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!


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