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.

Updates

We now have eleven days of Delia’s “Neuro” program under our belts.  There are a few positive things we think we are seeing, as well as a few negative things that we definitely are.  I am comforted by remembering there were negative behaviors that emerged after she came off of the medications she was on in Bulgaria, too, and that that was a natural side affect of her brain awakening and beginning to reorganize itself.  Here’s to lots more of that!

So, although we have seen some regressions (some wild behavior, periods of tearfulness and a couple of uncharacteristic potty accidents), we are encouraged that good things are happening, too.  I believe Delia is using her eyes better already.  We see this in an increase in eye contact, a greater ability to look at books, and even a bit more adventurousness on the playground.  She climbed a curved ladder on a play area yesterday that I don’t believe I’d ever seen her attempt before, and she was very pleased with herself.

Delia has never had what I considered to be major food issues, but she did have an aversion to drier foods like bread and crackers.  One of her sensory exercises uses an electric toothbrush to brush her gums and teeth and tongue.  Already she is cooperating better with her normal toothbrushing, and she ate four crackers at lunch today (!)  This exercise is hopefully also giving her a better sensory awareness of the parts of her mouth to open things up for more talking.

And we have seen an increase in attempts at talking!  The words aren’t perfect, and they are still usually mimicked, but there are more of them.  She attempts to repeat some of the words I say in her flash card exercises, and she also repeats some of the words I say while doing other exercises, such as “pat, pat, pat” and “medium”.  Again, this isn’t qualitatively new for her.  She has always been able to mimic words on her own terms, but these exercises seem to be drawing more of them out of her.

Her program is time-consuming, so I am very thankful that she is still very up for it and rarely fights me on anything. I am also thankful for seven other kids who have been super helpful and unusually low maintenance while we’ve been getting up to full speed with Delia’s program.  We have designated next week as a school catch-up week, but I think, in theory, it will all fit in on a week-to-week basis once everyone knows the drill.

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Our other news is that our I800 immigration application was finally approved early this week.  This means that we should very shortly be able to submit the final, online step of the immigration process, the DS260.  We’re still on track to have Lewis home for Christmas as long as everything else goes smoothly.  And that’s a very good thing, because I am beginning to feel very ready to finally meet this little guy!

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A New Adventure

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Tuesday was this sweet, hilarious little monkey’s 4th birthday.  She had a fun day at co-op, hanging out with grandmom, and then being sung to around a lovely cake (made by her biggest sister) at small group.  Happy birthday, sweet Coraline!

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We had already celebrated her birthday big-style on Sunday, along with a few sisters whose birthdays were never given proper fanfare over the summer due to our slightly crazy camping regime!

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It’s been a busy few days of happy celebrations, but in the midst of all that, something else quietly began this week.  On Tuesday, Delia and I left co-op early with Trevor to go for a long-awaited appointment with a neurodevelopmental practitioner to begin a new therapy program that we are all very excited about.

Over a year ago, a good friend began sharing the success her daughter was having using a therapy called neurological reorganization.  This method uses a series of exercises, which mimic those that encourage infant brain development, to create new neural pathways for improved processing in the brain. I was immediately interested in looking into it for Delia, but at that time, she was still so hopelessly uncooperative.  We had already been advised by her physical therapist to give therapy a break for a little while.  “Life is therapy for her,” she told us.  “Go to the playground. Just get her out doing normal kid stuff with her siblings.” And we took her at her word to the tune of taking a full year’s break from therapy of any kind.

To be honest, we hadn’t really meant to take such a long break, but each time we met with a new therapist, they seemed so puzzled by Delia, and so uncertain of what to try with her.  We really did feel she was benefiting more just from being at home in our family and getting comfortable.  She just needed to feel safe first.

In that year we have seen her relax.  We have seen so many of her negative behaviors just slip away.  We have seen her begin to blossom and show her personality.  I have seen her really begin to trust me (and maybe even like me a little bit!), but we really haven’t seen much new progress in her communication or other developmental areas.

Meanwhile, a second good friend began using a therapy very similar to neurological reorganization, called the NeuroDeveopmental (ND) Approach (click the link to read more about this approach) with her daughter.  Again the results were quick and impressive.  It was as though her daughter’s mind just began to wake up.  We once again immediately thought how perfect this approach sounded for Delia.  And this time, we felt ready to jump in with both feet.

At her evaluation on Tuesday, I was expressing to Linda Kane, the ND practitioner, what a great relief it was to finally talk with someone who had met other children like Delia and had been able to help them make great strides.  I told her how frustrated I had been when, despite Delia’s willingness to sign and attempt words, her speech therapist had wanted to focus solely on teaching her the PECS (picture exchange communication system) method of communicating.  Linda replied confidently and without hesitation, “Oh, no! I think she’s going to talk!”  I wanted to lean right over the table and kiss her.  She is the first professional ever to say that about our amazing girl, and I believe her!

We have now had two days of finding our feet with Delia’s new program, a rigorous collection primarily of sensory input exercises that will probably take us over a hour to complete each day. So far she has been extremely cooperative and even asking for more! Time will tell how far she will go with this, but I wanted to be sure to chronicle our journey here right from the start, wherever it takes us.  The kids are convinced she is different already.

Here she is doing neuro to her baby doll this afternoon (which is pretend play, folks.  Pretend play!)

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The Name, As Promised

We have been completely blown away by the generous response to our Lifesong grant.  In just over a month, we have soared past the halfway mark and are closing in on three-quarters!  So, from the bottom of our hearts, thank you.  And I owe you a name.  And a story.

If you’ve been around for a while, you have watched our approach to naming our adopted children (who, of course, already have names when they come into our lives) develop over the years.  As I shared in my stories of naming Niko and naming Delia, we really demand a lot out of our adopted kids’ names, and they always manage to deliver.  We want a name that connects strongly to the birth name in some way, if possible making reference to both given name and surname.  We also need to work a family name into it somewhere, and we’re not really two-middle-name people, so this is often a tight squeeze!  Also, all the other rules! Finally, and this is the real sticking point, we have to both love it.

So, shall I tell you the end from the beginning and then take you along on the journey that brought us there?

Our new son’s name will be:

Lewis Christian Young

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When we first received his file, I scoured every inch of it to find his birth name (I confess I looked for it before I read any of the medical information!)  After all, the quest for the perfect name couldn’t even begin without the raw material.  Unfortunately, everywhere that his birth name appeared, it appeared in Chinese characters (which, um, I can’t read), and everywhere that it appeared in English, they had substituted his pseudonym Caden.

Thankfully, not long after we received his file, my friend Rachel and her lovely little tribe were over for a playdate.  I was lamenting my birth name conundrum to her, and having adopted from China herself, she asked if she could take a look at his file.

She scoured, too.  We scoured together.  Still just the Chinese characters and the English pseudonym, everywhere we looked.  We were about to give up, when she had an inspired idea, “Wait a second, show me those pictures again!”

Lo and behold, in every single photo, he was wearing a name tag with his name both in Chinese characters (we cross referenced his name on the file to make sure they were indeed the characters of his name) and written out in English letters:

Loo Chew Yee

(not actual spelling)

Now we were in business.  Rachel helped me to decode the Chinese-ness of his name.  Loo is the surname, Chew Yee would be his official name, but more than likely he’s used to being called Yee Yee.  We pretty quickly ruled out trying to find an English name that would actually sound like what he was used to being called, especially since we were only guessing on that anyway.

I set about searching the meanings of his birth names.  Chew yielded the best meaning, “at the beginning”, and I was so hopeful we’d find him a name that meant the same as his birth name, like Delia’s  But the closest we could find on that front was names containing “Arch”, the Greek word for beginning, and nothing was popping.

I was just beginning to consider abandoning the birth name angle altogether when my long-time name-nerd friend Lindsay astutely observed that his last initial is already Y, like ours!  If we gave him the first two initials LC, he could keep his initials and maybe even have a name with the overall same flow and sound as his birth name.  This was something we could work with (and, glory be!, we hadn’t used an L name yet!).

I made list upon list of L names, but it was always Lewis.  It had such a strong and obvious connection to his birth surname, and it was a name that had been on our boys’ list for years anyway.  CS Lewis is a very positive association for us (I just finished rereading Mere Christianity, which everyone should go do!); in fact, Junie’s middle name is Lucy after the Narnia series.  It just felt like his name from the moment we first considered it.  Doesn’t he just look like a Lewis?

The middle name took a bit more wrestling.  A C family name seemed like it should come pretty easily.  Only it didn’t.  The only male relative either of us had with a C name was Charles, a great uncle on Trevor’s side whom he had never met.  While I love the name Charles, it just didn’t pack the sort of meaningful-family-name punch we were looking for.

C surnames in our collective family tree?  Not a one. We then considered everything from meaningful place names to abstract word names to just keeping Chew as his middle name (and not giving him a family name!?), but in the end, it was right under our noses all along.

My mother’s middle name is Christine (and her initials are LC, too).  She was named after her grandmother, who was also Christine. Christian was the nearest masculine version, and I was delighted to discover while looking through some old documents that my great-grandmother’s given name was actually Christiane (so pretty, right?!), though she went by Christine her whole life for simplicity.  I even loved the (very, very) subtle nod to the meaning of Chew (beginning) in the concept of a Christian’s new beginning in Christ.

One final thought nagged at me, though.  Christian was also the middle name of a dear friend’s son, who tragically passed away about a year ago.  I loved the idea of honoring him as well, but only if it would be meaningful rather than a sad reminder to my friend.  When she told me she would be honored if our sons shared a middle name, our boy’s name became officially set in stone.  Loo Chew Yee would become Lewis Christian Young.

In writing all this down, I realize what a collaborative effort naming Lewis has been, and that is fitting. His life so far has been a collaborative effort. Many have poured themselves into our boy: a birth mother brought him into the world, gave him a name, and made the unfathomably hard decision to let him go.   Who knows how many nannies have cared for him, hopefully with tenderness and affection, and our friends and family have risen up to support us in bringing him home.  In the end he will be our boy, but we realize he couldn’t have become our boy without so many others helping along the way, and for that we are extremely thankful.

 

A Little Hiccup

I mentioned in my last post that we were still waiting for our immigration (I800) approval.  I was trying to be all casual about it, but already there were some shadows gathering to indicate something was not quite right.  

Last night I learned a new adoption acronym, one I wish I hadn’t had to learn.  We have received an RFE: request for evidence. At first, not knowing what evidence they were requesting, I sort of assumed I had just forgotten to include something I was supposed to send with our application.

Unfortunately, it is a little bit more complicated than that.  Our home study, which is really still just an updated version of the one we used to adopt Niko four years ago, only approves us to adopt a child up to age 7 1/2.  This was the age Pippa was when we brought Niko home, and it was our social worker’s opinion at the time (and Pippa’s as well) that it would be best not to displace her as the oldest child in our family.  Of course, she is 11 now, and that wording should have been changed to reflect that, but somehow, it never was.  Our new little one is 8 1/2.  Sigh.

Our social worker and agency have been very apologetic and have scurried around busily today to set things right, but it will still be about a week before we can get the right documents into the right hands to get our approval.  This is adoption.  And the paperwork is the easy part!

Please pray with us that this will be resolved quickly, and that I will trust in God’s perfect timing even when the delays seem so meaningless.  I am ready to have our boy home!