Thursday, July 14, 2016
Friday, July 1, 2016
I can't believe that we have already been home a week. Things are going incredibly well, but we are very tired, and life is hard in some ways.
Once again, Jonathan surprised us by doing better than we had dared to hope on the flights home. He did get upset at security this time, but that was something of a blessing, as the security agents moved us through the line very quickly. Then we had a late dinner at the same restaurant we had eaten at with Isabelle and Hallie three years earlier. We met another American family at the gate, and had a nice time talking with them. Then, Jonathan and I went to play on the moving sidewalks. He LOVED those. I think he would have played on them all night if I had let him. Fortunately for me, it was almost time to board the plane. :-) He laughed during take-off, and then sat calmly playing with his seatbelt and cupholder until they served dinner. He ate a second dinner, and then curled up with his blanket and fell asleep. He slept for eight hours!! Greg and I each got a bit of sleep too. Once he woke up, he ate breakfast and then was happy to play by himself until time to land. He didn't even get scared when we landed this time. We didn't have any trouble at the airport, and made it safely to the hotel in LA about 10pm Pacific time. Greg and I hadn't had much to eat since the airport dinner fifteen hours earlier, so we were very hungry. Greg ordered some food, and I gave Jonathan a bath while we waited. Jonathan loves his baths, but he was very disappointed to discover that this bathtub had a textured bottom rather than the smooth one he was used to. He tolerated his bath, but did not enjoy it. He ate a good dinner, and then we tucked him into bed. He fell asleep easily, and we thought we were going to have a smooth night. Unfortunately, he woke up disoriented about 4am, and went into a full meltdown. Nothing we tried would calm him down. He screamed and thrashed for a full half hour, and it was another thirty minutes after that before we could get him back to sleep. In spite of his terrible night, he woke up in a pretty good mood the next morning, and did well for the whole flight home. A good friend picked us up at the airport and drove us back to our house, where another friend was keeping our children. We had warned our kids that Jonathan was easily overwhelmed and frightened of crowds, so they were all very careful to stay quiet and calm. It was so wonderful to see them all again!
The next few days are a bit of a blur. Jonathan had a hard time adjusting to the new time zone, and Greg and I both had bad cases of jet lag. Poor Victoria adores Jonathan, and tried to show that by yelling his name and hugging him every time she saw him. He responded by screaming and running away. Then, she would burst into tears, because her feelings were hurt. Most of the time, Hallie then started crying because other people were crying. Those first 48 hours were pretty rough and involved a lot of tears. Things are getting much better, though. Victoria is learning to approach him more calmly, and he is increasingly tolerant of her. Often they will sit side-by-side in my lap now. I don't think we have had any days without tantrums yet, but we are getting closer. When he does throw fits now, he calms down much more quickly. More and more of the time, he is pleasant and delightful. I will try to update this a bit more regularly now, so there isn't quite so much information in each post. Please keep praying for us as we adjust to being a family of 10 and try to catch up on our sleep. I'll end with a few pictures of Jonathan playing in the backyard with his brothers and sisters.
Thursday, June 23, 2016
It's been a couple of days since we last posted anything, but things have gone well here overall. Jonathan continues to make progress in his bond with us, and each day he trusts us a little more than he did the day before. He's thrown a few tantrums along the way, which have been good opportunities for us to address his behavior while reinforcing our love for him, even if it means that shopping trips and bed time don't go as smoothly as we'd expected. All in all, this has been a good trip, but we are ready to be home now with all 8 of our kids in the same place.
The good news? Our flight to L.A. is scheduled to leave Guangzhou in about 4-½ hours. The bad news? We have no idea what to expect from Jonathan on the flight. He did great on the 2-hour flight here to Guangzhou last weekend, but the 13-hour trans-Pacific flight is another beast entirely, as anyone who's made that flight knows. Please pray for us and for him. It would be ideal if he'd sleep for at least a few hours. The flights home are going to be hard on him; there's no way around that. But they'll be significantly easier if he can get at least some sleep on the plane and then again at the hotel in L.A. before we get back home to Cincinnati.
Thanks for all the prayers over the past two weeks. We appreciate them, and we look forward to updating you all from the other (right) side of the world!
Monday, June 20, 2016
Now that we have had our son for a full week, we feel like we are getting to know him a little bit. Obviously, he will continue to change as he gets more comfortable with us, and we both know that there is a lot about him that we won't discover for quite a while. Even so, we are starting to get to know the real him, and he is a pretty great little guy.
He has some very strange little quirks. He LOVES paper. Tags from clothing, labels from water bottles, wrappers from snacks - pretty much any kind of paper. He will walk around collecting it and clutch it in his left hand like it is a treasure. We have decided that he can have any of the paper from our room, but he is NOT allowed to pick paper up off the street. He threw a few fits the first few days when we wouldn't let him do this, but he has accepted our compromise now. He also loves spinning things. Coins, lids, water bottles, balls. He will stand at the little table in our room and spin and spin and spin.
Several things about him have been easier than we expected. Often children from institutions are afraid to take a bath, and we were expecting this to be the case for him. He was a little timid the first two times, but now he loves his bath. When he is stressed or overstimulated, his bath calms him back down every time. He is a great eater. We haven't found anything that he won't eat, although he isn't crazy about tomatoes or peaches. He is a really great sleeper too. He sleeps 11 to 12 hours at night and takes a 2 hour nap each afternoon. He has appropriate fear of danger. He is very frightened of moving cars, and insists on holding our hands whenever he is out of the room. We took him to the park to play with bubbles, and he loved chasing them around to pop them, but he was very, very careful not to go too far away from us. Finally Greg and I moved to opposite sides of the little courtyard, and he was happy to run all around between us popping bubbles.
Other things about him have been pretty challenging. He has no language, at all. Not even one word. We know that he can hear, because he reacts appropriately to many sounds. He turns to the elevator when the bell dings, and comes running to the bathroom when he hears the water running. He often turns when we call his name, especially if the room is quiet. We have tried to teach him words and signs in English. He seems to recognize several of them now - his name, no, shoes, eat, drink, bath, Mommy, Daddy, diaper, etc - but he does not attempt to use any of them. He will communicate in his own way. He slides his water bottle toward me when he wants a drink. He brings me the bag of snack food when he wants a snack. He will bring us toys to turn on or open. Once, he took my hand and led me to the bathroom to indicate that he wanted a bath.
He has a nasty temper. His level of frustration stays pretty high, probably because of the lack of communication, and it doesn't take much to send him into a fit. We are trying to learn the difference between the melt-downs that he can't control because of sensory overload, and the tantrums just because he doesn't get his own way. We are making some progress in this area, but we still have a long way to go. He seems to get mad at Greg even more quickly, and often gives him trouble over things that he does well for me. He really is a Mommy's boy, and wants to know where I am all of the time. Often he doesn't interact directly with me, but he wants to be near me. He usually picks the hard surface closest to me to do his spinning. If I am sitting on the bed, he will spin his toys on the end table. Then, if I move to the closet, he doesn't say anything, or look directly at me, but he will gather his toys and come spin them on the dresser by the closet. He is a funny little guy. He does enjoy playing with us for short stretches of time, and he has even started initiating play with us by bringing a toy over and dropping it in our laps. He also really enjoys books, and will sit in my lap and turn the pages while I read.
Saturday, June 18, 2016
The last few days have been busy and challenging for us, but they have been good too. On Thursday, after spending the morning at a local park with our guide, we began packing for the move down to Guangzhou. On Friday, after grabbing an early lunch and picking up Jonathan's passport, we rode to the airport. I was very, very concerned about how he would handle all of the new experiences that day, but he surprised me by doing better than I had dared to hope. I expected him to be terrified at security, but he didn't seem to mind at all. He insisted on holding my hand the whole time, and the girl who checked us with the security wand allowed him to do that. He never even whimpered. Greg and I were both shocked. Then we found our gate and Jonathan and I sat and waited while Greg got us something to drink. And we waited. And waited. And waited. Even through this, Jonathan was very good. He had one tiny fit when I wouldn't let him climb some stairs, but as soon as I said firmly, "No, Jonathan. No fits," he stopped.
Finally, after our plane was supposed to have taken off, they announced that we were going to start boarding. They led us all outside to a tiny, crowded bus and we piled in. Then they drove us all around the outside of the airport to a set of metal stairs that led up to the walkway which would let us board the plane. About halfway up the stairs, Jonathan finally lost it. He started screaming and thrashing and kicking. It took both of my hands to keep him from falling or kicking other passengers, so Greg ended up carrying both of our bags and Jonathan's stroller. He screamed as we walked into the plane and all the way to our seats. I think I actually pulled a muscle in my right hip or lower back trying to hold on to him. Once we got to our seats, he calmed down pretty quickly. He thought take-off was hilarious. He kept looking around and giggling. He seemed to love the flight. He played with his seatbelt, and ate some snacks and looked out the window. Because of bad weather, we had to circle the Guangzhou airport for about 20 minutes before we could land, but he didn't even seem to mind that. When we made our final descent, he looked a bit concerned, and I wonder if his ear was hurting, and then when we touched down, he lost it again. He began screaming and thrashing in his seat. I think it really scared him, but as soon as I pulled him into my lap, he stopped crying. He did great as we taxied to the gate, and left the plane, and walked to the baggage claim. And then we waited some more. And waited. And waited. He got wilder and wilder the longer we waited. Fortunately we met a nice woman from Israel who offered him some cookies, and I think that might have saved my sanity. Once the baggage finally arrived, we left the airport, met our guide, and drove to the hotel. Once we got to the room, Jonathan finally lost it for good. He was so tired and overstimulated that he couldn't hold it together any longer. He lay on the bed screaming and thrashing and writhing. I curled up next to him, and after about 15 minutes got him calm enough that he let me hold him and help him gradually change the thrashing to a gentle rocking. It only took him a few minutes to rock himself to sleep. I then collapsed into bed, and slept for over eight hours!! That is the first time I have had a whole night's sleep since we got here!
Today we had to do the medical visit. That is one of my least favorite parts of this whole process, and it was every bit as bad as I expected. Jonathan screamed and cried for most of the time we were there. Once we left, we were all exhausted. Greg and I were both afraid that Jonathan would have a difficult day because of this, but after lunch and a great nap, he woke up in the best mood we have ever seen him in. He worked his simple puzzle for the first time, and happily explored all of his toys. We walked down to Lucy's for dinner, and he seemed to love that. He was smiling and chuckling to himself on the walk back to the room, so Greg tried to get a picture of him, but as soon as Jonathan saw the camera, he made his serious duck face.
Back in the room, he sat down and played ball with Greg for a few minutes. We have been trying to get him to play ball with us since the first day, and this is the first time he showed any interest at all in playing with it. Then he helped clean up his toys (sort of - we are still working on that), listened to his bedtime story, and went to bed. We really can't believe how much progress he has made in just a few days. He is a great little guy, and we are so thankful for him.
Thursday, June 16, 2016
After a much needed day off yesterday, we went to a park here in the city this morning with our guide Danielle and her almost-two-year-old son, Patrick. It was a beautiful day to be outside, even though it was almost 90 degrees when we got outside. As we'd suspected, Jonathan hasn't done much walking around outside, and that showed today. He tired out after about half an hour of walking, and the combination of being physically tired, hot, and somewhat overstimulated by the sights and sounds of the park resulted in a handful of tantrums and meltdowns in our last 15-20 minutes outside. Even after just three days with us, though, he's responding better when we tell him he can't respond like that. When he starts flailing about, we sometimes have to restrain his arms and legs, and where this just increased his frustration earlier in the week, it now helps him calm down and come back to himself.
We ate a lunch of instant noodle bowls back in our hotel room, and he LOVED the noodles, so much so that he ate more than Kristie did. Thankfully, even before lunch was ready, he had calmed down from the morning's activity. He spent some time sitting off by himself, playing with toys and spinning bottle tops, coins, and whatever else he can find to spin. We're learning that he occasionally needs some time to himself to cope following a period of intense (at least for him) activity. The good news is that he hasn't yet gotten completely lost in his own world; he wants to make sure we're still nearby, even if he's not ready for us to interact directly with him. Life with him is all about balance, and yesterday and today have been really good for us all as we try to figure out how our life together is going to work.
Given the hard times he had at nap time and bed time yesterday (not nearly as bad as on Monday, but still difficult), we were a little apprehensive heading into his nap today. We didn't know whether the morning's activity would have tired him out so much that he'd just fall asleep or have upset him so that he wouldn't want to sleep. It turns out, neither was the case. He was definitely tired from the morning, but not to the point that he collapsed into bed. He had returned to playing with some toys after lunch, and when I picked him up to change his diaper and settle him into bed, he didn't resist at all. In fact, he was sound asleep within about 15 minutes, and he slept peacefully and contentedly for over two hours.
We're just about to head out for dinner again tonight. Our bags are mostly packed for tomorrow's flight to Guangzhou, where we'll begin the last week of our stay here. We don't know how he'll handle the airport or the flight, so we'd appreciate your prayers for that. We can't thank God enough for this little guy, and we hope he'll be able to keep things together tomorrow.
Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Greg posted yesterday and filled everyone in on our time here in China. I am so thankful that he did. I really wanted to update the blog, but was too tired to do anything. I have had a terrible time with jet-lag this trip, and I have barely managed to do the essential things. Last night, I finally got some sleep, and I am feeling more like myself now.
As Greg shared, Jonathan really is an incredible kid. When he isn't overstimulated, he is the sweetest, happiest little guy you can imagine. He will entertain himself for long, LONG periods of time. Greg and I are working hard to find the balance between lettting him have the space to process all the changes that have taken place in his world, but also encouraging him to interact with us. All in all, he is doing better than we had ever dared to hope.
I have spent a lot of time over the past few days thinking about the incredible power and goodness of God. When Greg and I started Jonathan's adoption, we knew that we did not have the power to do anything on our own. We did not have the money for the adoption, and we did not have the time for elaborate fund raising activities. We prayed that if God wanted us to bring this child home, He would make it happen. I mentioned in a early post that Jonathan's middle name is Zechariah, and that our banner verse for his adoption was from the book of Zechariah. "Not by might or by power, but by my spirt says the Lord." We knew that was the only way that Jonathan's adoption would be possible. Many times during the adoption process, I wondered if Jonathan was really going to come home. We hit several challenges that I didn't think we would be able to overcome. And yet her we are. I'm typing this from a hotel room in China while my new son takes his nap. God has done this, and it is almost too wonderful for us to believe. I hope that everyone who has been following our story has seen the mighty power of our God, and the deep love that He has for His children. We are humbled and honored to be used by God in this way, and are more thankful to Him for our new son than we will ever be able to express. Please join us in thanking and praising Him for His mighty work.
We could still use your prayers in many ways. Please pray that God will help us overcome the remainder of our jet-lag. Mine has been severe, and Greg's has been moderate. We both seem to be through the worst of it now, but are not back to normal yet. Pray for Jonathan. He is doing so well that it is easy to forget how difficult these last few days have been for him. Pray for us on Friday as we fly down to Guangzhou. I expect the flight to be scary for Jonathan, so please pray that God will give him peace and enable us to comfort him.