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Six Months: Grieving, Growing, and Surgery

4 March 2019

I cannot believe that it’s been six months since we were in China. It feels like yesterday, but it also feels like we’ve been four forever.

How are we doing? What’s new? How is everyone … I’ve had requests for updates and I’m sorry it’s been two months since the last time. Here we go:

GROWTH: THEY DON’T STOP

Having been successfully fattened up, he’s now stretching. (Both of them are.) We have a few pictures from China on our bedroom wall and it struck me this past weekend that he went from being a toddler to a little boy in six months.

Which is 100% not fair.

China
Not quite 6 months later

(Also, he’s now a Ninja Turtle.)

He’s getting better at jumping, but it’s still not necessarily inspiring to watch. Cute and hilarious, though.

NEW: SWIM LESSONS!

We’ve also had a couple months of swim lessons now, and both the boys looove it. They started out in the same class, but at the end of the first session Niah “graduated” to level two … and Jude did not. (Which was a good call. He is not ready for level two.)

So Jude did level one again while Niah moved over to level two. They love it still.

Jude’s sign for “swimming” has become sticking one leg (usually the right) out sideways and kicking it. That’s how he asks if it’s swim lesson day. And he asks every day.

At the end of each lesson (twice a week), they do “jumps.” The kids line up at the edge of the pool and take turns jumping in, to their swim instructor. Remember how great Jude is at jumping? It’s twice as hilarious when you add water.

He’s so excited to do it that he always wants to be first. He stands at the edge, bouncing with anticipation. Miss Kaitlyn chimes, “One, two, THREE!” He crouches … he marches in place a little bit (still crouching) … he bounces a few times (still mostly crouching) … Miss Kaitlyn cheers, “THREE!” again, like maybe he didn’t hear … he shoots his arms up in the air aaand … falls forward into the pool.

Occasionally he pulls off a little hop as he goes and we’re all super impressed.

He also may have a low-key crush on Miss Kaitlyn. His class ends 15 minutes earlier than the other classes, so we watch gege. Miss Kaitlyn cleans up everyone’s pool toys, and lately Jude has been helping.

And then I think he tried to go home with Miss Kaitlyn after they’d finished cleaning up one day last week.

MEDICAL: SURGERY THIS WEEK

I realized we scheduled surgery for our six-months-home-iversary. We’re going to Lurie Children’s in Chicago to see our friend Dr. Cheng on Thursday.

It’s a routine, outpatient procedure. Dr. Cheng expects it will take a few (I think he said four, but I’m not sure) hours.

He is also going to investigate the Christmas Day ER mystery during surgery. If it’s resolved and everything is fine, then we’ll be all set. If he discovers the problem and it’s still a problem, then we’ll have to make plans for a second surgery.

We could have investigated the Christmas Day ER mystery prior to surgery, but it would have required a catheter. If there’s an additional problem, that would have meant only one surgery, so it was a tough call to make.

I asked Dr. Cheng what his preference would be, and he said that as long as Jude doesn’t have any other symptoms (“remains asymptomatic,” sounds way cooler), he would prefer to “spare him the trauma of the catheter.” Which I can appreciate.

So prayer requests this week:

  • Surgery goes according to routine: simple and straightforward, textbook case.
  • That the Christmas Day ER mystery is passed and there’s nothing else that will need surgery to correct.

And peace for my mama heart. I know it’s not a complicated thing. I know so many families, especially in the adoptive community, take their babies to hospitals on the regular for much bigger procedures.

But I’ve never handed one of my littles over to a surgeon before. And I know we’re in the very best hands (because I made sure of it), and I’m not really worried (because there isn’t really anything that could go very wrong), but … my baby.

COMMUNICATION: SLOWLY BUT SURELY AND STILL 100% ADORABLE

New words in the past couple months include:

  • Ball
  • Blue
  • Eye
  • Go away
  • Mine
  • Moon
  • More
  • Snake
  • Thank you
  • Truck
  • Ya

I’m probably forgetting a bunch.

My favorite is, “Ya.” It’s so simple and quick that when he says it, there’s no toddler or English-is-a-second-language accent. For a few precious seconds we communicate perfectly.

“You going to get Fufu?” (the stuffed panda)
“Ya!”

The first time he whipped out “Thank you,” he said it to a couple women who didn’t know that he doesn’t speak much English. They didn’t bat an eye. One woman handed him a card and he said, “Thank you!” as he walked away. They both very casually (and in that he’s-cute-’cause-he’s-little tone) said, “You’re welcome!”

Meanwhile I spun around and started cheering, “Timothy! He said, ‘Thank you!’ Did you hear that? He said ‘Thank you!’ so perfectly!”

He also recently bumped his head and exclaimed, “Ow! Why do?!”

“Smile!”

And we’re practicing numbers and colors. When Niah does his homeschool lessons, Jude wants to do it to. So we have some number flashcards and some colored blocks, and he parrots 1 through 5 and a dozen colors.

TRAUMA: GRIEVING IS WEIRD

He had a weird week recently and after a couple days I decided I think he was sad/grieving.

He was extra clingy with me—especially around nap and bedtime. Usually I can read a book and steal a kiss and go, but he needed me until he fell asleep all of a sudden.

He was also unusually cranky at Baba, and quicker to scream or cry in general.

It kills me that he can’t talk to me when this happens. I want so badly to lay in bed with him and listen to him tell me what he misses about China and Nunu, or what he thinks about all of this, or how frustrating it is when no one understands what he wants.

But I can’t.

So I lay in bed with him and we just stare at each other instead. I comb his hair with my fingers or trace his soft face, and occasionally whisper, “Wo ai ni.” He says nothing, but puts my hand on the top of his head if I try to stop. Sometimes he tightens his grip around my neck. Mostly we just look at each other.

It’s frustrating because there’s a gap, but it also feels a little bit holy because of that gap. I can’t listen to him, but I can listen to the Spirit in that stillness. And I am reminded that we have been entrusted with something holy.

Any parent—adoptive, foster, or biological—has been entrusted with something holy. Raising small imagers should strike the fear of God in us more than it probably does.

But adoption requires healing too. This isn’t just a new image of God waiting to be formed. This is one that has mishandled, and there is no reset option. Just healing. And in those dark, quiet moments before he falls asleep, when all I can do is meet his stare and wonder what he’s thinking, I’m reminded of what we’ve been given.

But I digress …

HOW IS EVERYONE ELSE DOING?

Niah continues to be an amazing big brother. He messes up sometimes, but we all do. Also … he’s six. I’m amazed how often he doesn’t mess up as a six-year-old who has only had a brother for six months.

He continues to bear the brunt of Jude’s grief-mixed-with-anger. Husband has been trying to teach him some kung-fu deflecting moves. He still has never once retaliated for the scratches or bites or punches.

During Jude’s weird week, Husband and I were discussing the possibility of it being a grieving period. Niah came to me a little later with a folder of Jude’s drawings and school papers that we were given in China, and suggested that maybe if we look through some of Jude’s drawings with him it will help him feel better.

I almost cried. He gets it better than I ever would have imagined he could, and he’s so intuitive about helping his little brother.

Husband and I are doing well. It’s parenting and it’s crazy and we’re busy, but we’re good. I’m pretty much exhausted by 7:30 every evening, but it’s just a season, right? (Right?!)

That’s about where we’re at. Thank you so much for your continued love and prayers!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Bianca permalink
    4 March 2019 7:56 AM

    Precious and beautiful. We all endure trauma and all require grief and healing. It’s beautiful you recognize that. I’m grateful Holy Spirit guides the quiet moments. I’m so impressed with Niah’s love for his brother and I’m not surprised Father chose to entrust you with another baby. You are doing His work. ♥️ Thank you for sharing your story. Love you guys

  2. 4 March 2019 1:24 PM

    Love your updates. Love you!

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