Sunday, October 20, 2013

Four Months Home!

Well, it’s been four months since we brought our three boys home from Bulgaria and I’m finally getting a moment here to update you all on how everyone is doing.  I don’t even know how to begin this post.  If you go back and read how those first few days with the boys were, and fast forward four months, it almost looks miraculous and really shows the redemptive power of the Lord and how much God is FOR adoption.  Steven, 13, and Benjamin, 10, have the Spirit of God all over them.  These boys have hearts so attuned to the Lord.  They pray throughout the day and are focused on the things of God even beyond what Norman and I have led them to.                                                                    
Eating Dinner in our Sukkah for the Feast of Tabernacles

Unfortunately, I don’t really have more before and after photos to post of the boys because there aren’t many physical changes from last time I posted pics.  Even though the boys eat a huge amount of food, they are STILL swimming (yes, it’s October!), and if they aren’t swimming, they are playing outside or riding bikes, or jumping on the trampoline, so they just keep burning those calories!  And it doesn’t help that we eat pretty healthy around here.  I just need to be more focused on adding higher caloric snacks to their diet.....(add that to my “to do” list!)  I’ve been adding extra butter and olive oil to their food, and winter is coming, so hopefully they will put on extra pounds then!                                                                
                  The Last Day in our Pool!

I’ll start with little Jojo.  In September he had his cleft lip and palate repaired, had an ear tube put in his good ear, had a lung biopsy to see if he is a candidate for total heart repair surgery, had extensive dental work done, and had a large mango-sized inguinal hernia repaired from in between his legs.  Unfortunately, after the hernia was repaired, it started protruding instead from the opposite side, so now he has to go back in for another surgery, most likely in November.  To try and minimize the number of times he needs to go under anesthesia, we are looking into having ear canal surgery on the right ear at the same time as his hernia surgery (his right ear is deformed and has an ear drum but no canal, so this entails drilling a hole into his skill to form a canal so that he can hear better). His cleft lip and palate are repaired but he will need extensive orthodontic work to reshape his gums, so that his mouth is more symmetrical.  And he will need some further cosmetic touch-up surgeries when he gets older.  Right now we are mainly focusing on speech therapy—we work with him every day and we see progress, little by little.
The Littles Eating in the Sukkah

The results from the lung biopsy were good—Jojo has no lung damage, as his cardiologists suspected he would.  But when we met with the cardiac surgeon he told us that he does not believe Josiah’s heart would withstand a complete heart repair—and that is the only option for him, as far as medicine is concerned.  There are just so many abnormalities in the structure of his heart…there would be about seven major things that need to be done/added/moved around, and the surgeon does not believe the prognosis will be good.  He said he definitely would not do it for his own son.  So, Josiah is completely in the hands of God, which is the best place to be anyway.  When we adopted him we were told that he was not a candidate for heart surgery, so it isn’t like we brought him home thinking doctors would be able to fix him up.  The awesome thing is that the cardiologists call him a “mystery.”  They say that they do not understand how he functions so well (oxygen levels have gone from low 80’s to low 90’s since he’s been home with us) with all the “craziness” of his heart anatomy.  They do not understand how he has no lung damage and they don’t understand how his heart works.  So, obviously, the hand of the Lord is upon him and he is sustaining little Jojo with life and breath.
                                                                              Nothing Holds This Little Guy Back

Personality wise, this little guy has a strong character.  Last night as I was doing some speech therapy with him (and it hadn’t even lasted five minutes!) he didn’t want to do anymore—wanted to go play instead, but I told him he had to keep practicing with me, so he rolls his eyes and says, “Oh my goodness!! (or more like “ Oh, mah, ooneh!) Then he waves his hands up and down and complains, “more and more and more and more!” (moh eh moh eh moh eh moh!) with an exasperated expression!  Now, he’s so tiny and cute that it’s easy to let him get away with that kind of attitude, but we are having to crack down on him  so we don't end up with a little monster down the road! He’s quite a character with the other kids too.  Loves to boss them around and antagonize them and thinks he is just sooooooo funny!  But he definitely has his sweet side and loves to hug and snuggle and be carried and call himself a “baby.”
            Always Goofing Around

Now for little "Benjamino,".  If you read my blog from week one you will see that he had some very scary behaviors and had us exhausted.  Well, that boy no longer exists anywhere whatsoever on the radar.  He is sweet, gentle, obedient, friendly, etc. etc. etc.  Last night, the kids were in a rare mood, with lots of irritation and fighting, and Benjamin comes to me and says, “Mommy, I’m a good boy.  I’m not screaming, I’m not hitting, I’m not fighting, I’m obey you. Rrright??”  (with the R roll) And he was absolutely right—I just had to laugh
Benjamin Hanging Close to Mom

I’ve decided to try homeschooling Benjamin, along with the others, to see if we can make progress (he had gone through the second grade in Bulgaria, not knowing any letters of the alphabet or even how to write his own name!) He definitely has some type of processing issue—don’t know what to “label” him, but the signs look exactly like dyspraxia, so that is how I’m approaching things.  It takes him longer to learn everything, but the good news is that he does learn.  We work on a letter each day, along with the sound and how to write it, and if he retains everything, we move on to the next letter the next day, but if not, we keep reviewing.  It usually takes him two or three or even four days before he really knows the new letter. It is working well and he recognizes almost half of the alphabet and knows several of the sounds, and he understands that when you put the letters together they make words, so I think that following a strong phonics program is helping him. And his English is coming along extremely well!
               Benji Loving to Tease

Spiritually, Benjamin seems to be truly set apart by God.  I believe God brought him directly to our family because His Spirit is upon this boy.  If you could hear the power behind his prayer…the things he says….the things he thinks of.  He tells us that he talks to God every day and that God talks to him, and I have no doubt.  When he prays around other adults, many end up in tears, and people always want him to pray for them.  And when you ask him to pray for something, he remembers that request and makes mention of it to God, day after day.  And he takes his prayer time very seriously. At times he says something that strikes us funny….and we chuckle, and he stops and rebukes us and says, “That’s not funny! I’m serious!” and then he goes right back to praying.  Prayer time is sacred for this boy….he looks for Norman to come to his room every night so he can pray with him.  And when he prays for meals, the food is cold before he gets finished.  Little Jojo will frequently be heard saying, “In Jesus name, amen.” “In Jesus name, amen.” in order to encourage Benjamin to bring it to a close!
                         Our Prayer Warrior
Steven is doing great in every way.  You could not ask for a sweeter 13-year-old boy.  When I said in a previous post that he was like a “poster child” for older child adoption, I was completely serious.  He is so thoughtful of others, considerate, helpful…..and SOOOOO appreciative to have a family.  The other day, he was Skyping with my parents and told them again the story of how when he was in the orphanage he would ask God every day to send him a family, and then how at Christmas God sent him a mom and a dad…..and also brothers and sisters and grandparents.  You cannot help but tear up when he tells you his story.  He is learning academic work pretty quickly.  We breezed right through the letters and sounds and are working on a phonics program and beginning reading.  He is so thrilled with himself when he reads in English.  He is only working on a second grade level for math, and has poor mathematical reasoning skills, but he is slowly “getting it” as far as the concepts are concerned. And his English is awesome!  The boys are even learning Spanish, if you can believe it!
                     Serious Big Brother

Yesterday we got Steven’s test results back for his eyes.  It seems that his condition is due to being born prematurely (he was just under three pounds).  His “good” eye is very impaired, but he has enough vision to get around, play, do his school work, etc.  And doctors do not expect his condition to get worse, so that is great news.  The bad eye has a large cataract, and the doctors are not optimistic that if they remove it, it will improve his vision (he sees almost nothing with that eye).  They are guessing that it has been that way for so long, that the brain receptors for sight no longer function for that eye.  But they say they could be wrong and that removing the cataract COULD possibly have a good result, so, since there really isn’t much down side (there is the risk of the retina detaching during cataract surgery, but he really can’t see from that eye anyway) he will probably be getting surgery soon.  We have told him, though, that doctors don’t think they can help him much and that it is the Lord we need to rely on for his eyes, as well as for everything in our lives.  A couple of months ago Steven came to me and said, “Mommy, I was watching a movie about Jesus last night and Jesus healed too many people who had problem with the eyes.  Why he doesn’t do that for me?!” I tried to stall for an answer so I asked him, “Are you asking him to heal your eyes?” (We pray for his eyes almost every day) And he incredulously answered me, “Yes, of course.  I ask him every day!” So, we started addressing this topic with our kids recently and exploring the various reasons we don’t often see immediate miracles, like the people saw in the days of Jesus and the disciples.  We don’t have all the answers—we have many speculations….but the bottom line is that we will pray without ceasing….and we will consecrate our lives to the Lord and serve him with all our hearts…..and we will trust him….and wait….and pray…..and believe….and expect.                                                                       
              Pray Without Ceasing

The other night, upstairs in the big boys’ bedroom, we had a small Holy Spirit revival (not that anything from the Holy Spirit could be considered “small!”).  It was not started by myself or my husband.  My husband was upstairs praying with the boys before bed, while I was taking care of some things downstairs.  All of a sudden I hear crying coming from the room and I realize that the boys are pleading with God for someone (turns out Steven was praying for the other children in his orphanage to all find families the way he did….and he is crying, and praying loudly, and begging God to please, please, please get the other children families!).  Then Benjamin starts crying loudly while he is praying….praying for healing for everyone—Steven’s eyes, Jojo’s heart, his aunt to have a baby, etc.  I keep going about my work (unfortunately typical for me sometimes) until Norman calls me to come up because the boys are lamenting in their spirits over many injustices in the earth, and praying loudly through tears….they did not see us doing this…they were not copying anyone….this was completely put on them by the Spirit of God. I go up and start praying with them, and then David (4 at the time) and Jojo come in and little Jojo keeps asking over and over again why the boys are crying.  Then little David gets stirred up and HE starts praying loudly and crying.  In the beginning I think it was because he saw his two brothers doing it and it was moving him emotionally, but then he starts praying with this incredible boldness, saying things like, “I bless you Lord and thank you for my brothers.  I love Luke so much, I love Steven so much, etc.” He is hugging them and crying and then he starts saying, “We pray against fear in the name of Jesus, against all bad dreams, against all sins in the name of Jesus!  We bless you Lord, etc.” Then he starts going to each child’s bed and laying hands on the bed and praying for no sins and no bad dreams and no fear, etc. for each child.  I am giving you just a small snapshot as to what was happening that night. It went on for over an hour.  I tell you that I half expected the Lord to return at that moment.  I had this feeling of being SO close to God and that something was imminent…..big….powerful.  There was no hype here….no teaching the kids to do this.  The Holy Spirit of God was moving in their hearts and in our home in a big way. Thanks be to God! What more can be said after that?  Would I have ever imagined that our new boys would latch onto the things of God this quickly and strongly?  No, in fact I didn’t know how we would even express the concept of God to them….Benjamin told us last December that he didn’t know who God was or anything about him….not even about Jesus being born at Christmas.  But it seems that my concerns were unfounded because God revealed himself to them all on his own.
 The Kids Chilling With a Movie After Closing Down the Pool

Now, lest you think our home is full of saints chanting scriptures day and night, I’ll tell you that we have six little “bosses” in the house.  Only Benjamin doesn’t go around telling everyone what to do.  Birth order is a mess in this home—nobody knows his “place” and I personally think the whole birth order debate is over-exaggerated anyway (I know some people staunchly disagree).  Working out birth order is not so difficult when you make it your goal to take on the humility of Christ.  Today Norman made our 11 year old son patch one eye and wear Steven’s glasses for the other eye so he could see what it felt like to walk around that visually impaired for a little while.  Some compassion needed to be learned here….we got a little tired of hearing him saying, “Just LOOK for it, Steven!!”  There are days when you can hear seven children playing happily together in the yard….collaborating, inventing, exploring……and then others when all you hear is bickering, bossing, and irritation in the air.  But overall, we couldn’t have asked for things to go better with sibling relations.
        Celebrating Little David's Birthday!

I still don’t feel like I have everything together yet.….. My hair is in a pony tail pretty much 24/7.  I’ve given the kids a bowl of cereal for lunch more than once since we started schooling (Cereal is not much better than cookies and milk, in my opinion!—even the “healthier” kinds)  There are days that I forget to change into real clothes, and my toenails…..well…here’s a look at what they look like.  I just don’t have time for some things.  I guess I could be painting my nails right now instead of writing this post, but…..closed-toe shoe season is upon us now, right?! lol                                                                       
  No Caption Needed.....They Speak for Themselves!

Home schooling is in full swing and I think I’ve come up with a schedule/plan that is working well for all of us—still working out kinks but things are going fairly smoothly.  I have to stay off of e-mail and Facebook, etc. to really make it work, so I’m not on there much anymore, and I feel bad because I like to keep up with all of the other adoption stories going on right now.  Two boys are being adopted from Benjamin’s orphanage, and one girl from Steven’s (that I know of) so I’m so excited about that and can’t wait until my boys can skype or have contact with their former friends.  I’ve had some people message me on Facebook to ask me questions about adoption or to talk about their concerns, etc. I love to encourage other families to step out in faith and bring these precious ones into their homes, so don’t be shy if you ever want to contact me and talk!

Thanks for following our boys’ story and for praying for them.  If you are interested in special needs adoption or older child adoption, please contact me and I can get you in touch with someone who can give you more information. (Lisa's Facebook) Right now I am specifically advocating for a precious four-year-old boy from Armenia, who is receiving physical therapy to strengthen his muscles so that he can hopefully walk one day. I have pictures and videos of him that will melt your heart.  He tells his caregivers that he is going to walk one day!  He is always smiling, is very verbal and communicative….shy and reserved with new people…and sweet and cute as can be.  He will make an amazing son and brother.  He was abandoned by his birth parents when he was about 2 ½ years old and desperately needs to come to this country where they have the best therapies available anywhere.  Did you know that the US is one of the only countries that even allows its citizens to adopt children with special needs?  Because of socialized medicine......countries don’t want these children being a financial burden on them.  I pray that American families will hurry up and snatch as many of these precious ones up as possible….before, God forbid, our country ends up the same way as the others! Pray for this boy, please, to find a family.  He is so much in my heart and I will definitely help his family with fundraising. He already has a small grant waiting to help any family that steps up to adopt him.
 Lord, Please Send This Little Boy a Family Soon!!
Be blessed, my friends!!

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