Monday, July 29, 2013

Beach Vacation

When you arrive home with an adopted child, it is recommended that you limit their exposure to other people and that you stay home as much as possible to bond.  What is NOT recommended, is taking your newly adopted child to the beach the 2nd week they are home to spend a week in another new place with 2 grandparents, 3 sets of aunts/uncles, and 8 other cousins (all under the age of 10!).  Yes, that is what we did.  Every year we spend a week with my family at the beach.  My kids look forward to this week every year.  We knew it was not a good idea for Vivian, but we wanted so much for the older three to get to go.  They have been such troopers during this entire adoption and we decided they deserved for us to at least give it a try.  We told everyone if Vivian was struggling, we would leave.  Before we left, Vivian was still very clingy to me, hesitant to go to anyone else, and NOT a fan of the pool/water.  I was pretty sure this was not going to go well and was prepared to head home after a few days.

I was not prepared for the fact that SHE LOVED IT!!!!  Loved the pool, loved her cousins, loved  her aunts and uncles and had a blast!  I really think she enjoyed having so many kids around her again.  They really brought her out of her shell.  She was quite the star at the beach.  There was always an "entourage" around her of either cousins or aunts and uncles wanting to hold her, help her, feed her or just follow her around.  She wanted for nothing all week long.  The only thing she was not a big fan of was the beach.  She is incredibly neat and hates messes, and was not thrilled with sand on her feet or hands.  Most of the week it was hard to get her to put her feet down, but even that improved by the end of the week.  The last night she was running all over the beach having the time of her life.  

Have I said before that this child is amazing?

Loving the pool
having fun with all the cousins

making me wipe the sand off her feet

hanging with her aunts
Disney bingo

first bike ride

swimming with Daddy

Bonding with Pop Pop
and with Grammy

more spoiling by her aunts

We showered one night and did the family beach picture thing

me and my girls
me, my mom, my sisters and our girls

James, John and Kate had a wonderful week, also, and we were thrilled for them.  They have made us so proud the way they are embracing their new sister and allowing her to steal the spotlight for a while. Especially Kate.  She has been the princess in this house for 6 years and she is doing a great job sharing her throne. She has had a few hard moments, for sure, but all in all she has been handling it well.  We tried to make sure the big kids got some special time during the week

puzzles with Pop Pop
on her way to swim just her and  Daddy

and tried to give them some "big kid" things to do


I love these pictures of James and Vivian.  James has been working so hard since the day Vivian arrived home to get her to "like" him.  He is so patient and very good to both of his sisters.  The last night on the beach they really clicked and she was letting him play with her and carry her around.

I think about how, less than one month ago, Vivian had no family.  No mom, no dad, no siblings, no cousins, no grandparents.  I also think about how, due to the One-Child policy, so many children in China do not have cousins.  It is hard for me to imagine.  And here she is now ...  a daughter, granddaughter, niece and cousin.  She is so loved.   I love this last picture of her running back to where her adoring "fans" were watching and cheering her on.  I love seeing her running free and experiencing a whole new life.  It is such a privilege to be a part of it.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Another chance to help

We have broken all the rules of what you are "supposed" to do when returning home with an adopted child, and we are currently at the beach with my family for a week of vacation.  Luckily, Vivian is enjoying herself and having fun hanging out with and getting to know her cousins and aunts and uncles.  Many pictures will be coming soon!

I had to do this post because I have some very exciting and important news to share.  As many of you know, Rob and I were heartbroken by our trip to Vivian's orphanage.  In the van ride home from our visit, I remember vowing to myself that I would NOT forget those who we were leaving behind.  While in China, I heard from a friend of mine who was there adopting that an adoption agency is the U.S. was partnering with Vivian's orphanage to try and help them. I was so excited to hear this!  When agencies partner with orphanages, everyone benefits. The first morning I woke  up when we got home from China, I emailed this adoption agency (A Helping Hand Adoption Agency) to find out what I could about this partnership.  I was able to connect with a contact person at the agency who had been to visit Vivian's orphanage!! Since we were not allowed inside, I was so excited to make contact with someone who had been allowed in.

I  asked the contact person at this agency what her impressions of the orphanage were, and this is what she told me about her visit:

"They didn’t appear to do much “snuggling” or interaction with the children, mostly a caretaking business-like approach.   I was so happy to see that you had taken toys.  In the rooms I visited (which were where the cribs were located) I did not see any toys, .. NONE, which broke my heart." 

It is clear to us from observing Vivian that she was not exposed to many (if any) toys/dolls.  She did not have the first clue how to play with a baby doll when we first gave her one.  It is also clear to us from her flat head and back that she spent A LOT of time in her crib.  She walks more like a child learning to walk than a typical 3 year old and we don't think she was taken outside to play much, if at all.  We did not observe any children's playground equipment when we were there, either. When we took her to the park for the first time, she was scared of the swing and did not know what to do on a slide.  She does not have any words, either, and we can only imagine she was not talked TO much.  This is the reality of orphanage life.

This orphanage needs our help.  The kids inside need our help.  I ask you to please, please (pretty please!) consider a donation to this agency to help them.  No amount is too small.  I am including the link to the donate page below, and here you will find more information on what they intend to do with the money they raise.  It would make me so happy if, by posting this link on my blog, I could help them raise this money.  I don't think people realize that it takes money and resources for orphanages to file adoption papers on children, and without those things they just can't participate in domestic or international adoption.

Driving away from Vivian's orphanage was was of the saddest moments of my life.  Of course we were so happy to be leaving with Vivian, but in that moment I was so sad for the children inside and mostly thinking of those who I know will never be adopted, and will never know the love of a mom and a dad.  The reality is that there is just no way all these kids will be adopted.  BUT, my hope is that more of these precious children will have the chance to have a family.  At one point during our visit to the orphanage, our guide was called back in to take the picture of two little girls whose adoption papers the orphanage hopes to prepare soon.  We were told to stay in the van because evidently, these two little girls were Vivian's best friends, and they didn't want her to see them and get upset.  Our guide shared their pictures with us.  When I look at these pictures, I see something so very familiar.  It is not the black hair or the beautiful black eyes I recognize. It is the sadness.  It is the look of a child that is simply surviving, not thriving.  It is the look of a child that has no idea what it is like to be adored.  If my words do not move you, I hope their faces will:

I know those eyes.  I have seen them first hand.  I know that lost, lonely look because I saw it when I met my daughter

And I have witnessed how that look can change.  I have seen what love can do.  Even in 3 short weeks

I realize not everyone is called to adopt a child.  But, I do believe we are all called to help the weak and vulnerable in our world.  I would love it if you would consider a donation to do just that for these children who hold such a special place in our hearts.  If you are interested, here is the link to donate to this orphanage through A Helping Hand Adoption Agency:

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
    for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
    defend the rights of the poor and needy.

-Proverbs 31:8-9

Thank you.  If you are viewing this on an email update, you may need to view in your browser to get this link to work.

Friday, July 19, 2013

1st week home

I can't believe we have been home for a week!  If I had the time I should've posted every day, because I feel like I have already forgotten all that has happened in a week!!

Our first few days home were a little bit of a blur.  We were very jet lagged and having a little trouble adjusting our clocks.  We had two nights where Vivian was up around 3 and 4 a.m., and so we were pretty tired the first few days home.  Vivian has been VERY attached to me (like, won't let me out of her sight or touch for more than a few minutes).  This is hard b/c I am so out of practice with having a toddler follow me everywhere!!  But, this is great because she is attaching well to me.  Lucky for me, my parents are here helping  us with the kids.  Vivian has learned that having a "Grammy" and "Pop pop" can be pretty fun and she loves my mom and dad

Rob's parents and brother came to meet Vivian and she loved all of them, also.  I did not get any good pictures of her with her other grandparents, but I got this one of her with Rob's brother

Vivian and Uncle Billy

She has had many "firsts" this week.  For example:

Her first time in a swing

not so sure at first
but she got the idea!

First trip to the pool

she was NOT impressed with our pool, even though her siblings and cousins really wanted  her to be!

First trip to TCBY

camera malfunction but you get the idea

First "girls only" shopping trip to Old Navy

Then later in the week to the mall

Vivian is doing better and better every day with her siblings.  She has 3 people that constantly want to pick her up and play with her and who don't quite understand that she is still trying to figure all this out.  I have to say, we are really, really proud of the older three kids.  They are giving Vivi lots and lots of love, and they are not yet getting it quite back in return.  Yet, they just keep on giving, and keep on trying.  They are being very patient and I know one day, when she returns their affection, it will be awesome for them.  But for now, I see a lot of this "help me" look on her face when her siblings are around

But I also see more and more sweet moments every day, and her trust in them is growing.  She is actually quite bossy!! It is hilarious to watch this itty bitty little girl boss these big kids around.  And they do whatever she wants!

Vivian had a hard time with some sleep issues at the beginning of the week.  She started crying and crying every time I would put her down for a nap or bedtime.  Luckily, it has improved as the week went on. While in China and when we first got home, Vivian wanted nothing to do with the purple blanket we bought her. She would kick it off and push it away.  Kind of like she didn't want anything to do with us consoling her. I'm sure there is some psychology behind this, but the other day when I was putting her to sleep, she pointed to her blanket and then pointed into her pack n play for me to put it in with her.  All of the sudden, she wanted it.  She hardly cried that night and when I checked on her later this is what I  found:

I still look at her every day and can't believe she was in an orphanage for almost 3 years.  I wonder if it will ever stop breaking my heart to think about.  I also look at her every day and can't get over how she feels like the perfect daughter/sister for our family.  Like, really.  She seems like JUST.THE.ONE we were supposed to find.  How could it ever have been ANYONE but her?

I feel like, just as she decided to accept her blanket,  every day she accepts our love a little more.  Every day she lets us in a little more.  Trusts us a little more and depends on us a little more.  Shows us a little more of her real personality.  It is going to be a process, a long one, to get her to understand that we are here FOREVER, but we are willing to do whatever it takes for however long it takes to make sure she understands that.  To make sure she realizes that our love is not temporary.  It will be a long road, but that is OK, this girl is SO worth it.

"And there will come a time, you'll see, with no more tears.
And love will not break your heart...."
-Mumford & Sons 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

We are home!!

We have made it home! It was an incredibly long day of travel.  We had a 15 hour flight from Hong Kong to Newark, then an 8 hour layover in Newark (we were delayed AGAIN), and a 2 hour flight from Newark home.  Rob and I were awake for over 24 hours but the good news is Vivian was awesome!  She only slept about 4 hours on the flight from China (harder on me than her)!  Needless to say we were exhausted when we landed, but incredibly happy.  When our wheels touched down I started bawling.  Very emotional to finally be home with Vivian.

Our kids talked us into letting them stay up late to greet Vivian (we finally landed at almost midnight).  I'm so glad we did.  My parents were also there along with my sisters Kathleen and Megan, and my best friend, Vicky.  There were all so sweet to stay up so late just to get a chance to greet Vivian.  

Things have been going really well since we arrived home.  Vivian is getting more and more comfortable everyday in her new home. She has taken to my mom and dad and it is very cute.  The kids are a little "in her face" right now, but we are trying to help them to chill out a bit and give her some space.  We are struggling with some jet lag (Rob, Vivian and I all started our day at 3 am today), but that is expected and we hope in the next few days we can adjust back to a normal time schedule.

It is just awesome to be on the other side of this journey.  Rob and I feel our biggest job right now is to make sure we work hard to help Vivian transition, but to also make sure we are paying as much attention as possible to our other three kids.  That is a little trickier with an adopted child than when you bring a newborn home from the hospital.  Vivian is very needy of me and I want that, but I also want to be holding and loving on my other kids that I missed so much.  We have our work cut out for us for a while!

Everyone is asking me if I am going to continue to blog.  For right now, the answer is yes.  I definitely think Vivian's transition into our family is a part of her story.  But, I also think now that we are home, finding the time to blog is going to get more and more difficult, and I don't know exactly how long I will keep it up.  I don't want to continue to do it if it is interfering with any time I  need to be spending with my four kids!!  I think I will know when the time is right to wrap things up.