Monday, December 17, 2012

First Visit with 12 Year Old "Max"

“We don’t want to overburden our stomachs.” LOL This is what “Max” said to me at the restaurant when I kept offering him things to eat and drink! Who would have known…..after being with “Chase” for three days and seeing him devour food like he didn’t know where his next meal would be coming from…that Max would be so delicate and careful about how much he ate. And, I thought Chase was the sweetest boy I ever met, but now… I’d have to say it’s a tie.

We got to Max’s orphanage around 11AM and thought we’d do the regular routine, asking the director questions about him, etc. but they brought him right out to us and he was soooooooooo excited!! He is a very overly emotional boy, and couldn’t contain his happiness. He was smiling from ear to ear and laughing of happiness at having a family. He told me I was very beautiful and that he always wanted to have a mother and a father (yes, you can cry now). He told us that when he found out we were coming to meet him he told all his friends, “See, I told you miracles happen at Christmas time.” (It must have been God that moved us to cancel some important appointments and drop everything to come here and meet the boys before Christmas in three days’ time.)

I do not even know how to begin describing this boy to you. He is 12-years-old and tinier than we had expected, even though we had seen many videos of him. Very, very skinny, but he had on nice clothes that fit him well. It is clear how much his teacher absolutely loves him. She told us she’s been with him since he was transferred there from the baby orphanage at 4-years-old. And she loves him like a son. She said she always told him that he would be adopted by a family from the U.S.—it was just a feeling she had, even though no other child from this orphanage has been adopted by an American family, but instead from France, Germany, Spain, etc. So he feels very lucky to be going to America, because apparently that’s “the place to be.” It made us sad to see some of the older children standing outside the orphanage, some smoking. They were all staring at us and knew that we were there to adopt Max, and they all were saying hello to us very eagerly—kind of like “notice me too, please.” It was heartbreaking….13 and 14 year old girls smiling at you and locking their gaze on you, wanting something from you. I just wanted to tell them all, “I’m going to go back and find families for you right away. You’ll all be coming to America soon!” (Lord, please let it be so!)

Max’s vision is very, very bad. He is practically blind in one eye and has extremely poor vision in the other. He puts his face extremely close to whatever it is he wants to see—writing, a video game, etc. He seems to manage ok but it is very sad to watch. His teacher told us that he has had glasses but they always end up breaking, so we asked if we could purchase him the unbreakable kind and she said she thought we could but that she’s not even sure if he has the correct prescription. But we’re going to do our best to get something for him to help him until we bring him home and get him thoroughly checked. We hope we can get him surgery to help correct his vision. The problem he has with his vision causes him to look awkward at times....I guess because he can't see himself or others well so he doesn't realize how his facial expressions may look to others...sort of how a blind person may make unusual expressions if he is never taught to be aware of them. He also touches and hugs us a lot and takes/feels our hands.  He's extreeeeeeeemely affectionate.  At first I thought it seemed strange for a boy his age, but Norman thinks he does this because he cannot see us well and it's his way of "seeing" us.  Makes sense.  Plus, being adopted is his dream come true--he's been hoping to have parents for many years....sweet child.

Max thinks, in many ways, like an adult. He is very concerned for others. For instance, after lunch at the restaurant his teacher said she was leaving and he asked her, “Are you sure you are going to be able to get enough rest now before having to work the night shift?” He also told me, “This coffee (espresso) is made for sipping slowly” when the waiter brought me a tiny little coffee cup.” When Norman offered him a chicken wing from his plate (he loves all types of meat) he reached for a carrot garnish instead of the meat because he didn’t want to be impolite and take Norman’s chicken from him. His teacher told him to go ahead and take the chicken and had to really urge him before he happily took one. Norman was driving our facilitator’s stick shift car because it was snowing and she was not comfortable, so Max was so excited to sit up front with “Daddy” A couple of times Norman would grind the gears trying to get a feel for how her car worked, and his teacher asked him, “Isn’t your daddy a good driver?” and he answered, “Yes! And I’m sure he’s even a better driver in his own car.” Lol. We asked his teacher how he gets along with the other children at school and she said that he tries to be friends with everyone but that some of the boys are cruel and tease him because of his disability (not sure if she meant his severe vision problems or that he sometimes cannot contain his emotions). But he told us, “That’s ok. They are only insulting themselves. When a person insults someone else he is really insulting himself.” These were the types of things he said to us throughout the visit.

When we had first introduced ourselves, we called ourselves Norman and Lisa, but he immediately called us Mama and Tatko and it seemed like he wanted to say it over and over. For instance if I told him something, like “Be careful” he would say, “Yes, Mama”…trying to say our names as much as he could. He was pleased to show us some of the English words he had learned in school and he actually has a very good accent. He is highly motivated to learn English and was repeating and remembering many words throughout the day. After about 5 hours together, we had to bring him back to the orphanage. We were so pleased with the freedom we were given by this director. Tomorrow we will get him at 9 in the morning and keep him with us all day long—wherever we want to go. One similarity he had with Chase was that he kept asking for reassurance all through the visit, that we were indeed coming back tomorrow morning. He’d be working on building a car, for instance, with Norman and would say, “So you are coming back tomorrow at 9 in the morning and then I will spend the whole day with you, right?” And we kept assuring him that yes, that’s how it would happen. He was so pleased with the photo book we brought him with pictures of our home and the family. When he saw Gracie and Sara he said, “Awww, they’re so sweet.” And when he saw “Tyler” he said, “Aww, poor thing.” He told us that he is going to help us with all the children. When we told him he would be the oldest brother and could boss everyone around he just laughed and said, “Nooo, nooo.”

This orphanage is completely different from the last one we went to (our facilitator told us the last one is similar to the one in Pleven). I believe his teacher is Christian…I saw Christian coloring books teaching of the miracles of Jesus, and she told us that he goes to Sunday school every week and knows about the Bible. The culture is still very different from ours though and he spends his evenings watching soap operas with the caretakers and the other children. He told us that tonight was the season finale and about how this guy married this woman but this other guy was going to blow up this place and this one lady was such a gossip and a bad woman and that this is why her husband doesn’t want to be married to her anymore, etc. etc….typical soap opera stuff! LOL. I’m so happy, though, that, unlike Chase, Max knows love. His teacher absolutely loves him. All of the workers do, and throughout the visit, different people kept calling his teacher on the phone to ask her how it was going, because they wanted so badly for things to go well and for his family to like him. They all say that he is such a good, charming, kind boy and were so happy when they found out he had a family coming for him. His teacher will miss him, though, and he told her that he will write to her and send her e-mails and pictures when he moves away.

Tomorrow morning we pick him up again and will spend the whole day together. He really enjoys doing things with Norman, such as building cars, playing games, sitting in the front seat of the car, etc. And he’s a very pleasant little boy to be around…in some ways, much younger than 12-years-old, but in other ways, much older. I can’t stop thinking about all of the other children in his orphanage waiting for families. Most of them have no serious special needs….their special need is that they are too old and families don’t want to take a chance on them. Our facilitator tells us that when these children age out of the orphanage they will have no chance at a decent life. They will turn to drugs, the girls will get pregnant at a very young age, it will be very hard to get a job, etc. I pray that God will move hearts in this country and that the body of Christ will work together to take in all of these precious waiting children. This is a mission field just waiting to be harvested. These children have waited their entire lives to have a real family. And God’s chosen people, his very own adopted sons and daughters, can have the honor and privilege of becoming parents to these precious souls. Pray that hearts will be touched in this matter. God bless you and thank you so much for helping us raise the funds to bring these three sweet boys home. If you’d like to make a tax-deductible donation towards our adoption please click HERE.

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