Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Three Weeks Home!

It’s been three weeks since we picked up our three boys at their orphanages and I’m going to share some before and after pictures. Here’s a picture I took about five days after the boys were home, of Sara, after I asked her how she felt with the boys here:


As you can tell, everyone was really tired. In some ways, having the boys was a lot easier than we had anticipated. They weren’t hyper and they responded well to boundaries, and they seem to be bonding with us. But in other ways it was harder. For instance, they acted completely helpless when it came to every day tasks such as picking out clothes, showering, brushing teeth, etc. But our “original” four were such troopers and gave and gave of their time and energy to help their new siblings.

One of my biggest problems is that I make this drama in my mind that whatever negative thing I’m dealing with is going to last forever. For instance, for the first two full days of being with Benjamin, he spoke these long drawn out sentences to us completely in Bulgarian and it didn’t seem to register to him at all that we spoke a different language. I was like, “Ok, I knew he was developmentally behind, but I don’t think he will EVER learn English….he has no clue why we don’t understand him!” Of course this was a silly thing to think and now he seems to really enjoy learning new English words, and the funniest thing to watch tonight was him and Steven trying to communicate to each other in English, but they couldn’t understand each other, and I kept saying, “Bulgarski!” to try to get them to talk to each other in Bulgarian, but it was like they couldn’t get back into that mode!

The other drama I had going on in my mind was with 13 year old Steven. One minute he’d be acting fine and the next he’d break into this extremely juvenile behavior or this incredibly unreserved laughter that a typical 13 year old boy wouldn’t be caught dead doing. I kept telling my husband, “There’s something seriously wrong with Steven….we have to accept that he has much bigger issues than we had originally thought.” I said the same thing to my friend and she told me that this behavior was common with older adopted boys—that they revert back to early stages of childhood that they never had satisfied with the love and security of parents. At first when he'd act babyish, I’d tell him something like, "No baby....big boy...thirteen."  But my friend said that she was in a conference where they talked about really nurturing that childishness and allowing the child to receive the attention he needs, and that when he’s ready, he will mature out of those behaviors. And sure enough, he already seems to not be doing them as much.

Our 11 year old son, Luke, has had to get used to things the way things are rather than the way he had fantasized they’d be. He has been so looking forward to having a brother his age that he could hang out with….no more silly girl stuff or make-believe games with the little ones. But Steven is emotionally so much younger than Luke, even though he is two years older. Luke will get frustrated with him easily and reprimand him for not knowing how to do something that’s so basic, so Norman and I have had to explain to Luke that Steven will mature as he is feeling more secure and has more experiences, and that being hard on Steven because he’s not “tough enough” will probably only prolong the behavior that Luke wishes would disappear. For sure, adopting children is a family venture—it’s not just about the parents’ interactions with the new children—the other siblings have a huge impact as well. And though it’s really hard, this has been a great experience for our four “original” kids.

Tomorrow we have an eye doctor appointment for Steven and Benjamin. Please pray that there is some type of surgery Steven can have that will improve his vision! We also have an appointment this week with the International Newcomers Center in our school district. They will evaluate Steven’s English skills (only his because they don’t work with elementary school students) and then I believe they will either give us some curriculum to work on his English or put him in an English class to prepare him for school. I haven’t decided yet if I will home school him next year or not—it depends on how things are going during the summer as I try to understand the boys’ learning styles and their academic needs.

I hate labeling children and diagnosing them with this or that, but I was so curious about some things we were seeing in Benjamin so I started researching, and I am almost positive the he has the condition called dyspraxia. He is so awkward with anything physical, and when he runs, his arm flails back and forth. His balance is not good and his coordination is very weak. And he has not progressed at all in academic work at his school in Bulgaria. But when Bulgarians converse with him in their language they say that he sounds like any other 9 or 10 year old boy and doesn’t seem “slow” at all. As I read the signs of dyspraxia, just about every single one described him. So, this “label,” as much as I dislike them, has helped us to understand what we’re dealing with and what types of things we can do to help him learn. First of all we need to really work on both gross and fine motor skills to help both sides of the brain learn to work in a coordinated fashion.

Riddle: How many adults does it take to teach a child with dyspraxia how to ride a bicyle? Answer: Three adults (one to push the bike, one to hold the left foot, and one to hold the right foot) but more importantly, three days! Today was Benjamin’s third day attempting to ride his bike and he finally got the coordinated movement of the feet actually pedaling forward rather than just moving up and down in a “stop and go” mode. So, he can actually propel himself now, but he cannot stop and he stares at his feet the entire time, so he crashes a lot. I told Norman, “Aren’t you glad we read about dyspraxia? Doesn’t it give you way more patience?” (The sites we read stated that bike riding was particularly difficult for a child with this condition) And he was like, “Oh yeah!! I don’t know what I’d do with him if I didn’t know what the problem was!”

But on a positive note, Benjamin’s behavior is so much better than that first week. There have been no meltdowns…no bold displays of disrespect. And no waking up in the middle of the night with a bathroom issue!! That is the best news of all!! He is sleeping now until 8 or 9 AM. Yay!! He does still follow me around incessantly, though, and that gets a little annoying. If we’re all in the living room and I get up, even to go to the bathroom, he gets up and follows me and knocks on the door. He doesn’t really care to engage with the other children. When he does, he is usually doing little bothersome things to annoy them—he doesn’t do it in a mean way—he thinks he’s being funny. But no one else appreciates the humor…so they’re often annoyed with him. Looking back on how things were at his orphanage, I’m not surprised that he plays this way—because that’s what we saw with the children in general—they would run wild and do annoying things to disrupt our visit or to bother each other. But I know that the more he learns to communicate and the more he sees what normal family interactions look like, he will develop better social skills, and hopefully not want to be around me every second of the day.

We’ve started doing a family devotional each day….differently, of course, than the way we used to do it. Right now it looks more like “circle time” in a pre-K class. I have a scripture song written on the easel and all the kids seated in front of it. Then we sing the song several times to memorize it and I have the kids come up to the easel and circle or spell words, etc. (This is such a testament to Luke, Gracie, and Sara who sit there singing and clapping with such great attitudes, even though the activity is childish for them…..but they really “get it”…..they know what it is to serve others, and this is one way they are serving their new brothers). Then we pray together and we’re done. I figure, even if the three Bulgarian boys don’t know exactly what they’re singing (we do translate it the best we can when we first teach the song) at least they are memorizing the words and one day, when they learn enough English, the scripture will be there in their heads waiting for them!

 If I decide to home school them, I will use this song memorization method for every subject possible. There are songs for learning math facts, songs for learning history facts, science facts, etc. And the great thing is that all three boys love to sing and are quite musically inclined. So it’s a way I can start “teaching” them things even before they have a full grasp on the language. And as far as learning to read and write are concerned, I have workbooks that start at the very beginning—on a pre-K level, and they’ll just have to work their way up from the very beginning.

Little Josiah is doing very well despite all of his medical conditions. You’d really never know that he has a complex heart condition. He had his big cardiology appointment last week, and in about two weeks he will be admitted to the hospital to have a heart catheterization. This will let the doctors see if there is any scar tissue and how serious things are and whether or not he would be a candidate for heart surgery. Please pray with us that there is no scar tissue and that his arteries look healthy and that he WILL indeed be able to have surgery. And that all of his other necessary surgeries will be smooth and successful. He really is such a sweet boy….and tough too—he may be the smallest but he definitely doesn’t let anyone around here push him around!

 We have our annual beach vacation planned for next week and the kids are all very excited. (We had a Bulgarian couple explain to the boys that we are going on vacation, so they do know what’s going on). The funny thing was that on about day 3 of having our boys, when we were at the apartment in Bulgaria, and having so much trouble with Benjamin, I had said to Norman, “If this isn’t bad enough, I have two words for you……Hilton Head!” (because I knew the trip was coming up in only a few weeks!) And he was like, “Oh, no! I’m not going to Hilton Head…..only if I go by myself!” LOL And now, only three weeks later, we really aren’t worried about going on vacation with all the kids….except for the bike riding part. We usually bike all over the place at HH but I don’t have a clue how to make that work this year…..double bikes?…...baby carriers?……walk the bikes to the beach and only ride there?….I don’t know. We will keep practicing all week and see what things look like by Saturday.

One more thing to please be in prayer with us about is a family vehicle. Right now we have to drive two cars everywhere, or if we are only going someplace really close by, we may cram four kids in the back row together….they’re all so skinny that it works for a 15 minute drive, but definitely not for a 5 hour drive. And we looked at van rentals and aren’t interested in paying almost $1,000 to drive someone else’s vehicle for one week. So a solution by this Saturday would be a huge blessing but if we have to drive two cars then so be it….we will survive! Pray though that we can find a good deal on a van and do a trade in or sell one of our vehicles for a decent price.

Finally, here are the before and after pictures I promised. Isn’t it amazing what a difference only three weeks can make for a child? We are just amazed at the redemptive power of God at work in these children’s lives….we know the Lord has set each of them apart…..and that his peace is upon them and all of our children. I wrote about this a while ago but many of you probably never heard this story: About two years ago, when Norman and I were contemplating adopting a sibling group of five (later DFACS decided to split up the sibling group and so we only ended up adopting three) I was up most of the night one night struggling over whether or not we could handle so many children. I decided to get up and read my Bible and see if the Lord would give me some type of direction. I walked into the dark living room with my bible, sat on the loveseat, and turned on the lamp that was next to me. Then I decided to just open my bible up and read the first things I saw—desperately hoping God would speak to me this way. So, I opened my bible, looked down, and the very first verse I read was Isaiah 54:13: “All your children will be taught of the Lord, and great will be the peace of your children.” But if that wasn’t enough, immediately after I read that verse, the light bulb in the lamp next to me blew out with a loud pop!! And I was left again in a dark room. It was like God was saying to me, “Believe me….the peace over your children will be great….let it be settled in your heart, and trust me!” It gives me chills again writing about it. And now, as I see how miraculously the boys are progressing, it reminds me of that promise, and I think, “I shouldn’t be surprised at all….these are God’s children…..this home is consecrated to the Lord…..we are his children and his peace is over all of us.” Here are our three boys….before picture taken on May 27th and after picture taken today, June 17th. The Lord be praised!


Thursday, June 6, 2013

We're Home!

Well, we’ve been home for almost three days now and I have to say that things are going way smoother than I had anticipated. I can prove that by the fact that I am here writing this post outside at the pool while my kids are swimming (non swimmers are in life-jackets) rather than at midnight after all of the kids are in bed. Also—because I took a shower both today and yesterday. And also because my kitchen is clean right now and all the sticky orange juice was steam cleaned off the tile floors. I had prepared myself for the very worst—thinking it would be completely chaotic here with kids doing whatever, stuff lying everywhere, tears, and a serious language problem. But actually the boys have been adjusting to boundaries really well, they seem very content, and we’ve been communicating pretty well—saying all of the basic words like…. time to eat, time for bed, pool, garbage, clothes, bathroom, etc. And when we need to express something more complicated, Norman writes it in the translator and makes an attempt to read the correct pronunciation (they really should put accent marks on those words!) I was pleased to see that Steven is able to read the translations in Bulgarian when Norman makes the print large enough for him to see it. We knew he could read and write, but on a lower than 6th grade level, and we weren’t sure if that meant 4th grade level or 1st grade level—but he seems to do ok.

To be honest, the first full day together in our apartment in Bulgaria had us seriously doubting our decision to adopt three children. The boys proved to be way less capable of every day tasks than we had expected, and our 10-year-old boy, Benjamin was exhibiting bizarre behaviors—being very defiant and having no remorse and laughing in our faces. The day that he was smacking me, I actually smacked him back once to see if it would have any effect, but it didn’t even phase him—he only laughed at me hysterically. And speaking firmly, speaking kindly, ignoring him, offering rewards or punishment, etc…..none of that worked either—he just did whatever he wanted and laughed at us if we didn’t like it. This was a completely different boy than we had read about in his profile (shy, sweet, friendly, etc.) and a completely different boy than we had met in December. These behaviors really worried us and we wondered what on earth we would do with a child like this in a family of 7 children. Because of our family size we had specifically avoided serious behavioral issues when requesting matches with our boys. So Benjamin’s behaviors were very scary and we didn’t know how we would manage. But thank God, by Thursday he was a different child. It made Norman and I wonder if he was having some type of drug withdrawal…if maybe his orphanage had been giving him something to calm him down and now, without it, he was going a little crazy.

Sunday morning, as we were driving to the airport, I had a sinking, depressed feeling inside of me. I was doubting this whole adoption and regretting our decision. I was thinking about our four well adjusted children at home and how blessed I was to have them—how “normal” and easy they were; how great they were doing, and how peaceful it could be if I was returning home to only them. But no….I was returning home with almost double the amount of children!! What had I been thinking??? A night or two before, I had read an article by someone calling adopters like me “child collectors”—people with an obsession for collecting kids, the same as if we were collecting cats or teacups or something. They said that some signs of being a child collector are “feeling the need to rescue a child,” (true for me) and “looking on web sites all the time for children while ignoring the ones you have at home” (not true for me) and “not having enough bedrooms for the children” (not true for me) and “bringing new children into the home before the ones you already have are adjusted and doing fine” (not true for me) and “adopting multiple, unrelated children” (true for me). Of course, they said you don’t have to be guilty of all of those things to be labeled a “child collector”—that even just one of these things could make you guilty of this obsession. So, on the plane I started pondering this. “Oh my God, am I just a child collector? Am I just obsessed with helping children, at the detriment to the family God has already given us? Are we putting too much on ourselves with these three boys? Is this going to ruin everything for our family? God, I don’t want to do this. WHY on earth did we do this!?” (Btw, I'm not saying that I agreed with that article--especially not with the nasty tone it was written in--I'm just saying that it caused me to doubt my motives)

You know, when you have made the commitment to adopt a child, or multiple children, it’s very exciting. You have the whole adoption community cheering you on, reminding you that millions of children are living in deprived circumstances, wrought with neglect, and that it is OUR responsibility—the BODY of CHRIST’s to care for “the least of these.” You KNOW that you are doing God’s work—caring for the helpless and that “what you do for them, you are doing for HIM.” People are donating towards your adoption, asking you how things are going, praying for you that all goes smoothly. Churches invite you to give your testimony; people say, “Wow, that’s so awesome that you’re doing this!” And you know it will be hard, because you’ve heard other people’s stories, and you’ve done the research on your children’s conditions, and well, you know that in the beginning, seven children is just hard, period. But then you have the children in your possession—you’re not just visiting them for a few hours in the day, or reading about them or watching videos. You see how deep their needs run….how neglected they have been for so many years…..and you wonder how on earth you will be able to help them……and how taxing it will be on your other children and your entire family. You start to wonder if you made a big mistake. Was this really from God? Should I have instead spent all of my focus on my four children at home? After all, they were adopted too. Maybe I’m trying to do too much on my own and I need to leave it to God to send more families to the other children around the world who need them.

Anyway, in the midst of this apprehension I had, I told myself that these feelings were totally normal (even though I have never read another adoptive mom write about having these types of doubts). I told myself that the Christian life is not intended to be easy…..that the Lord doesn’t call us to a comfortable life…..that anyone who wants to save his life will lose it but anyone who is willing to lose his life for the gospel’s sake will keep it. I looked at how HAPPY these children were to be with us. I mean, they had been singing, “I like to be in America” over and over again in the apartment and telling strangers on the street that they are going to America. I told myself, “Whether or not God told you to do this, these boys are yours now and God will give you the strength and the ability and the resources to be a blessing to their lives and they will be a blessing to you and the rest of your family as well…..you’ll see.” I told myself that if I have a difficult task before me, which is being done unto the Lord, then I am in the right place, because God doesn’t call us to easy-chair Christianity. I reminded myself of the message I heard back in August that led us to add little Josiah to our adoption—how the pastor said, “If the thing you feel God is calling you to do is something you can do in your own strength, then that is probably not the thing God has called you to. God wants you to be dependent upon him so that his glory can show forth.” I reminded myself that the Lord is with us and will help us and that everything will be alright. On the long airplane ride, I found some Bach piano music on the screen in front of me, plugged myself in, and let the stress and fear be drowned out. Bach was a devout Christian man and I hear such peace and joy in his music. So, while my right ear was listening to the constant, “Mama I am hungry” or “Mama, I have to go to the bathroom” my left ear was sending the message to my brain, “Ahhhh…..all is good…..everything is fine…..smile, the Lord is with you and he is on your side…..be at peace.” And it gave me such patience throughout that long trip.

We only had one issue with Benjamin on the airplane. I guess he was getting bored and he wanted to play the music on his Kindle really loud. I turned it down and he turned it back up again. I told him no and he told me yes. When I looked at him seriously about it, he started laughing and saying DAH, DAH, DAH! super loudly, knowing he was bothering us and everyone around us. He wouldn’t stop, so I calmly took him into the bathroom (he was happy to go because that was his favorite place to be) and I put a tiny bit of soap in his mouth. He was a little shocked and didn’t know what to do at first but then he started laughing again, so I put a little more soap in his mouth and this time he got upset. He sat on the floor and started crying for the first time all week (except for the first night at bedtime) and I left him there until he was ready to come out. When he stopped, he knocked on the door (he didn’t know how to open it himself) and I opened it and said, “OK Mama?” and he said, “OK Mama.” And we haven’t had another incident like that since.

After about 19 hours of traveling, we finally ended up in Atlanta and it was just precious the welcome we received at the top of that escalator. My parents, my kids, Norman’s siblings and spouses and their children, our fellow adoptive family friends….about 26 people were standing there with signs, all cheering and clapping. Lots of hugs and introductions and tears followed, and people kept asking me, “Do you know where all your kids are right now?” And I was like, “I don’t have a clue!” Getting them all out to the baggage claim and then to the cars was quite a feat. Then we all went to a McDonald’s so the boys could play with their new siblings, cousins, and friends a little bit. Benjamin has an obsession with cleaning, and when we weren’t paying attention he collected every single cup and partially eaten sandwich and placed them on one small table and then wiped all the other tables clean. So no one wanted to finish their food because they didn’t know whose was whose!

Like I said before, I’m really surprised at how smoothly things are going right now. I am so thankful we have a pool. I give a lot of credit to families who adopt children without one! The kids are eager to go every day and it’s a good way to motivate them to do other things like clean up their toys. They swim for a couple of hours and then they are really tired out and mellow afterwards. I know some people say, “Just wait….there will be a big explosion eventually” but I’m not confessing or expecting that. But if something like that does happen, I’ll be sure to write about it. It’s been two years since our last adoption of a sibling group of three and we haven’t had any meltdowns—nothing aside from the normal occasional temper tantrum when our youngest daughter is particularly tired. I also must really give a big shout out to our four "original" kids.  They help out so much with our new boys.  Luke, 11, models everything for Steven and Benjamin and plays  with them so much outside.  And Gracie and Sara just love Josiah--they were surprised at how little he seems, even though he is six years old.  They help keep him occupied so I can get necessary things done around the house.  I don't think things would be going nearly as well if our boys didn't have these wonderful siblings to help them along life.  Adoption really is a family venture--when everyone is on board and wholeheartedly ready for it, it makes the transition so much easier.  But our four do admit that this is harder than they had anticipated!

I met another adoptive mom this week and she told me the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard about adoption….she said that her agency told her and her husband not to discipline their son for the first few months….just to love on him….and to try not to say “no” very much. Their boy is seven years old and just a wild little thing. You could tell she was frazzled and was unsure about her agency’s advice. I asked her how she thought she would bond with her new son when he was just insisting on having his own way all the time and there was nothing she could do about it. I told her I couldn’t imagine how she was going to make it through those first few months with no discipline….that to me, that is one of the first things you need to establish—even before bonding. I don’t mean discipline in the form of punishing, yelling, etc. Discipline is training the child to have self control, to have self respect, to have self care skills, and to suffer the consequences of his own decisions…..and to recognize the parents as the authority and to have respect for them. That’s been a priority around here….teaching Benjamin (and Josiah) that we are the parents and in charge and that they can’t just do whatever they want whenever they want….that when we call them they must respond to us, etc. If we don’t have that I don’t really see how true bonding can take place.

Little Josiah was such a delight those first few days but now his rebellious side is showing here and there. He ignores us when we are telling him not to do something (like not to go in the pool when the pool cover is on, or not to throw his unwanted food onto someone else’s plate, etc.) So we are having to crack down on him more, but he repents very quickly and shows his sweet, loving side right away. We’re trying to establish some type of order in our home again—little things like training the kids in what to do with their clothes when they’re dirty; how to put clean clothes away; how to set the table, how to wipe their own behind and brush their own teeth; what not to touch, etc. etc. And the way the boys are all responding is a miracle. I honestly didn’t expect them to catch on to things and be so cooperative this early in the game. And because of less stress we have more enjoyable times with them and feel like the bonding is progressing.

Benjamin goes around all throughout the day hugging us and telling us that he loves us. He also tells us all day long that he is hungry or that he wants this or that. I know they tell you in the adoption videos to give your children as much as possible of what they ask for in the beginning and to try to say “no” very minimally, but with him it’s just impossible. He asks for candy or to go to the pool, or to change his clothes, etc. all day long. We are trying to train him to stop asking for things constantly—and we hope he will grow out of it soon because it is very annoying. The other big problem he has is that he wakes up several times in the night to use the bathroom or to ask for food. I would say that this has been the most difficult part of the process, because when the parents aren’t well rested, they have no patience the next day. He is having major digestive problems and every night we need to shower him off because of the mess he has in his diaper. (He only wears a diaper at night). It must be the food we are giving him…maybe he isn’t used to having that much fat in his diet. I thought I’d fatten them up by giving them higher calorie meals but I think I need to take it slower with him and Josiah. Steven seems to be handling the food just fine.

It is incredibly sad to us how deprived these children are. They are mentally and physically capable of caring for their basic needs, yet they act completely helpless. At 6, 10, and 13 years old, we still need to teach them things like learning how to properly brush their teeth, how to hang clothes on hangers and put them away in the drawers; how to eat by bringing the fork to their mouth and not just shoveling the food in while their mouth is open at the end of the plate; how to flush the nasty toilet paper down the toilet and not put it in the trash, or worse yet—in the shower! How to wipe themselves properly (ony the two younger ones) and take a shower by themselves; how to not stick their hands in their food and drink, etc. etc. etc. They are also so uncoordinated and have very poor gross motor skills…but in just these couple of days you can see minor progress, just from them playing outside for so many hours each day. Both Steven and Benjamin are academically far below grade level, and Benjamin doesn’t even know how to write his own name, nor does he know how old he is. They have no baby pictures, even though they’ve been in orphanages since infancy—they only have a couple of pictures of when they were younger.

To be honest, I’ve been feeling angry at the whole situation. When I see how little these children have been taught—how little self care, how little self control, how little opportunity to develop physically, how skinny they are……how little medical attention they’ve been given. It makes me feel angry at the Bulgarian government for allowing these types of conditions. Little Josiah has so many medical problems and I don’t know how some of them could have gone for this long unaddressed. His report says that doctors won’t operate due to his heart condition…but the hernia he has had to live with—which is the size of a mango….I mean, they really couldn’t get a cardiologist to supervise the surgery? If he wasn’t an orphan would they have made the same decision? I know there is no sense in being angry at governments or orphanage workers who themselves do not know the love of God. If God is holding anyone accountable for the conditions of these children, it must be his Church. And sending money can’t possibly be enough. Children should be raised with the love of a family—not herded like animals from one room to another with no mentors and no one to guide them.

It’s interesting to me that all our boys want to be called by their American names—I thought it would take a while for them to feel comfortable with that but, nope. Today Benjamin was showing me his photo album (which contains three pictures of him when he was about 4 years old and all the rest of the pictures are of our visit with him in December). At one point I pointed and said his Bulgarian name and he said, “Nay….Benjamin.”

The kids play on their Kindles entirely too much to fit my philosophy of kids and brain development and electronics, but for now it’s a great pacifier and I’m willing to make exceptions. Plus, I have tons of educational games downloaded on them and it’s great to see them doing puzzles or playing games that deal with numbers or the alphabet. Our Leapfrog videos are also a big hit and I’m hoping the boys will learn their letters and letter sounds by watching them, just the way my 4-year-old did. If they can learn to spell and read basic words from watching videos, then my job will be way easier! My desire is to home school all of the children but I am open to possibly sending my oldest three boys to school this year to give me time to get used to teaching so many children. I guess it will depend on how things are going all summer. I’ll try to do some basic academics with them here and there and see how they respond.

Tomorrow morning the local Univision station is coming to our house to do a story on our adoption. And then on Friday a local newspaper is coming. Pray that these will be great opportunities for us to share the deep, deep love of God. The best advice I leave to myself and to anyone reading this who is also adopting is—we must stay connected to the vine. If we aren’t connected, there is no hope for us but to dry up and wither. If we aren’t connected then our service towards others will feel like a drain on us, and we will do our “duty” without the love of Christ showing forth. We didn’t adopt just to give our children a family….just to give them something better than their orphanage experience. If we do not pour out the love of Jesus upon them, if we do not lead them to Christ, if we do not teach them to honor God and love his word….then we are in fact doing very little for them….only teaching them to be more civilized and more independent and successful by the world’s standards. We must stay drenched in God’s word and in his presence so that we can have his heart for those in our lives….and that love that we have for our children will help lead their hearts to our Lord. May God be praised and honored….and may his will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Blessings to you all. Thanks for following along with our journey. I’ll write again in a couple of weeks to continue sharing our adoption story…..and so the readers can see God’s redemptive power at work!!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Getting More Normal

“Today felt like a normal day…..like what I was expecting. The other days were terrifying.” LOL This is the statement my husband made to me this afternoon, which had us laughing hysterically because of how true it was.

I didn’t blog yesterday because I wanted to wait and see how things would go today first. So anyway, Steven (13) and Josiah (6) have been doing great….adjusting perfectly…..no surprises. But as you know, we were having some episodes with Benjamin (10)….nothing really major….but there was just something odd about his behavior that we couldn’t figure out. My gut feeling was that he was going through some type of drug withdrawal….that maybe his orphanage was giving him some type of sedative or anti anxiety medication and now that he wasn’t taking it his behavior was erratic. But I mentioned this to the agency here and they assured me this never takes place in the orphanages…that they always document everything. However, I chatted with another adoptive mom last night and she told me that her agency told her that it does happen from time to time and that she knows of a couple of families whose children did go through medication withdrawal…..so, who knows?

Anyway, in addition to a few wild outbursts, he was using the bathroom every 10 minutes for the last four days. We asked to take him to get checked out by a doctor to see if there was some type of UTI or bladder infection, but we were told that it would take too long to get the test results back and that they couldn’t give him medicine for an infection until they had the results. The agency’s doctor said he really believed it was all due to nervousness and he gave us medication for him on Tuesday, saying it would help him to feel calmer. We didn’t give it to him the first two days because we are not crazy about using medications to change children’s behavior. However, after yesterday’s crazy outburst and all night Wednesday of not sleeping due to him using the bathroom, the agency encouraged us to give it a try. So we gave him one pill after breakfast and about three hours later he was completely lethargic—laying on the playground equipment instead of playing on it, etc. Then about an hour after that, he couldn’t hold his head up easily—he was walking home from the park with his neck completely bent sideways, and complaining of neck pain. We also noticed his hands were shaking a lot. About an hour later, in the apartment, Norman was looking at some pictures with him and practicing saying words, and all of a sudden Benjamin’s tongue started hanging out of his mouth and he could barely speak. He was saying his words very slowly and with his tongue sticking out the whole time. So we called the agency right away, but while I was on the phone with them he snapped out of it and started talking perfectly fine. It almost looked like he had some type of mild seizure. The facilitator came over and he was doing fine the whole time of her visit—only bad neck pain and very tired. She told us that if anything else strange happened we could try to take him to a doctor. He went right to sleep and only woke up three times to go to the bathroom (a huge improvement, believe me!)

Today his hands were still shaking off and on, but his personality seemed to be totally different from how it was the first four days of the week. He was animated, extremely talkative, was finally catching on to using hand gestures to show us what he wanted instead of just saying the same Bulgarian phrases over and over again; he was telling Josiah not to do this and not to do that—very concerned about behaving well; he didn’t cry when he didn’t get something he wanted; and didn’t have any bizarre outbursts.

If you’re wondering what I mean by bizarre outbursts, here’s what happened yesterday. After pooping twice in his pants, he was sitting down and tripped Josiah when he walked into the room, and then he laughed when Josiah fell. And this is VERY unusual for him because he is an extremely sensitive and caring person. When I tried to take him by the hand to talk to him about what he did, he started yelling “nay!” at me—getting louder and louder (also unusual for his personality). I brought him into the living room and he started knocking chairs over—but gently, bringing them to the floor without a crash. It was like he wanted to show me he was being bad and defiant but didn’t really want to be bad and defiant. By the time I got him to the couch he started smacking my hand—but not in an aggressive or furious way…..more as if he wanted to play or he thought it was funny or he wanted to see what I would do. He kept smacking me (not very hard) and laughing. When I held onto his wrists so that he couldn’t smack me anymore, he kept pretending he was going to bite me. I let my hand go into his mouth because I wanted to see if he would really do it, but he only touched my skin with his teeth and didn’t bite down…all the while laughing. I kept telling him in his language to stop and calm down but he was getting more vigorous with it (not really aggressive but more into it). He started kicking me (again not very hard) to get me to let go of him. I held him from behind and wouldn’t let him move until he had no choice but to calm down, and soon he did. I couldn’t communicate with him, so I said, with a question in my voice, “obicham te?” (I love you?) because he had been saying it to me all morning. And he looked at me and smiled and said, “Dah” (yes) and hugged me and then went into the kitchen to have lunch, and he acted normal after that. We gave him the pill, not really for this outburst but to see if it would help him stop pooping in his pants and stop going to the bathroom every 10 minutes. But, while he didn’t have any more pooping accidents, nothing changed with him using the bathroom.

After he had all those weird reactions to the medication, I found out exactly what it was and looked it up online. It says that it is a dopamine and very strong and shouldn’t be used unless other medications have already been tried first—because it has a high incidence of side effects—some of those being muscle cramps in neck, headache, tremors, uncontrolled movements of the tongue (which could be permanent!), seizures, etc. So, bad mistake giving it to him, but I guess sleep deprivation will cause you to make errors in judgment. But like I said, today his personality was completely different from how it was all week. So thank God for this.

Little Josiah is so hilarious. Because of his speech impediment, he already knows how to communicate using gestures. Like, tonight he made a gesture like he was sleeping and then he pointed his arm at me and said something like “Eh uh”—so that was his way of telling me goodnight. He has also translated several times for Benjamin! Like when Benjamin was trying to ask for gum, over and over and over again, Josiah came and took me and pointed to a piece of gum. Or when Benjamin kept trying to tell me that he wanted his shoes on, Josiah came and pointed to his feet. Finally today Benjamin caught on and is slowly gesturing to help us understand him as well—but I guess he’s never had to do it before. And Steven is translating as much as possible with his limited English but he does a good job too, like today when we were walking home from the grocery store Benjamin kept saying the same thing over and over and then Steven told us, “Carry food” so we understood what Benjamin wanted.

We found this little Chinese hole in the wall restaurant right around the corner from our apartment that serves Chinese and also Bulgarian dishes and it’s really cheap so we ate there twice today instead of having the hassle of cooking and cleaning up. Tonight, when I served Josiah his food he gave me an irritated look and pushed it away and then folded his hands to pray and said something again like, “Eh uh” and we knew he was telling us he wanted to pray before we ate….we just happened to forget this time but he was right there to remind us. And he’s so clever—he figures out how to get what he wants. Like, he cannot reach the light switches (which are kind of like big buttons that flip very easily) so he grabbed a t-shirt and whipped that shirt with all his strength at the light switch so that it turned off. Then he did the same with his balloon. Poor guy has his gums all exposed so every time he falls, his mouth is a bloody mess—that’s why he always has scabs there by his lip. I thought this would be our top priority for getting fixed but after finding that enormous hernia on him, that for sure will be the very first thing we address.

The boys are super excited to be going to America in two days—they mention it to everyone we come in contact with. So far I think their favorite thing (for all three!) about not being in an orphanage is taking a bath. They LOVE that bathtub and have never seen anything like it. Benjamin told the facilitator that the first thing he’s going to do when he gets to America is take a bath Tonight, after their baths, when we tucked them in bed, I gave Josiah a big hug, and then Steven, and finally Benjamin. It made me so sad to see how he laughs awkwardly when he’s being hugged tightly…..like he really likes it but it is so strange for him. All day today he has been telling us obicham te (I love you). When we had been to his orphanage in December and were saying it to him the last day we were with him, he had turned to our facilitator and asked her, “What is this thing they keep saying to me?” And now he wants to say it over and over again.

We are really looking forward to getting home in two days. There is sort of a heavy feeling here—I don’t really know how to describe it…..but the USA and home are looking SO good to us right now! The more we get to know our boys and see some of their awkwardness and their struggles, the more sad it makes us for them and the thousands of other children who are being raised in orphanages….there is so much lacking for these little ones. We thank God for being with us through this process and for all that he is going to do in and through our boys’ lives. Our children at home cannot wait to meet their new brothers in person—it’s going to be a lot of chaotic fun around there for the first few weeks, I’m sure. I’ll post again probably after we are home—and hopefully will have lots of pictures to share. Ciao!

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