Category Archives: Post Adoption

Looking back and ahead

Just a few days left in 2017 and what a year it has been. 2018 will start off equally, if not more, intense for us. The blog may go quiet for awhile as I try to stay focused and keep the priorities straight. I hope that in the meantime, some of the new content I put together in the main pages will be helpful and encouraging to those who are considering adoption or in process. Here’s a quick snapshot of where we’ve been and where we’re going…

2017

6 months of adoption paperwork and preparing for Emily, 1 trip to China, 1 new daughter!

6 surgeries between James and Emily. 5 inpatient and 1 outpatient. More therapy and doctor and orthodontist appointments than I can count between all four kids, but because I have to report our out of pocket medical expenses I’ve had to create a multiple Excel spreadsheets to track mileage and visits and co-pays so I do know that we’ve accumulated close to 6000 miles just in medical driving travel.

6 months of homeschooling and now 3.5 months at a Montessori school for Andrew that is absolutely amazing! We are so thankful he is part of this school – it’s the perfect environment for him. Travel soccer in the spring, now taking a break from extracurricular activities but busy with all things building and creating – paper airplanes, legos, Minecraft, anything he can get his hands on.

6 months of Pre-K 4 in an integrated classroom, and now 3.5 months of Kindergarten in a Gen Ed classroom with a 1:1 aide and James is thriving!

6 months of a really tough 5th grade, and now 3.5 months of a muuuuch better 6th grade for Gabi 🙂 Spring voice lessons, summer musical theater program, fall acting troupe, and volunteering at church kept her busy.

Next week is 6 months since Emily became our daughter. She has added great joy and light to our lives and we are so thankful for all of the progress she’s made in so many ways.

2018 will kick off with a weekly schedule that includes 3 standing therapy appointments at our great therapy center but it is a 40 minute drive one way. Every Wednesday in January and likely into February, I’ll be taking Emily to Delaware for the serial casting on her clubbed foot and James will be seen alternately there and in Baltimore twice a month for X-rays and check ups on the progress of his spatial frame fixator which is daily turned to create straightening and lengthening of his right ulna bone. Emily has two intense days of testing in early January to follow up on how she’s doing post-op. Pending those results, we’ll adjust her daily meds and plan for future procedures.

We are anticipating some changes to Kevin’s job which will increase his travel significantly early in the year, and also bring us new insurance in the spring which will increase our out of pocket expenses significantly. We’re hopeful that this new position will bring the kind of salary increase that will cover these increased medical costs and the cost of Andrew’s tuition for another year at the Montessori school where he is flourishing. It’s been a huge relief to see him doing so well in school as the public school system could not provide the kind of accommodations he needs and continuing to homeschool wasn’t an option. He really needs to stay at this school so we are praying this will provide the funding. We only had enough money to get him through this first year.

I will be starting a very limited freelance communications job with an adoption agency that I really believe in and am excited to support with my skills and experience. I think it will be mutually beneficial in helping them to continue to grow in serving families and children, while allowing me an outlet for my passion and the chance to keep my skills sharp. If needed, I may have to take on a second part-time job this summer and beyond to cover Andrew’s tuition. But, we are hopeful for a summer that will allow us to really scale back on medical appointments so that we can enjoy some downtime with day trips to the beach and visiting family and friends!

May you have a blessed and Happy New Year!

Milestones

It’s November 2, 2017 which means it’s been exactly two years since we met James and he became our son! Happy Family Day sweet boy!

James has changed physically and emotionally in numerous ways. He’s several inches taller and several pounds heavier and he’s flourishing in Kindergarten. He’s receiving OT services at school and privately to help him as he rehabs from the major arm/hand surgeries he’s undergone this year. We will see his surgeon next week for his 3 month follow up, and to discuss and plan for the next round of surgeries for his right hand which we hope to start in January. The hardest part is retraining his brain to use his fingers in a new way, and trying to overcome the challenges of the contractions in his finger joints. They are considered “moderate” but they impact his strength and range of motion pretty significantly.

James loves to play with Andrew these days. They are constantly building and playing with Legos, Nerf Guns and Minecraft. He loves to play and read about policemen and firemen and loves to sit and just look at books. He’s eager to draw pictures thanks to an amazing art teacher at his school who motivates and empowers the kids to feel confident in their abilities regardless of their skill level. He’s done much better with making friends this year and has one friend in particular at school that he has really connected with and talks about often. It’s such a joy to see his confidence grow and social skills develop.

James will be SIX next week!! He was such a little boy, almost like a toddler, when we met him. But he has truly blossomed into this little boy who is growing up so quickly!

Milestone #2 – 

Tomorrow, November 3rd, marks four months since we met Emily and she became our daughter!

A week ago today she had surgery to remove a good portion of her lypomyleomeningocele, release her spinal cord which was being tethered down by this lypo, and then put her spine back together. The Lypo is a benign fatty tumor that formed in utero after the disruption of the formation of her spinal cord so it’s a form of spina bifida. The neurosurgeon lasered off the fatty tissue as much as possible, but there are a lot of nerves emeshed in it and so he couldn’t remove it all without risking further nerve damage. A neurophysiologist was monitoring and tracking nerves throughout her body during the surgery and they did note some minor impact to her left foot. It’s concerning in the sense that her left leg and foot are her strong one (her right foot is clubbed and the muscle in her right leg is almost entirely atrophied right now) but so far we are not seeing major symptoms. She does complain of pain from time to time in her feet and she is still very newly post-op so it’s hard to know if some of her mobility struggles right now are related to that or her back healing. But overall the surgery went very well and her incision is healing well. We just have to keep it clean and monitor it for infection or spinal fluid leaks. She handled the 48 hours  flat post-op so much better than we expected. We pushed to schedule her on Morphine right out of the OR as we knew she doesn’t have the language to communicate about her pain levels and location. She slept for almost the entire day after her surgery. By Sunday she was sooo ready to go home, but her body wasn’t. She couldn’t bear weight to walk on her on in the morning, so the team said one more day. We worked with an acute PT and got her going and by Monday morning she was ready!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We have to watch her carefully at home. She needs assistance sometimes and definitely fatigues easily. She’s been taking long naps and prefers to sit most of the time. She can’t “scoot” like she used to, or bend over to pick things up or get up from a squat position without holding on to something and grimacing. She’s as determined as ever though. We hope to get her in for a PT eval soon and start that on a weekly basis ASAP. We’re also sorting out next steps for treating her club foot with the Ponsetti method which involves serial casting for about 6 weeks and wearing a pretty intrusive bracing device overnight for several months. It’s our goal to have everyone cast free for next summer so we can enjoy the beach and swimming as much as possible.

I had really wanted to blog while in the hospital to continue my “Bedside Reflections” series, but unfortunately I accidentally left my laptop at home. But I want to share this briefly…

Emily is really scared of doctors and nurses. She cries as soon as they come into the room and gets really upset. Like every. single. time. Doesn’t matter if it’s a routine office visit, or an aide just trying to take vitals in the middle of the night while she’s sleeping. Just when I thought she’d settled, she’d hear the velcro of the blood pressure cuff and she’d start crying again. And in some ways I don’t blame her. All these strangers, all wanting to touch her and talk about her. No. fun. But we had one nurse who decided to go above and beyond. To not just tolerate it or try to “stay away” and not make her upset. She recognized her fear, recognized that she has more medical stuff ahead of her, and she took responsibility for Emily’s feelings about medical staff and started being really intentional about winning her over. She was creative and playful and engaging without overwhelming her. For example, she recognized that the gloves were an object of fear. So she made a funny face balloon out of them and turned them into something fun. She then advocated for her with all the other staff and got Child Life involved to help make things fun. From then on, every person who came in knew that they need to put in some extra effort to help our girl not feel so afraid. And it was such a gift. Such a relief. It didn’t take long, and didn’t take much, before Emily was clearly willing to offer some trust and pretty soon her whole demeanor around this nurse changed, and she started to let down her guard with the other nurses and aides too. This nurse, Carol, was a blessing to us and I’m so thankful for her wisdom and concern, and frankly – her ownership of her patient. She saw beyond the diagnoses and charts and med schedule, and she saw our girl and she didn’t run away in her own fear of not knowing what to do with a child that cried every time she walked in the room. She fought for her trust and she earned it. And in doing so, she encouraged me to speak up to future medical staff and push them to do the same. Because yes, it’s asking more. And yes, her medical stuff is the priority. But her emotional well-being is equally as important and since we’re not going to be strangers to medical staff, it’s important she feel as okay as possible about it all. Nurse Carol has set the bar high and I hope to hold others to it going forward. A huge thanks to ALL nurses for your kindness, strength and perseverance in what is often a difficult and thankless job.

 

 

3 months home

We haven’t publicly shared pictures from our “gotcha day” time with Emily. We shared pictures and video with James because, well, it went really smoothly. He was definitely nervous and unsure, but he held his emotions very tightly and came right to us with a cry of “Mama” “Baba”. Emily on the other hand, was terrified. She’d been cared for very, very well by her nannies. She had a particular nanny that was her favorite who she was very attached to. She had also lost those nannies once already when she was taken to Beijing for surgery. We learned that she’d actually been in the Beijing care home for 6 months. And while there she had a nanny that lovingly cared for her. That attachment was disrupted in April when she was returned to her orphanage and she connected again to her caregivers there. So, to be disrupted from them again was purely terrifying for her. And of course it would be! We were total strangers – we looked, smelled, and sounded different and confusing in every way. It killed us to see her so scared and hurting. We all cried that day. I will never forget the moment when that little bottle of water I’d brought along, finally gave her a moment’s rest from her grieving and she allowed me to hold her close as I’d longed to do for months. The feeling of her close and relaxed in my comfort is still visceral memory. But it’s a moment we’ll keep private to our family because the videos and pictures are still painful to see. Still an all too vivid reminder of her loss, of the pain involved in her story to that point. Which is why it is so amazing to take in the child she is today. It’s truly difficult to try to quantify or describe the healing that has come. The little one that cried in fear when her own Daddy walked in the hotel room because she was afraid he would take her from her new Mommy, now squeals with delight when he walks in the door, yelling “baba! baba!” and wanting so badly to crawl all over him on the floor in fits of giggles. The little one that would cry out in terror when I left the room is happy to play with her siblings, chase the dog around, or explore independently knowing her Mama will be there to meet her needs when she needs her.

Every child’s journey of healing is uniquely crafted by God, the restorer and redeemer of all things. Emily’s journey is very, very different from James’. On the hard days, God alone is our Hope because He alone has the power to work this healing. He uses us, but it’s only by His grace and strength that it happens. But healing does come. Change does happen. We hold steadfast to this Hope.

Some fun “firsts” and milestones over the past three months:

  • First plane ride and several car trips to Philly, Scranton, Baltimore and Wilmington for medical appointments and family visits.
  • Several English words – “Flash” (pronounced as waaash”), shoes, hi, bye-bye, nigh-night, car, down (sort of – more like “dow”), book (the ‘k’ isn’t so clear), car, James (pronounced like “Jame), Mama, Baba/Dada, peas (for pLease) and just today she’s trying to say “more-ning”
  • A lot of first foods – her favorites right now are yogurt, eggs, oatmeal, carrots, crackers and sausage.
  • A new AFO for her club foot!
  • 3 new daily medicines for bladder/bowel management that are working well so far
  • First time to the beach and a park playground
  • Going to the church nursery each week (with me staying around still)
  • Playing with Play-doh, play food and dishes, and magnetic puzzles
  • Discovering the fun of bubble baths and swimming pools!

Emily’s surgery is 2 weeks from Thursday. We’d be so grateful for your prayers as we prepare for our hospital stay and post-op days at home, and prepare the home and kids for staying here with their Mimi and Aunt. New family pictures to come soon!

Transition Time

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Our oldest celebrates her 11th birthday tomorrow and I can’t even wrap my head around having a middle schooler who is quickly becoming a young woman right before our eyes. She’s fantastic and at least once I day I think to myself that I truly don’t know what I would do without her. I’m really going to miss her when school starts next week, but I’m excited for her to have a great year.

Andrew celebrated his 8th birthday this past month and will be starting third grade at the Montessori school in our town. I homeschooled him last year which was definitely the right thing for that year. We are equally confident that this is right for him this year. It’s a financial sacrifice, I’ll be honest. We are carrying a fair amount of adoption debt, and adding private school on top of it leaves us with some big question marks about how all of the payments will be made. But the public school system just doesn’t have the services and resources to provide the environment he needs to succeed in school – academically or emotionally. It adds a layer of complexity to our days as I have to drive him to and from school each day. But after seeing how he responded during his two day visit in the spring, we are really excited for him to get started and thrive!

James starts Kindergarten at the same elementary school Gabi and Andrew went to. He has a very kind, loving and experienced teacher. He’ll be going in the mornings for a half day. He’s got a ways to go in terms of his new hand and fingers and the fine motor skills required for school are going to be a challenge. It’s not only retraining his muscles and hand structures, it’s retraining his brain. He was so used to using only his right hand while the other one was in the fixator and cast. It’s still his default to use his right hand for everything. And his brain has to learn for the first time, how to use his old index and middle finger as a thumb and index finger now. If you pray for him, please pray specifically that the scar tissue would further break up, that strength and range of motion would increase in his fingers and hands, and that he would have the personal emotional strength to press on towards the goal of a fully functioning left hand. We need this hand to be ready to go when it’s time to begin the process on the other hand.

James was reunited with Ping Ping this last month! We have so enjoyed seeing these two together and seeing her with her new family. We try to see them at least weekly. They’ve gone to the 4-H fair together, our adoption group pool party, and just played at each other’s houses. PingPing loves babies so she really enjoys being with Emily too, and it’s been neat to see her interact with all of our kids. So grateful to God that the little girl we met less than two years ago is now a cherished daughter and sister!

And finally Emily…baby girl turned 2 this past month and has been with us for two months this Sunday. We had a brief respite from all the medical appointments, and then last week we had a very full day at CHOP. Next week we have several appointments at DuPont Nemours in Wilmington, DE for second opinions, and then back to CHOP to meet with a surgeon that we couldn’t see last time because we got behind in schedule when her MRIs started late. We have another big round of bloodwork to do but thankfully got insurance approval to do it at our local children’s hospital with the help of child life and hopefully a little Versed to help her relax – this worked GREAT at CHOP. We are slowly getting some answers, and putting the pieces together of different things related to her diagnoses. We anticipate the first surgery in October which will have us inpatient for up to 5 nights and then we’ll begin serial casting of her club foot as soon as her back has healed enough to allow that. We will have to drive to DuPont for the casting every week for 6-8 weeks. DuPont is almost 2 hours one way. The hope is that we can attain a good enough level of correction that we can maintain it just through nightly bracing and a walking brace during the day. Her club foot is derived from the nerve damage from her spina bifida, so she will likely always require some sort of brace to maintain correction and help with mobility.

Developmentally, she is doing great. She’s saying more words now (shoes, buh-bye, hi, dada, Flash -the dog, book, ball) and she’s really attaching to Kevin more. We are just starting to see the beginnings of her turning to him to meet her needs and not just for play. Her favorite thing is doing Ring Around the Rosie! It’s so cute! 🙂 She’s sleeping well overall and eating okay although we’d like to see her start to gain some weight. She had lost some at her last visit and if they measured her right in China in April she hasn’t gained any weight since then.

As the summer wraps up and school begins we are feeling the time of transition coming on in a lot of ways. Definitely pray for us if you think of it. We can’t always share everything publicly that is happening, but there are a couple of bigger things happening that are definitely pushing us to keep our eyes on God and grow our faith.

Turning the Corner

img_7274We’re approaching the one year mark of when James came into our family and we feel like we have really turned a corner in adjusting to our new family dynamic and progressing through the normal and the unexpected challenges.

img_7637 img_7653James is such a smart, curious, joyful, enthusiastic, eager, resilient, brave, clever, and loving little boy. We love seeing him thrive in preschool as he makes friends and continues to build his social and language skills. We’re trialing some different writing aids to help him with writing and coloring and drawing but he is making great progress – he came home yesterday with his first drawing of a person!! I was shocked! Yes, it is already hanging on the refrigerator and he is so proud!! This is the boy that couldn’t draw a circle consistently just a few months ago. It is awesome to be on this journey with him. He doesn’t let anything stop him!

Our decision to homeschool Andrew was truly one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. Don’t get me wrong – there are a lot of days I feel overwhelmed or question myself and my ability to meet everyone’s needs and keep my sanity 🙂 But in just the first month I’ve already learned so much about letting go of expectations that are out of sync with where he’s at on that day, tuning into his needs and learning style, and being okay with our school day often looking different than everyone else’s. But more than anything, this has opened the door to healing some of the hurts he felt in becoming the middle child and losing his status as “the baby” and the only son. It’s allowed him to accept his brother at a new level and embrace their brotherhood.img_7490

It’s given him the one on one time with me that we didn’t realize he was missing so badly. He’s affectionate, loving, eager, confident, and connected again and we are so grateful. He’s started piano with me and I’m just hoping I can keep up with him! He loves to play by ear and we’re almost done with the first Primer Book. He’s also been recruited to play Travel Soccer and with boys a year older than him. They are trained by the NJ Red Bulls program staff twice a week, who then support the parent coaches for the Sunday games. So on top of Saturday Rec coached by Dad, he’s getting great opportunities to connect with other kids, build his skills and build his confidence. We are really enjoying seeing him grow in so many ways right now, and seeing him recognize his own progress and be proud of himself once again.img_7192

Gabi is flourishing as a big sister in so many ways and becoming a really special young woman. She is my go to girl and I don’t know what I would do without her.

She gets to start choir at school next week, and acting troupe at her music/art school in town the week after that. She is entering that difficult “tween” stage and navigating a lot of the normal changes, but doing it with great grace and an open heart. I am so, so thankful for our special firstborn!

img_7178img_7408

So, as I reflect back on the past year, in the waning moments of my 36th birthday (!!!) I am filled with gratitude at how far we’ve come. At nearly one year home, our family of five is really settling in and feeling like we’ve found our new groove. So many changes in such a short time and we’ve experienced God’s faithfulness to us in so many ways. He always provides and His perfect love never runs out. Saying “yes” to growing our family through adoption was one of the best things we’ve ever done. We’re so grateful!

9 months in our arms

Nine months ago today we held our precious James in our arms for the first time after holding him our hearts for many months! The small, shy, brave, curious, and scared little boy that called out “Mama, Baba!” is now FOUR INCHES taller, a few pounds heavier, almost two shoe sizes bigger, and is a running, jumping, swimming, talking, discovering, singing, playing, tickling, laughing, eating, joy-giving, dynamic child that is starting preschool in a month!

James continues to make great progress in his upper body strength, flexibility and balance as we work at home with daily stretching, small motor activities (buttoning, zippers, snaps, locks, pinching with tweezer games, etc.) and weekly Occupational Therapy (OT) where has started working on a pencil grasp to start to form the letters of his name. The decision of whether to pursue a surgical correction for his hands and arms has always been a decision centered on function, rather than external form or appearance. If we could give him improved function in Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) then we wanted to give him every opportunity for that.

Yesterday we had our visit with Dr. Standard at the Rubin Institute for Advanced Orthopedics at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore. Dr. Standard is one of just two surgeons in the country that regularly performs a newer surgical procedure for Radial Aplaysia that is called Ulnarization. We had heard many good things about him from a variety of friend and family connections and we were not disappointed. He was so personable, engaging James with gentleness and care. He was patient and clear and so knowledgeable. He explained things to us in a way we could truly understand, answered all our questions thoroughly, and definitely put us at ease about his heart in patient care. This visit clarified and confirmed that James is an excellent candidate for the straightening surgery and for the pollicization procedure (removing his hypoplastic thumbs and moving his index fingers to be his new thumbs). After these surgeries there is the possibility of limb lengthening as well to help his ulna bones lengthened up to another 4-5 inches. His ulna bones are currently estimated to be about 40% short. We will do the first arm/thumb next summer, the second arm the next summer. Then it would be a couple of years until we do the lengthening, if we decide to do that. There will be a significant recovery/rehab period with frequent outpatient therapy. The pollicization surgery is about 3-4 months after the straightening surgery and his new thumb will be casted for 6 weeks after that and there will be lots of therapy/rehab for that too.

So this is not something we take lightly. It will be a heavy investment of care and time for our whole family, and will be a lot for our little boy to go through. But we have great peace that this is the best path forward for him. Kevin’s family lives just 20 minutes from the hospital, the OT facility where James goes now is one of the best pediatric therapy services in our region offering extensive services ideally suited to his rehab including aqua therapy, and we feel so comfortable with Dr. Standard and his team.

In the meantime, we’ll focus a lot of his OT on increasing mobility and flexibility in his fingers, particularly the index fingers. This boy is truly unstoppable though. In the last two days alone, he’s climbed UP the playground ladder, UP the playground rock wall, and is now not only jumping in the pool on his own but asking us to throw him in! 🙂 It is an incredible feeling to experience the joys and wonder of life alongside this amazing little boy we get to call “son.”

Seasons of change

Summer break is upon us and suddenly it feels as if time has been flying. The slow and often wearisome days of winter seemed to drag on and on, and spring with its rollercoaster ride of rain and summer temps felt mirrored much of our household dynamic – lots of highs and lots of lows. But as we make the turn towards summer and I think about what was happening a year ago, it seems like just yesterday that we were celebrating the milestone of being “DTC” – meaning our dossier had gone to China and we were beginning the wait for our “LOA” – the official letter of acceptance that would signal we were just weeks away from traveling to get James. How can it be that we are already nearly a year past this critical milestones that seemed as if they would never come? And yet, here we are, home together nearly 7 months, and so much has changed already.

Thursday is the last session of the Mommy & Me group that we’ve gone to weekly. This was a great introduction to a school setting for him. It’s given him the chance to follow a routine and structure, to build some independence, practice play skills, and to be more comfortable following directions from other adults. 

Tomorrow we go to complete James’ registration and orientation for fall preschool. He’ll see his classroom, meet his teacher, and get to sit in with the class for awhile. He’ll be starting out in the Integrated 3 year old classroom. Half of the students have an identified special need, and have are traditional students. Along with his CST (Child Study Team) we felt this was the best placement for him in terms of being with children who are also new to a group classroom environment and are emotionally and socially developmentally younger. His current fine motor skills are also much closer to the level of a three year old, so in many ways he’ll be able to start out better matched with peers which sets him up for success in the future. He has an IEP in place to ensure that he’s meeting social and emotional goals, and that the necessary supports and accommodations are in place to meet his physical needs so he can make academic progress.

He is still doing really well in OT. He’ll be getting cast for new splints next month because he is gaining flexibility and range of motion in his middle three fingers on each hand (YAY!!!) and we’re going to focus a lot on fine motor skills in OT this summer. He’s recently started mastering the use of his sock aide to put his own socks on! 

James is LOVING the summer temps and asks to go in our little pools as soon as he sees the sun outside. Over Memorial Day weekend he had his first chance at a REAL pool at Grandma and Grandpa’s and he did great! This was a really needed time of bonding with the Hamilton side of the family. He especially took to his big cousin Abi and is already talking about how he wants to “sit with her” when we vacation together in a few weeks. 

James is really starting to gain confidence and build skills in more social communication. In just the past few weeks he’s taken to initiating a conversation with Gabi or Andrew. For example, he will tell them something about his day without any prompting. In the past he would do that if I prompted or asked him to. The majority of his conversation was responsive. He’s also asking a lot more questions and is starting to attempt some play conversation with siblings and cousins. While most of his “play skills” are still mimicry, he’s starting to extend concepts to other applications. For example, we taught him how to pretend to be a fireman and one day he was out on the deck and saw the garden hose and asked if he could use it to pretend to “spray the fire.” Having spent his early childhood years in an institution were there were no toys and none of the playful interactions that help children develop, he is literally having to learn all of these play skills.

We also have to teach him how to handle social interactions with adults and he is trying so hard. He is easily embarrassed when someone compliments him or tries to speak to him directly because he simply didn’t have that type of interaction with adults for so long. So we realized we would have to practice. So we talk through different types of scenarios helping him practice what to say. For example, if the cashier at the store says hello we say hello back. Seems like a simple thing to us, but for him that was new. He’s doing a great job with that now. It’s a skill in progress, but he’s come a long way already.

A huge step forward is that James has begun to stay with a babysitter for a few hours a week. Our babysitter for Gabi and Andrew has returned from college and after a few days of spending time together the three of us we transitioned to some time for just the two of them and James did great! So we’re making it a weekly thing now so that I can get out to appointments and to get some prep done for homeschooling Andrew in the fall. It’s really a test of trust for James to say goodbye and know that we will be coming back, but again he is trying so hard and is doing really well.

This past weekend James went to his first baseball game and saw fireworks for the first time. All the noise of the game was a lot to manage but we just used some of our sensory calming strategies and he did pretty well. This summer will bring many more “firsts” as we ride the boat at the lake on vacation, say goodbye to Gabi for a few days of camp, and go to the beach where he will see the ocean for the first time. He’s seen pictures and has already told us that he doesn’t want to go in. We talked about how we can stand at the edge and just let it touch our feet which he seemed okay with 🙂  We’re hoping to have another first as well – a first overnight getaway for us while he and his brother stay with grandparents!

To conclude, I want to share some more great news about James’ friends in China. Agape Adoption Agency recently visited the SWI in conjunction with a rep from Love Without Boundaries. They are already advocating for families for James’ two closest friends, and they are working hard to ensure that many more children from there have the opportunity to be placed with a family. Amy, from LWB, posted three blog entries on her personal blog about their visit. One describes the SWI visit (“This is the deal.  Kids are not meant to live in sterile institutions. There is very little human contact or connection. Several of the kids had rope around their feet presumably to tie them to their beds. So many very very sad kids with little to no hope of a future. There were no toys. Kids were folded in half in walkers, lifeless.”) and the other two are specifically about James’ friends!

“Luke” http://finallyafamilyoffive-china.blogspot.com/2016/06/luke.html

“We had to get a photo of his awesome eyes without the glasses.  Isn’t he so handsome!”

“Mimi” http://finallyafamilyoffive-china.blogspot.com/2016/06/introducing-mimi.html

“For a girl who has not had a formal education, she was able to write her numbers and draw shapes.  I am pretty sure the characters are her name.  She appeared to be a smart little cookie.”