"An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet regardless of time, place or circumstance.The thread may stretch or tangle, but it will never break." -Chinese proverb

Friday, November 30, 2012

National Adoption Month

November is National Adoption Month.  I remember last November being so excited about being in the beginning of our adoption.  We were just in the beginning, hadn't had our home visits yet but were on our way in the paper chase.  The beginning is overwhelming.  There is so much to do before you really even understand what you're doing.  There's all of the paperwork for the homestudy, the paper chase for the dossier and once you're done with all of that, you have so much more to learn and do still.  Erik gave me a great piece of advice when I was feeling overwhelmed.  He said, "We'll just chip away at it one piece at a time."  And even though that didn't feel like enough and like we would ever get anywhere, it was enough and before we knew it, we were getting close to finishing up our dossier.  It's a lot and it takes a long time but if you take it one step at a time, you can get through it. 

There are a few reasons that I started this blog about a year ago.  One reason was for our friends and family to be able to keep up with where we were at in our adoption.  It's so hard to explain when people ask about the adoption and when you'll get to go to China.  There's so much more to it than that and we didn't know when we were going until two weeks before we left.  For anyone who wanted to know all of the steps and what was left, I tried really hard to explain on here what we were doing and what was coming next.  Another reason, the main reason, that I started this blog was for Liana.  I wanted our daughter to be able to read what all we went through on our way to adopting her and for her to be able to look back someday and see how much we wanted her and how much we loved her before we ever even met her.  The third reason that I started this blog was for other adoptive parents or potential adoptive parents.  I learned more from other blogs than probably anywhere else during this process.  Before we made the decision to adopt, I read all the way through I don't know how many blogs.  It was such a help to me to read about the different steps that you go through to get to your child and all of the different experiences people went through.  Everyone has such a different experience and some of the children enter their families smoothly but many more struggle...a lot.  I felt a lot more prepared when we went to China, having read about so many different people's experiences.  I hope that people in the process of adopting have been helped in some way by reading my blog and I hope even more that it encourages others to take that step toward adding to their families through adoption too.  We had our ups and downs on this journey.  Everyone does.  It's inevitable that you will have some delays and setbacks but something that I read once that encouraged me was that once you have an approved homestudy is, you will get your child.  It will happen, no matter what you have to go through and no matter how much time it takes.  There's no knowing what your journey will look like ahead of time and what problems you will face, what parts of the process China will change during your journey, but you can get through it.  It's a lot like labor pains, once you have your child in your arms, the pain you went through to get to this point, just doesn't matter anymore.  I'm so glad to be on this end of our adoption now...with Liana here with us, but I don't care anymore about the issues that we had with notaries and doctors and our ridiculously long LOA wait.  Liana is here!  She's playing with Ethan and interrupting my typing this very moment.  And I wouldn't change a thing. 

On another note, I want to plug Special Needs adoption, as it is obviously close to my heart.  When you think of Special Needs, you think of pretty severe needs but if that isn't right for your family, it doesn't have to turn you away from Special Needs adoption.  When you decide to do Special Needs adoption, they give you a checklist of different special needs and you check which ones you would be okay with and to what degree.  When we learned about Special Needs adoption, it just clicked.  We were matched through a shared list that comes out each month in China of children who have minor to moderate correctable special needs.  This can be anything from a cleft lip and/or palate to a minor heart condition to a birthmark.  Liana had two special needs.  One was a small hole in her heart called a PFO.  Liana's PFO had already resolved itself before we were even matched with her.  It's gone!  Her other special need was an esophageal hiatus hernia, which she had surgery for when she was about a month old.  Supposedly she was going to need another surgery but she doesn't.  She has had no issues with it whatsoever and she is able to eat anything and everything and she does!  Truly minor special needs, if you even consider them special needs at all, which I really don't.  We did discover one other "special need" when we came home.  She has a lump on her back, which we learned yesterday is a deep hemangioma.  Usually they are red birthmarks on the skin but Liana's is bluish and under the skin.  Now, the reason I am even calling this a special need is because it happens to be one of the things that we checked on our list that we were okay with.  There's nothing that we have to do about it except keep an eye on it to make sure it isn't getting bigger and it will more than likely shrink in the next few years.  I have known families who checked only one special need on the list and were matched right away so you don't have to be open to a lot.  You have to really think about it seriously and research the different needs but what a blessing when you bring home your "special needs" child. 

This is the face of Special Needs adoption

I support all kinds of adoptions.  I don't care if it's domestic, international, special needs or non special needs adoption.  I <3 adoption.  I just happen to only know about Special Needs from China so that's what I'm writing about. :-)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

An unlikely set of twins

This post is dedicated to the two year olds...my virtual twins.  Ethan and Liana are 3 months and 2 days apart in age, which makes them "virtual twins".  I'm not sure where this term came from but the first time I read it from someone who had adopted a child close in age to another of their children, I thought, why, oh why would they do that?!  Yeah, I know you've thought the same thing about us.  Admit it!  Why...?  I don't know.  Honestly, it was never our plan but it clearly was God's plan.  When we met with our social worker the first time, we had to pin down the age range for a child that we would like to adopt.  We did not want to disrupt the birth order, that was very important to us but since we began this adoption when Ethan was only 16 months old, we knew we had to be open to a child fairly close to his age so we said that the oldest child we would adopt would have to be born in September of 2010.  Ethan is a June 2010 baby and our thinking was that if we adopted a September baby, he would still get to feel like the "big brother" because, although they would only be 3 months apart, they would end up a year apart in school.  Well, wouldn't you know it, when we got the call that Holt had a referral for us, the child was born in September of 2010.  And not late in September, September 3rd.  They wanted to know if that would be okay with us and we said, "YES!"  You can only imagine how little we cared how close they were in age when we saw Liana's pictures.  Is love at first sight possible?  Yes, when it comes to your babies! 

So, here we are now with our adorable and mischievous two year olds and life...can be crazy but what is funnier, sillier and more adorable than a two year old?!  Now times it by two and you can imagine my life!  2 x the trouble, 2 x the fun.  Whenever anyone asks how we're doing and how things are going with Liana, my thoughts always goes straight to the two of them, so I guess it is like twins in a way.  One of the hardest adjustments since adopting Liana is the relationship between Ethan and Liana and their relationships, separately and together, with us.  It's a complicated thing.  I knew that it would be tough and hard on Ethan but I didn't know just how hard and I didn't realize how angry Ethan would be.  When we were in China, Ethan went through a lot.  I've talked about this before but it was a hard trip for him.  With his head injury on our Gotcha day and just the constant go, go, go plus adding a new little sister.  Not always fun.  But since coming home, he has relaxed a lot.  Some of it was instant.  It was a relief for him to be back in Texas, in his own home, in his own bed and with a more normal routine.  His anger seemed to dissolve right away.  Of course, that didn't mean that he loved his little sister yet.  Now he had to adjust to her being in "his" home and playing with his toys and, of course, having to share "his" mommy and daddy and big sister.  This was not what he dreamed of when he talked about "I make happy LiLi".  But, let's be honest, do our siblings ever live up to what we dream they will be when there's a new baby coming into the family?  No really, do they?  I wouldn't know, being the youngest in my family. :-P 

On the first day with Liana, I got a great picture of Ethan with this hopeful, excited look on his face.  Wow, I have a new sister!  This is great!  That look quickly disappeared as an almost constant scowl appeared.  We still see the scowl...a lot...but things are getting better.  I see them starting to bond and I see it more all the time.  They play mostly near each other but sometimes they play together.  Ethan will say, "I touch LiLi for a little while?" and rub her head.  I've seen her do the same to him.  She was sitting in his wagon one day and I heard him say, "Come on Li-wanna (that's how he says her name)" and he just walked off with her in the wagon, full of giggles and a look of apprehension on her face.  He has come into her room when I was first getting her up in the morning, grabbed her foot and said, "Good morning, Li-wanna!"  I've seen her lean her head onto him for a hug, just out of the blue. Just today, he went into the fridge for his sippy of milk and came back with her bottle, handing it over and saying, "Here you go!"   And then later, Liana tried to share a book with Ethan (sometimes she actually shares and sometimes she whips it away at the last minute :-) and Ethan said, "No, but thank you."  These are all good signs.  The best is when he does something that makes her laugh.  They both are so pleased with each other when that happens.  When I got them out of their chairs after breakfast one morning, Liana stood up against a wall and so Ethan did too, saying that they were spies.  Although I know she had no idea what he was talking about, they both got such a kick out of it that they kept on doing it, looking pleased with themselves and giggling the whole time.  Cute, little moments like this make me feel like things are getting better.  They're two, so I'm not expecting any heart to heart conversations to happen anytime soon but I'm excited to see them growing as brother and sister and as friends.  I hope that they can get to be great buddies for each other as they grow up.

Look how excited Ethan was on Gotcha Day!

Going for a ride in their matching car seats

Cooking in the playroom

"Let's go, Li-wanna!"


Don't ask me why there's a rat in our sandbox.  *shrug*

Our little tech savvy tots during Ella's dance class

The morning sillies

Sharing a car cart...notice how no one is sitting in the car? :-/

Bubble babies

Cruising in the backyard

Such fun in swings!

Double the stroller, double the fun...and Mommy's workout!

Monday, November 5, 2012

There's a first time for everything!

It's been a while and I (may) have lots to say so bear with me!  We've had a trip to the pumpkin patch, Halloween, doctors' appointments, growth and amazing changes!  Let's start with her Liana's doctor appointment.  Two weeks ago, Liana had her first appointment with her pediatrician.  I love her doctor.  She is also an adoptive mom with a daughter from China and when she heard about Liana, she contacted me to help us out before we went to China!  Imagine that!  We usually take our kids to the other office for this practice but she somehow heard about us through the doctor grapevine when I was trying to get some antibiotics to take with us and she hooked us up with antibiotics, the scabies cream and some other things plus a sheet she put together explaining how to use all of the different meds in case we needed them.  And she and I emailed back and forth a bunch before we left.  It was so nice to finally meet this wonderful doctor in person and she was just as amazing as she had been on the phone and through email.  Liana checked out great!  She has gained no weight but has put on over 2 1/2 inches!  Did you see that?...TWO AND A HALF INCHES in under a month!!!  Amazing what a little healthy normal food can do for you!  I do not claim to be the healthiest cooking mama on the block by any means but I guess I'm doing okay!  A little bit tragic, really, that just this healthy(ish) food has helped her to grow so quickly as it shows that she was seriously lacking in nutrition before.  I noticed that she was losing some of her baby rolls, and it's no wonder since she gained no weight but gained a lot of height!  She went from being in the 19th percentile to the 69th percentile for height!  Wow!  Another tall kid in the family!  I have to admit though, I'm a little sad that she's starting to actually look her age now!  As for her esophageal hiatus hernia, the doctor was not concerned and said that she would have done exactly as we had done as far as feeding her more and more food and not worrying about whether it was soft or not as we saw that she was handling it just fine.  Since she's not having any issues with reflux, we don't need to be concerned.  So far, so good!

We also had Liana's first trip to the pumpkin patch, which was a lot of fun.  And then, of course, Halloween.  Liana picked out a Rapunzel costume.  I held up a couple of dresses and she dove for the Rapunzel one with the biggest smile on her face.  And she made an absolutely adorable Rapunzel!  Ella decided to be Pocahontas and Ethan was a Cars race car driver.  We took them out trick-or-treating and they all had so much fun.  Liana, quickly learned to hold out her bucket for candy and by the end, she was even saying, "trick or" I guess assuming if she left it open ended, they would have to finish the sentence by giving her a "treat" in her bucket.

We also took Liana to her first movie the other day.  We took her to Hotel Transylvania.  The only way to survive a movie with our 2 two year olds is to stuff them with food the entire time.  Actually, popcorn and licorice ended up being our dinner.  See what I mean about feeding her healthy food?  Hahaha!  Yep, Mom of the Year here! 

I know that I say this a lot but Liana is doing so amazingly well, we can't even believe it!  She sleeps (by herself) through the night and, after tacking up dark blankets underneath her curtains, she now goes down for naps without a tear.  She apparently likes a dark, dark room with a nightlight.  She's learning English really quick.  She already says around 20 words and she understands most of what we say.  She is getting used to the dogs and even sometimes dares to touch one of them!  It's funny because we had to teach Ella and Ethan to not just run up to any dog and Liana has to learn that our doggies are "niiice".  She is also doing so well bonding with all of us.  She and Ethan are still working on their relationship but since they're both two and haven't grown up (to this point) together, I think they're doing about as good as they can!  Liana has figured out Erik's and my roles.  As soon as Erik walks in the door after work, she cracks up.  That's all it takes!  But when she needs some comfort or cuddles, it's Mommy that she runs to.  Not that I don't have fun with her and Erik doesn't love on her but she definitely knows that Daddy's the goofball and I'm the mushy one.  I'm such a lucky mama to be raising kids with Erik.  He is such a loving, fun and hands on daddy.  He works loooong days but when he comes home, he still plays with the kids and helps put them to bed every single night.  So, back to Liana, she and Ella are doing really well too.  Ella still adores her but the "honeymoon" is over and she is perfectly willing to say "no" to Liana now and doesn't tiptoe around her like she'll break.  I'm glad that she's treating her more like a sister now and doesn't feel like she has to be so careful with her all the time.  It shows me that she's confident in their relationship now and she doesn't have to earn Liana's love by being nice all the time.  I know, I might sound crazy but this is normal and anything normal feels great to me.  It's like we're starting to get it together.

I feel like I know Liana now.  I know how to comfort her when she cries, I know what she likes and doesn't like, I know when she needs to be fed, cuddled, played with, etc.  It sounds simple but it didn't feel like that when she first joined our family.  This little girl had two years of history that we had no part of and I felt like, she's my daughter but I don't know her!  I didn't know what she wanted when she would cry, I didn't know what she liked to eat, what her favorite toys were, if she could really even walk. I didn't know anything!  It's an amazing feeling to feel like you actually know your child.  We will never know her or what she was like before being a Tuma, except for what puzzle pieces we can put together from pictures and what little information we have on her, but I'm starting to feel like that's okay.  It will always be sad to me that we don't know her whole history like we do Ella and Ethan's but you have to take what you can get.  As I filled out her medical papers and all of the history on her for her doctor appointment, I could only write "unknown" for so many things, it was a bit of a blow but it will be okay.  We're moving forward together and, of course, we will do our best to fill in the blanks for ours and Liana's sakes.  She has a history and that's important but I'm starting to accept the fact that it will always be a mystery.  It's amazing to see how Liana has moved on with us and is doing it beautifully.  We will talk about the past as much as she wants to and I will always have a special place in my heart for Liana's first mama.  I wish so much that I could let her know that Liana is doing well and has a mommy, daddy, big sister and big brother who love her to the moon and back.  She gave her life and I feel sad for her that she doesn't get to be the one to watch her as she grows but I am so happy and grateful that I am. 

Now, onto the pictures.  They will probably look like a big, jumbled up mess because I'm going to take some off of my camera and phone and just copy and paste others from Facebook and the FB ones are always bigger.  Sorry, I'm too lazy to re-do them.  Here comes the photobomb!

First time at the park

Shopping with Ethan

First time at the bounce house (and going down the slide slower than I ever knew was possible!)

Heading to the Fall Festival

First petting zoo

First Pumpkin Patch
(Ethan sat in this bucket too but he was only 5 months old then)

First Halloween!

Just having fun, swingin'


First time at the mall's play area

And today