Family Lessons in Phenotypes

Sitting in McDonalds and my boys start talking to a friendly Asian boy. Alex tells a story of a bird flying into our window, then the boy says “One time when I was in Vietnam we were on a bike and ran over a chicken.”

A few more stories and the boy asks if Nathan is his brother. Alex says “Yes that’s my brother and that’s my sister” pointing to Rose. The boy gets this confused look and I know what’s coming. The boy, who looked about 9 years old, said “how come you are different colors?”

Transracial Siblings

I paused and quickly decided to let Alex answer the question, which he didn’t hear at first. So I prompted Alex, “he asked why you are different colors”. So Alex immediately smiles and says “Because she’s adopted!”

I smiled as the boy said “Oh! My mom had me first and then my little sister, but my older sister is my dad’s daughter.”

Interesting!

So then Alex explains that if you get Park Place in McDonalds monopoly you win $1,000,000. The boy immediately retorts “I’m already rich!”

I may have laughed out loud.

Alex talks about if he won he would buy a house and the boy mentions “we just moved here”. Alex then says “from China?” and I am immediately embarressed and say “honey no, he said Vietnam”. The boy is like “What does China have to do with anything? I’m not Chinese. And when I went to Vietnam I was just visiting my grandma.”

I told Alex “China and Vietnam are two different countries, when we get home I will show you on the big map in the playroom.” The boy said “Vietnam is a really long plane ride.”

Then they moved on to talking about grandmas and great-grandmas.

 

Adjusting to Life as a Stay At Home Mom

A month ago, just before we left to fly to Haiti and bring home our new daughter, I left my job as the Director of Engineering for a wastewater treatment equipment company. It’s actually a temporary leave of absence since I plan to go back part time once Rose is in school, but that’s probably two years away.

IMG_5020

Even though I have worked from home for the past ten years, this is very different. I really had no maternity leave with either of my first two children. When you start-up a company and work from home you don’t get maternity leave. You never stop answering the phone or email. The most I did was miss our big annual conference twice. I hated missing that conference each of those years because it’s always so great to see my colleagues, my industry friends and present the great work my company does in front of a large audience.

This year things are so different because I’ve been waiting for this little girl to come home for two and a half years and now she’s here and I wouldn’t dream of having any other focus. I will miss some fun nights in New Orleans but I’ve had enough of those over the years to sustain me for quite some time. I do not yet miss work at all.

My job right now is therapeutic parenting of a little girl who doesn’t even know what a family means. Watching her thrive and blossom has been so joyful and fulfilling, and I can only say it’s a miracle from God that she is doing so well.

IMG_5039

I usually only have one or two big things to get done a day right now and I like it that way. Maybe a trip to the grocery store, maybe some laundry, maybe going to get my allergy shots. I am always happy to get out of the house and talk to some grown-ups, but I try to keep like simple and unhurried.

My little sidekick is very accommodating and I see her using her orphanage coping skills less and less often. Sometimes she thinks she’s the boss of me but I pick my battles and I’m bigger so I can win but I also know how to circumvent or repair any disconnections that happen. Life with Rose is a dance of connecting and disconnecting and reconnecting.  She chooses to shut down instead of throw a tantrum and I don’t like when it happens but I can fix it quickly. A quick game of Patty-cake is my go-to solution, she’s usually up for it and it brings back the smiles and eye contact immediately.

IMG_5167

The toughest time of day for me by far is after the boys get home from school and the couple hours up until dinner. She gets pretty wound up around them and they need to get homework done right away. The boys seem conflicted because they really want to play and engage with her after a long day away but they also know they need to work and sometimes need my help. One thing that has really helped us was creating a new rule to keep the screens off until after dinner. The boys can get sucked into playing Minecraft or watching Stampy videos quickly and that leaves Rose trying to get their attention and them getting annoyed. Since I started that rule they mostly choose to play with their sister, which leaves me peace to go fix dinner.

IMG_4925

So right now I’m pretty much taking one day at a time with her, passing up lots of fun opportunities like blogger conferences or races. I know it’s a season and before I know it she’ll be speaking English and staying with babysitters and life will probably be much like it used to be except with more singing and giggling and talking.

IMG_5051

 

Cocooning Without Isolating

We’re home! As scheduled, we flew home with our new daughter Rosenaicha on Wednesday, August 20th. Without a hitch. So incredibly smooth, I could not believe it. Zipped through immigration in Miami and had time to sit down for a nice dinner. Learned that baby girl was completely freaked out by being buckled into her own airplane seat. Had a blast with her looking out the window while we taxied on the second flight, chattering away, only to have her zonk our and sleep soundly the whole way home.

At the airportWe were greeted in our driveway at 10pm by our dear sweet super awesome 1:17 adoption support group friends! My parents and kids had made cool signs alerting the neighborhood and my girls in the Katy Social Media Masterminds group left flowers (roses of course!), balloons and a gift. We felt so loved. Baby girl just stared at everyone. And then freaked out at the dog. She has got some lungs!

SiblingsSince then life has been pretty much awesome. We have worked hard on establishing a solid connection between Mike and I and Rose. That means lots of intentional eye contact, lots of identity games, meeting all her needs promptly and just having playful fun. She loves Nathan and Alex and they love her. As predicted, Alex has a bit of adjusting to do with not getting all the attention all the time. But overall he’s fine.

Babydoll

I’ve been watching Rose closely to see if I can figure out how secure she is feeling and all signs are good. She is super easy to read as far as knowing when she’s stressed. She stops smiling, purses her lips and sucks her tongue, stares off into the distance and grabs her belly button. She’ll still do that ANY time a new person looks at and talks to her. She does it when she wants to eat (which is like…ALL the time) and the food isn’t quite ready. She does it if I correct her.

Rose sleeps like a champ. I know that falling asleep without complaint and sleeping all night was initially a coping mechanism, how she was trained at the orphanage. After a few days of her feeling more secure at home she started to protest bedtime and nap time. We decided based on her behavior in Haiti to have her sleep in a pack and play crib right next to our bed instead of IN our bed and that is working great. I lay down next to her too at naptime and bedtime. Sometimes it takes as long as an hour for her to fall asleep, but there’s not fussing, only stalling. “Mama….dlo” (water) “Mama…diaper” “Mama…blanket”

morning wake up

All smiles this morning.

Basically the child has learned how to ask for what she needs and that’s super important. I cannot emphasize enough how much my Creole learning has helped in our bonding and her security. She still gets frustrated when she says something new that I don’t understand and I can’t pacify her, but that is not often. She does not throw tantrums. She does hit, spit and throw things occasionally because she’s mad or to get attention but we are working on that and it’s so infrequent I cannot complain.

Silly faces Bedhead selfiesAdoption experts recommend cocooning with a newly adopted kid for weeks or months when they come home. That means staying home, no visitors, no outings, no stores, no church, no nothing. We decided that things were going well and certain outings were necessary anyway, like walking too and from school every morning and going to get my allergy shot once a week. I also brought her to meet my grandmother a few times and she even went with me to school orientation night. She seemed to do great in these situations…she did her stressed coping thing sometimes but there were not repercussions as far as my connection with her or sleep disruptions. This past Sunday we even took her to church…sat in the back row. How do I know she wasn’t totally stressed? She tried to get down off my lap and started making noise so I had to leave the service for a few minutes. She won’t get off my lap or out of my arms when she’s freaked out.

Loves the car Off to the doctor Walking Home from SchoolOne of the coolest things has been watching her bond with Mike. She LOVES her Papa. He is awesome with her. He got the first “I wuv you” out of her, whether she knows what it means or not, it’s freaking adorable. She was doing so well with him that I decided to go for a run Saturday morning, knowing she’d look for me first when she woke up and I wouldn’t be there.  Mike handled it with ease and she was perfectly happy to see me return an hour later. In fact the next night, at about 1am, I heard her call for Papa first. He didn’t respond so she tried Mama next and it turned out she had soaked through her diaper. A quick change and back to sleep with everyone happy.

More silly faces LullabyesWhile she naps I’ve been reading “Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child” again. It’s enlightening, but mostly it’s super affirming of how well adjusted she seems. A lot of the damaging affects of orphanage care the books speaks of, such as inability to chew properly or indiscriminate affection, just aren’t there. We spent one morning at Texas Children’s Hospital’s International Adoption Clinic and the doctor had nothing but great things to say about her. She’s smallish, around the fifth percentile for weight and height, but her development is above average. I have a feeling that once she starts truly speaking English, she’s never going to stop talking.

I wouldn’t have it any other way. Homecoming-100

 

P.S.  My husband insists that we not portray this experience as all sunshine and lollipops. It’s not, I assure you. It’s hard work. And we’re probably still in a honeymoon period with her. But I’m over the moon with delight and gratitude that we are finally at this point of the journey and I have felt God’s presence with us constantly. He has prepared the way for us.

Going to See About a Baby

It’s here, it’s here, the day is finally here!

2014-04-25 00.30.15 (1024x683)[2]About five years ago, God reached into my life and shook things up. He opened my eyes and made me see what following Jesus was really about, and set my life on a totally new path, in a completely new direction. Over time he did the same thing to my husband.

Two and a half years ago we decided to take a huge leap of faith and pursue adoption of a child from Haiti. Part of us really knew we were crazy, but it was pretty clear that this was something we were called to do. We also knew it would be a long time of waiting. We prayed a lot.

Over a year ago we got the name and picture of a scared and sick little girl, not even a year old. Our friends in Haiti had saved her life and were nursing her back to health but she needed a family to love her. We said yes. We prayed some more.

In February we traveled to Haiti to meet Miss Rosenaicha, and loved on her for a few days. We did all the governmental procedure stuff we had to do, and then we kissed her goodbye as she cried and promised we would be back for her. We prayed it would not be long.

Now finally, here in August, we are at the end of the beginning. Everything is done and her case has been approved by all the powers that be. All we need is a printed visa to fly home with her. We are leaving NEXT SUNDAY to go snatch her up into our arms forever.

I’m not excited or anything. (that’s sarcasm, in case you missed it) I can hardly believe it. There is also much fear and trepidation. She’s about to have her world turned upside. My life is about to get a whole lot busier.

In the meantime my friends have been awesome, showering me with much needed gifts and prayer and even donations for the orphanage! My boys and I have been having fun learning Creole via CD in the car. They are catching on quick.

So many things are falling into place. We need to pray that the US visa printing system, which has been not working right, will get us our visa in time for our flight home on the 20th. We also will pray that 3 hours is enough time to clear immigration in Miami. But most of all, we need prayers for our hearts. And by “we”, I most especially mean sweet Rose.

So thank you for your support and prayers to get us this far in the journey.

Adoption Related Milestones

It has now been more than a year since we first learned who our baby girl would be, saw her sweet, scared face and knew her name. It’s been two years since we filled out our application and handed over our first big check to start this long process.

Next week is Mother’s Day, of course, which is so hard for some of my friends in the process who have been waiting forever to bring their first children home from Haiti. It’s less hard for me because I already have two amazing kids at home, but it’s bittersweet.

Party Hat

An old photo of Rose celebrating her friend Achley’s birthday.

The really tough part though, is missing Rosenaicha’s birthday next week. My sweet little lady turns two on the fourteenth. I’m mailing a package of things for Rose to another mother who is traveling to the orphanage next week to pick up her son and bring him home. Shoes, a dress, some photos and stickers. In every new photo I see, she is wearing the shoes I brought for her. She loves shoes.

A new photo of Rosenaicha in April.

A new photo of Rosenaicha in April.

We got an update on Rose today! Size-wise, she’s still so small, off the bottom of both the height and weight growth charts. In group photos it looks to me like all the other toddlers are growing taller than Rose. I can share this description:

Rosenaicha, is a pleasure for the nannies and is a very cooperative and good natured little girl. She is constantly laughing and playing with her friends in the toddler room. She has a very active imagination and a lot of times you’ll see her playing with some dolls or building something with Legos. Rosenaicha is also very sweet and caring – the other day one of the toddlers fell over and Rosenaicha stopped what she was doing and helped her up. When you walk in to the toddler room she is one of the first ones to hug your legs. Rosenaicha is eating by herself, but is a very messy eater. Sometimes she will get a spoon full of food, and pretend to offer it to you, but instead shoves it into her mouth with a BIG grin. She has a cute sense of humor and loves playing tricks like that on people.

She did this food teasing with me when I was there. In fact it’s possible I encouraged it :)

New Easter clothes for the toddlers!

New Easter clothes for the toddlers!

One slight disappointment is learning that her file is still being reviewed by the Ministry of the Interior. I was hoping that would be done last week and she could get her passport, but not quite yet. After her passport the file moves to the Embassy where USCIS does a full investigation, searching for any possible adoption fraud before granting her permission to get a US visa. That can take a month or two. So I’m guessing now it’ll be July till we can get her. Praying for sooner, of course.

A much-too-big new Easter dress for Rose.

A much-too-big new Easter dress for Rose.

In the meantime we are not just sitting on our hands waiting anymore. We filed an addendum to our homestudy because of Mike’s job change, and a couple of things were not written correctly in the addendum, which resulted in USCIS sending us a Request for Evidence. That totally stinks. This prompted our social worker to decide that we had to do an entire homestudy update because ours was expired, despite the fact that USCIS did not require a whole new update. So now we are jumping through hoops again, filling out forms, getting new physicals and dog vaccinations, etc. Of course it means more money too. But we’ll get it done and hope it does not delay the USCIS investigation any longer than necessary.

We press on, knowing that God’s timing is perfect and all the waiting means he is doing a work in us, growing us to depend on Him more fully.