Wednesday, August 31, 2016

It's GO time!!

We're as ready as we're going to get! We're packed, fridge is full, binder of instructions is made, countdown is hung and little gifts for the kiddos here are laid out.  Joey has a
bed, clothes, toothbrush,etc waiting for him.  We leave bright and early in the morning!!

Last picture as a family of six!!!!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Three Days till GO

Travel Itinerary
Thurs Sept 1-  Leave for China!!!
Friday Sept 2- Arrive in Beijing
Sat Sept -3 Tour Beijing-Great Wall
Sun Sept 4- Fly to Urumqi, Xinjiang (Joey’s province)
Mon Sept 5- Gotcha Day!!! Joey joins our family!
Tues Sept 6- Adoption Registration-Adoption is finalized!
Wed Sept 7-Orphanage visit?? Hopefully!  And paperwork
Thurs Sept 8- Paperwork
Fri Sept 9- Fly to Guangzhou
Sat Sept 10-Joey’s Medical
Sun Sept 11-Paperwork
Mon Sept 12- Joey’s 2nd Medical
Tues Sept 13- Consulate Appointment!
Wed Sept 14-Receive visa, travel to Hong Kong 
Thurs Sept 15- Fly home, arrive home at 7:25pm

This time next week, he'll be ours!!  I can't imagine what he's thinking and feeling.

If you'd like to come greet us at the airport when we get home, please let me know!


Thursday, August 25, 2016

Fully Funded!!

We are so blessed to be able to say that we are fully funded for this adoption!!!  A little over 9 months ago, we started a process we were not planning. We did not have the money for a $35,000+ adoption at all!! We had no idea where that money would come from, but we took a huge leap of faith and jumped!  What's really crazy is to think that this is our third adoption in the last 5 years, whew that's a lot of money and a lot of paperwork! But boy, do the blessings outweigh the hardships.  There were many times in the last 9 months that we'd be worried about having to pay another chunk of funds soon, and then the money would come in from an unexpected place just in time. Simply amazing.

I really encourage you to not discount adoption in your life due to cost. If it's something God is calling you to, He'll provide the funds one way or another.  If you feel a calling to bring a child into your home forever, then cost should not be a deterrent!  I'm happy to talk with you about grants, fundraising, garage sales, and adoption in general if it's something you're considering!  Feel free to contact me at or on Facebook if you'd like to chat.

To everyone who has been a part of this journey, from the generous donations to writing us letters of reference to donating items and working the garage sale and all the many, many other things you all have done for our family... we thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

This time next week, we'll be on the plane heading to China!


Monday, August 22, 2016

Cocooning with Joey

Dear Friends and Family,

As we prepare for Joey’s joyful homecoming, we wanted to share with you some of what we can expect in the coming months.  This will be a time of adjustment as we help him adapt to life with us. Bringing home an 8 year old boy is very different from having a baby join the family!  In his life, he has gone through more life changes than most adults could handle.  He will have experienced immense loss and feelings of grief.  He experienced the loss of his birth family, as well as the care takers and friends at the orphanage.  The sights, smells, tastes, sounds and language of his birth country will change overnight, not to mention a 12 hour time difference, very long flight, and a blunt introduction to his wild and wacky siblings!

While the day we meet Joey will be one of the best days of our lives, it may be one of the most difficult days of his life.  He will be grieving for the life he has lost.  We won’t know what he likes to eat, how he sleeps, what his favorite toys are, etc.  We’ll be starting scratch with this boy who has already had 8 years to develop his own likes and dislikes, only to have all that be completely taken away from him.  He also speaks no English- imagine not being able to communicate with the people who are taking care of you!

In order for us to form a bond with him, we'll need the time and privacy to hold, soothe and feed him, and basically help him learn that we're his forever family. Over time, he will learn that we are safe to trust and to love. We plan to “cocoon” around him and spend time at home as a family as much as we can for a while.  Of course we have to go out some, he has plenty of doctor's appointments, etc. but we're going to make a conscious effort to keep life as quiet as possible at first.

This may take weeks or months, not days.  The timeline is different for every child.  We will follow his lead and trust our instincts as his parents.  Of course, we also have 4 very active kids already, so we will strive for a balance for all our kids.  We followed these guidelines with Allie and Maggie as well, and are so glad we did!

You can help us by giving us your prayers and patience! We’ll keep everyone updated here as best as we can!  We have every confidence that he will adapt in his own time.  We are so grateful to have your support, patience and understanding!  We know Joey will grow to love each and every one of you as we do.

With love,
The Coleman Family:  Jeremy, Jen, Ben, Sam, Allie, Maggie and Joey

We were recently given some more older pictures of him, so much cuteness!!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Fur Babies

Y'all, preparing to leave 3 kids at home with various caregivers for 2 weeks is no joke.

Preparing to leave 4 very old fur babies at home may be even more of a concern!

Back in our pre-kids day, we were DUMB and treated ourselves to 2 kittens. Of course, they were adorable and so much fun (then). Then we got 2 sibling puppies and of course that was awesome too.

But then we had kids.

Why oh why did we do that??? 

So we now have almost 5 kids, 2 very old dogs, 2 very old cats and THREE aquariums full of fish and crawdads. 

Our cats are old (15), but could still live several more years. Our dogs, especially our biggest dog, should not be alive for a dog his size!  They are 14 years and counting... 

Of course we love each one of them, but they all have become extremely needy in the last few years, and even though it'll be hard, we'll be okay when it's time to say goodbye.  

Both dogs take a thyroid pill every day. One dog takes an anti-inflammatory pill every day.  One cat has major skin issues in the summer and has to go in for shots. Recently, one dog had surgery to remove an abscess, another had surgery to remove a tumor (in his PRIVATE, which resulted in him peeing sideways) and the cat had to have an absess removed on his head. That included a t-shirt that the dog had to wear for a couple weeks and a cone for the cat.

Our biggest dog (they are siblings from the same litter but he is much bigger than her) has a very weak hind-end, so he has a hard time getting up, doing stairs and basically moving.

We are ALWAYS at the vet.

One dog is literally afraid of her shadow and yelps anytime we come near her unexpectedly.

One dog and 2 cats pee ALL OVER MY HOUSE.  

One cat pees everywhere so much that we had to construct a cage for her in the basement. She still pees outside of the litter box and it runs out onto the floor for us to step in. We put the other cat in with her to eat, and then he jumps out of the cage and pees wherever he wants until we let him up.

One dog is literally almost completely deaf. The other dog's hearing is going.  Just to get their attention to go outside takes several of us shouting and clapping. Then when they finally get moving, it's like they're moving through molasses to the door. Then they just stand outside and bark to come in.

It's constant insanity. Constant.  Someone is always barking, peeing, needing a pill, needing to go to the vet. Oh and did I mention that both our dogs are more like goats and they eat toys, puzzles, books, papers and WET PULL-UPS whenever we don't keep things picked up?

So yeah.  Good luck with all that, caregivers. We're sorry.

Monday, August 15, 2016


Right now we're very caught up in back- to-school busy-ness.  It's the kids' last week of summer and we're doing some last minute fun things in addition to picking up schedules, gathering school supplies, etc.  I find myself getting completely caught up in the task at hand when it'll hit me all of the sudden like a ton of bricks:

Halfway across the world, there is a little boy waiting for me to come and BE HIS MOTHER.  

Friends, this takes my breathe away every time the thought pops in my head. It gives me butterflies and goosebumps. It brings tears to my eyes. I get to be his Momma.  Forever. How lucky am I?

Anyway, all this back-to-school business of course leaves us wondering about his schooling. We have very little knowledge of his academic background or lack thereof. We know he's part of an American run preschool program at his orphanage, which is good. But he's years past preschool age, so we're not sure what's gone on since then.  

Often kiddos in orphanages don't go to public school, in part because of the lack of acceptance of kids with special needs by the general public. Many times older children like Zhao Yu come home with very little schooling at all. From the information we've been given, it sounds like he is not able to read in Mandarin, which can be indicative of his lack of schooling. Does he even know his shapes, colors? Or maybe he'll blow us away by all he knows!  We have a lot to learn before we can decide where to proceed on making decisions for his schooling here.

Generally when older kids come home, they need time to get acclimated, bond well with us, and figure out this whole new life before schooling is even considered. Some kids are ready to go to school within a couple of months, others need a year or more. Many are home schooled for a while, until they have a better foundation for school.  We are taking the wait-and-see approach before we make any decisions. Our school district has been very supportive of us, and they have a team ready and waiting to get to know him and help ease him into school when we think he's ready.

Another decision we'll have to make is grade level. He's 8, so based on age he could do 2nd or 3rd grade.  We know 3rd is not an option for him. Second grade is a possibility, but we are also entertaining the idea of putting him into first grade to give him a strong academic foundation, especially if there isn't one. It's very common for children who are adopted at an older age to be placed a couple of grade levels below so that they can feel successful in school. We know he's very small for his age, and likely delayed in pretty much every way due to his life experiences so far. So we'll see. One thing we are planning to do is have him evaluated academically in his native language, which is Mandarin. We'll do that fairly quickly before his original language starts to fade. Hopefully that will give us a better idea of how to handle his schooling for now.

Lots of mysteries to solve! Being a former teacher, I'm especially curious about this particular aspect of getting to know him. Three weeks from today  he'll be in our arms and we can start to get to know our sweet son!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Unraveling the Mystery

Joey is a huge mystery to us in pretty much every way. Physically, personally, academically, socially...We have some limited information about him, but it's really a skeleton of all there is to know about him. When he comes home, our main priority is to bond with him and him with us, to attach deeply and well. That will take years, but the first few weeks and months will especially be focused on those things.  We can't wait to be his family, to love on him and care for him and start that bond. 

We're also excited to start figuring out the mystery of his physical condition. Arthrogryposis (AMC) is rare and affects every person differently, We really don't know a lot about what he can do physically and how we can help him.   The need for that will be somewhat urgent, as he sometimes requires a wheelchair and well, that's a whole new ball game for us. We're not sure how to care for him on a daily basis, how he gets around, how he rides in the car, how he gets ready for the day... We'll be in survival mode in China, but will ready for outside help fairly soon after we get home.  It's such a double-edged sword because while we don't want to overwhelm him, we're craving input and outside help.  

We still aren't sure what all doctors and specialists we'll need, but we've been given some places to start. Of course, this plan could completely go astray once we meet him, but this is the plan for now!

  • Pediatrician-get a baseline of his health and treat any possible infections, scabies, etc. if need be
  • International Adoption Clinic- overall health assessment, bloodwork, OT eval & social worker visit
  • Ortho-hand doctor
  • Ortho-foot doctor (because apparently they are different doctors who do not work on the same day)
  • Rehab clinic- not sure what this will entail, but was told they'll help us with daily functioning type things
  • Genetics
  • Wheelchair Fitting

We're also on a waiting list for an amazing AMC doc in Philly, but we were told it'll probably be a year before we can be seen by that particular doctor.

Hopefully these visits will give us a much bigger picture into his condition and what his care will look like. He's gone 8 years maintaining "status quo" and the kid is overdue to have the proper treatments so he is more comfortable and can function more easily and independently.  I'm sure it'll be a lot for him, and us, but taking him to these appointments will also reinforce to him that we're his parents and we're going to take care of him, which is a really good thing.

We leave 3 weeks from today!!!


Sunday, August 7, 2016

Countdown is on!!!

Time is flying by and the countdown is really on!  We leave in 25 days!  This is always the most surreal part of the adoption process for me.  For months it was just an idea and paperwork and it's setting in that we're preparing for a real human being to join our family!  And preparing for an 8 year old is very different than preparing for a baby.  There are so many things to think about and consider, and yet so much we won't know until we get to know him.  Sam is also 8, and he's already such a defined human being in his likes, dislikes, preferences quirks, fears...we don't know any of that about Joey!  We can't wait to get to know him, but it'll take time. At first we won't even be able to understand each other!  He's quite a mystery to us, personally, medically, academically...and we can't wait to learn all the things that make him who he is. 

 These last few weeks are very surreal, it's like we're stuck in this odd time warp. We're packing, preparing, organizing, but nothing has really changed yet. And then suddenly he'll be ours and so much will change in ways we can't envision.  It's a weird and scary place to be.  But we refuse to let fear of the unknown scare us.  And we remind ourselves that the fear we're feeling is nothing compared to what he must be feeling.

 We appreciate your prayers for our family of 7 as we walk through this time of transition and change!

"Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I
will uphold you with my righteous hand.". Isaiah 41:10


Thursday, August 4, 2016

Travel Dates Set!!!

Our flights are booked!!!! 

We'll be gone September 1-15, and meet Zhao Yu on September 5th!!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Sam News

We discovered Sam's egg allergy when he was 5 months old. He has since outgrown a milk and peanut allergy (Hallelujah!), but the egg allergy has hung on strong. We were originally told he'd likely outgrow it by age 5 and now they're saying by age 12, hopefully.  But as recently as this past spring, he had another reaction to a very small cookie with a very small amount of egg in it.

We originally planned to take him to China with us despite the egg allergy. But after doing more research, we realized that having to pack most of his food for a 2 week plus trip would be very hard and stressful for everyone. So we decided he would not go. But then we saw his allergist and learned that his recent bloodwork showed a drop in his egg allergy numbers. So she recommended we try an at-home baked egg trial to see if we could slowly build his immunity to egg over time.

So about a month ago, he had a cookie with 1/96th of an egg in it... and didn't react! So he continued eating a cookie with that amount every day for a week.  The next week, we doubled it and he tolerated 1/48th of an egg, then 1/24th of an egg... we were getting there! That was more egg than he'd ever been able to tolerate before, so we were hopeful. His allergist said if we can get him to 1/6th of an egg baked in something, then he should be okay to eat any baked egg item. But this week we upped the amount of 1/20th of an egg, and he had a reaction.

His reactions have always been very consistent. About an hour after he eats the egg, he gets severe stomach cramps that last a couple of hours. He sometimes has vomiting or diarrhea. This time was the same and he was miserable, both physically and also emotionally knowing that the allergy is still hanging on.

It's so disappointing and upsetting. Coincidentally, this reaction occurred at the exact same time that we discovered Maggie's fistula in her palate. It was not a good day!  But, the good news is that he has made some progress and can tolerate more egg than he used to. He's obviously very sensitive to it, as most people with similar bloodwork numbers are able to tolerate baked egg.  We're holding onto hope that he just needs more time for his body to mature and to better handle egg.  We've very thankful that his reactions are not usually anaphalactic. It doesn't seem to affect his breathing, etc. which is a huge blessings. (Of course we have no idea what would happen if he would get a lot of egg at one time.)

Since starting the trial, we've been living in limbo, not knowing if he'd be able to go to China with us. So I've been packing for him to come and also preparing for him to stay. This reaction lets us know that he's not meant to go with us. It breaks my heart that he'll miss out on such a big life experience due to a ridiculous allergy to such a common food! But our main purpose of this trip is to bring Joey home, and we need to be the best parents to him we can possibly be while we're there. He deserves our full attention. Bringing Sam and trying to feed him safely is an unnecessary stress and a risk to his safety, so he will be staying home.  I'm sure he'll be a great help to his little sisters as the man in the house while we're gone. :)

It's hard to see your child suffer for any reason. He's missed out on so many things due to this allergy: birthday parties, school events, going to a friend's house, eating out, sporting events etc. all are stressful since so many foods are served that he can't have. It's so hard to see him miss out on things that kids love to eat. But I know this is making him stronger and it also gives him such a heart for others who are also suffering. When he saw Maggie throwing up blood at the hospital, he was in tears. He said he "felt all tingly" all over because she was hurting. He has the biggest heart and I have no doubt that his food limitations are helping to facilitate the growth of that love he has for others, and that's priceless.

I'm thankful that he's safe and I'm thankful to have a final answer on the China trip.  Most of all, I'm thankful that we have hope that one day he'll be free of this allergy!

Man do I love this kid!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Steps Back but Looking Forward

In the world of international adoption, there are levels of needs, and as an adoptive parent, you can decide how severe of a need you are willing to consider taking on. Cleft lip/palate is in the "minor/correctable" category.  In some ways, I agree with this. After all, there are many special needs much more severe and require life-long care.

However, a cleft is not minor, nor is it completely correctable.  She'll always have a scar above her lip. The inside of her mouth will never be "normal". Over the years, we can make it better, but never will it be "normal."  A huge misconception is that people think that she's "done" and completely fixed after one surgery. But in reality, cleft repair spans the entire course of childhood and often into adulthood. Maggie has had 3 surgeries and has an undetermined amount in her future. Speech is a huge ongoing issue.  We haven't even begun to address the multitude of dental repairs that are in her future. But that's okay, she's our girl and we'll do anything and everything we can to help her.

In the spring, we found out she has "Velopharyngeal Insufficiency" which meant that air was escaping out her nose when she talked, making her very nasally. They also said the back of her palate was wavy and uneven and short. These are common issues that kiddos with clefts have.  They said she needed a surgery that would fine-tune her palate, lengthen it and hopefully improve that hyper-nasality and speech to an extent. We knew it wouldn't be a magic cure-all, but hopefully a step in the right direction. So we decided to proceed with the surgery.

Timing became an issue, because they were scheduling for September at that time, and we knew we'd be in China then. The surgical department was understanding of our dilemma and offered us a July date as an "add-on". That meant we'd be guaranteed a day but not a surgery time on that day. We agreed, thinking that enduring a possibly long day of waiting would be worth it to get the surgery done and her healed before we left for China. So Friday, July 22nd we arrived at 11am at the hospital.  We waited. And waited. And waited. She had had no food, and they continued to tell us she would be squeezed in "soon".  But late afternoon, we were told that it wasn't looking good, that they had an unusual amount of add-ons, and they weren't going to get to her that day after all. So after going nearly 24 hours without food, we dragged our poor girl back home.

They offered to make time for her first thing Monday morning.  We appreciated them clearing the surgeon's schedule, but we were frustrated. Not only did we waste a day with her starving and stressed, we had also cut our vacation short to be back for surgery on Friday. Jeremy had to go back to work and we had to figure out childcare for everyone else.  I also felt like we were losing valuable summer days with the kids. But it couldn't be helped and so Monday, July 25th, Maggie and I were back at the hospital at 6am to repeat the same pre-op check-in that we had done on Friday.  I felt like we started off exhausted from being there all day Friday, but we were hopeful.  Thankfully, they got her right in and the surgery took just under 2 hours. The surgeon said it went well and he was hopeful that it would help her speech. He did say she had a lot of scar tissue from her previous palate repair, but he still thought overall it went well. We were told she'd need to be on a "soft foods" diet for about a month. No hard, sharp or crunch food, but she could still have lots of favorite foods like macaroni, grilled cheese, spaghetti, etc. 

They called me back to see her upon waking and as I got back to her, she was having respiratory distress. It was scary and not easy to watch at all, but with some extra meds and oxygen, she got back on track. But boy was she unhappy. She was very agitated for the rest of the day on Monday, and spent a large amount of time crying. All completely understandably, but selfishly, it was a lot to take on my own. Sitting in the hospital all day Friday, all day Monday, watching her have breathing issues and then dealing with her agitation on my own and facing at least one night at the hospital with her, well it was a lot for both of us.

Jeremy brought the other kids to see her Monday night, just in time to watch her vomit blood over and over that had drained into her stomach during surgery. That was fun. Poor Sam & Allie were so traumatized by it that they had to leave the room. Sweet Ben wanted to stay all night and help take care of his sister. After some meds for nausea and a stronger IV pain med, she finally settled in a bit. We didn't sleep much but she was happier overnight.  In order to go home, she had to drink, drink, drink, which was very painful. But she's old enough to understand that if she wanted to go home, she had to drink, and so she did. She drank and drank and drank and by noon on Tuesday, we were on our way home. 

We continued to manage her pain with Oxycodone and Tylenol at home and kept her diet limited. She is very oral and loves to put things in her mouth, so she needs extra supervision. She isn't allowed to suck or use straws or utensils, so she needs a lot of help eating.  It's tiring, but we felt we were over the hump and well on our way to healing and hopefully better speech.

Friday night, though, she became very irritable again. She couldn't sleep through the weekend, and was so very agitated. Finally we took a good look in her mouth and discovered a giant hole in her palate. It's called a fistula, and is a common complication after palate surgery. Her surgery was repairing her soft palate in the back of her mouth, which is extremely fragile. I remember last time they told me it was like paper mache. So for a hole or fistula to develop, well it's not that rare. But it's devastating.  It's like a crater back there. We were hoping for one step forward and this is truly like 5 steps back.  I don't know what this will mean for her long-term, particularly for speech. Right now there's nothing we can do other than help her heal completely and not make the damage even worse than it already is.  Of course we speculate about how it could have happened, did she eat something she shouldn't have, did she put something in her mouth? I've read that even crying can cause the tissue to split apart, so it's possible that her excessive crying caused it. We'll never know, but it is so devastating. I'm feeling some guilt, wondering if this surgery was just not meant to be at this time. I feel terrible that she's gone through all this pain and stress and now we're in a worse position than we were when we began.  Any surgery is a huge life stress and she is dealing with some emotional after-effects as well. She's clingy and fussy, struggling to sleep and has regressed with her potty-training. And  of course she's in pain and is adjusting to a huge structural change in her mouth-and not the one we were hoping for! Her speech is very thick and muffled sounding. It's just heart-breaking.  I also feel terrible that we have dragged the other kids through all this stress, juggling child-care, and missing out on summer fun for nothing.

But we have no choice but to move forward. It is what it is, and she's certainly not the first kid to have this complication.  I've been reminded a lot lately of Ben's favorite verse:
John 16:33  
 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

So we will focus on that and keep our eyes forward for our sweet girl.We see the surgeon next week, likely we'll just have to give her time to heal and then have another surgery to repair the fistula.

Friday- feeling optimistic


 Hungry, tired and stressed...

 Surgery is not happening, but now she can EAT!

 Crashed on the way home, she slept 
6pm Friday-8am Saturday!

Back at it, Monday morning. 


Finally gave in to a short nap.


The night is long, but thank goodness for Frozen.

A much happier girl on Tuesday.

 Going home!

Recovering at home.

Not feeling well again...