim sum is a style of Chinese cuisine prepared as small bite-sized portions of food served in small steamer baskets or on small plates.

(The set of chopsticks on the right is for serving and the black chopsticks are for eating with.)

It was so good. We had pork buns, dumplings with shrimp and vegetables, and some of the most amazing fried rice followed by sesame tarts. The restaurant also had an amazing view of the harbor.

From the Dragon King Restaurant we took a taxi up to Mother’s Choice children’s home.  Mother’s Choice is where Esther lived from the time she was eight months old until we brought her home at close to age three.  Sometimes it can be tough for children who have lived in institutions to revisit their formal lifestyle.  Even if they can’t recall their life in the institution their brain chemistry is forever altered and deep inside their brain remembers that time in their life.  Fear of abandonment or sudden life disruption may always be under the surface for adoptive children.

We made sure to emphasize with Esther that we would visit Mother’s Choice as a family and leave as a family.  She experienced some nervousness that morning but we shared with her that it was normal and ok to feel that way and reassured her once again that we would be going as a family and leaving as a family.

Revisiting Mother’s Choice is something that we have wanted to do since the day we left over three years ago.  We’ve always had dreams of returning to Hong Kong once Esther got older so to be able to come back so soon has been really special and visiting Mother’s Choice was no exception. Through the modern miracle of Facebook I have been able to keep in touch with many of the ladies on staff at MC (Mother’s Choice) and when they saw that we were coming to spend a few days in Hong Kong they invited us to visit.

They rolled out the red carpet for Esther and practically threw her a welcome home party.  All the staff and volunteers were notified that Esther/Shirley (her name at Mother’s Choice) was coming to visit and all were welcome to come see her.  The first thing they did was great both girls with a Play-doh gift and talk with Esther about everything that was going to happen.

Then Janice and a few other ladies gave us a tour of Baby Care where Esther stayed until she turned two and then Wee Care where Esther lived until we brought her home.

We were able to see her old room with all the little toddler beds and her closet as well as the room where she used to play and eat.  I’m not sure how much Esther remembered but it was definitely special for us all to see it again.

One of the most touching things to me was that they still have a picture of Esther at her going away party displayed in the kid’s bedroom.  In the picture above Janice is showing the picture to Esther.

Esther’s primary care giver Jingle was there and we were able to visit with her.

Jingle as well as all the other ladies were blown away with how much Esther had grown, how long her hair is now, and how beautiful she is.  These ladies truly love and care for these children and when the children leave each child takes a little piece of the staff’s heart with them.  So many of them asked about other children that had moved to the U.S.  and I was able to share with them and in some cases show a picture or two of other kids because once again Facebook has connected me with so many mothers who have adopted children from Hong Kong.

(If you are reading this and have a child waiting on you at MC please message me privately. It maybe that we were able to meet your little one and I remember the feeling of wanting to know anything about your special one waiting on you in Hong Kong.)

After we toured all three floors of MC we went back down to the conference room where they had small cakes, snacks, and sodas waiting on us.

We loved all the treats and during this time were able to visit with the staff, share updates with them, what our time shortly after adopting Esther was like, and why adoption is so important and special to us.  They have such a heart for making sure they are preparing each child in the best way possible for their forever family.  Mother’s Choice is unlike any other child care home that I have seen or heard of.

By the end of our visit both girls had really opened up and where talking with the staff and finished off their visit by playing  outside on the playground.

Michael Luke and I are so thankful that Mother’s Choice allowed us the opportunity to visit with them and will treasure this day forever.

After leaving Mother’s Choice we took the tram up to the Peak.

The highest point in Hong Kong that boasts beautiful views of the city…

… and sweet potato ice cream from McDonald’s.

and then headed back down to eat supper.

By this point in the day both girls were exhausted and fell asleep before their supper arrived. We can’t complain though because their behavior has been better than we expected with so much activity and walking around going on.  Michael Luke and I have found that we can’t complain because we aren’t having to fight them to go to bed at night.

These days of fun are flying by and before I know it Monday morning will be here and it will be time to meet Judah.  I can hardly believe but I know amidst of the craziness I need to take time and truly prepare for and process all that is about to change for us.  Soon we will be a family of five but for right now I am thankful for all these special days that so much love is being poured into our two little girls.

 

 

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