Wow, we've been home nearly a month. Wow, how time flies when you're having fun (or completely jet lagged!) What a difference a month has made for our little girl. She has been coming out of her shell more and more and showing us her sassy personality. She fits in so well in our family! I love how Abigail, Joshua and Trevin have completely accepted Rachel as their sister. There's no questions about why she looks different or mention that she's not really part of the family. To them, she is their sister, they love her and that's the end of it. Trevin has clearly stated that all the men have someone to protect, dad protects mom, Josh protects Abigail and Trevin's role in life is to protect Rachel and boy does he take that serious. No one is allowed to mess with his sister, except him of course!!
As with many children home through adoption, there is a period of time soon after you get the child and runs an undefined amount of time where the child will be on their best behavior, this period is known in the adoption world as the honeymoon period. At first, I just thought Rachel was an easy kid and so obedient and would go with the flow... well, I believe we were experiencing the honeymoon period. She has begun expressing her opinions a lot more in the last few weeks. I used to put her in her crib and she laid down and went to sleep as if that was what was expected of her with no questions asked. Now she lets us know that she doesn't really want to take a nap. Where she used to sit through her whole meal and eat so well, regardless of what her siblings were doing, now she wants up as soon as they get up and insists on being 'done' as soon as they are. She wants to do EVERYTHING her siblings are doing, including clearing her plate, load the dishwasher etc. While that sounds like it's fabulous, she's already broken a bowl and thrown out silverware in her attempt at being a big girl. She insists on drinking from a big girl cup like her siblings... we've been changing her shirt nearly every day by lunch after she's dumped a purple fruit smoothie all over herself. Her siblings ride a scooter, she puts on her helmet and is already pushing along on a scooter, insisting she can catch up to them (I'm sure you can imagine that goes well). While this all sounds cute, there are lots of other things her siblings can do that she can't do. When we try to 'save' her from whatever attempt, it usually ends in a meltdown. So we're working on adjusting a lot around here so Rachel can learn what's safe and not safe. From what we saw in the orphanage, I don't think she ever saw a bathroom or a kitchen. The stove, the toilet, the refrigerator, outlets, sinks, and cabinets are so much fun to explore but many are dangerous too. She certainly does not like to be told 'no' so she still has tantrums several times a day but we're starting to figure out how to handle them better.
We've run into a few communication problems. Her nannies spoke mandarin to her and she understood that quite well from what interaction we saw she had with them. Now we've gone and switched up her language so we know that is causing delays but she did not really speak Mandarin much except for a few words. So her speech development is quite delayed due to her cleft palate and the language change.
We took her to be evaluated at CHOP last week. She did really well considering we were crammed into a tiny doctors office with five professionals who were all evaluating her. I can't wait to get that bill. They determined all the lab work she would need and she ended up needing 9 viles of blood taken. That did not go well but we were ready with a lollipop as soon as it was over so the tears ended quickly. So far we know she is delayed with speech and some motor areas but all to be expected considering her institutional environment. Her cognitive development is right on par. We knew she was smart!! We are arranging for her to have therapies to help her catch up and have no doubts that she'll be talking up a storm this time next year.
We took a last minute trip down to Ocean City, NJ this past weekend. What a fabulous time it was!! We debated going because we have been purposeful in staying home with her as much as possible to get used to her new family and home but an opportunity to meet friends down there came up and we decided to go down for one night. On Saturday, Rachel was hesitant of the water and screamed if you got too close. She was happy to be on the sand and dig around. She even fell asleep in our beach tent with dad for her nap. We walked the boardwalk and she got to experience Brown's donuts (the best donuts we've ever had), George's Ice Cream and Manco and Manco pizza. It really does not get much better than that! She had such a great time and was so good about staying close to us and sitting in the stroller. This is huge progress from the little girl in China who was miss independent who refused the confines of the stroller and insisted on walking everywhere. By Sunday, Rachel was letting us put her feet in the water and soon was out walking in the water with her dad. She overcomes her fears so quickly. I'm so proud of her! I'm thrilled to know she loves the beach like the rest of us.
When we got home from the beach, she transitioned well back to her crib and slept great. I feel like the close time with all of us to play together and spend time together last week was such a boost for our bonding and attachment. While at home, Russ and I are often distracted with house chores, yard work and homeschooling, but at the beach we were just focused on playing together and we all had such a great time!
All in all, we're doing great. Our biggest challenge is communication and her speech. Also, we will be visiting the craniofacial team at St Peters in the next few weeks also to see what other work will need to be done for her palate (if any).
I was talking with a friend recently who has two children through adoption and we were discussing how difficult the process is but so worth it! It really is so hard to get through all the paperwork, the matching, the wait, and travel, the expense but it was all SO WORTH IT! Rachel is just simply precious! Many people who question whether they could adopt because they don't think you can love a child not born from your womb or because the kid will be so messed up and unfixable... it's all a lie! You were born to love, designed by the God who is love. These kids are overcomers and so resilient. I'm floored every day by what Rachel can accomplish and how quickly she learns. A month and a half ago, she was an orphan, without a family. I'm in awe of God's graciousness to our family to bless us with this precious girl to raise as our daughter. Wow, what we would have missed out on if we did not take that leap of faith to start this journey. People comment how 'lucky' Rachel is to be in our family... NO NO!!! We are the blessed ones to call her our daughter and sister. She has restored the joy that we felt had left us when we lost our little Lucy. Thank you Lord for reminding us that "weeping may last for the night but joy comes in the morning" (Psalm 30:5). She is our little joy, seriously, she is so happy. The radiant smile on her face when she sees her dad in the morning, or when she spots her sister across a room full of kids can melt your heart. She is starting to "get it", that she is part of a family and we're blessed to watch her become a daughter and sister.
There are times I wake up at night and I can't help but think about those precious faces of the children still left in her orphanage. I pray for them often that their families will find them. I read a staggering statistic recently that of those orphaned, abandoned and children who have been trafficked, if just 8% of the world's christians would step out and adopt, there would be no more orphan statistics. So this is not meant to be a guilt trip at all, but I just want to encourage you, if you've ever considered adoption but think it's too hard or you can't afford it or you just don't think you can handle it... well you can, through Christ who gives you strength. I can't handle it! Four kids and homeschooling is enough to drive me bonkers and some days it does, but it's worth it and every day God gives me the strength to love on my babies. Rachel was worth it! Those precious babies still left in her orphanage and every other orphanage and foster home are worth it! Worth every dollar spent! Worth every late night working on paperwork! Worth every tear shed! Wow, I wonder if that's how Jesus feels about me and you... that death on the cross was worth it. Wow, adoption has stretched us to love more like Christ and we're so very thankful for the opportunity.
Thank you for your continued prayers and support of our cocoon lifestyle at the moment. It won't last forever but we see the fruit in Rachel so again... THANK YOU!