Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Learning How To Cry & Trust

Dima has been home with us for over two years now.  Emotionally, mentally, and physically he has come a long way.  Sometimes we forget that we adopted him as it feels as though he has been with us forever.  But then we have moments like at 3:00 this morning that are a glaring reminders that he has not been with us forever and he still is learning what it means to be part of a family.

Most children who have spent any length of time in an orphanage, particularly in an Eastern European country where there is just not enough nannies to go around, have learned that crying gets them nowhere.  I've heard horror stories (even from within Dima's former orphanage) of parents walking into a room full of babies laying in cribs and there is not a noise.  Can you image?  When Dima first came home he had to learn how to cry.  Literally.  If he fell and got hurt and wouldn't cry and just soothe himself.  I'll never forget the first time I heard Dima really cry, tears and all.  I had taken him to the Dollar Tree to pick out some coloring books and it had turned dark while we were in the store.  Since Dima had not been outside much when it was dark he was petrified of being outside at night.  As we exited the store he flipped out in the parking lot, screaming and yelling, "I'm afraid!  I'm afraid!" in Russian.  Once I got him into the car and buckled in and was driving home I heard the most odd sound coming from my backseat.  It sounded as though a newborn baby was in my car, wailing and crying.  It was heartbreaking to hear and made for a long ride home.  Not because I was annoyed by Dima's emotional reaction, rather, I had to sit there and reflect on the years that Dima did not have someone to care enough to answer his cries.  Suffice to say upon our return home I promptly took him to the rocking chair and just rocked him and loved on him until he calmed down.  He had to learn and know without a doubt that he had someone to answer his cries.

As the two years passed his cries are just now beginning to sound like that of a little boy not a baby or toddler.  But last night something happened to remind me just how much farther we have to go in Dima's healing.  For the past few weeks Dima has not been sleeping well.  He will wander around the house looking for something to do (or get into) while he thinks we are all asleep.  Little does he know that the moment his feet his the carpet I am wide awake.  Both Eric and I have had to redirect him back to his bed multiple times a night.  To say that we are exhausted is an understatement!  After having to redirect Dima to bed twice last night I was awakened once again at 3:30 to Dima just crying out.  He wasn't really crying, just calling out like a toddler who cannot yet verbalize his needs.  I jumped up and ran into his and Sammy's room to see what was wrong.  When I inquired as to what was going on Dima said that his leg hurt.  It was quite possible that he was having growing pains so I got him out of bed and took him into the living room.  Dima was still whimpering a little so we sat down on the sofa together.  He kind of crawled into my lap so I repositioned him so I was holding him like I would a baby.  We sat there for awhile and I loved on him, reassured him that he was safe.  I assured him that if he woke up in the middle of the night he didn't need to just lay there moaning, he could call me (or daddy) by name and I would come to him.  Immediately.  That is what mommies and daddies do.  Finally after what seemed like an eternity his eyelids began to get heavy and it was time to put him back to bed.

It took me quite some time to fall back to sleep.  All I could think about was how Dima didn't know to call for me.  Was that my fault?  Does he not trust me completely?  Or is he still just learning and working things out in his mind?  My mind then wandered to Yun.  Will she trust us?  How much "damage" has been done to her over the past 11 years?  All I could do was pray and give it all to God.  Sleep eventually came.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Bye Bye USCIS Application!

Today our I-800 application was sent off to USCIS!!  All four boys accompanied me and they were super excited.  A rather large weight has been lifted from our shoulders and now we just wait.  The folks at USCIS will receive our application before noon tomorrow (November 27th) so hopefully we will receive an Immigration Officer sooner rather than later.  Our prayer is that our USCIS approval does not take 60 or 90 days, rather, it takes just a week or two.  Would you join us in prayer on that matter?

With another milestone completed, that also means we will have more payments to make.  Just to break it all down for inquiring minds it is as follows:

$3,900 - Our first agency fee to CAWLI.

$1,400 - CCCWA fee.  CCCWA stands for:  The China Center for Children's Welfare and Adoption.  This is located in China.  

$750 - Document processing fee.  Through the generous donation of $440 from Grace Church back in July, we now only owe $310 for document processing!

So we need to earn/save $5,610

We currently have saved $335.48 in sales from Chicken Momma's Change and $643.52 from our yard sale and coupon book sales.  Add that together and we have $979 saved towards the $5,610 leaving us with needing $4,631 by the time we have USICS approval!

That being said, we will be applying to every grant known to man, Eric is working as many hours as he is given, and my Etsy shop is always open!  We also have a pretty amazing fundraiser coming up in January which is still in the process of being organized.  People local to our location will really have a great opportunity to participate for less than $5!  Stay tuned!

In the meantime, thank you to those of you who have donated, participated in various fundraisers, and for your prayers and encouragement.  We would not be where we are if it had not been for the generosity of others.  One person in particular made it possible for us to even be able to cover our USCIS application fee and we are still humbled by your gift.

So as our family celebrates Thanksgiving on Thursday, we know that we are blessed beyond measure and have much for which we can give thanks.  

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Busy Week Recap (Lots of Pics & Videos!)

 As I sit here in a very quiet house I am reflecting upon this past week.  It was filled with a flurry of school activities and fun making memories with my boys.  In a little bit our family is heading back to church for an evening of worship and a lovely Thanksgiving feast.  Our family certainly has so much for which we can be thankful in our lives.

Monday:  Jeremiah graduated from a school program called FOCUS (Filter Out Crime United with Students).  He and his classmates learned about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, how to stand up to bullies, and how to make our community a better place.  Each student wrote an essay at the end of the program and shared something significant that stood out to them.

Then later that afternoon I returned to school for a presentation from American Dive Pro Center.  Jeremiah and his class were preparing to have a most special field trip.  We learned all about Manatee, how to interact with them, and just how amazing these gentle giants are.

Tuesday:  I chaperoned one of the most amazing field trips ever!!!  Jeremiah's class headed to Crystal River and we got to swim with Manatee!!!  We snorkeled to where they were staying warm and had three separate opportunities to interact with some Manatee.  The very first time we swam over near them a baby came right to us, went directly up against my mask, then nudged me, and wanted his belly gently rubbed.  It was both daunting and amazing all at the same time.  Manatee are REALLY big but not aggressive in any way.  The one thing that they do to be "territorial" is blow bubbles, nothing more.  While it was absolutely fun swimming with Mantee, it was very chilly and even despite having wet suits poor Jeremiah was SO cold.  He was very happy when we were back to dry land and warm clothes.

Wednesday:  It was a half day of school for the boys but we did not do anything exciting.  They came home and played outside for the afternoon.  Fall days here in Florida are just amazing and it is the best weather for playing outside.  There is not much humidity, the temperatures are usually in the mid to upper 70's (unless there is a cold front like we are having today- it is windy and chilly; hardly in the 60's!).  They are building a fort in the woods behind our house and I think Elijah is even attempting a teepee.

Thursday:  Dima had a Harvest/Fall festival at school so I had the opportunity to head over to his school for the afternoon.  There were various games and activities but all Dima wanted to do was play in the hay.  He had a blast and entertained anyone who would watch him.  There was also the opportunity to get to know Dima's new teacher better and see his new classroom.  When I arrived they were watching a video on how to tell time and Dima was really into it!  But if you ask him if he knows how to tell time he says, "No!'.

Friday:  It was Sammy's turn to have a function at school and we had a Grateful Gathering Party.  Each student in his class wrote a little essay to share what they were grateful for.  Sammy's was very sweet and he did such a great job.  After the students shared their essays we had a little snack.

Once we finished up at the Grateful Gathering I was able to check Sammy out of school early!  We went to the Key Training Center to visit some of our friends.  It was a pleasant surprise for them.  Sammy also picked out some movies from the Key Training Center thrift store and I purchased a pair of pajamas for Channah.  Overall a fantastic afternoon.

Friday evening Jeremiah, Elijah, and Sammy went to the rodeo with Grammy and Pa so Eric and I took Dima to our favorite eatery, B&W, for a prime rib special.  Dima LOVES to go to B&W and also enjoys the time with just Eric and I.  It always makes me a little sad, however, to think of the first seven years that we missed of that boy's life.  Eric and I truly savor those evenings.  

After supper we met up with some of our Key Training Center/Love Department friends and visited with them for a little bit.  It is always a BLAST spending time with our dear friends.  Our friendships with our Love Department friends are so special- there are no putting on airs or feeling as though we are being judged (and vice versa).  What I love about my friends is that they love us for who we are and we love them for who they are.  We talk about movies, television, the Bible, games, etc...   I just love them!

But our Friday excitement did not end there!!  Awhile back Eric and I had sent funds to Channah's orphanage so they could purchase some fruit or cake and some candy for her and her friends.  Well, we received four pictures of girl!  I think that they were taken within the past week and we were so happy to see them and see that our funds were received.  Here are the latest pictures of our sweet YunYun (Channah's real name is YunYun!):

Here she is with her famous smile.  I was so happy to see her smiling and enjoying a banana.

Our sweet girl!
While I know that I cannot read into every nuance in a picture, my heart squeezed a little when I saw this picture.  This is not the typical expression I see on her face in her pictures.
But THIS is the picture that really made my heart squeeze.  Again, I fully realize that I cannot read into this picture (or any of them for that matter!) but still.  As a mother-to-be of this sweet girl I cannot help but wonder what was going through her mind at this very moment.

Saturday:  Since the boys, Eric, and I had a big Friday we all slept in Saturday morning.  But not for too long!  Elijah and Sammy had received cowboy hats at the rodeo the night before and they were eager to go outside and play cowboy (for Sammy and Dima it was before they even got dressed!).

This is where I found Elijah, Sammy & Dima right after breakfast.

My handsome cowboy whittling a stick.  And YES, Elijah knows how to properly use a pocket knife.

Eijah and his trusty "steed" er I mean dog, Caleb.

Looking for the perfect sticks.
Two of the cutest cowboys ever!!!

It has been a wonderful week and weekend.  This coming week the boys have off from school and we are looking forward to celebrating Thanksgiving with some of our friends from the Love Department.  It all kicks off with a great evening at church this evening.  We are indeed blessed!

Stay tuned, however, for a progress update for our adoption!  Eric and I should be sending off our application to USICS first thing tomorrow morning!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Overdue Update

When I fail to post an entry here for a few weeks you can be certain that we are living life!  We have had lots going on and some more forward progress in our adoption journey.  Gosh, where to even begin?

First, Eric and I had a proud parenting moment at the end of October.  Dima received an award through the local Rotary Club called Upward Bound.  It is an award for students who have shown significant improvement in both academics and behavior.  While Dima has always done well academically, he had a tough time adjusting to school last year.  It was rough on all parties involved and then we decided to move him to the school he is at now.  Dima is now at a school for children with special needs and it is a perfect fit for him.  He has maintained straight A's and his behavior has done a complete 180...well...almost.  Anyway, on October 31st, Grammy, Jeremiah, Elijah, Sammy, and I attended an awards breakfast in Dima's honor (poor Eric had to work).  We are so proud of Dima and how far he has come in just two years of being with us.  To God be the glory in all of this because without Him in our lives we are nothing!

October 31st was also of course Halloween.  Our family had attended the church's fall festival on the 30th and that was a TON of fun.  No costumes were purchased this year, rather, the boys opted to make up their own and we knocked on just a few doors.  The weather was perfect and it was a beautiful night just be outside.  Here is a little peek into our evening.

We also attended Jeremiah and Elijah's Honor Roll breakfast at the end of October.  Both boys received excellent grades and earned the Honor Roll for the first quarter!  Eric and I are so very proud of them and are pleased with their diligence.  Sammy also received straight A's first quarter but only students in fourth and fifth grades can be on the Honor Roll.

We have also had some progress in our adoption.  Our home study has been completed and we are about to apply to USICS!  This will be a big step but from what we understand it is taking anywhere from 30-90 days to receive USICS approval to adopt from China.  In the meantime we have made contact with some other adoptive families who have adopted from Channah's orphanage.  Even better, these families have MET her!  A few entries back I shared some pictures from one of the families where Channah was sharing some of her artwork.  During that time this particular family also took a fantastic video of Channah and they were so kind as to share it with our family.  In this video you will hear the family's translator explaining why older children are not typically adopted.  She also asks Channah how old she is.  Now the video was taken in August of 2012 just before Channah's birthday.  We recently learned that Channah is NOT 12, rather she just turned 11!!  In the video the translator asked Channah how old she was and she signed, "9".  Then in the background you can hear the director of the orphanage discuss something with one of the nannies.  I was told by someone who understands Mandarin that the nanny was looking for something and it is then decided that Channah would go help the nanny find whatever it is the nanny is searching for.  You can just barely catch a glimpse of the grin on her face as she walks away to help her nanny.

We are still a ways off from our fundraising goal of $5,720 but have made some significant progress.  At this time we still need to raise/earn/save $3,288 by the end of the month.  At the end of the month we will owe Agency fees as well as pay our fees to apply to USICS.  As always my Etsy Shop is open for business and I will be adding more holiday items as we approach Christmas.  My jewelry would make great gifts for teachers, friends, neighbors, stocking stuffers, advent calendar gifts, etc...  100% of the proceeds go towards our adoption and the money is sent to our agency (not tax-deductible).

In the meantime please continue to pray for our adoption, for Channah, and for those who care for her.  With the winter months coming up it is our prayer that she remains healthy and strong, ready to join our family when it is time.