Saturday, March 30, 2013

Almost 1 year anniversary! Blog to book time!

As we approach the one year anniversary of adopting Sam and Leo, I'm finally motivated to add the photos and "blog to book." I created a book out of the blog I wrote when we adopted John and Ben ( and all the boys look at the adoption book regularly. On the (recent) three year anniversary of adopting John and Ben, we all sat around and read parts of the book together. Of course, Sam and Leo asked me where their book was. Ummm. It takes a longgg time to upload photos onto the blog, and I promise I'll get it done soon. So, if you've read old posts and suddenly you receive notification that the post has been updated, it's only me adding photos.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Huge progress!

I just re-read a post from four months ago, and I am simply in awe at how much has changed in such a short time! In fact, in mid-February I actually took the three little ones (Ben, Sam and Leo) to Florida for a week! We are no longer in "hunker down" mode, we are in go, go, go mode! It all started when Cheng, his friend Tong, and Cheng's mom (Cheng was our exchange student 2009-2010) came to visit us for two weeks over Christmas break. We took the crew (11 of us) skiing at Holiday Valley (2 hours away) for a few days. Yes, even Sam learned how to ski! The boys did so well traveling, and everyone enjoyed skiing so much, that we bought season passes to a ski resort 40 minutes from our house. We skied several more times during Cheng and Tong's visit , and then Cheng's mom decided to stay with us for the rest of her USA visit!  Yes, she flew from China (and she barely understood English) to visit her son at college, and ended up staying with us for TEN weeks instead. It was like having a younger sister! Slowly, she did begin to understand English (and me Chinese), and we toured, exercised, shopped, ate and cooked together everyday. The boys LOVED having Ayi here. She cooked all their favorite Chinese dishes, and she tried hard to help them remember their culture and language. Although our house was crowded (11 of us at times!), we laughed a lot. While she was here, I decided we should fly to Florida for a week. What's a visit to the US without a quick trip to Florida and to Disney? And then Xia (Cheng's mom) was having so much fun with us that she convinced her husband to fly over for two weeks too! He joined us in Florida for a week, and then we returned home and skied for the second week of his visit. They were so amazed at the boys' progress (only ten months after their adoptions) that they keep telling me I need to write a book. They loved it here so much that several times they asked me what they would need to do to move here. Ummm..I don't think that would be allowed by either government. But do come visit again, and of course I'll let the boys visit you in China when they are old enough to fly there alone. Austin (age 17) has already spent two summers in China, once with Xio's parents (our exchange student 2008-2009) and last year with Cheng and his mom. So..... will I ever get to China again?

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Holidays!

Here we are, once again, getting ready to celebrate another Christmas. It was just about this time of the year in 2010,when we decided to adopt Sam and Leo. We decided to adopt Ben and John just before Thanksgiving in 2008. The holidays obviously affect my decision making! No, I'm not about to announce another adoption is on the horizon. I wish. We just don't have the money anymore. Adopting four kids in two years, and six kids in private schools, has emptied our bank account. However, our house is all decorated, the tree is up, and we've been teaching the "reason for the season" to our new sons. Both Sam and Leo were absolutely ecstatic when they first saw Christmas lights on the houses. "Look left! Look, look! Christmas!" I think it's simply amazing that our sons (home seven months) even know left from right, much less understand the birth of Jesus. But they do. We don't teach our children about Santa Claus (although we watch tons of Christmas movies that extol Santa's virtues) because we want to focus on the spirit of Jesus's birth. Yes, our children receive a ton of Christmas presents, but they all come from MOM. We tell the kids that the wise-men brought Jesus presents on his birthday, and I give the presents on Christmas so that we can remember to celebrate Jesus. In fact, I video-taped Sam singing the song "Happy Birthday Jesus" the other day on my cell-phone. I wish I knew how to upload it to my computer and post it here. I am technically challenged. I learn just enough computer stuff to get by, and that's it.
On Saturday, Sam had a strange virus hit him suddenly. I heard him crying at 6:00am, and when I got him out of bed he was sobbing that his head hurt. The crying, pounding migraine-like headache and then vomiting lasted for over two hours. I was eternally grateful that I could be there to hold him, rub his back, wipe his face and rock him. I kept wondering if he'd be left to suffer alone if he was still in China. Any family, even a dysfunctional one, is better than no family at all. I don't care what the anti-adoption factions say. Every child needs a family. Our foster child lives in a bad, bad situation, with parents who are less than stellar, and yet he still says that the thing he's most thankful for (on Thanksgiving) is his family.
On another note, on Thursday we have the first meeting with the committee on special education for Sam. I'm really interested to hear what types of recommendations the teacher for the visually impaired has. Most of the time, most people wouldn't even guess that he's blind. His dark tinted glasses (orange) look like sun glasses, and people just assume he's being cute, wearing his sun glasses inside. The orange tint does seem to help him see better though. Whatever it takes. For the last two years, Ben has been receiving extra help in reading and receiving speech therapy. This week we received a call that Ben has met all his speech goals and no longer needs speech therapy. Hooray! Also, Ben's spelling list has been increased from ten words to fifteen words weekly. We used to spend (no exaggeration) ten hours a week working with Ben on his spelling list. We now spend 30 minutes a week, and Ben still gets 100% on every test. Yippee. Soon Ben will be reading confidently at grade level (3rd). I can not tell you how pleased we are with our children's education. The school has bent over backwards to help our boys, and the results are worth every penny we pay in tuition.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving is more than turkey and pie

This year we have been especially thankful. We honestly count every blessing, every single day. In case I sound like a greeting card, I will confess that David and I still "lose our cool" regularly. Over the holiday weekend (5 days of togetherness) David lost his temper with the teens, and I lost mine with John. But the little ones bring us more joy than we can even begin to measure. If only they stayed little forever! Sam has been extremely affectionate, and crazy about the idea of snow. Of course, being from southern China, Sam has no real understanding of our upstate NY winter! So far, only a few flakes have fallen, but that hasn't stopped us from getting ready for a cold, long winter, and the beginning of our ski season. Really, if we can't swim, then we might as well ski. I actually did heat up the new inground pool one last time and we went swimming on Thanksgiving!! I don't even want to see that propane bill! Hopefully, we'll close the pool this week, and the snow will quickly follow. We can skip the muddy fall season, as far as I'm concerned. In fact, Sam is scheduled to receive adaptive ski lessons at Holiday Valley Ski resort on December 26th. The instructors at the Lounsbury adaptive ski lodge are well-versed in teaching downhill skiing to visually impaired students, and the Association for the Blind in Rochester has agreed to sponsor Sam for up to four lessons. Leo is less excited for snow, since he lived in northern China, near Mongolia. Brrrr. On another note, we've been providing respite foster care to a boy who is almost 12 years old. I'm finding that once we have a houseful of boys, one more just doesn't change anything. Kindof makes me wish we could afford to adopt another little guy. The price is high, but the rewards are so great! And we just adore having little ones again!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Update on Sam's vision

I realized that I should've posted an update on Sam's vision. October 1st he underwent an ERG test under general anesthesia. The Dr. found that the rods in his eyes are permanently damaged, but the cones are fine. This means that his blindness "probably" will not progress. Sam will never see well enough to drive a car (even with corrective lenses), but he manages his condition and functions just fine. Most people would not even guess that he has 20/400 vision and is legally blind. We are in the process of having Sam evaluated by the special education committee at school so that we can make the appropriate educational accommodations. Leo will be evaluated by the special education committee for his hyper-sensitivity to smell, noise, touch etc. Basically, Leo's environment was so lacking in stimulus that he over-reacts to sensory activities. We think that he'll become thicker skinned with some physical therapy, and the school is looking into integrating more sensory experiences in his curriculum. In the meantime, Leo is in kindergarten and he's learning to read like crazy! He recognizes most of his letters and knows many 3 letter words. Sam still struggles with the alphabet (in first grade) but some of that is probably due to his vision. Baby steps. We adore all of our children, and we'd do it again in a heartbeat! In fact, we are now foster parenting an 11 year old boy on the weekends too. He will probably never be legally free for adoption, but we love that providing him respite care is making a difference in his life.

6 months home

We've been home with Leo and Sam for six months now. Wow! We're all adjusting amazingly well, although we are still in "hunker down" mode. This means that we still can't even think about upsetting the daily routine for a weekend in NYC to watch Austin's championship race. It would just be too disruptive. The boys' taekwondo teacher had his car in the repair shop for a few days, and Leo's "good thing" at dinner last night was the teacher's car was back at the school. Yes, the fact that the teacher had a rental car in the parking lot totally threw Leo off his game. As Austin commented, "Boy, do these kids ever need structure and routine." So, yes, the adjustment has been smooth, but only because we've resigned ourselves to never actually going on a vacation. With that in mind, I spent the entire summer having an inground pool installed. Our home might as well be our vacation destination. Again, we're comfortable and calm most days, but I found these two posts wonderful to read.

Obviously, I'm a fan of Jen Hatmaker. And I did just read Jen Hatmaker's book "7." I found the book a bit preachy, and I didn't find anything revolutionary in the steps she took to reduce excess in order to live a more holy life. For instance, the family reduced their computer use, TV 7 types of media.Well, we watch TV (the one station we actually get) 2-3 times per month. We rent a family movie once a week and watch it together.  We don't have internet in the house (except for my smart phone), and we don't own any gaming systems. Jen gave away clothes etc...big deal, we donate enormous bags of stuff every single month. But she does seem to have a handle on the issues surrounding adoption. So read her posts. I'm sorry I post so infrequently. The whole lack of internet (a choice we made because we have teens) slows down my blogging.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


September 5 was the first day of school, and also Sam's 7th birthday! Wow! What a fabulous day! The kids all LOVE school (even Leo!) and we celebrated Sam's birthday with cake and ice cream.