Thursday, March 31, 2016

A Letter for Lulu

With the lack of updates and photos of Lulu in this process, Jimmy and I made the decision to do something that we haven't done for any of our other adoptions, mostly because we just didn't know about it. Through With an Open Heart, I've connected with a lovely friend who runs an organization called Ladybugs N Love that provides various services for your child(ren) in their orphanage for a very reasonable cost.

On March 16, we sent our request to have a large "adoption celebration" cake sent to Lulu and all of her friends in her orphanage! It's difficult to think about all the children who are left behind, but I hope it brought them joy to celebrate with Lulu. As part of the fee, they always attempt to get photos of your child with the cake, and they include a (translated) letter, too! I was tearing up just thinking about the letter, nevermind writing it, and I wanted to share it here:

(For Dang Lu Lu)
Dear Lu Lu,
We are so excited to adopt you into our family! We have been looking at your pictures and watching you grow for months! I am your new Mama and you have a Daddy and a big sister and two brothers! We all love you, and we promise to protect you and make you feel safe, and we will have so much fun together! We will be there as soon as we can to bring you home. Enjoy your celebration cake with your friends. We love you so much!

(For the Caretakers)
We are very excited to welcome Dang Lu Lu as a member of our family. We hope to be there soon to adopt her.  Lu Lu will have a big sister (10 years old), two big brothers (7 and 6 ½) who are from China, too!  She will be surrounded by many family and friends who love her very much. We look forward to traveling to your beautiful country again to experience the culture which we hope to keep as an important part of Lu Lu’s life. Lu Lu looks like such a happy little girl, and it is obvious that she has been very well loved by all of those who take care of her at the orphanage. The love and affection that you give stays with these children for their entire lives. We will be sure that she knows how fortunate she was to have such wonderful care in her early years. We hope that Lu Lu and her friends enjoy this “Adoption Celebration” cake, and we can’t wait to meet her soon! We will be looking at her pictures every day until we can see her sweet smile in person! Please let us know if there is anything that you need for the orphanage that we can bring while we are there to adopt Dang Lu Lu.

Well, today we received a very nice and welcome AND video! Travel approval is right around the corner, and we can hardly wait to get our hands on our little Lulu!! 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

An update!

Waiting for updates during the adoption process is hard! Many months have gone by without any information about our Lulu. The saving grace is that, in due time, she will be in our arms forever.

I reached out to our agency once again last week asking for them to try again, fully expecting nothing from Lulu's orphanage who hasn't been forthcoming with details. Last week, we finally received a couple of sweet pictures, one of which you can see below. When I showed the picture to Charlie, he said, "I thought Lulu was a girl!" The boys also thought she resembled a Power Ranger. I love their funny minds, and we'll transform her into a little Princess soon enough!

Then, this week, we were nicely surprised with the following update about our daughter: 

"Now she is almost 6 years old. She is suffering from left body hemiplegia and left strephenopodia.  She has receiving rehabilitation training since 2015. After one year's rehabilitation training, her grasping capability has improved very much. Now her balance capacity is not good when she is walking. She is a lovely, optimistic girl. Now she is healthy and seldom get sick. She is receiving cognitive training during recently and she knows many colors and animals. Each time when she is receiving rehabilitative training, she always participates actively. She is an excellent child."

Most of these updates fill our hearts with joy...Lulu's receiving therapy! That is huge, and until last year it wasn't happening. We are thankful to know she's getting help and that it's working for her! We also loved reading that she "actively participates" in the process. Sweet. And she's healthy! Our little lady seldom gets sick. Blessing.

The other obvious *LOVES* of this update--they've described our daughter with words of "lovely," and "optimistic" and referred to her as an excellent child. As a friend said--of course she is...she's a Murphy!

I have to be totally transparent here. There is a bit of fear involved with an unknown medical condition we've never parented before. I am so thankful for the Facebook groups in our adoption community which provide so much support and encouragement, as well as friends who've walked this path before us. We know, from early videos, that Lulu's walked with a bit of a gait as a result of her hemiplegia (we suspect this is actually contracture but is recorded as clubbed foot on her medical record) but this update left us wondering if maybe it's gotten worse. We can only pray that her condition can be improved with medical intervention and therapy once we get her home. Will you please pray with us? It's so hard to wonder, but our God is bigger, and He somehow takes that fear and replaces it with fresh HOPE each day--hope for her healing, and hope for a future of love and joy.

So today we celebrate the wonderful gift of this update, and we rest in trusting our Heavenly Father with Lulu's life. That is all we need. We'll be there soon, beautiful girl!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Soccer time!

Last fall, Charlie signed up to play soccer. He was all in. But his brother?  Not so much.  You see, Joseph has an internal need to be an observer for a while in most situations. He was perfectly content to sit on the sidelines and try to figure it all out. For a child whose short life has been out of control in many ways, he desires to do things in his time once he's had a chance to digest it all.

Throughout the season, we prompted Joseph to play, too, but his answer was consistently--and resoundingly--"No."  And we were fine with that. But we still nudged him from time to time.

At the last game of the season, I had a conversation with the team organizer and asked if I could sign the boys up on the same team for the spring season, and he gave us the green light. When I informed the boys that they could play soccer together, Joey's whole demeanor changed. We saw a smile on his face for the first time that "soccer" and "Joey" were used in the same sentence. 

Finding shoes for his special little feet was a feat in itself. I ended up finding some wide cleats online and allowed him to choose the color, in hopes that his enthusiasm would stick around. When the shoes arrived, he excitedly tried them on and insisted that he loved them and that he would wear them. Check.

We continued to build up the excitement for him, until it was finally time for their first practice. Out came the shin guards, the socks, the cleats--and out came the meltdown. And I mean meltdown. He kicked. He screamed. He went rigid as a board, and he wailed that he didn't want to play soccer. Our son was totally consumed by panic. It was brutal--the shoes were suddenly "too tight" and I was accused of "forcing him to play soccer." I knew what was behind all of his irrational behavior--it was fear. Fear of something new, fear of major change--the deepest, most traumatic experiences in his life were surfacing, all in the name of soccer.

Thankfully, I'd been praying for extra grace that week, so instead of reacting with anger at the situation, I managed to pause, breathe, and find my grace place.  I told him it was okay to take the shoes off and that we'd bring everything to the field. It worked. We packed everything in a bag and raced out the door. He was still crying in the car but managed to calm down as we neared the field. I was still sweating, of course.

I approached the coach and asked if it would be okay for Joey to wear his sneakers for the first practice. Thank God, he said yes. And then this happened...

He was amazing! The boys had so much fun. Joey--in typical stride--paid such close attention and followed every instruction. Yes, this mom was in tears as I soaked in those special moments, especially given the rough start of the evening. Joseph had come so far, and he was so proud of himself!

So, one might think it would be smooth sailing after that, right? Nope. Practice night two brought the ugly trauma right back into place. Another meltdown ensued, and this time Joseph screamed a few not-so-nice words at his mama. I knew it was stress talking, and not him, so I let it go. We finally convinced him (and might have bribed him with a sucker) to wear the cleats to the field, which he did. And once he got out there to play, he was golden. Phew.

Fast forward to today. It was the boys' first game. I worried a bit, but we'd sufficiently prepped them through the week, and Joey actually seemed excited for his first game. When time came to get dressed, he still complained about his tight shoes, but we were able to get them on his feet and keep them on with some coaxing and promises that they would loosen up. We got to the field and he was happy to choose jersey number 7. Charlie picked number 5.

Their first soccer game was awesome! Joey came really close to scoring a couple of goals and learned a few things about goal-tending. He was a bit tentative in the offensive position but that will change in time once he's more comfortable and realizes it's okay to kick the ball more than once. 

The important part is that he LOVED it, and I think we're over the hump (fingers crossed...)  And Charlie? He's just the best, as usual. We are so proud of our boys. They rock!