Thursday, October 20, 2016

Our Special Guy

Joey is amazing. AMAZING.  He is the most laid-back person I've ever met. By far the easiest temperament of all our children!  Which is such a blessing, because our hands are full!

We had heard that people with arthrogryposis (AMC) tend to be very happy, and that is definitely the case with him. He's content with one toy for long periods of time. He just loves to be with us.  If I have to tell him no, he says "Okay Momma".  He thanks me every time I feed him and help him. He apologizes.  Truly, he is a gem. He is sweet and kind and gentle; he's an example for our other kids, that's for sure!

Although he's Sam's age (only 4 months apart), he is more on Allie's level right now as far as how he likes to play. They get along very well.  He also adores Ben and Ben is unbelievably kind and patient with him.  Academically he has had no schooling, so we're working on letters and numbers with him and Maggie together.  It's not all sunshine, though. He has no concept of personal space and is very touchy-feeling and grabs everything. He's often taking their toys, knocking over their towers, and in their faces.  He also has to touch every little button everywhere we go. In some ways he's like a toddler exploring the world. He also has no problem tattling on them, and them on him. True siblings!

Physically, he's had a lot of appointments trying to figure out his complex needs. We've seen the hand doc, foot doc, adoption clinic (5 hour appointment that included OT, adoption doc and a social worker!), genetics (very interesting appointment), PT, wheelchair fitting, pediatrician (3 times already, thanks to infections), Rehab, Audiology, Ophthalmology... he had 16 vials of blood drawn, xrays and we had to collect stool samples on 3 different days, in between rounds of antibiotics. Now when I ask him to put on his shoes for any reason, he says "No Doctor!!" Poor kid.  It was all crucial to start figuring out his treatment.  We also wanted to get the initial evals done before he starts school so he doesn't miss more schooling than he already has.

Things should calm down quite a bit now (knock on wood!!!) as we're nearly done with all the initial appointments.  We have somewhat of plan in place for OT and PT, and have a series of castings for his feet planned for early next year to hopefully help his feet to be more flat. 

Sometimes he seems excited about starting school, other times he doesn't want to. He wants to be like the other kids, but I think he's also nervous. We're hoping he'll start school in a couple of weeks, and he'll start half days. He gets worn out very quickly (physically and emotionally), so I think half days will be more than enough at first. 

We've spent nearly every moment of every day together since Sept 5. Bonding and attachment is going pretty well. Initially he was overly friendly with everyone we came across. He would sit on stranger's laps out in public and expect them to care for him.  I'm so glad we're taking this time for him to just get acclimated to our family before moving on to school, etc. As much as he and I have both hated all the appointments, they've been a great time for us to bond and for him to learn that I'll be taking care of him, and that we always go home.  We're still careful in public and try to remind him that Momma and Babba are the ones who give hugs and help him.

He's calm and peaceful when we're at home most of the time, but being out in public is still a big challenge. He continues to be pretty wild when we're out and about.  He gets hyper and doesn't mind well when we're not at home for some reason. He gets in the kids' faces, hits them, tells us no and still doesn't stay with us very well. When he's "in their bubble", he sometimes gets tripped up on their feet and falls...and then blames them.  I'm constantly trying to get my phone out for the translation app to give him reminders to keep his hands to himself, watch where he's walking, etc.  Plus he tires out from walking very quickly and can't navigate stairs on his own. A quick trip to the store is exhausting!

Communication improves every day. We use a Google translation app to explain to him things that are going on, but so far we can't get him to speak into it so we know what he's saying.  Most of what he understands is basic commands or ideas... he knows when we tell him to use the bathroom, put on his shoes, time for a bath, get in the car, Ben is at school, etc.

His list of English words he can say is growing rapidly as well. One problem we didn't anticipate is that he and Maggie spend lots of time together in the mornings, and he mimics her speech... which is not good considering most of her words do not come out correctly!  Some of his words so far: Ben, Samuel (always Samuel, not Sam), Allie, Maggie (comes out Meggie), Momma, Babba, Grandma, Grandpa, Uncle, brother, sister ("seester") okay, please stop!, all done, wait, hamburger, dumpling, hot dog, cake, ice cream, rice, noodles, chicken, chocolate (comes out choc-o-lete), Sank (thank) you Momma. "'scuse me" (excuse), "figh five" (high five).  His first sentence was "Shut up and dance with me" and he's as obsessed with that song as my other kiddos. :)  He calls dumplings airplanes and dogs are hot dogs. So, so cute!!! He always wants to make sure he knows where everyone is, he asks things like "Maggie to school?  Bus?  Babba work?" It's really remarkable all that he's figuring out.

That being said, I think he's extremely verbal in Chinese, and we're missing out on regular conversations, thoughts, questions, concerns, ideas etc still. At some of our appointments at Children's Hospital, there has been a translator and he always talks their ear off in Mandarin. That always reminds me of how limited our conversations are thus far, and I can't wait until we can understand each other to that extent! At the last appointment, he was adamantly asking the translator something. Turns out he was asking about 3 of his friends from the orphanage who were adopted before him... he wanted to know if I know them and if he can talk to them. Turns out, I do know where at least 2 of them are and I had the translator tell him that. He said he wants to call them and asked for their number!  :)  I'm working on hopefully setting up a video chat for them! 

I think he's processing everything that's new and at the same time remembering all that he's left. That's got to be a hard place to be. He sleeps very long and very hard at night, I think that's when he grieves and works through things.  Sometimes he's restless and cries out in his sleep. I wish I could talk to him about how he feels, but eventually we'll be able to.

Some of his favorite things: oranges, dogs, playing outside, Spiderman, cookies, rice, noodles, dumplings (he still prefers Chinese food to American), eggs, remote control cars and airplanes, trucks, cars, diggers and his brother Ben.

He is always thinking of others.  Several times when getting stickers after an appointment, he asks for 5, one for each of his siblings. On Maggie's birthday, I asked (via the app) for him to make her a card. He drew her a picture and then disappeared. I found him in the girls' room, copying her name off the wall on to the card. Unbelievably sweet!!  If he sees me cleaning, he comes to help without me asking. He always cleans up after he eats. He's patient with needing help and worried when one of the other kids is upset.

We hit the jackpot, folks!!

Our aging pups.

His first ice cream at the Whippy Dip!

His first time at church. 
Amazing to be there with him after all the love and support they've given us! 
He sat with us the first time, and it was quite crazy. We had to leave the service for him to poop, he fell in the lobby and kept begging for food. It was a long hour!

We are a small parade walking to church.

Flying RC planes with Grandpa.

We use the wagon a ton for walks and getting around in public.

Making pumpkin bread with FIVE helpers. 
I'll not post the one of my expression during this "fun" activity.

Swimming in the front yard on a warm September day. 
The kid loves water!

An outing with my two 8 year olds-I love this age!

Trying out an adaptive stroller that a friend gave's perfect for him!

He often requests noodles instead of the yucky old American food. :)

Our spot on the porch, waiting for the bus to come.

These two remain best buddies.

Working on getting out winter clothes for 5 kids.

Yet another appointment, still smiling.

This girl is now 4 years old! 
Can I get a YIPPEE for being done with the Terrible Threes 
(although she still acts 3, I'm hopeful that some logic and reason will kick in soon)!!! 
And no more diapers!!! Hallelujah!

Lunch at an Indian restaurant with my adventurous eaters. 
We're still working on manners... he still burps loudly in public, slurps food with his mouth off the plate,  touches food on the buffet...we are quite a distraction everywhere we go.

First hayride!

First time going to class at church. Allie stayed with him in the boys' class.

First firepit and roasted marshmallows!

I treated them to Larosas pizza (by myself!) when they were off for Columbus Day. Thankful for a great waitress who helped keep an eye on them, as there were multiple potty trips and lots of messes.

Sometimes a wheelchair is easier, especially when walking long halls at the hospital.

Pumpkin patch! He loved being on a farm for the first time. 
He takes in every new thing with such awe and joy!

Picked up "real" Chinese food after an appointment. 
He stuffed himself silly on fried rice, noodles and dumplings.

Stopped in at school for a few minutes and he insisted on wearing his empty backpack, and put his empty lunch box in it. He wants to do everything just like his siblings.

Allie is a sweet helper for him at church.

This is a great outdoor toy for him. 
He can't do bikes and scooters, so we're hoping to find some more things he can do.

Brother Ben gives him a ride around the yard. 
They really are best buddies.

Maggie goes to school in the afternoon, so these 2 have a 
lot of time together in the mornings. They both love to craft.

Offered to help me clean the garage.

Working on numbers and colors.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

One Month Home!

I cannot believe we have been home for one month today. It was a trip of a lifetime, being able to take Ben, see so much more of China and bring home our sweet Joey. It was also exceedingly hard and already seems so long ago.  I am loving reliving our homecoming with these amazing pictures taken by our dear friend Sara.  Sara, we'll never be able to thank you enough for capturing these tender moments for us.

So much of the trip was about Joey and getting to know him. There was also a lot of focus on Ben.  He stepped out of his comfort zone in a big way to go with us and he played such an important role in  helping Joey feel comfortable and happy with us.

These pictures are a reminder for me of what a big deal those 16 days were for my other babies too.  Allie was a rock star while we were gone. She was sweet and helpful and she couldn't wait for us to get home. I'm so proud of how she handled everything.  Her motherly instincts have been a comfort to him and a help to us with Joey and allows her to feel like the helper that she is!

Maggie didn't quite understand everything and was pretty overwhelmed when we got home. 
What a big deal for a 3 year old to be a part of!   But she loves that Joey is from "my China" (as she calls it) and loves being reminded of her homecoming as well.  And she couldn't wait to jump in Ben's arms, they are two peas in a pod.

I felt the worst for Sam knowing how badly he had wanted to go with us and how much we just hate that darn egg allergy. He remembers both his sisters coming home.  He remembers "feeling shy" of me and Jeremy when we got home from China with Maggie. This time I made him promise to run to me for a giant hug as soon as we got back. He kept his promise and looking at his sweet face in these pictures as he spotted us coming down the hall absolutely melts my heart.

Adjusting to being a family of 7 this past month has had its ups and downs. The easiest part by far is how Joey fits in our family. He just fits; it feels natural. He is literally the most laid-back, easy-going person I have ever met. He smiles all the time, never complains, cleans up after himself and goes with the flow. We hit the jackpot! All the kids love him and they've all been very patient with him as he needs extra help and more of our time right now. He and Allie in particular are very good buddies and I think he and Ben will always have a special bond thanks to our time in China. 

That being said, it's not all rainbows and sunshine. There's 2 adults to 5 fairly young kiddos. We're spread thin and everyone has felt a bit fragile around here. We've had some regression, lots of extra neediness and some flat-out meltdowns over the change to our lives.  We've had a million appointments (most for Joey, but our other kids have things too) and just lots to juggle, adjust to and figure out.  I'm so grateful to the friends and family who text, call and message me to make sure I'm keeping my head above water!

Despite the hard stuff, we have zero regrets.  I truly believe if we had said "no" to adoption and lived our lives in the fear of "what if", we would be the ones missing out on the spectacular family that we have built.  We're so proud of our kids for their open, growing hearts. 

We had an amazing reception at the airport when we got home. After our flight from Hong Kong being delay an entire day, our final flight home from Newark landed 30 minutes early! Whoo-hooo!!! Being on American soil and coming home to our family and friends was truly the biggest relief of my life.  What a celebration and very, very precious moments!

Here we come!  I had to resist dragging Joey down the hall to get to my other kids. :)






Joey took it all in. I think he knew all the fuss was for him. Welcome home, sweet boy.