Summer Adventures 2016

Compared to last summer’s record-breaking five camping trips (or was it six?!), this summer has been relatively low-key, but we did finally get our act together and do some camping this month.

We started off at the end of June visiting friends in central PA.  (Camping is so much more palatable when you have access to a house during the day!)  We visited this fish hatchery, where the kids got to help feed the fish and see them at different stages of development – from the tiniest eggs and the exhausted mama fishies who just laid them, right through to the eight-year-old rainbow trout who had made himself a permanent home there just out of sheer stubbornness.

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Back at the house, there were four-wheeler rides and biking, archery and berry-picking to keep everyone busy.  It was a wonderful week.

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We traveled on from there to spend the 4th of July weekend with some college friends in Ohio.  The kids (and their mama) had a sweet time reconnecting with old friends and making some new ones as well.

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Back at home, Lewis got to go to his first baseball game with Trevor, Niko, Bea, Junie and Coraline.  We received some free tickets from friends at church to a Trenton Thunder (minor league) game.  Everyone had a great time, except for Coraline, who, try as she might, still does not like fireworks one little bit.

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This week, we had our official Just Us camping trip.  I’m not going to lie.  It was hot.  It was the only week Trevor’s work schedule would allow us to go, and *most* of me is saying it was worth it, but it was crazy hot.  And, you know, being six months pregnant didn’t help either.

But look at these kids!  They had so much fun fishing, riding bikes, swimming, just enjoying life together… no, yeah.  It was definitely worth it. I would do it again.  I think.

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Two big kids who just learned to play rummy:

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This little lady discovered the cutest baby ever in our bumper!

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Just a couple of ten-year-olds reading together.  (No, just to clarify, Delia does not read, that we know of, but she does love some bonding time!)

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Our last night.  The whole trip might have been worth it just for this picture!

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Hope you all are having a blessed summer as well, and keeping cool.  I will never complain about our trusty little window AC unit again!

One More Bit of News

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Can you spot the new family member in the above photo?

How about in this one?

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Little Young number ten will be joining us in October sometime!  We had our “big ultrasound” today, and everything looked wonderful with baby.  We are so excited to meet him or her (you know, probably her) and so thankful that God has blessed us this way again!

Quarterly Update

Well, I guess it goes without saying that we’ve been busy!  But probably the bigger reason for my dropping off the radar for a couple months is a shift in our technology.  Back in October, Junie won an iPad (because, you know, that’s a totally appropriate prize for a six-year-old!) in an art contest.  It’s been fun for the whole family, but has also brought with it a few unexpected issues.  It has become our go-to for taking around the house photos, but for outings we still use our other camera, two of them actually!  We are still working out the legistics of getting all of our photos accessible from the same device, and it has just made blogging that little bit less convenient.  Also we don’t turn on the laptop as often as we used to, and blogging on the iPad which I am currently attempting) has proven a less-than-smooth experience in the past, so we shall see how we get on today!

Now that I’ve gotten my excuses out of the way, hello!  Welcome back.  Here’s a little of what you’ve missed:

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This little person turned 2.  Annis is full of words now, sometimes as many as four or five together, but not quite speaking in true sentences yet.  She makes us laugh constantly and is just generally delightful to have around.

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Our big girl got braces!  Pippa has totally amazed us with her commitment to good brushing and flossing and wearing her headgear.  She’s really taken the whole thing in her stride and impressed us with her maturity.  Also, she looks super cute in them, doesn’t she?

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This is Delia a few moments after getting her pajamas on completely unassisted for the first time (in April).  She was so delighted with herself, and so were we!  She continues to chug along with her neurodevelopmental therapy at home.  She doesn’t always enjoy it, but we are seeing slow steady progress  in her ability to focus on a task and her willingness to attempt speech.  Here she is looking at photos with her baby sister:

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Niko had outpatient eye surgery to correct (a little bit of) his strabismus.  This hasn’t impacted his vision, but it lets him hold his head at a more comfortable angle and still keep his wandery eye stabilized.  He was a trouper, as always. (Although it should, perhaps, be noted that this picture was taken BEFORE his surgery, and that he was not quite so smiley afterwards, especially when we were discharged before he got to finish his Lego creation!)

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In late April and into May, we had Trevor’s parents here from England.  We had a wonderful two weeks despite the weather not being at all what I had promised May in Philadelphia would be like.  Very sorry about that!

[This would be a great place for a picture of that visit, but I don’t have any I can get to from the iPad yet.  See what I mean?  I do have a picture of some very cool candy they brought us, so I’ll show you that instead.]

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Lewis continues to make us smile and bring joy to our family.  He’s definitely feeling secure enough to express some opinions and test some boundaries now, and that is completely fine with us.

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His English vocabulary is growing slowly, but his receptive language is growing in leaps and bounds.  Yesterday he gave us one of his first (to my memory) two-word phrases, asking for his beloved new Thomas the train water bottle: “Choo-choo wa’er” (picture “water” pronounced with a cockney accent, and that will get you pretty close to how he says it.  God knew he’d have a British Daddy!)

We are still three weeks away from finishing our school year (totally worth it for two school-free weeks with Gran and Grandad), but we are finished our testing and evaluations, so we’re definitely in the home stretch.

That’s all the news for now, and I do promise not to leave it quite so long this time!

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A Long Overdue Update Including, But Not Limited To, China and Lewis: Week 2

Well, that was a long break, wasn’t it?  I actually hadn’t realized how long I had abandoned this poor old blog for until people started to ask where I was.  Thank you to those who noticed my absence and reached out!  In fact, we are all fine, life is just full and busy, and if I am honest, I have very little motivation once the kids are in bed for the night to do… well, anything!

But it is all good busy!  Lewis continues to be a joy to us and everyone who meets him.  During our second week in China he continued to amaze us with his sense of humor and easy-going charm.  He still does!

The week was mostly filled with various appointments and paperwork, but we did get to one of the two beautiful parks near our hotel more days than not.  Another highlight was a trip to the Guangzhou zoo.  Lewis was fascinated by all the animals and I got my first ever glimpse of real-live pandas!

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We also had the privilege of visiting Lewis’s orphanage and meeting his caregivers.  He proudly showed us his chair and his schoolwork.  His teacher, through tears, told our guide how very smart and able he is.  The only thing he can’t do very well, she told us, is talk.  (We have found this to be very true of our boy, that as his receptive English and signing ability grow exponentially, his acquisition of spoken words lags behind.  We are currently using an online speech therapy program called Gemiini for both him and Delia, but I also feel he will respond very well to traditional speech therapy once he has a bit more English, and he is very keen to learn and so very determined.) It was obvious from the reactions of all who knew Lewis, even the office staff, that he was very well-loved, and for that we are very thankful.

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Our flight home was long, but the kids did amazingly well.  Our adjustment  at home has been seamless.  We had intended to take a semester’s break (at least) from our home school co-op, but Lewis was so happy and enthusiastic about every opportunity life placed before him that we just jumped right back into that as well as our other activities.  Lewis has not only not made our lives harder, but he has added even more laughter and fun to our days.  We are incredibly blessed to be this little boy’s family!

A reader asked how we decided which child to take to China with us, and another asked in general about taking younger children on adoption trips.  I apologize that I am just now answering these questions, weeks and weeks later!  We have always taken at least one child with us on our pick-up trips.  Pippa and Romilly went with Trevor to bring Niko home, Bea came with us to get Delia, and working our way down in age order, it was Junie’s turn, so she got to go to China.  That worked out nicely, because as we suspected, Junie was the perfect kid for the job.  She was patient and cheerful through all of the not-so-fun parts of the trip, but also a perfect little buddy for Lewis so that he didn’t have to be all alone with two potentially scary foreigners.  This is why I really feel taking a sibling along on an adoption trip is a fabulous idea.  If you have a child that is close enough in age (or developmental age) to be a fun playmate to your newly adopted child and that you know will be resilient enough to handle the travel and boring stuff, they really can be such a blessing.

I don’t think I can possibly update on all that’s gone on here since the beginning of the year, but I do want to share what’s been going on with Delia’s NeuroDevelomental therapy.  She went for her reevaluation in early February, and although she had not made the gains in speech that we were hoping for, she is definitely making progress in other areas.  Her eye contact has improved somewhat, and her ability to look at an object, book, or picture has improved dramatically.  This, in turn has improved her fine motor skills so that she can now unzip her coat, put on her PJ bottoms, and color deliberately in the center of a piece of paper without assistance.  These may seem like small gains for the amount of work we’ve put in, but they are building blocks that are crucial to her further learning.  Now that she will look at things we can begin engaging her in more meaningful flashcard and similar activities.  We really believe the whole world is beginning to open up to her.

But that scares her.  And it seems as soon as we begin to see progress, we watch her retreat from it in fear of the unknown.  She has developed two new “habits” over the past couple months.  One is frequent squinting, as if to close the world out, although her practitioner believes this may just be a new form of self-stimulation now that she is rocking so much less.  The other, which speaks volumes to me about her internal struggle with all this learning we’re trying to get her to do, is an almost obsessive answering of “no.” Anything we ask her or tell her to do is met with a shake of the head and even a verbal “no”, even when sometimes her little hand begins to sign “yes” at the same time!  We can usually break through this wall by saying and signing “yes” back to her, and for the most part, she is fairly compliant, but it just seems like every fiber of her being is saying “no” to all of this progress.

Her new program includes a couple of elements I am particularly excited about.  First, we are playing a “Simon Says” type game with her that requires her to respond to an auditory command without any nonverbal cues.  We are amazed at some of the things she is able to do: “Touch the TV”, “get the baby’s PJs – they have polka dots”, “Find me a purple lego”, “give Lewis a hug”.  We even use this “game” to trick her into saying words she is more stubborn about saying when we do her other activities.  We are also excited that her program includes crawling this time around.  Crawling, as we understood it, was the bones of the NeuroDevelopmental Approach, so we were a little disheartened that her first program didn’t include any, but also relieved we didn’t have to get her to do it!  This time she has to crawl for two sets of three minutes, which isn’t much, but she does it!  And that is exciting stuff.

The last month has brought a steady stream of birthdays, which I can only apologize for not having given their due fanfare.

Romilly turned ten on February 9th, officially commencing the Young Birthday Gauntlet.  We celebrated with a trip to IHOP for the whole gang.  Happy birthday, Ro!

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Junie was up next, turning seven on the 25th.  She was celebrated on her special day by Aunt Paige and Grandmom while Bea and I went to visit my dad in the hospital (he had a brief and mysterious case of amnesia!  But he is doing fine now), and later with cake and ice cream in the evening. Happy birthday, Junebug!

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Five days later instead of the usual four (thanks to Leap Day), we celebrated Trevor and Niko on March 1st.  Niko turned ten!  We had treats and a playdate for Niko on the day, and Trevor finally got his birthday Thai take-out dinner tonight a couple days late.  Happy birthday, boys!

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Lewis will also be included in the boy birthday season, as he will turn nine on Tuesday next week, the 8th.  Since I don’t have birthday photos of him yet, I will sign off with a picture of him from our Chinese New Year celebration with some dear friends (both old and new) who have also adopted from China.  This boy sure does enjoy life!

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China and Lewis, Week 1

**Written three weeks ago, just getting around to adding in pictures and publishing it now.  Get ready to go back in time!**

We’ve been in China for one week now, so we are just about exactly in the middle of our time here.  So far, prayers have been answered beyond our wildest dreams.  The flights have been fine, the kids (including Delia!) are having a wonderful time with their grandparents, and best of all, Lewis is a complete delight and we are so in love!

But let me start back at the beginning.

We received our verbal travel approval in the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, as you know.  What I didn’t tell you was that our travel date was the following Wednesday, the 2nd of December!  We had one day to book our flights before everything shut down for the holiday weekend, and we didn’t receive our written travel invitation (which we needed in country to complete the adoption!) until the day before we flew.  It was a crazy week, but somehow it all came together, including packing for two weeks for the seven kids going to “Not China”.

We arrived safely in Beijing on Thursday afternoon after a direct flight that was the equivalent of two of our usual transatlantic flights.  Several people asked us whether we’d be flying east or west to get to China, and the surprising answer to that is in fact almost due north!  We waved to Santa as we passed right over the North Pole 🙂

In Beijing, we met the four other families who would be our companions for most of our time in country.  It was a joy to hear each of their stories of how God led them here.  Some have been waiting and praying for their child for five years, since around the time that we began our first process for Niko!

For two days we toured Beijing, squeezing in more attractions than our average week of sightseeing would.  Day one began with the Great Wall, which I had no idea would require the level of physical fitness it did!  Junie bounded up the endless stairs like a mountain goat with Trevor, while I struggled along behind, but I got pretty high, and the views were spectacular.  It is worth mentioning that in the days both before and after our time in Beijing, the city experienced debilitating and record-breaking levels of smog, but it was beautiful and clear for our days there.  We are so thankful that God was merciful in sparing us this, but this is an ongoing and dangerous problem for the people who live there.

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After the wall we toured a Cloisonné (copper inlaid with enamel) factory, then headed to a lunch. Lunch was at a beautiful restaurant set in a jade-carving facility, which we also got to tour.  In the afternoon, we saw the 2008 Olympic Village, featuring the iconic Bird’s Nest stadium.

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Saturday saw us at Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.  Our guide Tom walked us hard!  (We have seen evidence all over the place of how fitness-conscious Chinese people across all generations are, including a huge outdoor gym in a public park in Guangzhou.  And every piece of equipment was in use!).  We then took a bicycle-drawn rickshaw ride to a family home where we were served a traditional, home-cooked meal.  So. Much. Yum!

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From there the rickshaw took us to another courtyard home where we learned about traditional calligraphy and paper-cutting arts. We stopped for a tea demonstration in the afternoon, and afterwards we were absolutely dazzled by a performance of acrobatics.

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Bright and early Sunday morning we headed back to the airport to fly to Lewis’s province, which happens to be the same one that all adoptive families end up in for the visa interview portion of their process.  Unfortunately, as soon as we took off, the whole plane began to spin for me.  Having never experienced airsickness before, I didn’t really understand what was about to happen to me until it was too late.  Despite cleaning myself up as well as I could, I spent the rest of the three hour flight rather unpleasantly damp and smelly.  Very dignified!

Feeling mostly better once we were on terra firma, we explored the beautiful tropical paradise that is Guangzhou that afternoon.  We found some dinner and called it an early night, not knowing how much sleep there would be once our new little man was with us!

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Monday afternoon at a little after 2 was the moment we had all been waiting for.  Our precious son, longed for and prayed for for 15 months, stepped off an elevator at the Adoption Center of Guangdong Province and into our lives forever.  All of my fears and anxieties melted away.  He is exactly the sweet, bright, happy little guy we had come to love from his photos and file, only better!

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That first afternoon, he came with us willingly, laughed with us, played with us, and ate pizza with us.  Back in the hotel room, we looked at books together and he inquisitively pointed to every picture wanting to have its name spoken and signed.  His speech is very rough in his native language – only his nannies can understand him – but he signs beautifully (someone must have been working with him before he came to us, and for this we are immeasurably thankful), and has a great aptitude and appetite for learning.  He makes himself understood very well using gestures, and he has a hilarious sense of humor.   As of my writing of this post, we have had three days of opening this wonderful gift from God, and so far, he seems almost too good to be true!

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**Note from the future: he still does!!!***

 

Home

We are home from China, and we are so in love with our new son!  Our most fervent and intent prayers leading up to travel were for two things: 1. That Lewis’s heart would be prepared to join our family and 2. That Delia’s heart would be prepared for our time away.  God has absolutely blown me away with His faithful answering of both of these prayers.

Lewis was at ease with us from day one.  He was happy and silly and funny and laughing right from the very beginning.  We almost found ourselves waiting for something to go wrong, because everything was just so easy.  (After ten days with him, 15 hours on a plane, and two days home, Lewis has continued to be incredibly happy, easy, and otherwise awesome!)  Meanwhile on the homefront, Delia not only didn’t behave badly for grandmom, but she actually stayed happy and “switched on” most of the time we were gone and only had a couple of potty accidents the whole time.

I must stress that these prayers were not just “we think everything’s going to be fine, but we’d better just pray anyway” kind of prayers.  These were two things that seemed impossible.  An adoption trip almost always includes some “hard”.  Niko’s trip was hard, Delia’s trip (though easier than I expected, and certainly covered in God’s grace) was hard.  Picking up Lewis and spending a week in country living in a hotel room with him and Junie was just so easy.  It felt like we had two kids with us that we’d brought from home (and two of our easier kids at that!)  And Delia’s successful two weeks at home with grandparents was nothing short of miraculous.  Just weeks before we traveled, I couldn’t leave her with my mom for a half an hour without her being as bad as she could possibly be.  On one day that I took Niko for an all day appointment about a month ago, she had five potty “accidents” (very much on purpose).  Delia has never once been good for my mom even for an hour.  A full week had disaster written all over it.  And so we prayed, with faith even smaller than a mustard seed, because we really expected that things would go badly but that they’d muddle through somehow.  How our faith is strengthened by God’s clear and active answers in both Lewis’s and Delia’s hearts!

I am working on a couple of posts about our trip, but here is a teaser of photos.

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(You can tell in the photo above that Delia was a bit “checked out” when the kids were all together last night for the first time.  We can see that she has had to do some processing of all that is going on, but she was much more engaged again today.)

Lewis is such a treasure.  He is sweet and kind and hilarious and so smart!  The kids are all loving getting to know him, and we are so very thankful to have him in our family.  Thank you all for journeying with us.  We are finally home!

Thankfulness Overload!

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A week before Thanksgiving, we had a planned visit from Megan (no pictures, Meg, why?!) and an overlapping impromptu visit from Uncle Adrian, who had business in New York and DC and few days to spare before heading back over the pond.  What a happy, full few days we had!

On Adrian’s last day here, we received the news we had been praying for: travel approval!  The long paper chase is over, and our boy ready to come home.  Our flights are booked, and the next stage of our adventure is about to begin!

Thank you all for your prayers.  Please keep them up as we prepare to go get our little man.  A very happy Thanksgiving indeed!

Moving Right Along

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Annis is getting her shoes on – maybe she knows that things are happening!  We have our visas now, which suddenly makes it all feel very real.

Also, the very last step our our process is now in the works.  The last of our immigration paperwork has been submitted, and our Article 5 will be picked up in less than two weeks.  From that day, we could receive our travel invitation anywhere from a few days later to a few weeks, and we could be given a few days notice or up to 6 weeks notice of when we travel.  It sounds like a lot of variables, but the bottom line is: it looks like we could be going to get our precious boy very soon.  And it also looks like I might be doing my Christmas shopping in a foreign country.  Again!

 

More Provision!

I had been planning a post thanking everyone who has given to our matching grant.  Those of you who check in regularly may have noticed that our thermometer got well OVER 100% of our $4000 matching grant, and it did so very quickly!  We were completely bowled over by the generosity of so many people.  Seriously, I have been almost in tears every single time we’ve checked our account.

Today we got the fantastic news that Lifesong will match an additional $3000!  That means that our “above and beyond” donations have now also been matched and we can continue to receive matchable donations up to a total of $7000!

For anyone who was considering giving, I will repost the instructions below, but I am mainly just super excited that everything that has already been given will now be matched.  We are praising the Lord for His goodness and provision today!

How to Give:

Mail a check payable to “Lifesong for Orphans”. In the memo, note our family name and account number (Young #5462) to make sure it gets to our account. Send it to Lifesong for Orphans, PO Box 40, Gridley, IL 61744. Lifesong has been blessed with a partner that underwrites all U.S. administrative and fundraising costs (TMG Foundation and other partners). That means 100% of your donation will go directly to our adoption.

Or, to give online go to www.lifesongfororphans.org/give/donate. Select “Give to an Adoptive Family.” Complete the online form and fill in “Family Account Number” and “Family Name” fields (5462 and Young). Note PayPal charges an administrative fee (2.9% + $.30 USD per transaction). Your donation will be decreased by the amount of this fee.

Here is a bit of fine print you need to know about Lifesong:

Individual donations $50 or more and yearly donations totaling $250 or more will receive a tax-deductible receipt. Receipts for donations under $50 will gladly be sent upon request.

NOTE: In following IRS guidelines, your donation is to the named non-profit organization. This organization retains full discretion over its use, but intends to honor the donor’s suggested use.