Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The FIRST 7 months

It has been a long time since we have posted on here.  Life with 5 children is keeping us just a bit busy. :) When we took our adoption classes in February of 2013, we talked about all the 'firsts' we would miss by adopting an 'older' child.  We would miss the first time they crawled, walked, smiled, ate real food, etc… I grieve that.  I grieve that I could not hold Jesse as a baby, that I could not rock him, comfort him when he was crying, teach him from the first days together.

I have had many moments over the last 7 months that have caught me thinking about how our bonding could be different if we had gotten Jesse earlier in his life.  But, I also know that God's timing is perfect and Jesse comes to us with so much past that makes him the amazing boy he is.  Without his Nai Nai to have loved him so tenderly, he would not be affectionate.  Without his foster family to teach him to respect, he would not want to please us.  His past has molded him into the joy seeking, life loving boy he is.

And so, we have slowly turned our grieving into celebrating.  We are celebrating all the firsts that Jesse does have.  Today was Jesse's first time in a sprinkler!  Not sure why it has taken until the end of July to run through the sprinkler, but what a joy it is to hear his joyful screams every time the trail of water falls on his head, and the squeals of delight by jumping into the tiny wading pool full of freezing cold water.

Yesterday, Jesse swam three different strokes at a swim meet.  He has only swam the freestyle stroke prior to last night.  The amazing thing is up until 7 months ago, he had never seen a pool before nor gone swimming.  Now he can swim freestyle, butterfly and backstroke!  So proud of him!

This summer he has gotten to feed goats for the first time (and even tried the dry goat pellets himself!). He got to pet a horse for the first time.  He learned to ride a two wheeler!  He has tried BLT sandwiches, root beer floats, s'mores and hamburgers on the grill for the first time.  Jesse has been able to try to fly a kite for the first time, zip line for the first time, rappel for the first time, and ride his bike to Holland's candy store in Washington. He pulled out his first tooth, gone to zoo camp, played soccer, he's gone paddle boating, ridden a roller coaster, gone down a water slide, planted a garden and ate fruit directly from it for the first time.  He has gone to a parade, played with sparklers, camped in a tent, watched fireworks, and learned about the Chicago Bears for the first time.

We praise God for all the firsts He is allowing us to have with Jesse.  We are most excited and humbled to be the first to share with Jesse about the love of Jesus and the grace and mercy God extends to us each and everyday.  Today was the FIRST time Jesse asked to pray while in the car.  He was worried about his brother and asked that we pray to God to help.  Although our paths are not perfect and many times hard, today put so much in perspective with Jesse's first initiated prayer.  We are not here to live for us, but rather for Him.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

3+ months

over three months now, we have had sweet Jesse in our care.  Jesse seems to be getting more and more into a routine. He is beginning to know what to expect each day and what we expect of him.  He is stringing together sentences of 3-5 words.  Everyday he says 'new' words.  Today's new word was "great"!  It is so fun when we hear him say a new word, expression or sentence.

Jesse began 1/2 day kindergarten 2 weeks ago.  he seems to enjoy going and doesn't argue or complain about school. He enjoys the math, snacks, computer and iPad time he gets at school. The school has been great and we are very blessed to have such great staff and students.  The concerns we had about Jesse's learning are still there, as we haven't seen the improvement we were hoping.  Granted it is only two weeks, but he still cannot not identify any letters of the alphabet, although this is practiced daily.  We are praying that his brain is working overtime learning the spoken language and adjusting to living in the American culture, that he hasn't had time to process the written language yet. We are hoping to reach out to the Chinese community in the area for assistance with this over the summer.

Jesse talks non-stop about soccer.  He can not wait to begin soccer in about 2 weeks. He still enjoys swimming and doesn't have any fear of the water. We got a new trampoline assembled this past weekend and it has been difficult keeping Jesse off of it!  He absolutely loves the trampoline and would probably like to sleep on it, if it weren't quite so cold outside.

Jesse loves structure and knowing what to expect next. He loves to be the boss and be in control. This is a great trait for a boy in his circumstance, as he has had so much change in his life that he wants to be able t control something!  We try to allow him to have limited control over certain things, just for his own security.  He beginning to come out of his shell more and more, mainly because he can verbally communicate so well now.

We appreciate everyone's prayers during this transition. There have been good times and difficult times.  We are all in love with Jesse and his smile. We love the extra spark of energy he brings to our life. We are so fortunate that God has brought Him to our family form a world away.  It is still surreal to us that were praying over his picture 8 months ago, and now can hug him, play with him and tickle him whenever we want.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

2 Months

In some ways it is hard to believe Jesse has been home 2 months, but in other ways it seems like he has been here for much longer.  Just this week Jesse is stringing together 3-4 words sentences, such as "Brianna, Mom needs you" or "Ow that hurts".  He has also caught onto all of the expressions that we use, and has even combined several of them to make his own expressions.  For instance, he says 'Oh man!', when he is frustrated, or has repeated 'Holy Cow' when excited.  He has heard 'Holy Moly' a few times and has now created a Jesse-ism "Holy Moly Cow!".  Yes, he uses it as a term for excitement and frustration, and now the rest of the family does as well.

Jesse's sleep routine has improved and he is not wetting the bed like had before.  He may wet it only once a week now, and that is usually because he had too much to drink before bed on those nights.  Jesse still requires one of us, preferably mom, to lay with him until he falls asleep each evening.  This seems natural, as he slept every night for 5 years with his foster grandfather.  He is now showing the grief that he has in the past and will talk freely about his foster family and home.  He doesn't speak about them with sadness anymore, and at times he can actually be quite candid about his life in China.

Jesse is falling into a routine at home, but we have come to a head with the learning curve.  He is at a unique age where he is too old for a preschool, and yet that is the type of learning he needs.  We have tried to teach him at home, but we do not have the resources necessary to help him improve with his understanding of the English language, alphabet, and reasoning skills.  He will begin Kindergarten, half days, on Monday.  He will have several specialists working with him throughout the morning, and we will reevaluate at the end of this school year if he should continue into next year, or if he has improved enough for him to be taught at home.  We have prayed about this decisions for weeks and truly believe this is the right decision for our family and especially for Jesse.

Jesse's favorite foods are oatmeal, any fruit but blueberries, rice, and meat.  There are few foods that he will not eat, and usually eats more than 2 or 3 of my other children. He looks up to all of his siblings with respect and admiration, and does a great job acting as the proverbial 'little brother'.  He fills his shoes well and likes to do what he can to antagonize his older siblings, but in the same respect he also knows he needs them for help in daily situations.  ;)

We are excited for this next adventure for our family, as Jesse begins school.  We are blessed that the local school is so accommodating and has the many resources necessary to allow him to transition while learning the language and culture.  They are all willing to work hard to enable he gets caught up to his age level.  We are praising God for a great town, a great school district, and amazing friends who continue to support us through this journey.  For every one person that does not encourage us or understand this journey the Lord as sent us on, He provides 3 more that are always encouraging.

Monday, February 17, 2014


We have been home 7 weeks and have come sooo far. Jesse is spewing out new English words each day, and understanding more and more all the time.  He is eager to listen to his native language on occasion (meaning I talk into Google Translate so he can listen). It seems to bring him some peace from time to time.

We are still in awe how the Lord has carried us through this entire process of adopting Jesse.  He provided time and again prior to leaving for China.  Since we have come home, God has provided us with many angels to assist us in this amazing journey.  We are so thankful for the families at our church that have provided meals and support to us the last 7 weeks, what a blessing!  It is amazing to see how Jesse is getting more and more familiar and comfortable at church too!  Each of Jesse's leaders have embraced him and made him feel special to be a part of their group.  He enjoys going to church on Sunday and listening to the stories, sing worship songs, and follow instructions for the activities and crafts. He especially looks forward to Awana and the fantastic angels who help him there each Wednesday.

In addition to our church family, we have been blessed to have several special angels assist with translation.  I did not know any of these ladies prior to December, but God strategically placed them each in our lives.  These angels have joyfully accompanied us to the eye doctor and ultrasound appointments.  One even came to our house (which was a very long drive for her!) to help us translate some pictures we received of Jesse's foster family.  One angel made homemade dumplings (Jesse's favorite!!) for Jesse for Chinese New Year.  It is so touching for me to see how God is still taking care of us, even after being home.

Our family and friends have embraced us and welcomed Jesse, like he has always been a part of our family.  Thank you to all of the angels!  We praise God for His provisions, always at the perfect time.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Eternal Lights

Another week has flown by and we are looking back wondering .. how a 6 year old boy can be ripped apart from one 'family' and culture and thrown into a completely other one can survive.  But, Jesse is made of something special, and he has not only survived, but he has thrived and grown so much over the past 6 weeks.  Everyday he amazes us with what he can understand and how he can follow directions.  He does an excellent job of watching others first and doing as they do.

Jesse is so eager to earn anything from Awana, that he practices his John 3:16 relentlessly.  I can not even imagine memorizing all the words in the verse, and not knowing what more than a couple even mean.  So, it comes to no surprise as he was listening to various John 3:16 songs, he found a familiar word and was so excited to share it with us.  As he was reciting the last part of John 3:16, we were reminding him to say "that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal"… and he jumped up and pointed to the lights in the living room and in his enthusiastic voice screamed "Lights!", instead of 'life'.  Poor kid, we hated to squash his spirit, as there was finally a word in amongst many that he thought he recognized, only to find out he heard it wrong.  Now, on a side note, wouldn't it be something for those who believe in Jesus shall have eternal life, but also eternal lights!  Would that mean no more changing lightbulbs?  Chris would be thrilled! But then again, as we pointed out to the kids, when we do believe in Christ, we should have eternal lights, as we need to be shining for Jesus and showing love everywhere we go.

Today was his first day at our homeschool co-op and he did really well.  Again, as long as he is with the ever protective, ever nurturing big brother Ethan, Jesse is comfortable.  Today was no different. Ethan makes sure he walks in order, stands in line, sits when directed, plays dodgeball by the proper rules, paints in a neat fashion, and draws the 'Dust Bowl' like the picture given!  However, during PE this morning the boys were practicing the shuttle run, and while they may be quick, they can not run straight!  Consequently, Ethan and Jesse collided (thankfully it was with each other) and Ethan's head knocked Jesse's tooth out (it was already wiggly) and caused a large cut on his top lip.  We never found the tooth and poor Jesse was hurting so much.  However, my enthusiastic boy was so excited after co-op to share with his siblings all he did today, that the pain from his lip was just a mere bump in his otherwise joyfully filled day.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Love this new kid on the block

Jesse is such a helper and pleaser.  He absolutely loves to lend a hand where needed (or not so needed), and is eager to finish the job.  Each time there was snow, he is the first to help shovel and will not quit until the job is done.  When the garbage trucks drive by, he is the first to run out in the freezing cold and bring the cans back in for me.  When the dishes need to be loaded or the table cleaned, he is eager to help until the job is done. His work ethic is amazing and he doesn't do it for the reward (usually a high five), but rather because it is ingrained in him to work hard until the job is done.  Some of my other children can hopefully learn from this!

Jesse has worked hard each day this week at learning the next part of his Bible verse for Awana (John 3:16).  He is eager to share the verse with his favorite Awana leader (Ms. Martha!) and to earn the gems that Ethan has on his vest, but he also knows that he needs to work hard at achieving, and we see him working hard each day.

Communication improves each day and there are less outbursts (from all of us) and more conversations (verbally or charades style) to help each other understand expectations.  Jesse is always the first to pray, gather for devotion and bring a Bible to one of us when he wants to read.

This week he learned his letter 'A'.  We worked on every craft, worksheet, book, etc to help him learn his 'A'.  It was a success, however he is completely flabbergasted for the fact that our alphabet has 2 symbols (upper case and lower case) for each letter.  So, we are sticking with upper case for now.  He can write his name all on his own, with no help or prompting.  He actually has neat handwriting and impresses us with learning to write his name so quickly.

God's presence is so clear each day and we are so thrilled to be following his will and loving this sweet boy who God has entrusted to us for the time being.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

"For God so loved the world"

Jesse is continuing to improve his English each and every day.  He can sing the entire ABC song, many other nursery rhymes, and most of the song 'Stories', that the kids learned in Vacation Bible Camp last year.  Our days still consist of a great deal of charades, and we are utilizing Google Translate for the important topics of discussion.  Otherwise, Jesse can use 1-3 word sentences to communicate to us.

He seems to be like most other 6 year old boys; not enthusiastic about school (or anyone else in the house participating in school), loves to be outside doing anything that is fast and adventurous, enjoys building with straws and connectors or legos, still loves the movies Cars and playing with his cars, and loves to FaceTime Nana and Jaja.

He has been participating with Sunday School and Awana, and thanks to his amazing big brother, Ethan, he is adjusting well.  Jesse was thrilled to get an Awana vest, just like Ethan's.  He has caught on quickly about needing to say verses to earn 'gems' for his vest.  We practiced John 3:16 "For God so loved the world"all week and he was able to recite it to his amazing Awana leader, with the help of my hand motions.  But on Thursday night as we were getting ready to sleep, he said (unassisted or unprompted), "Mommy, for God so loved the world".  Tears welled up in my eyes and that erased all of the challenges from the day.  This was his first English sentence and was another one of God's convictions that He is right along side of us during this journey.