Where We’re At: March 27, 2015 (One Weekish Home)

Again, sorry to those of you who actually follow this blog but don’t know me on Facebook! I tend to update in our group there more frequently, so if you are interested, feel free to request to join the FB group “the right to hold you.”

As a quick update on the remainder of our trip, I think I last posted when we were waiting for a court decision. That Monday afternoon, we found out the judge granted our adoption, as well as our request for urgent execution. My friend Jessica arrived late Monday night and we headed out early Tuesday for Kaunas, our Boo’s birth city, as well as the city his baby house was in. We went first to the city registry with our adoption decree to apply for a new birth certificate. In Lithuania, after an adoption they create an entirely new birth certificate with the adoptive parents listed. It seemed crazy to me at first, but now I think it’s pretty cool. Then we went to the orphanage to visit and say our goodbyes to everyone for a bit. Once the birth certificate was ready, we went to pick it up and grab lunch, then headed back to spring my main man.

Looking spiffy if the first clothes the only belonged to me!  His caregivers loved his fancy tie :)

Looking spiffy if the first clothes the only belonged to me! His caregivers loved his fancy tie 🙂

Mama's helping me walk out of this place!

Mama’s helping me walk out of this place!

Freedom.  And a beautiful spring day to boot.

Freedom. And a beautiful spring day to boot.

Mama got a little carried away outside, she was so happy.

Mama got a little carried away outside, she was so happy.

We left the orphanage and headed back to the capital city of Vilnius, where we spent the next week completing what is often referred to as the “paper chase.” We had to get a passport for Boo, as well as apply for and receive a U.S. Visa. Usually we would also have had to visit the Embassy doctor, but luckily we had taken care of that earlier in our trip. So we spent a week exploring Vilnius, celebrating Lithuania’s (second) Independence Day, and getting to know our new little man.

Boo loved this little area and would sit and stare out all day.  He loves light, and will move toward it if he can.  He WASN'T pleased I had him stand up, but having a mama is hard work!

Boo loved this little area and would sit and stare out all day. He loves light, and will move toward it if he can. He WASN’T pleased I had him stand up, but having a mama is hard work!

The place on the left is our apartments, and it was in a really great part of town.  Vilnius is a beautiful city!

The place on the left is our apartments, and it was in a really great part of town. Vilnius is a beautiful city!

My first parade.  Celebrating my country's independence the day after mine!

My first parade. Celebrating my country’s independence the day after mine!

I love a parade; The tramping of feet, I love ever beat I hear of a drum. I love a parade; When I hear a band I just wanna stand And cheer as they come!

I love a parade;
The tramping of feet,
I love ever beat
I hear of a drum.
I love a parade;
When I hear a band
I just wanna stand
And cheer as they come!

Crazy hair man.  Also, not a fan of the toothbrush.

Crazy hair man. Also, not a fan of the toothbrush.

Playground with mommy! The first time they tried to put me on a slide, I flopped around and acted like i'd fall off.  Just a couple weeks later, I showed off and pulled myself down!

Playground with mommy! The first time they tried to put me on a slide, I flopped around and acted like i’d fall off. Just a couple weeks later, I showed off and pulled myself down!

We were finally issued our Visa on Tuesday, March 17 and scrambled to change our tickets to come home Wednesday. Late Tuesday afternoon I got an email letting me know our airline carrier (Lufthansa) was going on strike and my flight was cancelled. Ha! So I scrambled some more and was able to switch airlines (albeit add an extra leg), and ensure Boo man and I were going to make it home Wednesday. I was done being away from my family, and just ready to snuggle my littles and get our new life started. We arrived home to Florida around 7:30 pm on Wednesday night. Boo and I had woken up around 3:30 am Wednesday morning, and this landing put us around 2:30 am the following day. We were both beyond exhausted, but so happy to finally be home.

It's WAY to early to wake up.  Can you just dress me while I sleep?

It’s WAY to early to wake up. Can you just dress me while I sleep?

Listen lady, plane or no plane, keep my belly full and everything will be all right!

Listen lady, plane or no plane, keep my belly full and everything will be all right!

Silly mommy, you thought I was going to sleep on this 9+ hour flight?

Silly mommy, you thought I was going to sleep on this 9+ hour flight?

He finally, FINALLY, gave it up to the sandman.

He finally, FINALLY, gave it up to the sandman.

Immigration selfie.  The lines and wait were atrocious, but little dude slept in his carrier the entire time.  Mama was d.o.n.e. at this point.

Immigration selfie. The lines and wait were atrocious, but little dude slept in his carrier the entire time. Mama was d.o.n.e. at this point.

So, now we have officially been home just over a week. I can hardly believe it has already been a week. We were super lucky that Chris was off last Thursday and Friday, so we had four full days to adjust as a family. This week is actually Spring Break for the kids’ preschool, which is a huge blessing, because it means I don’t have to rush anywhere in the morning or worry about logistics of school pick-up. It’s been a sweet time of just figuring out our new dynamic and learning how to be a mama of THREE.

Why does this girl keep touching me?

Why does this girl keep touching me?

Why does this dog keep touching me?

Why does this dog keep touching me?

Why do these people keep touching me?

Why do these people keep touching me?

Overall, I’d say Boo is doing fantastic. At least, considering that his entire world has been turned upside down and nothing he knew to be true has remained. He doesn’t understand the language we are speaking, realistically he has no idea who we even are, and no one he has relied on for the first 2.5 years of his life is showing up anymore. He has rolled with everything, and adjusted remarkably well to all the changes. Even his sleep patterns were relatively undisturbed, and in the apartment he still took a 2-hour naps and slept a good 10-12 hours each night.

He and Bug have actually transitioned to sharing a room better than I expected. There are two downfalls – Bug hasn’t fallen asleep for his nap for the last four days, so he is fairly noisy as he passes the time until his clock turns yellow. Luckily, Boo has been sleeping through this time, and possibly sleeping for too long. It’s been a 2-3 hour nap each day, and we often have to wake him. That leads to our second problem – Boo has been waking up and talking to himself (loudly!) around 4-5 am every morning. We are just giving both issues time, and hoping (praying) it’s just the transition and everything will soon shake out.

Also, when he's had enough, he kindly folds himself in half and goes to sleep. Ha!

Also, when he’s had enough, he kindly folds himself in half and goes to sleep. Ha!

Even if we are outside.

Even if we are outside.

Boo doesn’t cry out when he wakes up, which is really sad, but also made it a little tricky to figure out his sleep patterns at first. In the apartment he would just start rocking, and if I was in the room with him it would wake me up. If it was nap time, I would just try to listen for the crib moving. Once, I fell asleep in the other room (I was emotionally drained while in country so it affected me physically) during nap and a baby a floor above me cried out. I instinctively jumped out of bed and ran to his door, then stopped to listen. Dead silence. Oh yeah, I thought, my baby doesn’t cry. It as a sad moment, but I would say this has probably actually been helpful in the transition to room sharing for Bug.

Hanging out before bed.

Hanging out before bed.

So, what are the hardest parts of being home? Well, honestly it is just hard to watch Boo do his thing. He has many behaviors that are typical for children who have lived their entire life in an institution, but understanding their roots and not being heartbroken by them are two different things. He does a lot of “stimming,” which is what it is called when a child self-stimulates or self-soothes in a particular way. Essentially, long-term neglect of a child’s basic emotional needs forces them to learn ways to “take care” of themselves, and they often do this by stimming. These can manifest in many different ways, but for Boo it’s mostly head-banging, rocking (with varying degrees of aggressiveness), and noisemaking.

His only goal right now is our home is self-preservation, and nothing but time will heal the wounds in his psyche. It’s a hard thing to watch, and even harder to not try to force myself on him, desperately hoping we will miraculously have a quick fix. It’s a lesson in patience, and humility, and really learning that none of this has even been about me. Just loving him doesn’t automatically change him, and we have to learn how to meet him where he is at and create an environment that feels safe.

My pajamas are really so cute, but I need another picture like I need a tooth pulled, so please give me some space lady!

My pajamas are really so cute, but I need another picture like I need a tooth pulled, so please give me some space lady!

Physically, the biggest obstacle is his eating. I didn’t anticipate this for some reason, and I’m not sure if that is why it seems like a bigger challenge for me. Boo doesn’t actually drink anything. In the orphanage, they would give him fluid by tilting his head up with a towel underneath and pouring it in until he swallowed. He would obviously start swallowing because he would otherwise choke. (They wouldn’t have let him choke, obviously, but he had no way to know this). This has left him terrified of drinking from any type of cup or spout. In order to get him fluid, we have been spoon feeding him water. He also will only eat if spoon-fed. He tucks his hands deep into his chair during meals and just waits for you to bring the spoon to him. When Daddy K makes him work a little by only putting the spoon right on his lips and not IN his mouth, he begrudgingly takes a bite and then glares at him. Ha! He definitely has some spunk. We’ve had to work on adjusting the thickness of his food, because he also has terrible reflux. We are noticing that if we keep his food on the mushier side, he’s a lot less likely to spit up. On the plus side, he isn’t really picky about what food we give him, as long as the texture is how he likes it. So we have been doing oats with fruit, a grain (rice, cous cous, orzo) with either fruit or veggies, and then a mashed veggie (cauliflower and sweet potato so far) with some protein. It’s been an experiment, and I’m excited to start figuring out how to pack some good fats/superfoods into our regime. He is a little peanut, and definintely could use some meat on his bones. They were feeding him huge portions (I’m trying to figure out how to scale those down), but I think the food just wasn’t nutrient-dense enough to really help him thrive.

Children from institutions often have a lot of emotional issues related to eating, and he is no different. If we step away during his feeding (usually to get something for one of his siblings), he gets really upset and will actually cry/scream. In one week, he has already learned where he will eat, and the only time he will willingly crawl is if he wants to be feed. He will crawl over to his highchair and then just sit and wait.

In the apartment -- checking to see why I've taken a break spooning food into his mouth when he can clearly see there is still food in the bowl.  Get it together, mama!

In the apartment — checking to see why I’ve taken a break spooning food into his mouth when he can clearly see there is still food in the bowl. Get it together, mama!

Very common high chair face.  Still trying to figure this one out.  But man it's cute!

Very common high chair face. Still trying to figure this one out. But man it’s cute!

We have already seen a lot of changes in such a short time, and I think the hard part of that is expecting too much from him. I wish I had taken more videos when we first met him, because he seems like a different child to me. He previously would zone out the entire time we were with him, but now I’d say more than 50% of the time he is focusing on what’s going on around him. He has also started to engage in some toddler naughtiness, which is HUGE, since it shows signs that he understands play. I put him on the potty the other day (he was using the potty at the orphanage, although still in diapers, and has kept it up for us), and I stepped out to grab something. I heard him fling himself off and then start laughing – I walked in to catch him crawling out of the bathroom. 🙂  The last few nights at bedtime he has started standing up as soon as I put him in his crib and then giggling about it. When I leave to grab something (Bug has a never-ending request for things when it’s about to be lights out) he is standing in the corner of his crib right by the door when I come back, a huge grin on his face. These might not seem like big things, but they are a huge change. I can’t accurately describe the shell of a little boy we first met.

Okay, so what’s next for us? Well, we had Boo’s first doctor appointment yesterday. He is being referred to a whole slew of specialists. I am really excited to see what the ophthalmologist has to say, because Daddy K and I (and my friend Jessica as well), all noticed that he really seems to have a hard time actually focusing on anything. We also have to follow-up on his hearing (they sent me home with his hearing aids, but we haven’t been using them), as well as a good work-up for his heart defect. We should also start physical therapy soon, although I don’t want to push it.

Hanging with my brother.  Bug is super sweet with him and even told Daddy K one night, "Hey, stop bothering my brudda!"

Hanging with my brother. Bug is super sweet with him and even told Daddy K one night, “Hey, stop bothering my brudda!”

Our main goal is working on bonding. And learning that what we think bonding should look like might not actually be what it NEEDS to look like. It’s a hard balance between finding ways to engage him, and not over-stimulating or stressing him out. If we let him, he’d be happy to zone out all day (as long as we kept his belly full!). And yet, he clearly is beginning to blossom with some attention. Pray for wisdom in finding that sweet spot, and that we don’t let our hidden expectations or our pride negatively affect how we relate and respond to him. Not surprisingly, having him home has revealed the depths of our selfishness, and our innate desire for our own comfort and our own version of redemption. Pray that we allow the Author of all redemption to tell His story, and accept our role in that story with open hands. Our children are all surprising us every day, and it’s humbling to think about our role in their lives. We want to do this (parenting) well, and often our worst enemy is ourselves. They are patient, and forgiving, and full of joy. Boo is a beautiful little boy, and we are grateful to be on this journey with him.

I LOVE to swing.

I LOVE to swing.

Keep Singing

Every year during November and December, Reese’s Rainbow promotes an “Angel Tree” of waiting children. These are children listed through their site that don’t have a family committed yet, no one promising to come, no hope of a better Christmas next year.

Some of these children have been waiting longer than others. Some of them are fairly young, others close to aging out of the system. But they all wait, not belonging, not feeling the love and warmth of a family or home during the holiday season. I love the holiday season. I love November’s month of thankfulness followed by December’s coming awesomeness. I love traditions and memories, togetherness and joy. And I hate that there are babies out there that might actually think they aren’t worthy during this time of year. I hate that the holidays may only make them more painfully aware of just how alone they are.

This year, we signed up as a “warrior” for one of the children on the Reece’s Rainbow Angel Tree. This little boy, Ryan, is from the same country as our Boo. And I looked at his picture over and over as we made the decision about which child to commit to. And this boy, he has the most beautiful smile. Really, truly, captivating. And in his picture, he just seems so happy. The only hold-up for us was his age. And my stomach tightens as I write that, because I now realize how unimportant that is. But eight months ago, when we started the adoption process, my heart wasn’t the same heart it is now. And our Boo, he seemed like a little baby back then, he seemed like maybe an easier choice. And since as of last week, we are officially matched to that little love, I truly believe he was supposed to be ours all along. He is our son, and we are just waiting on all of the paperwork (and court approval, and travel, and immigration, ha!) to catch up to that reality. So I don’t second-guess our decision. And yet the reality is that our yes to Boo was a no to little Ryan. And that no is painful. So, we will shout for Ryan until his family finds him.

Ryan-2-224x300The goal of Angel Tree is simple: help raise $1,000 for every child on the tree. Ryan is my child. My goal is $1,000. Will you help me? Will you help him? I have a couple of options for you. 🙂 You’re welcome.

1) You can simply donate to his fund. All donations for Ryan can be made HERE, and all money donated through this link is tax-deductible. There is also a direct link to his fund on the side of my blog. Every dollar (REALLY, TRULY, EVERY DOLLAR) counts.

2) You can share this post and/or his fund! Maybe you have a friend who was looking for a good place to donate this holiday season. The more people who see him, the better chance he has of finding his family. And let’s be honest, the more money he has in his fund, the more appealing he might be to families for whom adoption is a stretch financially.

3) BUY A T-SHIRT! This is the fun part, and I’ll explain below.

I was trying to think of a way to raise money for Ryan, while also providing people with something tangible to walk away with. But EVERYONE does t-shirt fundraisers. So at first I was hesitant. But there is a reason they are so popular, right? 🙂 So I thought really hard about how I would best describe adoption, or a way to really share my heart about such a complex situation, or what it means to support adoption in one way or another…and I just kept coming back to Maya Angelou’s poem, Caged Bird. I wrote about this piece back in May, and the words run through my mind fairly often when I think about our Boo. Especially as the waiting drags on.

But the truth is, it’s hearing the caged birds singing that makes all the difference, right? If no one heard them, nothing would ever change. And despite all odds, despite circumstances I wouldn’t last in for 5 minutes, these children keep singing. Keeping hoping, and keep believing there is a BETTER LIFE waiting. And I am so inspired by that bravery. By anyone who sings despite a seemingly inescapable cage. And I realized that somewhere in all of that was the message: KEEP SINGING.

And I worked with my talented friend at Jessica Stephens Design to create this graphic for a t-shirt.

keep singingblueAnd honestly, I’m incredibly excited about it. I’d love to have it printed on more items once this t-shirt campaign is over. Because I just love this message. Keep singing. Keep singing!  Because it says so many things all at once. It says, for one, SOMEONE HEARS YOU. You are not alone. You are not unworthy. You are not unloved.

It not only says keep singing, but it says keep fighting, keep hoping, keep trusting. Someone is coming.  You are seen. You are heard. You are known. What a powerful thing to believe.

And one of the things I love about this design is that it is so universal. For me, right now, this message is for Ryan, and for Boo, and for all those other little faces on Reece’s Rainbow (and those faces no one has ever seen) –keep singing beauties, we hear you and we are fighting for you.

But it could also send a message of hope to a completely different group of people. Did you know that globally, the International Labor Organization estimates there are 4.5 million people trapped in forced sexual exploitation? Or that in 2013, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline received reports of 3,609 sex trafficking cases inside the United States?   Did you know that educating girls can break cycles of poverty in just one generation, yet millions of girls aren’t in school? Did you know that the US has more economic inequality than most of it’s developed world peers? Or maybe there is something else you wish I’d mention here, the thing that makes you fired up and inspires you to action. Who are the caged birds in your world?

I love that this t-shirt gives the wearer a chance to champion their own cause, and an opportunity to start conversations, and encourage others to take positive action to make our world better. I love that it sends a message of hope to anyone who see it, even if it’s a message you might not know they need.

So please, consider buying a t-shirt this holiday season. 🙂 For yourself, or as a gift. You can link up directly to the t-shirt fundraiser HERE, and I will continue to share this fundraiser throughout the month of November.

https://www.bonfirefunds.com/raising-ryans-chances

And of course, I felt like some people might relate better to an “in-person” plea, so I convinced Daddy K to help me make a video about these shirts. He was a trooper in my multiple mistakes, and I hope it captures some of the actual passion I have for this design and what it means to me. Thanks for reading.