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.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Believer/Dr. Appointment

Last summer we were having a difficult time accepting this new 'adventure' God was leading on.  The idea of international adoption frightened us, however the thought of adopting an 'older' boy with severe vision needs was even more frightening. China told us that Jesse had optic nerve atrophy, which even surgery or glasses would not improve his vision. We would cry out to God with our fears of caring for such needs. God answered in many ways.  Firstly, God provided many connections who are familiar with eyes, who all lent their expertise to help us understand Jesse's visual needs.  Secondly, He drew us to His word:

Isaiah 43: 1-2 
Fear not, for I have redeemed you, I have summoned you by name; you are mine. 
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you ; 
And when you pass through the rivers, They will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, You will not be burned;
The flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel , your Saviour.

Next, He led us to the song "Believer" by Audio Adrenaline. This song describes the true story of a man who is blind but is an amazing surfer. This song spoke to our hearts, particular these voices:

When I walk through the valley of the shadows
When I'm trapped in the middle of the battle
I will trust in You
‘Cause trouble comes, but You never let it take me
I hold fast ‘cause I know that You will save me
I will trust in You
I will trust in You

Oh here I stand all alone waiting on you, Lord
Waiting on You

The video for this song can be seen here:

Jesse went to an eye specialist on Wednesday and it was confirmed that he does NOT have optic nerve atrophy!  Therefore, with prescription glasses, Jesse will be able to see clearly for the first time in his life!  He will be able to see clearly objects across the room, or in the sky.  He will not have to sit 2 feet from the TV when watching his favorite movie (which is still "Cars").  Jesse will be able to read books and let us read books without having his nose practically touching the pages.  He will even be able to play sports, even those including balls (i.e. soccer, tennis, baseball, etc.).  We are praising God for encouraging us through those times when we were not sure we could take care of a boy with such permanent and debilitating visual needs, as God knew Jesse's needs more than we did.  Jesse should get his glasses this week, and he is counting down the days!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Yoga, snowmen, and Legos

The past several days seem to have been our transition into the 'honeymoon' phase of our adoption.  Things are seemingly going incredible compared to the first couple of weeks.  Boundaries are set and are being complied with more often than not.  Respect is being shown, and Jesse's true personality tends to poke out more and more.

Jesse taught us yoga the other day.  We thought he was just being silly, but he was serious and was teaching how to sit (and was insistent that we stop laughing and be quiet!), how to position our arms and legs and hands, how to breathe, and even closed the shades and turned off the lights so it was dark. We may need to continue to let him lead yoga, as it does tend to be a moment in the day when he is calm.

As the temperatures warmed up this weekend, Jesse investigated the left over snow.  He made snowmen, had a snowball fight, and then subsequently destroyed his snowman, which seemed to be more enjoyable than building it.  We may have to institute a class in our homeschool curriculum based on the show "Destroy, Build, Destroy".

This morning, he was quiet, almost too quiet, for about 20 minutes.  We all panicked and went on a search for him.  We found him in his room with a bucket of Legos, creating some impressive planes, cars, and space ships.  As obsessed as my 3 older boys are with Legos, we knew that Jesse would undoubtedly be drawn to Legos.  It didn't take long for him to start creating.

Sunday was the absolutely sweetest thing I have seen since we have had Jesse.  As we were all getting ready for church, Jesse insisted that he get dressed and come with.  We had not planned to introduce him to church for awhile, but he and us do like to get out of the house, so we thought we'd give it a try. Ethan was the BEST big brother ever.  He took Jesse by the hand and sat next to him in Sunday School.  He told Jesse that it was snack time and then how to clean up his snack cup and napkin.  Ethan led Jesse by the hand to worship time and they sang, danced, and did the hand motions.  Jesse watched Ethan for all the signals and Ethan was right there to make Jesse feel welcome and comfortable.  Jesse actually came home humming some of the music.  Ethan also taught Jesse how to sit during story time and what to do for craft.  I would love to get Ethan the Best Big Brother in the World Award!

This morning he had 'face time' with Nana and Jaja and actually communicated with them quite a bit. He was sharing his usual sense of humor and silliness that he demonstrates throughout our typical day.  Plus he was showing off his English vocabulary.

Bed time is tough for Jesse. He tries to be so strong, but we can tell that he is fighting the grief deep down in his heart.  We pray so much for his pain to not be forgotten, but relieved.  I want him to always remember his foster family and friends, but we pray that one day the sense of loss will be less than the love he has in his forever home.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

No Tears at Bed Time

Yeah, we had no tears at bedtime tonight!  Usually bedtime brings out sadness and notable grief in Jesse.  He usually does not want to be comforted and weeps the saddest cries we've ever heard.  But tonight, he clung tight to me, kissed me a million times, and rubbed my face until he fell asleep.  We will take even one night of a joyful/peaceful bedtime.

Sometimes it is our favorite time of the day!

We have recorded many other firsts this week.  We had near record low temperatures and snow to go with it.  Jesse is a natural helper and wants to be involved in everything we are doing.  He was able to stand the frigid weather and help daddy with snow blowing.  We made ice balls and played with them in the house before tossing them into the yard.  While playing with the ice balls, he color matched them all, not once but twice - just to make sure the first time wasn't a fluke.  We were told he was color blind, and we saw him fail the color blind test in China during his medical exam.  But, he proved us wrong.

Helping Dad snow blow in frigid temperatures

Feels like -35 degrees.. brrrrr!

Colored ice ball fun

Ethan with his favorite color .. red

Too cold to touch with bare hands!

Jonny's black ice ball

Sean and his blue ice ball

Other firsts were when we broke out the crayons and markers.  Jesse loves to color and will color for as long as one of us is sitting next to him.  The first picture he colored he said was for Nana and Jaja.  It was the first time he said their names without prompting and was excited to send them a picture of their picture.  :) He also colored a picture for his cousins Katy and Abbi!  He loves those girls! 

Showing off his coloring pages

Picture he took of his Pooh Bear coloring page

We built forts, played Elefun, spent hours with play doh, played hide and go seek (he loves to scream when the seeker is close to finding him, we are still working on the idea of keeping quiet and not wanting to be found). Jesse even ventured out with us to our favorite store on earth … Barnes and Noble.  We prepped him with the expectations we had for him at the store and he did great!  We even went to Chick Fil A for lunch!  Other than the fact that he wanted my sandwich instead of his nuggets. :)

While coloring, Jesse was singing his ABC's (we think he got to about H, before he hummed the rest).  He sings Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, counts to 10, repeats many words and phrases, and is very good and telling us what he needs/wants through charades.  He enjoys bath time with toys, but not washing his hair! He loves yogurt, oranges and bananas this week, as well as every meal we've eaten.  We have to hide the meat on the table, or he will eat all of it.  This week he doesn't seem to ever be full, and we are wondering if this is the coping mechanism we saw when we first got him.  He enjoys cars, Lightening McQueen, and anything else related to four wheels and the original movie.  There are 2 things that terrify him, doctors and the mention of school.  Wish he could tell me why the mention of them scare him, but for now those words are off limits in our house for now.  We will be doing 'home learning' in our home this semester. :)  Brianna is a little mommy to Jesse, and Jesse knows it.  I honestly do not know how these days would have gone without her. Jonny has the energy to keep up with Jesse's ever changing and unpredictable moods.  He is laid back and quick thinking to assist with redirection when needed.  Sean and his imaginative play keeps Jesse entertained for those moments I need to take a phone call or take a shower.  Ethan loves his brother more than anything and although life isn't exactly like he envisioned it, he thinks non stop about what he can do to make Jesse happy.  All he wants is for Jesse to know he is loved and make him happy. 

Beginning the fort building process
Fort is almost complete


Jesse is ready for story time in the fort

Jesse on the slide at CFA

Jesse at CFA

Ethan getting shocked coming down the slide at CFA

Little one's enjoying CFA toy room

Elefun time

Crazy kids int he freezing snow!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Snow Day

Although we hadn't planned to start school today, we are still calling it a snow day.  The weather outside is frightful and we are warm and cozy in our home (with our working fireplace, thanks to some wonderfully talented friends!). We have made large colored ice marbles, ice bubbles, colored pictures, beanbag bowling, piggy back racing, played Hullabaloo, Monopoly Deal, Settlers of Catan, and now we are watching Cars 2. These days are so long when we are trapped inside our home, and it is effecting everyone.

It is only 3:30 PM.  We are about out of energy and ideas.  The temper tantrums, angry outbursts, blatant disobedience, and grief stricken cries continue today.  It is heartbreaking to know that there is so much going through Jesse's sweet mind, and he will not and many times can not express it to us in a way that is respectful.  Through our challenges today, we have cried out to the Lord for His words, and so many verses have flooded into our minds.  I am so thankful for God's word that reminds us of being gentle with him, loving him, and not repaying evil with evil.  I am so thankful for God is putting us through times like this that challenge us to rely on Him.  I know that on my own, today would be a disaster and I'd crawl into bed right now.  But, with His love and wisdom, we are able to keep going and find joy through these trials and continue to show Jesse what a forever family is and that He is loved no matter what.  Even more amazing is that our other kiddos are so completely calm, gentle, understanding and loving with Jesse.  It is beautiful to see God's light shining through each of them and teaching Jesse what it means to be loved, in such a gently and sweet manner.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Snow and Shopping

We officially call him Jesse now.  We try not to use his Chinese name anymore.  He seems to respond well when we call him by Jesse.  We are so blessed to have such an affectionate, rambunctious, humorous little guy.  He understands us completely and is saying several new English words each day.  He has found many ways to communicate to us when needed, he is quite an industrious thinker and catches on very quickly.

Due to our scary and overwhelming experiences while outside of our hotel room in China, we have been hesitant to leave our house with Jesse, as we were not sure how he would react.  We have spent this past week setting boundaries, clarifying parental authority, explaining the concept of listening and obeying, and reinsuring ourselves that he does understand what we say. So, today, Jesse got a taste of life outside of our house.  He made a short trip to Kroger with mom and dad.  He did great, and was curious with all of the foods and products on the shelves.  He wanted to run with his shopping cart and pick out many items not on our list.  He waited patiently in the check out line and held our hands in the parking lot.  Our first trip in public was a success.

He has also had the opportunity to play outside in the snow.  He enjoyed the snowball making and throwing catching snowflakes on his tongue, and making snow angels.  I am sure soon he will be able to go sledding also.

He enjoys playing with cars, playing on the iPad, building and knocking down blocks or anything else.  He will truly miss daddy and his tickle/zerbert wars when he goes back to work on Monday.  He has discovered that he loves bath time with toys in the tub.  He taught us a form of ring around the rosy, and will play duck duck goose with all of us.  He enjoys playing a bean bag toss game, and using the bean bags in many creative ways.

Jesse has gained a bit of wait since being in the States, must be all the 'beans'