A New Little Blessing

Meet Verity Laine Young!

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She arrived at 3:52 am on Wednesday morning, October 5, weighing 7 lbs 14 oz, 21 inches long.  I’m sorry I am so late in getting the news out.  That’s because (spoiler for the birth story post!) we just got home from the hospital yesterday!

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We are all completely in love and enjoying getting to know her.  I’ll be back soon to tell you more about her name and her unusual (for us) arrival into the world!

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Catching Up: More Summer Adventures

The rest of this summer has absolutely flown by.  While I am thankful for September and God’s great mercy in switching on the outdoor AC, I do wonder how time keeps getting away from me like this!

Early August saw these two young ladies off to their first ever overnight camp experience with Hopewell Camps at Tel Hai.  I think I was far more nervous than they were.  They both took all the new experiences in their stride, even my book-loving introvert Romilly!

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This little man had to get in on the photo op action while we were saying our goodbyes:

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On the heels of their week at camp we had a long-overdue weekend visit from Megan, of whom I regretfully took not one picture while she was here.  (You know you’re family when I don’t even get the camera out anymore!) I did take pictures of this amazing ever-growing family of dolls she has made for our kids over the years.

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Lewis’s doll was a new addition this trip (a belated birthday present), and each of the old dolls is receiving a new outfit themed around the flag of their birth country.  I cannot even tell you how much joy these little dolls have given the kids (okay, and me!) over the years.  Aren’t they wonderful?  (Please pardon Niko doll’s lack of pants.  They always turn up eventually, just not in time for the photo shoot this time.)

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Thank you, Megan, for your friendship, for spoiling us, and for another wonderful-but-way-too-short visit.

We celebrated our summer and fall birthday girls in late August with a grand party at pop-pop’s house.  (And do you know, my beautiful firstborn is 12 today?!  Happy, birthday, Pippa!)

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(Loch Ness monster and galaxy cupcakes by Pippa, even though it was her birthday party.)

And then, just like that, we found ourselves starting school again!

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With a baby coming in October and a couple of other adventures on the horizon that I will share about in future posts, we thought it would be good to get an early start.  So far, things have been going remarkably smoothly, as long as we manage to stay at home enough.

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We’ve had a busy season of appointments, which has finally started to settle down, but one permanent feature of our Fall semester at least will be speech therapy for Lewis and Delia and OT for Delia at Theraplay.  It has been over two years since we have tried traditional therapies with Delia, and we finally feel like she is ready to try again.  Lewis, I believe, will take to speech therapy like duck to water, since he wants to speak so badly and is very motivated to work at it.  He just struggles with articulation in a way that I don’t feel I have the tools to help with yet.  I was thrilled to find that both speech therapists who met with them know ASL and are very happy to use that as a stepping stone for spoken language, since both Lewis and Delia currently use more sign than speech.  Watch this space!

In the meatime, we are still chugging along with Delia’s NeuroDevelopmental Program at home, and seeing some encouraging progress.  She contiues to be more willing to attempt to copy speech (when she’s in the mood!) and has even recently added “water” to her list of words she will use meaningfully.  This is one of our daily flash card exercises.  (If the video works?)

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We are coming down the home stretch to baby time (less than six weeks to my due date!). I *think* we finally have our girl name nailed down.  And that’s probably all we’re going to need, right?  Right?!  (Any boy name suggestions are welcome.  He’s really not going to have a name if he’s a he!)

As always, thanks for hanging in there with my sporadic posting.  We are still here.  We are doing well.  We are just busy in all the best possible ways!

 

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!

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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Summer’s End Megan Weekend

Although we may yet squeeze in some more fun, there’s no denying the summer is winding down.  The window fan has been taking the place of the AC for the past week or so, our curriculum “box” is due to arrive tomorrow and I will have to force my kids not to start school right then and there, and I am beginning to lose sleep over the *three* science classes I’ve agreed to teach at the co-op we’ve joined for this coming semester.  Fall is definitely in the air.

But it’s still summer!  And a visit from Megan means…

Endless craftiness…

 

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Birthday catch-up…

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Traditional selfies…

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And a beautiful new family portrait!

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Thanks, Meg, for another super-fun weekend!

(I was also going to share about everyone’s new haircuts, but Pippa beat me to it on her own blog.  You can check it out here http://theyoungpages.com/pippas_blog/?p=121 !)

What’s New?

1.  A toad named Bucket (not that new actually, but now that he’s survived 6 weeks and two camping trips in our care, I’m resigning myself to actually considering him a family pet now.)

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2. Two Vacation Bible Schools and a Cow Appreciation Day

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3.  A 9-year-old!  (That makes three of them!)

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Happy birthday, beautiful girl!

4. Another long weekend for Daddy, another camping trip with friends.  Seems to be the way of things this summer.  And that’s just fine with us!

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5. And finally… a Boys’ Room (as opposed to a boy’s room)!  A day or two of decluttering and a new set of bunk beds have gotten Niko’s room all ready for a little brother to move in!

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That’s about it!  No news on the adoption front, but that’s okay for now.  We would hope to hear something in a few more weeks.

We’ve submitted all of our paperwork to be officially homeschooling *five* kids this year, and before long we’ll be starting our school year.  We still have more fun to cram into our summer before it draws to a close though!

New Acronyms and More Summery Goodness

I think I’ll start with our most recent adoption excitement, and then back up from there.  In China adoption, everything is very systematic, and there seems to be an acronym for every step along the way.

On June 25th we were officially DTC!  (Dossier to country)  This was a milestone in our process that I was especially thankful to reach, since it seemed like we hit so many delays on the stateside end of things.  Hopefully China will be more efficient!

Then on July 7th, we celebrated our beautiful Bea’s 8th birthday (Happy birthday, sweet girl!), and found out the next day that that day had also been our LID (logged in date)!  Double reason to celebrate!  This basically means that our dossier landed in the right office, and they acknowledged receipt of it.  They will now begin translating it and hopefully approve it in a couple months.  So very thankful and excited for things to be moving forward!

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Now, as promised, backing up to share some earlier summer adventures that I neglected to blog about:

A glorious ten-day visit from Uncle Nathan.

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We had such a lovely time, and were so sad to send him back to Scotland.  We were very blessed to receive a surprise package in the mail from him a week or so after he left containing this CD of the book of Romans put to song.  It hasn’t left our van’s CD player since!

We also went on another short camping adventure in late June.

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And then celebrated our nation’s birthday with dear friends last week.

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It’s been a pretty great summer so far!

Happy, Busy Days

As you know if you’ve been reading for a while, an unnewsy blog does not usually mean an unnewsy life for us; often quite the contrary!  It seems the longer I put off posting to accommodate the busyness, the more things I have to blog about, and therefore the more I put it off.

We sent our dossier to our agency about three weeks ago, and then unofficially began summer with a three-day visit from dear friends.

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During that visit, a certain little lady found her feet and took her first few consecutive steps!

Since then she has blossomed into a full-time little walker complete with a handful of new words and tricks to go with her new mobility.

After our friends left, we promptly embarked on a lovely three-day camping trip with different friends.  We hiked seven miles of trails and saw 21 waterfalls.  The weather was perfect and the cooking was superb (and more importantly not mine!)

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Unfortunately, we came home to news that there was a problem with one of our dossier documents that would cost us another trip to Harrisburg.  Although the trip to Harrisburg was unfruitful, it seems like our agency have a work-around that should keep things moving.

Our dossier is currently in Washington DC for final authentication before it gets sent overseas.  Please pray with us that this (and the steps following this one) will happen quickly.

After our camping trip we had one final whirlwind week of school before Uncle Nathan arrived from Scotland for a ten-day visit, which we are just the sadder side of halfway through.  But I will leave the details of that for my next update or else this one shall never get finished.

He Is Risen Indeed!

Happy Resurrection Sunday from our family to yours!

Here’s a glimpse of our Easter festivities over the past week or so.

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Painting eggs? No. Grand Prix cars for our upcoming Awana race. Traditions schmaditions 🙂

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Big and Little Junies

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The pictures make it look a little heavy on the egg-hunting and light on the cross.  Perhaps it was this year, but we were very blessed both by our church service this morning and a combined Good Friday service of hymns and Scripture reading.  In the midst of busy-ness with the adoption last week and my mom and sister moving house all this week, a few of our usual traditions slipped through the cracks, but I’m thankful that the kids still seemed to remember what we were really celebrating today.

Christ IS risen.  The tomb was empty.  Death was overcome. Hallelujah!