Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Fireman Pilot

It's time for an update...some fun and important things have happened over the last week or so for Henry. I've titled this blog, "The Fireman Pilot," because just recently he told me he wanted to be both. Our little guy has big dreams!

Going backwards, today I got a great photo of Henry in his new fireman boots doing his thing...putting out fires! He has such a big heart, wanting to help as many people as he can out of the fire, especially his family. What a sweetie! 
Yesterday was a really big day: we left early for Seattle, Henry had his post-adoption screening and immunizations with an excellent doctor at the UW Pediatric Center, we had our usual yummy Chinese dumplings after, and then I took him to the Seattle Museum of Flight! The museum was just what the doctor ordered to help the little guy forget his sore arms after two shots in each. I didn't even have to tell him to smile for the pictures:).

The doctor's visit went really well- Henry had both vision and hearing tests, time with the doctor, and then, of course, shots. The shots did not go over well and there were a lot of tears with them, but it was also such a joy for me to hold and console him during that time. I can't say I just love to hear crying babies, but when Henry cries, he is so, so cute and my heart just melts. He actually doesn't cry a lot, so these occasions are really sweet and I feel so blessed to be the one he turns to when he does. The other joy of motherhood is stool collection...but I won't go into that:). Even though these medical visits are kind of far away and the drives home are particularly hard, I am treasuring these times with Henry, just he and I, as we 'do' life together and make precious memories. He certainly got a Mommy who loves to go and explore like he does!

We should be getting an MRI scheduled in the next few days, and then Henry has his spinal doctor appointment the end of February. I also have to get him scheduled to see pediatric specialists for vision and hearing as these are high-risk areas with his diagnosis...a dental visit would be good too! He had his OT evaluation last week at Shriner's and the therapists were amazed at his mobility and agility considering his special needs. They did not recommend ongoing OT or PT, though he will probably get some of these services at school. Oh yes, and Henry got his new braces! They are really cool, sporting all sorts of planes, trains, and automobiles. He has worn them a few times and once I got him long enough socks, seems to be pretty comfortable and happy in them. In fact, he's a pretty happy boy all around and is starting to converse comfortably with almost anyone unless in an intimidating large crowd of people. For a little boy at .03% of the growth chart, he makes a BIG impression!

Tomorrow, we are going to make Chinese paper lanterns. Chinese New Year is on Friday and you guessed it, Henry is looking forward to eating dumplings!!! We are going to have a special evening celebrating with a family portrait session and then dinner. Henry was so sweet to remind me when looking at an old family picture that we needed one with him in it. He is SO right! I can't wait to share that. 

By the way...we gladly welcome visitors to come meet Henry if you haven't already. Just send me a message and we'll work out a good time. Short visits with a few people are best right now but since I can't take him around to everyone, we would love for you to come to us!

Thank you for prayers and for keeping up with our journey with Henry. Everyone continues to adjust and do so well together. Every day I thank God for my precious family and His loving care and plans for us. I am finding a sweet peace and joy in this new season of life, even in the hard times. Though the laundry and dishes pile up, mealtimes never cease to come around again, the gray hairs are multiplying on my head, the miles are adding up quick on the car, and there never seems to be enough of me to go around, I relish each day as a gift from the One who holds it all together in His strong, loving hands. Do you know what my favorite times of the day are right now?  Hugs from all my guys in the morning, cuddles with Henry after taking a nap together, and taking Henry around at night to hug his Daddy's and brothers' necks as he tells them "Goodnight" and "I love you," then reading/songs/prayer/hugs with Henry as I put him to bed. Sweet, sweet, sweet. I will close with one of the songs Henry has learned and it is definitely true for all of us. Blessings!

"Little by little every day. Little by little, in every way
Jesus is changing me. He's changing me..."

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Henry's One Month Home!

Today we celebrate Henry being home for one month! It has gone quickly and been so full. Everyone continues to adjust and move into somewhat of a routine. Some days and nights are harder than others, but we really don't think a four year old orphan from China could be doing better as a new family member in America. Henry continues to amaze us with his quick acquisition of English, acute attention to detail, and incredible curiosity to learn and understand all he can. He currently couldn't be happier than when playing fire trucks and putting out fires, so today, I took him to tour the local fire station. He was quite at home "driving" the fire engine with his new firefighting helmet on.

Henry was thrilled to get to visit our local library last week, receive his first library card, and check out a pile of books. He continues to love going outside or in the car to just about anywhere. He is doing great in church and says his favorite part is Mommy's singing. He prefers hanging out with me, wherever I happen to be, and would rather stay with me for a few hours while working at the church than be home to play. If he's content, I'm just takes a little longer to get things done. He also has grown more comfortable with my being out of sight and occasionally leaving to run errands. He does love his brothers and Daddy, and I think my favorite part of a day out of all the sweet times is right before bed when he makes his rounds to hug each one and tell them "Good Night," and "I love you." He even remembers the dog some nights:).  

Last week, Henry had a preschool assessment and did really well. For only being here one month, he understood most of the teacher's directions. His reward was a lot of fun playing with all the toys, especially the vehicles and fireman's helmet. Surprise, surprise! The next steps in assessment for schooling here are evaluations in speech, PT, and OT. Those should be scheduled in the near future as his file is processed.

This Thursday, we head to the Portland Shriner's again for an OT evaluation and fitting of his braces. Hopefully, we'll be bringing home his really cool new braces to support his walking. He's walked a few times with his walker but at home, it's much easier to crawl around...and better for the attachment process to be held and carried. Over time, however, he will no doubt want more independence and be walking more as he gets the support and strength he needs. We still haven't secured health insurance but that is in process...we have a couple of ideas on post-adoption health screening and immunizations but are still working on that as well. We really want a good, local pediatrician for his basic health needs. Please lift this process up!

Well, that is a quick update. We are so blessed by Henry being with our family this last month and as children always do, he is teaching us a lot even as he is learning so much. He is quite a package and sometimes I feel like I'm talking with a 10 year old, holding a toddler, and connecting emotionally with a limited Chinese on my part and limited English on his. All of this is in addition to the regular parenting challenges of teaching Henry boundaries, manners, how to respond to "no," and a multitude of other important childhood lessons (little by little, of course). My other challenge is trying to answer the endless "why" questions each day without getting totally drained, or knowing when an answer isn't what is really needed or helpful. It makes for an adventure every day that can be stressful, sweet, fun, frustrating, tiring, or just plain all I can handle. But that is all okay and part of the process, and I wouldn't trade it for anything. I also see God's patience and care in each day, no matter what it brings. Thank you for your prayers and encouragement...we've made a month with Henry home and we're just getting started! Blessings to you all.

Monday, January 13, 2014

A Month In

I am a lot more busy these days, or shall I say, have less free time, so my blogs seem to be getting fewer but longer. I hope you don't mind too much and keep checking in! If you haven't seen our adoption video, I just posted a blog last night with that link. Enjoy!

We made one month with Henry just a few days ago on the 9th. The time has gone so quickly and been incredibly full, so this last week seems to have been my hardest as I struggled to retain the emotional energy needed for this attachment and adjustment period with him. He is an incredible four year old who is already communicating a ton in English and moving all around the house doing his four year old activities. A bit of preschool work with Mom is going well and he is incredibly intrigued with fire trucks, putting out all the fires he can. Not a day goes by right now that we don't read his fire truck books. He also loves pretending being on airplanes and boats...I guess vehicles in general are pretty exciting. Verbally, his favorite question now is "Why?" And sometimes, I just don't know why or how to explain clear enough for him. Every day is an adventure!

History in the Making:)

He also needs constant supervision for the most part, and to be lifted, held, helped, and lowered a lot. His sleep has much improved so strangely enough, I don't feel as physically exhausted as I do emotionally, although some days it takes a lot of willpower to roll out of bed. His attachment has gone so well that he has allowed me breaks on occasion without too much fuss as he spends time with his dad and brothers. However, the 24-7 on call is still a huge adjustment and I started to feel myself shut down this past week. We had a good post-adoption visit on Saturday with our social worker; being able to share how things are going and receive words of encouragement and insight helped me recharge a bit and reconnect fully with Henry. He is such a joy and incredibly bright, bringing a lot of smiles and laughter to our home. He is also a child who has experienced great loss and grief in his few short years, and who has a number of physical challenges to overcome that require a lot of extra patience and assistance. We have only had Henry home a little over three weeks, and it seems so much longer than that, so the adjustment is going really well and probably couldn't be better. We thank God for His love, care, and grace for all of us as we experience one of the greatest changes, and inevitably stresses, in our lives. His grace is sufficient and power perfected in our weakness!

With that said, on Thursday, Henry and I went to Shriner's in Portland for his first stateside medical examinations. It was a really good day, very fruitful, and of course, tiring:). We left with a new walker for Henry! The day went like this:

1. Photographs
2. Visit and examination with two orthopedic doctors
3. Diagnosis!
4. Physical therapy examination and walking practice with new walker
5. Molds made for new braces
6. Chinese dumplings (gyoza) for Henry as promised:)

Henry did amazing and the doctors were astounded by his English communication already, as well as his range of mobility and activity considering his physical special needs. He saw one of the best orthopedic doctors out there who knew immediately what Henry's condition is by looking at his recent China x-rays. A spinal exam has already been scheduled, and we return in two weeks to pick up his new braces. They are very cool- blue with trucks, airplanes, tractors, etc. An MRI will be scheduled soon to look at his back and neck, one of the doctor's biggest concerns. He will also be having leg surgery to straighten the lower leg bones at some point, and needs an OT evaluation as well. Ongoing PT is not recommended at this point. This is all I know right doubt a lot more medical appointments and information is to come. Henry is 32 inches and 26+ lbs. Our scale at home was 10 lbs off, so Henry hasn't gained weight since his last checkup in China. That could be good or bad, depending on how you look at it. For us, it is a relief that he is not overeating because he really likes to eat! Henry is going to be small and depending on the severity of his condition, could be anywhere from 3 to 5+ feet tall as an adult. As you can see, our precious Henry has a lot of challenges ahead and though sometimes his strong will can be tiring for Mom and Dad, it is going to help him fight through these to become and do all that he can, with God's help!!!

Well, you are probably wondering what his diagnosis is! It is Spondyloepiphyseal Dysplasia. There is a severe form (congenita) and a less severe form (tarda)...just from reading online about it and because the doctor didn't specify it in her diagnosis, we don't think Henry has the severe form, but time and more information will tell. You can learn about this condition online...a couple links are HERE and HERE.

I had better wrap this up and wake up Henry now. I hope this has been helpful; we continue to need and appreciate your prayers. I don't think any of us know just how much our lives have been forever blessed and changed by the adoption of is an amazing thing but not without its challenges, stresses, and adjustments. Our new normal is evolving, but then again, what about our lives is normal? Smile!!!

Just a quick note on visits at home and around town...we are keeping them short so that this attachment and adjustment period within the family can occur as smoothly and quickly as possible. Henry has my full attention right now so between Henry, keeping up house, taking care of the family, errands, church responsibilities, etc., I do not have a lot of time for socializing (FB, phone, etc.). I take snippets where I can but am staying as focused as possible on what is best for our family. I will respond and visit as able but let's just say, even rest is a greater priority than my social life right now. I am sure you all understand and it's only for a season! 

Many blessings from all the Brown's.  


Adoption Video!

I've put together a video of our adoption trip, ending with our first Christmas with Henry. Just click on the link below and enjoy!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

A New Year

What a new year it has been already! New Year's Eve, our family went out for dinner and looked at a few more Christmas lights which Henry loves to do. New Year's Day, we hung out at home, then the boys and I headed to Olympia to get a few things at Super Wal-Mart and Toys-R-Us. These were Henry's first times in those huge stores and he was a bit amazed, possibly a little overwhelmed, but still enjoyed them. Riding in the shopping cart was a new adventure. I was wondering if he would ask for everything he saw and wanted but he only did a few times and we got out of the stores with some good lessons and not too many extra purchases:). I did ask him who buys the things in the cart and he didn't know. I think knowing that Mommy and Daddy buy what our family needs is important!

At Toys-R-Us, the cashier noticed our family exchanges and asked if Henry was adopted. She then proceeded to shower him with a crown, balloon, and lanyard. He was beaming with joy! Then he got to ride a little Mickey Mouse car up front and he looked like the happiest boy alive. It was really sweet.

Today, Henry and I went on a stroller walk to a friend's house and back. It was a beautiful, warmer morning before the rains came in this afternoon. Henry notices the funniest things, like trash cans, and definitely any vehicle or animal he sees. He is very concerned with fire trucks and fires right now as we saw that action the other night and then passed by the house today. He's happier knowing the fire trucks are gone and everyone is ok. What a kind heart! 

This After his nap, Henry and I started taking down the Christmas decorations and it was serious business. Wherever I was, he was there trying to help his Mommy. He didn't like being told to wait to put things in the storage box, but whatever I gave him to do, he did it with all his put lights in bags, bring me a box (which he pushed or dragged as he crawled), and take ornaments off the tree. He noticed everything and wanted to be involved. I didn't mind at all, even if it took longer, as he sees how he can contribute to the family and what all he can do. He is quite strong in his upper body to make up for the lower, but balance can be an issue. He also doesn't like to wait but he is learning that Mom does kind of run on her own time:). We're all learning patience! 

Afterwards, Henry was on a mission...a mission to turn the decoration tubs into an airplane and door in which he and his brothers would fly just the way he said they should. It was hilarious, adorable, and serious, the most focused and talkative I have seen him yet, telling the boys where and what, then correcting them if they didn't do as told. They were very compliant and amused, so all was well. I wish I had a video of that playtime! Here's a picture of the airplane...

I've mentioned before that Henry likes to watch me cook, really just to be in the same room with me and have his food prepared at the same time. Out of the blue today, he said, "Mom, I love you." My heart just melted! It's been a process as I've written, but to hear and see him give everyone hugs and "Good nights" before bedtime is great progress. He really is learning what family is all about and that everyone loves and cares for each other, even if that means sharing Mom a little bit and accepting others' help. However, sleeping at night is our greatest challenge/need at this time. If Henry is mostly but not fully asleep before I leave, he will cry out terribly for me until I return. Each night, we have a sweet time of prayer, singing, reading, and last discussions about the day, then I tell him we need to be quiet to rest and he holds my hand or arm. Some days, he isn't quite tired enough or his mind is still stimulated with all he is learning and experiencing that he will lay in the bed, wanting me with him, for hours. A couple times I have needed to call Randy in to take over and Henry cried so hard. It's really difficult to hear him so upset and harder to know when to let him learn to accept Daddy's help or to give in. I don't know if we are doing everything right or if there are any hard and fast answers, but attachment seems to be occurring and his comfort level in our home and with each family member is increasing, so we keep plugging, taking a day at a time and trusting God's sufficient grace to give us what we need and to be all that Henry needs at this time. Did I mention, though, that he has slept through the last three nights? I'm counting my blessings!

Henry is learning that while we share and give, there are boundaries to what he takes or does, like asking his brothers if he can play with their things or letting them know if he doesn't want to be tickled. He seems to think that if he sees a tractor, we can just go right up and drive it. Some things are normal child thinking and lessons, while others are the result of orphanage living and abandonment. I am fascinated by his thought processes and personality even as I can get frustrated because I don't know him well enough yet and don't always know how to respond. This is parenting, I suppose! It's such a joy and I feel such a peace and calling to being a mommy to this amazing little guy. I wish everyone could see and hear what we do but when we go out and people try to talk to him, he shuts down. I don't blame him and do understand, I just wish people could see these adorable things now and will have to be patient. It will come!

One really cute thing I want to share is that Henry has heard and picked up the word, "outslide," instead of "outside." He can't get rid of the 'l' sound though we are working on it, so it is quite amusing. He's a hard worker and trying! He is using "Please" and "Thank you" more naturally now, as well as asking instead of telling us what to do for him. He is such a fast learner and knowing that we love him and are here for him no matter what could very well be transforming him before our very eyes.

To close this long blog on our New Year beginning with Henry, here are a couple more photos. Henry is wrestling around with his brother and then sitting in his new Cars chair, sized perfectly for him to get in and out of. I am going to create a section on my blog called "Henry's Favorites." It is so much fun to learn what he really likes or what he's never had or done before but now really loves. By the way...Ollie seems back to normal and accepting Henry!

Thanks for prayers! We continue to feel and see them every day. Please pray that we get Henry's medical insurance lined up and find the right local pediatrician for him. The holidays have made that hard to get going but it really needs to be done. He also will be going to his first doctor's visit at Shriner's for orthopedic care on January 9th. We also have our first post-adoption visit by our social worker on the 11th for a report that China requires. The guys start school back up on Monday so I am looking forward to and planning on getting a routine for Henry and I. This should help us all a lot! Blessings!!!