Friday, November 21, 2014

The Sibs

Many of you have inquired about the sibling relationship here. I now feel more equipped to speak to this, being almost two months into our new normal.

Let's see...how can I put this...

I suppose, in the beginning, I could have likened it to having a cute little alien land in your home. Does that sound awful?? Okay, okay, of course I'm kidding, and I hope you can see the humor in it. The excitement for their new brother's arrival had obviously been mounting over the months. So, when the reality came, and Madi and Charlie realized their brother didn't speak their language at all, I think it shocked them a little bit! Understandably so. For more than a few weeks, we had to remind our children (and ourselves) to think about how Joseph must feel. At least we all speak the same language. He must have felt like he'd arrived in the alien spaceship!

The bonding has been slow and steady for these siblings, which we believe will be meaningful and lasting. I mean, it makes sense, doesn't it? Had the kids been able to travel with us to China, they would've benefited from that instant bonding, but that just wasn't an option this time around for several reasons. Madi and Charlie met their brother on Facetime, and that obviously wasn't the same, and let's be honest about it...love takes time. The joyous news is that every single day brings geniune bonding for these three.

In the first month, we really tried to give the two brothers lots of one-on-one time to get to know each other better. And little Miss's schedule was so hectic, that it was really conducive to their bonding time. Surprisingly, there wasn't much jealousy on Charlie's part; although, when we came home, he did seem resentful about the fact that his parents left him for two weeks. He's been really good about sharing and very rarely gets totally upset about something. When he does, we find it's usually a misunderstanding or a communication issue. Charlie spends lots of time telling me, "He finks..." and explains a possible scenario of what he *thinks* Joseph is telling him. One morning, after only a week or so home, the boys were playing Legos at the dining room table and we heard Joseph ramble off a bunch of things in Chinese. Charlie responded with, "I already know that, Xiao Xiao!" As if he knew what was actually said! Cracked us up.

Joseph, in the beginning, would call his brother "Char-liah." Now he runs around mostly shouting, "Cha Cha" over and over. Charlie still calls his brother "Xiao Xiao." Not sure when he'll make the transition to Joseph, if ever. Maybe once his brother is in school. Charlie and Joseph have become so close. It's very special, and heartwarming, to see their relationship flourish. Yes, they still have flare-ups and arguments, but they are brothers. The other night, Madi and I went out to dinner with friends, and Jimmy had the boys at home. They both fell asleep at his side while he watched a race. Jimmy put Charlie in his bed first. When he put Joseph in his bed, he woke up saying, "Char-liah, Char-liah." Once Daddy pointed out that his little brother had already been tucked in his bed, Joseph went right back to sleep.

Their relationship has been more of a blessing than we ever possibly imagined, and they are pulling special qualities out of each other. Before Joseph came home, Charlie could've been easily considered a "couch potato." As parents, we take responsibility for the fact that he adored being "plugged in." Not anymore. These two boys love to play together more than anything else. They are constantly outside digging in the dirt, or playing on the swings, or building Lego sets. Yes, the television and ipads still surface sometimes, but much less frequently than they used to. And as a result, our Charlie has been a more social person. He's more talkative, more outgoing, and definitely more active having a built-in playmate to enjoy his time with. Joseph, who in the beginning would run from Charlie if he even looked dirty, is now right there beside him digging in the dirt and gets himself completely filthy. And he enjoys every minute of it.

Madi's adjustment has been a bit different. Joseph adored her from the start. Afterall, she was the one who paid him a ton of attention on Facetime while we were in China. When we arrived home, he followed her everywhere. And she felt some pressure...so much so that she requested a lock on her bedroom door! She didn't want to hurt his feelings, yet she feel bothered by it. We relieved her concerns that his obsession would wane in time, and it has. She has since become more compassionate; however, there is another issue in play between these two siblings, and it is called control. Joseph is very strong-willed, and so is his big sister. It drives her crazy that sometimes he won't listen to her like Charlie does! Madi loves to play with the boys on her terms. They adore when their big sister comes out and announces that she needs them for something. They follow her like puppies. And what she gets them to do just cracks us up...dance routines, baton twirling, puppet shows. They are into it whatever it is she has in mind!

This adoption has been such an important lesson in compassion...for all of us. It is easy to become frustrated when Joseph cries for reasons we cannot understand, or when he acts out and does things that his siblings simply can't fathom. We are still learning how to better understand Joseph's needs, and we have to remind ourselves how frustrated he must feel at times. There are many teachable moments, in this transition, when we have to ask ourselves, "What would Jesus do?" That always seems to put things in perspective, and gets us back on track. The answer is simple...just be patient and love him through it.

Has it been all sunshine and flowers? Of course not. I'm not saying it's perfect; I don't know what sibling relationship is. But I can say that this wonderful journey has been so worth it, and I am so glad that Jimmy and I listened to the Holy Spirit's whisperings again. Or we would've missed this...

 And this...
 And this...
 And this...
 And this...
 
 And this...
And this...
 
 And this...
And this...

And so much more.
Praise the Lord. We are blessed...so blessed.

Friday, November 7, 2014

one month in.

There is so much to reflect upon now that Joseph has been home for almost a month and a half. I know I've said this before, but it seems so surreal...like he's been here forever. And so much has changed within such a short span of time.

If you had asked me a month ago how things were going, honestly, I was a little "frazzled," to say the least. Things were a bit stressful over here. It is way too easy for me--as an over-analyzer--to get stuck focusing on the hardships and the difficulties of Joseph's transition. Of course, my heart's desire is to get to the root of each issue, so that I can "fix" things and make the hard times go away for him. But that's not reality, and it is something that simply takes time and healing. Thank goodness I have a merciful Father in Heaven, a saint of a husband, two parents whose door is always open, lots of angels, and some true friends who helped me navigate through those hard times.

When one considers how suddenly--and drastically--Joseph's life changed, he has done amazingly well.  I would be remiss if I didn't sit back and take a look at all of the beautiful blessings that have taken place here in our presence. I want to post some of the important milestones in the major progress that Joseph has made. A friend of mine recently wrote the most beautiful post about how resilient kids are. It is so true when you think about all the change this child, and others like him, have dealt with, but it's all for good. It is such a God-given blessing to watch his glorious unfolding.

I will always remember the first time we went to the park with friends, and how Joseph's instinct told him to run over to me and "check in" every few minutes to make sure I was still there, even though I was in plain sight. He just wanted to touch me, call me "Mama," hear my voice, and then would go right back to playing. Now when we go to the park, his check-ins are much less frequent, (unless we are in a new setting) and it is clear that he feels much more secure.

His first week home, I watched our son stuff a large Ziploc bag full of cars and small toys that he selected from our "communal" toy bin. He quickly ran off to his room and hid the bag in his bed, along with a few other special things we'd given him. He'd bring the bag out to play, pretty much daily, but it always went right back to his "secret" hiding place. A week later, Joseph came into the living room, and I watched him place his bag of prized possessions behind the toy bin. What a huge step for him! At one point, Joseph had stacked so many things on his nightstand that I finally emptied out one of the drawers beneath his bed to hold all of his special belongings, and there is such an assortment in there: a church bulletin, a roll of scotch tape, his first birthday party take-home gift, a pack of crayons wrapped in a LaBamba kiddie menu, to name a few. He still, even now, prefers to keep his gifts and certain items right next to his bed, as if that is his "safe" and designated space. Eventually, he will realize that it's not necessary, and that his items are safe in the house wherever they are. But he is, alas, making significant progress.

I recall, in those first weeks of his daily tantrums and meltdowns...how I struggled physically to hold a stiff and rigid body--his eyes appeared as though he'd 'checked out' emotionally, and it seemed almost impossible to console him. A month later--in the midst of a breakdown--I embrace a little boy who melts into my arms and allows me to cradle him, dry his tears, and ease his pain. Joseph's adoption file indicated that he didn't emote at all and stated that "the child is introverted, cute, does not like to express his happiness and anger."  Yes, he is cute, but he is far from introverted now, and he readily expresses both happiness and displeasure! It is hard to believe this is the same child based on that report. Perhaps, (as a dear friend reminded me) this is a normal part of the developmental process that he'd missed out on. Could it be a huge step that he even feels comfortable enough to show that side of himself? That thought made me view a temper tantrum in a whole different light.
 
One month ago, our little boy had complete fits getting into the van. It made complete sense. Previously, his life had been--for the most part--confined to the walls of an orphanage. Becoming accustomed to our life of driving here and there took some time. He now knows "the program," jumps into the van without resist, and also buckles his seat belt voluntarily without any fight (for the most part). I can't begin to explain how much progress has been made there! Trust me on this...

We are thankful that Joseph didn't skip a beat when it came to his bedtime routine. He and Charlie go right to sleep in their beds every night. Joseph still makes his way into our bedroom between midnight and 2 a.m. every night. He crawls up and snuggles in between Jimmy and me. We can only imagine that he must wake up feeling the need to make sure we are still there. Heck, he missed out on five years of this. And we are perfectly fine with this routine and firmly believe that it is temporary. We feel that eventually he will wake up and his little brain will tell him, "Oh yeah...Mommy and Daddy are right down the hall," and with that he will go back to sleep. To us, it is a bigger and better deal that he is going to sleep in his own bed every night at a decent hour and that he is getting sleep at all. 

Our little guy still loves his bath. It is evident that he is thrilled to bathe every single night instead of the two times per week that he bathed in the orphanage. At first, Joseph insisted on washing himself from head to toe, and he was quite proud to show us what a good job he did. I loved his independence, but I wanted him to know that he doesn't have to do everything for himself. He deserves a little motherly pampering, doesn't he? Only after a couple of weeks, Joseph began to prefer that I shampoo his hair for him, and he gives the sweetest smile while I rinse his hair, carefully trying to avoid his eyes and face...a far cry from the little guy who, a month ago, dumped buckets of water over his own head.

Food...ah, food! One of my mommy struggles...I can't seem to put weight on this kid! But he is getting taller, so that's a positive! Joseph hasn't proven to be a food hoarder, which is quite common among children his age from orphanage settings; although, he does enjoy stalking the pantry. Joseph grazes throughout the day, which is a really good thing. He loves protein, especially chicken. He can clean a chicken wing like no one I've ever seen, and he will pick on a roaster chicken for days! His other favorite foods include potatoes, bananas, strawberries, grapes, and graham crackers. We can get him to drink whole milk, but he's fallen off the yogurt train, and seems to decline foods with a soft or mushy consistency (applesauce, hummus, guacamole, shakes, cheeses). He's not a big bread fan, either. Thankfully, he takes his Juice Plus pretty faithfully.

Joseph's English words are coming in slowly but he is getting it! This child understands so much! Sometimes I will direct a request to Charlie or Madi, and Joseph is the one who actually does what I ask! Of course, there are still times when the language barrier becomes frustrating, but we are managing it pretty well! I think amazingly well, actually, when I think of those first weeks! Somehow the language of love gets the point across every time...hard to imagine, but it does! He can recite the alphabet and can count pretty clearly to at least thirty. Oh...and he definitely knows how to say, "Let it Go!"

Joseph is a loving child with a big heart, and he loves to share...on his terms. And when it's not on his terms, let's just say he's still learning! In the presence of friends, he will run inside to grab snacks for all the children, not just himself. He loves to be the one to give. He loves to be the one to help...usually on his terms, too. He really likes to be in control...not surprising given his circumstances. And he is strong willed and stubborn as the day is long...hmmm, just like the rest of us in this house!

Our son is definitely at his happiest when he is surrounded by kids. He just glows! Joseph loves to play and his personality comes alive, especially when he is outside. He is incredibly active and physical, but at the same time, he is creative and loves crafts, too. We are constantly struck by Joseph's determination. It seems there is nothing this child can't do!

Here I sit, a mere month-and-a-half later, to say that we have made it through the toughest part of this transition. That spec of time is nothing in the scheme of things! Of course, having put that statement in writing tells me that Murphy's Law will somehow prevail. Kidding aside, I am truly in awe of God's blessings. He's found us, once again, the perfect match for our family. We love this new little Murphy so very, very much. Adoption rocks.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Baby dolls

I know that Joseph will likely cringe when he reads this someday, but it is far too precious not to post.

This morning I pulled out the latest Toys R Us catalog that the kids have been busy "marking up" this week for their Christmas lists.

Interestingly, I noticed that there was more than one red circle (Joseph's color) around baby dolls. I inquired. Madi confirmed that he circled them, and Joseph confirmed that he has a liking for them. 

Wow. Not that I care. But he seemed to be all about cars and trucks and building blocks.

Madi disappeared to her room and surfaced with a surprise. She had one of her first baby dolls, a Corelle (Asian) doll named Calin Yang (I know...half of your daughters, my adoptive friends, have this doll, too!)

Madi asked, "Mommy, what's this doll's name again?"  I couldn't believe she'd forgotten. Although it has been about five years since she played with them. The doll has her Chinese nickname...the same one she shares with her new brother.

"Xiao Xiao!" I replied.

Madi could hardly contain herself. She hid the doll behind her back, and called Joseph, "Lai! Lai!" (Come here). Joseph looked so excited, even though he had no idea what was coming.

She gave him the baby doll, and he beamed with joy. So much so that it prompted Madi to dig out two more dolls for him to take care of.


After Jimmy tucked the boys in tonight, he told me all all about how Joseph had lined up the dolls in his bed and laid out their clothes so nicely. I went in to kiss them goodnight, and this is what I saw.


How sweet is that?? I love his caring little heart! And I'm guessing maybe he had some experience with babies in the orphanage...maybe?

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Godfamily

Today is All Soul's Day when we remember our dearly departed.

Today is Orphan Sunday when we pray for and remember the least of these.

Today is also the day that Joseph claimed his Godfamily.

After we got back from China, the Holy Spirit was quite loud and clear about who this should be.

Can you guess?

His Godmother prayed us to China and back. She led our Facebook group in prayer, too. In fact, she was on this journey with me since the seed was in its infancy stage, and she's a true sister-in-Christ to me. Jimmy and I are Godparents to their precious little Kolbe Joseph.

Dear Socha family, on this special day when both of our families remember our angels, we celebrate the fact that Joseph not only has a family, but now he has a Godfamily, too.

We are so blessed to have you on this journey.



Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Presentation of the Gifts

As our family walked into Mass Sunday morning, we were approached by an usher and asked to take up the gifts in preparation for Communion. Let me just say that our kids love taking up the gifts. It always feels like such a gift, in itself, to be asked!

My heart sang, during the homily, when the Priest spoke about using our God-given gifts and talents to help others and how we can all make a difference. I was humbled on so many levels...reflecting about how God has made a difference in our family through adoption...thinking about how many amazing people in that very church (and beyond) used their gifts and talents to help us get Joseph home. And wondering how our precious children will use their God-given gifts in their futures.

All grace. Then to be chosen to present the gifts to the altar that very morning? The Holy Spirit spoke to my heart!

This was the first time we've been asked since Joseph's been in our family, so we weren't exactly sure who would carry what for our special assignment. As I pondered the scenario, I pictured Madi carrying the Precious Blood of Jesus, as she always has in the past. But, instead of Charlie carrying the Precious Body (the "Holy Chips" as the kids call them) as he usually does, I envisioned Charlie and Joseph taking up the large collection basket together--one on each side. 

Well, when the time came, Charlie insisted on keeping his favorite task of carrying the Eucharist. He is a creature of habit--that we know. Joseph started to get a little squirmy--obviously concerned that he would be left without a job. When the usher walked over, we asked if Joseph could carry the collection basket by himself, and the usher said it would be fine.

Y'all, I wish you could've seen it... 

Joseph marched up, about five paces ahead of the rest of us, carrying that basket so proudly up to Monsignor Tom. It was almost as big as he is! I only wish I could've seen his face...I can totally imagine his facial expression, given such an important duty. A couple of friends confirmed that he did--indeed--look quite proud as he strutted forward to the altar. But the sight from behind was priceless and precious, too!

Of course, I had tears in my eyes. What a blessed and special morning at Mass for us. And what a beautiful surprise from the Holy Spirit.