A New Adventure

Our summer has continued to be full and busy.  Delia celebrated her 11th birthday.  Happy birthday, beautiful!

Teddy went to his first VBS, his first (and second!) baseball games…

 

As well as his first camping trip!  This trip to the familiar haven of our friends’ parents’ home in central PA was our practice trip for a longer camping adventure later this summer.  Teddy did really well.  Our biggest fear was that he would escape from the tent and get into mischief in the early morning, but in fact, he loved the tent so much that a few times he escaped INTO it to hang out and look at books during the day!

But the biggest first of all will be happening for our family in just over three weeks, when THREE of our children will be going to public school!

It all began back in the Spring with the thought of sending Lewis.  I have enjoyed teaching him, and he has done well at home, but at this point, he can really only be doing schoolwork when I am directly working with him.  He has a good attention span and is a hard worker, and I just felt like he could benefit from more direct instruction time than I could give him.  So we began the IEP process with our local school.

Over dinner one evening, the other kids began to realize that this was a thing that was really going to be happening, and immediately, Beatrix and Romilly spoke up to say that they wanted to go to school, too!

I’ll admit, I was a bit dismissive at first. We have always said that if any of our children ever wanted to go to school, we would hear them out.  So far, whenever anyone has voiced a desire to go to school, it has been followed by, “…so I can ride the bus/have recess/have snow days,” so I wasn’t expecting this conversation to go far, but my girls surprised me.

Romilly, our highly sensitive, tender-hearted introvert, shared that she felt she would never overcome her shyness if she wasn’t pushed outside her comfort zone.  After hearing her out, I found (surprisingly) that I agreed with her.

Bea, our bubbly, tomboyish chatterbox, had completely different reasons, but excellent ones.  She feels that going to school is part of our shared cultural experience, and she wants to experience school for herself so she is better able to relate to others.  (I’ll admit I have been teasing them that Ro needs to go to school so that she can learn to talk to other humans, and Bea needs to go so she can learn to let other humans talk!)

They had gotten past me, but I was fairly certain that Trevor, the die-hard homeschooler of the family, would veto this crazy idea.  But you know what?  He heard the same thoughtful maturity in our girls that I heard, and gradually, a “we’ll see” turned into a “maybe” and blossomed into a “yes!”

Both of us have a peace with this decision that I never could have imagined I would ever have even six months ago.  The girls have never wavered in their resolve.  And Lewis loses his mind with excitement every time he sees a school bus, anticipating his big adventure this year.  We are all excited.  The ones who are staying home are excited for their year, too, though it will look very different without our three public-school adventurers in the mix at home.

And this mama, who in nearly thirteen years of parenting has never sent a child to school, is learning whole new lessons about trusting God and letting go.  Not to mention back-to-school shopping!

Summer So Far

I always think I’ll have more time for things like blogging when school is over, but it never seems to work like that.

We’ve had a couple of days at lakes in the Poconos.  Teddy was unimpressed by the water the first time, and mostly hung out with me in my “nest of warmth and dryness”, but the second time he was much more adventurous!

We’ve also had a few days at my dad’s house, a wonderful haven with a tire swing and a trampoline and tractor rides and chickens, and most of all a delicious meal I don’t have to cook!

The kids’ Sunday school class treated our whole family to a field trip to a life-size replica of the tabernacle of the Old Testament out in Lancaster.  Niko volunteered to be a priest in the demonstration.  Earlier in the tour, Lewis had played the part of Joseph with Bea and Teddy as his jealous older brothers.  Oh, how I wish I gad acted quickly enough to get a video of that!

We had a lovely visit with my grandparents, who are both in their nineties and are blessed to still be together in their assisted living home after 72 years of marriage!  Grandmom is on hospice care, and looking forward to meeting her Lord, but we were very thankful for the time we still have with her.  She is one of two Alices in whose honor we chose Romilly’s middle name, so it was extra special for Ro to get to see her.

Over the holiday weekend, we were thankful to have Verity and Teddy dedicated in church. Verity wore the same dress that each of our babies has worn (and tried to eat the pastor’s mic!  Cheeky!)

 

Fourth of July saw us at Teddy’s first big parade.  He jumped right in and started dancing with a Bolivian dance troupe, which, thankfully, they were totally cool about 🙂

 

And finally, we celebrated Bea’s 10th birthday with a day out to the Garden State Discovery Museum, to which we now have a membership.  (Kudos to them for, unlike every other attraction we looked into, not limiting number of children on a family membership!)  The kids loved it, even the ones who were slightly too big to love it 😉

 

The slower pace of summer has been just what we’ve all needed to adjust to life as a family of thirteen.  Teddy is doing so, so well, and we are all finding our new groove.

First Impressions

Teddy and my weary world-travelers are home – praise the Lord!

Today is day five and I feel I am only just starting to get a sense of what things might be hard about our new normal and what things are going to be awesome.  And it will likely all change again by this time next week.

The first few nights, Teddy was jetlagged, which meant he was wide awake in the middle of the night.  This was when we learned (well, we sort of already knew) that Teddy is a great collector and relocator of things.  He helped himself to a few of the sweets Trevor had brought back from China to share, but not as many of them as we initially thought – he hid a second box in Niko’s bed.  The next morning, he had stashed a few pieces of (fairly important, undealt-with) mail in the puzzle cupboard in his room, my Borax and Trevor’s shaving cream in the fridge, and all the pens and pencils we keep in the kitchen in the big crayon basket in the boys’ room.  We can chuckle about it now, because as he’s slept later each morning he’s had less time to devote his item relocation program, but it was pretty unsettling.

He is mostly very happy and sweet, game for whatever the kids are busy with.  He does have a very strong stubborn streak, which I’m sure we will see more of as time goes on, but for now, he is mostly happy to be with us and do what we’re doing.

He immediately adored Coraline, having apparently identified her as a smaller, squishier version of Bea. He is fascinated with Delia. They both love to give each other hugs, but usually only at times when the other doesn’t want one. It will be an interesting dynamic to watch! Lewis is enjoying him tremendously and suddenly seems like the resident big kid in charge, excitedly introducing Teddy to all the fun things about being a Young (“Teddy! Tuppon (Come on)!” All of the kids are just really excited he’s finally here.

Teddy is super affectionate.  He was uncertain about me when he first got home on Saturday, but I got my first bear hug on Sunday morning just towards the end of our church service.  I then got my second through twelfth bear hug, along with hugs and kisses for Niko, Bea, and Pippa.  At first, we could hear “aww”s from the pews around us, then “aww”s gave way to giggles as he kept relentlessly smothering us with hugs and kisses.  It was pretty sweet, but it got less entertaining when I finally had to try to peel him off his siblings, and that was no easy feat!

All things considered, we’ve had a good first week.  Going from 8 kids (I got a little bit comfy there!) to 11 was an adjustment for me.  I think I had prepared myself for Teddy being hard, but forgot what an adjustment it would be for everyone else.  As always, God’s grace has been huge, I just need to learn to lean into it more.  We are so thankful for the incredible gift He has given us in our new son.  Welcome home, Thaddeus Merit.  You’re officially a Young now!

 

 

 

 

Homeward Bound!

As I type this, Trevor and the kids are having one final lunch in Guangzhou and then beginning their journey to Hong Kong and home.  And that means that I am officially *not* going to China!

Yesterday (Wednesday) morning for them was Tuesday evening for us, and we were all praying fervently for the consulate appointment that caused us so much uncertainty just before Trevor traveled.

He was in a group of a dozen American adoptive families, all waiting, as he was, to finalize their child’s US visa.

The first thing they announced to the group was: we will need just one parent to come forward for the interview, and that parent must be a US citizen with their US passport.  (I am so thankful I didn’t hear the tale until everything was already over!)

Trevor was the very last to be called, and, as promised, the first question was, “US passport, please?”

Trevor showed his British passport and US permanent resident card, and produced the email from that very office stating that he would be able to complete the adoption without me.

The man conducting the interview went to fetch his supervisor and discuss.  I can only imagine how long those minutes must have felt.  Finally, he agreed that the permanent resident card was sufficient, and continued with the interview.

After asking Trevor a few questions, the man spoke to Teddy.  China’s policy (which I knew about but had forgotten since it never applied to us before) is that any child age ten or older must give consent to being adopted.

Well, our boy was apparently not in the mood for an interview.  Though he is fairly verbal and certainly understood what was being asked of him, he refused to answer.  “Well,” the man suggested in Chinese, “Could you point to your daddy?”  Nope.  Teddy could not.

The supervisor was fetched again.  When it was clear that Teddy was to be an immovable force, the man said to Trevor, “I can tell from your interactions with him that he is clearly part of your family.”

And with that, the interview was over.  Praise be to God!

They fly home on Saturday.  God speed, my sweet loves!

 

A Mother’s Day

I was just saying to Trevor a couple of nights ago during our twice a day brief Facebook chat that things have been going so very well here at home.  Normally, by the end of his work week, I find myself stretched very thin and so ready for a break, but while he’s been away, I have felt carried.  I told Trevor that I have felt like Peter this past week, keeping my eyes dependently fixed on Jesus and doing what I would not have thought possible: not just surviving this time apart, but living life with joy and peace.  But I also admitted to him that I’ve had a few moments when I have started to let the waves frighten me a little,  when I’ve counted the long days and nights ahead (including the ones *after* they get home!) and felt panic begin to set in.

Well, today I took my eyes off Jesus and took a good hard look at the waves around me, and I started sinking fast.

Mother’s Day is never my favorite, I have to admit.  I am thankful for my kids every single day, don’t get me wrong, but Mother’s Day is just another day, with all the same messes, all the same parenting, all the same disputes over who is sitting where and who gets to put their feet in Mommy’s lap while we read together.  I’m used to that, and I’d like to think I’m pretty good at making the most of the day anyway, enjoying the seeds the kids have planted for me in Sunday school, and maybe getting to spend some time with my own mom.

Today was Day 11 of 16 days of caring for eight kids without Trevor.  I arrived at church weary but peaceful, happy to get to sit for an hour and nurse the baby without any interruptions.  My best friend Mary and her daughter Maura had had a slumber party at our house the night before, and were with us for church.  It was shaping up to be a pretty good day.

Not five minutes after the kids went to their Sunday school class, Delia’s teacher came to get me.  Delia had had an accident on the floor.  While we were cleaning that up, she threw up.  I took her out of her class and thought the two of us could just sit in the (unused) nursery while I fed the baby.  Then she threw up again all over the nice new glider chair.  While I was taking the cushions off and scouring the chair and all its parts as well as I could with wipies, the custodian came in and said, “Hmm, that’s going to stain.”

At this point, I’m looking at the waves, and they’re huge, and I’m freaking out.  There goes our nice dinner (McDonald’s was the plan, but still!) with my mom and grandmom today.  There goes my whole week, come to think of it.  They’re all going to drop like flies now.  I’ll probably get it, too.  Hey, we’ll probably still have it when Teddy gets home on Saturday.  Awesome.  A stomach bug is exactly what we need right now.  (So much sarcasm in my darkest moments!)

I more or less held it together until I got home and called my mom to tell her we couldn’t come to dinner, and in the warmth and safety of her response, I fell apart.

But God was so gracious and patient with me on this day that was not going how I had hoped.

First my dad called and came over to measure our new table for some custom-made benches (to fit a few more little bottoms than the chairs can comfortably accommodate.)

Then my mom and sister came over in the afternoon before going to dinner and brought me coffee and popsicles for the kids.

While they were there, Pippa got an idea to surprise me and reorganize the dresser in the girls’ room according to the Konmarie folding method.  She mobilized a couple of sisters to help her and an hour later showed me this: (I wish I had a before picture, but believe me when I tell you it was a hot mess!)

In the very bottom of one of the dresser drawers, they found this:

I laughed when Pippa brought it down to me.  This card is probably some fifteen or twenty years old and intended for my mother-in-law (sorry, Elaine!)  I have no idea why we had it much less why it was in the girls’ dresser, but it felt as if Trevor had planned this elaborate scheme from China just to brighten my day.  And it did.

The rest of the afternoon was passed with me and most of the kids making picture-and-word labels for all the new toy storage bins in the boys’ room.  (Delia did stay curled up on the sofa feeling lousy for the rest of the day, but thankfully she didn’t throw up again, nor has anyone else so far!)

It was a lovely day.  A truly lovely day.  I don’t have a photo of me and all my beautiful children in our Sunday best to show for it this year (or one of me with MY mom and sister this year, for that matter), but I am surely the most abundantly blessed mother there is.

How It’s Going So Far

I’m still having technical difficulties getting photos to load here, but I think I’ve pinned down that it is just because the files are too big.  This is a heavily cropped one that worked just fine, so we should be able to get to the bottom of it now.

Three Peas in a Pod

Trevor and I get about a half an hour of chat time each morning and evening (his morning to my evening, and mine to his -still so weird!) so I get little tidbits of their adventures each day.

On the first night, Niko took one for the team by taking a bath with Teddy to show him how fun and not-scary bathtime is.  Apparently Teddy was fascinated by Niko’s jutting, bony shoulders and elbows (I tease him that he sharpens them when I’m not looking!) and kept reaching out to touch them.  They do have rather opposite body types!

Teddy is quite the entertainer.  He did a rousing bit of interpretive dance in the park, patted a man’s tummy in an elevator (thankful he was a jolly sort of man and patted Teddy’s right back) and collected some leaflets in a goverment office and began handing them out.

It sounds like they are having more good moments than hard, but there has been some hard as well.  Please pray for endurance for Trevor and the kids, and that they would continue to be able to laugh rather than cry in those moments when you don’t quite know which one to do!

As for us, our days have been full and peaceful, which is such a gift from God.

The Big Day

Today was a red letter day: Thaddeus Merit Young is officially ours!

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes a picture is worth so many words that you don’t even know where to begin.  This morning, I woke up to this picture, and my heart was full.

If he looks a little uncertain in the picture above, he didn’t stay that way for long.  Back at the hotel Teddy had a blast brushing the kids’ hair and posing for silly photos.  Unfortunately, I have tried and tried to share some of them here, but the files seem to be too big.  I will do my best to fix this technical difficulty soon!

Trevor says that Teddy had a good first day.  Some stubborn moments, but he can usually be persuaded to comply with a smile and a bit if silliness to diffuse the situation.  He slept well (it is already tomorrow in China!) which is a huge blessing in itself.  The kids are absolutely loving him, as you will see if I can ever get my blog to talk to Trevor’s pictures.

Meanwhile, on the homefront, we have had smooth, easy days so far.  This is as much an answer to prayer as Teddy’s good first day.  Thank you for your continued prayers – it is still 13 more sleeps till they come home (though only 12 more bedtimes, which is a bigger deal from where I sit!)

The Adventure Begins

On Thursday afternoon, Trevor, Niko and Bea set off for Hong Kong, their pit stop on the way to Teddy, and today I received photographic evidence that they made it – whew!

These photos from Trevor absolutely made my day, but I received another photo this evening that I wasn’t expecting.  A photo of another adventure that began today.

This is our sweet Teddy in the car with his orphanage director starting the journey to meet Trevor, Niko and Bea on Monday!

How did I get this amazing, behind-the-scenes glimpse of our boy?  It occurs to me that I never really told you the story of how we found Teddy.  Well, grab a cup of coffee, and I’ll tell you now while we wait for the exciting part to happen.

A little over three years ago, I began attending a wonderful, intimate support group for adoptive moms that meets five times a year.  It’s over an hour drive to get there, but so worth it for my sanity and the well-being of our whole family.

About two and a half years ago, my dear friend Kelly whom I met through this group came home with two new sons from China.  Even amid the flurry of excitement and chaos of her own two new boys, she shared with our group her burden for two other little boys she met there.  These two boys, it seemed, were given free rein to wander around the facility and surrounding area.  It wasn’t a good situation.

Shortly after that, one of those boys went missing.  He still has not been found.

The other little boy was our Teddy.

Kelly wanted desperately to find a home for this little guy, but we had just begun our process for Lewis, and adopting another little boy with Down syndrome was just not even on my radar.  I prayed for those little boys, but then life moved on.

A little over a year ago, right around the time we traveled to bring Lewis home, I became a little obsessed with the fact that Chinese adoption regulations allow for “reusing your dossier”, or parts of it at least, for a second adoption started shortly after the first.  I will admit that even while we were in China falling in love with our precious new son, I was looking at waiting children on our agency’s website.

My heart was for another child with Down syndrome, which just hadn’t turned out to be the scary special need it had once seemed AT ALL.  In fact, it was quickly apparent that Lewis’s extra chromosome, rather than leaving him deficient in any way, had actually made him a little bit extra awesome.

Our agency had pages of beautiful babies with Ds – oh, how they tugged at my heart strings!  But they were all babies.  Not one over the age of four or five.  Knowing that older children can be much harder to find families for, and having seen first hand what a blessing they are, that was where my heart drew me.

After we were home, I was mentioning to Kelly that we were interested in adopting another little boy with Ds, perhaps an older one, maybe 9 or 10.  She could hardly contain herself!  “That’s Didi!”

She sent us his file, and we knew immediately that if we were going to reuse our dossier, this was the one.

We began asking our agency about reusing our dossier.  They were open to the idea at first, but then Verity made her presence known.

We went back and forth for about two months, but in the end, despite having let us adopt while pregnant twice before, they said we would have to wait until after baby to begin our process, and waiting would make it too late for a “reuse”.

That could have been the end of it.  I thought it probably would be.  But meanwhile, the agency who had a partnership with Teddy’s orphanage had reached out to let us know that they would love to work with us.

When one door closed, another appeared.  Let’s push it, Trevor suggested, and see if it opens.

And open, it did.

So, with a new agency and a new home study social worker, we set out on a completely new adoption, not a “reuse” after all.  Because once we knew this boy was ours, we just couldn’t walk away.

Here we are, one year later, days away from receiving this precious little man into our family.

Thanks to Kelly’s ongoing connections with the orphanage director as well as a missionary couple that work nearby, we have been able to have regular updates and new photos of our boy throughout the process.  We were even able to “send him” a birthday cake last summer!

And so it is that we have a backstage pass to his journey to meet us.  Today he is on his way to the city where he will meet Trevor and the kids, just as they are on their way to meet him.  I can only imagine what he is feeling.  I don’t know how much he understands of what is about to take place, but please pray for his heart, that he would feel safe and loved right from the beginning.

A Gift from God

I promised an update on Tuesday, and I did not deliver.  Sorry! In fact, Tuesday ended up being a completely uneventful day.  We stayed home, we did school, we went to small group Bible study.  But I’ve gotten ahead of myself.

Last Monday morning, I woke up to an email from our agency, simply stating: It looks like we may be okay for Trevor to travel without you (?!) Below that was a forwarded chain of correspondence between our agency and the US Consulate in Guangzhou.  While parts of it were unclear, it does seem that there is an exception for Trevor’s type of residency visa, and we have it in writing now that he can complete the adoption without me.  This was an answer to prayer, a gift from God beyond what I had even hoped for (though Trevor was praying for exactly this)!

And now, I want to tell you a story about a little boy with no name.

We found out about our newest little man from my dear friend Kelly, whose son came from the same orphanage.  She came home with her boys two years ago desperate to find a family for little “DiDi”, back when we were just at the start of our process to adopt Lewis.  Adopting a second little boy with Down syndrome wasn’t even on our radar yet.

We found other adoptive moms and agency advocates who knew him, always by the name of DiDi, the word in his language for “little brother”.

One mom shared with me that her husband had asked an orphanage worker what his name was, and she had answered, “He doesn’t have one.  He has Downs.”

Let that sink in for a minute.  The people looking after our boy did not even think he was worthy of having a name.  Words cannot express how this broke my heart.

When we received his file, we discovered that his name is, indeed, just Di – also the character for little brother.  It seems that when his file was prepared, they just wrote down the name he had always gone by.

Well, we aim to give this boy a name.

We are calling him…

Thaddeus Merit Young

We will call him Teddy for short, to echo DiDi, the name he has so long been called.

His “Di” is still in there (he WILL be a little brother, after all!) but his new name, Thaddeus, means “gift of God”, and that is exactly what he is.

His middle name was my grandfather’s.  An English word denoting worth or value.

This boy, once deemed unworthy even of a name, is a gift from God.  He has immeasurable worth.  He is worthy not only of a name, but of a family, of a home, of love, and we cannot wait give him all of those things.

Adoption Update and Prayer Request

I hope you all had a blessed Easter – we certainly did!

A lot has happened since my last adoption-related post, most of it very good.  Most recently, we received our travel approval on April 18th!  It seemed like every thing was falling into place for Trevor to go to China in a week or two and bring home our boy… until yesterday.

Our agency called to say that because Trevor is not a US citizen, I must be present for our US consulate appointment in China.  They somehow missed the fact that he is British, and we missed the fact that that was a problem, especially since it wasn’t an issue for Trevor completing Niko’s adoption without me.

They wondered if we could just switch – I go to China, and he stay home with the kids.  After all, my visa is still good from our trip to get Lewis.

Well, we have a saying we use a lot in our home: “Play to your strengths”.  Solo international travel is certainly not one of my strengths, but breastfeeding a baby is an unequivocal weakness of Trevor’s.  Switching places is not going to be an option!

Our current plan is for Trevor to travel with Bea and Niko as planned, and for me and Verity to join them just for the last few days of the trip, including the consulate appointment.

In order to do this, Verity will need a passport very, very quickly.  We plan to walk in to our local passport office on Tuesday (the first available appointment was Thursday, but we have been told they accept walk-ins) and ask them to expedite her passport and give it to us the same day.  Then the week that Trevor goes ahead of us will give us time to get her visa.  If this happens, our travel plans can remain unchanged.

Would you please pray with us that we find favor on Tuesday and that this can happen?  I will try to come back and update when we know more.  Maybe I’ll even tell you about his name when I do!  I have left you hanging far too long on that front.