Thursday, August 3, 2017

Hands Full, Heart Full: Month ONE

     So I've been thinking about the easiest way to update our blog with our adoption journey and I've seen other Mamas do monthly updates...and that sounds like an easy and simple way for me to stay on track...so here it is...our MONTH ONE update! Wow! It's kind of hard to believe! Last night, I had to pull up the first picture I ever saw of our boy...the picture from back in January...that led us down this road to our Josiah. He has changed so much! And we're glad to be on this side of our journey and experience these changes right alongside him. Here's our sweet boy experiencing his Mama's craziness! The first picture is courtesy of his older brother and sister playing peek-a-boo. The second picture is how he TRULY felt that his Mama was making him do such a thing. HA!
   

     I'm not sure what the "cut" is when people tell you that your hands are full...I mean...I'm fairly certain I heard it when our "number" was three...but I don't feel like it was as often as I've heard it in the past month. I've read numerous stories and accounts of funny things people say to you and quite honestly, I'm sure I've been guilty of saying things that probably send chills down parents' spines in regards to their adopted child. More often than not, people mean no harm....just as I meant no harm when I've told people how "lucky" their child is to have parents like they do. (Sigh) But, it's something I'm learning along the way and I appreciate my encounters with all of these comments because it allows me to practice my responses!
     The first month home is exactly what it sounds like...the month where you experience a LOT of "firsts" with your child as part of your family. Our first month was no exception. Here's a recap of some of the FIRSTS we experienced together.
     Last week, Josiah had his first outing to the doctor's office. Emmaline had her well-check so it was a "pack up the circus and take it on the road" kind of day. I wasn't exactly sure how this was all going to go down...but Sydney and Landon were super amazing and I'm fairly certain I'd still be in the parking lot if it wasn't for them. We arrived. We parked. We all joined hands and walked through the parking lot, into the elevator, into the waiting room, and then into the check-up room. And for the most part, it was fairly successful! Keep in mind successful means there was floor-sitting...Emmaline was walking around the room barefoot and in a diaper...and a Cheerio MAY have been eaten off the floor. Cheerio-eating off the floor wasn't our goal...but hey, we were also going for survival. Naturally, I had to thank the "bigs" with a little Biggby hot chocolate. Their personal fave. And of course, I indulged myself with a Grande Teddy Bear HOT...because...when in Rome!


     Another first for Josiah has been playing outside with his siblings! Grass is still basically a sea of alligators to him that he won't touch. But, that's to be expected when he's likely never played in grass before. I didn't see any at the orphanage, but we didn't see every square inch of the complex either. I can only guess because he literally picks up his feet any time I try to put him down. And when he's dropped a piece of chalk in the yard...he can't find a way to pick it up. It's actually kind of funny to watch him pace back and forth on the concrete and think so hard about HOW he can rescue things that have fallen into the "alligator" pond. But he's becoming more comfortable outside and just the other day...he walked into the garage and carried out a bucket of chalk on his own. Progress!






     Josiah also experienced his first trip to the store this week. Actually, make that storeS plural. This week, he conquered Marshall's, New to You, Bath & Body Works, and Wal-Mart. He also became an experienced "fountain coin-thrower" and loved experiencing this "first"- perhaps most of all! That boy can throw some serious coins. And thankfully, Mama's penny population is now under control.




     All trips have gone well...mostly because he has had snacks the entire time. But hey, we're in the business of keeping things stress-free right now. And our boy is HAPPY when he can snack. But this brings up one of our biggest struggles this month...food. Transitioning his diet has been difficult. Not difficult because he isn't getting what he's used to eating. He actually doesn't always accept his normal Chinese diet. And I mean, eventually, he has to eat something else besides congee and rice cereal. I say it's been difficult because he WANTS what we have...but only on his own time. And only certain things. If this boy had his druthers, he'd live off Cheez-Its, Blueberry Chex, Goldfish, Cheerios, and milk. Do you see much protein in there? Me either. 
     Meals can be a quite the trigger for our boy's fits. Fits where he cries and cries and cries...and cries some more. Did I say he cries? I've been keeping a list of what he'll eat and it is a fairly long list...but again, it's finding a balance of things that are good for him to eat and not just allowing him to survive on snacks alone. He does love noodles. So goulash, spaghetti, macaroni & cheese, and Ramen have been successful. But not always. We've also had some success with tacos. Each meal is an adventure though. 
     He's still learning how to use his entire mouth full of teeth. So.many.teeth. He's learning how to chew AND swallow. He'll still gag from time to time because he gets too much food in his mouth. He doesn't know when enough is enough. (Eric and I have caught our FAIR share of gagged-up food. Yum.) He's also learning that he can eat more than one thing at a time...meaning...if there are several things on his plate like a veggie, a fruit, and the main dish...he can pick and eat all of those things throughout our mealtime. But right now, he only picks ONE thing off the plate and won't touch anything else. We definitely have to be strategic in how we offer meals to him. He also doesn't know that he can finish one item before he accepts another. So...let's say he's working on some cereal at breakfast...but wants the muffin I have. If I hold out a piece of muffin to him...he spits out everything in his mouth and takes the muffin. I've been decorated with many a spit up food in the past couple of weeks. Really doesn't help my re-wear policy on certain clothing items. Haha! 
     Another area where he's struggling is sleep. This triggers his crying fits as well. In China, he'd take a 3 hour nap with no questions asked. He also slept through the night as if he knew no other way. Even in Florida, we saw much of these same sleep patterns. Of course, we can likely attribute the majority of this sleep due to the emotional trauma he was experiencing with all of the changes that adoption brings to a child's life. 
     Now that we've been "Home Home" for almost two weeks, however, we have been dealing with new sleeping habits and patterns. Josiah largely doesn't nap. If I can lay on the floor and pat his belly (through the slats of his crib- read: I have ginormous hands and this hurts for long periods of time)...he'll nap. Or there have been times when he's so tired that he'll fall asleep on my chest. But both of these circumstances are difficult to do on a daily basis...because there are other kiddos and other schedules. Right now, he'll start in his crib at bedtime and make it a few hours...but he's basically co-sleeping with us. We're OK with this arrangement for now, but it has been tricky when our other "graduate of co-sleeping" baby (Emmaline) decides to cut teeth and come in for some action too. We only have a QUEEN bed, people! HA! So really... I've been co-sleeping with two toddlers and Eric has been sleeping wherever he can find room....which isn't always IN our room. P.s. Have you ever seen a queen bed with side rails? It's real cute. Insert wink face.








     I asked Eric last night...as we were both remembering our first month together...what his biggest surprise has been...and he said Josiah's communication. I had to agree...because we are truly blown away at all he is able to do. He signs "more" and "hungry" and "milk." He says Hi, Yeah, All done, Thank you, Up (when he wants held), Mama, Dada, Uh-oh. The kids are convinced he can say their names. The jury is still out for me on that one. But overall, he understands sooooooo much. He puts things back when you ask, he gets his shoes when he wants to go outside, he comes to you for diaper changes, he pulls you in the direction of what he wants when his "words" aren't working. He truly is such a smart boy. Sometimes, I have to remember that he has only been with us a short time when he's throwing fits...because I forget...and he has exceeded our expectations when it comes to communication. So I can easily "expect" more from him...because he can communicate and understand SO WELL...but this isn't fair to him or our adjustment to one another.
     Wow. I can't tell you how helpful it is for me to write all of this down...to remember that it's only been a month. But, at the same time, that it's also been a MONTH. He's been in our arms for an entire month!? As a dear friend said this morning...it feels like yesterday and forever ago all at the same time. And that is so very true.
     Yesterday, as Sydney and I were trolling through Wal-Mart with a double stroller AND a shopping cart...the cashier said (in a very sincerely sweet voice) "You have your hands full, don't you!" And she's right. My hands ARE full...but so is my heart. Through good and bad, fun and hard...there can be joy in EVERY step. We love you Josiah Bug! Every single piece of YOU!


     




Sunday, July 23, 2017

Twenty-two

     For twenty-two days, Eric and I haven't slept in our own beds. We haven't driven our own cars. We haven't seen the corn grow on two sides of our house (WOW it's so tall now!). We haven't set foot in a grocery store that isn't absolutely bananas with people. We haven't done a.lot.of.things. for twenty-two days.
     For twenty-two days, Eric and I have been away from home. And I'm not just talking about the physical aspect of home. I mean its comfort, its familiarity, and its pace. Life these last three weeks has been...well, busy! And busy is good. There are times in my life where I thrive on busy-ness. But there's also a point in time where you long for slowness and simplicity. And I think it's safe to say Eric and I both reached this so-called "point."
     As some of you may have figured out, we JUST arrived home (like HOME HOME...not just United States home) late last night from a week in Daytona Beach with my family. Say whaaaaa?! YEP! You read that right! Let me break it down for you as to how this exactly happened...only because I can laugh about it now. Our plane from Hong Kong/Dallas landed in Detroit at 11:45PM last Friday night. We claimed our baggage and rode a shuttle to a hotel near the airport...where my mom and our three other kiddos were sleeping. (Well, my mom probably wasn't doing much sleeping.) At 5:30AM we re-loaded said shuttle with all our previously-claimed baggage and all of our kiddos and our grandma...and we flew to Orlando. Well, actually, we had a layover in Charlotte...and THEN we flew to Orlando. THEN, we picked up a rental car and crammed into it like a bunch of sardines and drove an hour or so to Daytona Beach to stay with my sisters and their kiddos in a three bedroom/two bathroom condo on the beach. For a week. After a two-week stay in China. With a different time zone. Yeah. Crazy, right? Probably.
      BUT! We did it and we have no regrets! (Well, unless you count the time we chose to have Eric patted down at the airport on the flight back to save four Capri Sun pouches for the kids...there may have been regrets about that part, ha!) But, I digress. Eric and I were careful not to share too much about this decision for a couple of reasons. One, being judgement by other people (we knew we would do what we thought was feasible for our family)...and the other reason being that we were fully prepared to back out of this trip if we thought it would be too much for Josiah. The biggest reasons we chose to even consider this trip were Sydney and Landon. My parents own a timeshare that comes every other summer. We've known about this vacation for a looooooong time and they've been looking forward to it for equally as long. The other reason it seemed to make sense (if that's possible?) is that it literally butted up to our China trip...so we weren't bringing Josiah into our physical home...and then ripping him out of it and confusing him with a trip to Florida which he won't remember. It seemed to be the best timing for making this vacation possible. And our bigs were SO EXCITED...which made it totally worth the effort.
     Eight flights in three weeks. That's gotta be a record for someone NOT in the business of flying planes, right? Maybe not. But I know I'll never be able to say that statistic again. Do you remember that I don't like flying? I still don't care for it...but I definitely feel more comfortable in the air. HA! Again, a huge answered prayer! We joke that Josiah is going to think we're some jet-setters with all of this flying. He became a pro by the last flight home!




     We took it easy and did what we thought was best during our time in Florida. Some times we swam...sometimes we didn't. Sometimes Eric went down...sometimes I went down. And sometimes, we both went down! My family was SUPER helpful with Sydney and Landon as Eric and I tended to the "twins" and tried to recover from jet lag. It hit Eric pretty hard the first couple of days...and then it hit me. Once the little kids were in bed...so were we! Honestly, the only way we survived was because of my family pitching in with the older two kiddos. We were extremely grateful for their care and attention throughout the week to make sure Sydney and Landon were having fun! Eric and I also got to enjoy time with all four kiddos at the beach and the pool. Josiah did pretty amazing considering everything. He LOVES kiddos! That was super helpful as he just got in line with his siblings and cousins and did all of the things! He also did his share of crying too. Don't go thinking this was some super easy trip. We're still talking about two very young toddlers! Ha! But all in all...we had a great time and we're glad we could spend time in Florida as a family of 6.




















     We hit the ground running this morning as Eric was on the schedule for sound booth at church. I stayed home with all four kiddos to lay low and continue to work on bonding. Josiah definitely cries when I leave the room and likes me to hold him...especially when I'm holding Emmaline! The "twins" are perfecting the antagonizing relationship that siblings tend to exhibit. Josiah likes to "tattle" on Emmaline who has turned into quite the stinker! If there wasn't a dull moment before...there's even LESS of those moments now! HA! We're having fun and laughing along the way. And again, there are also moments when I'm ready for a large coffee at Biggby...which is where I went today...with just Sydney. It was so nice to have some quiet time. We even grocery shopped! Fun stuff! Seriously. 
     All in all, we've seen so much improvement these last few weeks and can't wait to continue to watch Josiah grow and learn. The other kids have handled all of these changes well too. We're just very grateful! Thanks again for everyone who has prayed for us these last few weeks in particular. Every time I look back upon all that has happened...I have to give all the glory to Him! How else are we still alive!? God is good!
      I hope you all have a super week- whatever it may entail! I know the kids and I have some things we'd still like to accomplish these next few weeks....as Summer is quickly ending! 


Sunday, July 16, 2017

...Home...

     We left the hotel at 7:30AM on Friday. (7:30PM Thursday U.S. time) We loaded into a van with two other families and drove to the border in Shenzen. We knew it was going to be about 2 hours for this portion. I barely slept the night before because of nerves and excitement. I'm not sure many of us slept. How could we?! We were finally going home!!
     As we drove, I started to worry. I had no idea if we were going the right way. Signs were in Chinese and obviously it wasn't a trip we had ever taken before. To make my mind wander even more,  I overheard the couple in front of us say they didn't remember seeing these things on their way into Guangzhou from Hong Kong. They were very tired and slept during their commute, but the first part was all I needed to hear to make my Mama heart start formulating ideas of how we weren't actually going to the airport. I blame it on my nervous mama heart and not getting any sleep. But, either way, I made Eric use our beloved international data plan and pull it up on Google maps. Thankfully, we were indeed going the correct way. I made Eric check it throughout the trip. Thank you, Lord!
     When we got to Shenzhen, we had to split up into two smaller vans for the remainder of the trip. This "crossing the border" part took a while and was a little nerve-wracking. We had to fill out forms and drive through two border stations. We waited a while to work our way through both stations. Each time, our driver had to open up all of the van doors and the trunk. And each time, we had to show our faces and our passports to the patrolman and explain who Josiah was...they always asked us what his (Chinese) name was before we could proceed. They even quizzed us on whether he was a boy or girl at one  station. At the second border check, a lady actually came out and checked all of our temperatures- all 5 of us! Craziness. Thankfully, we were fever free because otherwise they would have re-checked us in Hong Kong.
     We arrived at the airport and checked our luggage fairly painlessly. It was insanely busy though. Luckily, we had enough time to grab lunch at the food court (Food on planes is awful!)...but there were no tables. We're talking thousands of people and trying to find a table like a needle in a haystack. Talk about stressful! We finally pulled up two high chairs and set our food tray on top of one and put Josiah in the other. Eric and I sat in extra chairs we had pulled from surrounding tables. Here's our guy eating congee...and french fries...yum!



     After lunch, we made it to our gate with less than an hour or so to spare which was perfect. When it was time to board the plane, we were allowed to go whenever we wanted since we had babies. This was a nice gesture, but we preferred to board later than earlier because #lesstimeonaplane. Here's our sweet boy looking out at his ride HOME and playing with his most favorite toy ever.



     The security in Hong Kong was no joke. Obviously we had already been through several security checks up until this point. But unfortunately, we had to go through one final check as we made our way onto the plane. Everyone's carry-on and personal item was checked and then a man was checking our tickets individually to see if you needed an extra "random" check. This was an international flight... we're talking a big plane...with a LOT of  people. But guess who won the door prize for a random check?! Ding, ding, ding! Me!
     I had the pleasure of going off into a third line with a few other lucky winners to be checked more thoroughly. I was holding Josiah which they told me was no big deal. But after watching others complete their "random checks," I knew that Josiah would have more fun with Eric. Honestly, I almost unraveled at this point. I fought back tears as I watched Eric and Josiah pass by easily and begin to board. Eric could see that I was ready to break down and waited for me.
      By the time it was finally my turn for a random check, I was fed up. But thankfully, no drugs were detected! (sarcasm) I must admit that even though you KNOW you're not hiding something...it is still scary to watch them insert their wand (that just rubbed your shoes or hands or other body part) into a machine and watch it read "processing" for 20 seconds before it reads "No detection." Yikes! Talk about agonizing! As if I wasn't already a nervous flyer...this pushed me over the top.
     But, alas! I was allowed to board the plane! And thankfully, it was a pretty uneventful 14ish hour flight. Josiah assumed this position for the majority of it...praise God! The extra seat was worth every penny!


     Eric was able to sleep a little...I didn't sleep at all. By the time we landed in Dallas, I had been awake for almost 24 hours. We had to go through customs and immigration...along with lots of other people waiting in line. The first man to direct us asked if we had just adopted our babies. He was so kind and spoke with another woman who let us cut all the way to the front. This saved us SO much time!          There were 4-5 adoptive families on our flight and four of us stuck together so we weren't issued green cards. Sometimes adoption isn't as well known to officers so they'll issue your child a green card. *This isn't a huge issue, but it involves more paperwork and usually your congressman.* The Consulate warned us of this possibility on Tuesday so we decided to go with the strength in numbers approach. Thankfully, our officer had no problems with our paperwork and we were given an easy green light! Josiah and I celebrated his U.S. citizenship with a tired selfie!


     We had to grab our bags and recheck them for our connecting flight. At this point, we said our "see ya later" to the other couple we had spent time with in Kunming. They were in a different terminal than we were for the last leg of the trip. I held back tears... I was still in disbelief we were all this close to home! And we were all so, so exhausted. 
     We sat in our gate and waited...trying not to fall asleep. Sitting across from us was a lady who complimented Josiah on how good he was being. He was playing nicely with (you guessed it!) his stacking cups. I explained that we had just come off a 14+ hour flight and the conversation allowed me to share our heart about adoption and how we met Josiah. I also learned that this couple actually went to the same church as my parents and oldest sister years ago! Only God!
     At 8PM (8AM China time), we boarded our final flight from Dallas to Detroit. *Fun fact: We took 5 different flights in 15 days! Yeah us!* Sleep deprivation was more than setting in though...Eric and I tried to do the math about how long we had officially been awake and we.just.could.not.even. Josiah had his moments on this last flight but we survived. He was up for the long haul now.
     When we touched down in Detroit...it was almost still too surreal. But suddenly, I wasn't as tired anymore, ha! I had the chance to share our exciting news with several people who overheard Eric and I talking about our sweet boy. People shared in our excitement as we made our way to baggage claim. The airport was quiet and it was as if we had our own quiet, special moment bringing Josiah down the empty halls as a Murray. We were now just one shuttle away from a hotel full of our other sleeping Murrays! My mom had driven up on Friday night with all 3 kiddos to a hotel near the airport.
    This was the sight I saw when we walked into the room just after 1AM (1PM China time- and on Saturday)... I hugged my mom and we both cried. The kids all grew at least a foot!



     Wow. Just wow. Fifteen days ago, Eric and I left home to travel across the ocean to become a family of six. We left our three babies in the great care of family and friends to go and bring home the child we've all patiently waited and prayed for these last two and a half years. And God did it! He did it all! God allowed our family to overcome so many obstacles and challenges. And He grew us in so many ways! I am eternally grateful for this opportunity to raise another child and teach him about the love of Jesus Christ...an opportunity he might not otherwise have had. 
     Thank you for following along, friends! Our Josiah is home! He's HOME! Here he is meeting Sydney for the first time...it was all smiles and giggles. He just loves his brother and sisters!


     I hope to continue sharing our adoption journey as I see fit...but not daily! Haha! No one wants to see that. But I do pray our story...God's story...has encouraged you in some way- big or small! Thanks again!