Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Mind Over Feelings

We knew it was coming. Transition is hard for everyone and I think it's just in my DNA to mentally make things a little harder than they need to be. I do it with every single stage of life. Bless all of you easygoing people. I am jealous.

Adoption has many difficult and challenging times but to me this is one of the most challenging. This stage of mind over matter, before the deep feelings have taken hold. I tell myself in a loop of controlled thoughts that it's not about me, it's about the boys. And it will get easier- a little every day. That it's temporary and so very normal.

Last week I think the day at the doctor was Samuel's last straw to be over the "honeymoon" period and realize all this newness is forever and he is not in control.
Isaac is  feeling the permanence of having a little brother up in his space, sharing his toys, his parents, his room. Somebody broke the door off of his Ferrari car and that was his tipping point.

I am learning that two children means not only two separate people to care for but includes the job of referee. (Please feel free to laugh, all of you with multiple children. I know.)  Love feels like a competition to them right now.

So I am exhausted in every way- trying to keep everything together and moving forward- doctors, schools, activities, home, meals, etc. And emotionally trying to be the patient and kind rock they can rage against as they navigate their own emotions. Making sure I am firm and consistent so they feel secure. (I don't know why it is that I'd jump in front of a train for them if they needed it, but being patient and kind all day seems like too much.)

Really and truly though, we are doing well. This is all normal. The boys are happy and sweet kids and they know I would move mountains for them.

Bless their cuteness. It keeps all of us going some days.



Isaac was all about holding chickens and petting donkeys when the petting zoo came to New Town. We live in the best place! Samuel insisted on being held the whole time and just kept saying, "Nope. Nope. Nope." Even with the turtles. Lol.

One must never be without one's accessories. Even in pajamas.

video

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Our Big Doctor Day

Yesterday Samuel had his Shriner's Hospital appointment. This was our first time to get his spina bifida checked out and see what's going on in his little body. The day was a lot longer and more involved than I expected- we were there or over at Children's Hospital across the street for  7 hours. Samuel was not happy to be at the doctor and after starting with the urologist he determined this was all a bad idea. Nothing they needed to do was painful, thankfully, but it was all we could do to keep him cooperative.
Momentarily pacified with videos.

Here he's getting casted for his special brace. Poor little guy. It didn't hurt, he'd just had enough. (Well, he had enough right when the day started.) I didn't take pictures when he was crying, but this super sad face was too cute to pass up.

(LATE lunch between tests.) This was a full-on bribe. Don't let his smile fool you, he is not happy with us.


When families first enter at Shriner's they are given a pager that vibrates, lights up, and gives typed out instructions on where you need to go next. Late in the day Sam picked it up out of my hand and ran his finger across the middle saying, "All done." He looked up at me, quite hopeful that I would believe it. Smart and funny guy.


Overall the news is great- his bones seem to be in good shape and the twisting in his hip, leg, and foot are all tight muscles. He is getting a cast and they will re-evaluate in a couple months to see how well he's progressing. Surgery is an option but it's possible the cast process will be enough. Other issues are all wait and see for now.

The doctors and physical therapists were impressed with his strength. He's been riding his bike almost every day and quickly getting stronger. I can almost see it happening in the moment. Three weeks ago he needed gentle pushes every few seconds as we walked alongside him. Now he needs maybe one or two helps as he rides along on our long walks! But don't help him one nanosecond longer than necessary, your hand will be roughly removed. He can do it!
 
Riding his bike to the bus in the morning, before he knew he was going to the doctor. 
Meanwhile, Isaac had his first dance class last night. He loved it! He's doing hip-hop, and watching his class was one of the highlights of my life. Seeing him in his element, so happy and doing what God made his body to do so well.


Every morning Sam and I walk Isaac to the bus stop and in the afternoon we walk back to pick him up. We all love this ritual, and I melt every time Samuel giddily waits for Isaac to get off the bus and then they have a big hug. Sam loves school busses and says 1000 times a day, "Ge ge bus. Di di no bus." He knows that when he starts preschool he won't ride the bus. But he is still quite anxious to go to school like Ge ge.



During the day there is so much I want to remember to treasure in my heart and to share, then the afternoon wears into the evening and by bedtime I have nothing left in my body or brain. Usually I curl up in bed right after the boys do, hoping to scrape together enough recharge to win tomorrow. That's just Mom Life I think. Exhausting. But these boys are so worth it. I often think- how did we get the two best little boys in, truly, the whole world?!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Two Weeks

Two weeks and two days… I can't believe it's only been that long. Oh how our world has changed in the last month! Although I can't account for all our time, somehow we are exhausted at the end of every day. So many of our friends have reached out to help us, and we are so very thankful for how they have helped us have the space to connect and learn to be a family.

Speaking of learning, that's the biggest theme of our lives right now. (Maybe that's why we're exhausted!)

Samuel has new words every day; he's riding a bike now. He loves accessorizing, he's trying and loving new foods, and he's trusting that family may leave but they come home.
Isaac's first day of 3rd grade!

Getting on the bus

Samuel was devastated for his brother to leave. 

Together again! Also, sunglasses on head.

Sam loves going places in the car and pushes me to go somewhere (anywhere!) ALL DAY. So I'm trying to spread out our errands to accommodate a daily outing.
 
This is his excited face when I tell him we are going out. Notice the "necklace".
I'm learning how to be a mother to Samuel. He's a happy guy and fun to play with- and that is so helpful to me as I learn again how to be constantly available. He likes to check every minute or so that Mama is still nearby.

Isaac meanwhile is loving 3rd grade. He still loves dancing and art. We just signed him up for hip hop lessons in September. I can't wait to see what he learns!
Isaac's most recent portrait of me. My mom says it captures my spirit. Lol.


The boys are learning to share- their parents, their toys, and their space. It's not easy, but I am so proud of how well they have both moved into the "brother" roles. They truly adore each other.
Their shirts say "older brother" and "younger brother". Samuel's preferred name is Di di and he will only call Isaac Ge ge. And the lanyard.

The big bike rider- complete with sunglasses, bracelet, anf minions fruit snacks. 

Discovering cherries. And sunglasses on head.

He concentrates on his chores by sticking his tongue out. He had found these toy tools and was fixing things for me.

At the playground. This day's accessory, along with a bracelet, was a chip clip on the sleeve. He wore it ALL DAY.

Right now Samuel is watching his favorite show, "Super Why". I hear him yelling, "Super Why, to the rescue!" He mimics well although he doesn't yet know what the words are. Since he doesn't do much TV I use every opportunity he gives me to get something done. So today's only accomplishment outside of "Samuel time" is this blog. You're welcome. And now we'll chi fan. (Eat lunch.)

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Home

Hello all!
First, I want to say a huge THANK YOU to Katie for managing my social media and writing wonderful blog posts while we were gone. She has such an amazing way with words, and I know you were able to feel like you were part of our adventure because of it. Thanks, Katie!!

Now we are home and getting settled. Jet lag is home with us, too. Two kids on not enough sleep is no joke, but overall we're adjusting really well. Samuel is fitting right in, not shy about joining in with us and happy to go along with whatever is happening. He's a cuddle bug. In the morning when he sees me he does a happy dance, exclaims, "Mama!" and runs to give me a hug. A mother couldn't imagine anything better than that! Isaac is a great helper and he is learning to share his space and his toys. It's a big adjustment for him, too, and he is navigating it with more grace than I'd expect of an eight-year-old. My heart is full; we are so blessed.

I haven't taken any pictures this week, but I will soon. Meanwhile, I want to share with you my favorite pictures from our trip.
I know this isn't the usual "best of" vacation photo, but who hasn't been here? Adults enjoying the sights, kids limp with boredom and fatigue. What makes this more fun to me is that this was taken on the FIRST DAY, about 30 minutes after leaving our hotel in the morning! Lol. It was very hot out, and Isaac really was a trooper on this whole trip.

Our first night together. I brought matching pjs for the boys. They say "Coolest Brother Ever".
It was a fun time goofing around. 

Samuel signing his adoption paperwork with a red-ink handprint.

At the office, waiting for our turn. Mick and Samuel were looking out the window together and talking. 

This is a favorite for obvious reasons I think. ;-) Look at those faces!
That bear was what we gave Samuel when we met him. I think we left it on the airplane home. It's from Target, so if you happen to see one there, please let me know! I've checked the ones around here already.


Isaac is such a fun kid. This pose was all his idea.
Brothers being silly. These statues are all around Shaiman Island in Guangzhou.



Those of you who have been to China know what these are. Chicken feet. Our Holt guide in Guangzhou (best ever, by the way!) took our group out a couple of nights for authentic meals. I tried to be adventurous, but I could not eat these.

Mick did, though. He not only tried it, he polished it off. 

On the way home via Hong Kong, we wanted to givethe boys a magical day so we spent Friday at Disney. Mick, Isaac and I love rides and of course we had no idea what Samuel would think of them. We started slow but he was all into it so we rode bigger and faster. We never found his limit. He LOVES rides!
The parade we watched by accident. It was actually one of my favorite things of the day! The boys waved wildly at every character. Samuel looks sad in this photo for some reason, but he was having so much fun.

Isaac actually followed the parade as it passed. He couldn't let it be over.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Almost Home

(Katie)
***

I just have one more update for you-- they're coming home tomorrow!!!


They explored Hong Kong Friday and Saturday, and then they got up Sunday morning and wrapped up their time in China: one last hotel breakfast, one last repacking of suitcases. Their flight leaves at 2:30 pm (1:30 am US Central time), and they are scheduled to land in St. Louis late tomorrow night. During their Dallas layover, the Schaefers will go through an Immigration process, and Samuel will officially become a US citizen. 💗

Thursday, July 27, 2017

A Short Update

(Katie)
***

I don't have a whole lot to update on, and I have no pictures to add :( but I did want to catch you all up on where they are.

Wait! I do have a picture! It's a little creepy because I blurred out the other families' faces just in case there's some privacy issue I don't know about. This photo was taken at the American Consulate, while they were getting entry visas and US citizenship for their new children. What a weighty moment! Everyone was smiling.

At the American Consulate on Tuesday
Wednesday was a quiet day, and they stuck close to the hotel in Guangzhou. 

On Thursday morning they went shopping with another family, and they trouped through Guangzhou on the subways (Dad: "The subways were smooth, fast, and refreshingly cool!").

After a quick lunch, they checked out of their rooms and got in a van around 1:45 to head for Hong Kong. Dad: "The whole 3 1/2 hour ride was through one large, continuous metro area with skyscrapers for mile after mile. We went through immigration and customs at both sides of the Hong Kong border with China.  Mick and David had to walk through the Chinese side because of a limit of 4 passengers in a car."

So they are in Hong Kong for Friday and Saturday, and then they fly home Sunday!

Hopefully they'll send some pictures of their adventures in Hong Kong. I'll share them if they do!

Monday, July 24, 2017

A Small (Big?) Hiccup

(Katie)
***
Guangzhou: the city population is 14 million and the urban area is 20.1 million.  It is the 3rd largest city in China and 7th in the world.
Hi! Would you like a heart attack? Then read this email from Mom:
We were waiting in the lobby for the other families who were going with us on the subway to Shamian Island when John, the Holt representative, said he could not go with us. He had to take one family to the medical clinic.  Someone did not pass the TB test.  If he did not pass the x-ray test that day, then he would go to the clinic for three days of sputum tests.  If he failed those, he would not get a visa and could not go to the U.S. until he finished eight weeks of treatment.  We were all worried for this family.
It was Samuel.
They went to the clinic while we went on to Shamian Island to meet up later.  It was hard to not know what was happening. Allie was brave.
 One of our group has cell service so she got the call.  Samuel passed.
We joined up, ate lunch together, walked around, and shopped.  A taxi home and you are now up to date.
The day was beautiful. No rain. Drinks in an hour.  
We may be able to leave Guangzhou Thursday afternoon so can have an extra day in Hong Kong. I am working on it.

AHHHHHHH!!!!

I'll leave you on a less stressful note from Dad. I received this one BEFORE Mom's email, and it includes some notes on what in the world Shamian Island is:

The other Holt families are terrific people, very enjoyable and outgoing.  A fun group to be with, as we experienced the last time.  They are the kind of people you want to be friends with, or live next door to. Several have adopted multiple children, so this is not their first rodeo although for several it is their first time to China.  Watching them learning how to take care of their beautiful children is touching.  What a privilege to get to tag along in this personal, intimate experience. 
 
After a swim, we went to the mall, which was packed. We shopped around a bit and needed to get back to the hotel for dinner.  While it had been raining pretty good when we arrived, by now it was monsoon-like as the remnants of the typhoon passed over.  Hailing a cab was challenging.  I finally stood outside in the sheeting rain and got one.   
Later this morning, we are going to Shamian Island.  Shamian Island is in the Pearl River but separated from the shore by a very narrow water course.  It is where the original Western settlements were located beginning in the 1700s (I think) when Canton (Guangzhou's other name) was the place where trading with China was centered.  It continued being the nexus for Western countries until into the 20th century, and there is an old US consulate there, among others.  It is a quiet, shady, very green area.  
Well. I didn't think I would have any updates for awhile... I was wrong! Anyway, I am SO GLAD all is well now. Hopefully there will be no more curveballs and they will be able to arrive home on time next Sunday night. I'll keep you posted!