Category Archives: Our Story

Watch What God Will Do

That’s what SHE said…and her words meant the world to me.

The first one to jump in. The first one to say “Yes, we are with you. Yes, we will believe with you. Yes, we’ll put skin in the game.”

It was two years ago that I would wake up every morning eagerly hoping she’d posted again. On the other side of the world was this brave mama walking into a journey of crazy faith in China as she and her husband became Mama and Baba to their two sweet girls. Two sweet girls that God had given an extra chromosome of happiness and spunk. They would bring them home to their four biological children and become a family of 8 overnight. The road ahead unclear. The challenges not fully known. But a faith in a God that would move mountains. And in the early days of our first adoption, I clung to her words as a gift from God to inspire and encourage my excited, but nervous heart.

Her honesty, persistence, and courage in the days to follow have been a grace for my oft weary heart. As a mom, a wife, a citizen…a fellow sojourner. So when she wrote about our road to Emily, and encouraged others to “Watch What God Will Do”, well, I found myself so deeply humbled. And honored. And I exhaled. Because when you are an adoptive parent just trying to help people understand your heart, and not misunderstand your intentions in this sometimes complicated task of fundraising, you just need that person who comes in and says, “Yes, we are with you. Yes, we believe with you. Yes, we’ll put skin in the game.”

So Erin? Thank you. A thousand times thank you. We’re watching and God is doing great things. Not only in the donations that have come in, but in the people and relationships and stories behind them all. The people who are saying “We’re giving the 2 fish and 5 loaves we have. Here God – use it. Multiply. Provide. We believe.”

As of tonight, we’ve seen him provide just over 31% now of our goal in the first week! Thank you to everyone that has given. We are so very grateful! EDIT: We’re now at 37% of our goal – 7 pieces to go to reach 40%!!

Introducing Emily Marie

This holiday season we shared love, laughter, gifts and joy with our families. And, in the midst of that we shared the news that we are adopting again and headed back to China for our daughter, Emily Marie Lin!

Our precious girl is 16 months old and cute as can be! We shared the big surprise with our three kiddos and extended family over Christmas after keeping the secret of our next adoption for so many weeks so we could tell them in person and after things had moved forward a little bit more since it’s already quite awhile to wait. The kids are very happy and Gabi is VERY excited to be traveling to China with us this time.

We received our Pre-Approval for her just after Thanksgiving. We are waiting on a final clearance from the state of New Jersey to finalize our home study and then it’s on to the next step of immigration with USCIS. We anticipate travel this summer to hopefully celebrate her 2nd birthday with her in China or here at home.

We are grateful and humbled to be stepping back into adoption again! It’s sobering and exciting at the same time. It was a serious process of prayer and consideration and seeking counsel that brought us to this decision, and we are now so eager to hold our girl and welcome her into her new family!

We plan to share more about her and our story to her in the days ahead. For now, we are concentrating on making sure we are doing all we can to keep the paperwork process moving, assembling our first care package to her, and eagerly awaiting an update with new pictures and possibly video. We hope you’ll follow along in our journey back to China for our sweet girl!

Recapping Reality

It’s late. I should be in bed. But there are so many thoughts swirling around in my head and writing here is becoming therapeutic for me, so sleep will wait. Besides…I got some Starbucks Holiday K-cups tonight so delicious coffee awaits in a few hours.

It’s Sunday night and I feel much differently this Sunday night than I did last night because this will be a different week, in some ways, than the last week was. Today was a good day. We got through it tear and meltdown free. But, this last week was hard. The hardest week since we’ve been home. Kevin was out of the country Mon – Sat on a business trip. That’s not something we share online for public viewing before or while it’s happening which is why I didn’t mention it. But it was not an easy thing to deal with. We had hoped he could be home until at least the new year. In terms of the attachment process, this was less than ideal. In terms of my sanity, it was even lesser than ideal. Single parenting is never easy. And believe me, every time I do it for a few days or a week, I’m reminded of the strength of my friends who do this on a daily basis due to family circumstances or military deployment. But, single parenting three kids, with one having only been in the country, let alone the family, for four weeks, had me in tears many times the days leading up to the trip. I knew it would likely be confusing and scary for James to realize his Daddy was not home day after day. For a child who has been abandoned multiple times in his life (separation at birth or soon thereafter has been scientifically proven to have effects of trauma on babies, and for most children placed in adoption they feel a sense of abandonment by their former caregivers) it was going to be by the grace of God that he would truly understand his Daddy was coming back again. We use the words “come back” all the time and we have from the very moment we walked in our hotel room for the first time and one of us had to leave the room for the bathroom. But ideas related to time are much harder to communicate. So I was concerned for him, and it has been harder and harder in the past year or so on our other two to have their Daddy gone when he travels. They usually beg to sleep with me just to feel close to him, and our other son in particular usually has a major escalation in his ADHD and sensory issues, resulting in difficult days at school and home.

Side note: Our other son was officially diagnosed this year and while we’ve chosen not to discuss this very much in public forums, it is a very daily part of our lives impacting our family relationships and dynamics. He is an awesome kid whose brain has just been wired differently and while we don’t understand why completely, we are working really hard with natural medicines, weekly OT (occupational therapy), a plan with the school, and soon a new therapist, to help him be the best he can be. Your prayers for him, and for us, would be so appreciated. As you can imagine, it also adds some very unique and difficult dimensions to this process of family dynamics and home life with a newly adopted sibling. It’s hard every day. Sometimes every moment, and we have almost no one in our circle of local relationships that is in the same situation, so at times it feels very isolating and that’s not to ask for pity, it’s to be honest about something that is actually scary to say in hopes it will give someone else out there some encouragement to know – you’re not alone. 

So about this time last week all I wanted to do was think about getting through the week. And the only way to do that was a day at a time. Unfortunately, most of those days would need to be spent at home. We had four very busy days, Friday – Monday, with a lot of errands, going to church for the first time, a family Cmas gathering, etc. and I knew James was going to need quiet restorative days at home for awhile. But that felt like the last thing I needed, honestly. “Cocooning” is not easy for extroverts. And while I’m not nearly as extroverted as I used to be, it is tough for me to sacrifice the face to face connections I desire to have, to give James what he needs right now. In other words, there are a lot of times when I think, “I don’t really want to do this,” and I wrestle, HARD, with my attitude and feelings. So, facing down a week without the one adult I see and talk to face to face every day was daunting. But stay home I would have to because this was to be an intense week.

James became our son 7 weeks ago tomorrow. (Actually, today I guess). And in those 7 weeks we have seen him make a lot of progress in developing a secure attachment to us. He prefers us over others, looks to us for comfort, seeks us out to meet his needs, and wants to be near us much of the time. There were some additional steps in that just this past week -he’s now telling me “Are you hungry? More eating?” when he is hungry, versus waiting for us to ask. If I leave the room he starts yelling (yes yelling) “Mommy? Mommy? Mommy!!” and even after I tell him where I am he’s not satisfied until he sees me again or I’m back in the room. If he’s happily playing with a sibling or his Daddy he’s not as prone to do this. He has also started asking me to play. He will point to what he wants to play with and say “Mommy play? Come on…” and he is calling out to me at night. Twice this week it was just for some comfort and he ended up sleeping in our room.

So yes, we celebrate these steps forward. But as he acclimates to his new home and family, some of the shock is wearing off and we are also beginning to see him move into other phases of transition and adjustment. And it is here that I struggle with wanting to be honest about what we are facing and working through, and respecting our son’s privacy. Just as I wouldn’t want someone to give narratives or detailed examples of my behavior within the privacy of family relationships and home life, I know that James wouldn’t want that either. Particularly in this time when he is highly emotionally vulnerable. So I have to handle very carefully the power of the public knowledge into our family life in the days ahead. But I also want to be honest and real about what it means to make a family through adoption.

We are emerging out of the “Honeymoon Phase” there is no doubt. This is a “good” thing but it is a hard thing. It means he feels some level of trust in us that he’s willing to test the waters of our commitment to him. It means he’s not just “performing” all the time to keep us happy in an attempt to try to control keeping his world happy. Performing is typical survival instinct behavior for a child from an institution because they knew what it took to keep their basic needs met there and because the nannies will often tell them before they leave that they have to be good for their new mama and baba. Some will even threaten the kids that if they’re not good the families will send them back. Not saying this was the case for James. We don’t know. For some kids, they will “perform” for awhile. We know families whose kids kept it up for months. In other cases, the trauma and grief of leaving the former caregivers overrides the ability to “perform” at all.

James is expressing a lot of emotions and they are coming out in bigger and louder ways. He’s scared of certain things and fighting for control in the only way he knows how (more on that below) and when he feels like he’s losing control the fear can become overwhelming and that is very hard to watch, and even harder to walk through with him. Particularly when there is only one parent and there are multiple children involved. It’s just our reality.

He’s also more easily overwhelmed by lots of commotion in his environment – music, talking, lights, lots of toys, lots of people, etc. Sometimes the evidence of this is apparent only to Kevin and I because we know what the subtle signs are that things are building and we know what it can lead to if we don’t intervene to give him the space he needs to decompress. It’s another aspect of feeling out of control. He didn’t have the appropriate sensory stimulation to develop the skills to process and cope with all that comes at him. It’s a similar feeling of being out of control and that is again fear associated.

Part of expressing emotion means expressing his will for things. Saying no to things or not wanting to do or stop doing things he’s asked to. And when he’s pointed in a different direction he again feels out of control and without the context of a deep and loving and proven trust-based relationship with us over a long time, understand the role of a mommy and daddy, it becomes scary to feel out of control and there is a reaction.

By far, mornings are his best time. (Although we went to the bus stop with him crying in the carrier the first morning Kevin was gone because of an issue over a toy with a sibling) He struggles after his nap which coincides with when the other two kids get home from school. We have a long way to go in figuring all of these things out. This is a marathon not a sprint. And although the initial leg of the race felt less bumpy than expected, we are really just getting started.

Adoption doesn’t end when you step off the plane and take smiling pictures. It is permanent. It is a lifetime commitment to love and pursue and commit no matter what. We’re just a little farther down the path now and engaging some new territory.

Kevin’s home. The kids are thrilled. James was able to Facetime with him a few times. He asked about him often until the last two days when he didn’t ask anymore and I would bring it up to remind him. We survived, bumps, scrapes and a few wounds along the way that are still healing, but we were helped in that process by time with my parents today and tonight I got to leave the house by myself and embrace the joy of Target at 10pm. Maybe I shouldn’t have had that latte… 😉


There are some fantastic books, training and blogs out there. One of my favorites is No Hands But Ours written by several adoptive moms. This is from one post that offered some helpful background to keep in mind as we experience new things with James:

Neglect and abuse impair development – There is a change in the neurotransmitters responsible for sending chemical messages to the rest of the child’s body.  Everything from physical response such as heartbeat, to mood, memory and coping mechanisms can be affected.  The brain is altered in development and the neglect, abuse and abandonment can cripple the ability to grow and think clearly.  When there is a lack of attachment in the very early years for a child, when that soft “sensory bath” that mothers and fathers give a child is missing, it can literally reorganize a nervous system.  While that is overwhelming in and of itself, the good news is, it isn’t about bad behavior.  When a small baby is not cared for, he can lose his voice – his cry doesn’t matter or produce results.  The synaptic connections literally change and a child learns to fight, flight, manipulate, control or just plain check out.

Control and manipulation are strategies to survive.  Deep fear triggers a deep need for control.  It isn’t about infuriating you.  It is about safety.

As parents we need to look with compassion and new eyes but still deal with the issues that cannot be ignored.  The behavior has to change but we must look past the behavior into the child’s heart.  When this happens, the emotional bond changes too.

It is all about a power struggle.  If the initial damage was done to the child in the context of relationship (or lack of relationship) then it must be healed in the context of relationship.  That is based on trust.  When a child is asked and taught to give up unhealthy strategies, trust is foundational to change.

 

Emerging from the Cocoon

We’ve been home a month and while I would say we’ve definitely done our cocooning as planned, we have not had to do as super intensively as some families. That doesn’t make them or us any better, it’s just different. Depending on how things go, we may find we need to do that ourselves in the future. Everyone’s story is different. But, after a month lived primarily at home, and several weeks away from social gatherings, we are ready to slowly start emerging from our cocoon, starting with a return to church. 

We are really looking forward to reconnecting and being encouraged in our faith, particularly in these days of pouring ourselves out into our kids moment by moment. We are excited for folks to see James in person and for our family to begin the transition back into these group gatherings. Many in this gathering have prayed for us and made financial gifts of support. But this is different than when we returned to church with Gabi and Andrew shortly after their births. Actually, it’s different in just about any social group setting we encounter…

See, here’s the thing – we’re not bringing in a little baby that has been with us since birth who will likely sleep right through the service and not even notice if someone gets very close to him or holds him. Instead, we’re breaking entirely new ground here with James and as his Mommy and Daddy it’s our job to do it in the best way possible so that he feels as safe as possible. So, while we can’t wait for you to see James, we won’t be able to let you into his personal space and we won’t be able to let you touch him or hug him. What we would love for you to do is offer a gentle smile and a kind hello to him and offer a high five if you want, and a hug to us and our other children. As you’ve seen in pictures and videos, he is sooo cute and we all just want to cuddle him all the time and squeeze his adorable cheeks! But for now we need to be the only ones to give that affection as we build a secure attachment.

He can sometimes be very shy with new folks, but is usually ready and willing to give a smile and wave. We’re grateful for that and will encourage it, but it doesn’t mean he’s ready, or attached enough yet to us, to operate independently in a social setting. What we would love is if you could help us by showering a lot of that attention and affection on Gabi and Drew. They are going through a lot of change right now and although they may not return the affection, they need the extra support right now.

The other thing is that a gathering like a church service is full of sensory stimulation – all kinds of sights, smells, and sounds (sometimes at loud volumes) and kids will react to this in different ways. James may get very withdrawn or be quite the opposite. In any case, know that if we hang back for awhile it’s not because we want to have distance from anyone, but instead because we need to give James space to stay regulated. It’s likely we’ll come in late and leave early – this is SO weird for us! I promise we’re not avoiding you, but we are taking baby steps as we break this new ground with James, and as a family of five. Bear with us as we find our way week by week.

I was so inspired by this post from a fellow adoptive momma whose son came home this summer and has one arm with the same condition that James has. She called it “The Better Conversation” and in it share shares some helpful things for their friends who wanted to help prepare their kids for meeting their son who has some physical differences from other kids. This is something we think about a lot – we wonder if James already feels different. We wonder what he thinks about his arms and hands. We wonder if he was made fun at the SWI. We feel heartbreak and anger as we think about the first time it will happen here. The true story for him is that God intentionally created him, sees beauty in him, and that value is not determined by our external appearance. The true story is that God redeems our wounds and in our weaknesses He is magnified. That’s the true story we know as a family. But, even though all of that is true, it’s normal for kids to have questions and even feel a little uncomfortable when they meet someone new who looks/sounds/acts different than most of the kids they know, so we wanted to offer one way that you could proactively approach the subject and help your kids feel a little more comfortable as they anticipate meeting James.

“Hey kids, guess what? The Hamiltons will be coming back to church soon and you’ll get to meet Gabi and Drew’s new brother James! James has only been home from China for about a month. He can say some English words and phrases, but he probably won’t be able to understand a lot of what you say yet. So if he doesn’t respond to you that’s okay. He does understand smiles, and high fives and funny faces though. You can ask Gabi and Drew what he likes to hear and say if you want some ideas.

James is four years old so he’s not a baby, but his Dad may hold him and his Mom may have him in a carrier sometimes anyway. That’s because he’s still learning what a Mommy and Daddy are so they’re helping him learn to stay close and connected to them. Sometimes he may act differently than you would expect from a four year old. That’s because he did not live with a Mommy and Daddy in China and he’s never been in any sort of school, so he’s still learning a lot and will need us all to be patient with him. One thing that’s sometimes really tough for him is food because he didn’t always have enough food, or enough good food where he lived in China. So his Mommy and Daddy are working hard to make sure he’s getting the good things he needs, and also that he feels safe with his food and not scared that someone is going to take it away.

One other thing that you may remember or you’ll probably notice pretty quick is that his hands look a little different than ours, and his arms are a little shorter than ours. Let’s look at some of the pictures the Hamiltons have put here on the blog and on Facebook so you can see what I mean. That might help you to not feel like you want to stare so much when you meet him in person…

His arms and hands were that way even before he was born because one of the bones in his arms is not there. But it doesn’t hurt him and it’s actually pretty amazing how he finds ways to do all kinds of things even though he has different hands. He can feed himself, color, paint, play with toys, and loves to run, climb, jump, swim and do most of the stuff that all kids like to do. He’s a lot of fun and I hope you can be good friends.”

If you’ve made it all the way through this post, THANK YOU! It means a ton to us that you would be purposeful about preparing your kids – it’s a gift to them and us.

One last thing – Gabi and Drew are still figuring out their own ways of introducing him and feeling like they have to say something about, or explain his hands. They haven’t been around other children with physical differences very much in their life and this is a maturing experience for them. So,  if you hear them talking about it with your kids know that we are completely okay with that. We’ve asked them not to do it in front of James, not to point, or to hold his hands in some sort of awkward way to explain (yes this happened 🙂  ) but they need their own safe places to sort of talk it through and receive other people’s feedback. The more chances they have to talk it through, the more their own awkwardness seems to dissipate. 

 

A month later…

…a month ago today this happened:

and then we actually left and went to the adoption office and this happened:

and in an instant a boy became a son and we received a precious gift that has forever changed our family’s lives.

A little while later we captured a few more moments. Those of you that have heard him now will be amazed, as we are, at the difference in his voice. One of many changes from that first day when we encountered a timid, scared but very brave little boy.

Three weeks ago today we brought him home.

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and we have gone from a family of four to a family of five and are so, so, so grateful we said yes to this amazing, difficult, refining, beautiful work of family.

First Week Home

One week ago to this very moment I start writing (no I didn’t plan this 🙂 ) we touched down at Newark International Airport and a few moments later as James’ feet hit the inside of the airport he was automatically an American citizen. In some ways it feels like just yesterday and in many other ways it feels like weeks ago already. My time to blog and post on FB is growing increasingly shorter as we adjust to life with three kids (and a now 9 month old puppy!) and do our best to dig deep into the hard work of intentional attachment with James to build and develop his family skills and personal sense of security. So in this post I’m going to try to summarize our first week home and give a look ahead.

Gabi and Andrew stayed home from school with us until yesterday. My parents left on Friday morning and we were so grateful we had their help for the first 36 hours or so. They had been here almost a full week at that point and needed to get home, but James is still talking about his “A Po Mimi” and “A Gohn.” It was great to have these days together as a family with no pressure to have to be ready to go anywhere or do anything specific. Our jet lag has definitely not been as bad as many warned, but the evenings are rough (I have literally nodded off at the dinner table at 5:30pm and we fall asleep putting the kids to bed just about every night) and we often wake up pretty early – 4 or 5am. One morning James and I were both up at 5 and I decided we’d both take a melatonin gummy to sleep some more…Kevin had to come wake us up at 10!

Going from 2 to 3 kids, and from 1 sibling to 2, is a challenge and we are definitely still in the early stages of figuring this whole thing out. Andrew and James, being closer in age, have bonded pretty quickly over play, silliness and all things boy (aka burping contests) but Andrew has also struggled with normal jealousy and missing his role as the “baby.” He’s been having us read him books we read to him as a toddler and infant, and is seeking a lot of extra cuddle time, but still wanting to be the big brother. Gabi is an invaluable help to us, but James coming into our family through adoption, rather than as a biological newborn, has made it tougher for her. She is very nurturing and responsible so she naturally wants to help provide care and love, but right now at this critical time of forming my identity as James’ mother we have to continually ask her to wait on the things she wants to do, or provide help in a different way. She’s been very understanding, she just wants to feel like she’s doing a good job at being a big sister and so it’s taking some time to figure out what that looks like in this season. We know that she also misses her time with us. I’m going to take her out for a bit after school today so we can get some one on one time (before I fall asleep again!). It was good for them to get back to school yesterday and get into their routine. Andrew had his last soccer game on Saturday and will start basketball “camp” on Sunday afternoons next month. We’re looking to get Gabi involved in a voice or drama program again after the New Year.

Kevin is home on paternity leave through the end of this week and I have to say that I really can’t imagine if he’d had to go back to work on Monday. We have needed this time to feel like we could get things in order again, but also to give concentrated time to connecting with James in his new home. Right now I will admit that the thought of being on my own with the three is overwhelming. It’s a loud house these days, and on top of a now shedding dog and toys everywhere (just sliiightly messing with my OCD tendencies) my nerves are often frazzled. I know this is something every parent goes through when their family grows and it is a season and we’ll figure out our rhythm. I also know that this is yet another step in the Lord refining me to rest in Him. As I was picking up blocks the other day and my body was literally feeling the pressure of trying to keep up with it all, He put it on my heart to just sing of Him and focus my heart on Him. There was such peace, and I was so grateful for His gentle call.

We have mostly stayed close to home this first week and will continue to do so for awhile. The weather was beautiful for a few days so we did get outside a lot, and yesterday Kevin and I took James and the dog for a walk. But cabin fever had definitely set in by day four, so Gabi and I ventured a trip to Target with James where he promptly fell asleep in the carrier after I tried some shoes on him. It was somewhat surreal going into the baby section again (we just needed Pull Ups and baby wash) and thinking about how long it had been since I’d done that. We went to the grocery store today for a quick trip and that went well, but I’m still very much wanting to just keep him close, so even putting him in the cart was tough for me although he like it a lot. The thing is, I missed his first four years. I’m his Mommy but I never held him close as a baby, or carried him in my womb, or rocked him to sleep, or felt the joy of seeing him learn to crawl or walk, and now he is in this great big new world processing so much, and the thing is that just about every adoption expert will say that you take your child “back to birth” as much as possible. So although he is almost 100% capable of feeding himself, dressing himself, and doing most everything for himself, and although he is friendly to everyone, scared of very little and seems super independent (something we usually celebrate in our children), I’m going to hold him close.

James is, by all appearances, a happy and well adjust child. But there are things that only we as his parents, watching and studying him for a few weeks now, and having been trained and having adoptive parent mentors to learn from, can see and understand. When he runs to the door to say hello to the plumber, it’s necessarily a good thing. When he sees something outside the restaurant door and walks away from his mommy right out the front door to see what it is, that’s actually really not a good thing. When Mommy and Daddy can leave the room on a regular basis and he shows no signs of distress, at this stage, it’s actually not the best thing. We’ve only seen James cry twice – when he had blood drawn at his physical in China and when he first came home and interacted with Flash (Sidenote: they are now best buds, he chases him, pets him and loves him). He didn’t even cry the first few times he hurt himself – he would laugh. It was a coping mechanism he’d developed in the absence of no one to comfort him all those years (children can develop these mechanisms within just weeks of neglect according to most studies). In fact, not only does he not cry, he rarely expresses any emotion other than happiness, silliness, or some stubbornness. He gets very quiet and serious in his bed, and he tends to also get very quiet in the car.  So what’s the problem you say? Well, the reality is that James may very well be thinking he is just here with us for awhile and not understand at all that this is a permanent change. Because of the language barrier, it’s still very difficult to talk about the change, (we are using some other strategies outlined in one of the books we read), and the concern is that while it looks on the outside like he’s just so happy to be with us, his affection and attachment is not exclusive yet and it won’t be for awhile. We actually want him to be upset when we leave. We want him to hesitate when a stranger comes near. We want him to move toward us when he feels a sense of concern or fear. These are signs of attachment that are healthy and allow us to then begin to talk about leaving and coming back. For a child who has left everyone and everything they’ve known, it’s common to think that when someone leaves they don’t come back. And when you are attached to that someone and you think they won’t come back you cry and feel sad and get upset. James is not there yet. Not even close. Yesterday was the first time he came looking for me when I left the room just to know where I was. He also told me he was hungry for the first time. This is a step in the right direction, but we have a long way to go.  So the first step is continuing to reinforce Mommy and Daddy by exclusively meeting critical needs: food, comfort, care, nurturing, affection, cleaning, etc. We’re also working on “little” things – i.e. increasing the amount of sustained eye contact he can do. This actually releases dopamine in the brain which helps him develop connection to us. There are games we do to help with this, and there are some things I’ll be starting with him next week to help him learn about staying near me.

One of the greatest joys I have right now is singing to him and reading to him at bedtime. He is trying so hard to copy every English word we say and he’s getting pretty good at the books we’re reading and Jesus Loves Me. His favorite thing to play with is the little workbench and tools that my parents gave Andrew a few years ago. And…his big sister’s Littlest Pet Shop and Squinky toys 🙂  Big brother took him for a ride in the Power Wheels Jeep this week and he didn’t stop smiling the whole time!

Tomorrow is James’ first doctor appointment. We are so grateful to have a Cantonese speaking Chinese pediatrician just ten minutes from our home. She is very supportive of adoption and is eager to see James. We anticipate a basic examination and then charting a course for further tests including more bloodwork (they only tested it for TB in China) an echocardiogram and x-rays of his hands and arms. We are 99% sure that his radius is missing, not just shortened, in both arms and that he likely also has a malformation in his ulnas. Some basic x-rays will confirm this and give us a starting point when we go see Dr. Kozin at Shriner’s in Philly in the New Year. The echocardiogram is to rule out any issues with his heart – sometimes a person with an upper limb difference, particularly radial dysplasia/aplasia, will have a small ASD or VSD – basically a hole in the heart. Thankfully these are fairly common and usually easily repaired, though of course the thought of him having hear surgery is really difficult to even consider. We know the typical signs of a heart issue and so far he’s not exhibiting any of them, nor did the doctor at his exam in China indicate any concern. The bloodwork is to rule out anemia because there is a rare anemia disorder that is sometimes associated with RA/RD as well. His bloodwork done at 2 years old doesn’t indicate any issues, so this is just to ensure all our bases are covered. We don’t have plans for this weekend other than to continue playing and connecting. I am hoping to do some work on all of the pictures from our trip and to help Gabi get started on her scrapbook of her first week at River Valley Ranch camp. Gabi and Drew start half days on Friday for teacher conferences, which go right up to Thanksgiving. I’m soooo glad Kevin only has a three day work week next week!

Last thing I can think of is one of the most important of course – food! Well, I’m trying to save many of my freezer meals for when Kevin is back at work and the kids are back to school all day every day. But it has been a blessing to go easy and just use what we have on hand and be okay with a dinner of fish sticks and mac ‘n cheese (for the kids) or sloppy joes and fries. James is pretty avoidant of all things dairy (other than pizza) which is typical of a Chinese diet. He loves fruit and I’m now giving him congee for breakfast with plans to add in the standard favorites of chicken, scallions and soy sauce for dinner. I’m also going to make some chicken fried rice with the big batch of rice I made in the rice cooker a few days ago. I found a great You Tube channel for Mama Cheung and she has an easy recipe for the Cantonese Sponge Cake he loves to be made in the rice cooker so that’s up next along with Pan Fried Noodles and Beef Mei Fun. We tried one local Cantonese take out place and agreed it was pretty awful…but maybe we’re just spoiled having come from the “real deal.” We are going to try a brand new true Hunan style restaurant next. This is the kind of food we had in the local place in James’ orphanage town and we loved it. When all else fails, there’s Cup-of-Noodles! 🙂

Until next week…

🙂 Kristen

Before we go…

Dear Friends and Family,

This journey to make James our son could not have been possible without the love and support and generosity that you have shown over the past nine months. You’ve prayed for us, advocated for us, encouraged us, and given generously of your time, energies and financial resources. The number of people that have come together to make this happen for our little boy is so humbling. “Thank you” seems insufficient, but we offer it to you from the bottom of our hearts.

Along the way to this point we’ve learned so much about what to expect when James comes home, how to transition him and our family, and how to help others be part of that in the best way for James. We’ve read books, attended trainings, consulted with adoption professionals, and gleaned from the wise counsel and experience of many, many families who’ve gone ahead of us in this process with their own families. We learned things we never knew before and we want to share them with you now because so many of you have asked great questions, and expressed a desire to continue to help and support after he comes home. For some of you, we’ve had this conversation already in person – we wish we could do that with everyone! J Others of you have walked closely with friends and family who’ve already adopted so this may not be new to you. It’s our hope that in sharing what we’ve learned and plan for, we’ll all be better prepared for the transition.

There are some things about adoptive parenting that are the same as parenting a biological child. There are also quite a few areas that we have learned are different.

Children who come home through adoption have experienced interruptions in the typical attachment process and they simply do not possess family skills. It’s easy to think that a child would be glad to leave behind an institution for a “better life” – A sentiment we hear expressed often. But the reality is that he will, like most children adopted internationally, have a sense of grief and loss from being separated from the only home and caregivers he has ever known. And in James’ case, he is being separated from his entire home country, culture and people. There is a saying that “Adoption is born out of loss” and we now understand that like never before. The hard truth is that Adoption is a traumatic and scary event for any age child whether they are newborn or 10 years old. Many people think that because James is so young, he won’t be impacted as much. We are erring on the side that he will grieve tremendously for all that he will lose. This will best prepare us to support his needs. He is being removed from all of his routines and familiar surroundings. Studies show that even babies grieve and experience sadness at an event like this. The good news is that we can now, as James’ parents, rebuild attachment and help him heal from these emotional wounds. In order to help James feel safe and learn that we are his parents, we are creating some intentional boundaries in his early days home that will help promote security during this stressful time

When he comes home, he will be overwhelmed. Everything around him will be new and he will need to learn not just about her new environment, but also about love and family. He will not be used to having parents to love and care for him around the clock. Again, he has “survival skills” but he does not have family skills.

The best way for us to form a parent/child bond is to be the only ones to hold, snuggle, instruct, soothe and feed him for quite awhile after coming home. As this repeats between us, he will be able to learn that parents are safe to trust and to love deeply. We are, essentially, recreating the newborn/parent connection. So, while it may be hard (because let’s face it – our boy is one cute kid!!) we need to ask everyone to refrain from hugging, showing affection, offering a candy/food/drink to him, etc. And, if he initiates that with you, we ask you to redirect him toward us. As strange as it may seem, children who’ve lived in an orphanage who act very outgoing and affectionate with strangers are not displaying “independence.” For them, it is called “indiscriminate affection” and can mean that they haven’t really attached to anyone. We want him to turn to us when he is hurt, hungry, tired or sad, not just the closest adult around.

Once James starts to establish this important bond with us, he will then be able to branch out to other, healthy relationships. We look at it as a very tight circle, that will slowly enlarge to include first grandparents, then aunts and uncles, then close friends.

We know that this will be hard, particularly for our close family. And, to be honest, it’s hard for us. When Gabi and Andrew came, we couldn’t wait to see them in the arms of their family, and we feel the same way about James. This is where we have to look beyond our feelings and do what is best for him for now, knowing that the patience will pay off for everyone in the long run.

The initial weeks after James’ homecoming will be quiet ones for our family. The goal is to keep his world relatively “small” and to keep our lives as simple as possible so we can be about the work of creating family bonds. James will be discovering new things almost 24/7 – everything here will look, sound, feel, smell and taste different. Our home will be overwhelming at first. So we need to limit the number of outings and the number of people in our home for awhile. This will help him feel safe and deepen his trust in us.

Please understand that this does not mean we do not want visitors or we want to be left alone! Actually the opposite is true! Please feel free to text and email regularly. W do not want to feel cut off from the outside world. We would love for you to visit, bring food, take Gabi and/or Andrew out to play or do something special. We just ask that you set it up in advance and bear with us if plans have to change at the last minute. Flexibility and grace is what we need most in these early days. We will also try to avoid large groups, crowds, and noisy situations as to not overwhelm James. With the holidays approaching this means that for this year, we won’t be attending parties or large family gatherings. Instead, we are looking forward to introducing James to his extended family slowly, one family at a time. It means that we likely won’t attend church for awhile and when we do return, we’ll need understanding from our church family if we hang back a little more than usual. 

Again, we want to thank you for the love and support you have already given all of us. We’d love it if you’d pray for his heart as he learns to trust and love us in return.

We appreciate your understanding in reading this. We’ve giving you all this letter so that you will understand how dedicated and committed we are to helping James adjust and adapt during this stressful time in his life. Thanks for all of your support!

With much love,

Kevin and Kristen