Happy Birthday, Baby!

You know it must be March when my last four posts have all been about birthdays.  I promise after this I will go back to blogging about something else.  Anything else!

But!  First, I must wish a very happy first birthday to a very precious little blessing.  Our tiniest girl, who seems like she should still look something like this:IMG_3548

…in fact, looks like this now:

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She is full of sunshine and sweetness and silliness, and we are all still so completely smitten with her!

Little lady is commando crawling all over the place, often gaining distance by pulling herself up to sitting and then sprawling forward again.  She gets in a proper crawling position often, but with hardwood floors over most of the house, staying that way seems to keep evading her.  She can pull up to standing now and has just started experimenting with cruising.

She seems to be saying mama and dada meaningfully now, as well as a very enthusiastic muh! muh! muh! at mealtimes which I’m guessing might be an attempt at “more.”  She waves and claps with gusto.

She has three teeth on the bottom and a very newly hatched one on top as well as a couple more very close behind.

I never feel that pictures do her justice because she just has the most engaging, endearing little personality.  We just can’t get enough of her, and would rather her not grow up quite so quickly, thank you very much.

We had a low-key family day for the most part, but I think Miss Annis enjoyed the festivities just the same.

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Happy birthday, sweet, sweet girl!

Happy Birthday, Little Chap

A few thousand miles away, a little boy turned 8 today.  I don’t know if there was any fanfare, if anyone sang to him or did whatever people do in his country. It’s very possibly not even his real birthday; just someone’s best guess. A date on a piece of paper.

But here, today, we remembered.  It was a hectic morning getting out the door to church with an hour less sleep under our belts, but in the midst of the busy-ness, Pippa reminded me: Mom, it’s his birthday today!  The waiting birthday is always a little hard for me.

I can’t wait until next year when, Lord willing, we can show him what birthdays are all about.  Not presents or cake (although, you know, those too!) but a celebration of another year of life and of the gift God has given us in each of our children.   Next year we will celebrate our Little Chappy a bit extra to make up for lost time.  And there will be pictures to prove it, I promise!

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In other celebratory news, it’s been a very happy adoption weekend indeed: we finally received Trevor’s final clearance letter for our home study!  We had had a frustrating ride with this one: returned for insufficient postage (my bad), unusually high volume of applications due to new state laws, and then Trevor’s taking way longer than mine to come through (lots of past UK addresses to check, maybe?  We’re not sure.) On Friday I had finally broken down and emailed our social worker practically begging her to do something to make this whole thing move faster, and then on Saturday, as if God heard my desperate email as a prayer directly to His ear, the clearance arrived.

We hope and pray that with this piece finally in place, we will be able to finalize our home study and apply for our first stage immigration clearance (I800a) this week.  Then, dossier paperwork, here we come!

 

Birthday Boys

I’ve just about given up on ever getting a birthday blog post up on time.  That’s because the night before any given birthday, I am always up until stupid o’clock making birthday presents, and because, in general, my kids don’t read my blog, so it’s mostly just for my own peace of mind anyway.

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With that disclaimer out of the way, a double happy birthday to the two menfolk of our household!

Little man had a decent birthday, though not the grandmom’s house day we had hoped for (see: same reason why Daddy’s birthday wasn’t so awesome, below).  He had presents in the morning, followed by some birthday fuss at church.

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Then in the afternoon, the kids unanimously voted to watch Frozen, which was just given to us by a friend (whom I’m not sure yet whether to thank or not), and we sang and had cake with our afternoon tea.

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Sadly, our other birthday boy spent his birthday eve home (very) sick from work, and his birthday proper going to work anyway when he probably still didn’t quite feel like it.  At least he got a cool new T-shirt thanks to Adrian’s Christmas gift that keeps on giving.

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I love these two.  So much.  Father and son.  I love the way that God brought each of them into my life from thousands of miles away.  They both remind me that my life has indeed been an amazing fairy tale with unexpected twists and turns. I love that when I give them both haircuts, I can’t tell whose hair is whose when I sweep the kitchen floor.  And I love that they have the same birthday.  Happy birthday to the two incredible men in my life!

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PS I also love that our new little guy has a beginning of March birthday, too, though we will probably never know the exact date this side of eternity.  We will celebrate it next week, wishing we could be with him, and praying that by his next birthday, we will.

Junie Lu Who, How Old Are You?!

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This happy, gappy sweetheart turned six today.  The baby of our “original four”, this little girl has seen our family change in big ways in her lifetime, and she is mature beyond her years.  After opening a birthday present from Gran and Grandad in England and playing a few games of Connect Four this morning, she couldn’t wait to tear into her second “birthday present”: a first grade math workbook since she finished her kindergarten one yesterday.

Alas, she is still the girly girl of the family, and was delighted with the Elsa doll she commissioned me to make.  More Frozen stuff in our house… sigh.*

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We had some quick birthday festivities after dinner…

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… but then had to quickly get ourselves organized for Crazy Hair Night at Awana:

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It was a good, good day.  At least for most of us:

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(And really, she was okay, too, once I gave up trying to take a picture of her right at bedtime.)

Happy birthday, Juniper Lucy.  You are an amazing little person, full of surprises and deep insights into life.  I am so very blessed to be your Mommy.

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* And since we’re on the subject of Frozen, can I just tell you that we have been stricken with just about every winter malady under the way-too-far-away sun in the last week or so?  Our car battery died, activities have been canceled (or possibly unwisely gone ahead with anyway in some cases) due to snow, a tummy bug hit six of eight kids (so far!), and our water pipes froze for two days.  I actually flushed our toilets with snow.  I felt like a pioneer woman!  Only, you know, with toilets.

I say all that not to complain (okay, probably a little bit just to complain), but because it sure does make me appreciate life as usual when we come out the other end of a week like that.  God is so good all the time, and I am reminded of just how utterly dependent we are on Him.  Water delivered right into my home through pipes?  Amazing stuff.  When it works.

 

 

How It All Began (Again): Part 2

(If you missed it, you can read Part 1 here.)

We didn’t make any decisions on the night of my little epiphany.  In fact, I think we left it a little while before we even talked about it much again.

Another longer and farther afield camping trip in September afforded us more time to ponder and discuss the situation, only this time, we both knew the Who of it.  It was just the When and the If that were left open for discussion.

On the long drive home, just as we were nearing a decision to jump back in with both feet, I hesitated.  I think I just wanted to make sure we weren’t running ahead of the Lord.  I wanted some confirmation.

“What if,” I suggested, “we wait until Christmas?  Pray about it.  See what happens?”

“Ooh, very sensible idea.  Yes, we should do that,” Trevor agreed.  And that was that, or so I thought.

The very. next. day, after church, we sat down to eat lunch together as a family, and Trevor announced, “I was thinking in church this morning…”

All eyes were on him.  We watched and waited.  And waited some more.

Until finally Pippa blurted out, “…that we should adopt [that little boy you guys have been talking about all the time]?!  Right now?!?”

“No, Pip,”  I chided.  “Let Daddy talk.  That‘s not what he was going to say.   What were you going to say, Daddy?”

“Actually, yes.  That.”

There was cheering all around.  The kids were all thrilled, but in the back of my mind I remembered Bea’s request.   “Bea,” I asked. “He’s a few months older than you.  Is that okay?”

“I don’t care,” she beamed.  “I love him!”

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(Random Valentine’s Day photo. Because Bea <3 )

I asked Trevor what our pastor could possibly have said that morning to cause him to toss the wait-till-Christmas plan out the window with such reckless abandon.  He couldn’t remember.  (So Peter, if you have your notes from September 28th handy, I’m super curious what you said.  I was in teaching in toddler nursery and came home to a changed man!)

And that, folks, is how decisions are made in the Young household.  I had all the confirmation I needed, and we emailed our wonderful social worker that very night.

It took about two months for the agency that had his file to officially transfer it so that we could continue to work with the agency and social worker we know and love.  The fact that they shared his file with our agency so willingly was another confirmation.  Not all agencies are willing to do that, and we are so very thankful they did.

We began our home study near the end of November, and we are just a piece of paper or two shy of finished it now.  We held our breath waiting for our pre-approval (PA) from his country, as we knew we were below the income requirement for a family our size and would need a waiver for that.  Thankfully, they have pre-approved us, so we are all systems go so far!

Please pray with us for continued green lights and a swift paper chase.  We all miss this little guy already.

How It All Began (Again): Part 1

In April, I apparently told my mother-in-law quite convincingly that we would never adopt again.  (She reminded me of this when I told her that we are, indeed, adopting again.)  At the time I meant it.  Delia was hard work when she first came home.  In April I was just beginning to breathe again after some of the longest, hardest months of my life, and I liked breathing.

But once you have adopted a child with special needs, you never really stop looking at the faces.  We had entered a world where adoption and children who need families were all around us, in blogs, on Facebook, among friends who had also adopted.  It just isn’t possible to unsee it all.

When I saw his face, it wasn’t an all-at-once thunderbolt kind of moment, but he did become a favorite little one to check in on from time to time, hoping to find he had found a family.  Gradually the kids began to know him by name.  His was one of the only little faces that had managed to get a thoughtful little “he is pretty sweet” out of Trevor.  (You must understand he has endured a lot of “Aww, loooook!”) We began praying for him, along with a few other special faces that had captured our attention.

On our camping trip in August, we had a few good hours of car time to reflect on life and take stock of things.  Delia was doing so much better.  Life felt doable again.  Praise the Lord.

Then I asked a simple question (see this post for how history repeats itself).

Me: Do you think we’ll ever adopt again?

Trevor: Probably.

Me: Really?  Like, later when the kids are older, or, like, soon?

Trevor: I don’t know.  Soon, I guess.  It’s been really good for our family.

Me:  Huh.

We’ve been married almost 15 years, and he is still full of surprises.

After that camping trip, looking at waiting children’s faces felt different.  I was excited about getting to pick this time, since Delia had picked us.  My wheels started turning about what special needs we might be open to, which country’s program would be the best fit, how nice it would be to adopt a younger child this time (Bea, who has been twice displaced in birth order by her adopted siblings, especially requested a younger brother).

Then late one night while Trevor was at work, probably later than I ought to have been staying up, I had a little conversation in my mind.  Was it God I was talking to?  I guess I won’t know this side of Heaven, but I don’t usually have conversations in my head, and it surprised me enough that I called Trevor at work afterwards so he could help me make sense of it.

I had been chatting with a friend online who had adopted from China, and looking at waiting children, and suddenly, here was my thunderbolt moment.

You already know which one.

And I did.

But, I reasoned, wouldn’t it be better to wait at least until after the school year was over before taking on all that adoption paperwork again?

Then the other half of my brain (or God?) reminded me that I wouldn’t be giving the dog a flea bath every single night forever (it felt like forever!), and that would free up plenty of time in the evenings to work on paperwork.

And so I called Trevor.  “What does this mean?!”  I asked him.  “I don’t know,” he said in his usual matter-of-fact voice, “probably that we’re going to adopt him.”

To be continued…

 

 

Birthday Girl

 

Happy, happy birthday to our beautiful, smart, multi-talented…

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…funny, creative, quirky…

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…sensitive, thoughtful, introspective Romilly Alice.

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This sparkly girl managed to pull her nose out of her book and her head out of the land of dragons, centaurs and talking cats for just long enough to celebrate turning nine today.  She is a unique soul and a treasure to our family.

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Happy birthday, sweet girl!  We love you so much.

A Reason to Celebrate

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Tonight we celebrated.  A rare Chinese take-out after the kids were all in bed.  It’s about a week until Valentine’s Day and two months until our anniversary.  We have 5 birthdays in the next six weeks in our immediate family.  So many good reasons to celebrate!

But none of those good reasons is why we are celebrating tonight.

Tonight we are celebrating, because yesterday we received some very exciting news.  A little boy on the other side of the world (our cuisine tonight should give you a hint where!) is going to be our son!

I can’t share all the details I would like to yet, but I will as I can. I should at least be able to tell you in the near future how we ended up here again.

In the meantime, we would appreciate your prayers as we begin another (way too long) adoption process.  We have cleared the first hurdle and been officially pre-approved for  our new little guy, but we have so many more hurdles lying ahead of us.

But tonight… tonight we celebrate!

Mid-Year (ish) School Update

The Young Christian Academy just celebrated the 100th day of the school year with this fun (if somewhat so incredibly tedious!) craft (shamelessly lifted from Pinterest) on Friday.  I have no confidence at all that any of them actually has exactly 100 gumballs, which was the idea.  In fact, I’d say my confidence that there are exactly 100 gumballs is inversely proportional to how much I had to help the child count them.  Pippa’s and Ro’s might very well be perfect, as I had nothing to do with them.  Delia’s and Coraline’s most certainly are not.  You can count them all if you’d like and let me know how we did in the comments.

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I thought this milestone might make a good time to give a little update on our school year, which is really ticking along much more smoothly than I expected it to.  My biggest concerns were for how Delia’s school day would look, since we still find so few things that she will engage in willingly.  I worried at the beginning of the year that I’d have nothing to show for her year and put in her portfolio, but she’s really making good progress.  She and Cora are working through a big all-in-one preschool workbook as their main curriculum. This usually happens each day between lunch and Coraline’s naptime.  At the start of our year Delia hated “school time”, and it was a struggle just to get her to stay at the table.  Now she comes willingly (sometimes even signing “school” to initiate if I’m not quick enough to get us started!) and stays on task throughout our time, even if her ability to do the activities is still limited.  She still shows some resistance to coloring, but will now draw vertical lines down her coloring page and get a chocolate chip for her efforts.  She will attempt to place a sticker on a spot that I point to, but is still unable to find the hidden letters without my help.

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We are supplementing the workbook curriculum for Delia with hands-on letter-building activities, counting activities, beading, flash cards, water-color painting and whatever else we find that interests her (or doesn’t but that we make her try anyway!).  We watch Signing Time and Super Simple Songs with her, which often does more to draw her out and get her verbalizing than anything else we can think to try with her.  She is increasingly interested in books and willing to sit and be read to, and continues to love to sing along to nursery rhyme books and the like.  I am reading and learning what I can about using ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis, a strategy recommended for children with autism) principles to plan new activities to engage her better.  Her attitude toward schooltime has improved a hundredfold since we started the school year, but in practice I am still doing a lot of hand-over-hand and wondering how much she is taking in.  In the meantime, Coraline may end up being the youngest Young ever to know all her letters and numbers, so my efforts are not going to be wasted.

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The rest of the kids are divided into two “grades” for the more teacher-intensive subjects (history,science and read-alouds).  I tend to work mostly with Pippa and Ro on 5th grade reading materials while Trevor works with Niko, Bea and Junie on 2nd grade material.  We switch it up sometimes to keep it interesting, and I teach both of the science curricula since Trevor has a real job to fit in, too.  We have to tuck in school wherever we can sometimes to make it all fit (evenings and weekends are popular times to catch up on read-alouds, which the kids love anyway), but we never have to turn down a playdate or a Grandmom day when it comes up, and that’s how we like it.

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Math, language arts and handwriting are grade specific, and we usually focus on those in the mornings.  The kids work mostly independently while I float and help as needed.  And drink coffee.

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This sweet little person just generally hangs out with us and brightens everyone’s day.  She says “mama” and “dada” now and I feel like she might mean it.  She blows raspberries and definitely does mean that.  She waves enthusiastically and often.  She shows zero interest in signing and much prefers to let us know when her food isn’t coming fast enough by screeching at us.  So, yeah.  We’re working on that.

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She can stand holding onto something if we put her there and really wants to pull herself up on the coffee table but so far hasn’t managed to.  She gets around very well on her tummy, and she gets her knees under her more and more, but she still hasn’t quite mastered the whole crawling thing.  Did I mention she’s sweet?  That’s still probably her main superpower.

For the most part, I feel like the system is working.  Everyone is learning stuff and getting smarter and largely enjoying what we do.  They spend their free time reading, writing, drawing, lego-ing, pretending, crocheting, and perhaps over Christmas break there may have been a bit too much of watching Pentatonix on youtube, but in general I feel pretty good about all the things that are happening around here.  It’s been a good year so far.  And just 79 more days till summer!

Three Years Our Boy

Can it really be that it has been three whole years since our brave little man walked out of an orphanage and became a beloved son and brother?  In some ways, I can hardly believe it’s already been three years, but at the same time it also feels as though he’s always been here.

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You already know that Niko is doing awesomely well, so I probably don’t need to brag on him any more.  But I also don’t want to miss an opportunity to say how very blessed I feel to be this little boy’s mama.  He’s has challenged me in ways I could never have imagined, and stretched me farther than I thought I could stretch.  He has shown me parts of my heart I didn’t know were there and made me a better mother, though I still have so very far to go.

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I say this so often, but it stands to be repeated: when we adopted Niko, we hit the jackpot. I am thankful for his infectious smile, his determined spirit, and his forgiving heart today and every day.

Happy Gotcha Day, Little Man!