Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The first day

First, let me just state the obvious...I shed a lot of {joyful} tears this morning. Joseph has come so far, literally, and it humbles me that God made ME his Mama. I find it all quite overwhelming, and I am just so thankful to the One who has stitched our family together so beautifully. God is so good.

Last night, Madi was so excited to make lunches for the three of them. She is just such a terrific big sister. Those kids have their moments, for sure, but when it comes down to it, they are so close.

This morning after the usual 6 a.m. round of cartoons in our bed, Madi jumped out of bed excitedly and announced that it was Joseph's big day. She rousted him up and swept him away to get dressed for the occasion, in a First United Methodist tee shirt, of course.

The kids ate their breakfast together and, honestly, it was one of our more organized mornings to date! Likely because big sister took on such a big task to help me out and get them ready.

I took some pictures of the (silly) boys before we got in the car, and we made sure we had everything we needed for his first day. Yesterday, I had asked Joseph to make a choice...would he rather walk Charlie to his class first and then go to class himself, or did he prefer for Charlie to walk him into his classroom. Surprisingly to me, he chose the latter...he wanted his brother to deliver him to class. Melted my heart.

A friend, Julia, who had wished Joseph a good day had also suggested that he take an apple for the teacher. Joseph totally embraced this great idea, and I wish you could've seen his face when he marched in the classroom and handed Mrs. Bivins that apple. Actually, I wish you could've seen her face, too. So, so special. 

We took some more pictures, and my heart was were my eyes. We put his things in his cubby, and he found his way to his seat, right next to his friend, Henry. It was crystal clear that Joseph was so ready, and it felt so right. I kissed him goodbye for the morning, and wiped the tears from my eyes.

I hadn't been out of the building for ten minutes when my cell phone rang. It was the preschool Director (and friend), Peggie Nasin. She asked me if Joseph had ever had a nose bleed before. Interestingly enough, he had. For the first time in our presence, Joseph had a nose bleed over Christmas break at my parents' house. The wild part was that Joseph totally knew it was coming on, and guided me to the bathroom (with his head tilted back) for tissues. I had no idea until he produced blood on the tissue. This had obviously happened before in China, because our son knew exactly what to do. It stopped after a few minutes, and he went back to what he was doing. Our festivities were such a whirlwind (and we were hoping the incident was a fluke) that I never even thought to mention it to Peggie.

Anyway, once again, Joseph knew exactly what to do, and handled the situation like a champ. Peggie held him on her lap, while he applied pressure and stopped the bleeding. When I sent her a text later, she replied that he was doing great. In an odd way, I think this might've been a good thing. Right out of the gate, Joseph had an opportunity to show them just how responsible and self-sufficient he is, even under the duress of a language barrier!

Last week, Madi had asked Joseph what he wanted to be called at school, and he announced to all of us that his *new* name is Joey. I had to laugh today when my friend, Jen, commented that she'd asked her son, Beck, (Charlie and Joseph's buddy) if Joseph had a good first day. Beck responded, "Joseph told me today, I don't like the name Joseph, my name is Joey." He's staying true to his words!

When I picked him up, I confessed that I'd been tearful all day, and Mrs. Bivins said there were so many emotional moments for her, too. At one point, she found him sweetly watching over her shoulder, and she felt compelled to ask him for a hug. She got one.

At the day's end, Joseph emerged so proudly from the classroom with his stack of papers and lunchbox. He refused to hand anything over to me. In his true form, I am sure he'll squirrel away every single paper he's given, and that's just fine.  I am lucky that he even allowed me to photograph anything...but he was happy, really happy, so I guess he let me slide today...

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Time for school.

Exactly one month before we arrived home with Joseph, I had posted on Facebook regarding an education plan for our son-to-be. I knew, at that time, a "plan" was all we could hope for, and no concrete decisions could be made until we knew him better and had explored all of our options.  

Since Joseph turns six next week, he should--technically--be enrolled into Kindergarten, but all along we felt very strongly about keeping him home for his first few months to adjust to his new surroundings. We believe that part of our plan worked out perfectly, as many of his transitional *kinks* have been worked out and he has adjusted more beautifully than we ever imagined. 

In November, Joseph and I toured the Kindergarten program at Banyan Creek Elementary School, where Madi attends school. I liked what I saw, but in my heart of hearts, I yearned for him to be at Charlie's preschool, First United Methodist Church, for so many reasons. One, he's been escorting his brother to school for three months now, and he feels completely comfortable there. And two, the schedule of M/W/F from 8:30 - 1:30 makes for a perfect transition into American schools. Most of all, I desperately wanted this child to have an opportunity to learn through play. He loves doing crafts, and looking at books, and all the things that preschool entails. I just knew that Joseph needed, and deserved, to experience Pre-K 4.

But there was one major hurdle...there were no available spots, and we would pretty much need a miracle for something to change. Three classes, ten children per class...the chances weren't great.

My faith never wavered though. I felt peace about it all, and I believed that God would work this out, somehow, according to His plan and that Joseph would land in the right place...the school where he is meant to be.

Then, in early December, it happened. I heard it from a close friend that a family at school would be moving out of the area at Christmas time. As that family's miracle came in the form of new employment for their daddy, our family's miracle came in that one lone spot opening up just for our son.

But it's even more special to us than that. Because the opening happens to be in Mrs. Bivins' class--the same Mrs. Bivins who taught Madi, the same Mrs. Bivins who taught Charlie last year, and the same Mrs. Bivins who loved on our sweet Daniel so much when he'd deliver and collect his big sister to and from school (I wrote about her in With an Open Heart!).

Joseph starts school tomorrow, and we are thrilled for him to begin this new and exciting chapter of his life. We are also overjoyed that Joseph and Charlie will get playground time together each day at school! 

Please, please say a prayer for him, if you would--that he is not anxious or upset and that he assimilates into his class without issue. We trust that this will be the best thing for him, and it's certainly the best place.  God knew.

Pictures to come...

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Celebrating new life

 In His Holy dwelling,
we gathered in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,

and brought our son, Joseph, to the baptismal fount of Jesus.

On the Feast of the Holy Family, exactly two years prior, the Holy Spirit had spoken to my heart, and I knew {knew} we were to adopt another child.  It felt incredibly overwhelming and full circle. A child was conceived in my heart on this very day, and here—two years later—our son is home and would be baptized into the light of Christ. 

We joined in chorus to sing the most beautiful Christmas songs on earth, and our ears heard an inspirational message of love, hope, and respect for each other, just as the Holy family's example had given. Monsignor Tom noted what a strong man Joseph was, and how our little Joseph traveled far to know Jesus, just as the Holy Family had traveled far to deliver their son into the world and the Wise Men had traveled from afar to meet Him.

The crown of Joseph's head was anointed with the same chrism 
that was once used for Kings.
I will never be able to sufficiently describe the look in our son's eyes as the Holy waters of purity were poured onto his forehead, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him. I truly believe he felt it in his soul. He was completely engulfed by a sense of peace and calmness, and it was clear to all who witnessed. 

His beautiful Godmother wiped dry his forehead, and I wiped tears from my eyes
such a beautiful gift to behold.

The day before Joseph’s baptism, I called Carrie and asked if they would take up the gifts at Mass. They are such a special family, and we loved the idea. When it was time to bring up the gifts, Carrie and Doug, Joseph's Godparents, stepped out of the pew, and she said, “Come Joseph.” With that, we watched the three of them proceed to the back of the church. I had no idea that was coming, and it took my breath away, actually! What a I had imagined Carrie and her family with this task, and in her beautiful heart, she had planned to take the gifts up with her Godson. Joseph marched up the aisle holding a basket that was nearly his size. The expression on his face was priceless—one of sheer honor and importance.

Many friends, family members, and parishioners welcomed Joseph into the Catholic faith. We were even joined by a dear friend of a different faith who witnessed her very first baptism.

We are all born as God’s children, yes, but the sacrament of baptism transforms us—saves us—by bringing us into His family eternally. By the grace of God, we are all adopted through baptism, if you will. And until we are rescued and baptized into His family, we are all orphans, aren’t we? It is a blessing to bring our children to the light of Christ.
I recently read a quote that I fell in love with: “Choosing to defend the orphan through adoption is beautiful, and God uses the adoption experience not only to redeem one of his beloved children, but also to transform your heart in ways you cannot begin to imagine.”
Adopting our precious children has done exactly that—transformed our hearts, just as God transforms our hearts when He adopts us through baptism. And on the Feast Day that we honor the Holy family, and revere the earthly parents whose son gave us everlasting life through His saving grace, how meaningful that we were able to baptize Joseph into His family. What a special way to end one wondrous year and begin a new...with new life in Christ.
“In Love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ.”

Ephesians 1:5